Sunday, 29 December 2013

Roast Rib of Beef

My childhood memories of Christmas are of all of my 婆婆's mates coming over on Christmas day: Uncle Jack and Aunty Chow Ping with Ang and Ben, 陳伯 and 陳母, 姑姐 and cousin Suzanne, and also the Tsai and Lee families. 婆婆 would cook a massive Chinese meal, with stir-fried king prawns in tomato sauce, steamed sea bass with ginger and spring onions, dried oysters cooked with hair moss (髮菜) and lettuce - there were many many more dishes, I remember the table used to heave with them. After the meal, 婆婆 would play mah jong with my dad and her friends. My mum and various aunties would watch Chinese videos and we children would be sent upstairs to play and chat. My memories are heavily laced with the smell of cigarettes and brandy, and the loud (and comforting) noise of mah jong tiles being swept around and mixed, occasionally accompanied by the loud bang of one being slammed onto the table, followed always by some cursing at the poor quality of the tile. This used to go on until at least two in the morning!

I don't know when we moved from a Chinese-style Christmas to a Western-style Christmas. It will probably have happened as my 婆婆's friends passed away, and she became more frail and less able to organise and rule our household. I can't even remember whether we ever had a Western-style Christmas whilst she was alive. I do remember my first ever attempt at a roast, aged maybe 15 years old. My dad was convinced I had the temperature settings all wrong, and kept sneaking past and turning up the heat on the oven. Eventually it came out burned to a crisp on the outside and bloody on the inside. We ended up slicing it, then stir-frying it with soy sauce.....

20-odd years later and we're still arguing about roasts! I used a halogen cooker for the joint this year, and he murmured "I think you should turn it", "perhaps you should turn it", "I would turn it if it was my roast", until I snapped and yelled "All right, all right! I'll turn it!", whilst my father-in-law creased up at the exchange. Once I'd taken the lid off, Dad then said "here, let me turn it, you don't know how to".... and once again I reverted to a petulant teenager (although I nearly dropped the roast in the process of turning it...).

This joint was enormous - 5.14kg in total, 17 people at the dinner table on Christmas day and we are still eating it 3 days later. It's since been turned into a very successful beef and tomato, and also accompanied noodles twice. I absolutely love The River Cottage Meat Cookbook, I find the temperatures and timings to be spot-on for roasting. I think that this book actually changed the way I think about and buy meat, and would thoroughly recommend it. A larger roast (greater than 3kg) requires a longer initial "sizzle" at high temperature, before a shorter cook at low temperature. I went for medium-rare, and the results were pretty well received. I was planning on taking photos of all of the trimmings, but got carried away and forgot. We had the roast with pigs in blankets, yorkshire puddings, sprouts with bacon, chestnuts and onions, mustard-roast potatoes, carrots boiled with orange and cumin, braised red cabbage, roasted golden beetroot in balsamic vinegar, and beef and red wine gravy. And copious condiments, of which horseradish was my favourite.

It's important to rest the joint once it comes out of the oven. This gives a chance for the juices to "settle" back into the meat, and even up the outside and the inside of the roast. I tend to put it on a warmed tray, cover it with foil, then throw a teatowel over the foil, and get on with making the trimmings.



  • 1 rib of beef on the bone - I asked for 5 ribs, which came to 5.14kg (1 rib would serve around 3-4 adults)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Sunflower oil
Serves 16-20



  • Pour a few tablespoons of sunflower oil into a bowl and add a teaspoon of salt and several grinds of black pepper. Mix together, then rub the mixture over the joint. If the joint is not already tied with string, bind it between the ribs - this will keep the meat nice and firm, and prevent excessive loss of the yummy juices during cooking.
It only just fit in the halogen oven!
  • Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees fan, and place the joint inside. Cook at this temperature for 20 mins (joints up to 2kg), 30 mins (joints over 2kg) or 40 mins (joints over 3kg)
  • After the initial sizzle, turn the oven down to 165 degrees fan. For a medium-rare joint, roast for 13 minutes per 500kg (joints up to 5kg), or 11 minutes per 500kg (joints over 5kg)
Halogen oven kept the meat lovely and moist
  • (For guidance, I cooked this joint for 40 minutes at 220 degrees fan, then 115 minutes at 165 degrees fan, and turned it once, halfway through cooking)
  • After roasting, remove the joint from the oven, cover it with kitchen foil, and rest for 30-45 minutes (this for me is the time to get the roasties and the rest of the trimmings on)
This is the roast when it came out of the oven
  • Remove the string, carve into slices according to your desired thickness and serve immediately
Roast rib of beef

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Fish-Fragrant Pork and Aubergine Pot (魚香茄子煲)

There are several different ways of cooking this dish, but this one got the seal of approval, not only from my dad, but also my mum (who doesn't like spicy food) and even the toddler. The aubergines release a lot of water, so don't worry if your dish looks a little dry to start - keep stirring it occasionally, and you will see the sauce begin to appear.

There are a few ingredients which might be difficult to get outside of a Chinese supermarket, but you could try substituting the toban jiang with yellow bean sauce and chopped chillis (keep the seeds in if you want some heat), the Shaoxing rice wine with dry sherry, and the salted mackerel with a tablespoon of Thai fish sauce.



  • 1 pork loin steak, minced
  • 2cm cube fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 pinch ground white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cornflour
  • A few drops of sunflower oil
  • 1 aubergine
  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp spicy toban jiang (辣豆瓣醬 chilli bean sauce)
  • 2 spring onions, whites and greens chopped into 5mm lengths
  • 1 aubergine
  • 1 small piece (2 X 3cm) salted mackerel
  • 80ml water
  • Sunflower oil for frying
  • A few drops sesame oil
Serves 3-4



  • Squeeze the juice from the grated ginger over the minced pork. Add the ground white pepper, the cornflour and a few drops of sunflower oil and combine well. Cover and marinade for at least 30 minutes in the fridge
  • Soak the mackerel for 10 minutes in boiling water, then peel away the skin and bones, and flake the flesh roughly
  • Half-peel the aubergine lengthways, so that you get a stripy effect. Slice the aubergine lengthways, then cut the slices into matches, roughly 10-12mm sides. Cut each match in half, the size should be similar to that of chips
  • Heat a tablespoon of sunflower oil in a hot wok, until the oil is moving. Add the spring onions and stir-fry rapidly for 10 seconds
  • Add the minced pork and garlic, and stir-fry rapidly, until the pork is browned
  • Add the Shaoxing rice wine, light soy sauce, sugar and toban jiang, and stir rapidly to combine. Add the aubergines and salted mackerel, and stir the mixture together to coat the aubergines
  • Add 80 ml water to the wok and bring back to the boil. Reduce the heat to moderate, cover and let cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the mixture from sticking to the base of the wok
  • When the aubergines are softened, thicken the sauce if required by adding 1/2 tsp cornflour mixed in 20ml water
  • Remove from the heat and add a few drops of sesame oil. Serve immediately

Fish-Fragrant Pork and Aubergine Pot (魚香茄子煲)

Monday, 9 December 2013

Pork Ribs and Papaya Soup (木瓜排骨湯)

So on one of my sad Friday evening ambles to the supermarket, I spotted a couple of papaya for 39p and how could I resist? I swear it was Il Divo blaring "Oh Holy Night" over the loudspeakers that messed with my head.

Pretty much the only time I ever have papaya is after having a baby, as it's rumoured to be good for milk production - and my dad has a "bible" of all of the foods that a new mother can eat. Literally, meal by meal by meal for about six weeks post-birth! We usually come to blows by about week 4, but really Dad, I love and appreciate your efforts!

This soup is normally done with peanuts, but the youngest is starting to show signs of a peanut intolerance, so I've substituted with almonds. I've used "north" (bitter) and "south" (sweet) almonds in this soup, and the mix should be approx north:south 1:3. If you can't get the north and south almonds, then use raw peanuts (a small handful) or even maybe try normal almonds.

