In my x years of cooking, I’ve only known one way of cooking chinese bbq roast pork (char siu) – and as the name implies, I would roast it in my oven. The result is often a very tasty but slightly dry char siu. However a very good man known as The Food Canon shared his family recipe for a wok-cooked char siu. There were warnings of a nightmarishly difficult to clean wok after but it wasn’t going to deter me. I did think that if I ruined my wok, I’d just have a get a new one. I needed to try this method out no matter what. Needed, not wanted, needed!
Essentially, this is a twice-cooked roast pork. Braised first in its marinade, then quickly crisped up and charred under a hot grill. Can anyone say yum?
The result was most wonderful – super moist, sticky, caramelly roast pork and with a little modification to the braising sauce (I ran really low on it), I also came up with a great cheat’s drizzling sauce. Served with a plate of freshly steamed jasmine rice and a side of garlic chinese broccolli, this was one gold-class comfort meal.
I used pork belly this time, which even the hubs (gasp!) found to be too fatty. I’d recommend using a good strip of pork loin instead. Something I’ll try again soon. But you know what they say, fat is flavour, and this pork is so fattily flavourful!
Oh, and my wok wasn’t ruined at all. Hot water and dishwashing liquid did the job just fine. Happy days!
CHINESE BBQ ROAST PORK – WOK STYLE
Adapted from The Food Canon
1kg pork belly strips
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp white pepper
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp chinese cooking wine
1 cup water
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1. Marinade pork strips with all of the ingredients except water and oil for at least 2 hours or overnight.
2. To a heated wok, add the oil, then add pork belly strips in one layer. Seal the pork for about a minute, then add all the marinade and water and simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes or until the pork is tender. Remove pork strips from the wok and lay it out on a baking tray in a single layer.
3. Place tray under the grill and char the pork for about a minute on each side.
4. If the braising liquid has reduced too much and there isn’t enough to make up a sauce, add another cup of water to braising liquid, add a couple tablespoons of hoisin sauce, stir and simmer till thickened and voila! – you have sauce.
5. Slice the pork up, drizzle with sauce and enjoy!
Taking a break from my Japanese holiday ramblings to share this delicious recipe with you. When I go for dim sum (or yum cha, if in Australia), there are a few standard items which are must-haves. Steamed prawn dumplings (har gow), bbq pork buns, braised chicken feet (I’m sure some of you are cringing at the thought of this, but it is one of my favourites) and steamed pork dumplings (siu mai).
At a dim sum (yum cha) restaurant here in Melbourne, you’d have to pay about $4.50 a serve (usually 3 to 4 small siu mais in a mini bamboo steamer). If you were to make this at home, it’s about $6 – 7 for 35 to 40 large dumplings. Feeling a little ripped off? Well, go ahead and make some at home then. The best part is that these dumplings can be frozen and steamed from frozen. You can eat all 40 dumplings in one sitting of course, I’m not judging…but I wouldn’t recommend it!
Most recipes recommend using round wonton wrappers but I like this version that uses square wrappers. Watch this video and be amazed at how easy it is to form the dumplings. Your dumplings will look pretty pro at the end of it. Enjoy!
STEAMED SIU MAI (PORK DUMPLINGS)
Makes about 35 – 40
350g (3/4 pound) minced pork, preferable with some fat in it
220g (1/2 pound) raw prawns, peeled, deveined (coarsely chopped)
2 stalks of spring onion, chopped finely (both green and white bits)
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp mirin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 tsp corn starch
2 tsp finely diced carrots
1 packet of wonton wrappers (about 40 in a pack)
1. In a mixing bowl, add pork, prawns, spring onions, soya sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, mirin, white pepper, salt and corn starch together, mix thoroughly.
2. To wrap the dumplings, watch this video. Using a square wonton wrapper, dip your finger in water and wet all four edges. Place a tablespoon of pork mixture in the middle of the wrapper, fold all four corners together. Hold the dumpling in a cupped hand, fold in the edges sticking out on the sides while using cupped hand to shape the dumpling. Flatten and even out the top of the dumpling with a knife. Garnish with a tiny pinch of carrots.
3. Lay a sheet of parchment paper at the bottom of a bamboo steamer, arrange siu mai, leaving some space in between to avoid sticking.
4. Bring water to a boil over high heat in a saucepan/wok that is big enough for the bamboo steamer to sit on. Cover and steam for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and serve warm.
Dumplings can be prepared ahead and is suitable for freezing. Give an extra 2 – 3 minutes if steaming from frozen.
Winter officially made its grand entrance today in Melbourne. It’s been a shade of cool grey 8 (think Copic markers). Thick fog descended upon us in the CBD from mid-morning and decided to stay for the rest of the day. M-i-s-e-r-a-b-l-e! What happened to the eternal sunshine that we boasted of downunder? Gah!!!!
On days like these, all I want is a plate of comforting carbs to soothe the sadness away. Preferably one that can be whipped up in no time and accompanied by a nice glass of vino. Like this simple and delicious pan-fried gnocchi with tomato, bacon and basil.
I’ve never been a big fan of gnocchi. Just as I’m not a big fan of mashed potato or other mushy potato products. I’d usually enjoy a couple mouthfuls and that’s about it. It’s probably something to do with the cloying texture of mushed-up taters – not my thing. Pan-fried gnocchi however, has a slightly crisp exterior and chewy insides which I recently grown to love.
The standard way to cook gnocchi is to boil them like you would any other pasta before pan-frying them. I like frying them directly, skipping the boiling process. I find that with this method, it produces a puffed up, crispier gnocchi which is super yummy.
Going along with the idea that this is a quick and easy meal, I’ve used store-bought gnocchi and canned tomatoes. Can’t get simpler than this. Prep time 2 minutes. Cooking time 15- 20 minutes. Oh yes.
