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!

Singapore noodles

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OK so Singapore noodles are not an authentic Chinese dish but they are well known and loved in Chinese takeaways up and down the country so I couldn’t resist whipping them up at home. After raiding the freezer, I chose to use prawns and chicken as the main stars of the show here with some added crispy fried tofu for an added crunch to finish the noodles off. The tofu is also a good replacement for egg if you prefer. If you fancy egg instead then lightly beat a couple of eggs and add at the end of cooking so it scrambles through the noodles. Pork is often used in Singapore noodles so you can pick and mix your favourites.

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Ingredients- serves 4
200g rice vermicelli noodles
Half a block of firm tofu (optional)
1 tbsp cornflour
  tbsp groundnut oil
2 garlic cloves- crushed
1 inch piece of fresh ginger- grated
1 onion- thinly sliced
1 carrot- thinly sliced
100g sugar snap peas- thinly sliced
Small tin of bamboo shoots- thinly sliced
1 red pepper- finely sliced
2 heads of pak choi- shredded
200g raw shelled king prawns- deveined
2 chicken breasts- sliced
100g beansprouts
1 tbsp medium curry powder
1 tbsp shaoxing rice wine
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tbsp soy sauce

1.Make sure all your ingredients are fully prepared before you start cooking anything.  heat up your wok. When you’re ready to go, soak the vermicelli rice noodles according to packet instructions before draining well. I usually halve the lengths of noodles to make it much easier to toss all the vegetables and meat through later.

2. As the noodles soak you can prepare the crispy tofu if you are using this. Take the tofu and pat it dry to remove excess water. Use your fingers to break up the tofu so it is crumbled. Toss the pieces in the cornflour Take a frying pan and heat 1 tbsp of the oil to medium. In a couple of batches if needed, fry the tofu until golden and crisp. Remove from the pan using a slotted spoon and blot onto kitchen towel. Set aside.

3. Grab your wok and heat the remaining 1 tbsp of oil over a medium heat. Fry the garlic and ginger for a minute. Add in the vegetables apart from the beansprouts and cook until they are softening before adding the chicken and prawns.

4. Add half of the curry powder and stir well to combine before adding the drained noodles along with the beansprouts. The rest of the curry powder, rice wine, sesame oil and soy sauce needs to go it at this point. Make sure the noodles are well coated in the powder and cook until heated through. Toss through the crispy tofu and reserve a little to top the noodles with. Serve in warmed bowls.

Singapore noodles- a takeaway favourite that is simple to recreate at home!

 

Mie goreng

I’m addicted to Asian food! There, I’ve said it! This mie goreng hits your tastebuds right in their savoury spot so you need this in your culinary repertoire. Mie (or sometimes spelt ‘mee’) goreng  is Indonesian fried noodles so if Singapore noodles are your thing then you are sure to love these too. The recipe calls for ketjap manis which is a soy based sauce that is often used in Indonesian recipes. It can be found in a lot of good supermarkets as well as specialist Asian stores ad is perfect for injecting even more flavour into this recipe. I have gone for a combination of vegetables, pork belly and prawns but you can pick and choose to create a dish that suits your tastes.

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Ingredients-serves 2
For the pork belly
4 slices pork belly
2 tbsp ketjap manis
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 garlic cloves- crushed
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp vegetable or groundnut oil
1 tbsp sugar
300ml water

For the rest of the mie goreng
100g raw prawns- shelled and deveined
1 garlic clove- crushed
1 small red chilli- finely chopped
1 banana shallot- finely sliced lengthways
2-3 spring onions- shredded or finely chopped
1/2 carrot- grated
Small wedge of spring cabbage
2 bundles of medium egg noodles
1 tbsp ketjap manis
1 tbsp light soy
Small handful of peanuts- lightly ground down

For the shallot topping
1 large shallot- cut into rings
Vegetable oil for shallow frying

1. Kick off by mixing the ketjap manis, dark soy, garlic, chilli flakes and sesame oil together. Cut the pork belly slices into bite sized chunks. Boil a kettle of water and boil the chunks of pork for 2 minutes to remove any impurities before removing with a slotted spoon. Next, take a non-stick pan that has a lid and add the vegetable or groundnut oil and sugar. Heat until the sugar has dissolved before popping in the pork chunks. Cook until the pork is golden and then pour in the ketjap manis mix that you made. Pour in approximately 300ml of water and bring the pan to a simmer. Cover with the lid and leave for around an hour and a half until the pork is tender and the sauce is thick and reduced. Check the pork from time to time and if it needs a little more water than add as you go.

