Friday, 29 August 2014

Gong Bao Chicken, Ginger Shiitake Noodles and Tiger Skin peppers

Chinese New Year was upon us (which just goes to show just how far I have to go to catch up with my posts on the blog) and naturally I wanted to have a Chinese inspired feast. My original notes showed that rather than go the 100% Fuchsia Dunlop route as I would normally I had decided to give my Ching Huang book a bit of an outing. On the menu it seems were Ching’s Sichuan (I can’t help myself) style Chilli Tomato Chicken with a little bit of garlic rice to soak up the juices, some noodles (which mustn’t be cut as they symbolise long life) and, because I can’t ignore my Fuchsia books entirely, Tiger-skin peppers.

Well I don’t know what happened as while the tiger-skin peppers and noodles featured the chilli tomato chicken morphed into Gong Bao chicken and the rice disappeared completely. Still if anything I have now made a mental note to try that chilli chicken one day. I love Gong Bao chicken but it is time to try something new I think.

Tiger skin peppers are so called because of the slight charry streakiness they get. I added a green chilli as in China this wouldn’t be made with “bell” peppers but rather a thinner skinned variety (more similar to those found in Turkish & Middle Eastern shops) where a certain level of heat may be present - its a bit of a gamble (I guess similar to a plate of padron peppers) so I thought I would emulate that in a very small way by adding the chillies.

All the below serve 2 as part of a larger meal with a selection of other dishes.

Ginger Shiitake Noodles

100g medium dried egg noodles
dash of toasted sesame oil
1½ tsp groundnut oil
1 inch piece fresh root ginger, grated
75g fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
2 spring onions, cut into thirds, then thinly sliced into length-ways strips
1½ tsp oyster sauce
1½ tsp light soy sauce

Cook the noodles according to pack instructions, then toss with a little sesame oil to stop them clumping together so much.

Heat a wok over a high heat, then add the groundnut oil. Once it’s smoking, add the ginger, stir-fry for a couple of secs, then add the mushrooms with a splash of water to create steam, and cook for 1 min.

Toss through the cooked noodles for 2 mins until hot, then add the spring onions, oyster and soy sauces, and a dash more sesame oil.

Tiger Skin Peppers
2 green peppers, deseeded, cut into eighths then halved
green chilli, deseeded and sliced into strips then halved
1 tbsp groundnut oil
1 tbsp chinkiang black vinegar
pinch sugar
pinch salt

Heat the oil in a pan until it begins smoking. Add the peppers, Stir-fry over medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes, pressing the peppers into the sides of the wok until the peppers are tender and their skins blistered and streaky.

Be careful not to cook on too high a temperature or the skins of the peppers will burn before you cook them through.

Add the salt, sugar and vinegar, and stir fry for 2 more minutes until everything is mixed well and fragrant.

Gong Bao Chicken

300-350g chicken thigh fillets cut into small cubes
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
ginger, and equivalent amount, thinly sliced
5 spring onions, white parts only, sliced into lengths as long as they are wide
5-10 facing heaven (or other red dried chilli) chillies, cut in half
2 tbsp groundnut or rapeseed oil
1 tsp whole Sichuan peppercorns
75g unsalted, roasted peanuts
For the marinade
½ tsp salt
2 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp Shaoxing wine
1 ½ tsp potato flour
For the sauce
½ tbsp caster sugar
¾ tsp potato flour
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp black Chinkiang vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp water

Put the chicken cubes along with the marinade ingredients and 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl. Mix well and set aside.

Discard the seeds from the halved dried chillies as far as possible and set aside.

Combine the sauce ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Heat a wok over a high flame and then add the oil along with the chillies and Sichuan pepper. Stir-fry briefly until the chillies are darkened but take care not to burn them and remove from the heat if necessary.

Throw in the chicken and stir fry, stirring constantly. As soon as the bits of chicken have separated from each other add the ginger, garlic and spring onions, continuing to stir-fry until fragrant and the chicken is just cooked through.

Give the sauce a stir in its bowl and then stir that it, tossing and stirring so it is all well mixed. As soon as the sauce is thickened and shiny, stir in the peanuts and then serve immediately.

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Thursday, 28 August 2014

Spinach & Artichoke One-Pot Pasta

I have to admit to being extremely sceptical about the concept of one-pot pasta especially as the original came from, I believe, Martha Stewart. Enough said. This feeling of, shall we say, misgiving, didn’t improve when, a mere 48 hours before my intended cook date (which in itself was some time after “discovery date”) I read a rather scathing write up on Helen Graves’ food blog.

