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.

Pot Stickers – 鍋貼

Pot Stickers

Right! Here we go. The quintessential dumpling post that any Chinese person worth their salt needs to have up their sleeves.

These were made on the day of Chinese new year, and thank goodness for my friends helping to wrap! The meat and veg are easily interchangeable, be it pork, chicken or even lamb, with some sort of leafy cabbagey veg (pak choi, Chinese leaf, cabbage). I’ve gone for the absolute staple combo of pork and pak choi.

The wrapping technique I’ll be showing you here isn’t actually my preferred technique, but it’s your ‘this is what a dumpling looks like’ so it’ll be nice to start there before we advance to other styles right? I can actually make the wraps for this, but for the purposes of simplicity get yourself some wraps from your local Chinese supermarket. I’m also teaching you the Chinese style of pot stickers, not the Japanese ones. Which, to be fair is only really a difference in dumpling skin thickness. The nice thing about the Chinese thicker wraps is that they’re a bit more forgiving with the wrapping and can be boiled vigorously for a delicious water/soup variety of dumplings (水餃). The following makes around 30.

Pork and pak choi dumplings:
1 packet of thick dumpling skins (not the thin gyoza ones)
250g minced organic pork (not too lean)
100 - 150 g pak choi (baby ones better)
50 g spring onions (about half a bunch)
2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1/4 tsp white pepper
2 tbsp light soy
1 tsp dark soy
3 tpsp sesame oil

Finely chop all your veg. Get everything (bar your dumpling skins obviously) into a mixing bowl and mix and squeeze everything with your hands. No messing about with a spoon or whatever. It’s quite hard to give you guys ‘proper’ veg weights as I like to eye ball my proportions. But basically you want a meat to veg ratio of around 60:40. The more veg the better I think, but you want there to be enough meat to bind it all together. Mix with your hands for around 5 minutes.

Ready to wrap? Get a shallow bowl of water and a tray dusted with rice flour ready. Let’s go:

How to fold pot stickers

1. Place a wrap flat on your hand.

2. Add about 1 tablespoon of mix in the centre.

3. Dip your finger into the water and make a ring all the way around the edge for your seal. Fold in half. Seal it and make sure there are no air bubbles.

4. Pleat!

5. Pleat-pleat-pleat-pleat. All done.

6. Take your dumpling by the pleats and gently press it onto your work top to form that flat base and curve it so it looks more crescent like. Yay! Dumplings.

So now that you’ve got all your dumplings, let’s turn them into delicious pot stickers. I hope you have a really decent non-stick frying pan with a lid, because you’ll need that lid to steam. The key to these is to NOT TOUCH THEM. I can’t emphasise that enough. Just trust that they are cooking okay? You can only move them when they are cooked and have a firm enough base to move. They aren’t called pot stickers for nothing.

Heat at medium high, frying pan on. When at heat, add a tablespoon of vegetable oil (corn or rapeseed good) and evenly coat the base. When the oil is nice and hot, add some dumplings. Space them out a bit they’ll expand, I also like to add them in a clockwise array just so I know which ones have been taking the heat longest. Now you’ll want to not touch these and let the bases take on a bit of colour, maybe 3-5 minutes? Now add enough water so that there’s a centimetre of liquid in the pan. Lid on. Heat up. Bring that liquid to a boil to create a load of steam. Steam for around five minutes.

At this point the water is evaporating out of the pan or you’ll need to take the lid off to evaporate the rest of the water away. Once the water is almost all evaporated, take a wooden chopstick or skewer and carefully run it around each dumpling to remove any access gloopy flour. Turn the heat down to medium high again (or even medium if that’s too scary) and get those bases crunchy. Another 2-5 minutes perhaps. At around this stage I like to give my pan a bit of a shake to loosen them up. Carefully lift to see what their colouring is like, you want nice and golden brown, not burnt. Keep frying them until they’re nice and crisp.

