Chinese vegetable spring rolls

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!

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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.

Paneer, pepper and spinach curry

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Paneer is an Indian cottage cheese that is so versatile and can be used in a whole host of dishes however, sometimes, only a curry will do. I have written this recipe to be medium heat but of course if you are a chilli fiend then simply add in some extra along the way. After a festive season of excess and plenty of meat this recipe is a welcome break from heavy meals. Of course, if you can’t stand to wave goodbye to meat then this curry is perfect for chicken. I have kept the curry is purposefully light and fresh so the paneer is packed with flavour but not swimming in sauce. If, however, you want a curry that is saucier then you can add more tomatoes and reduce it less.

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Ingredients- serves 2-3
For the curry paste
2-2 Kashmiri chilies
3tsp each of ground cumin, ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1 tso ground fenugreek
2 garlic cloves- crushed
2 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp curry powder
Pinch of salt

For the rest of the curry
Vegetable oil
1 block paneer- cubed
1 tbsp cornflour
1 onion- sliced
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp ajwan seeds
1 red and 1 green bell pepper- chopped
5 vine tomatoes- chopped
Small bag of spinach- washed and roughly chopped
1 tsp garam masala
Fresh coriander to serve (optional)

1. The first thing you will need to do is soak the dried Kashmiri chillies for a little while- around 20minutes will usually do the trick. Whilst they soak you can make the curry paste; simply combine all the remaining ingredients in a small bowl and add a splash of water to bring the paste together. Set aside.

2. In  a large bowl, toss the paneer cubes with the cornflour and a little seasoning. Heat a good glug of oil in a non-stick frying pan and heat to medium-high. Fry the paneer on each side until golden and crisp before removing from the pan and blotting onto kitchen paper to remove any excess oil. Take a third of the curry paste and toss through the paneer. Use a little more kitchen roll to wipe out the pan and add another glug of oil before turning the heat down to low.

3. Add the sliced onion to the pan and cook until softening. At that stage add the mustard seeds, ajwan seeds and cook for a further couple of minutes.Stir through the remaining curry paste. Pop in the chopped bell peppers and continue to cook for a few minutes. If the pan starts looking a little dry then simply add a splash of water and mix it through the onions and peppers.

4. Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan, an extra splash of water and simmer until the tomatoes start to break down and reduce. Don’t be tempted to rush this as the longer it has the richer the sauce will be! When the curry is a few minutes away from being ready, take the marinated paneer and roughly chopped spinach and add to the pan. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the paneer is warmed through and the spinach is wilted. Sprinkle over the garam masala and stir to combine. Serve the curry in warmed bowls with rice or flatbreads on the side. A liberal helping of coriander to finish the dish is optional!

Paneer, pepper and spinach curry- a great way to start the New Year, plenty of flavour and no turkey in sight!

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!

Prawn laksa


Prawn laksa hits all the right flavour notes- spicy, savoury and a hint of sweetness; surely it has to be one of the best Asian comfort foods around? Laksa is usually found in Malaysia and can include many main ingredients such as chicken or tofu- prawn is just the start or you can always mix and match! Don’t be put off by the shrimp paste or fish sauce- they are there to season and add depth so do try them. The spice paste can be made well in advance and then kept in the fridge. You may also like to make more paste than you need for one meal and then save it for another day to save some time.

This laksa includes beansprouts which are readily available in supermarkets. You may also like to include shredded vegetables such as mange tout, sugar snap peas or Asian greens- it really depends how hungry you are!

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Ingredients- serves 2
For the laksa paste
2 dried kashmiri chillies- soaked then chopped
1 stem of lemongrass- chopped
2 cloves of garlic
1 inch piece of fresh ginger
1 tsp shrimp paste
2 shallots- chopped
Pinch of turmeric
Salt
1/2 tbsp vegetable oil

For the rest
200g raw prawns
400ml coconut milk
200ml chicken stock made up with water
1 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tbsp palm sugar
150g rice noodles
50g beansprouts
2 spring onions- shredded

1. Start off by soaking the kashmiri chillies whilst you prepare the remaining ingredients for the paste. Blitz into a paste or bash using a mortar and pestle if you prefer a more rustic look.

