Sunday, 14 September 2014

Cod Wrapped in Bacon, with Samphire, Potatoes and Tomatoes

Most children who are brought up in a household with Chinese cooking will be acquainted with seaweed in some form or other, and I don't mean the crispy green stuff that you get in the chippy (which isn't seaweed). One of my favourites is 紫菜湯, a yummy soup with ginger, pork, dried shrimps and fronds of greenish-brownish seaweed, which are sold in dried pancakes, and soaked and rinsed of sand several times before being dropped into the soup at the last minute to create that wonderful salty, iodine-y taste of the sea.

I really like samphire, and wish that it was available more readily. I was excited to see it at the Hawarden Estate Farm Shop, and picked up a box without a clue how to cook it. It has that lovely seaweedy taste, and a freshness and bite that goes well with a crispy slab of white (I suspect pink also) fish. Stir-frying seemed to work well, the fishmonger also told me that it's normally just boiled for a few minutes.

Be gentle with the salt in this dish, as the bacon and the samphire will both add to the flavour of the finished plate.



  • 2 cod loins
  • 6 slices streaky bacon
  • Large handful of samphire
  • 8-10 baby new potatoes, washed (I used British Gems from Sainsbury's)
  • 6-8 cherry tomatoes
  • Lots of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh herbs, rosemary, parsley, thyme, oregano, marjoram
  • Salt and pepper to season
Serves 2



  • Preheat the oven to 190 degrees fan
  • Prepare the potatoes by cutting in half and placing in a single layer in a roasting dish. Add the chopped herbs, 6-8 twists of the salt mill and 10-12 twists of ground black pepper (adjust seasoning according to taste). Pour over 3-4 generous lugs of olive oil, and stir to mix the seasoning and oil with the potatoes
  • Place the potatoes in the oven for 35 minutes
  • Pre-heat the roasting tin for the cod in the same oven
  • Wash the cod loin and dry on kitchen towels
  • Sprinkle the cod with a few twists of black pepper, the wrap the streaky bacon around each loin, folding the ends underneath snugly

Wrap the streaky bacon around the cod loins

  • Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil to a large, heavy-based pan and heat until very hot (oil is moving around the pan). Place the cod loins, "tidy" side down, to the pan. Brown for 3-4 minutes, taking care not to move the cod around the pan too much
  • Using a spatula, turn the loins over and brown the bacon for a further 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat, but reserve the frying oil
  • Place the loins on the pre-heated roasting tray and add the halved cherry tomatoes, cut side facing upwards. Sprinkle the tomatoes with a little salt, pepper and mixed herbs, and drizzle olive oil over
  • Place the roasting tray in the same oven as the potatoes, for 15 minutes

  • Place the browned cod loins in a dish with the tomatoes
    • Wash the samphire and drain. Cut off any woody stems
    • Reheat the pan containing the oil that was used to brown the cod. When the oil is hot, add the samphire and stir-fry for 5 minutes
    • Add a few twists of black pepper to the samphire and stir well before removing from the heat. Place on a warmed plate, then add the cod, tomatoes and potatoes. Serve immediately
    Cod Wrapped in Bacon, with Samphire, Potatoes and Tomatoes

    Wednesday, 10 September 2014

    Carrot and Coriander Soup

    My youngest has been pestering me for "carrot soup" for a couple of weeks now. Where he got the idea from, I haven't a clue. Anyway, I finally got around to making this, prepped last night and made in the slow-cooker today. It tastes fresh, sweet and a little tangy. It is also unbelievably easy - moreso if you buy ground coriander and don't bother dry-roasting and crushing the seeds yourself.

    Needless to say, when presented with the desired carrot soup, the youngest had a strop and insisted that he had really meant "bomato soup".

    The children took exception to the coriander leaves (placed purely for aesthetic purposes), but cleaned their plates. They loved the soup accompanied by cheesy garlic bread, although the youngest was very suspicious about "why mummy made a flower with the bread?"