I cooked this soup in my 婆婆's 3 litre crockpot (probably older than I am). It could also be cooked in a pan, brought to the boil then simmered for a couple of hours, or in a vacuum cooker.



  • 350g pork ribs
  • 1 dried octopus (章魚幹)
  • A thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled
  • 2 papaya, deseeded, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 2 red dates (jujubes)
  • 1/2 tbsp north almonds
  • 1 1/2 tbsp south almonds
  • 2-3 tsp salt
Serves 6



  • Rinse the dried octopus and scrape off any sand or grit. Cut into 3 or 4 pieces
  • Place the ribs into a pan, pour over boiling water and boil for 5 minutes, to get rid of any scum and impurities. Drain and rinse under water
  • Place all of the ingredients except for the papaya into a 3 litre crockpot and pour over enough water to nearly fill the pot
  • Cook on high for 6-7 hours. 2 hours before the end, add the papaya to the pot
  • At the end of the cooking, add 2 tsp salt to the soup and taste. Add more salt if required, until you have achieved the required taste
Pork Ribs and Papaya Soup (木瓜排骨湯)

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Deep-Fried Sprats with Red Chinese Vinegar (油炸鯡魚點醋)

The reduced fresh produce appears on the shelves at around a quarter to 8 in the evening at our local Sainsbury's, and when it's a supermarket day, I can usually be found lurking around the aisles at this time. Last night I came home with a packet of sprats for 50p, a bream for £2.60 and a couple of papaya for 39p each. My mum and dad would be proud of me, but I'm not a patch on my best friend, Yin's mum, whom I think managed Christmas dinner for under a fiver last year!

Although I prefer to get my fish from the fishmonger, the choice at the supermarket, especially when it's reduced, is fine. The bream went straight into the freezer (along with last week's bargain dover sole, which doesn't actually freeze that well) for another day, and the papaya will be turned into soup with pork ribs. The sprats pretty much need to be eaten the next day, and although the fishmonger said I didn't need to gut them, I personally prefer to, I think it makes the taste much cleaner.

The eldest loves to dip her sprats into red Chinese vinegar, and was last seen rather worryingly drinking it straight from the bowl. The middle child preferred tomato ketchup, and the toddler still prefers to run around and create merry hell, rather than eat anything. The fish is fried until crisp and crunchy, so bones are not a problem.

Unfortunately, I think the oil for frying probably costs more than the fish!



  • 400g sprats
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • A large pinch of salt
  • A large pinch of ground white pepper
  • Sunflower or vegetable oil for deep-frying
Suggested Dips: Chinese red vinegar, tomato ketchup, Lea and Perrins Worcester sauce, sweet chilli sauce

Serves 2-3



  • Using a sharp knife, cut the heads off the sprats and cut along the underside through the belly. Scrape/pull the guts out and discard. Give the sprats a quick rinse
  • Place the sprats onto kitchen towels and dry thoroughly
  • Place 1 tbsp cornflour, a large pinch of salt and a large pinch of ground white pepper into a plastic bag (I use a sandwich bag) and shake thoroughly to mix
  • Add the sprats to the bag, close and shake around until they are coated in the cornflour mixture
  • Remove the sprats from the bag and dust off any excess cornflour
  • Place 3-4cm depth of sunflower oil into a small wok and heat until very hot. I test this by placing a wooden chopstick into the oil, and when it starts to bubble, you know the oil is hot enough
  • Add the sprats, 4-5 at a time to the oil. Be careful not to overload the wok, or the sprats will turn soggy. If you want to fry more sprats at a time, then increase the depth of the oil, but it should never reach more than a third of the height of the wok or pan. The sprats should be able to move freely when you swirl the oil around the wok
  • Keeping the heat high, deep fry for 2-3 minutes, swirling them around the wok periodically and turning them once
  • Remove from the wok and place on a warmed plate on kitchen towels
  • Repeat until all of the sprats are cooked
  • Remove the kitchen towels and serve immediately with an assortment of dipping sauces

Deep-Fried Sprats with Red Chinese Vinegar (油炸鯡魚點醋)
Deep-Fried Sprats

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Brazilian Meatloaf

The credit for this recipe goes to the mum of my friend, Julio. I find that children look at it suspiciously, poke it around a bit with their forks, and after being persuaded to take a first bite, usually ask for seconds.

The first time we had this at Julio and Dani's house, the dish was accompanied by a really lovely cauliflower cheese - I don't know how he managed it, but Julio managed to wrap ham and cheese in and around the cauliflower, then take it out of the oven still looking like a whole cauliflower. It was a really lovely meal, and a really lovely day. I miss you guys!

I haven't made this for a while, but we had the school nativity on Friday, and some of the children's friends (and their mums, my friends!) came over after school. We haven't done it for a while, I think maybe once, since I started working full time in 2012, but it reminded me how much I miss doing it. Maybe early Friday leaving every so often could be a habit to adopt.



  • 400g beef mince
  • 1 packet (single portion) of powdered onion soup (use vegetable if you can't find onion)
  • 1 egg
  • 50g butter cut into cubes, preferably at room temperature (but don't stress if you forgot to take it out of the fridge, like me)
  • 6-8 slices of thin ham
  • A large handful of grated cheddar cheese
  • Ground black pepper to season
Serves 3-4 adults or 6 children



  • If your packet soup mix contains croutons, pour it through a sieve, remove the croutons and add any dried vegetables back into the mix
  • Place the beef mince, butter, egg, soup mix and ground black pepper in a large bowl and combine well. I get stuck in with my hands
  • Lay a length of clingfilm onto a flat surface - about the size of a normal baking tray
  • Place the beef mince mixture onto the clingfilm and roll/flatten with a rolling pin or your hands, until the mixture is 5-8mm thick. Aim for a rectangle shape
  • Lay a single layer of sliced ham over the mince, then sprinkle a layer of grated cheese over that

  • Using the clingfilm, roll the mince over, so that you a long, rather unsavoury looking roll of meat, wrapped in the clingfilm. Flatten slightly with your hand and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up
The less said, the better really!
  • When you are ready to cook the meatloaf, remove the clingfilm and place on a baking tray. Place into an oven at 180 degrees fan for 25-30 minutes
  • Remove from the oven, cut into slices around 2cm thick and serve. I like to serve with rice and assorted vegetables
Brazilian Meatloaf

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Steamed Fluke with Tianjin Preserved Vegetables (天津冬菜蒸比目魚)

Last Saturday, I dropped the eldest off at her Chinese class, and headed into town for my usual trip to the fishmonger. My friend, Regina, realised that this was the last class of term and panic-bought enough fish to last until New Year, it seemed!

It still feels like a bit of a treat going to the fishmonger on a Saturday morning, followed by a trip to the greengrocer. The displays are always full of a decent variety of fresh, plump, glistening fish and shellfish, and the fishmonger is always happy to chat, recomending what is in season and what came in the morning's catch, and asking us how we would cook certain ingredients. By the time we have finished, there's usually a queue behind us, and one of us has probably nicked the last of the prawns/clams/scallops.....

Last week, the fishmonger recommended that I try the fluke, that had been landed that morning. Having never tried it (or even flounder) before, I was intrigued. Normally, I'll buy a dover sole or a lemon sole if I'm after a flat fish. It was an ugly looking thing, but big enough to feed us all, so I picked one up for about £4. On this occasion, I also picked up 4 fat slabs of salmon, which got vac-packed for the freezer, and a couple of herring, which I seasoned, floured and pan-fried. The herring roe was delicious given the same treatment, and dipped in Chinese red vinegar.

I thought about pan-frying the fluke, but it was so fresh, I decided to steam it instead. It was an absolute treat. The flesh was light, delicate, moist and flaky, and the children gobbled it up. One day, I'll make them brainy! I used Tianjin preserved vegetable, which can be bought in Chinese supermarkets. It's a preserved, salted cabbage, which needs to be soaked and rinsed a few times, and is one of my favourite accompaniments for steamed fish.

