Thursday, 30 May 2013

Taiwanese Stewed Pork with Eggs

I felt like I haven’t done any Asian cooking - or at least new and interesting Asian cooking - in absolutely ages. So I decided to revisit an old favourite the other week and typed my way over to Sunflowers Asian food blog . I’ve either cooked up her recipes or used them as inspirational starting points quite often in the past but it looks like she hasn’t posted in some time which is a real shame. That said, I came across a couple of Taiwanese recipes, and as I don’t think I’ve tried to cook Taiwanese before thought I’d give it a shot.

This then is an amalgamation of 2 of Sunflower’s recipe - basically the North & South Taiwan version of Lu Rou Fan or Stewed Pork with Rice (lu is braised, rou is pork and fan is rice).. evidently minced pork is used in the North and diced pork in the South, meaning that at heart this is the Southern Taiwan version but I have also added oyster sauce taken from the minced pork version.

Unfortunately I’d thrown my dried shrimps away when I moved (I didn’t think the bf would appreciate the rather, let’s say pungent, aroma wafting out of the not particularly well sealed bag) so where the original recipe calls for a tablespoon or so of dried shrimp, I toasted a teaspoon of shrimp paste in a little foil pouch in a hot oven and used that instead.

Unauthentically it would seem, but I was battling a head cold / chest infection combo at the time of cooking, I also added a whole dried chile de arbol for some soothing warmth and immune system boosting qualities.

If you are in fact going to make the effort of making homemade crispy fried shallots you will need to do this step first as you can then use the shallot flavoured oil for cooking the pork. If not, of course that won’t matter and you can just use groundnut oil in its place.

The addition of hardboiled eggs partway through cooking means that they soak up the sauce’s flavour as they simmer in it and make them deliciously rich. The longer you then leave them to soak in the sauce, the more they will absorb the flavour so do leave this as long as you can before reheating. A good couple of hours at least.

Stewed pork and eggs
serves 2-3

500-600g pork belly (with skin and fat), cut into 1.5cm cubes
20-25g dried shitake mushrooms, soaked then cut into pieces (soaking liquid reserved)
1 tsp toasted shrimp paste
1½ tbsp shallot frying oil (or just groundnut oil)
3 tbsp light soy sauce
3 tbsp dark soy
1 tbsp oyster sauce
½ heaped tsp Chinese 5 spice
3 crushed peppercorns
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2cm knob ginger, chopped
1½ star anise
1 small piece cassia bark (or cinnamon stick)
2 tbsp Shaoxing wine
1 tbsp palm sugar
1 dried chilli de arbol
35g crispy fried shallot (* see recipe below, or you can buy it ready-made from an Oriental supermarket), crushed
3 boiled eggs, shelled

Heat the oil on a moderate heat then add the garlic and ginger, stir for a minute or so then turn the heat right up and add the pork.

Stir the pork around continuously until it has lost its raw colour and is browning in places.

Add the mushrooms, shrimp paste, 5 spice, peppercorns, light and dark soy, oyster sauce, star anise, cassia and sugar. Keep stirring for another minute or two.

Add the cooking wine and about 250ml water (top up the reserved mushroom soaking water to make 250ml) so that all the meat is just about covered.

Bring to the boil then cover and simmer on a low heat for about an hour.

Add the boiled eggs, try to make sure they are covered in the sauce and continue simmering for another 30 minutes or so until the meat is tender. Turn the eggs once or twice during this time.

Finally add in the crushed fried shallots. Simmer for another 5 minutes.

Taste for seasoning, adjusting soy or sugar as necessary.

The stew is now done but the best thing to do is let it sit for at least a few hours at room temperature (or overnight in the fridge) and then reheat before serving.
Serve with some plain rice, and scatter over some crispy shallots.

Crispy Fried Shallots
makes about 100g

250g Thai / Asian shallots, peeled and very finely sliced
1 ½ tbsp plain flour
175ml (about ¾ cup) sunflower or groundnut oil

Mix the thinly sliced shallots with the flour, breaking up the rings / slices as you do.

