Sunday, 6 April 2014

Pan-Fried Rainbow Trout with Black Bean and Garlic Sauce (蒜蓉豉汁煎虹鱒魚)

Rainbow trout is a relatively cheap and abundant fish. It is an oily fish, and a source of omega-3 oil. We haven't had it for a long time - the bones can make it a bit tricky for young children, especially if you are my husband and can't remove meat from a fish without mushing all of the bones up with it. I used to roast it in a hot oven with a horseradish creme fraiche and sliced potatoes, a recipe which comes from Jamie Oliver's "Return of the Naked Chef". It suits strong flavours, and worked well tonight with ginger and black bean and garlic sauce.

I remember as a child, not being phased by meat and fish that looked like meat and fish, and I would like for my family not to be sensitised to such things. Growing up in a catering family, I was used to following my dad around during the school holidays, going to the wholesalers at Prescott Road in Liverpool at 5am to buy meat and vegetables for the restaurant. When I started my career as a summer student, I took a basic food hygiene course run by Essex council. The lady asked if anyone had been in an abattoir, and I put my hand up. Her immediate reaction was "oh really? And how was it? I hear the abattoirs in China are very different to how they are here!". I don't think she was expecting me to mention that the abattoir I'd visited had been in Birkenhead. Mind you, that wasn't quite as toe-curling as the ante-natal class in Surrey, when I was pregnant with the eldest. The physiotherapist had been discussing birthing positions, and noted that women in the 3rd world tended to give birth in the squatting position. She then turned to me in front of all of the expectant mums and asked "so, do you know how to squat??!!", much to the amusement of my husband. When we had all had our babies and become friends, we had a good laugh about it.

 

Ingredients

  • 1 rainbow trout, scaled and gutted
  • 3 slices of raw ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 50-75ml water
  • 1 heaped  tsp black bean and garlic sauce
  • (Optional) 1/4 tsp cornflour mixed in a little water for thickening
  • Sunflower oil for frying
  • Handful of fresh coriander, chopped
Serves 1 (or more as part of a meal)

 

Instructions

  • Wash the trout inside and out, and pat dry on kitchen towels
  • Add two tbsp sunflower oil to a hot, heavy-based frying pan and heat until the oil is smoking
  • Add the trout to the pan and leave it for 3-4 minutes whilst it sizzles on a high heat and crisps the skin. Reduce the heat slightly and leave for a further 1-2 minutes
  • Turn the heat back up to high, then flip the trout to the other side and repeat
  • After 10 minutes' frying, check that the fish is cooked right through by separating some of the flesh with a sharp knife and making sure the flesh is opaque to the bone
  • Remove from the heat and place on a warmed plate
  • Drain off any excess oil until there is approximately 1 tbsp left in the pan. Heat the oil until it is moving in the pan, and add the ginger. Stir-fry rapidly for 30 seconds - make sure it doesn't burn
  • Add 50-75ml water and 1 heaped tsp black bean sauce to the pan. stir to combine and boil for 30 seconds
  • (Optional) thicken the sauce with a little cornflour mixed in water, if required
  • Pour the sauce over the trout
  • Garnish with fresh coriander and serve immediately (we had it as part of a meal with rice, fried "purse" eggs (煎荷包蛋) and stir-fried lettuce)

Pan-Fried Rainbow Trout with Black Bean and Garlic Sauce (蒜蓉豉汁煎虹鱒魚)


Sunday, 30 March 2014

Moules Marinières Classiques

I was in Sainsbury's last week, when I noticed that the mussels were on offer, £1.30 for a 500g bag. I think (hope!) that the mnemonic for the months that mussels are in season is that if the month has an "r" in it, you're generally ok. The local eateries tend to showcase local mussels from the Menai Straits, but I think the nicest mussels I've had are from Loch Fyne - they are large, plump and juicy, with very little grit.

The children were not brave enough to try them this time, and I couldn't be bothered to make my own frites, so I texted my husband to pick up some chips on the way home. The local chippy is closed for a few weeks, so he picked up some rather sad and soggy looking skinny fries from the kebab shop next door. However, 10 minutes in a hot oven crisped them up nicely, and they made an acceptable cheat for the evening.

