Sweet and Sour Pork & Egg Fried Rice

When it comes to my Mother’s culinary repertoire, this is one of her crowning dishes (and the one my Dad goes on about the most). It’s a much loved family favourite and it always seems to be this special meal that gets cooked whenever there are a million family guests visiting. I won’t deny that it is a timely and excessive recipe but with a bit of easy preparation anyone can get it tasting delicious. Don’t be deterred by the ingredients list – I promise there will be full and happy bellies all round.

Ingredients: (Serves 4)
Pork tenderloin (cut into ½ inch chunks)
1/2 cucumber
2 carrot
2 peppers
4 chestnut mushrooms
1 large onion
1 inch of ginger
Whole bulb of garlic
Pineapple chunks
Pineapple juice (if from tin)
1 cup of corn flour
Tomato sauce
Vinegar to taste
Lemon zest
Juice of half a lemon
5 small chillis
Salt and pepper to taste
2 spoons soy sauce
2 spoons of sugar
1 tbsp. five spice

Marinate the pork chunks in the fivespice, sherry, soy sauce, lemon zest and lemon juice and corn flour and pepper. Make sure the meat is coated well in the mix to ensure good cornflower coverage. Leave for at least an hour in the fridge but overnight is best.

After the marinating, give it a stir to make sure everything is coated evenly and fry in a pan with 1/2 inch of hot veg oil, carefully turning the chunks only when the underside is browned and the thin corn flour coat has crisped at the edges. Do not over cook the meat.

Drain on some kitchen towel.

Use the left over marinade to make the sauce base. To this add half a cup of tomato sauce, sugar and the pineapple juice (if using tinned pineapple).

In a large wok – fry off the onions, garlic, chills, ginger in a little oil.  To the pan, add all the veg and pineapple, stir-fry briefly then add the left over marinade sauce. As the cornflower begins to thicken the sauce, add a generous glug of vinegar. Give it a taste to make sure the sweet/sour balance is as you like it. Lastly stir in the meat and add chives and parsley chopped to season.

Serve with rice and top with finely sliced spring onions. A chilled Rosé stands up refreshingly well to the sweet and sour without overpowering (like a fuller bodied red) or skewing the flavours (like a dry white).

Steamed rice (let it dry and cool with the lid off before frying)
A dash of Shaoxing rice wine or sherry
1/2 tbsp. light soy sauce
1/2 cup of peas
2 eggs – fried like an omelette, rolled and sliced

Chop the ½ inch of ginger as finely as possible and fry in a pan with some light oil. Add an egg – breaking the yolk into the white. Fry until you have a set omelette that you can roll out and slice into thin strips.

Place the empty pan back over a hot flame, add a little more oil and add your cooked rice. Turning the rice as you go so that it does not stick, add a dash of soy sauce and an equal dash of rice wine or sherry.

When the stain of the soy sauce is mixed through all the rice – add some peas (or any other small veg pieces you’d prefer) and the egg back into the mix. Turn constantly so that the rice does not burn to the pan. When the peas are cooked (which does not take long) the rice is ready to serve.


Fusion Roasted Poussin

The weekend – I love how it rallies around my work-addled mind and fills it with food-driven temptations. So of course at the end of a weekend is the customary Sunday Roast.

For a change to the usual roasted chicken, I decided to roast poussins – small spring chickens. These are tender young birds full of flavour, that actually offer themselves well to a barbecue  maybe with a little marinade of lemon, thyme, and olive oil or garlic, chilli, orange and oil. But today the winter sunlight is cutting through the cold blue sky and everything is covered in a crisp sheet of frost. Not the weather for barbecues. So I shall be roasting my poussins in the oven.

I grew up with a lot of chinese additions to english recipes. Here is my take on adding some interesting chinese flavours to a classic bird roast (a chickens for this recipe would be fine). The dark marinade makes the skin crispy and moorishly salty which is a great match to the moist and full-flavoured meat inside.

2 poussins
An orange
Ground white pepper
2 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp Five Spice
Handful of fresh chives
Half a cup of sherry
1 tbsp sunflower oil

Start by pre-heating the oven to 190°C.

Finely chop the chives and place in the bird cavities. If you feel daring try placing them between the meat and skin, you will have separate the skin from the breast meat at the top of the crown between the two drumsticks. Be vary careful not tear the skin.

To make the marinade, zest the skin of half an orange into a bowl, but don’t discard the orange. Add the five spice, ground pepper, soy sauce and sunflower oil then combine together with a quick stir. Then rub the marinade all over the bird. Place the orange halves into the bird cavities (including the orange skin is fine).

Set the poussins on a roasting tray and divide the sherry by tipping half, into each of the cavities – don’t worry if it drains out a little into the tin.  Add a final sprinkle of salt over the skin. Roast in the oven for 40 minutes.

Serve with roasted sweet potatoes or new potatoes, and some dark green vegetables like steamed spinach or even a raw watercress and radish salad.

