Friday, 2 September 2016

Chicken and Potato (薯仔炆雞)

This is my sister's recipe, and it's delicious! We had a big dim sum lunch in Liverpool today and I came home minus one child, who has decamped to my parents' house for a bit of peace and quiet. Give the lack of vegetables in today's diet, this went some way to redressing the balance. The boys had it with rice and half a corn on the cob. We also managed to make a dent in the glut of potatoes from the garden.

I tried to adapt this recipe previously, with my slow-cooked chicken, chestnut and potatoes (栗子薯仔炆雞), but I prefer this version, which only takes 20-25 minutes of cooking time. Using floury potatoes instead of waxy potatoes leads to a natural thickening of the sauce without needing to use cornflour. I was tempted to add chick peas, which would have also gone down well.

One child is a bit fussy about chicken (breast meat only unless drumsticks are involved - I hope it doesn't last long!). For reasons of taste and cost, my preferred meat would be from the thigh, so use an equivalent weight of whichever you prefer.


  • 2 chicken breasts or equivalent weight of thigh meat, diced into 2-3cm chunks
  • 50ml light soy sauce
  • 100-125ml Shaoxing rice wine (or use dry sherry as a substitute)
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp five-spice powder
  • A pinch of ground white pepper
  • 2 slices of ginger, peeled and bashed with the flat of a cleaver
  • 1 large clove of garlic, peeled and bashed with the flat of a cleaver
  • 3 shallots, peeled, halved and sliced finely
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1cm chunks
  • 3-4 medium sized floury potatoes, peeled and cut into 3-4cm chunks
  • A handful of frozen petits pois
  • Approx 100ml water to top up
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil for frying
  • A couple of drops of sesame oil
Serves 3-4

  • Prepare the liquid mix. Add the light soy, Shaoxing rice wine, sugar, five spice and white pepper to a jug and mix to combine. Put to one side
  • Put 1 tbsp of sunflower oil into a wok or pan and heat over a medium-high heat. Add the ginger and stir-fry quickly for 30 seconds, coating the sides of the pan in oil
  • Add the garlic and stir-fry quickly for a few moments, then add the shallots. Stir-fry until the shallots soften - be careful not to let them catch and burn
  • Add the chicken and stir-fry to seal. When the chicken is sealed, add the carrots and potatoes and stir the ingredients to mix.
  • Add the liquid mixture to the pan then top up with water - the liquid should over no less than 80% of the ingredients, but do not cover completely
  • Bring the pan to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook for 20 minutes at a gentle boil.
  • After 20 minutes, add the petits pois and stir. You will see the potato start to break up and thicken the sauce. Replace the lid and boil gently for another 3-4 minutes

  • Remove the pan from the heat and add a few drops of sesame oil for flavouring. Stir and serve immediately with rice
Chicken and Potato (薯仔炆雞)

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Carrot and Ginger Soup with Butter Beans

I made this soup for lunch. We have been away for 6 days so this was really a case of:

  1. What is going off in the fridge?
  2. How can I get more vegetables into the kids?
  3. How can I stop being so boring in the kitchen? Can I make something different?
I found a bag of shallots that my parents had left in the fridge, and half a bag of carrots that really needed to be used. Fresh, grated ginger gives this soup a zing that lifts it, and the shallots (ordinarily I would consider using onions in soup) gave a lovely sweetness.

I added butter beans before liquidising the soup to thicken, but I also warmed whole butterbeans in the final dish for my middle child, who hunts out the almonds like treasure, when I make Chinese soup. Adding whole butter beans is entirely optional - the little one made faces and picked them all out, but finished what was left in his bowl. Grilled cheese on bagels was the accompaniment of choice.

The butter makes the soup quite rich - for a lighter version, use olive oil.

