Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Spinach, Tofu and Mushroom Soup (菠菜豆腐冬菇湯)

I've been clearing out the fridge and freezer over the last two weeks. Being stingy, it pains me to throw out anything unless it's absolutely necessary, so you'll often find odds and sods that I think I'll be able to find a use for somewhere. It's also used as overspill when my generous parents turn up with about 2 weeks' worth of food to make sure that the family doesn't starve - very much appreciated in the busy weeks. On having a root around, I discovered; two bags of pork rind, a bag of random pork bones, a huge amount of mooli cake, some extremely old black pudding, a box of chicken carcasses, two boxes of peeled broccoli stems, a bag of wholemeal breadcrumbs, some pureed beetroot, some chocolate buttercream from goodness knows when and about a million random bread bags with only the end slices remaining (for the ducks).

For dinner tonight, I defrosted the remaining portion of Slow-Cooked Chicken with Chestnut and Potatoes (栗子薯仔炆雞) and decided to use the pork bones to make soup. It gave me the chance to use up some stuff in the fridge too: half a box of tofu, about 6 days past its use-by but smelling ok, and the remaining bunch of spinach from the Chinese supermarket. This spinach is robust and hearty, pulled up by the roots and with the red iron tinge at the base of the stems. It needs to be thoroughly washed in a couple of changes of water before use, otherwise you will find little insects rising to the surface of your soup.

The taste is fresh and packed with flavour; the umami hit of the shiitake mushrooms, the metallic bitterness of the spinach and the creamy softness of the tofu. I make the stock in a slow cooker overnight, then finish the soup just before we eat, but you can also cook on the hob - give the bones and shiitake at least 30 minutes at a gentle boil to let the flavour permeate the water.

The bones were free and I am not worried about picking through them when they fall apart, however for a tidier dish, use some pork ribs or a pork chop instead.



  • 2-3 pork bones (or use 4-6 pork ribs, or a large pork chop)
  • 2 slices of raw ginger, peeled and bashed with the flat of a cleaver
  • approx. 1.5-2 litres of water
  • 3 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • (Optional) 3-4 black peppercorns
  • 200g firm tofu, cut into 2-3cm cubes
  • A large bunch of spinach, washed thoroughly and chopped half
  • Salt to season
  • A dash of white pepper
  • A few drops of sesame oil
Serves 4-6



  • Reconstitute the shiitake mushrooms by placing them in a bowl and covering with boiling water. Soak for at least 20 minutes, then remove any tough bases on the stalks
  • Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add the pork bones and boil for 5 minutes to remove the scum. Drain and rinse thoroughly
  • Place the pork bones, ginger and shiitake mushrooms into a slow cooker and cover with water, to about 2/3 of the capacity of the pot. Add the peppercorns. Cook on low overnight
  • Skim any fat or remaining scum from the surface of the pot and pour into a saucepan on the hob. Bring to a rolling boil and add the tofu. Bring back to the boil for 1 minute
  • Add the spinach to the pot and bring back to the boil, until the leaves are just wilted
  • Season generously with salt and add a pinch of white pepper, until the soup meets the desired taste
  • Remove from the heat and add a few drops of sesame oil

Spinach, Tofu and Mushroom Soup (菠菜豆腐菇湯)

Monday, 17 February 2014

Stir-Fried Mixed Veg and Tofu with Yellow Bean and Chillis (黃醬豆腐炒蔬菜)

Goodness knows if the Chinese translation here bears any resemblance to the actual dish.... my Chinese is appalling. Enough to read my way through a menu, although we sometimes get some surprises at the table.

We've just come back from a weekend in Scotland, visiting the in-laws. There was a delicious new baby to cuddle (who pooped all over my scarf), a toddler party, and the obligatory indulgence in wine, lorne sausage, gin, crisps and chocolate. Not that I'm complaining! The two boys went for a kilt fitting, ready for a wedding this summer, and the toddler melted my heart by saying "just like 婆婆!" when he was being measured up. I thought he would kick up a stink, but he's so used to being measured for the funky creations my mum knits for him, that he behaved impeccably - even if he did insist on calling every sporran a rabbit.