    • 50g butter
    • 1 onion, finely sliced
    • 6-8 carrots, peeled and chopped into large pieces
    • 1 smallish floury potato, peeled and chopped into large pieces
    • A piece of peeled raw ginger, approx. 2cm cube
    • 1 tsp coriander seeds (or use ground coriander)
    • 500ml chicken stock (I used a cube of Kallo organic chicken stock)
    • 1 dessertspoon  crème fraiche
    • A pinch of salt
    • About 10 twists of ground black pepper
    • Coriander leaves to garnish
    Serves 4



    • Heat a frying pan to a moderate heat, and add the coriander seeds. Stir the seeds in the pan until they begin to colour, and release aroma. Remove the pan from the heat, allow to cook, then crush the seeds with a pestle and mortar
    • Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan. When it is melted, add the sliced onion and fry gently for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onion is softened and glossy
    • Place the carrots and potatoes in a slow-cooker. Grate the ginger into the pot, then add the ground coriander.
    • Pour over the hot chicken stock, add a pinch of salt and 10 twists of ground black pepper
    (at this stage I let the whole lot cool overnight and put the slow-cooker on in the morning for yummy tea at 5pm)
    • Place the slow-cooker on low, and cook for 8 hours. If you don't want to use a slow cooker, place all of the ingredients in a large saucepan, cover and boil gently for 30 minutes
    • When the vegetables have cooked until soft, remove from the heat. Add a dessert spoonful of crème fraiche, then blend the soup to a smooth puree
    • Check and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve immediately with something toasty and oily

    Carrot and Coriander Soup

    Monday, 8 September 2014

    Salt and Pepper Ribs (椒鹽排骨)

    I could do with perfecting this recipe, as it's the first time I tried it. I would like to try the "double-frying" method mentioned in many recipes, but I tried slow-cooking to see if the tenderness could be retained, and to get some juices for a sauce.

    Last weekend, we went to meet up with some rather wonderful friends, Simon and Kate, whom I can always rely on for belly laughs. The children were so unwilling to leave that we ended up going for dinner at the New Orchid Garden.

    I was pleasantly surprised! I don't often go to Chinese restaurants that predominantly cater for western people, because the menus are very different, and the staff tend to look at you suspiciously, making you feel like a fraud. Then there's the usual "should I speak English or Chinese? Should I speak Cantonese or Mandarin? What on earth should I order from this menu? Should we put all of the dishes in the middle of the table, or does everyone stick to their own chosen dish? Aaarrrggghhhh!" internal conversation.

    Nevertheless, we had a lovely meal, the service was very good and we all left feeling stuffed. The children behaved until we left, two hours after their bedtime! And they loved the prawn crackers. I felt a bit traitorous ordering foo yung and chips for them though.

    The eldest loved the salt and pepper ribs, and salt and pepper anything tends to be a favourite of mine (although I prefer squid or chicken wings). I've tried to recreate the recipe, but it will need a little work, and an update next time I make it.



    • 12-15 meaty pork ribs
    • 1 tsp coarse salt
    • 1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
    • 1 tsp black peppercorns
    • 2 tsp Szechuan peppercorns
    • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
    • 1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
    • 2 tbsp water
    • 1 tsp corn starch
    • 1/2 onion, finely sliced
    • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely sliced
    • 1 red chilli, thinly sliced
    • Coriander for garnish (optional)
    • Sunflower oil for deep frying
    Serves 4



