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Savoury Mango Shrimp Cocktail

(serves 6)
Making a fresh savoury cold appetizer is not easy, but this recipe does the trick. This Mango Shrimp cocktail uses a ‘cocktail sauce’ that contains no tomato or vinegar, even though it looks exactly like the usual shrimp cocktail.
The secret comes from using prawn heads and paprika to make the cocktail sauce red instead of tomato sauce. I guarantee your guests will be pleasantly surprised when they taste the first spoonful and find the cocktail is neither sour nor tangy.

Ingredients

  1. Mid-sized Prawns (400g)
  2. Avocado (2)
  3. Asparagus (8 spears)
  4. Mango (1 large)
  5. Minced Garlic
  6. Mayonnaise
  7. Milk
  8. Mustard
  9. Brandy
  10. Paprika

Preparation  

  1. Place 2 Avocados into the fridge.
  2. Cut off the heads of your prawns and snip off the whiskers. Using kitchen scissors, cut the shell of each prawn down the back and pull out the intestines.
  3. Fry 2t of minced garlic with 1T of oil in a pan on hig heat. When the garlic begins to brown, add the prawn heads and stir fry till they are fully red, then add a cup of water and 1T brandy. Turn the heat down to a simmer. Crush each prawn head with a wooden spatula to release their flavour.
  4. Add the prawn bodies to the pan and fish them out again when they are curled up and red on both sides. Pour the pan’s contents through a sieve into a bowl.
  5. Return the reddish prawn stock to the pan. Add 2T mayonnaise, 2T milk, 1t mustard and 1t paprika to the pan. Simmer until the liquid thickens into a thin orange sauce. Put the ‘cocktail sauce’ into the fridge to thicken and cool.
  6. Peel and dice the prawns. Wrap in cling film and place into the fridge.
  7. Cut off the bottom quarter of each spear of asparagus and then use a peeler to remove any fibrous skin at the bottom end. Par boil the Asparagus for 2 minutes, you can use the same pan. Cut the asparagus into pieces and place them in the fridge.
  8. Cut the mango on both sides of the seed. Using a knife, carve a crisscross grid on each of the ‘halves’. With a large spoon, spoon out the mango cubes, one row at a time. Put the mango cubes in the fridge.
  9. When it is time to serve the shrimp cocktail, halve the avocados and extract the seed using the blade corner (the part next to the handle) of a large knife. Delicately spoon out the flesh and dice. Try not to do this ahead of time as avocado darkens fast when exposed to air.
  10. Toss the 4 components of your cocktail together in a salad bowl and assemble the mixture on individual soup dishes. Drizzle the ‘cocktail sauce’ over the mixture and serve immediately.

Notes

  • To make the cocktail more substantial, you can serve it as a salad by adding a bed of shredded lettuce.
  • Try to dice everything to similar dimensions. Form a picture mentally of the final result before you start slicing and dicing. For the asparagus consider only the length of each bit as you can’t adjust the diameter.
  • One option is to add a flat t of cumin along with the paprika, to add some more heat and give your cocktail a kick. This is the way the French would do it, but its not for everyone.
  • Choose your uncooked ingredients carefully. The avocado should be just becoming black for the flesh to be soft.  If the avocado is still crunchy to the bite, it is too raw. If it is mushy, then it is too ripe. The mango should be ripe enough that its not sour. Taste both of these before putting them in the fridge, to give yourself the opportunity to procure replacements if necessary. 
  • Prawns have to be of a minimum size before their heads develop flavour. In spite of the name, you should not use shrimp (i.e. small prawns). For this recipe, individual prawns should weigh no less than 50g (i.e. 8 or less prawns that add up to 400g).  
  • Going the extra mile: If you want the cocktail to have a nice clean look, you cannot toss the avocado together with the rest of the components as they will ‘grease’ up everything else. The best way to avoid this is to arrange the components separately in stripes like a Cobb salad or like a pie chart. Layering in a wine glass will work as well. Another thing you can do is shock the asparagus in ice water after blanching, to make them a brilliant green.
 
