Archive for July, 2011

July ’Meanderings’ …

July was, for a change, our holiday month (we usually go in August).  While we were away travelling through France to Spain and back again I decided to send this blog on a virtual holiday to the other side of the world and post a selection of Chinese style recipes. Click here for all Chinese Style Recipes on this site.

Recipes this month

Sesame Prawn Toast Chinese Style    Belly Pork & Greens/Broccoli/Bok Choy
Duck with Chinese Style Plum Sauce                                     Special Fried Rice 
Lychee Sorbet

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Read Meanderings ‘a la carte’ from previous months


‘For what we are about to receive…’ August 2011

Coming in August will be recipes for home made Speedy Tomato Ketchup and a wonderful Sticky Tomato Pork recipe in which it can be used.  Also, hopeful that the weather would be warm, my favourite recipe for home made Lemonade, a simple quick Carrot and Chickpea Salad and Roasted Mixed Tomatoes just in time for the hoped for gluts of tomatoes on the market.  August is special month for us too as we will be celebrating 25 years of marriage and I will be unveiling the cake I have made to share with our family and friends, using our family favourite Special Occasion Rich Fruit Cake.  Finally, I will be sharing some news about what I will be up to in the Autumn.

Happy Cooking & Eating!

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Chinese cuisine, as a rule, is not known for having an extensive dessert repertoire.  I remember one of my first visits to a Chinese restaurant where there was a choice of pineapple or banana fritters, sticky stem ginger with vanilla ice cream or ‘chow chow’, a mixture of candied fruits in ginger syrup.  It is a long time since I have seen any of those on the menu.  Whatever happened to chow chow – can anyone shed any light?  (I mean the dessert of candied fruits in ginger syrup that used to be part of the dessert menu in UK Chinese restaurants 30 or so years ago – not the mixed pickled vegetable or the Chinese dog!)  It was one of my favourites but it has completely disappeared with just one reference to it on the web, also by a puzzled enquirer.  These days mostly there is a selection of ice creams and sorbets that have been bought in ready made: my favourites are the hollowed half coconut shell filled with coconut ice cream or the similar pineapple version.  One other dessert I remember from days gone by is a simple bowl of lychees, probably ready stoned and tinned in syrup. Light and fragrant, lychees are a perfect fruit to end a chinese meal so when I came across this recipe it seemed to fit the bill very well.  This sorbet would also be refreshing served after a spicy curry.

The original recipe for lychee sorbet came from food writer Nigel Slater, published in the food and drink pages of the Guardian Newspaper online.  I used fresh lychees from our market, which are readily available in the Autumn and around Christmas.  Tinned lychees are available as well and Nigel Slater suggests substituting a 400g tin, using both fruit syrup.  The result will be good but the flavour less delicate than if you use fresh lychees.  On the plus side, you will avoid having to peel the fruit, but it is not much of a hardship.   This is a delicious and simple recipe with the lime juice a necessary addition as it cuts through the extreme sweetness of the lychees.  Be sure to liquidise the lychees thoroughly.

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Lychee Sorbet
(Serves 4)

500g/1lb 1oz lychees (unpeeled & unstoned weight – see note on using tinned fruit)
100g/30zs sugar, granulated or caster
400ml/14fl ozs water
2 tbsp lime juice
To serve:
250g/8ozs lychees, peeled & stoned

1.  Peel the lychees and count them.  Without removing the stones put them in a pan with the sugar and water.

2.  Add the sugar and water.  Bring to the boil.  Once the liquid is boiling and the sugar has all dissolved, turn off the heat and leave to cool.

3.  When it is cool enough remove the stones from of the fruit and discard them.  Reserve the syrup.

4.  Return the lychee flesh to the syrup and add the lime juice. Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator.

5.  Liquidise in a blender or food processor until smooth.

6.  Pour the mixture into an ice-cream machine and process until it starts to freeze.  Transfer to a box and place in the freezer.  (Alternatively the mixture can be placed straight into the freezer, removed once or twice and stirred well as it starts to freeze, until it has set properly.)

7.  Peel and stone some of the reserved lychees.  Serve alongside scoops of the soft-frozen sorbet.

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One of my favourite orders from the Chinese takeaway used to be one portion each of Special Fried Rice and Chinese mushrooms – haven’t had it for ages, by the way, not sure why.  Special Fried Rice is, as far as I am concerned, as near to comfort food as you can get in Chinese cuisine.  I was delighted to find this recipe in a book of recipes from around the world I found remaindered in bookshop and it was probably the first Chinese style recipe I every tried to make.  It was certainly in the days before I owned a wok.  It is a great way to use up leftover rice and worth making a little extra so you can make this recipe the next day.  It is good to serve as a light lunch as well as part of a multi dish meal.  This was very well received as part of my mum’s Chinese style birthday dinner.

