Sweet and sour pork

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Sweet and sour pork is one of the mainstays of most Chinese takeaways and restaurants and is known and loved throughout the land. There’s only one snag though- it’s rich often cloying batter so I decided to give the dish a revamp and lose the batter but not compromise on flavour. If you know me, I am not a huge fan of fruit in savoury dishes, but the pineapple in this dish is a must as it balances the flavours and is deliciously tender. If you prefer, you can substitute pork with chicken.

Ingredients- serves 3-4
For the sauce
3 tbsp. ketchup
2 tsp plum sauce
4 tsp rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp lea and perrins
2 tsp oyster sauce
2 garlic cloves- crushed
1 inch piece of fresh ginger- peeled and grated
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp corn starch in 4 tbsp. water

For the rest
Groundnut or vegetable oil
1/2 fresh pineapple- peeled, cored and chopped
1 red and 1 green bell pepper- chopped
350-400g pork tenderloin tossed in 2 tbsp seasoned corn flour- chopped

1. Kick off proceedings by combining all the sauce ingredients in a small pan and heat over a low heat until starting to thicken; remove from the heat whilst you start the pork.

2. Take a pan that you can shallow fry in and add enough oil; heat to medium- high. In a couple of batches, fry the cornflour flour tossed pork until golden. Remove from the pan using a slotted spoon, blot onto kitchen roll to remove excess oil and set aside.

3. In a wok, add a glug of oil and fry the pineapple and peppers until softening and until the pineapple is picking up a little colour. Pop the pork in the wok and cook for a further couple of minutes before adding the reduced sauce. Continue to cook until well combined and the sauce is coating each piece of pork. Serve immediately with rice or noodles and dive in!

Sweet and sour pork- not a scrap of batter in sight!

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Chinese vegetable spring rolls

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Ah the humble spring roll- a cherished Chinese appetiser that longs to be paired with a sweet chilli sauce or a glossy ginger and soy dip perhaps? Whatever your preference, spring rolls are there to be filled with whatever filling you so choose however a vegetable spring roll is a wonderful thing. I have loved beansprouts since being a child so these are packed with them alongside rice vermicelli noodles that are spiced as well as carrot, sugar snap peas and cabbage. To tell you the truth, I used odds and ends of vegetables that were loitering in the fridge from other recipes so love your leftovers and get rolling!

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Ingredients- makes approx. 12 medium rolls
1 nest of rice vermicelli noodles (optional)
1 garlic clove- crushed
Small piece of fresh ginger- grated
1 tbsp Chinese five spice
2 tsp soy sauce
Handful of beansprouts
1 carrot- thinly sliced or grated
Red cabbage- finely shredded
Small pack of sugar snap peas- thinly sliced
3 spring onions- shredded
3 large filo sheets
1 egg- lightly beaten

1. Start in advance of when you want to serve these as the filling needs to cool before making the rolls. Soak the vermicelli noodles (if using) for 10 minutes until softened before draining well and cutting down. In the meantime, take a wok and heat a glug of vegetable oil. Fry the garlic and ginger for a minute before adding the vegetables, five spice and soy sauce. Cook until softened and add the spring onions at the last minute. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

2. In a large bowl, mix the cooled filling with the noodles. Take a filo sheet and quarter it. Take a spoonful of the mixture and place near one edge of the filo. Lightly brush the edges of the filo with the beaten egg. Bring the edge of the filo over the filling before then bringing the sides in over the ends before continuing to roll. Make sure the end is well sealed so the roll does not fall apart when you cook it. Repeat this process for the remaining pieces of filo.

3. When the rolls are ready to cook, take a wok and add oil so it is deep enough to fry in. When the surface of the oil is shimmering and small bubbles can be seen, fry the spring rolls in batches. They will take around 5 minutes but the bigger the rolls, the longer they will need. Fry until the rolls are golden and crisp. Blot the cooked rolls on kitchen paper and serve immediately. If you have any left (doubtful!) you can reheat in a moderate oven on a baking tray until warmed through and crisped up.

Vegetable spring rolls- a side dish fit for any Chinese feast!