 

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Coleslaw

(serves 6)
Coleslaw is the perfect chilled and tangy salad to go with BBQ and deep fried dishes. It’s also visually appealing, with just the right proportion of green, white, red and purple. Coleslaw is an easy salad to make, but its also quite difficult to perfect. Follow this recipe, which contains all the traditional elements of a proper slaw, and you will get it right every time.

Ingredients

  1. Cabbage (1 head)
  2. Carrot (1 large)
  3. Purple Onion (1/2)
  4. Mayonnaise
  5. Rice Vinegar
  6. Mustard
  7. Maple Syrup
  8. Caraway Seeds
  9. Raisins (40g)
  10. Salt

Preparation  

  1. Spoon 3 heaped T of mayonnaise and 1 heaped t of mustard into a small bowl ahead of time, so they can warm to room temperature.
  2. Add 2T of rice vinegar to the mayonnaise and mix until there are no more lumps. Add 1T Maple syrup, 40g of raisins, 1 heaped t of caraway seeds and stir. Place the dressing in the fridge.
  3. Cut the cabbage in quarters and divot out the stem. Cut the cabbage into 5mm slices and then manually break apart the slices into strips.
  4. Make a brine using 4 cups of water with 2T of salt and 2t of sugar. Soak the cabbage in the brine solution for 25 minutes.
  5. After rinsing, lay the cabbage on a tea towel. Roll the towel up and while holding both ends, shake to dry the cabbage. Open up the towel on the table.
  6. Cut a purple onion in half from top to bottom. Peel off the dead layers and then slice half of the onion into 3mm slices. Manually break the onion slices into individual half rings.
  7. Using a serrated peeler, peel away and discard the outer layer of a carrot. Continue to ‘peel’ the carrot until the entire carrot is gone. Cut the carrot strips in half.
  8. Arrange the onion and carrot over the cabbage. Transfer the three veggies into a salad bowl by the fistful. This is a great way to create an evenly distributed slaw.
  9. Spoon the dressing over the coleslaw and then toss.
  10. Leave the coleslaw in the fridge for half an hour to mature, toss again before serving.

Notes

  • Brining the cabbage removes the water that would otherwise leach out after a while and make your coleslaw a watery mess. Some recipes simply ask you to salt the cabbage directly, but I think brining applies the salt more evenly and lets you use the right amount of salt every time.     
  • Making the dressing first gives time for the flavour of the caraway and raisins to infuse into the dressing. If you don’t allow the mayonnaise to warm up first, your dressing will be lumpy.
  • While they have the same shape and size, fennel seeds (light brown) are not the same thing as caraway seeds (very dark brown). I would not consider fennel seeds an alternative; only use them in coleslaw as a last resort.
 
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Posted by on September 12, 2020 in American, Salad

 

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Miso-Cured Black Cod

(serves 2)
Miso-Cured Black Cod, also known as Gindara Saikyo Yaki, started out as a way to preserve fish in Japan, but has since become the default method of cooking Alaskan Black Cod. The curing process cuts through the fattiness of the black cod, and results in a decadent smokey and buttery flavour that makes Gindara appreciated by one and all, young and old. Of all the ways of preparing fish in Japan, this is perhaps the one that is most suited to Western palates.

Ingredients

  1. Alaskan Black Cod (500g)
  2. White Miso
  3. Mirin
  4. Sake
  5. Minced Garlic
  6. Cooked White Rice
  7. Mayonnaise
  8. Salt

