Life

Homemade takeaway recipes: We put three 'fakeaway' cookbooks to the test

How convincing and satisfying can homemade takeaway food really be? A carnivore, a vegetarian and a flexitarian give it a go

Udon noodle curry soup from The Veggie Chinese Takeaway Cookbook by Kwoklyn Wan

WANT to make your favourite takeaway recipes at home? It seems great minds think alike – Eat Well For Less? presenter Chris Bavin, The Medicinal Chef Dale Pinnock and Chinese food aficionado Kwoklyn Wan, have all just released cookbooks that revolve around the idea of making takeaway food at home.

So if you're looking to cut down on ordering in, save a little cash and maybe boost the nutritional value of your go-to comfort food, these tried and tested 'fakeaway' options might be worth your while.

:: The flexitarian...

Ella Walker tested: Healthy Baked 'Scampi' from Fakeaway by Chris Bavin

I am very partial to a takeaway. Crispy chilli beef and chow mein from the Chinese, a mild chicken dansak, mushroom rice and onion bahji from the Indian. Szechuan pepper ribs and triple cooked pork slices, pad Thai, fish and chips – is it even Friday night if no-one says the all-important words, 'Shall we...?' while swerving the kitchen and dialling for takeout?

Making what would presumably be a sub-standard version at home is not really my thing. However, Chris Bavin's 'healthy baked scampi' appealed. A cross between coconut shrimp, deep-fried scampi and tempura prawns – a Chinese-fish-and-chip-shop hybrid if you will – they seemed worth a go.

I set up a three bowl prawn conveyor belt: flour and paprika in one, beaten egg in the second, lemon zest, desiccated coconut and breadcrumbs in the third, and tried (really quite successfully) to not get them all muddled together. After being dunked and coated in each, my 'scampi' hit a baking tray and then the oven for 10 minutes. So far, so by the recipe.

After their allotted 10 minutes though, they were all a little soggy on the underside, so I flipped them and gave them another five while whipping up the accompanying tartare sauce (mayo, gherkins, capers, lemon zest – I left out the dill, mainly because I forgot to buy any). A side of peas and wedges later, a bit of chilli sauce, and honestly, they were amazing.

Crunchy and golden with a huge, zingy hit of lemon, they were a doddle to pull together, and all that dunking was rather fun. I'm not saying I'll never order in again, but if there's a bag of prawns in the freezer just asking for a crumbing, I'd definitely reconsider.

:: The carnivore...

Lauren Taylor tested: Kung Pao Chicken from Fakeaways by Dale Pinnock

The trick with a fakeaway recipe is it has to be simple and fast, with ingredients easy to source from whatever shop is nearest your house. If I'm in the mood for a pad Thai delivered to the door, I'm not in the mood to spend an hour-and-a-half at the stove with a work surface full of stuff and a long recipe. That's why Dale Pinnock's Kung Pao Chicken was such a hit – very few ingredients, half of which were already in the cupboard, the other half just a five-minute walk away.

The cooking prep time of 10 minutes is a bit ambitious – my knife skills clearly aren't up to Pinnock's standard – and the ginger seemed a huge amount for two people (turned out I was wrong). But it really was just a case of throwing the spices in a wok for five minutes, adding the chicken, splashing in some sauce (honey, soy and rice vinegar) and leaving it to go sticky around the meat.

I couldn't find raw peanuts, but cashews made a good alternative for a bit of texture. I also made a quick egg-fried rice (pre-cooked cheat's brown rice with two eggs and a red onion) and stir-fried pak choi to serve.

The whole thing took 35-40 minutes (and I'm not an efficient cook), which is probably faster than a takeaway would take to arrive and without the additional nasties found in some. It ends up being a smaller portion size too – because who doesn't add on some prawn crackers, spring rolls and maybe duck pancakes when they order a Chinese?

The finished result was tasty and flavourful – with a great balance of saltiness, sweetness and heat.

:: The vegetarian...

Prudence Wade tested: Udon Noodle Curry Soup from The Veggie Chinese Takeaway Cookbook by Kwoklyn Wan

Udon noodles, curry, soup – those are three of my favourite things, so choosing this recipe was a no-brainer. Luckily, it well and truly lived up to expectations. It was simple to make, even if it took a lot longer than the half-hour Wan specifies. Total cooking time was closer to an hour, but admittedly a fair amount of this was down to me re-checking the instructions every two seconds...