The recipe was mostly based on one in Cooking and Eating Around the World by Alison Burt and I also looked at the Fried Rice recipe in Ken Hom’s Chinese Cookery.  It is a versatile recipe where a selection of ingredients are fried with the pre-cooked rice.  If available Chinese Sausage “Lap Cheong (sometimes spelled Xuong)” can be added. This is available from Oriental supermarkets. (See also this interesting Fried Rice post using the same Chinese Sausage: Fried Rice with Chinese Sausage, Mixed Frozen Vegetables & Eggs from Wandering Chopsticks.)  Finally an egg is quickly stirred through the rice mixture and allowed to cook briefly before serving.  A vegetarian version can be cooked, leaving out the meat and fish and if necessary increasing the quantities of vegetables and possibly adding another egg.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Special Fried Rice

This recipe mostly does not have any quantities as it uses a mixture of leftovers and ingredients chosen by the cook.  Rice, oil to fry and an egg to bind are essential, plus at least one vegetable and one other ingredient – the more ingredients you add, the more ‘special’ it is.

Cold cooked white rice
Sunflower oil
Soy sauce
Garlic cloves, finely chopped
Spring onions, white and green, chopped finely
Ginger, finely chopped (not a large quantity)
Frozen Peas, partly cooked
Button mushrooms, quartered or sliced
Ham or bacon, chopped fairly small – or leftover ham
Poached Chicken, chopped fairly small – or leftover chicken
Small frozen pre-cooked Prawns
Chinese Sausage Lap Cheong/Xuong (available from the Oriental supermarket)
Salt & black pepper
1 egg (more for a larger quantity)
Sesame oil

1.  Fry together the chopped onion/spring onion, ginger, garlic and button mushrooms until soft.  If you are adding any uncooked meat (ie bacon) then add it at this point so it cooks thoroughly.

2.  Stir in the pre-cooked rice and mix thoroughly.

3.  Add part cooked frozen peas, ham, cubed chicken, prawns (and/or other ingredients of choice) plus soy sauce.  Stir well to combine and cook over a medium heat for five minutes.  Watch to make sure the ingredients do not burn.  Season as required with salt and black pepper.

4.  Just before serving add the egg and stir throughly until just cooked.  Be very careful that the egg does not burn.

5.  Finish with a splash of sesame oil, stir through the rice mixtuure and serve immediately.

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This recipe was part of the Chinese style multi dish meal I served for my mother’s birthday though it is also something we now often eat as a midweek supper.  A few weeks ago I posted the method for making Poached Chicken Breasts and this recipe uses a similar method of pre-cooking the Belly Pork strips to tenderise them, as they can sometimes be rather chewy if not cooked for very long.  I am sure that it would be perfectly acceptable to pre-cook belly strips by this method for other non Chinese style recipes.

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I like to consider that this is a pretty genuine Chinese recipe as my brother in law’s family is Chinese.  It came via my sister in law from my brother in law, who learned it from his father.  This was the family’s favourite recipe so my sister in law makes it very regularly, serving it with rice into which pieces of the Chinese Sausage “Lap Cheong (sometimes spelled Xuong) Wu Xiang” (available from the Oriental supermarket) have been added.  One day she served it to us and I begged the recipe – here it is.   I was given very specific instructions on how to make the original version (no onion at all and I had to use spring greens) and for mum’s Chinese birthday meal I made it that way but we found the flavour of the greens rather too strong. My brother in law much prefers the original recipe without any onions.  He says he likes this way as it is more savoury and not as sweet.  He also has a memory of his dad crushing the garlic cloves with a knife to just break them, but leaving them intact.  They were then cooked to flavour the hot oil but removed before cooking the rest of the dish: he remembers the smell of the garlic being cooked in this way.  He understands that the Chinese cook garlic in this way as it adds flavour but doesn’t burn.  In the end I have settled on my own variations for home cooking, which does include onion, the flavour of which we really love in Chinese food and replacing the greens with either Broccoli or Bok Choy (or choi, also known as pak choy or choi).  This last was definitely our favourite version and is a very good way to use the Boy Choy which occasionally appears on our local street market.  I also added mushroom slices and some colourful peppers for colour and flavour with a drizzle of sesame oil just prior to serving.  This will be my regular way of cooking the recipe from now on – I just need to track down a source of the chinese sausage in small quantities.  So far I have only found it in multi packs which would last me several years.  A word about the oil too… My sister in law uses a special wok oil, a blend of sunflower, sesame and ginger oils with natural extracts of garlic.  I just use ordinary sunflower oil and finish the dish, as advised by Ken Hom, by stirring through a slug of sesame oil – but I never use olive oil.