Pan-fried gnocchi with tomato, bacon and basil
Serves 2 hungry fellas or 4 regular people
1 x 400ml can of crushed or chopped tomatoes
Large handful of basil leaves, torn
2 strips of smoked bacon, sliced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
50g of grated parmesan
1/2 tsp of sugar
Salt and pepper for seasoning
Heat a good drizzle of olive oil in a pan, add gnocchi (you can pre-boil them first if you wish, but I didn’t) and fry till slightly puffed up and golden (about 7 – 10 minutes). Add garlic and bacon, fry for about 3 minutes or until aroma of fried bacon is wafting through the entire house. Add tomatoes and warm through. Season with sugar, salt and pepper. Stir through torn basil leaves. Serve with another drizzle of good olive oil and grated parmesan. Done!
Okonomiyaki is a savoury Japanese pancake. A traditional Osaka style okonomiyaki is usually made with flour, grated yam, dashi, eggs and cabbage and the toppings usually include meat (usually pork / bacon) and or seafood such as octopus, squid or shrimps. The Osaka people have way better marketing skills as this is the version that is predominant throughout the world. The Hiroshima style okonomiyaki has the ingredients in layers instead of being mixed in the batter and they sometimes have noodles, cheese and a fried egg as topping options and I have personally never tried the Hiroshima version. Like I often say, marketing is very important. Go Osaka!
Now, this homemade easy-peasy version is made from basic, common day to day ingredients. The flavours will definitely be enhanced with actual bonito flakes, japanese mayonnaise and the proper okonomiyaki sauce. However, not everyone has access to these wonderful japanese goodies and so, we make do. And I’m happy to say that it’s still as tasty. If you’re keen to try out the traditional recipe, see this.
Makes about 6-8 small pancakes
- 1 cup – all purpose flour
- 1 cup – dashi stock (I used diluted chicken stock instead)
- 1 egg
- 1/4 – head of cabbage, shredded
- 6 – 8 strips of streaky bacon (1 strip per pancake)
- Makeshift okonomi sauce (1/4 cup bbq sauce mixed with 1 tsp worchestershire sauce)
- Regular mayonnaise
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour and stock with a pinch of salt and whisk till you get a smooth batter.
2. Add in the shredded cabbage and beaten egg. Mix well.
3. In a hot greased skillet, place about 5 – 6 tablespoons of the cabbage mixture – keeping it as round as possible. (Just like you would a pancake) Lower the heat and keep an eye on the bottom to make sure it doesn’t burn.
4. In the meantime, slice one strip of bacon into 4 one inch pieces and place them on the topside of the cooking pancake. After about 2 – 3 mins or until the bottom is nicely golden, flip the pancake. The bacon should now be on the underside, busily browning away. Cook another 2 – 3 minutes or until bacon and the rest of the pancake is cooked, crisp and golden brown.
4. Remove from skillet, and top with mayonnaise and the bbq sauce mixture. Serve hot. Repeat with the rest of the batter.
Tomorrow is Shrove Tuesday. For people in the UK, it’s also called Pancake Day. Basically the traditions of Shrove Tuesday is the day preceding Ash Wednesday where the sombre season of Lent begins. Where the more religious-inclined take to a period of praying and fasting. Where foods such as sugar, fat and eggs were restricted. (Omg!) Which is why on Shrove Tuesday, you celebrate with a feast full of food made from sugar, fat and eggs. I guess in the old days, that means pancakes? Whatever it was, I’m happy it’s Pancake Day.
Which led me to post about a Japanese pancake. Hmm…I guess it’d do. Pancakes – savoury or sweet are just as good!
And in line with tradition, I will be having buttermilk pancakes for dinner tomorrow and I can’t wait!
What do you get with a bunch of sausages and Yorkshire Pudding batter?
A Toad in the Hole. I know, stranger names have been given to dishes, but I think this is a funny one. Some say the name was derived as far back as the middle of 19th century and the name was given because the sausage sticking out of the batter resembles a toad’s head. No matter how much I try to squint and picture the dish…I don’t see a toad. Not even a tadpole. It’s a good thing though, cos I really want sausages. Not any amphibian of the ribbity kind.
I like hotdogs. In a soft roll, topped with onions, mustard, relish and ketchup.
I like bratwursts. Served with a tangy side of sauerkraut.
I like toad-in-a-holes. Sitting amidst puffy Yorkshire pudding.
At the end of the day, they are all sausages but presented in different forms and given different names. I like ‘em all.
I’ve decided to take part in this month’s International Incident Party and the theme is Hotdogs! Started by fellow food blogger Penny from Jeroxie, this virtual party is a collaboration of food bloggers showcasing their creations based on a common theme. It’s a great way to share ideas and gawk at more food photos and write-ups. Check out the details of International Incident Party, here.
So, hotdog party people, I present you with a traditionally English, Toad-in-the-Hole. No toads were harmed during this process.
Using a Jamie Oliver recipe, I was nervously hoping that my Yorkshire pudding would not flop – literally! Yorkshire puddings are known to be rather temperamental. Delightfully, the pudding puffed up real high and in fact it got caught on the top oven shelf (yeah my old oven shelf is non-removable – lame!) but I managed to tug the extremely hot combination of baking tray and loaf tin to safety without spilling hot oil all over myself – with the pudding still proudly puffed up. Phew!
Crisp Yorkshire pudding, succulent pork and leek sausages, aromatic rosemary. Usually served with mash, vegetables and brown onion gravy, I chose to serve mine with a light side salad (less guilt!) and Jamie’s red onion and balsamic gravy. Yee-ha!
TOAD IN THE HOLE
Adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Happy Days with the Naked Chef
- sunflower oil
- 6 large good-quality sausages
- 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
- 2 large red onions, peeled and sliced
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
- 2 knobs of butter
- 6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 level tablespoon good-quality vegetable stock powder or 1 vegetable stock cube
for the batter
- 285ml milk
- 115g plain flour
- a pinch of salt
- 3 eggs
Mix the batter ingredients together, and put to one side. I like the batter to go huge so the key thing is to have an appropriately-sized baking tin – the thinner the better – as we need to get the oil smoking hot.