Serve up! I like having these with some Chinese black vinegar and freshly sliced ginger, but a huge jar of chilli is never too far away. If you have any spare, place them separately on a lightly floured tray in the freezer until solid. Then pack them all up in a bag. Nothing nicer than a lazy evening when you suddenly remember you have a few of these bad boys ready to go. If you’re cooking from frozen you can follow the above instructions, just have them on the first fry time a bit longer.

pot stickers cooking

Spinach & Prawn Wontons – 菠菜蝦雲吞

spinach and prawn wontonsOne of the traditional things to do on Chinese New Year is to gather together and wrap dumplings. I can see why because you wrap all the morsels faster and get to eat the fresh dumplings quicker, plus everyone gets to enjoy that feeling that they all had a hand in the meal. Fun times. Two types of dumplings were made at my CNY party, and my friend kindly managed the teaching and the wrapping of these on the night while I was manic in my mini kitchen with the other food. I believe her wrap technique was a form of Taiwanese fold, but I’ll be teaching you the Hong Kong folding style. Obvs.

The following filling makes around 28 wontons. Head to your local Chinese supermarket and get your mits on some wonton wraps. Yes. You can try to make these yourself, but one of the joys of nice wontons I find is the loose thin noodlely bits and I can guarantee that you won’t be able to roll the dough thinly enough. Just buy a packet already. There’s no shame in it.

Spinach and Prawn Wontons:
1 pack square wonton wraps
140 g raw prawns - deveined
225 g baby spinach leaves
2-3 garlic cloves - crushed
2-3 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp cornflour
splash of light soy
pinch of fine salt
pinch of white pepper

Small frying pan on medium heat. Sesame oil in. When at heat, add your crushed garlic and fly until fragrant but not crispy. Set aside.

Get a pot of boiling water onto the stove and quickly blanch your spinach. When it’s wilted down strain the leaves and submerge in ice-cold water. Reserve the spinach water for some broth. Keep the leaves submerged while you deal with the prawns. Change the cold water every so often. This helps with getting rid of that metallic taste in your spinach.

With a pair of scissors over a mixing bowl cut up your prawns into half-inch bits. Add your pinch of salt then your corn four. Mix mix mix. Strain your spinach leaves and squeeze out all the liquid, you should end up with a couple of tennis ball-shaped spinach balls. With your scissors chop into these roughly and add the cut up bits of veg directly over your prawns. Finally add to this the garlic and sesame oil and the rest of the seasonings. You don’t want this mix too wet so easy on the soy, compensate with a bit more salt if you fancy. Mix thoroughly.

You’re now ready to wrap. The key to nice wontons is a lightness of touch and some finger dexterity, so hopefully these steps and my little photo How To will help. The only things I will emphasise is that these wraps are delicate and you don’t want to overfill them. You’ll need some flour dusted trays to stop the wontons from sticking and a small bowl of water to seal them.

Wonton How To Steps

1. Make a ring shape with your thumb and forefinger

2. Place a wrap on top of this

3. Add a teaspoon of mix to the centre and carefully press down

4. Using your finger dab a ring of water just around the mixture

5. Carefully pleat the corners over and lightly seal just around the top of the mix with length of your forefinger from your other hand.

6. Done! Try to avoid bunching/clumping the top frilly bits. You’ll want these lovely and loose in your broth.

When you want to cook these, get a pot of water to boil. When boiling use a slotted spoon to agitate the water and carefully drop the wontons in. Keep carefully agitating, this stops them from sticking to the bottom of the pot. When the water comes back to the boil and the wontons float to the surface you’re ready to dish them up.

I served mine with a broth made with some reserved spinach water, with splashes of soy and fish sauce. Add to this some fresh dill, coriander, chilli and thinly sliced ginger.

Oh! If you want to save these they won’t keep in the fridge so you’ll have to freeze them, set them apart on a tray and place them in the freezer, once solid collect them all and pop them into a freezer bag. Cook them in boiling water from frozen later. My kinda fast food.

Simple Cold Tofu – 冷豆腐

Cold TofuHappy Easter everyone! It’s sunny and I’ve had a pretty eventful and relaxing break. What more could you ask for? House parties, brunch, museums, coffee, catchups, drinks, potluck, cleaning, DIY, bookkeeping….*tick tick tick tickety tick*

So my excuse for the lack of posting was that I was actually in the Alps snowboarding and drinking hot wine with friends in this beautiful winter wonderland magical paradise. I’m not going to lie, it was amazing and sadly I’m already starting to forget that delicious feeling of breathing in frosty air. Prior to my week off in the snow I went to nutritionist who not only put me on a probiotic replacement therapy course, but also kindly informed me that I should avoid wheat and dairy for a month…to which I simply replied:

“But, I’m going to France!”