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Chinese Style Belly Pork & Greens/Broccoli/Bok Choy-Pak Choy
(Serves 4)
The ‘orthodox’ original recipe: pork poached in ginger then fried in garlic infused oil with a little more ginger, the soy sauce and Spring greens added towards the end of cooking time.
Below is my own variation.

2 tablespoons of oil
4 large Belly Pork strips – 1 per person (I prefer skinless pieces)
1 large piece Ginger, unpeeled and chopped into large pieces
1 small knob Ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 large cloves Garlic
1tbsp Dark Soy Sauce
250g/8ozs Green Cabbage, washed and finely chopped (or Broccoli/Bok Choy) – or more
Chinese sausage to flavour rice (optional)
Optional additions:
2 medium sized white onions
1 bunch spring onions
125g/4ozs  button mushrooms
1 or 2 Peppers – mixed colours if possible
1tbsp Sesame oil

Poaching the pork and ginger (can be done in advance and refrigerated or frozen for later use)
1.  Put the belly pork strips into a saucepan with a large piece of ginger cut into chunks.

2.  Cover with water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20 mins

3.  Take the pork out and leave to cool.

4.  Cut the pork into large pieces leave on all the fat – each piece should be should be about the width of your thumb.  Put to one side.

Stir frying the pork
5.  Heat 2 tablespoons oil in the wok

6.  Crush the garlic with the flat side of a large knife so they are flattened but don’t fall apart.  Cook in the hot oil to infuse the flavour and then remove them before they burn.
Alternatively …
Crush or chop the garlic and cook along with the onion, ginger and mushroom without removing.

7.  Add a chopped thumb sized ginger piece to the hot oil, along with the finely sliced onion and mushroom and garlic (if using).  Allow them to soften without burning.

8.  Add the sliced pieces of belly pork and cook, initially on a high heat.  Add dark soy sauce to coat the meat: it is suggested the soy is used liberally but I feel this depends on personal taste.

9.  Add the sliced pepper(s) if using.

10.  Cover the wok and turn down the heat.

11.  Add the chopped up greens to the wok containing the pork and ginger.  Add a little boiling water if required and more soy sauce if desired.

12.  Stir the greens when you adding them so they are well mixed with the pork and the sauce.

13.   Cook until the meat is soft and the greens are tender.  20minutes is recommended but I prefer a shorter time so the greens still retain their crispness.

14.  Just prior to serving, stir through the sesame oil.  It is used to add flavour rather than to fry.

15.  Serve with rice (plus Chinese sausage (see notes and below).

A note about Rice
Slice one Lap Cheong/Xuong Chinese sausage and add it on top of the rice once the rice steamer clicks over to warm, (or when almost all the water has disappeared if cooking conventionally in a saucepan).   Leave for 20 mins to heat through (this is about the time the greens are added to the pork, although I like my greens cooked for a shorter time).

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I don’t know what your favourite Chinese dish is, but anything containing duck seems to rate very highly in our house.  Duck with pancakes is regularly ordered when we visit a Chinese restaurant but I don’t think I would attempt the crispy duck or the special pancakes. Duck with Plum Sauce is just as popular whilst being much less complicated and when I came across this simple recipe I knew it would be well received.  The aromatic spiced sharp sweetness of the plum sauce is a perfect contrast for the rich flavour of the simply pan fried and beautifully crispy duck.  I first made it last November for my husband’s birthday supper using duck legs and then once again in this March as part of the Chinese banquet I served for mum’s birthday, instead using duck breasts.  I know I will be making it again.

The original recipe for Duck Breasts with Plum Sauce came from the November 2010 issue of the ASDA Free instore magazine.  It is a useful dish as the sauce can be made in advance and the duck cooked fairly quickly just before it is needed, initially on the hob before being finished in the oven. The amount of sauce is very generous and is enough for at least 8 people, if not more (though 6-8 if you like a large serving).  On both occasions I ended up freezing half of the sauce for later use.  I need to remember to halve it on another occasion but meantime I have sauce to use up!  The sauce would also be delicious with pork, whether a roast joint, chops or belly strips and also with chicken.  It could also be used as a pork marinade in a similar way to that used in the recipe for Aromatic Finger Lickin’ Pork.  As one of several dishes, I served this on a bed of shredded lettuce, cucumber sticks and tomato wedges.  As a single main dish I would serve it with plain or egg fried rice and a dish of stir fried vegetables.