Preparation

  1. Make a solution using 2 cups of water with 1T of salt and 1t of sugar. Brine 500g of black cod in the solution for 20 minutes.
  2. After rinsing the cod, wrap each piece in some paper kitchen towel and squeeze gently over the sink. Wrap the fish with fresh pieces of kitchen towel to soak up any remaining water. Leave the fish to fully dry on a metal rack for half an hour or so.
  3. Mix 2 heaped T of white miso (40g) with 3T Mirin and 2T sake in a bowl until you arrive at a paste. Stir in 1t of minced garlic.
  4. Slather the marinade onto the fish and then place the fish into a zip lock bag. Seal the bag with minimal air and then proceed to move the fish pieces around inside the bag. This will ensure the miso mixture comes into contact with every surface of the fish.
  5. Cure the fish in the fridge, for 2 days if you desire a milder flavour, and up to a week for a more intense miso infusion.  
  6. When you are ready to cook your black cod, allow the fish to warm to near ambient temperature.
  7. Use a few T of oil to wash the curing marinade off the fish. Miso chars easily, so you should be thorough.
  8. Arrange the fish on a baking tray with the skin side facing up and place the tray in a toaster oven preheated to 180oC (360oF) for twenty minutes.
  9. Traditionally miso-cured black cod is served fish white steamed rice, a generous dollop of mayonnaise and a few slices of pickled ginger.

Notes

  • Alaskan Black Cod is also called sablefish. It is technically not actually a member of the cod family, so do not substitute another type of cod. You can however cure other kinds of large oily fish with the same method. Swordfish for example would be a good alternative.    
  • Brining and removing the excess water are essential as they prevent a fishy odour from developing. You are after all leaving the fish raw for several days in the fridge. Other recipes typically get you to sprinkle salt over the fish, but I find brining to be more effective, and less salty.
  • Oily fish take to freezing much better than white fish, so there is no need to use fresh fish, especially if you follow steps 1 & 2.
  • If you are using steak cuts (as pictured) a good idea would be to roll the fish pieces onto their side for the final 5 minutes of baking, then plate with the bottom side up. This gives the fish a good finish.
  • If you are using a full oven, you can reduce the cooking time to fifteen minutes as a large oven does not lose much heat compared to a toaster oven when you put the fish in.
  • You must use only white miso. It is milder and sweeter. Outside of Japan it’s probably the last type of miso you would have around at home, so if you are tempted to try this with red or yellow miso, don’t. YIt won’t end well. Even if you do use white miso it will still tend to be a bit on the salty side, it is cured fish after all. You thus have to serve it with a very plain unsalted staple, like rice.
  • Miso-cured Black Cod is also great for BBQs. Just wrap individual pieces in foil and broil them over the barbie. 
 
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Posted by on August 10, 2020 in Japanese, Main Courses, Seafood

 

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Beef Curry Sweet Potato Korokke

(makes 12)
Korokke, the Japanese version of the croquette, are big in Japan. Unlike the original French version they contain meat and vegetables and come in all kinds of flavours. The other special thing about Japanese Korokke is they are rarely used as side dishes and are typically eaten as a street food type snack,  or even as a meal.  Beef curry is probably one of the more unique flavours and well worth trying.

Ingredients Croquette 1000

  1. Minced Beef (200g)
  2. Sweet Potatoes (500g)
  3. Onion (1)
  4. Cream Cheese (125g)
  5. Eggs (3)
  6. Bread (3 slices)
  7. Curry Powder
  8. Corn Starch
  9. Worcestershire Sauce
  10. Mirin
  11. Nutmeg
  12. Paprika