Tianjin Preserved Vegetable (天津冬菜)



  • 1 fluke or flounder, scaled and gutted
  • 3 tsp Tianjin preserved vegetable, soaked in warm water for 10 mins, then drained and rinsed a few times to remove grit
  • 3 slices of raw ginger, peeled and sliced into fine matchsticks
  • A very small pinch of ground white pepper
  • 3-4 big sploshes of seasoned soy sauce for seafood (or use light soy sauce)
  • A few drops of a flavourless oil, such as grapeseed or sunflower oil
Serves 2-3



  • Rinse the fish inside and out, and pat dry with kitchen towels. Lay dark-side up on a heatproof steaming dish (I use a metal dish, but anything will do, you might just need to steam for a few minutes longer)
  • Scatter the sliced ginger over the top of the fish
  • Squeeze any excess moisture from the Tianjin preserved vegetable, and scatter it over the fish and ginger. Sprinkle a very small pinch of ground white pepper over the top
  • Splosh the seasoned soy sauce for seafood over the fish in abundance - the sauce is great for adding to rice, so I always make sure there's enough to go round
  • Add a couple of drops of sunflower or grapeseed oil
  • Place the dish on a rack over water in a large wok, cover, and steam for 8-10 minutes, until just cooked through
  • Serve with boiled rice
Steamed Fluke with Tianjin Preserved Vegetables (天津冬菜蒸比目魚)

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Thai Flavours Kohlrabi with Minced Pork (泰式芥蘭頭炒豬肉)

At this point, I will admit that I'm not sure what kohlrabi is called in Chinese, so I hope my dodgy memory serves me correctly here - because Google Translate said something I didn't recognise at all... I also have no idea whether kohlrabi features in Thai cuisine, but there was fish sauce, chilli and sugar in it, so it was more Thai than anything else.....

I would like to see kohlrabi available more widely - it's relatively easy to grow, and has a mild, slightly cabbagey taste. I like to cut it into sticks, stir-fry it, then add some water to the wok, cover and steam it until it still has some bite. You can add all sorts of flavours to it (but not fermented tofu!). With the minced pork, I fancied chillis, then the fish sauce seemed a logical addition.



  • 2-3 small kohlrabi (I bought one large, but the small ones are a bit less fibrous)
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 red chilli, finely sliced (leave the seeds in if you want heat)
  • 150g pork mince
  • 2cm cube ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • A pinch of ground white pepper
  • 1-2 shakes of light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp Thai fish sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp cornflour + additional for thickening
  • A few drops sesame oil
  • Sunflower oil for frying
Serves 4



  • Squeeze the grated ginger juice over the minced pork. Add a shake of ground white pepper, 1 tsp corn flour, 1-2 shakes of light soy sauce and a few drops of sunflower oil. Cover and leave to marindade for at least 30 minutes
  • Cut the top and bottom off the kohlrabi, and peel the skin layer off. Slice in half down the length of the kohlrabi, then cut down the length into sticks, approx. 1cm square at the top
  • Heat 1 tbsp sunflower oil in a wok until very hot. Add the pork mince and stir-fry until it is sealed, and has taken on some colour
  • Add the kohlrabi, chopped garlic and chilli to the wok and stir-fry rapidly for a minute or two, until the ingredients are mixed, aromatic and coated in oil. Take care not to let the garlic catch and burn
  • Add the Thai fish sauce, sugar, and 50ml water. Bring the mixture to the boil, then cover and boil gently for 7-8 minutes, until the kohlrabi is soft, but retains some bite
  • Thicken the sauce by adding 1/2 tsp cornflour mixed with a little water, if required, and bringing back to the boil
  • Remove from the heat, add a few drops of sesame oil. Stir and serve immediately

Thai Flavours Kohlrabi with Minced Pork (泰式芥蘭頭炒豬肉)

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Stir-fried Clams in Black Bean Sauce (豉汁炒蜆)

I love the hour and a half I get on a Saturday, when I've dropped the eldest off at her class and I can just mooch about in town. It's my chance to get fish at the market and fruit and vegetables at my favourite greengrocer in Chester, Francis Thomas. Every 3rd Saturday, there is also the farmer's market outside the town hall, where you can usually fill up on some free samples of sausages, pies and cheese. All in all, a worthwhile trip!

Today I finally got round to buying some clams at the fishmonger. The children were fascinated by them, peering suspiciously inside the shells, and tapping them to make them close. They weren't brave enough to try them in the evening, which meant all the more for me. I used dried, fermented black beans in this recipe, but you can also use a few tablespoons of black bean sauce, which can be found in most supermarkets nowadays.



  • Approx. 700g clams
  • 1 spring onion, sliced diagonally into 1cm pieces
  • 2 tablespoons of dried, fermented black beans, rinsed
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1cm cube of raw ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine (or use dry sherry as a substitute)
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Thai fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 tsp cornflour, mixed with a little water
  • A few drops of sesame oil
  • A handful of coriander leaves, chopped
Serves 2



  • Place the clams in slightly salted water until you need them. It's probably worth refreshing the water a few times, to get rid of any grit in the clams. When you are ready to use the clams, drain them and scrub the shells well under running water
  • Rinse the dried black beans, and mash them with 1 tsp sugar
  • Heat a wok until very hot, and add the sunflower oil. Swirl the oil around the wok and throw in the ginger and garlic. Stir-fry for 10 seconds, then add the mashed black beans. Stir fry for 30 seconds until the mixture is aromatic
  • Add the spring onions and stir briefly, then add the clams to the wok and stir and turn them in the mixture, to ensure the black bean mixture coats each clam. Add the Shaoxing wine, Thai fish sauce and light soy sauce, and stir to combine. Add a few tablespoons of water if desired.
  • Put a lid onto the wok and boil the clams for 7-8 minutes, or until the shells are all opened. Shake the wok intermittently to mix the ingredients
  • Remove the clams with a slotted spoon or tongs, discarding any which have not opened. Place into a serving dish and keep warm in a low oven
  • Turn the heat up in the wok, and bring the black bean sauce to a boil. Add the cornflour/water mixture slowly and mix until you have achieved the desired consistency. Remove from the heat and add a few drops of sesame oil.
  • Pour the sauce over the clams and garnish with freshly chopped coriander. Serve immediately
Stir-fried Clams in Black Bean Sauce (豉汁炒蜆)

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Slow-Cooked Chicken with Chestnut and Potatoes (栗子薯仔炆雞)

This is one of my sister's staples, with the addition of chestnuts to give a little sweetness and texture.

Ordinarily this takes 20-30 minutes to cook, but I thought I would give it a try in the slow cooker. I must admit, it was my first attempt ever at jointing a chicken... it took me longer than I thought it would, and was a bit of a hatchet job! Maybe next time I'll just get a box of thighs and drumsticks, as I thought these worked better than the breast meat in this dish. However, one chicken has lasted us for what seems like days - we might finish it tomorrow!