  • 4-5 smallish carrots, approx. 300-350g
  • 25g butter (or use olive oil for a lighter soup)
  • A small piece of fresh ginger, approx. 1cm cubed
  • 3 shallots
  • 400ml chicken stock (I used one Kallo Organic chicken stock cube), or vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp ready to use butter beans, drained and rinsed - for liquidising
  • (Optional) 100g ready to use butter beans for adding whole to soup
  • Salt and pepper to season
Serves 3

  • Peel the carrots and chop roughly. Peel the shallots and chop roughly
  • Melt the butter in a heavy-based pan over a medium heat. When it starts to just bubble, add the shallots and stir to coat. Continue to heat and stir for 2-3 minutes to soften the shallots
  • Peel the ginger and grate finely. Add the ginger to the shallots and stir for a minute. Add the carrots and continue to stir for 3-4 minutes
  • Add the chicken stock and bring the mixture to the boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle boil, put a lid on the pan and cook for 25 minutes
  • Add 2 tbsp cooked, drained butter beans to the pan and cook for a further 5 minutes
  • Remove the pan from the heat and liquidise with s stick blender. Add seasoning if necessary
  • (Optional) Return the pan to the heat, add a few more spoonfuls of butter beans and warm through
  • Serve in warmed bowls
Carrot and Ginger Soup with Butter Beans

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Basic Macaroni Cheese

This macaroni cheese has been requested twice in the past week. It is a very basic recipe, and there are many things that could liven it up, for example:
  1. Addition of crispy bacon or soft buttery leeks to the pasta mixture
  2. Use of other cheeses in your sauce
  3. Sprinkling breadcrumbs over the top of the macaroni cheese and baking till crisp
  4. A scrape of fresh nutmeg to the cheese sauce
  5. Infusing your milk by heating gently with chopped carrot, onion, celery, black peppercorns and bay leaf, then letting it cool for 30 minutes before straining
It's a current favourite of my children and their friends, and I keep it fairly simple, but tasty. I find that the vital piece of equipment for making the sauce smooth and glossy is a silicone balloon whisk. It gets right into the edges of the saucepan without scraping any of the surface off it! It can feel a bit daunting when making the roux for the first time, especially as you add the first amounts of milk. Make sure you give the flour enough time to cook in the butter and don't panic when the whole lot thickens as you begin to add the milk! Just keep whisking and it should loosen up again.

I love Colman's mustard powder on roasties and in a white sauce. You would think it would get up your nose like the English mustard paste, but used in sparing quantities, it lends a subtle interest to the sauce.

  • 500g dried macaroni
  • 1 pint of milk
  • 70g of butter
  • 4 heaped tbsp plain flour
  • 1 level teaspoon of Colman's mustard powder
  • A pinch of ground white pepper
  • A big handful (approx. 80g) of grated cheddar cheese, plus extra to sprinkle on top
Serves 5 - 6

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees fan. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil
  • In a separate pan, melt the butter over a gentle/medium heat. When it has melted, add the flour and whisk until completely combined (it's ok if the butter bubbles, but don't let it burn). Continue to whisk for a minute or two to let the starch cook

  • Add the milk a little at a time, continuing to whisk continuously. the mixture will thicken and solidify. Continue to whisk, only adding more milk when the previous amount has completely absorbed into the roux. If you add too much milk at this stage, the sauce will become lumpy

  • Eventually the sauce will loosen and become easier to handle. You can increase the heat a little at this stage, but be careful not to let the sauce boil.

  • Add the macaroni to the pan of boiling water and stir, to stop it from sticking. Cook the macaroni for half of the time indicated on the packet e.g. if cooking time is 12 minutes, cook the macaroni for 6 minutes (at this stage you will be working with two pans - stirring the pasta and adding/whisking the sauce)
If the sauce is too thick, continue to add milk until you reach the desired consistency.
If the sauce is too thin, combine a teaspoon of plain flour with a small quantity (say 25ml) of milk and add to the sauce, repeating until you reach the desired consistency. You will need to increase the heat to almost boiling point to activate the additional starch.

  • When all of the milk has been added to the sauce, add the grated cheese and whisk until fully melted into the sauce
  • Drain the macaroni and place in a baking tray. Pour over the sauce, ensuring all of the macaroni is covered and bake in the oven for 20 minutes

  • Remove the tray from the oven and add grated cheese on top. Return to the oven for a further 15 minutes

  • Remove the finished bake. Serve in warmed dishes with a simply-cooked green vegetable such as broccoli, green beans or spinach

Basic Macaroni Cheese

Monday, 22 August 2016

Linguine with Beef Rib in Red Wine Sauce

It's been 10 months since I last posted! During that time, I have completed my teaching induction year, gained a whole load of experience, not seen my family as much as I should have and reverted to same old, same old, boring meals. Mother's guilt - doing it all and feeling not particularly good at any of it. Still, my students have made progress, my family still love me and we've had a wonderful, chilled-out summer break.