Preparation Croquette 1002

  1. Leave three slices of bread without any wrapping in the fridge overnight.
  2. Boil 500g of sweet potatoes for 25 minutes.  Use just enough water to cover the sweet potatoes and reserve the flavoured water after boiling.
  3. Drain away the water into a container for later use and allow the sweet potatoes to cool in the pot. Then peel, dice and finally mash the sweet potatoes with a fork. There is no need to completely pulverize the sweet potato, you want a bit of texture.
  4. Pour 1/4 cup of the reserved water into a bowl. Stir in 2T curry powder, 1T mirin, 1t worcestershire sauce, 1t nutmeg, 1t salt. Marinate 200g of minced beef in the mixture for 15 minutes.Croquette 1003
  5. Peel and dice one onion into 1cm sized pieces. In a few T of oil, pan fry the onion bits until they are limp, but before they brown too much. Add the beef and stir fry until the beef is cooked.
  6. With the fire still going, make a hole in the middle of the pan and add 125g (about 4T) of cream cheese. Spoon in a few T of the reserved water and move a spatula over the cream cheese in a circular motion until it has liquified (see picture).
  7. Add the mashed sweet potato and mix everything together well. Turn off the heat and allow to cool. Keep the ‘filling’ in the fridge for a minimum of several hours.
  8. Cut the dried bread into croutons and desiccate further in a toaster oven at 120oC for 15 minutes. If you don’t have a toaster oven, toast before dicing the bread.
  9. Place the croutons on a piece of foil Croquette 1001and methodically crush with the jagged face of a meat mallet. There is no need to hammer; simply press down firmly on the smooth face of the mallet head (see picture). Again, there is no need to completely pulverize the bread, you want some variety in crumb size.
  10. Prepare three shallow dishes, one with the bread crumbs, one with 1/4 cup of corn starch and in the third one beat 3 eggs with 1/2t of salt.
  11. Warm up oil in a pot for deep frying. The temperature is right when a bread crumb thrown in creates bubbles.
  12. Spoon an amount of filling equal in size to an XL egg into your hand. Shape this into a log. Roll the log first in the cornstarch to get a thick coating of starch, then quickly in the egg. Finally roll the log in the bread crumbs. Immediately deep fry. Repeat until all the mashed sweet potato is used up. As the insides are already cooked, you can adjust the heat as you like to produce a nice deep orange finish for your Korokke.
  13. Roll the croquettes while cooking occasionally to ensure even cooking. When a croquette is done, place it on a bed of paper towels to absorb excess oil.
  14. Serve your croquettes with a mayonnaise flavoured with paprika.

NotesCurry Powder 1000

  • If you leave your bread to dry in the fridge for several days, you can skip the toasting part and crush right after cutting into croutons.
  • Cumin is not curry powder, it is not even the biggest component of curry powder. If you wish to mix your own, you can use the labelling on this package curry powder as a guide to the proportions of each ingredient.
  • When coating the croquettes you can cover the ends by pushing the material up against the top and bottom of the log. This will reduce the handling of the croquettes and help them keep their shape.
  • Yes I used sweet potato instead of potato. It is not uncommon to use something other than potato for Korokke in Japan, for instance yam, pumpkin or taro.
  • If you want your Korokke to look exactly like the real McCoy you have to buy something called Panko Crumbs instead of crushing your own breadcrumbs. They are leafy crumbs which allows them to be bigger than regular crumbs.
  • Steps 12-13 are best done by a two person team.
  • The croquettes will continue to brown a bit after you remove them from the oil, so don’t over brown them.
  • If want to make the shape perfect, you can roll your filling in cling film into (4?) long sausages. Place the sausages in the freezer for 15 minutes to harden them further before frying, but don’t completely freeze them solid. If you want it fast and easy, you can also make your croquettes in the shape of mini hamburgers.
 
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Posted by on July 1, 2020 in Appetizers, French, Japanese, Red Meat

 

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Toaster Oven BBQ Chicken Wings

(serves 2-3)
This is a recipe for BBQ wings, the type you’d find in a sports bar. For years I tried to cook these wings at home in the same style with limited success. Then one day I discovered the secret to marinating chicken wings. Most recipes use the method of brushing the wings with sauce as you cook them, because its very difficult for flavours to penetrate  chicken skin and reach the meat within, but this recipe doesn’t. The secret is counter-intuitive: you have to cook the wings before marinating them

Ingredients

  1. Chicken Wings (20 mid joint, 700g)
  2. Shallots (4)
  3. Garlic (1 bulb)
  4. BBQ Sauce (1/3 cup)
  5. Cumin
  6. Mustard
  7. Liquid Smoke
  8. Whiskey