It was tough, but I think I did alright (a mad crazed fondue incident aside). Which brings me neatly (not really) to this popular tofu dish that I make all the time, which made not one but three appearances during my Chinese New Year shin dig. And happily for others out there who are vegetarian, wheat and dairy intolerant, you too can make and consume this dish.

Simple Cold Tofu:
A packet of silken tofu - firm or soft good
Spring onions - finely chopped
2 tbsp light soy sauce (GF if poss)
2 tsp dark soy sauce
(GF if poss)
2 tsp Sesame oil
1/2 tsp Fresh ginger - grated
1 tbsp mushroom floss
pinch chilli flakes or fresh chilli
pinch sesame seeds
1 tbsp roasted peanuts - crushed

If you have time to kill, the following will make the tofu even silkier and remove some of that out-of-a-box taste. It’s not necessary, but it’s nicer. Get it out of its packaging and place it on a small plate. Boil a pot of water with enough water to submerge your tofu. Once boiled, remove the pot from the heat and submerge the tofu and plate for 20 minutes. Drain, and set it aside to cool. You can put it over ice, or whack it in the fridge, it’s up to you.

When you’re ready to serve, slice the tofu thinly, drizzle with the soy sauces and sesame oil, get the spring onions on. Add the chilli, grated ginger, sesame seeds, peanuts and mushroom floss*…

*Okay, I probably need an aside is needed for this little addition. This is the vegetarian version of ingredient that for health/religious reasons my mum no longer really eats so I get gifted the veggie version whenever I go back to Hong Kong. But for those of you relatively au fait with Chinese or Thai snack foods, the following statement is irrefutable: Pork floss is delicious.

If you have never heard of pork floss, it is *exactly* as it says on the tin. It’s seasoned pork that’s spun into a savoury meaty candy floss. I don’t know how they do it, but it’s that kind of black food magic which makes the world go round. Go try some. Preferably on those moorish spicy rice crackers…who do I know in Thailand at the moment to get me some?…who…do…I…

…hang on. Sorry I got side tracked. Basically, you get it. This tofu dish is supremely adaptable. If you’ve got your three main flavours of soy, sesame oil and spring onions, you can add essentially anything you want. Be it crushed garlic, a splash of black chinese vinegar, a raw quail egg, natto, grated yam, umeboshi, grated carrot, a thousand year old egg, coriander. Maybe not everything I’ve listed at once. Experiment and make some: it’s simple.

Tea Eggs – 茶葉蛋

Tea EggsI love tea eggs, they’re so yummy, the smell of them cooking reminds me of home, and they look so pretty with their marbling. For Chinese New Year I made quail egg versions so guests had little tasty morsels instead of a whole chicken egg. Traditionally you leave the shell on and peel it when you want to eat it, but I didn’t want my friends faffing around with all that peeling. I’m not sure, however, that I would recommend peeling 36 quail eggs…

Below is a recipe for 6 chicken eggs or 18 quail eggs.

Tea Eggs:
500 ml of water
1 cup light soy
1 tbsp dark soy
2 tsp of sugar
3 pieces of star anise
2 generous tbsp of black tea
Stick of cinnamon
A pinch of white pepper
A pinch of black pepper

Put a pot on the stove and start boiling the water. Wash your eggs and place them in to boil. If using chicken eggs – boil for 8 mins; Quail eggs – 2 minutes. When they’re done, remove them with a slotted spoon and let them cool off until you can handle them. With the back of a metal spoon you want to gently bash the eggs all over, you don’t want to pierce the membrane just beneath the shell though, so don’t get too carried away. I think smaller cracks are prettier.

While you’re doing this add the soy sauce and all the other ingredients to the pot of just boiled water and bring it all to a boil again. Simmer the tea leaves for 5 minutes.  Now add your pre-cracked eggs and turn the heat off. Remove the pot from the heat source and let it cool to room temperature. Once cooled, decant everything into a large enough sealable container and steep them in the fridge for at least 8 hours. The longer you leave them. The better they taste.

quail eggs

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.