So tonight we got back, minus two children, and I felt the need to EAT VEG and EAT CHINESE. Not because I haven't thoroughly enjoyed the weekend, but because I'm turning into my mum. Also because that was all that was left in the fridge. I used a whole red chilli, and although it was de-seeded, you could still feel the heat. If you're not too keen on spice, then perhaps use only half a chilli. Coupled with brown basmati rice (not so good for my sensitive teeth), it felt like a very virtuous dinner!



  • 100g mangetout, washed
  • 100g baby corn, cut into halves
  • 3-4 closed cup mushrooms, wiped clean and quartered
  • 200g firm tofu, cut into 2cm cubes
  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
  • 1 tbsp yellow bean sauce
  • 1 small red chilli, de-seeded and finely sliced
  • 100ml chicken stock
  • 1 slice raw ginger, peeled and bashed with the flat of a cleaver
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • Ground black pepper to season,
  • Sunflower oil for frying
  • 1 tsp cornflour, mixed with 30ml water
  • A few drops of sesame oil
Serves 2



  • Remove the tough fibre from the mangetout by pinching the ends and "unzipping" the fibre from the side
  • Heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil in a wok until very hot. Add the tofu and shake around in the wok until golden on the outsides. Put to one side and keep warm
  • Give the wok a wipe and heat 1 tbsp oil until very hot. Add the ginger and swirl around the wok to flavour the oil. Throw in the garlic and chilli, followed quickly by the baby corn, mangetout and mushrooms and stir-fry rapidly for one minute, coating all of the vegetables in oil. The mushrooms will soak up a lot of oil, so keep the ingredients moving
  • Add the Shaoxing rice wine, chicken stock and the yellow bean sauce, with a shake of ground white pepper. Add the tofu back the the wok and mix thoroughly
  • Cover the wok and cook over a high heat for 1 and a half minutes. Uncover and add 1 tsp cornflour mixed with 30ml water. Bring back to the boil and stir to thicken
  • Remove from the heat and add 2-3 drops of sesame oil. Serve immediately with rice

Stir-Fried Mixed Veg and Tofu with Yellow Bean and Chillis (黃醬豆腐炒蔬菜)
Served with brown basmati rice

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Stir-Fried Pea Shoots with Garlic (蒜頭炒豆苗)

I think this has to be one of my favourite vegetable dishes, tasting fresh and crunchy with a little iron tang. It doesn't appear in the restaurants or supermarkets very often, and when it does, it's only for a very short amount of time. You can get the bags of pea shoots in the salad section at some of the western supermarkets, but you'd be spending a hell of a lot before you actually got enough to make a decent side portion! It takes about 1 minute to cook from start to finish, so make it just as you're serving up and make sure there's a warm dish to tip it into.



  • 350g pea shoots
  • 1 large clove of garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 slice of raw ginger, peeled and bashed with the flat of a cleaver
  • A splash of Shaoxing rice wine (or substitute dry sherry)
  • 1 tsp Knorr chicken powder (or substitute a pinch of salt)
  • 1-2 tbsp Sunflower oil for frying
  • 2-3 drops sesame oil
Serves 2



  • Wash the pea shoots in a large bowl of water, and discard any wilted leaves or tough stems
  • Drain the pea shoots and put to one side
  • Heat the wok until it is very hot and add the sunflower oil. Drop in the ginger and stir it around the wok for 10 seconds
  • Add the pea shoots and garlic, and stir-fry rapidly until they begin to wilt
  • Add the rice wine and chicken powder and stir-fry rapidly until the pea shoots are all just wilted
  • Remove from the heat and add a couple of drops of sesame oil
  • Stir to mix and serve immediately
Stir-Fried Pea Shoots with Garlic (蒜頭炒豆苗)