Today I defrosted a pack of beef ribs which had been lurking in the freezer for a few months. In 2002 my then boyfriend booked a trip to Tuscany as a Valentine's gift. All of my friends were convinced he would propose (he didn't, even when we were on a bridge in Florence!). What sticks in my mind is the meal that our hosts cooked for us on the first night - pappardelle with hare. The sauce had been cooked in red wine for several hours and was just sublime.

I would have liked pappardelle with this dish, but one look at the queues into the shopping centre were enough to convince me that linguine would be fine. The beef rib is cooked in a slow-cooker and falls apart in a meltingly delicious way. I was worried that the chilli kick would be too much for the children, but on tasting the sauce they opted for it over yesterday's rather failed sweet and sour chicken. Even though the notoriously fussy little one had declared it his "favourite dish ever".

The beef is cooked in a slow-cooker but would be fine in a covered pan in an oven at around 120 degrees. If you aren't fond of heat, leave the chilli out.


  • 2 beef ribs, approx. 500g
  • 1 carrot
  • 3 shallots
  • 1-2 sticks of celery
  • 80ml red wine
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp dried mixed herbs
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 red chilli
  • Ground black pepper to season
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  • 350-400g linguine pasta (or use tagliatelle or pappardelle)
Serves 3-4

  • Dry the beef ribs on kitchen towels and season with black pepper
  • Peel the shallots, cut into half and then slice into semi-circles
  • Peel the carrot and dice finely and dice the celery. Using a sharp knife, perforate the skin of the chilli once or twice so that it doesn't inflate and explode during cooking
  • In a bowl, mix the red wine, tomato puree and dried mixed herbs
  • Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in a pan until very hot. Add the beef ribs, browning well on all sides. Remove from the pan and place into the slow cooker
  • Add the wine/puree/herb mixture and the chilli to the slow cooker and cook on low for 4 1/2 hours
Browned ribs with wine mixture in the slow cooker

  • Heat the beef fat left in the pan gently and add the garlic. Bubble the garlic in the pan for a minute, taking care not to let it catch and burn
  • Add the shallots to the pan, increase the heat to medium and stir for 1 minute to coat and soften
  • Add the celery and carrots to the pan and stir for 2 minutes
  • Add the vegetable mixture to the slow-cooker, cover and continue to heat on slow for a further 1 1/2 hours
Adding the vegetables to the slow cooker

  • When the sauce is ready, remove the chilli and the ribs. Discard the chilli and the bones and shred the meat with a fork, removing any tough or sinewy bits
  • Return the meat to the slow-cooker and mix well
The finished sauce - just add the pasta and a bit of extra virgin olive oil!

  • Cook 75-100g per person of linguine, according to pack instructions. When al dente, drain the pasta in a colander. Return to the pan, add the sauce and 1 tsp of extra virgin olive oil and mix well
  • Serve immediately on warmed plates

Linguine with Beef Rib in Red Wine Sauce

Sunday, 18 October 2015

American Banana Loaf

Given that I have been making this with the kids every weekend for the past half term, I thought it was probably worth a mention - I have lifted it word for word from the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book and really, there are no tweaks needed at all! The recipe is unbelievably easy, and has been going into the children's snack boxes every day (apart from the middle, who refers cheese and biscuits, like his mum). I use a loaf tin liner to make the whole process even easier.

You'll need a food processor - I've not tried it without so can't guarantee what the results might be like.


  • 225g (8oz) plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 100g (3 1/2 oz) butter, plus extra to grease
  • 175g (6oz) golden caster sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp. milk
  • 2 bananas, about 300g (11 oz), peeled
  • Finely grated zest of one lemon
  • 2 medium eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Golden granulated sugar, to dredge
Makes 10 slices (allegedly, we must be slicing them thick!)


  • Put the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar into a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the butter and whizz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and whizz briefly
  • Mix the lemon juice and milk together in a jug and leave to stand for 1 minute. Grease and base-line a 900g (2lb) loaf tin
  • Mash the bananas in a bowl, then stir in the lemon zest, eggs, milk mixture and vanilla extract. Add to the food processor and whizz until combined
  • Pour the mixture into the loaf tin, dredge with granulated sugar and bake at 180 degrees C (160 degrees fan oven)  for 1 1/4 hours or until risen and golden, and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean

  • Leave in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Cut into slices to serve
American Banana Loaf