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Duck with Chinese Style Plum Sauce
(Serves 4)
4 small Duck Breasts (as a main course – one or two breasts if serving several dishes)
1tbsp sunflower oil
1 garlic clove, choppedcrushed
1cm/½inch piece fresh root ginger, peeled & grated
350g/12ozs plums, halved & stoned
2tbsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp white sugar
1tsp Chinese five-spice powder
2tbsp Soy Sauce
1tbsp sweet chilli sauce

1.  Preheat the oven to 200oC/400oF/Gas 6.

2.  Remove the duck from the fridge and pat the skin with kitchen paper to remove any moisture before leaving it at room temperature, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

3.  Make shallow, parallel cuts in the duck breast skin, being careful not to slice right through the skin to the meat.

4.  Heat the oil in a pan and gently cook the garlic and ginger on a low heat for 1 minute.

5.  Add the plums, vinegar, sugar, five-spice, soy sauce and sweet chilli sauce.  Cover the pan and gently simmer the sauce for 5 minutes.  Remove the lid and simmer the sauce for a further 5-10 minutes to reduce.

6.  Liquidise to make a thick smooth sauce and return to the pan to keep warm.

7.  Meanwhile, gently heat a large frying pan and cook the duck, skin-side down, on a medium heat, for 5 minutes.  Thee skin should become golden brown and start to crisp.

8.  Drain off the fat and reserve – it is delicious for roasting potatoes. Turn over the duck and cook on the other side for 1 minute more.

9.  Transfer the duck into a roasting tin and place in the pre-heated oven, skin-side up, for 9-15 minutes, depending on how pink you like your duck meat.

10.  When cooked, leave the meat to rest for 10 minutes. Then slice and place on a serving dish on a bed of lettuce, cucumber and tomato.  Alternatively place unsliced onto a plate and serve with Chinese style rice and stir fried vegetables.

11.  The sauce should be reheated to serve with the duck, either poured over or alongside in a small serving jug .

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Back in the 1970’s I watched Ken Hom cooking Sesame Prawn Toast on TV in his classic TV show Chinese Cookery and although he said they were simple to make, it still took me years to get round to having a go.  Whatever else I order in a Chinese restaurant I always feel I have somehow missed out if I don’t have at least one piece of Sesame Prawn Toast – I have also eaten them in a Thai restaurant where they tasted much the same.  In one really good local restaurant they are just one element of a mixed starter dish so I don’t even have to choose!  It is some time since I have cooked a multi dish Chinese meal so earlier this year I took my opportunity.  It was mum’s birthday.  I know that I can take a bit more risk with something I have not made before – my family and parents are very forgiving guinea pigs – so our starter was, of course, sesame prawn toast.  As I had thought it was a straightforwad recipe and it and the meal a resounding success.

The recipe is a fairly standard one, as far as I can see, and comes from the BBC book that accompanied the TV series: Ken Hom’s Chinese Cookery.  The mixture and the finished uncooked toasts can be made in advance (always an advantage) chilled and then cooked just prior to serving.  Although the original recipe was deep fried I found that the toasts could also be shallow fried.  After draining on kitchen paper I popped them into the oven, which had been on to cook the duck breast for the Duck with Chinese Style Plum Sauce I was also serving.  This kept the toasts warm and crisped them even more.  A version of the recipe can also be found at This Morning Recipes but includes water chestnuts and pork, which are not in the original recipe.  It also specifies just the white of the egg which I have kept as I think it an improvement on my recipe.

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Sesame Prawn Toast
(Makes about 30 pieces)
For the base
10 slices bread, very thinly sliced (a square loaf looks neater when cut up)
3 tablespoons white sesame seeds (or more as required)
450ml (15 fl oz) sunflower oil (original suggests groundnut/peanut
For the prawn paste mixture
450g/1lb uncooked prawns, peeled & finely chopped
1tsp salt
½tsp freshly ground white pepper
1 egg white
2tbsp finely chopped spring onions, white part only
2tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
1tbsp of light soy sauce
1tsp of sesame oil

1.  Chop the prawns finely until they are a paste and place in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients.  Mix well until it is a smooth consistency that will be easy to spread. (If available, use a food processor.)

2.  Remove the crusts from the bread and cut each slice into about three ‘fingers’ – rectangles of around 7.5 x 2.5cm  (3 x 1 inch).  Alternatively cut into triangles: 2 large or 4 small.

3.  Spread the prawn paste over the pieces of bread.  Each should be about 3 mm (⅛inch) deep, although it can be spread more thinly if preferred.

4.  Sprinkle the toasts generously with sesame seeds and press well in.

5. Heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer, frying pan or a wok to medium heat.  Fry the toasts paste side downwards, several at the same time, for 2 to 3 minutes.  Turn them over and fry for a further 2 minutes or until golden brown.

6.  Remove with a slotted spoon, place on kitchen paper to drain and place in the oven or under a gentle grill to keep warm. (The toasts will have to be cooked in several batches.)

7.  It is recommended that the toasts are served at once.  However, they can be kept for a short while (say 5-10 minutes at most) and even finished in a warm oven, in which case it is helpful if they are slightly less browned in the fryer or wok.  Beware leaving them too long as they will harden and could quickly burn.

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