  • 1 chicken, jointed, or 1kg of thighs and drumsticks
  • 100ml light soy sauce
  • 200ml Shaoxing rice wine, or use dry sherry as an alternative
  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp five-spice powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
  • 2 slices of ginger, peeled and bashed with the flat of a cleaver
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and bashed with the flat of a cleaver
  • 1/2 onion, sliced finely
  • 200g peeled chestnuts (I used these from Merchant Gourmet)
  • 400g waxy potatoes, scrubbed or peeled and cut into 3cm chunks
  • Approx. 200-300ml water
  • 3 heaped tsp cornflour, mixed with a little water (if needed)
  • 2-3 tbsp sunflower oil for frying
  • A few shakes of sesame oil
  • 3 spring onions, sliced
Serves 6-8



  • Combine the light soy sauce, Shaoxing rice wine (or sherry), sugar, five-spice poweder and white pepper in a jug
  • Heat the sunflower oil in a wok or heavy frying pan until very hot. Add the ginger and stir-fry rapidly for 10 seconds to flavour the oil. Add the garlic cloves and the chicken - brown the chicken in batches, turning to get a good golden colour on the skin and meat. Don't move it around the wok too much, and make sure the garlic doesn't burn. Discard the garlic.
  • Add the chicken and the ginger slices to the slow cooker, with the onion, potatoes and chestnuts. Stir to mix well, then pour over the soy sauce/rice wine mixture
  • Add approx. 200-300ml water to the mixture - the liquid should come to about 2/3 of the way up
Ingredients in the slow cooker
  • Put the slow cooker on high, and cook for 6 hours, turning occasionally
  • After 4 hours, check the sauce. If you prefer the sauce to be thicker, mix 3 heaped tsp of cornflour with a little water, add to the pot and mix well
  • Just before the end of cooking, add the sliced spring onions to the pot, and a few shakes of sesame oil, and mix well
  • Serve with rice
Slow-Cooked Chicken with Chestnut and Potatoes (栗子薯仔炆雞)

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Chinese-Style Lamb Casserole (中式羊肉煲)

My lovely friend, Jackie (who has recently become a mother of 3!) gave me this recipe, which went down very well with the children. She uses lamb chops in her dish, but I bought the sweetest lamb shoulder that I had ever tasted from the Westmorland Farm Shop at Tebay Services, and cut it into cubes. As a child, we didn't have lamb at home because my Mum and 婆婆 (having come from Hong Kong) couldn't stand the "餿" (sour/rancid) smell of it. In fact, the few times I do remember having lamb as a child were mostly at Jackie and her family's chippy in Liverpool - her parents would do a huge leg of lamb in the chippy oven, and we would eat it with enormous roast potatoes, mint sauce, gravy and veg. All very exotic back then!

I've tried this recipe in the slow cooker before, and did not really enjoy the texture (perhaps I didn't add enough cornflour), so I would prefer to cook using the oven method.



  • 700g lamb shoulder, cut into 3cm cubes
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2cm cube fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 2 large, floury potatoes, peeled and sliced into 5mm thicknesses
  • 3 large tomatoes
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 4 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 4 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp worcester sauce (only Lea and Perrins for me, after an unfortunate purchase of Morrison's own brand several years ago)
  • 3 heaped tsp cornflour
  • 350ml water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Sunflower oil for frying/brushing
Serves 6-8



  • Place the potatoes into water until you need them
  • Skin the tomatoes by scoring a large cross into the bottom of each, then covering with boiling water. Leave until cool enough to handle, then peel off the skin and dice the tomatoes
  • Heat 1 tbsp sunflower oil in a pan until very hot, then add the diced lamb. Brown on all sides, then add the chopped garlic and ginger and onion, and stir-fry quickly for 2 minutes until the onions are softened and glossy. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a casserole dish with the sliced leeks and carrots and the chopped tomatoes. Stir well to combine
  • Combine the oyster sauce, soy sauce, tomato puree, sugar, worcester sauce, cornflour, sesame oil and water in a jug, and mix well. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to season
  • Pour the cooking liquid over the lamb and vegetables, then layer the sliced potatoes over the mixture
  • Brush the potatoes with sunflower oil, then cover the casserole and cook in the oven at 160 degrees fan for 2 1/2 hours
  • Remove the lid from the casserole, increase the temperature to 180 degrees fan and cook for a further 30 minutes to crisp the potaotes 
  • Serve with rice
Chinese-Style Lamb Casserole (中式羊肉煲)

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Hong Kong Style Baked Pork Chops with Rice (港式焗豬扒飯)

This is my take on this Hong Kong diner-style recipe, and it went down quite well tonight. The children usually have minced or finely sliced, stir-fried meat, and are not used to eating chops/steaks, so they took a bit of persuading. I used two large pork chops, which was enough to feed two adults and 3 small children. I also used fresh tomatoes in the recipe, but a tin of chopped tomatoes would be just fine as a subsitute.



  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 3 good shakes of light soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 tsp sunflower oil
Tomato Sauce
  • 4-5 large, ripe tomatoes
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp worcester sauce
  • (Optional) 1 tsp Knorr chicken powder
  • Approx. 100ml tomato ketchup
Other ingredients
  • 1/2 a romano pepper, or a standard red pepper, finely diced
  • 1-2 handfuls of frozen petits pois
  • 1/2 a large carrot, peeled and finely diced
  • 2cm cube of ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • Approx. 3 bowls of cooked rice, which has been refrigerated overnight or for half a day
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 large, thick pork chops
  • 150ml chicken stock
  • Ground white pepper
  • A couple of handfuls of cheddar or mozarella cheese
  • Sunflower oil for frying
Serves 2-3



  • Combine the marinade ingredients and pour over the pork chops into a shallow dish. Cover and marinade the pork chops for at least 30 minutes
  • Make the tomato sauce. Skin the tomatoes by scoring a cross in the bottom of each tomato, then pouring boiling water over until fully submerged. Leave for 10-15 minutes, then pour away the water. Peel the skins off the tomatoes, then chop roughly and put aside
  • Heat 1 tbsp sunflower oil in a heavy based saucepan to moderate heat, then add the crushed garlic and let bubble gently for a minute or so, to flavour the oil. Do not let the garlic catch and burn
  • Add the tomatoes, the chicken powder, worcester sauce and tomato ketchup, and stir well to combine. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Break up the sauce with a fork or potato masher

  • Pre-heat the oven to 185 degrees fan
  • Heat 1 tbsp oil in a wok or large frying pan to high, then add the diced carrots. Stir-fry quickly for 30 seconds, then add the romano pepper and the grated ginger, and stir-fry quickly for another 30 seconds.
  • Add the rice and stir-fry quickly for 2-3 minutes, until the rice is completely coated in the oil and the ingredients are well combined
  • Add a handful or two of frozen petits pois, and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes. Add a dash of light soy sauce and mix well
  • Push all of the rice to one side of the wok, then tip the wok so that there is an empty space at the bottom. Add the beaten egg and chop and scramble it quickly with a spatula, until it is cooked. Combine the egg and fried rice
  • Pour the rice mixture into a baking dish, and pour over 150ml of hot chicken stock

Fried Rice
  • Heat 1 tbsp of sunflower oil in a large frying pan until it is very hot. Shake any excess marinade from the pork chops, and place in the frying pan. Brown on 1 side of a minute or so, then flip over and brown on the other side
  • Place the pork chops onto the rice

  • Pour the tomato sauce over the pork and rice, and sprinkle the grated cheese on top
  • Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, until the cheese is melted and browned, and the tomato sauce is bubbling
  • Remove from the oven. Place the pork chops onto a chopping board, and cut into pieces, if serving more than 2 people. Stir the rice, and serve with the pork in warmed dishes
I might use more cheese next time...
Hong Kong Style Baked Pork Chops with Rice (港式焗豬扒飯)

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Barbecue Pulled Pork

My friend, Amy, introduced me to the Facebook group "Slow Cooked Wonders", then sent me the recipe for "Epic Pork". I'd done something similar in the slow cooker before, so this is my personal take on the recipe. It made a big difference to get rid of some of the cooking liquid before adding the barbecue sauce, and although it would be easier to use a shop-bought sauce (in which case I like Paul Newman's Original Sticky BBQ Sauce), it didn't take much more effort to make my own version. And the great thing about that is that I get to plug Colman's OK sauce. I am very attached to this sauce, as I was responsible for installing the process plant at Colman's in Norwich, which makes it! Now that the memories of falling into bed at 5am, exhausted after a night of commissioning, to be woken at 5.30am by an operator saying "we need you to come in, we can't get the clean working", are in the dim and distant past, I remember my time in Norwich very fondly.

Colman's OK Sauce - a product close to my heart!

The recipe on the Facebook group mentioned discarding the rind after the slow-cook, but being Chinese stingy, I rendered the fat in a frying pan, poured it off, and made myself an enormous pork scratching instead. The children had the pork in sandwiches, but we ran out of bread, and the adults had it with boiled rice and stir-fried greens - both meals were very good.



