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)