    • Heat a wok or a heavy-based pan and add the salt, black peppercorns and Szechuan peppercorns. Stir them around for a couple of minutes, until they begin to release their aromas. Be careful not to let them burn
    • Remove from the wok and allow to cool. Crush in a pestle and mortar, then stir in the five-spice powder
    • Add the corn starch to the soy sauce and Shaoxing rice wine, and mix the marinade well
    • Add half of the salt and pepper mixture to the marinade and mix well
    • Pour the marinade over the ribs, and stir well. Cover and leave overnight in the refrigerator
    • Put the ribs into a slow cooker, add the water  and cook on low for 4-5 hours. After this, remove the ribs, drain off any excess liquid (retain if you want to make a sauce) and sprinkle the remaining salt and pepper mixture over the ribs
    • Heat approx. 3-4 cm depth of sunflower oil in a wok until the oil is moving around. You will know when it is ready if you put the end of a wooden chopstick in the wok, and bubbles start to appear
    • Add the ribs, 5-6 at a time, and deep-fry for 3 minutes until golden and crispy. Drain on kitchen paper between batches
    • When the ribs are all cooked, transfer to a warmed plate. Remove all but 1 tbsp oil from the wok
    • Heat the oil to a medium-high heat and add the sliced onions. Stir-fry quickly for 1 minute until the onions turn glossy. Add the garlic and chilli and stir-fry for a further minute.
    • If you wish to make a sauce for your ribs, add the retained juices from the slow-cooking process to the wok, and boil hard until the volume is reduced by 1/3, and the sauce is thickened and glossy
    • Pour the onion mixture over the ribs and serve immediately
    Salt and Pepper Ribs (椒鹽排骨)

    Monday, 30 June 2014

    Lemony Fried Pork Steaks (檸檬醬煎豬排)

    I have to admit, this one didn't go down well at all with the children, which surprised me slightly. They love salmon steamed with lemon, ginger and soy, and are used to eating pork, so what's not to like?

    Lemon chicken is one of those "not really Chinese" dishes, in that it appears on Chinese takeaway and restaurant menus, but not so often in Chinese homes. For this reason, it was one of those guilty treats on the very rare occasions that we got "western Chinese food" from the takeaway - along with sesame prawns on toast, crispy (not really) seaweed, salt and chilli ribs and ... well I can't think of anything else. To be honest, I would usually opt more for a steak and kidney pudding or battered cod and chips (with mushy peas and gravy or curry sauce) if I was to get anything from the Chinese takeaway!

    To me, this pork version did taste pretty good, and also unusual in our household, because there's a lot more sugar than I usually use in cooking. The loin steaks were sliced as thin as I could and marinated overnight, and were packed with flavour. The peas provided a nice taste and textural contrast to the pork and lemon sauce. The sauce was sweet, without being too sickly. Although it didn't go down well with the children, I'll probably be serving it again in an attempt to turn them.



    • Approx. 300g pork loin (I bought a small pork loin joint) or pork escalopes
    • 1 handful of frozen petits pois
    • 2 spring onions, washed, trimmed and finely chopped
    • Juice and finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
    • 90ml water
    • 2 tbsp sugar
    • 1tsp cornflour, mixed with 20ml water to thicken
    • Sunflower oil for frying
    • A few drops of sesame oil

    For the marinade
    • 1 clove of crushed garlic
    • 2cm cube of peeled fresh ginger, finely grated
    • 1/2 tsp sugar
    • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
    • 1 tbsp. Shaoxing rice wine
    • 1 tsp Lea and Perrins Worcester sauce
    • Pinch of ground white pepper
    Serves 2