  • 1 pork shoulder, 1.7 - 2kg
  • 1/2 glass white wine
  • 1/2 glass apple juice
  • 2 slices of ginger

Barbecue Sauce
  • 35g butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped finely
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 mug of cooking liquid from the slow cooker
  • 1/4 mug of tomato ketchup
  • 3/4 mug of Colman's OK sauce (or use a brown sauce)
  • 2 tbsp worcester sauce
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • (optional) 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • (optional) 1 dessert spoon of cornflour, mixed with 50ml of water for thickening
Serves 8-10



  • Wash the pork shoulder and scrape/burn/pull off any stray hairs
  • Place the shoulder (skin side up) in a slow cooker. Add the white wine, apple juice and ginger. Cook on low for 8-10 hours
  • When the pork has finished cooking, remove it from the slow cooker, cut off the rind (you can discard this or make it into a pork scratching) and set aside
  • (If you are making your own barbecue sauce, take a mugful of the cooking liquid)
  • Pour the cooking liquid away and return the pork to the slow cooker. Shred with two forks, then pour over the barbecue sauce and mix thoroughly
  • If you have time, leave the pork and the barbecue sauce to slow cook for an hour, to let the flavours mingle
  • Serve with crusty bread, or with rice and green vegetables

Barbecue Pulled Pork with Crusty Bread

  • To make your own barbecue sauce, melt the butter in a small saucepan
  • Add the chopped onion and minced garlic, and soften over a moderate heat for 5 minutes
  • Add the cooking liquid from the slow cooker, tomato ketchup, OK sauce, worcester sauce, ground black pepper, balsamic vinegar, honey, paprika and chilli flakes and stir well to combine
  • Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 25 minutes
  • After cooking, remove from the heat and blitz to a puree with a stick blender or in a liquidiser
  • If you wish to thicken the sauce, return to the hob, and add 1 dessert spoon of cornflour, mixed with 50ml of water. Bring the sauce to the boil and stir until the sauce is thickened

  • To make a pork scratching, use a knife to score the fat on the underside of the rind
  • Heat in a moderate frying pan until the fat renders - pour off the fat periodically
  • When most of the fat is rendered, turn the heat up and place the rind skin-side down. Press down with a spatula until the rind is bubbling and crisp
  • Drain on kitchen towls, grind over salt and pepper, cool and enjoy

    Enormous Pork Scratching

Monday, 23 September 2013

Chicken and Mushrooms Fried in Oyster Sauce (雞肉炒蘑菇)

I always saw this on the menu at chippies and Westernised Chinese restaurants, and remember it was popular with the customers when I was waitressing in 1998. I don't think I've ever ordered, or eaten it before! However tonight, I had one solitary chicken breast remaining in the fridge (I foolishly froze four in one solid lump and have been working my way through them for the last few days), and half a box of mushrooms remaining from an epic cottage pie batch cook. The dish was surprisingly pleasing - the mushrooms were still firm and full of bite, which complemented the tender chicken meat. Mushrooms are the one thing guaranteed to turn the children green, so husband and I got this to ourselves whilst they chowed down on some leftover spaghetti bolognaise (with the mushrooms chopped up so finely that they didn't even notice, hah!)



  • 1 chicken breast, sliced thinly
  • 2 shakes of light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp Knorr chicken powder
  • A thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and grated finely
  • 1 tsp sunflower oil
  • 1 small clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 onion, finely sliced
  • 200g mushrooms, large ones sliced in half
  • Sunflower oil for frying
  • 2-3 shakes of oyster sauce
  • 30-40ml water
  • 1/2 tsp cornflour in 20ml water, for thickening
  • A dash of ground white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2-3 drops of sesame oil
Serves 2



  • Place the sliced chicken in a bowl. Add the light soy sauce, the chicken powder, the grated ginger and 1 tsp of sunflower oil. Mix to combine, cover and marinade for at least 30 minutes
  • Heat the wok until it is very hot. Add 1 tbsp of sunflower oil and swirl around the wok. Add the chicken and stir-fry quickly until it is sealed all over. Remove from the wok and place to one side
  • Re-heat the wok to a high heat, and add 1 tbsp sunflower oil. Add the sliced onions and stir-fry quickly for 30 seconds until the onions are coated in oil and glossy. Add the mushrooms and the garlic to the wok and stir-fry for a further minute, until the mushrooms are coated in oil and glossy. Do not let the mixture catch and burn
  • Return the chicken the the wok, and mix well to combine. Add 2-3 shakes of oyster sauce, 1/2 tsp sugar, a sprinkling of ground white pepper and 30-40ml of water. Mix well, lower the heat to moderate and cover the wok
  • Gently boil for 3-4 minutes until the onions are softened slightly. When the vegetables are cooked, uncover the wok and add the cornflour/water mixture, stirring to mix in well. Bring back to the boil and let the sauce thicken
  • Remove from the heat and add 2-3 drops of sesame oil. Place in a warmed dish and serve immediately

Chicken and Mushrooms Fried in Oyster Sauce (雞肉炒蘑菇)

Banana and Blueberry Breakfast Muffins

I recently was asked to take part in a competition, whereby I was to come up with a recipe using new Ski Lemon Cheesecake Low Fat Yoghurt. Sadly I wasn't the winner this time, but I hope you like the recipe. The muffins aren't too sweet, which makes them a nice "grab and go" for breakfast.



  • 150g plain white flour
  • 150g plain wholemeal flour
  • 2 heaped tsp baking powder
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g frozen blueberries
  • 2 large, ripe bananas
  • 250g Ski lemon cheesecake yoghurt
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 50g butter, melted and cooled
  • A pinch of salt
  • 40g porridge oats, plus extra for sprinkling 
  • Grated zest of 1/2 a lemon
Makes 12



  • Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees fan. Line a muffin tin with 12 paper cases
  • Make your dry mix. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl, and tip any bran reamining from the sieve into the bowl. Stir in the salt, sugar and oats
  • Make your wet mix. Mash the bananas in a separate bowl, and add the yoghurt, egg, butter and lemon zest. Mix well to combine
  • Make a well in the middle of the dry mix, and add the wet mix. Fold the two mixes together, so that they are well combined
  • Spoon the muffin mixture into the baking tin, filling each case almost to the top. Sprinkle each muffin with oats
  • Place the baking tin on the middle shelf of the oven, and bake for 20 minutes until the muffins are risen and golden on top
  • Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes, before cooling completely on a wire rack

Banana and Blueberry Breakfast Muffins

My colleagues have the pleasure of these tomorrow!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Apple Crumble

My husband has a sweet tooth. We have a running joke that the only time he ever gets a pudding prepared for him is when I go on maternity leave, but before I have the baby. And because the only pudding I can make is crumble, he usually gets a crumble of some description.

I think he's had about 5 crumbles from me in his life.

Last week, a friend (Flo) dropped off some Bramley apples from her tree, exactly the right amount to make crumble number 6. My eldest loved rubbing the crumble mixture together in her hands whilst I cooked up the apple filling, and the sweet and tart flavours certainly rang the seasonal changes. We have gone from glorious sunshine to bluster, rain and hail in the space of a week, it seems! This recipe is tweaked from one in the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book, with a few additions.



  • 50g plain white flour
  • 25g plain wholemeal flour
  • 75g light muscovado sugar
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 50g fridge-cold unsalted butter
  • A small handful of porridge oats
  • 700g (or thereabouts) Bramley apples
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 75g golden caster sugar
  • A pinch of cinnamon
  • A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Serves 6


  • To make the crumble topping, sift the flours into a bowl, then add any bran left in the sieve. Stir in the sugar and the ground almonds, then work in the butter, using your fingertips, to make a very crumbly mixture. Add the porridge oats and stir to combine
  • Peel and core the apples, and cut into 2.5cm chunks. Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pan. Add the apples and sugar, and cook, stirring over a gentle heat until the apples start to soften and break up. Transfer to a 1.7 litre (3 pint) pie dish
  • Spoon over the crumble topping and bake at 175 degrees fan oven for 30 minutes.
  • Serve warm with cream, ice cream or custard

Apple Crumble

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Crispy Roast Belly Pork (燒肉)

Yum. Yum yum yum. Just the thought of whole bellies of crispy pork in the window of a Chinese restaurant has me salivating. It took several attempts to get this right, and even now it doesn't always go to plan. For example, today I took the belly pork out of the oven and thought "Hmm. It looks rubbish, and I promised Mum and Dad I'd give half to them. They'll be disappointed." The skin had not bubbled up enough, and I thought it would be rock-hard, but surprisingly, it was not bad.