Put 1cm/just under ½ inch of sunflower oil into a baking tin, then place this on the middle shelf of your oven at its highest setting (240–250ºC/475ºF/gas 9). Place a larger tray underneath it to catch any oil that overflows from the tin while cooking. When the oil is very hot, add your sausages. Keep your eye on them and allow them to colour until lightly golden.
At this point, take the tin out of the oven, being very careful, and pour your batter over the sausages. Throw a couple of sprigs of rosemary into the batter. It will bubble and possibly even spit a little, so carefully put the tin back in the oven, and close the door. Don’t open it for at least 20 minutes, as Yorkshire puddings can be a bit temperamental when rising. Remove from the oven when golden and crisp.
For the onion gravy, simply fry off your onions and garlic in the butter on a medium heat for about 5 minutes until they go sweet and translucent. You could add a little thyme or rosemary if you like. Add the balsamic vinegar and allow it to cook down by half. At this point, I do cheat a little and add a stock cube or powder. You can get some good ones in the supermarkets now that aren’t full of rubbish. Sprinkle this in and add a little water. Allow to simmer and you’ll have a really tasty onion gravy.
Check out the rest of the International Incident Party peeps here!
My brother-in-law finally proposed to his gorgeous other half, and they’ve decided to have their wedding in Vietnam where they currently live and work. It’s very exciting news! Not only for the lovely couple but for me as well…I’ve never been to Vietnam, and I’m sure it will be an amazing and beautiful experience.
Until then, I thought it would be a great idea to join fellow bloggers in a monthly blogging event called Delicious Vietnam. The founders of this event A food lover’s journey and Ravenous Couple put this together so food enthusiasts and bloggers alike are able to come together in the blogosphere to share and explore the wonderful flavours of Vietnamese cuisine.
Aside from Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls, I have never tried making vietnamese food at home. It always just seemed easier to pop into a local vietnamese restaurant and order my favourite steaming bowl of beef brisket pho.
With this event, I thought it would be nice to cook one of my other favourite Vietnamese dishes. Banh Xeo – a southern Vietnamese recipe. This is a rice flour crepe flavoured with coconut milk and turmeric and is usually made with pork, prawns and bean sprouts. The savoury crepe is crisp and fragrant,(coconut milk in a crepe mix – the Vietnamese sure know how to do it best!!) along with succulent prawns and fresh bean sprouts and eaten with the sweet and tangy Nuoc Cham (dipping sauce) – this dish is certainly a winner.
Instead of sliced pork or pork belly, I used chinese sausage (lap cheong) which gives a more caremelised and sweet kick to the filling.
Usually eaten wrapped in lettuce leaves and other herbs like basil and mint, Banh Xeo is a great sharing starter. However I decided to make it a main dish, and simply shovel the deliciousness sans lettuce leaves into my gob. Yum yum.
Be patient while making the crepe, cook on medium heat and give the crepe enough time to crisp up. The crispy bits make the dish!
Adapted from Southeast Asian Flavours
1 cup of vegetable oil
3 chinese sausage, cut into thin slices
500g shelled king prawns
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sliced yellow onions, sliced
2 cups bean sprouts
Nuoc Cham (dipping sauce) - the best recipe I’ve tried so far
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup warm water
3 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 cup fish sauce
1-2 bird’s eye chilies, cut into very fine rings
1 clove garlic, minced finely
- In a large bowl whisk together the rice flour, turmeric powder and salt. Add water and coconut milk and whisk until mixture is smooth. Set batter to rest for 30 minutes.
- Heat up a 10-inch non-stick pan over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil and then add one portion of sausage, prawns, onions and spring onions. Stir fry until prawns are half done, turn down the heat and ladle 1/2 cup of batter into pan. Swirl pan to coat bottom evenly. Add bean sprouts over half the crepe. Drizzle a little more oil around outer edge of crepe.
- Cover pan and cook for 1 minute. Remove cover and continue to cook until edges begin to brown. Loosen crepe from bottom of pan with a soft spatula. When bottom turns light brown and crispy, fold crepe to encase bean sprouts.
(I found that by pushing more of the prawns to one side of the pan before ladling the batter – the same side where the sprouts go – allows the crepe to be less heavy on the side that you need to flip over. This avoids breakage and produces a much prettier crepe)
La Potee Auvergnate is a rustic and hearty traditional French soup. Mostly cooked with ham hock, sausages and vegetables, it seems more like a stew than a soup really. When it’s cold and blue outdoors, it’s great to be warming up with a bowl of this stuff.
This recipe is heavily (really heavily) adapted from Delia Smith’s soup collection. As usual, I do not have the time to be pre-soaking dried haricot beans or making stock from a smoked gammon joint. So in its place, I used canned cannellini beans, chicken stock and smoked pancetta. Works well and it only took me a third of the time.
One’s got to adapt when real life gets in the way of domestic goddessness!
When you feel like having a soup that is filling, full of different textures and comfortingly tasty, this is the one to cook. Chunky bits of sausage, smokey pancetta and the sweetness of the carrots, leeks and savoy cabbages = pot of yum.
This now has a place in my very own soup collection.
(SIMPLIFIED) LA POTEE AUVERGNATE
2 x 400g canned cannellini beans
4 – 6 pork sausages
1 clove garlic
2 medium leeks, sliced into rings
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp dried wild thyme
1 medium head of savoy cabbage, shredded
200g pancetta cubes
1.5 litres chicken stock (more if you prefer soupier soups)
sea salt & fresh ground pepper
chopped fresh parsley
1. Squeeze the sausage meat out of their skins and brown them in a heavy based pot with just a touch of oil, break them up into smaller ‘balls’ while browning. When nicely browned, remove from pot and set aside. Add in pancetta cubes and fry till nicely coloured and fragrant, add in garlic, thyme and prepared vegetables (except savoy cabbage)
2. Cook veggies for about 10 – 15 minutes until tender, then add in chicken stock and beans. Season well with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Let the soup come back to a boil, then add cabbage and sausages. Simmer the soup for a few more minutes until the cabbage is wilted.