Ginger, garlic and chilli king prawns

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The other night time was short and I did not want to slaving away over a hot stove for too long so cue a quick prawn dish! I had a rummage in the fridge and cupboards and knew I was off to a good start when ginger garlic and chilli leapt out at me. King prawns have to be one my favourite things and are always handy to have in the freezer for a quick fix. I recently got bought a box of weird and wonderful ingredients for Christmas and this included sweet potato vermicelli noodles so this was the perfect opportunity to try them. They are much like glass noodles and have a firm texture which is a great contrast to the tender prawns. I kept the noodles simple and stir fried them with some beansprouts and a touch of soy so as to make sure the prawns were the star of the show so read on and get some quick dinner inspiration…

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Ingredients- serves 2
200g raw king prawns- deveined
2 tbsp dark soy
2 tbsp rice wine
1 tsp cornflour stirred into 2 tbsp water
1 tsp chilli flakes
2 garlic cloves- finely sliced
1 inch piece of fresh ginger- peeled and grated

1. Take a small pan and add the dark soy, rice wine and cornflour in water. Heat over a medium heat for a minute or two until if starts to simmer. Pop in the chilli, garlic and ginger and continue to simmer until the sauce is thick and glossy.

2. Lower the heat and add in the raw prawns; toss to coat in the sauce. Cook for around 3-4 minutes until pink and cooked through. Serve immediately.

Salt and pepper prawns

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I have never come across a prawn recipe that I have not loved and this is no exception! Salt and pepper prawns are the ultimate savoury dish which can be cooked to take centre stage or be served as part of a Chinese feast. Shell on king prawns are used in this recipe to protect the sweet prawn from the heat when they are cooked. I have trimmed the prawns, deveined them and removed the head for ease but you can keep them whole if you like.

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Ingredients- serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side
16-20 whole king prawns- deveined
2 tbsp corn flour
1 tbsp each of Szechaun pepper and black peppercorns
1 tbsp sea salt
Vegetable oil

1. Start by rolling the prawns in the corn flour. In a small pan, dry fry the peppercorns and salt together; the salt should start to look a little grey when it is ready but be careful not to burn it so agitate the pan from time to time. Grind the mixture in a pestle and mortar. You are after a rough texture rather than a peppercorn powder!

2. Use a wok and pour in oil so you can shallow fry the prawns. Pop the prawns in for around 2 minutes until the prawns are cooked and pink. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and blot onto kitchen towel before sprinkling with the salt and pepper mixture. Serve immediately with a chilli dipping sauce if you like. A finger bowl of water is also a good idea!

Salt and pepper prawns- you can never have just one!

Spicy Szechuan shredded chicken

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After cooking a roast dinner the other day I had a lot of leftover chicken that was calling out to be finished up and this is where this simple but spicy Szechuan shredded chicken comes in. Szechuan pepper is a wonderful ingredient that is well worth using if are not familiar with it and have not cooked with it. It brings a warmth along with citrus notes that really lift a dish. I also served this with homemade spring rolls and salt and pepper prawns for a midweek feast.

As I say I used leftover roasted chicken for this however you can roast chicken thighs or legs in advance if you don’t have any spare; avoid breast meat if you can as it tends to dry out quickly. I have purposefully left the chicken quantities more vague than usual- I often struggle to eat much meat in a meal however when it came to this I couldn’t help but have seconds…and thirds… Just remember that leftover beef would also work a treat! Cashews are also a welcome addition if you like too.

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Ingredients- serves 2-3
Roasted chicken thighs or legs- 1-2 per person depending on appetite
1 tbsp cornflour
Red and yellow bell pepper- chopped
Handful of unsalted cashews
2 tbsp vegetable or groundnut oil
2 garlic cloves- crushed
1 inch piece of fresh ginger- grated
1 tsp Chinese chilli oil
3 tbsp dark soy sauce
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp runny honey
2 tbsp water with 1 tsp cornflour mixed in

1. Start by heating the oil in a wok to medium. Shred the chicken into pieces and toss in the cornflour. Begin to fry off in the oil and stir from time to time. You want chicken which is golden and starting to crisp up in places. When just crisping up, add in the chopped pepper and cashews; stir well.

2. In the meantime, combine all the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Choose a small pan and simmer the sauce until thickening and glossy. Tip into the chicken and toss to coat. Serve immediately with rice or noodles.

Spicy Szechuan shredded chicken- love your leftovers with this super speedy midweek meal!

 

Crispy chilli ginger beef

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Crispy chilli beef can be a thing of beauty unless you order it from the wrong Chinese takeaway and then it can become the thing of nightmares so if you don’t want to run the risk of being disappointed I suggest you try making this at home. My version is quick, easy and big on flavour. I have added ginger alongside the classic chilli to give it even more punch so add as much or as little as you fancy.

I served this beef as part of a Chinese feast with beansprout egg noodles, stir fried choy sum, prawn toast and crispy seaweed (you know, the one that is actually lettuce or cabbage). For this, simply shred cabbage leaves finely and fry in oil until crisp; sprinkle with sugar, salt and some five spice.