I ran into the fabulous butcher near work, Edge & Son in New Ferry, 5 minutes before closing time on Friday. Although the shelves had been emptied, I got a lovely belly of Gloucester Old Spot. Thing is though, and I'm not sure if it's the same with supermarket pork belly, there were still many bristles attached - not long, just stubbly. I scraped with a knife, but even after 2 hours with a pair of tweezers (and it was 2am by this stage), still struggled to get rid of them all. Apparently I need a blow torch! Suggestions welcome, anyway. The bristles weren't too noticeable in the finished dish, but I knew they were there.

I saw Larkin from Masterchef do interesting-looking things with a hair dryer to his belly pork, presumably because he only had 3 hours to dry the thing out, and I'm tempted to try this technique sometime - my usual method is just to leave it with a kitchen towel over the skin in the fridge, overnight. I poured a kettle of boiling water over the skin, as this shrinks it and is said to make the skin crispier. However, I wonder whether that's why it was so hard to remove the bristles - next time, will try without. A halogen oven seems to give a better success rate, but you can also roast the belly pork in a normal conventional or fan oven. You can crisp the skin up under a grill after cooking, but keep an eye on it, as it burns quickly.



  • Approx. 1kg pork belly (leave the rind unscored), ribs removed
  • 1 tbsp yellow bean sauce
  • 1 tsp five-spice powder
  • 1/2 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • A few pinches of salt



  • Scrape the pork rind with a sharp knife and remove any remaining bristles with a blow torch or a pair of tweezers. Place the belly, skin-side up, onto a chopping board or tray over a sink, and slowly pour a full kettle of boiling water over the skin. You will see the skin shrink and tighten
  • Dry the belly with kitchen towels, turn over, and score the flesh lengthways, making incisions around 0.5cm deep, approx. 3cm apart
  • Place the belly skin-side up. Take a skewer or a small, sharp knife, and stab the rind all over, several times (think Psycho shower scene). You want to have as many small holes as possible in the skin, as these will bubble and crisp when the belly is cooking. Although it isn't advisable to stab through the entire thickness of the belly, it's such a forgiving joint that I am not too careful
  • Prepare the marinade by mixing the yellow bean sauce, five-spice powder, light soy, honey and hoisin sauce in a bowl. Using a pastry brush, brush this generously over the flesh, working it into the incisions. Do not brush over the skin
  • Place the belly, skin-side up, in a tray. Sprinkle with salt and rub into the skin. Place a folded kitchen towel over the skin and leave in the refrigerator overnight to dry out

Pork Belly, Stabbed, Skin Salted, Marinaded and Ready for the Fridge

  • Pre-heat the oven to 190 degrees fan. Remove the kitchen towel from the pork belly. Place on a rack on a baking tray and roast for 50-60 minutes - turn down the heat to 180 degrees if the skin looks as if it is burning
  • Remove from the oven and rest for at least 20 minutes. Cut off any burned marinade from the sides of the flesh. place skin-side down on a chopping board, and chop into pieces through the incisions
  • Serve with rice

Don't worry about burned marindade - the flesh will be moist and white underneath

Crispy Roast Belly Pork (燒肉)

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐)

I adore this dish, but sadly we don't make it very often nowadays. "Mapo" translates as "pock-marked grandmother", so this dish is sometimes known as "pock-marked grandmother's tofu".

The children aren't yet ready or willing to eat this lip-numbing Sichuanese dish, so the portions I've measured out will make enough for two adults. You can buy ready-made jars of mapo sauce (麻婆醬) in the Chinese supermarket, but I have made it using a spicy ground bean sauce, tobian jiang (辣豆瓣酱).

Lee Kum Kee Chilli Bean Sauce (辣豆瓣酱)



  • Approx. 150g pork mince (I minced a single pork loin steak)
  • 200g firm tofu, cut into 1.5cm cubes (I used Cauldron tofu from the supermarket)
  • 2 tsp Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp sunflower or vegetable oil
  • 2cm cube raw ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 150ml chicken or pork stock
  • 2 tsp chilli bean sauce (la toban jiang 辣豆瓣酱)
  • 1/2 spring onion, finely sliced on the diagonal
  • A small handful of frozen petits pois
  • A few drops of sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil for frying
  • 1/2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 tsp cornflour, mixed with 20ml water
Serves 2



  • Dry-fry the Sichuan peppercorns for 20 seconds, or until they begin to release their aroma. Crush them lightly and set aside
  • Add the light soy, dark soy, sugar, Shaoxing rice wine and 1 tsp sunflower oil to the pork mince and mix thoroughly. Set aside and marinade for at least 20 minutes
  • Heat a wok until very hot. Add 1 tbsp sunflower oil and swirl it around the wok
  • Add the pork mince and fry it quickly, lifting and chopping the mince with a spatula to cook it. Once it is sealed, add the minced garlic and ginger and fry quickly for 20 seconds
  • Add the chilli bean sauce to the mince mixture with any remaining marinade and stir-fry, ensuring that the sauce is thoroughly mixed with the mince
  • Add the chicken or pork stock to the mince and bring it to the boil. Cover and boil gently for 5 minutes
  • Add the cubes of tofu and petits pois and stir gently to mix with the pork mixture. Bring back to the boil. Add the cornflour/water mixture to thicken the sauce, cover and simmer for another 5 minutes, until the petits pois have cooked through and the tofu has taken on the flavours of the sauce
  • Remove the wok from the heat and add a few drops of sesame oil. Place in a warmed serving dish, garnished with the ground Sichuan peppercorns and spring onion. Serve immediately

Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐)

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Stir-Fried Tofu and Crunchy Vegetables with Black Bean Sauce (豉汁豆腐炒糖豌豆)

It's taken me 3 attempts to get this recipe to something acceptable, and I finally managed it tonight. The veggies are extra crunchy, so keep the lid on the wok for a minute longer if you prefer them to be a bit softer. It was eaten by all three children, which is a small triumph - even though the eldest only ate the sugar snaps, the middle only ate the baby corn, and the youngest only ate the tofu.... still, between us we managed to finish the dish!


  • 150g sugar snap peas
  • 150g babycorn
  • 200g tofu, cut into 2cm cubes
  • 1/2 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped finely
  • 3 tsp black bean sauce, mixed with 30ml water
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 slice raw ginger, peeled and bashed with the flat of a cleaver
  • A few drops of sesame oil
  • (Optional) 1 tsp cornflour, mixed with a little water to thicken
  • Sunflower or vegetable oil for deep frying
Serves 2-3


  • Remove the fibrous string on the sides of the sugar snap peas by pinching the stem of the pea and "unzipping" the string. Cut the babycorn into halves, widthways at an angle, so that the lengths of babycorn are roughly the same length as the sugar snaps. Wash both thoroughly and place to one side
  • Pour approx. 4-5cm depth of sunflower or vegetable oil into a wok, and heat until a wooden chopstick bubbles when placed into a wok. Carefully place the tofu cubes into the hot oil, an deep fry for approx. 8 minutes, shaking occasionally so that the tofu does not stick to the bottom. When the tofu has taken on a golden colour, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen towels. Place to one side
  • Pour most of the oil out of the wok, leaving approx. 1-2 tbsp. Reheat the oil to just below smoking, and add the ginger, stirring around to flavour the oil
  • Add the sliced onion and stir fry quickly for 1 minute until the onion is glossy and coated with oil
  • Add the sugar snap peas and stir fry for another minute, until they are glossy and coated with oil. Throw in the chopped garlic and stir-fry for 30 seconds until the garlic is aromatic. Remove the ginger from the wok
  • Add the tofu and babycorn and stir-fry quickly for approx. 1 minute, until all of the ingredients are mixed together
  • Add the black bean sauce/water mixture and the sugar, and stir-fry to mix the ingredients. Cover the wok and cook for a further minute
  • Remove the wok from the heat and add a couple of drops of sesame oil. Stir the ingredients, transfer to a warmed plate and serve immediately

Stir-Fried Tofu and Crunchy Vegetables with Black Bean Sauce (豉汁豆腐炒糖豌豆)

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Cottage Pie

I've just been away to Paris for a long weekend, to celebrate a significant anniversary. We had an absolutely wonderful time - despite buying a book of 10 metro tickets, we only used 3 each - to get from the airport, to get to Montmartre, and to get back to the airport. We walked and walked, and ate and drank, and slept. It was fab.

