Sweet and Sour Pork

Photo of Sweet and Sour Pork dish
I recently acquired a copy of a great cookbook called Chinese Regional Cooking by Deh-Ta Hsiung from 1979. I have been learning all sorts of interesting recipes and the methods and ingredients common in Chinese cooking. Coincidentally a new Chinese supermarket has opened up at the end of my road so I’m pretty sorted for ingredients. This dish is always a weakness of mine when ordering Chinese takeaway but I always find myself disappointed by the tiny amount of pork they put in there surrounded by tonnes of batter and in a too sweet/simply flavoured sauce. Turns out the sauce is quite simple to make and in terms of ingredients, but it tastes a whole lot better made at home and with proper sized portions of pork. I’ll post the recipe here later.

Saffron cauliflower bake

I’ve just made this brilliant cauliflower dish for the second time, and decided its really worth spreading the word about Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe published in the Guardian Weekend earlier this year.

Saffron Cauliflower - finished

One of my favourite things to do with cauliflower, before I discovered this recipe, (and now that I don’t eat dairy, so the obvious and rather delicious Cauliflower Cheese isn’t an option) was to saute it along with onions and green chilli, cumin seeds, freshly ground coriander and cayenne, and a squeeze of lemon juice to finish (Madhur Jaffrey provided the initial inspiration for this dish).

Ottonlenghi’s saffron cauliflower bake, which includes red onion, green olives, cumin seeds and sultanas, is a nice variation on the onion, cumin, cauliflower combination. In both cases the cauliflower is cooked just enough to be tender but firm.

Saffron Cauliflower - ingredients

And putting it together is such a pleasure—not just because its so easy—but the raw ingredients look stunning together.

[Edited 4.03.2010 to finally add photos I took of it the next time I made it!]

Spaghetti Carbonara recipe

This simple recipe has become a regular feature in our household recently – it just perfect for when you’re in a rush/can’t be bothered to spend long cooking and want some comfort food – its very naughty! It comes from a famous Brit chef who I won’t mention here else I get done for copyright, but I was just asked by a houseguest for the recipe and figured if I’m going to write it down I might as well share it with y’all. So here it is from memory, in my own words.

Ingredients (for 2)

200g Spaghetti
4 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
1 egg yolk + 1 whole egg
4 tbsp vermouth
2 tsp olive oil
100g pancetta, cubed
1 tbsp butter
freshly grated black pepper and nutmeg

Whisk the eggs, parmesan, black pepper and nutmeg together. I buy pancetta from my local Italian deli already cubed and ready to go – if you can’t find pancetta you can use a good quality smoked bacon and chop it into small pieces. Measure out the vermouth and butter as this dish takes no time to cook so you need everything ready.

Boil a medium saucepan of salted water and add the spaghetti. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and fry the pancetta for 5 mins until getting crispy. Add the vermouth to the pan and let it cook down to a nice syrupy consistency then turn off the heat. The pasta should be about ready now – just al dente. Drain the spaghetti and put it back in the pan. Add the butter to the pancetta and vermouth mix and then stir this into the pasta. Then stir in the egg mixture (keeping it off the heat – you don’t want the egg to get scrambled!). The result is that the spaghetti is just coated in a delicious creamy sauce, flecked with pancetta bits – but without any actual cream.

The spaghetti carbonara is now ready to serve. I would have a green salad on the side if I have time/inclination. Enjoy!