Preparation

  1. In a medium sized pot, mix 1/3 cup of BBQ sauce with 1.5 cups water, 1t mustard, 1t cumin and 1t salt.
  2. Peel the garlic and shallots and put them whole into the pot.
  3. Rinse your chicken wings and add them to the pot.
  4. Bring the pot to a boil. After 5 minutes of boiling, carefully fish out the chicken wings without damaging the skin. Put the wings in a Tupperware-like of container.
  5. Continue to simmer the sauce until it has halved in volume. This should take perhaps fifteen minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in 1t liquid smoke and 1T whiskey.
  6. After the sauce has cooled sufficiently, pour it into the container with the wings. Cover and leave the wings to marinate in the fridge overnight, or in any case for at least six hours. Shake once or twice to allow the marinade to reach between the wings.
  7. Preheat your toaster oven to 200oC (390oF) degrees.
  8. Arrange the wings on a wire rack in the toaster oven tray and bake for 25 minutes. You’ll need to do this in two batches as the wings should not touch each other.
  9. Warm up the leftover marinade in the microwave or in a saucepan. You can serve the wings either with the BBQ sauce separate or coated with the BBQ sauce.

Notes

  • The most important thing you can do is cover your toaster oven tray with foil, so you don’t have to wash off the carbonized BBQ sauce.
  • Do not boil the wings for more than 5 minutes. You want the wings to be cooked, but not the skin to soften too much.
  • If you are cooking the wings in a full sized oven, it will probably take less than 25 minutes. They are done when you notice dark splotches develop. You can of course also simply cook the wings over a actual BBQ.
  • The same method works for all kinds of sauces you might want to flavour wings with, like teriyaki or oyster sauce. Just boil for five minutes and marinate overnight in the fridge.
 
 

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Spaghetti Aglio e Olio with Seared Scallops

(serves 2)
Spaghetti Aglio e Olio is practically the most basic of the Italian pasta dishes, a pasta made from a few simple ingredients, something that anyone can cook to perfection. This version of Spaghetti Aglio e Olio is made a little less unremarkable with the addition of some seared scallops
. Scallops are an ideal enhancement as they are have a mild and delicate taste which will not diminish the core taste of garlic and olive oil. 

Ingredients

  1. Scallops (Frozen, 250g)
  2. Spaghetti (200g)
  3. Garlic (2 bulbs)
  4. Parmigiano Reggiano (grated, 2T)
  5. Pesto
  6. Dried Chili Flakes
  7. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  8. Light Olive Oil
  9. Salt

Preparation

  1. Defrost your scallops. Large Yesso Scallops would be preferred.
  2. Peel the two bulbs of garlic. Slice the cloves into very thin slices as shown. You should end up with a small mountain (as shown). Don’t worry, it’s looks like its a lot, but it isn’t.
  3. Brine the scallops in a solution of 1T salt, 1t sugar and one and a half cups of water for 15 minutes. After draining, leave the scallops in a colander to dry (as shown). Finish off the drying by wrapping the scallops in a few sheets of kitchen towel.
  4. Grate some parmigiano reggiano until you end up with 2T of grated cheese.
  5. Place the garlic in a pan. Add 6T of light olive oil and turn the heat to low. Stir occasionally until the garlic turns a light brown.
  6. In the meanwhile bring a pot of water to boil. Add a splash of oil and a pinch of salt followed by the pasta. Boil until al dente and drain (but keep some of the water).
  7. Using a strainer, remove the garlic but leave the oil in the pan.
  8. Turn the heat up and place the scallops in the pan. Cook for about 3 minutes on the first side and 2 minutes on the other. Confirm that they are seared before flipping, the actual time will depend on the size of your scallops.
  9. With the fire still going, push the scallops to one side of the pan and add 4T of extra virgin olive oil and 4T of the pasta water, followed by 1t of pesto, 1t of chilli flakes, 1t of salt and 2T of grated parmigiano reggiano. Stir and mix well to create the olio sauce.
  10. Turn off the heat. Add the garlic and then the pasta to the pan. Toss until everything is nicely mixed.
  11. Check if you need to add more salt, and then plate.

