Sticky Soy Glazed Pork Ribs – 紅燒排骨

sticky ribs

I’m going full veggie this month, and I’m actually looking forward to it. As someone who used to be veggie and is now with someone who I can only describe as a Carnivore, I’m happy to cut back on the meat to be honest! I am however *very* surprised that they are going veggie with me too. Over valentines as well. This should be interesting!

This is obviously a meat recipe, but I’m a bit behind and I’m requested to cook these quite often. So here they are, some yummy sticky ribs..

Serves 4.

Sticky Soy Glazed Pork Ribs:
700 g baby pork ribs, separate the ribs
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 whole head of garlic
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
3 tbsp light soy
55 g Chinese rock sugar (or Demerara is good)
175 ml water and more to cook if needed

Marinade the pork and the dark soy for at least half an hour.

Break up the garlic head into individual cloves with skins still intact.

Wok on medium-high heat. Once hot add the oil. Wait a bit for the oil to get hot and add the garlic cloves – toss for 1 minute. Now add the cinnamon and star anise and fry for another minute. Once lovely and fragrant add the pork ribs and lightly brown, then add the light soy sauce, sugar and water. Keep stirring until the sugar has dissolved.

Bring the heat low and gently simmer lid off for 30 minutes. Keep and eye on it and stir frequently to keep the meat from sticking to the bottom. Then cover and simmer for an hour or so. Do keep checking on the ‘Sticky Factor’ you want the sauce lovely and thick. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and a sprig of coriander if you’re being fancy. I’m probably too busy eating these with my hands to care!

Lotus Root & Braised Pork Belly in Fermented Tofu Sauce – 蓮藕燜豬肉

lotus root braised pork bellyThere are times when the evenings are too cold in London, work is too stressful and I just feel a bit homesick and really miss Hong Kong. At times like these, it’s always that taste-of-home-like-mum-makes-it which really hits the spot. This particular dish is a Cantonese staple and a huge favourite of mine. It’s salty, saucy and you have to eat it with rice. The lotus root is a vegetable that has starchy potato like qualities whilst also keeping a satisfying bite, and the fermented tofu sauce has a strong umami flavour. I’ve read that it’s been likened to cheese, but I guess it’s just one of those things that I’ve eaten from childhood so it’s just fermented tofu flavour to me. So first things first you’ll probably need to get your mitts on some fermented tofu (紅腐乳) from your local oriental supermarket. There are also dried mushrooms in this dish, so you will need to pre-soak these in a bowl of water with another bowl stacked on top to fully rehydrate them for at least an hour.

Lotus Root & Braised Pork Belly:
500 g pork belly
500 g lotus root
6 dried shitake mushrooms, pre-soaked and halved
2 inch knob of ginger
3-4 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 bricks fermented red bean curd (紅腐乳)
2 star anise
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine
1 tbsp sesame oil
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar

Cut the pork belly into 2-3 inch chunks. Set aside. Peel the piece of ginger and with the large flat side of a meat cleaver SMASH IT FLAT, peel the garlic and repeat the smashing (if you don’t have a big meat cleaver, a meat tenderiser is fine). Peel and cut the lotus root into similar sizes to your pork and give the occasionally large piece a similar smash with the side of the cleaver (violent hey? Good for de-stressing this). My mum tells me it’s to get more flavour in, I think she just likes smashing things. Rinse off the lotus root and add leave them in a container full of water and a bit of salt to stop them from discolouring.

You now want to make a simple marinade. In a separate mixing bowl (large enough for all the pork) add the light soy, dark soy, rice wine, sesame oil, salt and sugar. Stir thoroughly and set aside.

Get your wok on medium to high heat and when the wok is nice and hot add your vegetable oil, once this is piping hot add the ginger then the garlic and flavour that oil but be careful not to burn the garlic. Remove the garlic and ginger and set aside. You now want to sear the pork belly, it’s okay not to thoroughly cook it at this stage as it will go through a lot of braising, just carefully brown each side of the pork.

Once this is done, remove the pork and place it in the marinade, coat evenly and set aside.