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Ingredients- serves 2
2 sirloin steaks
1 1/2 tbsps cornflour
Salt
Vegetable or groundnut oil

For the sauce:
2 tsps Szechuan peppercorns
100ml rice wine vinegar
100g sugar
4tbsps soy sauce
1 tbsp honey
Freshly grated ginger

1. Start off by cutting the sirloin steak into thin pieces. Toss in the cornflour and season well with salt; set aside.

2. For the sauce, take a small pan and dry fry the Szechuan peppercorns. Grind in a pestle and mortar. Combine the rice wine vinegar, sugar, soy sauce and honey in a small pan. Gently heat over a medium heat and stir to ensure the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat and simmer so it reduces, thickens and turns glossy.

3. Meanwhile, add enough oil to a wok so that it is enough to shallow fry the beef strips. Heat the oil until it is hot enough to turn a piece of bread golden. Shake off any excess cornflour and lower the beef carefully into the wok. Fry until golden and crispy. Drain off the oil and return the beef back to the wok. To the sauce add the ginger and ground peppercorns and combine well. Add the sauce to the wok and simmer until the sauce is sticky and glossy. Serve with noodles or rice.

Crispy chilli and ginger beef- my take on a takeaway classic!

Spicy Szechuan tofu with beansprout noodles

Spicy, crispy, sticky tofu with super savoury noodles are a match made in heaven. At least once a week an Asian dish hits our dinner table and satisfies the midweek cravings that only Chinese can fulfil. I have used ‘Facing Heaven’ chillies that are used in the Szechuan province to add heat and colour to a range of dishes. They are mild enough to use whole in dishes to flavour but can be chopped if you prefer. If you cannot find them then use red dried chillies but adjust the quantities based on the strength of them- don’t get caught out! The beansprout noodles I served the tofu with are a great accompaniment to any Chinese main meal that you’ll keep coming back to.

Like a lot of my Asian recipes, the ingredients need a little time to prepare in advance as the dish comes together at speed so it pays to be organised.

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Ingredients- serves 2
1 pack of firm tofu
1 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp ground nut oil
Handful of ‘Facing Heaven chillies’
1-2 tbsp chilli bean paste
1 garlic clove- crushed
2cm piece of fresh ginger- grated
Small red bell pepper and small green bell pepper
4 spring onions- sliced in the diagonal

For the noodle sauce
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp rice wine
1 tbsp dark soy
1 tbsp oyster or Hoisin sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp cornflour mixed into 2 tbsp water
1 tsp sesame oil
1 garlic clove- crushed
Small pack of beansprouts
1 head of shredded pak choi (optional)
2 nests of medium egg noodles

1. To start things off, make sure your ingredients are all prepared so you don’t have to scramble around your kitchen. Make the sauce for the noodles first by combining the vinegar, rice wine, soy, oyster or hoisin sauce, sugar, sesame oil and garlic. In a small bowl mix the cornflour with the water before adding into the sauce. Set aside.

2. Next, get going on the tofu. Take it from the pack and pat dry; if there is a lot of moisture with the tofu you buy then press firmly for a few minutes to remove excess water. Cut the tofu into bite size chunks, season with salt and sprinkle the cornflour over them, making sure that each piece is coated. Take a non- stick frying pan or wok and add 1 tbsp of groundnut oil over a medium to high heat. Take the tofu in a couple of batches and fry off until golden and crisp. Remove the first batch with a slotted spoon and blot on kitchen paper before frying the remaining batch.

3. Heat the remaining 1 tbsp of oil in a wok and heat the ‘facing heaven chillies’ over a medium heat for a few minutes. The chillies will release their flavour and turn the oil a wonderful shade of red. Add in the garlic and ginger and cook for an additional minute before adding the peppers; cooking these until the peppers are starting to soften. Spoon in the bean paste and stir well to coat the peppers. You are aiming for the peppers to retain some bite. Toss the tofu chunks into the wok and cook until heated through. You will find the sauce thickens as the cooking continues to give a sticky, savoury finish. Add the sliced spring onions before serving and toss through.

4. In the meantime, prepare the egg noodles are per packet instructions as different brands vary. Prepare them so they are suitable for stir fry; this usually entails soaking them in boiling water for around 4 minutes before draining and then cooking with. Take a separate frying pan or wok and heat a glug of groundnut oil and fry the garlic. Beansprouts and shredded pak choi (if using) and cook for a couple of minutes. Pop the drained noodles in the pan along with the sauce you made earlier. Cook until the noodles are heated through and the sauce is thick and clinging to the strands. If you find it is a little dry then add in a little more oyster/ hoisin or soy sauce.