    • Rinse the pork chops, dry on kitchen towels and slice as thinly as you can (it helps to put the pork into the freezer for 30 minutes beforehand), or buy ready-sliced escalopes. Place the pork inbetween a couple of sheets of clingfilm and bash with a rolling pin a few times to tenderise the meat
    • Place the chops in a bowl and add all of the marinade ingredients. Stir well to mix, then cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge for at least 20 minutes or overnight
    • Make the sauce. Place the sugar, water and lemon juice in a bowl and stir to mix
    • Heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a wok or large frying pan, until the oil is moving around the pan and very hot. Shake any excess marinade from the pork steaks and place in the pan. Let the steaks sit in the pan for 30-40 seconds before moving them, to allow them to brown and colour nicely. Turn once and let them brown on the other side too. When the steaks are cooked through (2-3 minutes), place them onto a warmed plate and set aside in a warm oven
    • Pour any excess oil from the pan, leaving about 1 tbsp remaining. Add the spring onions and fry for 10 seconds, before adding the lemon and sugar mixture. Bring to the boil and add the petits pois. Boil for 30s or until the peas are cooked through. Thicken the sauce by adding the cornflour emulsion, a little at a time, until the desired consistency has been reached.
    • Add the grated lemon zest and sesame oil, stir and remove from the heat. Pour over the pork steaks and serve immediately

    Lemony Fried Pork Steaks (檸檬醬煎豬排)

    Thursday, 19 June 2014

    Moroccan Lamb and Aubergine Stew

    I bought some Asian aubergines when I was last at the Chinese supermarket, with a view to making some Fish-Fragrant Pork and Aubergine Pot (魚香茄子煲), but it never really happened. Most of the minced pork went into a Steamed Pork with Salted Eggs (咸蛋蒸猪肉) dish, and then I kind of lost momentum.

    I've been trying to make more use of the slow-cooker lately, and this dish worked nicely. I find that sometimes stews come out too watery, but there was no need to thicken or reduce the liquid content this time - perhaps it was the addition of pearl barley. When I switched the slow cooker on, the liquid level only came up to about half-way the height of the ingredients.

    The children were suspicious, but when told it was based upon their favourite Moroccan Lamb and Couscous, they gave it a go and cleaned their plates - the middle and the toddler are suckers for chick peas. It was a little more heat than they are used to, so of course they had to cool down with ice cream afterwards!



    • 400g diced lamb
    • 1 onion, diced
    • 1 aubergine, cut into 2cm dice
    • 1 red pepper, de-seeded and sliced
    • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
    • 1/2 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (keep some seeds in if you like heat)
    • 150g mushrooms, wiped with a damp cloth and cut in half
    • 150g dried chick peas, soaked in plenty of water overnight (or use a tin of chick peas)
    • 3 tbsp pearl barley, rinsed
    • 1 tin of peeled plum tomatoes
    • Plenty of olive oil
    • 400ml lamb stock
    • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
    Spice Mix
    • 1 tsp cumin seeds
    • 1 tsp coriander seeds
    • 1 tsp ground ginger
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 2 tsp dried mixed herbs
    Serves 6-8



    • Heat a pan on the hob to a moderate heat and add the cumin and coriander seeds. Stir in the pan for 30 seconds or so, until the seeds begin to brown and the aromas are released, then remove from the heat. When the seeds are cool enough to handle, crush them to powder using a pestle and mortar
    • Add the ground ginger, cinnamon and mixed herbs to the powdered cumin and coriander, and stir to mix
    • Place the onion, aubergine, pepper, lamb, mushrooms, chilli and garlic in a large bowl. Add the spice mix, plenty of olive oil (I would say 4-5 big lugs of it - the aubergines and mushrooms will soak it up) and black pepper. Mix well to combine, cover and leave for at least 30 minutes to infuse the flavours.

    Lamb, vegetable and spice mix

    (I left this in the fridge overnight, then just put it in the slow cooker with the other ingredients in the morning, and had a tasty tea ready by 4pm)
    • Drain the chick peas, then place in a pan with cold water, bring to the boil and boil for 15 minutes
    • Place the lamb and vegetable mix into the slow cooker, and add the chick peas, rinsed pearl barley, tinned tomatoes and lamb stock. Stir to combine, making sure that the meat is not exposed at the top (it dries out), then replace the lid and cook on low for 8 hours
    • When the stew is ready, add salt and pepper to your taste
    • Serve with couscous or rice

    Moroccan Lamb and Aubergine Stew

    Moroccan Lamb and Aubergine Stew