Serve with sprinkling of chopped fresh parsley and a drizzle of olive oil if desired.
An Aussie friend of mine once asked me about my heritage and I mentioned that I hailed from a long (and very distant) line of Chinese migrants from Fujian. Of which my Chinese dialect would be Hokkien. “Hokkien?” he asked, “As in the noodle?”
Alas, many people are only aware of the Hokkien noodle, which is basically the regular yellow, wheat-based egg noodles and not of the province in China or the dialect they speak. Hokkien is a dialect widely spoken in southern Fujian, Taiwan and several parts of Southeast Asia.
Just as the spoken hokkien language in Southeast Asia is a variant from the original, dishes that were cooked were also slightly modified as it passed through the generations. However, I’ve never visited China, much less Fujian, so I wouldn’t have a blinking clue as to what an ‘original’ dish is like. All that I am familiar with are dishes that my parents cooked (while I watched and learnt) and I know they’re hokkien-style because they said so. Who am I to argue right?
My dad used to make this dish which in hokkien is called ‘Dau Yew Bak’ and I loved drizzling the dark, caramel-y soy sauce on my steamed white rice. Even if there weren’t any pork or egg left, I would have been happy just eating plain rice with the sauce. That’s how obsessed I was…is…
The flavours are deceivingly complex (you know it’s not just dark soy in that thing) but the dish is easy enough to prepare and only has a few ingredients. The key spices are cinnamon, star anise, black peppercorns (cloves are sometimes used too, but I didn’t have any) and fresh garlic cloves.
Right, when you start frying the cinnamon, star anise, black peppercorn and five spice powder together, be prepared to be hit by the most beautiful aroma…
Add the pork, create the sauce…and wait. That’s the most difficult bit…the waiting. The whole house smells delicious but you have to wait.
So I waited…and admired the gorgeous lilies that a friend / recent house guest gave me…and waited some more.
Then add the hard-boiled eggs, coat and colour the eggs evenly with the sauce, simmer some more…wait some more…
And voila! All the waiting is worth it. Tender, tasty pieces of pork, egg and that sauce, that sauce…on rice. This is my happy meal.
670g of belly pork, cut into 1.5 inch chunks (I used a mixture of belly pork and pork loin)
1 head of garlic, papery skin peeled off, smashed lightly
1 teaspoon of black peppercorns
2 star anise
1 stick of cinnamon, 3 inches in length
1 teaspoon of Chinese 5 spice powder (optional)
4 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons of light soy sauce
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 tablespoon of oil
2 – 3 cups of water (depends on how light or strong you prefer the sauce)
4 – 5 hard boiled eggs
Marinade the pork for 20 – 30 minutes with:
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon chinese cooking wine
1. In a heavy based pot, heat up cooking oil. Add star anise, cinnamon, peppercorns, garlic and five spice powder (if using). Fry till fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.
2. Add the marinated pork and all the marinating liquids. Fry for about 10 minutes. This process is to get the meat browning. Add dark soy, light soy and sugar halfway through. Get the sauce caramelising.
3. Add water. Mix it well, lower heat, cover and let it simmer and braise for about 30-40 minutes or until pork is tender. Add the eggs in and coat them with the sauce to get an even colour about 20 minutes into the braising process.
Serve with steamed rice.
Thought I’d give this recipe a shot because while doing my pre-grocery shopping food surf on the couch one night, the hubs glanced over and saw that I had this recipe on the screen and commented that it looked ‘yum’…that did it. Sold to the biggest ‘yum’. Got to give it a try…plus the teensy draw of it being ‘one-pot’ of course.
Sausages and rice straight from the stove and into our bellies on a cold, snowy evening…very, very comforting indeed. It’s a very simple recipe and rather adaptable too. Add more rice if you prefer a more hearty risotto-like dish , less if you prefer something soupy. I also took the liberty of adding frozen peas. carrots and chilli to give it a touch of veggie and spice. I’m pretty sure most vegetables will cook well in this dish.
- 6 – 8 sausages (I used lincolnshire sausages)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion , finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves , crushed
- 2 tsp each ground cumin and coriander
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1.5 cups long grain rice
- 600ml chicken stock
- 400g can chopped tomatoes
- 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 spring onion, chopped
- a large handful of frozen peas
- 1 small carrot chopped
- 1 red chilli, chopped (optional)
- Squeeze meat out of sausage skins and roll into balls. Heat the oil in a large non-stick saucepan, then brown the meatballs well on all sides until cooked – you might need to do this in batches. Set the meatballs aside.
- Add the onion and garlic to the pan. Soften for 5 mins, stir in the spices and rice, then cook for another min. Pour in the stock and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer, scraping up any sausagey bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the vegetables. Simmer for 10 mins until the rice is just cooked, then stir in the meatballs with some seasoning, simmer another minute, then serve – top with spring onions and some chilli.
- 50 ml sweet chili sauce (Thai or Chinese)
- 40 ml dark sweet soy sauce
- 1 orange, juice and sliced rind
- 2/3 lime, juice and sliced rind
- 2 tbsp honey
Place all the ingredients in a zip lock bag, shake it about and make sure the ribs are well coated with the marinade. Place it on the side on a plate, and marinate in the refrigerator overnight.
To cook – preheat the oven to 200c, lay the ribs in a single layer on a baking tray. Bake for 20 minutes, turn the ribs over and cook till they are nicely caramelised. I baked mine for another 20 minutes. If you’re using smaller ribs, don’t overcook them, as long as the ribs are nicely coloured and cooked through, you’re good to go.