Oh well, I’d committed myself (in my head) and so misgivings or not I would be going through with my plan. After all, it is well known (isn’t it?) that a bit of pasta cooking water added to a pasta sauce is a good thing, lending as it does an added silkiness enabling more clinginess to the pasta.

But anyway, if you haven’t come across it before the idea of one-pot pasta is fairly straight forward and self-explanatory: the pasta and all the ingredients cook together in a stock in one pan: the intention being that the stock gets absorbed by the pasta and creates a thick, starchy, flavorful sauce. 

So there you have it.

I deviated slightly as I fried my onion off a bit (i’m not a fan of onion semi-rawness and wasn’t going to take the risk).

So - the verdict? Well in all honesty I’m mixed. First impressions were that the pasta was way overcooked. Which it most definitely was of course - Italian’s would find it an abomination - and it needed a surprising amount of seasoning before serving but all being said I really did like the flavour.

Yes, the one-pot thing is really handy in one way but you do have to keep stirring anyway so in all honesty I think a much better result could be had by cooking the sauce in a separate pot then adding your drained pasta when it is about 3 minutes from al dente. Mix the pasta in with the sauce then cover, off the heat and leave the flavours to infuse and the starchiness leach out of the pasta slightly for 5-10 minutes. Now this is something that is sometimes done in Italian pasta cooking - as previously displayed in the Sicilian knockoff here.

Spinach & Artichoke One Pot Pasta
serves 3, heartily

165g mushrooms, sliced
½-1 can artichoke hearts (in water) - about 175g, drained & roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 small onion, finely sliced
825 ml vegetable stock
1 tbsp olive oil
200g fettuccine
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried thyme
freshly ground pepper
90g frozen spinach

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and lightly sauté the onion for 5 minutes.

Add the vegetable stock, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, onions, fettuccine, oregano, thyme, and a really good grinding of freshly ground pepper into the pot. 

Push the ingredients down under the stock as much as possible and bring to a boil. Stir the pot to evenly distribute the ingredients and prevent the pasta from sticking. Then turn the heat down to a low simmer and pop a lid on.

Allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the pasta is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed but do give the pan a good stir every few minutes to prevent the pasta from sticking.

Once the pasta is al dente add the frozen spinach, stirring to help break up the clumps of spinach as they melt. Season well.

Serve immediately topped with a little Parmesan.

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Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Asian-style Pork Fillet with Garlic Rice & Ginger Broccoli

I saw this pork recipe somewhere online - unfortunately I can’t remember where so I can’t credit it but I’ve more than likely made a few changes to the original. You will notice that I forgot the peanut butter in the ingredients picture below which is a bit of a major omission considering that it is probably one of the most important ingredients in this dish. I used crunchy peanut butter but you could also use smooth.

Similarly I used grapefruit jam as that was what we had but I think that any preserve or jam would be fine to use as long as it was of the non red fruit variety. A bit of tartness would be best too I think.

Pork fillet (or tenderloin) is an excellent cut to get hold of: it is cheap and doesn’t take long to cook as well as staying fairly moist and tender. The only problem with the fillet is that you may buy a cut where you have to remove the silverskin (the tough grayish/white membrane that will not get tender during cooking). However I found a pretty cool online tutorial on how to do this easily which you can find here.

I think the rice and broccoli are pretty perfect accompaniments for this but feel free to have whatever you like with it.

Asian-style pork fillet
serves 2

300g piece pork fillet
3 tbsp grapefruit marmalade
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ tsp (scant) ground coriander
3 tbsp soy sauce
¾ tbsp sesame oil
¾ tbsp rice wine vinegar
1½ tbsp peanut butter
½ lime, juiced
3 tbsp orange juice
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
¼ tsp ground black pepper
½ tbsp groundnut oil
½ tbsp fresh coriander, chopped

In a small bowl mix together the marmalade, garlic, coriander, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, peanut butter, lime juice, orange juice, crushed red pepper and black pepper.

Whisk well to combine, ensuring that the peanut butter has broken up.

Place the pork tenderloin in a freezer / sandwich bag and pour the marinade on top, making sure the fillet is totally covered.