Part of the reason why it was so fab was that I felt freer from responsibility and forward planning than in day-to-day life. However, with usual uptighted-ness, everything was planned to the nth detail in the run-up - including a weekly plan and a drill of instructions for our nanny and my in-laws, and late-night cooking the day before we left - in case the children starved without me!

So there I was once again, piping mashed potato gone midnight. I mentioned in a previous post that M&S cottage pie was one of those great, exotic, non-Chinese dishes we were allowed to buy every so often, and it still brings me comfort, especially with a portion of rice. This recipe has a really tasty mince, with a few unusual ingredients in the sauce.


  • 500g beef mince
  • 2 medium onions, chopped finely
  • 250ml beef stock
  • 1tbsp sunflower oil for frying
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1-2 tbsp plain flour
  • 1-2 tbsp Marmite
  • 1 tbs worcester sauce (has to be Lea and Perrins for me)
  • 1 tsp dark soy sauce for colour
  • Plenty of ground black pepper
  • Approx 1kg white floury potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • (Optional) 1 handful of grated cheddar cheese
  • 25g butter
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk
  • Salt and ground black pepper
Serves 4


  • Heat the sunflower oil in a heavy bottomed pan, and add the onions. Fry on a medium heat for 5-7 minutes, until softened - don't let the onions catch and burn
  • Add the beef mince and turn up the heat, turning until the mince is browned
  • Add the plain flour to the mixture and stir to mix in thoroughly. Cook for 2-3 minutes
  • Add the beef stock, worcester sauce, tomato puree, Marmite, dark soy sauce and plenty of ground black pepper. Stir to combine well, cover the pan and reduce the heat. Cook for 45 minutes until the flavours are well combined and the sauce is thickened
  • Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a pan of cold water and bring to the boil. Boil gently for 25 minutes, then drain and return to the pan. Mash the potatoes, then add the butter and milk, with a touch of salt and ground black pepper. Adjust the milk until you have the consistency you require. Allow the potatoes to cool slightly whilst the mince is cooking
  • Place the mince into a large baking dish

Mince for cottage pie - dark soy sauce gives it that lovely rich colour
  • Add the potato on top, either spooning the mash on top, or piping it - working from the outside of the dish into the centre, and add a sprinkling of grated cheddar cheese on top if you like
(1 kg of potatoes gave me just under 2 layers of mash piped on top. You'll use more if you spoon the potato on top, but it should be ok)

Piped mashed potato and a sprinkling of grated cheddar
  • Place in the oven at 185 degrees for 30 minutes, or until the mashed potato is browned and crispy on top (I let this cool and left it in the fridge overnight for heating up the next day

Cottage pie

Monday, 19 August 2013

Stir-Fried Cabbage with Bacon (煙肉炒椰菜)

I'm sure that there's some cabbagey-bacony dish in many cuisines - something like it always pops up on the Christmas table, and I have happy memories of having lunchtime teppan-yaki cabbage and bacon in the food court downstairs in the Metro Tower in Shanghai, when I worked there back in 2001.

We've been away for a week, and 3 days before we went, my parents emptied their fridge into mine (they were going away too). This led to much frantic peeling, chopping and freezing, and heartbroken chucking of fruit and veg into the composter. Some things I left in the fridge, including a sweetheart cabbage which I'd picked up for 10p or something in my local Waitrose on a Sunday afternoon. I used this in tonight's dish, coupled with the remainder of a packet of pancetta and it was lovely - but standard white or green cabbage and streaky bacon would be just as tasty.


  • 1/2 sweetheart cabbage, shredded into 5mm strips
  • 3 strips of pancetta or streaky bacon, cut into 5mm strips
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 slice of raw ginger, peeled and bashed with the flat of a cleaver
  • 1/2 tsp chicken powder
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 50ml water
  • Few drops sesame oil
Serves 2 as a side dish


  • Heat a wok or heavy-based frying pan until very hot. Add the pancetta/bacon and fry (without disturbing it too much) until crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and put to one side. Drain away the oil, until approx. 1 tbsp remains in the pan. If you do not have this much oil from the pancetta or bacon, top up with sunflower oil
  • Heat the pan back up and add the slice of ginger. Fry quickly for 30 seconds to flavour the oil, then add the shredded cabbage. Stir-fry quickly for 1 minute until the cabbage is glossy - take care not to burn the cabbage
  • Add the garlic to the pan and stir-fry quickly for 1 minute, before adding the chicken powder, sugar and water. Mix to combine, cover the pan and lower the heat, until the water is boiling but not too vigorously. Boil for 4 minutes until the cabbage is softened but still with some bite
  • Add the pancetta or bacon back to the pan and heat through. Remove from the heat, then add a few drops of sesame oil and mix in
  • Remove the slice of ginger and serve immediately in a warmed dish
Stir-Fried Cabbage with Bacon (煙肉炒椰菜)

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Cauliflower Cheese

I remember when my older sister started to earn money, probably around 14 or 15 years old. She and I both spent our teenage years teaching younger Chinese children - mainly additional help with English and Maths, and preparing children for the 11+. Often the children just needed some extra attention, as their parents were busy in the evenings working in takeaways or restaurants, and didn't have English as a first language. For some reason, my younger sister didn't follow this route of money-earning, but was instead set to work in a friend's chippy, for the princely sum of £1.42 per hour! Tuition was far more lucrative, and for those years, I think my rates ranged from £8 - £15 per hour. Not bad!

Anyway, at around this time we also started being allowed out to town on our own after Saturday Chinese Youth Club at the Pagoda Centre. My sister used to buy us treats with her wages (we still laugh about how my parents constantly told everyone she was so caring and generous for buying us a yoghurt!!). As a special treat, we sometimes also got western ready meals from Marks and Spencer for our dinner - two favourites being cottage pie and cauliflower cheese. I'm still hugely comforted nowadays by a plate of cottage pie, or cauliflower cheese, both served and mixed up with rice, of course.

My eldest and youngest loved this cauliflower cheese last night, although the middle one fussed and turned up his nose. We had it with boiled new potatoes and chicken thighs wrapped in pancetta, and it was very pleasant - although if we had not had potatoes to be used up, I would have definitely served it with rice. It could be varied by using broccoli florets, and maybe sprinkling some breadcrumbs over the top.

Update: I added macaroni to this dish last night, and it went down brilliantly with at least two children. Cook approx. 50g macaroni per person for 2/3 the time stated on the packet. Stir it into the cheese sauce before pouring it over the cauliflower, sprinkle with cheese and bake in the oven.