Radish Cake – 蘿蔔糕

Radish Cake

My first dim sum post! How exciting. So as promised, I’ll be blogging Chinese New Year celebratory dishes and here’s the humble radish cake – a symbol of prosperity and the dim sum staple. A dish that can so easily flit from greasy and bland to chewy unctuous yumminess. It’s surprising how common this dim sum dish is as it’s tricky to master, but having failed making this dish so…so many times…This year, I’ve finally got it right.

In attempts of the past I’ve always got several things wrong, but mostly it was the balance of radish to water and flour. So if you find me getting a bit pedantic in these areas you’ll know why. There is no saving a radish cake that has the texture of a rubber door stop. For those of you who’ve never had radish cake, it’s not really a cake in the traditional sense. It’s not a fluffy dessert, but a savoury appetiser of sorts that’s got a lot of preserved and cured meat in it, so if you want to make a veggie version I would suggest sticking with a mix of shiitake mushrooms and maybe some Buddhist veggie meat found in your local Chinese supermarket. This takes absolutely ages to make, so set aside a good few hours at least. I made mine the night before New Year’s day.

Radish Cake: Serves 8-10
1100 g daikon radish - tops trimmed
170 g mix of Chinese cured meat*
8 dried shiitake mushrooms
1/2 cup of Chinese dried shrimp
2 tsp Shao Hsing rice wine (the brown one)
1 tsp sugar
2 cups rice flour
1 tsp sea salt

*I used 3 types of cured meat. This worked out at a bit of Chinese bacon (臘肉) a small cured sausage (臘腸) and small duck liver sausage (膶腸).

In a bowl soak your mushrooms in 2 cups cold water to soften them up. In another bowl soak your dried shrimp in 1 cup cold water. I like to stack the shrimp bowl onto of the mushroom bowl so the mushrooms get fully covered in water and thus soften up quicker.

You should have about a 1 1/2 inch piece of Chinese bacon, cut your sausages up into similar sizes. Place all this cured meat into a shallow dish and steam the meat for 30 minutes to soften it up.

While that is steaming, peel all of your daikon. Then on a large chopping that can retain liquid grate all of that radish! Damn. This is super tiring! It took me half an hour to peel a grate this lot. I’m not sure what that says about me (weak. I’m blatantly weak. Not enough Asian stamina), but I just kept thinking of my little Chinese grandmother and the thought that she’s been making this dish six times (on top of another 6 taro cakes as well) for all her children’s families every Chinese New Year…it’s just…unbelievable. Anyway. Grate like a mad person.

Grating radishWhen done place all of the grated radish and it’s liquid into a pot and combine it with a litre of cold water. Bring this all to a boil then turn the heat down and simmer for a further 30 minutes until tender. Once this is done you want to drain the radish but reserve the cooking liquid.

While the radish is cooking you want to deal with the now steamed dish of cured meat. Remove and discard the rind of fat from the bacon and dice your cured meat into little cubes around 0.5 – 1 cm. Reserve the oily liquid in the shallow dish. Set the diced meat aside.

With the soaked mushrooms and shrimp you’ll want to save their soaking liquids in their separate bowls. So when your mushrooms are soft enough squeeze out the water from each mushroom, set the soaking liquid aside, discard the stems from the mushrooms and dice them in a similar manner to the cured meat. Drain the shrimp and set their soaking liquid aside.

Basically you should have four main components with separate flavoured liquids to accompany them: radish and radish stock; cured meat and steamed juices; diced mushrooms and soaking liquid; shrimp and soaking liquid.

Get a large pot or wok on the stove. Fry up your meat for a few minutes until they start to brown and release fat. Now add your diced mushrooms and shrimp. When fragrant add the meat juices from the steaming dish, the rice wine, sugar and salt. Remove from heat. To this large pot, now add your drained radish, combine well and set aside.

In a large bowl add your rice flour. Now to this add 1 cup of hot turnip stock, 1/2 a cup of the mushroom liquid (carefully avoid the debris at the bottom of the bowl), 1/2 of the strimp liquid (same again, avoid the debris). Whisk up the flour and liquid and pour into the turnip, meat and mushroom pot. Stir throughly it should resemble rice pudding and do a quick taste test (yes it’ll be a bit floury but you want to have enough salt). Whack all of this mixture into a large enough cooking dish. Traditionally we use metal trays but mine with perfectly into a 8 inch diameter pie dish that was 3 inches deep. Nice.