Squeeze out the air, and seal the bag then place in the fridge to marinate for at least 30 minutes, or overnight if you can.

Preheat oven to 220C.

Heat the groundnut oil in an oven-proof pan or tin over a medium heat until shimmering. Add the pork tenderloin, and sear on all sides, until it’s nicely browned – about 7 minutes or so.

Place the tin into the preheated oven, and cook for about 15 minutes or until the juices run clear if the fillet is pierced with a sharp knife. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before slicing.

While the pork is in the oven, pour the marinade into a small saucepan. If it seems too thick, add a splash or orange juice or water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute, then turn off heat. Pour the sauce over the sliced fillet and sprinkle with a little chopped coriander.

Garlic Rice
serves 2

5g butter
1 tsp olive oil
2 clove garlic, crushed
100g jasmine rice
236ml chicken stock (twice the volume of the rice)
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp white pepper
squeeze of lime juice
½ tbsp coriander

Heat the butter and olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add the rice and cook, stirring often so the rice doesn't stick to the pan, for 3-4 minutes.

Add the chicken broth and season with sea salt and white pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium low. Cover and let cook 20 minutes.

Remove the rice from the heat without removing the lid and let it sit for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff rice with a fork, stir through the coriander and serve.

Ginger Broccoli
serves 2

½ tbsp oil
2 tsp ginger + garlic paste
250g broccoli florets
1 tbsp water (plus extra if needed)
½ tsp sesame oil
½ tsp fish sauce
crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Heat the oil over high heat in a wok or sauté pan and add the ginger and garlic. Stir constantly, until very aromatic, about 20-30 seconds. Add the broccoli florets and toss to combine. Cook, stirring frequently, for about a minute.

Add the water, sesame oil and fish sauce and cook, stirring occasionally, until the broccoli has some charring and is tender but still with a little bite. If the sauce dries out before the broccoli is done, add occasional splashes of additional water as needed.

Taste and add salt if necessary. Remove to a serving plate and top with crushed red pepper flakes, if desired.

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Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Dukkah Dusted Lamb Cutlets with Quinoa & Aubergine Salad

I saw this recipe at which lassifies itself as an “inspirational recipe diary designed to inspire creativity and passion among likeminded foodies”. Fair enough although I actually hate the term foodie. But anyway, I had in fact stumbled upon this recipe by mistake as I’d actually been looking for the website of the restaurant so-named in Suffolk as I wanted to eat there.

The website is very good though and I would recommend checking it out as it has a wealth of really interesting recipes for when one is up for a bit more of a culinary challenge: perfect dinner party stuff.

Dukkah itself, by the way, is an Egyptian side dish, typically a dip, made up of a mixture of herbs, nuts, and spices. The word itself is derived from the Arabic for "to pound" since the mixture of spices and nuts are usually pounded together after being dry roasted to a texture that is neither a powder nor paste. As ever with these sorts of things the actual ingredients can vary wildly: it is reasonably easy to get hold of readymade blends these days (I know both Tesco & Waitrose sell it) or of course you can make your own, as here.

A few words on the recipe itself (the original is here). I actually forgot to use zest in the dukkah wet rub which was a bit of a shame but probably not the end of the world as there are quite a lot of acidic flavours anyway and rather than the pomegranate & apple blossom vinegar of the original I used a mix of verjus and apple balsamic vinegar. I also used a red & white quinoa with bulgar wheat mix. Standard white quinoa is fine.

Unfortunately I managed misread my own version of the dukkah recipe when I had scaled it down and it was rather too clove-pungent but luckily when it was cooked it mellowed somewhat. And as for the dukkah cooking: don’t be afraid of it getting very “toasty” - it may look as though it is burning but it will actually taste divine.

The lamb by the way was probably a little underdone for my tastes (I generally prefer lamb cutlets and the like more cooked than steak) so if you’re like minded do cook it for a little longer (and heed my point about the dukkah, above).

I would definitely use this rub again, perhaps on some chicken or even pork chops, as it really is delicious so do give it a try. All quantities below are for two people.

Dukkah Spice and Nut Blend
¼ tsp whole cloves
½ tsp whole fennel seeds
½ tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp paprika
¼ tsp salt
pinch ground turmeric
pinch crushed dried chillies
freshly cracked black pepper
15g chopped roasted hazelnuts
20g chopped pistachio nuts
15g roasted white sesame seeds

In a pestle and mortar crush the cloves, fennel, coriander, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, turmeric and dried chillies to a powder.