With your wok still on, add back the ginger and the garlic and stir fry until fragrant again. Add to this the mushroom halves. Once they start smelling lovely add the fermented tofu with a cup of water and use the wok spatula to flatten and mix the blocks into a paste. Sieve the lotus root from the water and add the root to the wok. Stir stir stir. Coat coat coat. Now add the pork belly and all the marinade from the bowl. Finally add the star anise and enough water to just coat everything. Take the heat down to a simmer and leave for 2 hours always making sure to stir everything up occasionally and top up the water if needed. Test the pork, once this is soft and tender you’re ready to go. I hope you made some rice with that.

Red Cooked Beef Shin – 紅燒牛腱

red-cooked beef shin

Whenever my mum throws a party, there are staples that family and friends expect to be served. Of these are drunken chicken wings, and red-cooked beef shin or turkey gizzards (which may sound totally horrific to those uninitiated, but my god, gizzards are delicious). So this Chinese New Year I decided on the beef shin and found myself making a large pot of aromatic red broth to braise my meat. I actually tried to source some turkey gizzards, but I think all the local butchers I called around thought I was a bit loopy. Oh gizzards. I shall find you one day.

I remade this again last night because my guests who were as quick and hungry as gannets gobbled it all up before I could take a picture. I doubled this amount to be a bit of a nibbly appetiser for around 20 people. So, below will probably be a starter to serve 4?

Red Cooked Beef Shin:
700 g beef shin
5 or 6 shallots - roughly chopped
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Peel of an orange
2.5 cups cold water
1/2 Shiu Hing (brown) cooking wine
1 cup light soy sauce
3 tbsp rock or granulated sugar
1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns
1 tbsp star anise
1 stick of cinnamon
1 tbsp whole cloves
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tsp liquorice powder
A drizzle of sesame oil to serve

Get a colander in the sink. Rinse the meat in cold water, trim some of the outer fatty bits if you must. Then take some boiling water and douse the meat to seal it a bit.

Chop your shallots fry them in a bit of vegetable oil until fragrant – remove and save for later. With a peeler, peel the orange rind off in one long spiral. Now get a pot and put the water, soy, sugar, shallots, orange peel and and spices (basically all the ingredients but the sesame oil) into it. You want the pot small enough that when you add the beef it is completely submerged in the braising liquid.

Shin in and bring it to a boil, after 5 mins turn the heat right down to a simmer. Notes from my mum said ‘braise for at least 40 mins until tender’. I ended up simmering it for 2.5 hours. You want to check the water level is always submerging the meat, and maybe flip it around every so often so all sides get infused with the flavour. Check tenderness with a skewer, it should be soft enough to melt in the mouth but still have structure when you slice it.

The absolute best thing about slow cooking with shin is the ribbons of tendon and fat which render down into impossibly guilty deliciousness. You can just about see the marbling in the photo above.

Once tender, remove the beef from the braising liquid and let it rest for 15 minutes. Now thinly slice against the grain of the meat and serve with a drizzle of sesame oil and a splash of the red braising broth. If I were to be a bit more organised about this, I might even scoop some of the red broth out into a smaller pot and reduce it down into a thicker dipping sauce. So maybe you wanna do that if you have time.

Roast Duck Ragu with Polenta

duck and polentaI had a friend over for dinner. It was sort of a long overdue dinner offering that happened to also coincide with me finishing a bunch of DIY in my mini kitchen. It was a delicious little feast, and for the first time in ages, I cooked meat. So here it is, the first official meaty post in my nascent food blog.

The tomato sauce base of this has already been posted so you’ll want to make a batch of that tasty goodness. This will feed two.

Duck Ragu Ingredients:
150 g cherry tomatoes - halved
Flaky sea salt and black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
2 good sized duck legs
750 ml tomato sauce
Handful of good black olives - stoned
Small handful of chopped parsley to serve

Oven to 180°C. On a lined baking tray: season your halved cherry tomatoes, splash ’em a bit with some olive oil and roast them for about half an hour until they blister and practically collapse. Remove and set aside.

Now get your oven to 240°C. Take your duck legs and season them with some salt and pepper. Roast them on until the skin is lovely and crispy (10-15 mins, maybe). When all crispy, lower that oven’s temperature to 200°C and roast these bad boys for about an hour until they’re tender. When done, set them aside and save the cooking juices and meat drippings for later.