2. In the meantime you can prepare the noodles for later by cooking for one minute less than the packet states. Drain well and rinse in cold water. Add a little sesame oil so the noodles don’t clump and set aside. The crispy shallot topping can also be prepared by heating oil in a small pan over a medium to high heat and frying in batches until golden. Blot onto kitchen roll.

3. Take a wok and heat a little groundnut or vegetable oil. Cook the garlic, chilli and shallot until softening before adding the ketjap manis. Stir well to coat. Next up goes the carrot and cabbage for a further minute. Cut the pork belly into bite sized pieces and add to the wok along with the prawns. Cook for a couple of minutes to warm through before adding the noodles. Cook until the prawns are cooked through and the noodles are warmed. Just before serving toss in the nuts and spring onions. Check the seasoning and adjust to taste by adding a little more ketjap manis if you like. Serve in deep bowls and sprinkle over the crispy shallots.

Mie goreng- an Indonesian savoury bomb!

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!

Crispy tofu dandan noodles

Now, all you need to know about Sichuan dandan noodles is that they’re blooming delicious and so simple to make! Dandan often uses meat such as pork mince however, after a meat heavy Christmas season, I have decided to lighten this up and use tofu. These noodles are also packed with other vegetables such as shitake mushroom, which give a wonderfully meaty taste and don’t compromise on flavour. Balance this with the savouriness of Tianjin preserved vegetables and you have a dish to die for! Preserved vegetables may sound strange but, believe me, they are divine. They add a wonderfully salty and garlicky taste that is hard to replicate.

I have cooked my tofu in an unusual way by crumbling it into smaller pieces that resemble mince; frying crumbled tofu adds a crunch to the dish which balances the texture of the vegetables perfectly. Use a firm tofu and, if you haven’t had it before, it is a good introduction to it. Sichuan peppercorns are also called for; you can find these in Chinese supermarkets and add a mouth tingling finish. The taste is completely different to the heat that a chilli provides so it is worth finding these.

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Ingredients- serves 2
2 tbsp dark soy
1 tbsp light soy
1 tbsp Chinese chilli oil
1/2 tbsp sesame oil or tahini
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
200g firm tofu
1 tsp cornflour
2 tbsp Tianjin preserved vegetables
200g shitake mushrooms- roughly chopped
2-3 spring onions- chopped
1 head of pak choi- leaves shredded and stalk chopped
200g rice or egg noodles

1. Start by making the sauce that also provides the base for the dish. The Sichuan peppercorns need to be toasted; to do this, take a small frying pan and heat to medium, warm the peppercorns until they start releasing their fragrance. Remove from the heat and grind in a pestle and mortar before setting aside. Combine both types of soy sauce, the chilli oil and sesame or tahini. A word of caution: Chinese chilli oil can be rather warm on the old tongue so I always give mine a quick taste and adjust to my liking. Dandan noodles are meant to have a bit of kick!

2. To prepare the tofu, remove from the packet and drain off any excess water it comes in. Pat dry thoroughly between pieces of kitchen roll. Crumble the tofu into small pieces and sprinkle over the cornflour; this will help the tofu to crisp up. If you find your tofu is particularly moist, then you can add a touch more flour. At this stage, add half of the ground peppercorns and toss through the tofu. Heat a little oil in a non-stick frying pan and add the tofu; cook over a medium heat until the tofu is crisp and golden. This may take around 10 minutes so give it a stir from time to time as you move onto the next step.

3. Boil a pan of water and cook the noodles according to packet instructions. Take a wok and add a glug of flavourless oil such as groundnut or vegetable oil over a medium heat. Add the remaining peppercorns, preserved vegetables and half of the sauce. Throw in the mushrooms, spring onion and the chopped stalks of the pak choi and cook for a minute or two.

4. Drain the noodles well and add bit by bit to the wok. I added a small amount at a time and then added another bit of sauce with each addition of the noodles to minimise the risk of them clumping together. Pop in the pak choi leaves and stir fry until the vegetables are cooked through and the noodles are warmed. The sauce should lightly coat the strands of noodle. Serve immediately in warmed bowls and divide the crisped tofu and sprinkle on top of the noodles.

Crispy tofu dandan noodles- a new way to use tofu for the New Year!