Add the hazelnuts, pistachio nuts and sesame seeds and mix lightly. Store in an airtight container until needed.

Dukkah Crusted Lamb Cutlets
4 lamb cutlets
50g dukkah
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp honey
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small mixing bowl mix the dukkah with the oil, honey, lemon juice and zest.

Season the lamb cutlets with salt and black pepper then dip each cutlet into the dukkah mixture and rub the mix in, ensuring that the cutlets are evenly coated on both sides.

Set the cutlets aside for 10 minutes to marinate.

Heat a griddle pan and cook the cutlets 3 minutes on each side (as I mention above this will be pretty rare). Leave to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Quinoa and Grilled Aubergine Salad
100g quinoa
1 tsp turmeric
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp olive oil
10ml apple balsamic vinegar
15ml verjus
1 aubergine, sliced into ½ cm thick rounds
100g green beans, blanched and halved
1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped

In a medium saucepan place the quinoa, turmeric, salt and pepper and cover with twice as much cold water. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook until the quinoa is tender to the bite. Once cooked, drain the quinoa in a sieve . Refresh under cold running water, drain again and put to one side.

Measure the honey, olive oil, verjus and apple balsamic vinegar into a small bowl and whisk together to make a vinaigrette. Season to taste and set aside.

Meanwhile heat a griddle pan. Season the aubergine rounds with salt and black pepper on both sides and then griddle the aubergines on the hot griddle pan, without oil, for approximately 2 minutes on either sides so that you have dark griddle marks.

Place the hot aubergines on a large plate and pour the vinaigrette over. Leave to soak and absorb the vinaigrette for 20 minutes, turning after 10.

Now mix the drained quinoa, green beans and chopped herbs together, season to taste and then drizzle the vinaigrette from the plate over to bind it all together, add further vinaigrette to taste.

Saffron Yoghurt
100ml natural yoghurt
pinch of saffron strands
juice and zest of half a lemon
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

In a small bowl whisk together the yoghurt, saffron, lemon juice and zest, season to taste and leave the mixture to infuse for 20 minutes before serving.

When everything is ready and rested or infused as necessary arrange the quinoa salad with the aubergines on two plates, place the lamb cutlets on the opposite side and spoon the saffron yoghurt into a small dipping pot and serve.

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Sunday, 10 August 2014

Chicken, Butternut Squash & Quinoa Stew

This is another dish I cooked when I was 5:2’ing and this one in particular was adapted from a US based website: I upped the spices content and also added some spinach into the mix.

This is seriously good for you and, luckily, also delicious. A great thing about it is that you can adjust the ratios depending on what you fancy or how much you’re watching your calories. The olives for instance can be cut down or out completely for instance: they pack a big punch flavour wise though so even including a few is going to make a big difference to my mind.

I’ve used a quinoa & bulghur wheat mix but feel free to just use normal white quinoa if that is easier.

Chicken, BNS & Quinoa Stew
serves 2-3

340g butternut squash, peeled, seeded & chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
450ml chicken stock
310g chicken breast
½ tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp coriander
¼ tsp cayenne
200g tin chopped tomatoes
75g uncooked white quinoa, bulghur wheat & red quinoa mix
85g pitted and quartered kalamata olives
large handful baby spinach, chopped
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Place the squash cubes in a microwave safe bowl with a splash of water, put a lid on top and microwave for 5-6 minutes or until the squash is just barely tender. Remove half the squash and set aside. Continue microwaving the other half until it’s very soft, about 3-4 additional minutes.

Drain, then mash with a fork. Set aside.

In a large saucepan heat the olive oil until hot. Add the chopped onions, oregano, cumin & coriander, cayenne and garlic. Saute for 5-10 minutes, stirring often, until the onion is softened.

Add the stock and bring to a simmer then add the chicken and poach in the broth until cooked (about 10-15 minutes).

Remove the chicken to a plate and when it has cooled slightly shred with 2 forks. Keep to one side.

Add the tomatoes & quinoa to the stock in the pan and simmer for 10 minutes then add the cubed and mashed squash. Simmer for a further 5 minutes.

Add the shredded chicken & olives to the pot and season carefully.

Simmer for a further 5 minutes then stir in the spinach and cook for a minute or two until the spinach is wilted.

Stir in the parsley & serve in bowls.

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