Meats and Cheese and Cheese and Cheese

Manchester German Christmas Markets: Nov 17th ~ Dec 21st. It’s a seasonal foodie haven bathed in crisp winter sunlight and wrapped up in an invisible fog of spiced mulled wine and roasting hog smells.

And of course, I couldn’t help myself. Diving straight in, I bought a multitude of European cured meats; Chirizo, Kabanos and the like before standing about at the next stall like a 70’s punk-rock groupie, salivating fanatically over cheeses and firing question after question at the Frenchman selling them to me. I’ll have one of everything please.

So tonight’s dinner was a calorific Smörgåsbord of meats and cheese with an crusty artisan loaf, a simple tomato and onion salad, garlic roasted in Greek olive oil and thyme as well as fruits to accompany those amazing cheeses.

Followed by Macaroons and an espresso.  A chance to play with a new toy – a present from Ollie on his business trip last week to Rome. I love my kitchen gadgets ~

On the topic of Oxtail

After an early outing this morning running errands I found myself in a supermarket across town. Because it was so ridiculously early (and the weekend no less), there were very few customers about. An enjoyable change to the way a gazillion shoppers normally clog up the aisles like saturated fats in narrowing arteries. I think it was the emptiness and better replenished shelves of the orange liveried grocery shop that led me to finding more interesting cuts of meat.

And so on to today’s topic: What can one do with a pound and a half of oxtail.

Larousse has two paragraphs on Oxtail. We’re talking slow cooking, probably some braising and either a soup or stew-style finish. What else? After further cross referencing with my favourite old recipe book French Cooking for the Home and some other tomes, we learn that this culinary experiment is probable going to take two days –  with around four hours of cooking to begin with and a cooling period in order to skim off excess fat as Louis Diat explains that, ‘An oxtail ragout that has not been thoroughly skimmed is apt to be over rich in fat and too heavy for some digestions’. Old school for ‘a bit greasy’ – and judging by the fat on the oxtail I’ve just purchased, he’s probably right. So much for my earlier saturated fat comment.

The French and Flemish seem to have the upper hand on oxtail recipes. Even the apparently English oxtail soup was reported to have been introduced to this soil by refugees fleeing the French revolution. The Flemish have hochepot which, among other things, includes boiling down pigs trotters, ears and cabbage.

However I think, for my first foray I think I will go with Oxtail Parisienne.

700g of oxtail, chopped in pieces at the joints
oil to braise in
3 carrots
6 small onions (or shallots)
1 1/2 tbsp flour
1 clove garlic
fresh parsley,
a bay leaf,
thyme (dried or fresh),
sherry (or white wine)
a tin of tomatoes
a handful mushrooms
three medium potatoes

(will serve 2-3)

Season the oxtail with salt and pepper, and brown in a large pan with some oil. Then brown off the onions and carrots in the same pan also. Drain out the excess fat, add the garlic and flour and turn everything gently to allow good coverage.

Tie the celery, bay leaf, sprigs of thyme and parsley stalks together with string (leave some parsley spare for garnish later) and drop into the pan with the wine and tomatoes. Add enough water to cover the meat, bring to the boil and then reduce heat, cover and cook slowly for 4 hours. You could transfer it to a slow cooker crock pot at this point if you wanted.

After 4 hours cooking, allow to cool until the fat that has collected on the surface is easy to skim off the top. Take care not to bully the mix around, the meat will be on the tender side. This is the point at which it can become a two day process; if you decide to leave the stew to cool over night and reheat it the next day. Allowing the stew to rest for a day also lets the flavours settle and come together for a fuller flavour.

While the stew is warming through again, sauté the mushrooms and add to the ragout. Cook for another half an hour.

Add diced boiled potatoes to the stew at the last minute, season with chopped parsley and serve. ~

If you’re one of those people that thinks stew ‘makes everything on the plate taste the same because it’s all cooked together’. This is for you. Omit the potatoes and cook them separately. Roast them, perhaps with some courgettes, or perhaps even make rostis:

Credit for this part of the article must got to @olliehunter.

Use a ratio 1 large potato to 1 small onion
Egg to bind.

Grate 2 large potatoes and 2 onions into a bowl lined with a clean teacloth. Gather the teacloth edges and draw tightly together,  squeezing excess juice out of the grated bulk. Empty into the bowl and mix in an egg. Season with salt and pepper (side note: chilli flakes, garlic, parmesan or cheddar are great additions at this point – but it depends what you are serving the rosti with). Spoon the mixture into a small hot oiled frying pan and press down to fill to the edges. Don’t make it too thick because the potato has to cook through. Allow to brown and go crisp on one side for 7 minutes on a medium to low heat (depending on thickness), before turning out onto a plate (a palette knife can be helpful) and sliding back into the pan on the opposite side. Repeat the cooking process for this side.  Make sure that the potato is soft before before serving.

Comfort Food

Sometimes a bit of comfort food does the trick:   Chinese roasted pork and duck with Udon noodle soup.

Carribbean Carnival

It rained a little, but the sun broke through in the afternoon in time for the carnival parade. For lunch: Jerk Chicken and Curried Goat galore.