Heat the oil in a saucepan until medium hot - test it by dropping in a small piece of shallot, it should fizz and sizzle. Add the shallots, and as they will instantly lower the temperature of the oil, turn the heat up to high.

Stir the shallots slowly but fairly continuously with a wooden chopstick to prevent uneven cooking. Continue frying until the shallots have started to turn a light golden. This is the point when they can quickly become burnt so turn the heat down, continue to stir and watch closely.

When they have become a deeper golden brown, remove from the heat and using a slotted spoon place into a metal sieve resting on a bowl so that excess oil can be caught in it.

Let this cool: whatever isn’t used in this recipe can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a few weeks.

Reserve the oil which will be flavoured with shallot and keep whatever remains after cooking the stewed pork for soups, stirfries etc.

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Monday, 27 May 2013

Greek Chicken with Herby Couscous & "Tzatziki"

First Nigella, now Jamie Oliver.. on a bit of a spree at the moment of trying out cookbook (read cooking site) recipes. If it can be called a spree.

I would love to say that this was 100% great. However I can’t.. and that’s not Jamie’s fault by any means. I honestly don’t know what was wrong with me. After we’d finished eating (and very tasty it was too), the bf asked me why there was a pan of cold, cooked peas sitting in the sink. I was quite annoyed with myself. Approximately two minutes later I came across the packet of barrel-aged feta. “Are you drunk?” the bf asked me.

I’m sure they both would have made mighty fine additions to the meal, so I’ve left them in the recipe (and at the bottom you can see how it looked when I added the peas and feta for the next days lunch box)..

As a side note, the original recipe also calls for cucumber in the tzatziki. It being, you know, tzatziki and all that. I however have a deep rooted and utterly pathological dislike for cucumber so left it out and just upped the mint a little. The original recipe however can be found here.

Greek Chicken with Herby Couscous & Tzatziki
Serves 3

For the couscous
225g of couscous
2 chargrilled red peppers from a jar, chopped
1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
3 spring onions, finely sliced
½ a bunch of fresh dill, finely chopped
115g frozen peas, blanched in boiling water for a few minutes
1 small handful of decent black olives, destoned and roughly chopped
1tbsp olive oil
30g feta cheese
juice of 1 lemon
For the chicken
2 x 200 g skinless chicken breasts
1 heaped teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground allspice
zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp olive oil
For the “tzatziki”
150g 0% Greek Yoghurt
½ a lemon, juiced
½ a bunch of fresh mint, top leafy part only, finely chopped

Put the couscous and double the volume of boiling water into a bowl with a pinch of salt and cover.

On a large sheet of greaseproof paper, toss the chicken with salt, pepper, the oregano, allspice and finely grated lemon zest.

Fold over the paper, then bash the chicken with a rolling pin (or meat mallet I suppose) until flattened to 1.5cm thick.

Meanwhile put the yoghurt in a bowl with the juice of ½ a lemon and a pinch of pepper - finely chop the top leafy half of the mint and add that then mix together.

Put the olive oil into a frying pan over a medium heat and when heated add the chicken, turning after 3 or 4 minutes, until golden and cooked through.

Fluff up the couscous and mix the chilli, red pepper, spring onions, peas, olives, dill, lemon juice and olive oil through it then season well to taste, divide and scatter over two plates.

Slice the chicken up and arrange over the couscous.

Crumble over the feta and serve with the tzatziki.

And of course how it should have looked (kind of - imagine spread over a plate)!

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Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Salmon Fishcakes with Tartare Sauce & Lemony Wedges

The salmon fishcakes recipe here itself is one of Nigella's and one which I followed pretty much to the letter except for using Japanese panko breadcrumbs instead of matzo for the coating, as that is what I have in the cupboard. And also being too lazy to make mash, shop bought. I think the point here is that you use leftover mash but whoever makes mash and manages to have some leftover is a much better person than me. In any case, I was preparing potatoes for the wedges and just couldn’t be bothered to have two lots of potato prep on the go.