2. Take a large pan and heat the glug of vegetable oil over a medium heat. Cook off the paste for a couple of minutes until it releases its fragrance. Add the coconut milk, stock, fish sauce and palm sugar and simmer. How long I simmer this for depends on how much time I have but aim for around 10-15 minutes so the flavours from the paste has time to develop and infuse.

3. Meanwhile soak the rice noodles in boiling water, drain well and set aside. Pop the prawns into the broth to cook through whilst you divide the noodles between two deep bowls. Alternatively, and I know this is not the true way of doing it, but I also like to add the rice noodles to the broth and finish off in that so it soaks up the fragrant sauce. When the prawns are cooked, ladle the broth over the noodles before going in with the beansprouts and spring onion. I also like to fry rings of shallot to give a crispy topping.

Prawn laksa- spicy, warming, comforting and impossible to resist!

Sticky, sweet and spicy Chinese style ribs

When you fancy a Chinese takeaway the lure of the ribs on the menu tends to be strong… well at least in my mind anyway. Try making your own so you can make them as sweet, savoury or as spicy as you want- or all three! A rack of pork ribs is inexpensive and an average sized rack feeds two people so it’s a bargain! Keep your eyes out for a rack that has plenty of meat on it as some can be a little scrawny and that only brings disappointment rather than pure porky joy!

If you cast your eye down the list of ingredients you will notice that one of them is not Chinese, but Korean: gochujang. When I was putting the marinade together I thought what would give a deep chilli flavour but stand up to the other ingredients so it was settled.

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Ingredients- serves 4
2 racks of pork ribs
120ml oyster or hoisin sauce
60ml dark soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
3 tbsp dark brown sugar
2 tbsp runny honey
1 tbsp gochujang
2 cm piece fresh ginger- grated
2 garlic cloves- crushed
1 tbsp ground five spice

1. Ideally the ribs would have around 3 hours in the fridge marinating but overnight is perfect if you have a bit more time. Simply mix together all the ingredients in a bowl and pour most of the marinade over the racks. Cover and place in the fridge to marinate.

2. When you are ready to cook the ribs, preheat the oven to 160c/ 140 fan. Wrap the racks of ribs in foil parcels and make sure they are tightly sealed. Cook in the oven for around 3 hours (depending on the size of the racks). After this time the racks should be tender and flexible so you know they are nearly all set.

3. For the last step, turn up the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Peel back the foil and brush the last of the marinade over the ribs and cook for a further 10- 15 minutes until sticky and unctuous. Use a knife to separate the ribs and grab a stack of napkins (you’ll need them!); serve the ribs immediately.

Chinese takeaway style ribs- let’s face it, there’s no elegant way to eat these but dive in!

Chicken yakitori bites

Chicken yakitori is a well known Japanese dish which lends itself to enjoying with an ice cold beer in hand. It is usually cooked on skewers and grilled but I have chosen to break with tradition and cook the chunks of chicken separately on a griddle for extra caramelisation. Most recipes ask you to strain your sauce of ginger and garlic goodness however I found that you don’t need to do this as, if you are careful, the sauce won’t burn and you’re still left with a hit of those fantastic flavours.

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Ingredients- serves 2
250g boneless chicken thigh- cut into bite sized pieces
50ml soy sauce
30ml mirin
25ml sake
1 tbsp caster sugar
2cm piece of ginger- grated
1 garlic clove- crushed
1 tsp cornflour mixed with 1/2 tbsp water

1. Kick off by adding the soy sauce, mirin and sake together before adding in the sugar, ginger and garlic. Heat over a low heat and bring it to a simmer. Cook until the sugar has dissolved and the ginger and garlic are softening. Add the cornflour mixture and cook further until the sauce is thickened and glossy.

2. Take the sauce from the heat and allow to cool. As I say, I don’t strain the sauce as I like the ginger and garlic but you can sieve it at this stage if you like. When the sauce is cool, coat the chicken chunks with the majority of the sauce but reserve a small amount for later. Place the chicken in a covered bowl and refrigerate for at least an hour.

3. When you are ready to get cooking, warm a griddle pan to medium and cook the chunks of chicken until cooked through. This should take around 8-10 minutes depending on how large your chunks are. Halfway through cooking brush the remaining sauce over the chicken. The result should be tender and caramelised chicken. Serve with rice if you like and eat immediately. A flourish of toasted sesame seeds or crunchy shredded spring onion is also delicious.

Caramelised yakitori bites- crack open a beer and enjoy!