Beetroot Curry

This recipe is a variation of Rasa’s beetroot curry and it accompanied the huge beetroot we got in our Growing Communities veg box this week. Its something different to do with your beetroot and an unusual vegetable for currying. I’ve made it twice now – it is really delicious, but don’t try cutting any corners with the process; do push the pureed spring onion tops and pistachios through a sieve, and do cut the beetroot into matchsticks; I skipped this the first time round and the texture just wasn’t quite right.

coconut, onion/spices and beetroot prep

Ingredients

  • 500g Beetroot
  • 50g shelled pistaschios
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 6 cardamom pods
  • 1tsp fennel seeds
  • 3 fresh chillies
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 2 bunches spring onions
  • 100g fresh coconut, grated
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 200ml plain yoghurt

Method

Boil the beetroots until tender and peel them under cold running water, then chop them into thick matchsticks. Toast the pistachios in the oven or on the hob. Crack the cardamom seeds and remove the seeds, discarding the pods. Slice the white ends of the spring onions and chop them finely. Drop the green ends into a pan of boiling water for a few seconds then plunge them into cold water. Chop them carsely and put them into a food processor with the pistachios, cardamom seeds and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and blend, adding a little cold water in a slow stream until you get a thick butsmooth puree. Pass this through a sieve, fine enough to take out any coarse pieces of scallian – into a small pan. Hlave the chillies lengthways, and chop them into slices. Heat another tablespoon of olive oil in a shallow pan and cook the sping onion white bits, the chillies, ginger, mustard and fennel seeds over a medium heat, stirring for 5 minutes, then add the beetroot and coconut and the pistachio and green onions paste, and cook for 5 more minutes. Season with salt and stir in the yoghurt just before you serve.

Rasa is a vegetarian South Indian restaurant on Stoke Newington Church street, Hackney, London N16

Seeing double

Seeing double (japanese dinner)
So I somehow managed to serve this dish out symetrically over 2 plates and I hadn’t even realised until now that I’m uploading this photo! Well this is the aforementioned Kale and Seaweed recipe that I blogged about before which turned out great (just go easy on the soy ok?! i was replacing “Bragg Liquid Aminos” with soy and didn’t get the proportions right) and I can’t wait to make again. It is served with fried tofu in ginger and soy sauce, which is a big favourite of mine – I even deep fry the tofu myself (recipe coming in a later post) – and stir fried carrots with sesame seeds. Actually there was a little too much garnishing with sesame seeds going on in terms of presentation so its better you can’t see too closely!

Kale!

Kale So we got Kale in our veg bag again this week! What a funky vegetable! So CURLY!!! I really had no awareness of this vegetable before living with Martha who regulary fed her tortoises with Kale. This sturdy squeeky green thing is really something to touch and behold. And eat of course. This weekend I found this wicked Japanese dish to put the Kale in, on a very nice food blog called Simply Recipes – one of the better examples of food blogs, though the design is deceiving, cos it feels like a communal blog but its actually just one person/family bloggin. Anyhow, here is the recipe link, give this a shot!
Kale with Seaweed, Sesame and Ginger Recipe

Recipe Pictorial: Chicken Stir-fried w/ Butter Blk Pepper

So i’ve just discovered this fantastic source of pictorial recipes online! There are a whole series of them posted on the EGullet website by one person cooking authentic Chinese recipes Chinese Food Pictorials, by hzrt8w. The final dishes aren’t the sexiest looking food photography, but the step by step illustrations are brilliant. They really demystify Chinese cooking too. This recipe for eG Forums -> Chicken Stir-fried w/ Butter Blk Pepper caught my eye because butter seems like a totally non-traditional Chinese dish, but the result looks enticing. Watch this space for my own recipe pictorials coming soon!

Pierogies + Warsaw

Pierogies I thought everyone knew about the pierogi, a pasta parcel with filling, but when I mentioned them on my return from a trip to Poland last Autumn it turned out not many really know what they are. So here I present to you a home cooked version, served with fried onions and lardons. You can buy these ready-made and frozen from your local Polski Sklep (which, if you are living in London, is never far away) and they take only 8 mins to cook in boiling water.


Pierogarnia restaurant, WarsawThere are various fillings, one of the most popular is sauerkraut and mushroom – but there are a plethora of options as we discovered at the Pierogarnia restaurant in Warsaw – you can check out their menu here. (Check out the price on the menu – 12 Polish Zlotych = £2 for a plate!!) One of our choices was buckwheat and wild mushroom filling – very nice. They were all served with a lovely, freshly-made sauerkraut (grated cabbage, carrot, onion) with dill.