When the duck is cool enough to handle. Remove the skin (and eat it! Haha, that’s what we did) and pick off the meat. Roughly chop the larger bits so you get nice sized bits of meat. Set aside.

Get a large pot on the stove and at medium heat, now heat up your tomato sauce. Add olives, some black pepper and all the dripping and cooking juices from the duck. Bring the sauce to a simmer for 30 minutes or thereabouts until it is very thick. Ragu gloopy thick. Add the duck legs and cook this for a further 10 minutes. Just before you’re about to serve your ragu, stir in the roasted tomatoes and toss in some chopped parsley.

I served this with soft polenta. I am always making up my polenta to taste and by eye. But this is kinda what you need:

Soft Polenta Ingredients:
Water
Polenta flour
Some sort of cheese - I went parmesan
Salt & Pepper
Unsalted butter

In a heavy bottomed pan, get some water to a boil. You’ll want to think of proportions of food to serving amounts I suppose. So a cup and a half of water per person. Get a whisk and vigorously whisk that water in one direction only, this stops the polenta from getting lumpy. Now carefully add your polenta flour a handful at a time while whisking. This stuff cooks and expands fast, and before you know it, you’re polenta’s too thick and you’ll need to add more water and end up with way too much polenta (which isn’t a bad thing, pour leftovers into trays and griddle the firmer polenta cakes the next day…I bloody love polenta)…anyway, one handful at a time. When it’s at the consistency that you like, add a load of cheese in to taste and season. Serve up with a blob of unsalted butter.

I also served the ragu with a side of griddled asparagus. You really don’t need to do much with these. Bend and snap off the chewy parts of the asparagus spears. Hot griddle pan. Splash of olive oil. Griddle them. Serve with sea salt and freshly squeezed lemon. You can serve these with shavings of parmesan as well, but with all the cheese in the polenta, I didn’t want to over parmesan the dishes out.

grilled asparagus

Chinese Styled Pumpkin Stew with Kale and Mince

As the title suggests, this is a Chinese stew type dish which really reminds me of wintertime in Hong Kong. And after these past few cold rainy days, I really needed some HK styled comfort food. The type that has gloriously squidgy textures and an oyster saucy gravy that goes divinely with plain steamed rice. This is rather hilariously made with posh versions of all the 3 main ingredients of pumpkin, carrots and kale (Casperita squash, purple carrots and cavolo nero), obviously you can substitute with the more easily found versions in your grocery isle. I’ve also used Quorn mince instead of proper meat mince, if you would like to use real meat, go for pork mince. Failing that, turkey or chicken.

Chinese Pumpkin Stew:
1 small squash or pumpkin (Cantaloupe melon sized?)
1 carrot - chopped
2 generous handfuls of kale - shredded
2 cloves garlic - slightly smashed
4-6 shallots - quartered
1 tbsp veg oil
250 g mince
1/2 cup water
1-2 tbsp oyster sauce
1/2 tbsp chilli bean paste
2 cardamom pods - lightly smashed
1 whole star anise
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp white pepper
salt to taste
1 tsp cornflour (optional)

Oven to 170°C. Chop up your squash and cut it into smallish chunks, I left the skin on because I like the extra texture after roasting, toss them in a bowl with a bit of oil, white pepper and some salt. This is probably where the recipe isn’t strictly Chinese as not everyone has an oven back home, but I really like the slight crisping of the edges roasting provides. Roast until tender about 30-40 minutes.

While that’s roasting. Pan on the stove. Medium-high heat. Heat the oil then sauté the garlic and shallots until slightly tender. Add your smashed cardamom pod, star anise and cinnamon and fry to release some nice smells. Now add your mince and brown a bit. Carrots, the 1/2 cup of water, oyster sauce and the chill bean paste go in next. Cover and cook until the carrots are tender. The kale goes in last for a couple of minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.

The optional cornflour should be used to thicken the sauce at this point. In a small bowl, mix thoroughly with a tablespoon of cold water and add it to the pan and stir in well. Be careful! Too thick and it becomes horrible Chinese takeaway gloopy – and nobody needs that. Stir through your pumpkin and serve up. There should be enough to feed two. Or, one very hungry small person…

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