I served the ribs with a quick and delicious orzo salad.
- 200g orzo pasta, cooked and drained
- 2 large handfuls of fresh baby spinach leaves
- 1 cup cooked garden peas
- 8 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 shallot, finely diced
- 2 tsp dijon mustard
- a generous splash of white wine vinegar
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
Mix the diced shallots in with the vinegar in a salad bowl. Let it sit while you prepare the other ingredients. Doing this with onions of any sort takes away the pungent onion smells and flavour, and leaving behind the sweetness and milder flavours which are a lot more enjoyable. (no onion breath for one!)
Add in olive oil (general rule of thumb is one part vinegar, three parts oil), mustard, salt and pepper and mix dressing well before adding the rest of the ingredients. Toss and enjoy – with or without sticky ribs.
When I say I have therapeutic ‘me’ time while I’m cooking…making gyozas has got to be one of the top few most therapeutic for me. It’s a little like creating pockets of food origami. All pretty yet edible. Very satisfying on many levels.
Ok, to start things off, I bought a batch of horrible gyoza wrappers. It was frozen and some were totally stuck together after defrosting. Horrible. Ech. I could have made my own gyoza skins but I wasn’t mentally prepared for that…plus I had just paid good money for those wrappers, I wasn’t about to throw in the towel on them. So I persevered…and I’m glad to say I only lost 2 of them in the battle. However, you’ll notice a little french tip manicure look on them. Those were the frozen bits. Note to self: don’t ever buy frozen wrappers!
Dip a finger into some water and run that along the edges of the wrapper before pleating the wrapper from one side. Grab a little edge of the wrapper, make a little fold by pulling it towards the left.
To cook the dumplings, place the flat side down in a frying pan with a little bit of oil. Let the bottom of the dumplings brown. Turn the heat down if it gets too brown too quickly. The dumplings char quite easily.
Once the water is totally evaporated and the dumplings are all nicely steamed. Remove from heat, and start cooking the next batch. Or you could just start eating…
PORK AND CHIVE DUMPLINGS
Ingredients, makes about 22 dumplings
300g minced pork
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
100g chinese chives, chopped
light soy for seasoning
a light drizzle of sesame oil
This post is more for my own record – just so I won’t forget. I’ve found a great marinade for pork chops…sorry no photos. Just one easy and delicious marinade.
(Enough for about 6 large-ish chops)
1 cup of hot water
1 tbsp salt
4 tbsp brown muscovado sugar
1 tsp chilli flakes
2 tsp mixed dried herbs (I used the greek meat herbs I got from Naxos)
1 clove garlic, grated
Mix all of the ingredients together and stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. Let this brine mixture cool.
Line the chops in a shallow dish, add the cooled marinade and let it sit in the refrigerater for at least 2 hours.
Grill pork chops for about 3 – 5 minutes on each side, depending on how thick they are. Seriously…best marinade I’ve ever tried.
This has got to be one of my top three favourite dim sum treats. Sweet, caramelised chinese bbq pork encased in a soft, fluffy white wheat bun. Well, that’s what I would get if I ordered it in a restaurant. My homemade version tasted really good but they didn’t quite get the ‘fluffy’ memo. The bun was more like a momofuku pork bun. More chewy than fluffy…
I’m not sure what went wrong, maybe I should try a different recipe…maybe I kneaded the dough wrong. Whatever it was, the process was still a lot of fun. Proofing the dough, kneading, pleating the buns etc. provided a very therapeutic afternoon for me. Plus the end results were still tasty. Ugly, but tasty.
I followed this recipe for the dough but I had my own recipe for the BBQ pork. The BBQ pork filling was not bad at all, with the right amount of sauce and meat ratio to produce a succulent filling for the bun.
BBQ PORK FILLING
2 medium strips of pork loin (about 800g)
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tsp five spice powder
a pinch of white pepper
1 tsp of sesame oil
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp light soy sauce
Place both pork loins and marinate with the rest of the ingredients in a freezer bag for at least 2 hours in the fridge. I left mine overnight.
Line and lightly grease a baking tray. Place both the marinated loins on the try and bake/grill in the oven at 200 deg c for about 50 minutes or until pork is nicely cooked and caramelised. Remove from oven and let it cool before chopping the pork into small pieces.
FOR THE SAUCE
1 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tsp light soy
1 tsbp sugar
1 cup water
2 tsp margarine
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 tbsp cornstarch
In a small saucepan, mix all the ingredients except the cornstarch and margarine together. Bring the mixture to a low boil, add the margarine. Dissolve cornstarch in a little water before adding to mixture. Stir continuously until the mixture thickens. Set aside to cool before adding in chopped bbq pork.
The above filling recipe was just right for 15 – 17 buns.
One of my favourite root vegetable is the daikon radish. It looks like a giant white carrot, has a very mild flavour and is thus super versatile. It is a good substitute for the jicama which isn’t as easily available in the UK. Not only is it easy to cook with, the daikon radish is also full of Vitamin C and best of all, has very low calorie count per gram. (18 calories per 85gm)
Great for pickling, the daikon radish is a common sight as sweet or spicy pickles in Japanese and Korean cuisine. The Chinese use it in steamed savoury Chinese-style rice cakes, in steamed dumplings, cooked in soup or as a spring roll filler. It can also be eaten raw – shredded in a salad. I’m sure there are many other recipes out there using this humble, little (ok, not so little) root vegetable.
A particular dish that I really enjoy is braised daikon radish with minced pork. Eaten with steamed white rice, drizzled with the braising soy sauce is like putting on warmed furry slippers on a cold winter’s day – totally comforting…mmm…
Here’s my take on this comfort dish.