At this point you’ll want to set a large wok up for steaming. Place a trivet at the bottom of the wok and add enough hot water in before it reaches the top of the trivet. Lid on. Boil that liquid to produce steam. Add your dish of radish rice pudding to the centre of the wok without letting the dish touch the sides of the wok. Lid on again and steam for 1 hour, or until the ‘cake’ is firm to the touch. Poke it with a skewer to check that it’s all cooked. Keep an eye on the water and top it up if necessary so there’s always steam.

Steaming Radish CakeThis is what mine looked like when it was done. I was hopping around with joy at 1 am because I knew it was right. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours before you serve.

When you’re ready to serve this, you’ll need to carefully cut it into pieces that are approximately half and inch thick. Frying pan on. Heat medium high. Add a bit of vegetable oil (corn or rapeseed good) and fry your radish cake so you get nice crispy cakes. Dish up. Bit of chilli sauce and maybe some soy and you’re good to go.

Spicy Chinese Pickled Cabbage

Spicy Chinese Pickled Cabbage

Happy Year of the Snake everyone! Last week my little kitchen was burning the candle at both ends to get some delicious treats out for a CNY party last night, which I literally decided to throw on Monday. A surprising amount of people agreed to come considering the late notice, it being a Sunday and the snow, so a warm glowy feeling was had by ushering the new year over great food and friends. As per usual at my foodie parties, people had to be rolled out, so the following posts here at Minikin Kitchen will really be me catching up with what I cooked throughout the week ending with the on the day dumpling making sessions. Ahhh…Chinese New Year. I love you.

So. Let’s start with this spicy, sour and slightly sweet offering of chinese pickled cabbage. My veg box last thursday happened to contain Chinese Leaf (or Nappa Cabbage across the pond) as well as carrots. Serendipitous or what?  You can if you want substitute the Chinese leaf with a head of regular white cabbage, which will result in a firmer bite.

Pickled Cabbage:
1 large Chinese leaf cabbage - cut into 1.5 inch squares
2 carrots - thinly sliced into half moon shapes
4 fresh bird's eye chillies - deseeded and thinly sliced
1-2 inch piece of ginger - thinly sliced
1/2 tsp Szechuan peppercorns
1 cup of rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp rice wine (the clear one)
1 tbsp salt

This is pretty easy side dish to prep in advance. Cut and put all the veg in a large tupperware box or jar, anything with a lid strong enough for you to shake everything up.

Heat up the vinegar and dissolve all the sugar and salt. Once it’s all dissolved add the rice wine and the peppercorns. Now add this to all the veg and shake it all up. The veg will shrink in volume over time adding loads of water to the mixture. What I ended up doing is whacking it all in a big Kilner jar and every morning and night rotate and stand the jar upside down (or right side up) to shift and coat it all. I made this on the Thursday evening and did a taste test Friday evening, so these quantities are the results of my adjustments.

Serve it up using a slotted spoon or chopsticks, you don’t want to serve it swimming in the pickling liquid. It does have a spicy kick, and although my friends enjoyed it, I’d start with 2 chillies and do a taste test a day or two in. I really like spicy food, but I’m into enjoying food not enduring it.

CNY 2013

Crusted Pumpkin with a Yogurt Dip

Crusted Pumpkin

It’s the first week back to work for me, and boy has 2013 started off with a bang. I feel like I’ve had the hit the ground running from the airport since arriving back from Hong Kong. It’s also really rather cold in London compared to the shockingly low temps of 11°C I had to endure over the holiday so all I want to eat is warming comfort food. Amazingly I had all the ingredients for this at home, plus it uses up breadcrumbs that tend to sit around forever in the cupboard. What’s not to like?

Crusted Pumpkin:
a small pumpkin
A large handful of grated parmesan
A smaller handful of panko breadcrumbs
A handful parsley - finely chopped
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Zest of a lemon
1 garlic clove
3 tbsp olive oil
A pinch of sea salt
A few cracks of black pepper
4 tbsp plain yogurt
1 tsp sumac

Oven to 190°C. Cut your pumpkin into 1 cm wedges, leave the skin on. Get them on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. In a separate bowl mix all of the crust ingredients together (except for the yogurt and sumac), you can use ordinary breadcrumbs of course, but I don’t have any of those. Besides, get yourself a bag of panko it’s way *way* nicer. You’ll wait to taste your mix before adding salt as the cheese will be salty.