I added ginger to the curry sauce because a dish without ginger isn't a world I want to live in, and it definitely amped up the flavour. The sauce itself was rich, delicious and well balanced. The only critique I have is that the recipe calls for the sauce to be sieved, which feels like a waste of the carrots, onions and celery which had been bathing in the lovely curry flavours, so I ended up chucking it all in.

Once the curry sauce is made, you fry up some veg, throw in the sauce and some stock and sort your noodles, then you're good to go.

Even if it took a bit longer than expected, it was easy to make and you can tailor it to however hot you want. With the noodles and rich curry sauce, this dish really did feel like a treat – even though there was nothing naughty in it.

:: Try the fakeaway recipes below for yourself.

UDON NOODLE CURRY SOUP

(Serves 2)

2tbsp oil (vegetable, groundnut or coconut)

1 medium white onion, sliced

1 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks

50g beansprouts

1/2 large portobello mushroom, cut into thin strips

750ml vegetable stock

250ml curry sauce (see below)

1tbsp light soy sauce

1/4tsp salt (or to taste)

2 nests fresh udon noodles

2 spring onions (scallions), thinly sliced

For the curry sauce:

1tbsp oil (vegetable, groundnut or coconut)

2 onions, finely diced

5 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 carrots, finely diced

1 celery stick, finely diced

2tbsp plain flour

1 and a half tbsp curry powder (use your favourite: mild, medium or hot)

600ml vegetable stock

1/2tbsp honey

1.5tbsp soy sauce

1 bay leaf

1tsp garam masala

Method:

For the curry sauce, heat the oil in a saucepan, then add the onions and garlic and cook until softened. Stir in the carrots and celery and cook over a low heat for 10-12 minutes. Add the flour and curry powder and cook for one minute. Gradually pour in the stock, stirring constantly until combined, then add the honey, soy sauce and bay leaf. Slowly bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until the sauce thickens but is still of pouring consistency. If your sauce is too thick, add a splash of water. Stir in the garam masala, then strain the curry sauce through a sieve and set to one side.

Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium-high heat, add the onion and carrot and fry until lightly browned. Add the beansprouts and mushrooms and fry for a further minute.

Add the stock, curry sauce and soy sauce and mix well until smoothly combined. Bring to the boil then turn down the heat to a low simmer. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed.

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, add the fresh noodles and cook for about 90 seconds. Drain and place into serving bowls. Pour over your curry soup, garnish with spring onions and serve.

:: From The Veggie Chinese Takeaway Cookbook by Kwoklyn Wan (Quadrille, £15)

KUNG PAO CHICKEN

(Serves 2)

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

5cm piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped

2 spring onions, chopped

3 dried red chillies

2 chicken breasts, diced

Olive oil

1 heaped tbsp runny honey

2tbsp soy sauce

1/2tbsp rice wine vinegar

2tsp ground black pepper

Salt

Sauteed greens and brown rice, to serve

50g unsalted peanuts, to garnish

Method:

In a pan, saute the garlic, ginger, spring onions and chillies in a little olive oil, with a pinch of salt, over a medium heat for three to five minutes. Add the diced chicken and saute for five to seven minutes, until the chicken is cooked. Add the honey, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and black pepper. Simmer for four minutes. Sprinkle the peanuts over as a garnish. Serve with sauteed greens and brown rice.

:: From Fakeaways by Dale Pinnock (Hamlyn, £15.99)

HEALTHY BAKED SCAMPI

(Serves 4)

40g plain flour

1tsp paprika

Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

Salt and pepper

2 eggs, beaten

120g dried breadcrumbs or panko breadcrumbs

20g desiccated coconut

400g peeled raw king prawns

1tbsp olive oil

Lemon wedges, to serve

For the tartare sauce:

4tbsp mayonnaise

Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

1tbsp capers, finely chopped

2 large gherkins, finely chopped

1tbsp chopped dill

Salt and pepper

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan). Put the flour, paprika and lemon zest in one bowl and season with salt and pepper. Put the beaten eggs in another bowl and mix the breadcrumbs and coconut in a third bowl.

Individually dip the prawns first into the flour, then into the egg and then in the breadcrumbs to coat. Then place on the lined baking tray.

Drizzle the coated prawns with the oil and bake in the oven for 10 minutes until cooked and crispy. Serve with homemade Tartar Sauce (just mix all the ingredients together, season and serve) and lemon wedges.

:: From Fakeaway: Healthy Home-cooked Takeaway Meals by Chris Bavin (DK.com, £14.99)

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