BRAISED PORK MINCE WITH DAIKON RADISH
1 medium daikon radish, halved and cut into ½ inch slices
3-4 cloves of garlic, finely diced
1 small thumbsize ginger, finely sliced
400g minced pork
1 tsp dark soy sauce
2 tsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
1 tbsp preserved soy beans
1 tbsp chilli oil (optional)
1/3 cup water
- Heat up some vegetable oil in a hot wok. Add garlic and ginger and stir fry quickly for a few seconds, till fragrant. Add in minced pork and stir fry the meat to loosen it. Cook till slightly coloured / brown.
- Add all the seasoning and stir to mix it through.
- Add sliced daikon radish, mix well to coat the radish with the sauce.
- Add water and simmer covered for about 20 minutes on medium – high heat or until the daikon radish is softened but not mushy.
I saw a gözleme blog post on Almost Bourdain recently and was very inspired to try out the recipe. I think I’ve only ever tried this savoury turkish crepe at a food fair ages ago or maybe it was in a turkish restaurant…I can’t really remember. Similar to the more popular Borek, which is normally baked or fried, the gozleme is a traditional light snack or meal in Turkish families. Just the thought of a combination of freshly made pastry filled with savoury vegetables, cheese and/or meat, and browned on a griddle…was enough to get me preparing for another yeasty roll-out.
Common gozleme fillings include spinach and feta, spinach and mince or spiced potatoes. For my version, I decided to use spinach, spiced mince and ricotta.
I followed Almost Bourdain’s simple to follow pastry instructions and while waiting for the dough to rise, I cooked up some pork mince using spices like cinnamon, cumin and chilli.
Once the dough was ready, I cut them up into equal portions, rolled them out on a floured surface and filled it with the cooked mince, added a few generous dots of the creamy ricotta and a handful of fresh spinach leaves – which were wilted within the pastry while the parcels were cooking.
Each parcel was grilled on a lightly oiled pan over medium heat for 2-3 minutes each side or until it’s nicely browned.
Best eaten fresh off the griddle with a squeeze of lemon juice. Yum, yum – now to plan for a trip to Turkey to try the real thing!
400g minced pork (or lamb or beef)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp sugar
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper for seasoning
Mix all the ingredients except the lemon juice and olive oil together.
In a hot pan, heat up some olive oil and brown the spiced mince stirring to loosen the meat and get it all evenly cooked through and coloured. Once it’s cooked, squeeze in the lemon juice and stir through to finish.
Cool the mince before filling the dough.
We were invited recently to a friend’s home for a wonderful home-cooked Polish / Bulgarian meal. There were loads of food including freshly cooked borscht (beetroot soup), melt-in-the-mouth grilled tenderloin, sauerkraut with smoked polish sausages, grilled peppers, cheeses, wine and vodka. Oh my, we were very full and happy that night.
While we were chatting about food (what else!) after the meal, conversations naturally veered towards Polish specialties and I mentioned that I wanted to try my hand at making pierogi – traditional Polish stuffed dumplings. My lovely hostess of the evening ran off to the kitchen and came out with a dumpling mold and she insisted I have it.
Now, I spent the entire week after that meal thinking about making pierogi. There are many different types of stuffing for pierogi – from sweet cheese and fruit versions to savoury meat and potato filled ones.
I chose to make sauerkraut pierogi as I love how the tart sauerkraut gives the dumplings that extra punch of flavour, and it complements the onion and bacon toppings. All sour, salty, buttery and very yum.
I prepared the sauerkraut overnight as advised by my friend as it matures and becomes more flavourful. Instead of making sauerkraut from scratch, I got hold of a 500g pack of the store bought stuff.
Sauerkraut with porcini
- 500g packaged sauerkraut (some of these needs to be rinsed out first before using as it can be super salty…check by tasting it first, I didn’t need to rinse mine out)
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 3 bay leaves
- A handful of dried porcini (reconstituted with ½ cup of hot, boiling water)
- Freshly ground pepper
- A knob of butter
Melt butter in a heated pot, add onions and fry till soft and translucent. Add in sauerkraut, porcini and some of the soaking liquid. Mix well.
Add bay leaves, stir through and leave the covered pot to simmer on low heat for about 30 – 40 minutes. Add freshly ground pepper, leave the sauerkraut to cool off in the pot.
- 2 cups plain flour, plus extra for kneading and rolling dough
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 medium eggs
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup water
1. Place flour on a clean working surface. Make a well in the flour.
2. Mix eggs, sour cream, salt and water together and pour in the prepared well of flour.
3. With a fork, slowly work the flour in with the egg mixture until it becomes all clumped up.
4. With floured hands, knead the dough till it’s springy. Leave the dough to rest covered with a damp cloth for at least 30 minutes.
5. Cut the dough up in quarters, flour surfaces and rolling pin well, and roll out the dough till it’s nice and thin (about 1mm) Cut the dough into rounds (with a round cutter or in my case, I used the rim of a cup).
6. Fill the dumplings with sauerkraut. To ensure the edges of the dumplings are properly sealed, dab a little water around one side of the edge before pressing them together.
To cook the dumplings, fry up half a chopped onion in some butter, and throw in 8 rashers of bacon (chopped). Cook till bacon is crispy.
Boil the dumplings in a large pot of salted water. When the dumplings float to the surface, they’re cooked. Drizzle with butter, onion and bacon mix. Voila!
Kimchi Bokkeumbap – literally translates as Kimchi Fried Rice. This dish is easy to prepare and rather cost effective which explains why it’s a common favourite for Korean students on a budget. This recipe calls for over-ripe or well-fermented kimchi as the deep, spicy flavours is what gives the dish that rich, robust taste which fresh kimchi apparently does not produce. I wouldn’t know as my kimchi comes from a pack…and they’re always well-fermented.