Gado Gado – salad with peanut sauce recipe

Now that I get my local Growing Communities ‘veg box’ (it actually comes in a plastic bag – more on that in another post…) every week, I panic when the occasion arises that I’m seeing my parents: because I can never leave them without a full bag of produce from their own allotment in West London – and how will I get through all these fresh vegetables before next week’s veg supplement?! So these visits are always followed by days rich with numerous nutritious dishes!

Photo of Bumbu Sate package One dish that often comes to mind at a certain time of year, due to the green beans, spinach, and the usual carrots and potatoes that I receive, is Gado Gado. This is an Indonesian staple introduced to me by Rebecca during her residency in Jakarta – she sent me a package of hard, brown ‘stuff’, labeled “Bumbu Sate” (Satay sauce) so I dutifully looked this up online and followed the Sri Owen’s instructions I found on the Global Gourmet site . It is essentially a satay sauce to be served on a salad of cold vegetables: green beans, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, beansprouts, spinach, potatoes and topped with hard boiled egg and tofu and sprinkled with crispy fried onions (these are not to be neglected!)

Now the time and ingredients were right for this dish to be concocted – but I had to make the sauce from scratch – and none of the recipes online could agree! I followed the vague ideas set down in to the one above and this Mediterrasion.com and then adjusted to taste. What I list below is roughly what I think I put in when I thought about it afterwards.

What you want a sweet (brown sugar) and salty (soy), garlicy, rich peanut sauce (freshly ground would be even better than my use of wholenut peanut butter) with a hint of coconut, medium hot with red chilli and thinned down with veg water and sparked off at the end with a good glug of lime juice. See a photo of my homemade version

Crush to a paste:
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp red chilli flakes (or more fresh)
1/2 tsp sea salt

Prepare/mix together:
1.5 tbsp fish sauce
4 tsp dark brown sugar
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
3/4 block coconut cream (or 1/2 tin coconut milk?)
1/4 tsp chilli powder

Have ready:
6-8 tbsp whole peanut butter
1.5 – 2 cups water (the same that you blanched the vegetables in)
3/4 – 1 juice of lime
(3 tbsp sambal pecel *)

Heat some peanut oil and saute the crushed garlic and chilli paste in it for a minute. Stir the mixture into this, and then add the peanut butter and the water. Cook for 15 mins. Add the lime juice just before serving, when the sauce is creamy.

Pour over a bowl/plate full of yummy crispy vegetables!

(* I found some Sambal Pecel sauce in my cupboard that I also got sent from Indonesia – this is a hotter satay sauce that i find needs to be thinned out considerably with coconut milk – but I do think a small amount added to the Bumbu sauce above adds to the flavour)

The Eagle Mansions – martini recipe

Photo of the martini drink and shaker This beautiful martini was born out of a need to make a tasty gin drink for someone who doesn’t like tonic (yes, that’s me)… and it was inspired by a blog where I found, not a recipe to follow, but the realisation that i didn’t need someone else’s recipe! So out of what I had in my fridge/cupboard and according to my tastebuds I came up within this Eagle Mansions martini, named after its birth place; an old building in the heart of London’s unofficial Little Turkey and a place I shall shortly no longer be residing in.
So in memory of this place, I put this vague assembly of ingredients down in cyberspace (and save myself moving flat with the back of the envelope its currently written on…)

The Eagle Mansions (A Gin-Pomegranate Martini)

a good shot (40 ml) gin
a good shot (40 ml) pomegranate juice
1/2 tsp pomegranate syrup
a sparse tbsp cointreau
a squeeze and a twist of lime

to be shaken on ice.

Please make to your own taste and enjoy dangerously!!