 

Ingredients

  • 1kg live mussels
  • 1 glass of dry white wine (I picked up a bottle of Chardonnay)
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 sticks of celery, washed and finely diced
  • 30g butter
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 75ml double cream
  • A small pinch of ground white pepper
  • A large handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Serves 2

 

Instructions

  • Rinse the mussels and pull the hairy beard from each one. Discard any with broken shells, or that do not close when tapped on a hard surface, then soak in a couple of changes of water to get rid of any sand and grit
  • Heat the butter gently in a wok (don't let it brown and burn)
  • Add the onions, garlic and celery to the wok, and stir for 3-4 minutes to soften
  • Increase the heat, drain the mussels and add them to the wok, with a pinch of ground white pepper
  • Stir the mixture, then add the white wine and bring to a moderate boil. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, until the shells have opened
  • Uncover, stir in the cream and a large handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Serve immediately, with crusty bread or thin chips

Moules Marinières Classiques


With takeaway chips!



Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Hearty Beef Casserole

I've yet to really fall in love with my slow cooker(s). For Chinese soups and congees, great. For big joints of red meat, such as a shoulder of lamb or pork, lovely. For melt-in-the-mouth slow-cooked beef flank and mooli, delicious. But for white meat and casserole, I haven't quite yet mastered it. Chicken is somehow lacking (maybe it's the uncrispy skin), and my casseroles end up more watery and thin than I would like, with the vegetables too soggy for my liking.

I bought some casserole beef from Sainsbury's on offer, and decided to try it in the slow cooker. I was looking to make something that didn't take too much faffing, and that I could chuck into the pot and switch on as I left the house in the morning. In order to get round previous challenges, I added pearl barley to the mix, and used Knorr beef gravy pots, which have a thicker consistency than beef stock. The result was attractive, and the boys cleaned their plates. There was a pleasant mix of textures - the beef was soft, the vegetables retained a tiny amount of bite, and the addition of soaked green split peas gave a nice, firm contrast. I prepared the vegetables the night before, then soaked them with the pearl barley and the split peas. It only took 5-10 minutes to prepare in the morning.

 

Ingredients

  • 400g casserole beef
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 small swede, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 sticks of celery, chopped
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup green split peas
  • 560ml beef gravy, made using two Knorr beef gravy pots
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1-2 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
Serves 4-5

 

Instructions

  • Peel the carrots and the swede, and dice into 1.5cm chunks
  • Wash and trim the ends from the celery, and cut into 2cm chunks
  • Place the carrots, swede and celery in a large pot of water, with the pearl barley and the green split peas. If you like, you can leave this in the fridge overnight
  • In the morning, place the soaked and drained vegetables into the slow cooker, along with the chopped onion and the casserole beef
  • Prepare the beef gravy according to the instructions on the pack. Place 2 gravy pots into 560ml of hot water in a pan, and heat slowly, whisking continuously. When the gravy boils, whisk at a gentle boil for one minute
  • Add the gravy to the slow cooker, along with the black pepper, the oyster sauce and the sugar. Mix well to combine, and push any bits of beef below the surface of the mixture, to prevent them from drying out
  • Switch the slow cooker onto low, and cook for 8 hours
  • Serve with mashed potato or steamed rice

Hearty Beef Casserole


Sunday, 16 March 2014

Steamed Clams with Chilli and Yellow Bean Sauce (辣椒黃醬蒸蜆)

This is the possibly the laziest dish I have ever made. I haven't been to the fishmonger for ages, and it was a real pleasure to visit him today. The display is always bursting with attractive looking seafood on a Saturday morning, it is hard to narrow my choices down! My friend, May, got 5 salmon heads for £1, which are wonderful stir-fried with plenty of ginger, garlic, black-bean sauce and fresh coriander, but also quite fiddly to eat. The children are still young and impressionable, so maybe I will get them used to seeing such food on the table now.

I bought two rainbow trout for tomorrow's dinner, 5 large salmon fillets for the freezer, then I was torn between the clams, mussels and prawns. I settled on half a kilo of clams, the eldest was brave enough to try one, the middle child just wanted the shells for castanets and the youngest declared "yacky! Di-gusting!"..., then proceeded to eat a dipping bowl-ful of tomato ketchup, before dropping it and smashing it on the floor. The children had baked pollock in breadcrumbs (3 boxes (12 fillets) for £10 in Sainsbury's at the moment), so we all got our seafood fix this evening.