Similar to the Chinese fried rice – leftover or overnight cooked rice is best for this dish. However, many claim that the Korean fried rice is healthier than the Chinese version. Only very little oil is used in cooking bokkeumbap as the kimchi liquids help to soften and lubricate the grains while frying. Apparently, kimchi is also low-calorie and has a high-level of anti-oxidants which aids in digestion and reduces cholesterol. I don’t know how true that is, but I love kimchi anyway so if it’s good for me, then double yay!
Other popular bokkeumbap include Gaeran Bokkeumba (egg fried rice), Dakgalbi Bokkeumbap (chicken) and Seawoo Bokkeumbap (shrimp) – all typically served with a sunny-side up fried egg on top. I love it when the runny yolk is mixed through with the spicy rice…drool.
(I do not have fixed quantities with this recipe, as it’s all about using leftovers and more importantly – using our God-given sense of taste…)
Leftover / overnight long grain rice
A bowl of kimchi, roughly chopped up
A couple cloves of garlic, finely diced
Some form of greens (I used frozen peas here)
Minced pork – marinated with some light and dark soy
Eggs (fried sunny side up – before cooking the rice – saves on washing another pan)
Fresh red chilli, finely sliced (optional – for those who like it SPICY)
Spring onion for garnishing
Heat up a little cooking oil in a wok, stir fry the minced pork, adding garlic and chilli halfway through. Cook the meat till it’s nicely coloured and cooked through. Add kimchi and some of the liquid, mix well and add frozen peas. Once the mixture bubbles up again, add the rice and stir fry till mixed through and all the grains are well coated with the kimchi and pork juices. Season with light soy if necessary (please taste first as some kimchi can be well seasoned already). Serve with a fried egg and spring onion garnish.
Another one of my favourite Jamie Oliver recipes. Tried and tested quite a few times. There’s no real sauce that goes with the pasta, but the power-packed flavours are in the sausage and coated in the pan while cooking, so all that goodness sticks to the cooked pasta when stirred through.
This was also the first pasta recipe I’ve tried that uses crushed fennel seeds. I have never tried cooking with fennel seeds before, not favouring the aniseedy flavour it produces. However, I’m a convert – this aromatic herb is excellent, and in this dish the fennel seeds are cooked with the sausages and it takes regular sausage meat from normal to special. Jamie calls this dish ‘proper bloke’s sausage fusilli’. Deep down, I must be a bloke then, cos I absolutely love this. It’s a gutsy, earthy dish and very easy to prepare.
This recipe is from the ‘Cook with Jamie’ book but for a full recipe low-down, go to Jamie’s site here.
I’m a Jamie Oliver fan. Simply because I’ve tried several of his recipes and they have all been fantastic. Jamie’s latest cookbook ‘Jamie Does…’ is an exploration of food and culture of various places including Morocco, Spain, Greece, Sweden, Italy and France. I’ve also watched the TV series and have drooled over many, many goodies and gorgeous sceneries.
The very first dish I attempted from this new book is from the Spanish section. It’s a Chorizo and Tomato salad. Oh. My. Gawd. I loved this so much. It was so simple yet totally delicious. Crispy, salty chorizo mixed in with sweet juicy tomatoes in a simple vinaigrette and eaten with warm bread. So, so, so good. Even hubby who isn’t a big tomato fan gave the thumbs up, while he mopped up the last bit of juices on the plate.
Chorizo and Tomato Salad
adapted from Jamie Oliver’s new book – ‘Jamie Does…’
1 chorizo sausage (raw), sliced roughly
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 stalk spring onions, finely chopped
Fresh ground pepper
white wine vinegar
fresh flat-leaved parsley, shopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
Cook the chorizo in a lug of olive oil, you want them to be nice and crispy…once they’re ready, tilt the pan so the chorizo and oil are all on one side of the pan – throw the sliced garlic in the oil. Once the garlic starts to produce its wonderful aroma, it’s ready.
While the chorizo is cooking, prepare the tomato salad with some olive oil, salt, pepper and white wine vinegar (Jamie uses sherry vinegar but I didn’t have any)…toss in the spring onions and parsley.
Mix the cooked chorizo and garlic (and some of the flavour-packed oil) into the tomato salad and you’re ready! How easy was that?
Yum…I just had this two nights ago, but I’m thinking of getting more of it RIGHT NOW! It’s a great summer dish…I pictured myself sitting on a sunny patio, barefoot and enjoying the sunshine while I tucked into this dish, washing it down with a nice, cold glass of rosé. (Day-dreaming obviously – cos there’s no sun, no patio…but I could conjure up another one of this lovely salad and I still have some pink zinfandel waiting for me in my patio-less apartment).
How ironic that just as I was ranting about the heat over the weekend on my last post, it’s turned to grey skies and rain this week. Our portable air-conditioner sits dormant in our bedroom and we’re back to preparing ‘cool weather’ food. I know, the joys of summer in London. Really, I’m not complaining – I kinda enjoy having sunny hot weeks broken with a refreshing cool one like this. Fingers-crossed we get sunshine again soon though because I’m not ready for summer to be over.
What better way to warm up the evening than with a curry. Haven’t had a curry for ages, so I thought I’d make a healthy version of Meatball and Spinach curry.
This version is healthier because in place of rich coconut milk, I used regular semi-skimmed milk. To make up for the lack of creaminess and flavour of the coconut milk, I used two types of curry paste – thai red curry paste as well as the Indian rogan josh. The Thai paste provided the earthy flavours of lemongrass, chilli, ginger and cumin while the rogan josh gave sweet flavours of tomatoes and paprika. There’s no rule that you cannot mix curry pastes and I find that if you are not cooking a type-specific curry such as a thai red curry or a jalfrezi, sometimes mixing flavours give really good results.