One thing I quite like about this recipe as that as the fishcakes need some chilling & firming time, you can get them done quickly, bung them in the fridge and then turn your attention to getting the sauce and wedges ready. It’s all actually very easy and quick.

These really are great fishcakes: crisp on the outside yielding to a light and fluffy centre, I will definitely be making these again.

Salmon Fishcakes with Tartare Sauce & Lemony Baked Wedges
serves 2

For the fishcakes
200g cold mashed potato
212g tin of red or pink salmon (bones & skin discarded)
7.5g unsalted butter, melted
small pinch of cayenne pepper
¼ lemon, zest only
small pinch of salt
small pinch of pepper
1 medium egg, whisked
50g panko breadcrumbs
25g unsalted butter
1 tbsp vegetable oil

For the tartare sauce
juice of ½ lemon
1 heaped tbsp capers, chopped
1 heaped tbsp 0% Greek yogurt
1 heaped tbsp mayonnaise
½-1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

For the potato wedges
2 medium potatoes, each cut into 8 wedges
1½ tbsp olive oil
½ lemon, juiced
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
½ tsp chopped fresh thyme
2-3 garlic cloves, left whole & unpeeled but given a bit of a bash

Preheat the oven to 200C.

In a large bowl mix together all the fishcake ingredients, up to the egg (and only mix in half of the egg) with your hands.

Cover a baking sheet with clingfilm and form 4 fat, palm-sized patties out of the fishcake mixture.

Place these on the baking sheet and stand in the fridge to firm up for about 30 minutes to an hour.

Mix together all the ingredients for the tartare sauce in a small bowl.

Taste & adjust carefully for seasoning if required, set aside.

Put the potatoes in a saucepan, pour in enough water to cover and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5-8 minutes, then drain well, giving the colander a good shake.

Put the olive oil, lemon juice and rosemary in a roasting tin with some salt and pepper. Add the potatoes and toss well until they are coated with the lemony & herby oil.

Leave for around 10 minutes so that potatoes can soak up some of the flavour then bake for about 40-60 mins, shaking the tin halfway through until the potatoes are nicely browned and crisp.

When the wedges are about 10 minutes away from being done, take out the fishcakes. One by one, dip the fishcakes into the beaten egg and then dredge with the panko, turning them and giving the sheet an occasional shake as you go to help coat them. 

Put the butter and oil in a large frying pan, heat till the butter begins to froth and then fry the fishcakes for 4-5 minutes on each side until the crusts are golden, and speckled brown in parts.

Serve with the potato wedges, tartare sauce and some dressed rocket leaves, with some shavings of parmesan.

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Monday, 13 May 2013

Duck Breast with Ginger Sesame Greens

Blimey, another Olive recipe. But another absolutely great one that really doesn’t take much effort at all. 

I doubled up the amount of five-spice in this: not because I felt that it would need it but rather I forgot to adjust the quantity down for it from 4 people to 2. I thought that it was perhaps a little too much when we ate, but the bf thought it perfect so I have left it as it is here. Feel free to halve though if you want to stick to the original recipe.

I also used mixed white and black sesame seeds but you can just use the more common white if that is what you have.

Duck breast with Ginger Sesame Greens
serves 2

2 duck breasts, skin scored
2 tsp Chinese five-spice
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 clove garlic, sliced
small knob of ginger, shredded
200g spring greens, sliced and blanched
sesame oil
sesame seeds, toasted

Rub the duck breasts all over with the five-spice.

 Place fat side down in a cold frying pan: heat the pan and when it comes up to temperature continue to cook the duck breasts for 10 minutes until the skin has turned golden and crisp.

Turn the breasts over and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Remove from the pan and set aside under foil to rest.

Spoon out the excess fat from the pan and add the soy, brown sugar, rice vinegar and a splash of water. Simmer for 5 minutes then add the duck back in and glaze with the sauce.

Meanwhile stirfry the garlic and ginger in a little sesame oil in a small wok.

Add the greens and cook for 2 minutes before tossing through another splash of sesame oil.

Divide the greens between 2 plates and cut each duck breast in half diagonally and arrange on top of the greens. Spoon over any remaining sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Serve with a nice glass of red wine.

