3 mins

5 fast, fresh and full-on spicy recipes

Travel the world in a whirlwind of tastes with these spicy recipes you can rustle up at home

Condesa smoky beans with green salsa (All images credited to William Lingwood)

Might Spice Express1. Korean braised chicken with rice noodles

All Korean food should have a balance of five colours – black, white, yellow, green and red. Here, the black is from the soy, the white from the chicken, yellow from the noodles, green from the coriander and red from the chillies.

Serves: 4

Ready in: 35 minutes


550g boneless, skinless chicken thighs
70ml soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
3 tbsp rice wine or dry white wine
1⁄2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp brown sugar
1⁄2 tsp ground ginger
1⁄2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 dried red chillies
4 garlic cloves
1 onion
1 carrot
1 courgette
200g vermicelli rice noodles
100ml chicken stock
2 spring onions
1⁄2 red chilli
1 small handful of coriander leaves

1. Chuck the chicken in a large, shallow flameproof casserole and pour over the soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, brown sugar, ground ginger and black pepper. Crack open the dried chillies and throw them into the pan, then peel and crush in the garlic. Mix everything together really well and heat over a medium heat.

2. Peel and roughly slice the onion, then peel the carrot. Chop the carrot and courgette into matchsticks. Put the vegetables in the casserole with the chicken and mix together. It will look a little dry at this stage, but don’t worry – lots of lovely juices will come from the chicken and vegetables. Bring to the boil, cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer gently for 15 minutes, or until the chicken is just cooked through.

3. Meanwhile, put the noodles in a large mixing bowl, cover with boiling water and leave to one side to soften for about 10 minutes. Pour the stock into a small saucepan and heat gently over a medium-low heat. Once the chicken is cooked, drain the noodles in a colander and add them to the casserole in four little piles. Pour over the stock, then cover and cook for another 10 minutes to allow the noodles to soak up the sauce. Trim and finely slice the spring onions and red chilli, then roughly tear the coriander. Scatter over the dish and serve.

Mighty Spice Express2. Five-spice pork belly

Mustard is a classic accompaniment to crispy pork belly in Hong Kong – it works well and cuts through the richness of the meat. Get your butcher or supermarket meat-counter assistant to score the fat of the pork belly to help save you loads of preparation time.

Serves: 4

Ready in: 40 minutes

For the five-spice pork:
1.25kg/2lb 12oz pork belly, skin scored
4 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
1 tsp ground Sichuan pepper sea salt

For the dipping sauce:
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp clear honey
1⁄4 tsp chilli powder
1 garlic clove

For the rice and pak choi:
250g jasmine rice
200g pak choi

To serve:
85g French mustard

1. Preheat the oven to 250°C/500°F/Gas 9. Cut the pork belly into two pieces to help it cook quicker, and put both pieces, skin-side up, in a roasting tin. Rub the skin with the Chinese five-spice powder, ground Sichuan pepper and a good pinch of salt. Put it into the oven, reduce the heat to 220°C/425°F/Gas 7 and cook for 30–35 minutes until the pork is cooked through and the skin is madly crispy.

2. Meanwhile, make the dipping sauce. Pour the soy sauce into a serving bowl and add two tablespoons water, the rice wine vinegar and honey. Add the chilli powder, then peel and crush in the garlic. Whisk together, then cover and leave to one side to allow the flavours to develop.

3. Cook the rice in boiling water for 10–12 minutes until soft, or as directed on the packet, then drain in a colander. Pour boiling water into the saucepan to a depth of 2.5cm/1in and heat over a low heat. Put the colander with the rice over the pan and leave to steam gently until you are ready to eat.

4. When the pork has cooked for 25 minutes, cut the pak choi into quarters, then put it into a steamer and steam over a high heat for five minutes, or until just tender. Divide the sticky rice into four serving bowls and tip the mustard into a serving dish. Carve the pork and serve with the rice, pak choi, dipping sauce and mustard.

Mighty Spice Express3. Berber beef stew

Serves: 4

Ready in: 45 minutes


1 red onion
4 garlic cloves
1 carrot
2 courgettes
2 tbsp olive oil
600g/1lb 5oz beef fillet
2 tbsp tomato purée
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1⁄2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp flour
1 tbsp clear honey
150g couscous
1 large handful of parsley leaves
1 preserved lemon
200g yogurt
2 tbsp harissa paste
2 tbsp toasted flaked almonds sea salt

1. Peel and finely chop the onion and garlic, then peel the carrot. Chop the carrot and courgettes into 1cm/1⁄2in half-moons. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a high heat and add the carrots and courgettes. Cook for four minutes, stirring frequently, to soften.

2. Meanwhile, cut the beef into 2–3cm/3⁄4–11⁄4in cubes and add to the cooked vegetables. Add the onion and garlic, and mix well. Reduce the heat to medium, add the tomato purée, cumin, ground ginger, paprika, black pepper, cinnamon, flour, honey and 250ml boiling water. Mix well, bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for ten minutes, or until the beef is just cooked through.

3. While the beef cooks, put the couscous in a large mixing bowl and add 185ml warm water. Cover with cling film and leave for ten minutes or until ready to eat.

4. Finely chop the parsley while the couscous soaks. Remove the flesh from the preserved lemon and finely chop the skin. Leave to one side. Discard the flesh. Tip the yogurt into a serving bowl, then stir in the harissa, cover and leave to one side.