I am knackered at the moment, with a very temperamental hob, so I was looking for an easy way of cooking the clams. I don't think it could possibly have got much easier!

 

Ingredients

  • 500g fresh clams
  • 1 tbsp yellow bean sauce
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • A pinch of ground white pepper
  • A good shake of sesame oil
  • 1 spring onion, cut into 4cm lengths and finely sliced
  • 2 slices of raw ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 red chilli, de-seeded and finely sliced
Serves 2

 

Instructions

  • Place the clams in a large bowl and cover with water. Drain and repeat a couple of times to get rid of any sand
  • Place the yellow bean sauce, light soy saice, Shaoxing rice wine, pepper and sesame oil into a bowl and mix well to combine
  • Drain the clams and discard any which do not close when tapped sharply on the surface. Arrange in a dish and pour over the sauce. Add the sliced ginger and chilli, then mix well
  • Steam for 10 minutes (I put these in a steaming basket in the rice cooker just before the button popped up, then left them for 10-15 minutes)
  • When the clams are cooked, garnish with the spring onion and serve immediately with boiled rice and other dishes (we had stir-fried mangetout and mushrooms in oyster sauce, and baked breaded pollock)

Steamed Clams with Chilli and Yellow Bean Sauce (辣椒黃醬蒸蜆)

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Salted Duck Eggs (咸鴨蛋)

You can buy salted duck eggs in the Chinese supermarket, and I've always wanted to know how to make them. My mum and dad usually have a large jar of them on the go, so I tend to pinch a few. They make an easy accompaniment to dinner, steamed in a basket over your rice, as it is cooking, then cut into half, insides scraped out and mashed up with your rice. Another use would be to use them as an accompaniment to congee, preferably with a plethora of other yummy additions.

As a child I found the whites unbearably salty but loved the yolks. Having now made my own, the whites are nowhere near as salty as the shop-bought ones. Salty eggs are essential in some wonderful dishes, such as Steamed Pork with Salted Eggs (咸蛋蒸猪肉), and soups such as pork, spinach and salted egg soup, which I will blog about once the latest batch are ready.

I'm pretty sure they're not that good for you, but I do find myself craving one every so often. I found some suitably sized Kilner jars in Morrisons for a few quid each, so decided to have a go. I tried two recipes, one with shaoxing rice wine (said to give the yolks a rich yellow colour), and one without.

 

Ingredients

  • 10-12 duck eggs, wiped clean with a damp cloth
  • Approx. 1200ml water
  • 300 - 400g salt
  • (optional) 1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
  • A pinch of tea leaves (I used Oolong tea, but you can use anything, including good old PG Tips)
 Makes 10-12

 

Instructions

  • Make the salt solution. Boil approx. 1200ml water in a pan, depending on the size of your jar and the number of eggs you're salting. The ratio for salt saturation in the water is somewhere between salt:water = 1:4 and 1:3. Add 300g salt to the boiling water and stir until dissolved. Continue to add the salt, a tablespoon at a time, until the salt saturates and you see crystals on the surface of the water
  • (Optional) Add 1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine to the boiling salt solution
  • Boil for a further minute, then add a pinch of tea leaves and remove from the heat
  • Leave to cool completely, until the solution is room temperature
  • Wash the storage jars inside and out with warm soapy water, then remove the rubber seals and place the jars into an oven at 90 degrees for 20 minutes or until dry. Leave in the oven to cool completely
  • Carefully place the duck eggs into the bottom of the jar, and fill almost to the top with the salt solution. Place a small dish or cup (I like the ramekins that you sometimes get when you buy posh desserts in the supermarkets) into the neck of the jar, so that the eggs are completely submerged. Seal the jar and leave for 35 - 45 days. I put mine in the garage, but my parents just used to leave theirs on the kitchen surface.
Duck eggs ready for a 35-45 day salting
  • After 35 days, the duck eggs are ready to eat. The picture below shows my eggs, one with the Shaoxing rice wine, and one without. There was a slight difference (the eggs with the Shaoxing rice wine are at the bottom of the photo)
Salted duck eggs (咸鴨蛋), steamed in the rice cooker and cut in half