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Sunday, 12 May 2013

Braised Italian Sausages with Soft Polenta

Another Olive recipe, and one that reminded me how blimming lovely soft polenta is and how I really should eat more of it. Massive bowlfuls of it. One thing it is worth mentioning though is that while you must prepare yourself for Vesuvius sized volcanic eruptions while cooking it (see pic below: made me laugh), you should also prepare yourself for a washing up nightmare of similar proportions unless you get that polenta pan full of water and soaking as soon as you finish with it. I’m not sure why but polenta will set like cement given half a chance. You have been warned.

Feel free to use any sort of herby sausage to make this - obviously squat fat Italian sausages would be the best if you can get hold of them. And if you can, lucky you! I used Toulouse as the smell of them in the supermarket was irresistible, even through the packaging.

This post also marks the laziest of ingredients photos, where I haven’t even taken anything out of the packaging, let alone done any mise en place before snapping away.

Braised Italian Sausages with Soft Polenta
serves 2

1 tsp olive oil
6 sausages
3 rashers smoked streaky bacon, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
½ glass red wine
few sprigs rosemary, leaves picked
small tin chopped tomatoes
500ml chicken stock
100g instant polenta
25g butter
25g parmesan

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and brown the sausages all over then set aside.

Add the bacon to the pan and fry until crisp. Scoop out and set aside with the sausages.

Add the onions to the pan and cook fairly gently until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook for a minute or so more.

Turn up the heat a little then add the red wine and cook until reduced by about half before adding the sausages and bacon back in.

Tip in the tomatoes and add the rosemary and 100ml of the chicken stock.

Simmer for about 30 minutes until the sauce has reduced slightly and the sausages are cooked through.

Make up the polenta, following the package instructions but using the remaining 400ml of chicken stock instead of water.

Beat in the butter and cheese.

Divide between two plates or wide bowls topped with the sausages and sauce.

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Monday, 6 May 2013

Penne alla Vodka

Penne alla vodka was a dish I always got in my late teens / early 20s at a North London (Golders Green specifically) Italian called l'Artista. It was, as I remember, absolutely delicious and it always followed a starter of garlicky tomato pizza bread, which was sensational: the best garlic bread I think I have ever had, anywhere.

Penne alla vodka seems to be another one of those recipes of which there seem to be as many versions as there are people that cook it. I myself have cooked it in a variety of ways but on this occasion opted for prawns - as I remember the l'Artista version having, and mushrooms (which I always think go well with prawns) with a pinch of red pepper flakes.

Most recipes call for the vodka to be stirred into the sauce but a tip I picked up from Nigella is to add it to the drained pasta and then stir the sauce into that. I think agree with her that this is a much better way to do it: I’m not even sure why, it just is. Oh, and this is one seafood pasta recipe where I will actually add a sprinkling of parmesan cheese, as the creaminess of the sauce lends itself to it.

Penne alla Vodka
serves 2

1½ tsp garlic oil.
½ small onion, finely chopped
small tin of chopped tomatoes
4-5 mushrooms, sliced
100g prawns
200g penne
2 tbsp vodka
2½ tsp butter
2 tsp cream
pinch of red pepper flakes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put a large saucepan of salted water on to boil.

In a sauté pan heat the garlic oil and add the finely chopped onion and a pinch of salt. Cook the onion over a low-medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until it is very soft and beginning to caramelize. Don’t let it catch or burn. Add the mushrooms and cook for another few minutes until they are softened a little.

Add the chopped tomatoes and red pepper flakes and continue simmering over a gentle heat for a further 20 minutes.

Add the prawns and cook for a couple of minutes (until just heated through) then stir in the double cream and take the pan off the heat.

Cook the penne for 3-4 minutes less than the packet instructions and then start testing it as you want it perfectly al denté.

Drain the cooked pasta then tip it back in the pan and pour over the vodka and stir in the butter. Add the tomato sauce to the pan, tossing everything together until the pasta is evenly coated.

Divide between two bowls and serve with a sprinkling of parmesan and a good grind of black pepper.

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