Brush the pumpkin slices generously with the oil and coat them with the crust mixture, you’ll want a few millimetres of the deliciousness. Gently pat the mixture to bind it better.

Whack it in the oven for around 30 minutes. I’ve burnt mine a wee bit as I left them in a bit long. Oh well. Texture!

While that’s cooking mix up your yogurt dip with some salt, pepper, maybe a bit of olive oil or cream if it’s not the consistency that you want. Sprinkle with the sumac before serving. Get those wedges out of the oven when done and maybe squeeze some lemon juice over them. Super easy and fun to eat.

Golden Prawns – 黃金蝦 – Prawns stir fried with salted egg yolks

黃金蝦

I few posts ago I mentioned my Auntie Ann who is a great home cook, and I realised I had to learn how to make her lotus root fritters once I went back to visit the family in Hong Kong. So since I’m here at the moment, I asked her about a cooking lesson and she was so pleased I wanted to learn, that a date was quickly set. It was only a couple of days ago that I had the pleasure of not only making said lotus root delights but also this particularly scrummy prawn dish. For those uninitiated to the salted egg yolks stir fried with prawns, I can imagine that it’s actually a pretty bizarre taste sensation. It’s creamy, mushy, salty, deliciously prawny & and has a texture a bit like wet earth. This is from the preserved salted egg yolks and it’s the earthy sensation that actually makes them *good* so don’t be too alarmed next time you try this dish at a decent Chinese restaurant. I learned loads of new techniques and was even more impressed that my Aunt can churn out all this great food on just a two hob stove in a kitchen a third the size of my own mini proportions back in London.

To make this dish you want to buy some salted eggs from your local Chinese supermarket and you’ll need about 1 salted egg yolk per 2 big ass prawns. We had six prawns between the two of us. Oh, and I guess I should give a bit of a warning here: this dish is absolutely loaded with cholesterol. But that’s what makes it so utterly delicious.

Golden Prawns:
6 large prawns with their shells still on
3 salted eggs
1 1/2 tbsp of vegetable oil - not olive oil
2 tbsp corn flour
couple of pinches white pepper
1 tbsp butter

Depending on what type of salted eggs you buy (or you know, you can make your own), they are raw inside so you want to clean off the charcoal stuff before you cook with them. Crack your salted eggs into a plate and steam them for around 15 minutes until the egg yolks are just cooked. When they are done, remove the yolks from the egg whites and put them in a small bowl. Using a metal spoon, gently cut each yolk in half and remove and discard this hard pea sized nubbin from inside (removing this is actually optional, it’s just a harder piece of yolk, my mum says keep it in – meh – sisters will disagree). With the same metal spoon roughly chop the yolks – you want nice bits to chew on so nothing smaller than a centimetre cubed. Save for later on.

Wash and prep your prawns*. Use a pair of scissors and trim the legs off, cut off the sharp front part off the head – chop off about about half an inch- and trim a bit off the tail. At the bit of the prawn where the head meets body, make about a half an inch incision along the top of the the body and remove a bit of that section either side of the body. This helps keep the prawn intact as most of it’s shell is still holding it together, but also gives the yummy egg mixture a chance to get to flavour the fleshy bits of the prawn. Now use a small paring knife and tease the black vein out of the prawn. Rinse and pat dry the now cleaned and prepped prawns with a paper towel. Stir the corn flour with a couple of pinches of white pepper and dust dust dust each prawn and set them aside.

Wok on stove to high heat with a tablespoon of oil. When the oil is good and hot, stir fry your prawns until they are half cooked. Remove prawns and set aside on some kitchen roll.

Wipe down the wok. Heat to medium high. Add half a tablespoon of oil and one tablespoon of butter. When the butter is at heat, get your egg yolks in and gently toss, it should all foam up and smell really nice. Carefully toss in the prawns and take the heat up high to finish it all off. You really don’t need to cook these for long you just want to coat the prawns and cook them through. Serve!

prawn illustration*Doodle of prawn prep

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