  • 1 medium-sized cauliflower
  • 40g butter
  • 40g plain flour
  • 400ml milk
  • (Optional) A pinch of mustard powder, or a teaspoon of mustard (English or Dijon would be fine)
  • 130g grated cheddar cheese
  • (Optional) Grated parmesan cheese for sprinkling on top
  • A small pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • Salt and ground white pepper to season
Serves 2 as a main, or 4 as a side


  • Remove the leaves from the cauliflower, cut into florets and rinse
  • Plunge the florets into boiling water and boil for 1 minute. Drain and arrange snugly in a baking tray. Pre-heat the oven to 185 degrees fan
  • Melt the butter in a heavy based saucepan and when it starts to bubble, add the flour. Using a balloon whisk, mix the flour and butter to form a roux, and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring all the time
  • Add the milk to the roux, a splash at a time, whisking as you go. You will find that the roux remains lumpy, then eventually starts to thin and flow. Keep the heat on medium, adding more just as it begins to bubble. When all of the milk is added, you should have a thick, glossy sauce
  • Add the cheddar cheese and (optional) mustard, reserving a little cheese for sprinkling on top. Continue to stir the mixture until the cheese has melted and the sauce is of a smooth consistency
  • Pour the sauce over the cauliflower cheese and sprinkle the remaining cheddar (and parmesan if you're using it) over the top. Place it in the oven for 25 minutes, until the top is browned and bubbling
  • Remove from the oven and let stand for a few minutes before serving
Cauliflower Cheese

Served with Chicken Thighs wrapped in Pancetta and Boiled New Potatoes

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Slow-Cooked Duck with Lotus Root (蓮藕炆鴨)

It's been a slow blogging week. To be honest, I've been having a series of disasters in the kitchen, so there's been nothing of an acceptable quality to share. What have I learned?

1. Cauldron's marinaded tofu is rubbish. Better to buy the normal stuff and fry it - or even better go to Chinatown and buy some authentic stuff. Or make your own (I'm kidding). Still, needs must, and they sell it in Sainsbury's. I've had two attempts now at stir-fried tofu and veg and both of them have been pants

2. Trying to come home from work on time, cook, chat with your big sis, disentangle the grumpy toddler from your legs whilst manoeuvring a wok of hot oil, set the table for 5 kids and 2 adults - and get everyone's hands washed whilst the food is still hot - is a feat for a better woman than me. I should have gone to the chippy!

3. Not everyone is in the fortunate position of having a whole cooked duck in the freezer because they couldn't get through the food their parents brought them before it went off. Not everyone except the Chinese, that is.....

So I cooked this dish with the defrosted cooked duck, which was originally meant for 香酥鴨, or crispy shredded duck - that most beloved of Cantonese dishes and one that no-one makes better than my Dad. He forgot to bring the pancakes that day, so into the freezer it went. I'm going to write this recipe as if it was a raw duck I was starting with, as the cooked duck fell apart too much in the slow cooker. When I (ever) get around to making it again, I'll update the photo.

Lotus root can be bought from the Chinese supermarket, and is a tasty, firm-textured ingredient. It is quite fibrous, which might not be to everyone's liking, but I love it - it's very versatile and can be served cold and sweet as a Shanghainese appetiser, but I prefer it slow-cooked or in soups, so that it takes on all of the flavours it is cooked in (I copied the image from Cooking the Books).

Lotus Root


  • 1 duck, jointed into portions
  • 1 packet of lotus root, sliced into 1cm thicknesses
  • 5 dried shiitake mushrooms, reconsituted by soaking in hot water for a couple of hours and sliced thickly
  • 5 slices of ginger, bashed with the flat of a cleaver
  • 4 cloves of garlic, bashed with the flat of a cleaver
  • 3-4 stalks of spring onion, roots cut off, green and white parts cut into 6cm lengths
  • 1 tsp sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 star anise
  • 800ml water
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil for frying
  • 2-3 shakes of sesame oil
  • (Optional) salt for seasoning

Sauce Mix
  • 1 piece of fermented red beancurd (南乳), with 1-2 tbsp of the sauce from the jar
  • 1-2 tsp sugar (I used granulated sugar, but rock sugar if you have it, is better)
  • 1 tbsp miso paste (I used Clearspring miso paste from Sainsbury's)
  • 2 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1-2 tsp cornflour
Serves 4-6


  • Using a fork, prick the skin of the duck all over (it's probably easiest to do this before you chop it into portions)
  • Heat the oil in a wok until very hot. Add the duck pieces and fry until the oil starts to render, and the duck is well browned. Remove the duck from the wok, shaking off any excess oil, and place into the bottom of the slow cooker
  • Add the ginger, garlic, spring onion, sichuan peppercorns and star anise to the wok and stir-fry quickly until fragrant. Remove from the wok and place into a spice pouch. Tie the pouch and place it into the slow cooker
  • Drain most of the oil from the wok and add the fermented red bean curd (南乳) with its sauce. Mash it up and fry it in the wok, then add the remaining sauce ingredients and stir-fry briefly. Add the sliced mushrooms and lotus root slices and mix well
  • Add the mushroom and lotus root to the slow cooker with as much of the sauce as you can scrape out. Add the water until a couple of cms from the top of the mixture, and cook on low for 8-10 hours
  • Turn off the heat and add salt to taste if required. Add a couple of drops of sesame oil
  • If you prefer the sauce to be thicker, place the contents of the slow cooker in a wok, and reheat to a gentle boil. Add increments of cornflour mixed in water (1 tsp cornflour to 20ml water) and mix into the sauce until you have achieved the required consistency

Slow-Cooked Duck with Lotus Root (蓮藕炆鴨) - I need to update this photo next time I cook it!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Slow Cooked Pork and Peas with Chu Hou Sauce (排骨豬腩炆碗豆)

We've been growing peas this summer, much to the delight of my eldest. She loves to help me to shell the peas whilst sitting in the sunshine, but refuses to eat them!

This is a lovely slow cooker recipe which requires a bit of preparation, but it is well worth it. If you don't have a slow cooker, you can cook it in a casserole and place in a low oven (say 120 degrees fan) for 90 minutes or so.


  • 300g pork belly strips, cut into large chunks, about 3-4cm length
  • 250g meaty pork ribs, cut into 4cm lengths
  • 1 heaped tablespoon chu hou (柱侯) sauce - use hoisin sauce if you don't have it, and add a bit more garlic and ginger to the pot
  • 3-4 slices of ginger, bashed with the flat of a cleaver
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, bashed with the flat of a cleaver and peeled
  • 1 very heaped tbsp of chu hou (柱侯) sauce
  • 1-2 tbsp of light soy sauce
  • 1 capful of shaoxing rice wine (or substitute dry sherry)
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • 450ml pork stock
  • 2 big handfuls of shelled peas
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Few drops of sesame oil
  • Sunflower oil for frying
Serves 2 hungry people


  • Prepare the marinade. Place the chu hou sauce, light soy sauce, shaoxing wine, cornflour and star anise into a bowl and mix to combine
  • Place all of the pork into a large pan and cover with boiling water. Boil gently for 5 minutes to allow the scum to rise to the surface. Drain into a colander and rinse the scum from the meat
  • Heat about 1cm depth of sunflower oil into a wok until very hot. Add the ginger and stir-fry for 30 seconds, before adding the garlic
  • When the garlic begins to turn golden, add the pork. Keeping the heat high, move the pork around the wok, until it is sealed and browned. Remove the garlic and ginger and discard
  • Remove the pork with a slotted spoon and place into a bowl. Add the marinade to the pork and mix well to give the meat an even coating
  • Heat the oil remaining in the wok, and add the sliced onions. Stir fry quickly for a minute or two until the onions are softened and glossy. Remove from the wok, leaving behind as much excess oil as possible
(optional - at this point I added the onions to the pork and left it in the fridge overnight, as I was putting it into the slow cooker the next morning for dinner)
  • Place the pork, onions, peas, sugar and pork stock into the slow cooker. Cook on low for 8-10 hours
  • At the end of cooking, skim away any excess fat from the surface of the sauce. If you wish to thicken the sauce, place in a pan on the hob and add some cornflour mixed with a little water - a teaspoon of cornflour at a time. Add a few drops of sesame oil and serve with boiled rice

Slow Cooked Pork and Peas with Chu Hou Sauce (排骨豬腩炆碗豆)

Served with Rice