5. Remove the lid from the cooked stew, turn the heat up to medium and cook for another five minutes, stirring occasionally, so that the sauce becomes lovely and thick. Throw the parsley and preserved lemon skin into the cooked stew, and mix well. Fluff up the couscous with a fork and divide into four bowls. Spoon over the stew, top with the almonds and serve with the harissa yogurt.

Mighty Spice Express4. Mexican sea bream with roasted lemon courgettes

This meal tastes awesome and is so quick to make. The beauty of the dish comes from the flavour of the sauce, which has a pronounced smoky edge. I have taken a tip from Mexican cooking and charred the onion, garlic and tomatoes before chucking them into a blender with spices to make the sauce. This might sound a bit fussy, but it only takes a few extra minutes and it adds so much to the overall flavour – and the smokiness is exaggerated even more by using chipotle chillies. Cinnamon and paprika create a sweeter background note to the sauce, which works so well with the fish. The flavours marry together as the sauce gently cooks for a few minutes before the fish fillets are added.

The dish is completed with courgettes roasted until they become soft and melt into creaminess when you eat them, and the whole thing is fired up with a wicked little chilli, lime and salt seasoning to serve at the table.

Serves: 4

Ready in: 40 minutes

For the lemon courgettes:
600g courgettes
3 large thyme sprigs
2 tbsp olive oil
1⁄2 lemon
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the sea bream and sauce:
2 chipotle chillies
1 red onion
4 garlic cloves
4 tomatoes
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1⁄2 tsp paprika
1 tsp brown sugar
leaves from 1 large thyme sprig
4 sea bream fillets (about 125g each)
1 handful of coriander leaves
2 tbsp best-quality extra virgin
olive oil

For the spicy lime seasoning:
2 limes
1 tsp crushed chilli flakes
1 tsp sea salt

To serve:
4 large flour tortillas

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6. To make the lemon courgettes, cut the courgettes into 1.5cm/5⁄8in chunks and put them in a roasting tin. Add the thyme, olive oil and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Squeeze in the juice from the lemon and mix everything together well. Roast the courgettes for 30–35 minutes until tender and creamy.

2. Meanwhile, soak the chipotle chillies for the sea bream sauce in two tablespoons hot water and leave to one side. Heat a non-stick frying pan over a high heat. While the pan heats, peel the onion and cut it into quarters, then peel the garlic. Carefully put them into the hot pan and toast for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and turn the garlic. Cook for another 2–3 minutes until the tomatoes and onion are charred on the cooked side and the garlic is charred on both sides.

3. While the tomatoes are charring, zest the limes for the spicy seasoning into a serving bowl and add the chilli flakes and salt. Leave to one side.

4. Transfer the charred ingredients and the chipotle chillies with their soaking liquid to a blender or food processor, and add the cinnamon, paprika, brown sugar, thyme and a good pinch of salt. Squeeze in the juice of 11⁄2 of the limes used for the seasoning and blend into a smooth sauce.

5. Pour the sauce into a large, shallow saucepan and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the fish fillets, skin- side down, to the hot sauce. Cover and cook for 4–5 minutes until the fish is beautifully tender and flaky.

6. Pinch the spicy seasoning mixture between your fingers to accentuate all the flavours while the fish cooks. Cut the remaining lime half into four segments.

7. Scatter the coriander over the cooked fish and drizzle over the extra virgin olive oil. Serve the fish with the cooked courgettes, tortillas, lime segments and the spicy lime seasoning.

Mighty Spice Express5. Condesa smoky beans with green salsa

Serves: 4

Ready in: 30 minutes

For the rice:

250g long grain rice

For the smoky beans:
1 chipotle chilli
800g tinned pinto
4 garlic cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground cumin
400g tinned chopped tomatoes
11⁄2 tbsp clear honey
55g Gruyère cheese sea salt

For the green salsa:
1 avocado
3 spring onions
1 green chilli
2 large handfuls of coriander leaves and stalks
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lime
1 red pepper
1 red onion
2 tbsp olive oil
2 bay leaves

1. Cook the rice in boiling water for 10–12 minutes until soft, or as directed on the packet. Drain in a colander, then cover the rice with a clean tea towel while still in the colander and leave to one side. Meanwhile, cut the chipotle chilli for the beans in half and put both halves in a small bowl. Cover with 2–3 tablespoons boiling water and leave to one side to soften for a couple of minutes.

2. Drain and rinse the beans and leave to one side. Deseed the pepper and peel the onion, then finely chop both. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a high heat and add the pepper and onion. Stir-fry for 3 minutes to soften, then reduce the heat to medium and add the bay leaves. Peel and crush in the garlic. Mix well.

3. Add the cinnamon, cumin, tomatoes, honey and beans to the onion mixture. Season with salt. Pour in the chipotle and its water. Mix well, then cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the beans are hot and the sauce is thick.

4. Make the green salsa. Cut the avocado in half and remove the stone with a knife. Scoop out the flesh into a blender or food processor. Trim the spring onions and discard the top of the chilli, then chuck them into the blender with the coriander, oil and some salt. Squeeze in the lime and blend into a coarse salsa. Tip into a serving bowl. Serve the rice and beans with the cheese grated over the top and with the salsa.

Might Spice ExpressThese recipes have been taken from Mighty Spice Express by John Gregory-Smith (Duncan Baird Publishers 2013, commissioned photography by William Lingwood).

Pre-order your copy on Amazon today.

Related Articles