Beef chow mein

Chow mein is a staple of Chinese meal which is speedy to prepare and so delicious that you’ll never need to order it from your local takeaway again! I have used beef here but it can easily be substituted with pork, chicken or prawn- or perhaps even a combination of them all. Like most of the Asian dishes I cook, this takes next to no time to prepare and assemble but just make sure everything is chopped and shredded before you start to make it even easier.

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Ingredients- serves 2
100g medium egg noodles
2 minute steaks
1 tbsp groundnut or vegetable oil
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
1 garlic clove- finely chopped
4 spring onions- finely sliced
1 small red pepper and 1 small green pepper- chopped
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp rice wine
1 large head of shredded pak choi and/ or 60g beansprouts
Handful of toasted sesame seeds

1.Start by cooking the egg noodles according to the packet instructions; drain well and set aside.

2. Slice the minute steak into thin strips or bite sized pieces depending on your preference. Heat the groundnut or vegetable oil in a large wok over a medium to high heat and cook the beef until it is catching some colour and starting to cook through.

3. Add in the garlic, spring onion and peppers to the wok and cook for a further 3-4 minutes until the vegetables start to soften. Lower the heat and stir the egg noodles through. Pour in the dark soy and rice wine along with the pak choi or beansprouts depending on what you are using. I’m a fan of all Asian greens so pak choi or choi sum usually get my vote! I separated the leaves from the thicker stems of the pak choice; shredded the leaves and then cut the stems into thin strips to add extra texture.

4. Finish off by drizzling the sesame oil, a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds and toss well to combine just before serving. Make sure the noodles are heated through and serve in large bowls with chopsticks (or a fork if chopsticks equal horror for you!).

Speedy beef chow mein- a perennial Chinese favourite that you can whip up in minutes at home!

Prawn, crab and tofu pad thai

Pad thai is a classic street food dish that can be tweaked and adapted to please even the most fussy of eaters. As long as it is packed with delicious noodles and flavours then the world is your oyster- or crab and prawn in this instance. I have also added tofu in for extra texture- if you don’t routinely use it then do give it a go! You may well be surprised. I have chosen a firm tofu here which I think is the best way to introduce yourself to the bean curd world. The key to a perfect pad thai is in the preparation. Once the you start, it happens relatively quickly so you really do need to prep everything beforehand.

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Ingredients- serves 2 hungry people
2 large eggs
4 spring onions cut on the diagonal
3 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp tamarind paste dissolved in 30ml boiling water
2 tbsp palm sugar
125g firm tofu cut into 2cm cubes
30g grated ginger
2 red chillies finely chopped
1 banana shallot finely sliced
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
150g raw king prawns deveined and roughly chopped
100g rice noodles
100g white crabmeat
75g beansprouts
10 chives cut into 3 cm lengths
50g peanuts roughly chopped
Small handful of Thai basil and coriander finely chopped

1. Beat the eggs lightly and add a tablespoon of the fish sauce before setting aside ready for later. Read the instructions for your rice noodles at this stage as some need soaking for longer than others. Prepare according to instructions all ready for later.

2. Take the tamarind water and add the palm sugar and remaining 2 tablespoons of fish sauce. Stir well to ensure the sugar dissolves; if you find it has not fully dissolved you can add a splash of boiling water to help things along.

3. Place a large wok over a medium/ high heat and add 2 tsp of vegetable or groundnut oil. Add the tofu cubes, in a couple of batches if needed so as to not overcrowd the pan, and fry off until golden all over. Set aside to blot of kitchen paper.

4. Next you need to cook the garlic, chillies, ginger, shallots and spring onion until softening. You could also add a piece of finely sliced lemongrass at this stage of you like.

5. Pop in the prawns and the tamarind water to the wok and cook for a few seconds to make sure the prawns are coated. Add the noodles back into the wok and cook for a minute or so, again ensuring the strands are coated in the tamarind. Next into the wok goes the crab, bean sprouts, chive, basil, coriander and tofu. Toss gently to heat through. At this stage I then pushed the noodle mixture to one side in the wok and added the beaten eggs. Beat them in the wok until it begins to scramble and then you can mix it all the way through the rest of the noodles so the egg is well dispersed. Heat until the noodles are warm, the tofu is reheated and the prawns are a delicate blush pink.

Divide between 2 bowls and serve with a garnish of chopped peanut and you can add some roasted chilli flakes for an extra bit of spice or some extra chives if you like.

Prawn, crab and tofu pad thai- a satisfyingly savoury dish that will leave you wanting more!