(Slightly Healthier) Meatball and Spinach Curry
500g minced pork (seasoned with ½ tsp each of stock powder, cumin, coriander, ginger, turmeric, sugar, 1 tsp of cornflour and 2 tsp of light soy)
450g baby spinach leaves
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 tbsp thai red curry paste (I use Mae Ploy)
1 tbsp rogan josh paste (I use Patak’s)
2 cups of semi-skimmed milk (or less if you prefer a punchier sauce)
Form seasoned minced pork into small balls just slightly smaller than a ping pong ball. Brown the meatballs, remove from wok/pot and set aside on kitchen towels (to soak up the turmeric-stained oil). In the same wok, pop in the onions and cook till slightly soft (but not browned), add in curry pastes and fry till fragrant and oil is released from the pastes. Add in the meatballs, mix to coat them in the pastes, then add in the milk. Let the liquid come to a boil, add spinach leaves. Season to taste and once all the leaves are wilted – it’s ready to serve.
Another lovely recipe which I found on one of the BBC Food websites. So easy and fuss-free. Minimal cleaning up as well since all the cooking is done in the oven. Everything’s done in about 45 minutes tops. The sweet peppers and onions are cooked through but not limp which gives the dish a nice texture. The tomato based sauce is all basil-y and tasty and great for mopping up with the fresh garlic toast.
My kind of mid-week meal!
Baked Sausage Casserole
adapted from BBCgoodfood.com
8 pork sausages
1 yellow pepper, deseeded and chopped
1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into wedges
2 large red onions, cut into wedges
400g chopped tomatoes
250ml stock (vege or chicken)
Large handful of basil leaves
1 tsp of sugar
salt and pepper for seasoning
Heat oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7. Put the sausages, pepper and onion into a roasting tin with a tiny bit of olive oil tossed in, then roast for 20 mins. Lower oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6, then tip tomatoes and stock over the sausages. Add sugar and most of the basil, season, then stir well. Roast for another 20 mins. Serve sprinkled with the remaining basil.
The simplest things are sometimes the scrummiest. On days when you’re all out of oomph, a quick, comforting meal is all it takes to make it all better. For me, Mapo Tofu does a pretty good job of that.
According to our dear friend Wiki, the name ‘mapo’ is sometimes translated as ‘pockmarked lady’. What?? I know, how unappetising right? I much prefer the more sanguine description of ‘ma’ – meaning ‘numb’, which is what happens to your mouth when you eat the fiery peppercorns and chilli in the dish. Considering the dish originates from Szechuan China, it’s not surprising that chilli and peppercorns are star ingredients.
I don’t think I’ve ever followed a specific recipe for this dish. It’s pretty basic. Stir fry minced pork with garlic, spicy chilli bean paste / chilli oil, soy or oyster sauce (depending on how salty the chilli bean paste is), add stock, bring to a boil, add cubed medium tofu. Thicken the sauce with cornstarch if necessary, garnish with spring onions (which I forgot this time)…serve with steamed rice. Done!
Do you know the difference between a stew, a casserole and a cassoulet? I was baffled when it came to naming this dish – thus I left it as ‘thingy’ – my covers-all-indescribable-things term. You know…the THINGY with the sausages and beans? People get it in the end. Saves time.
However, that niggling feeling resides at the back of my mind and I can’t help myself – I have to find out the differences between the three. (Also, I think I can only get away with naming one of my dishes a ‘thingy’ once) So off to the clever people at Oxford for clarification…
Stew: a dish of meat and vegetables cooked slowly in liquid in a closed dish or pan
Casserole: a kind of stew cooked slowly in an oven
Cassoulet: a stew made with meat and beans
Ah, so in essence, everything is a stew! This is one of my favourite mid-week meals. It’s rather hearty – with chunky portions of browned pork sausages, a generous amount of white beans and enough vegetables to qualify this as healthy.
I’ve made this dish many times now, varying ingredients based on what I have in stock. Instead of beans, you can use lentils and you can be really flexible with the vegetables as well. I’ve tried butternut squash, peppers, kale and spring greens. That’s the best part of cooking isn’t it? Getting the basics right and then putting on the creative hat by using different ingredients and spices. Good times!
For this particular ‘thingy’ I used:
3 cloves of garlic
6 gourmet pork and leek sausages
1 head of savoy cabbage
2 medium tomatoes
1 tin of cannellini beans
A splash of stock
Half tsp of cumin
Brown the sausages in a heavy pot, remove and set aside.
Add onion, garlic and cumin and cook till soft.
Return sausages to the pot, add the rest of the vegetables and beans.
Add a little stock and wine (optional) and simmer the stew till sausages are cooked through.
Season with salt, pepper and some brown sugar (optional).
Before you freak out…let me just begin by assuring one and all that no lions were harmed in the process.
Braised Lion’s Head is a dish that originated from Huaiyang in Eastern China. I only found out about it while doing my usual food surf on the web. The dish consists of jumbo-sized meatballs that is cooked with vegetables, namely cabbage. The original version of this dish was steamed but it soon evolved into a soy-sauce braised dish.
While researching online, I found many variations to this dish. Some people deep fry the meatballs, some have very little sauce, some have lots, others prefer not to braise the vegetable with the meat. Even the ingredients for the meatballs are different. I guess it really up to you to create your own lions’ head huh? If anyone has been to China and tried the original, they may be able to shed some light here. I won’t post any links to the recipes here as I kinda picked bits and pieces from various sites and created my own.
The odd name of this dish is derived because the meatballs are suppose to resemble the lion’s head and the surrounding cabbage leaves, its flowing mane. This in itself was intriguing enough that I had a go at it. Turns out that the sauce was the winner! There was soy, sugar, sesame oil and I added a dash of mirin as well. Tops!! For the next attempt, I may try it with less liquid and have the sauce caramelise a lot more. It might create an even better, punchier flavour. We’ll see.
Hot, steamed rice drenched in its sweet, mellow flavours, chunky garlicky meatballs and trails of fresh, lightly cooked cabbage. Easy to cook and very yummy. A great one dish meal for that lazy evening…