Notes

  • In case you were wondering, Aglio means garlic, Olio means oil.
  • Plain Spaghetti Aglio e Olio is exactly the same recipe but without the scallops. It’s a really fast and convenient dish to cook, you won’t even need to take the garlic out of the pan.
  • If you are an experienced cook you can pan fry the garlic and scallops at the same time (as shown). Give the garlic a head start of about 2 minutes before adding the scallops. The garlic will not be as crispy this way (which I like) but it saves time and effort.
  • Don’t use extra virgin olive oil for frying the garlic as it will carbonize under the extended heating. If you don’t have light olive oil, you can use any kind of frying oil, such as canola oil.
  • Don’t brine the scallops for more than 15 minutes as they absorb salt really fast as compared to meat. Don’t skip the brining either, even if you are not using ‘wet’ scallops.
  • The chili flakes are optional, but I really recommend you use them as depth is needed in this simple pasta sauce. You can double the amount to 2t if you are not averse to spicy foods.
 
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Posted by on March 31, 2020 in Italian, Main Courses, Pasta, Seafood

 

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Pepper, Vermicelli and Prawn Clay Pot

(serves 4-6)
This is a hearty dish where the flavour of a concentrated stock boiled from prawn heads
is infused into glass vermicelli. I believe it originates from Thailand, though versions of it are also found in Chinese seafood restaurants in parts of Asia. Besides prawn, the dish uniquely also blends in the flavour of black pepper and the aroma of coriander. It’s actually quite a rustic dish and is not hard to make at all, even if don’t usually cook Asian food. 

Ingredients

  1. Tiger Prawns (500g)
  2. Glass Vermicelli (160g)
  3. Garlic (10 cloves)
  4. Scallion (3)
  5. Coriander (2 sprigs)
  6. Coriander Seed
  7. Ginger (4 slices)
  8. Black Pepper
  9. Fish Sauce
  10. Soy Sauce
  11. Chinese Wine

note: Claypot is part of the name of this dish but you can easily cook this in any deep or large frying pan, and a claypot is not actually required.

Preparation

  1. Separate the heads of the prawns and set them aside. Peel and de-vein the bodies and cut each prawn in half lengthwise. Marinate the prawn meat in 1t soya sauce and 0.5t salt.
  2. Peel 10 cloves of garlic.
  3. Cut the scallion in half. Cut the bottom half in half again. Julienne the top portion and set aside.
  4. Prepare 4 thumb sized slices of ginger.
  5. Cut off the roots and a bit of the tip of the coriander sprigs.
  6. Soak the vermicelli in some cold water, for 10 minutes, 15 minutes at the most. If you are doing this step a bit ahead of time you can simply drain away the water.
  7. Place the garlic, ginger and scallion in a large claypot. Stir fry with 4T of oil on high heat until some browning is visible.
  8. Add the prawn heads and continue stir frying until the heads are red, then pour in 1/2 cup of water.
  9. When the water comes to a boil, add 1T black pepper, 1t sugar, 1t salt, 1t fish sauce, 1t coriander seed powder, 2T Chinese wine. Simmer until the volume of water is reduced by half.
  10. Add the prawn meat and coriander sprigs. One minute later add the vermicelli. When the vermicelli blocks separate into individual stands give the pot one last stir and place the lid on the clay pot. Continue to simmer for a minute.
  11. Remove the lid, add 3T of oil and 1T of Chinese wine, stir fry until the clay pot is almost dry. Turn off the fire.
  12. Sprinkle on the julienned scallion and a pinch of black pepper. Replace the clay pot lid and bring the vermicelli to the dining table in the pot.

 

 Notes

  • It is important to use the right kind of vermicelli; these are the type made from mung beans. Examine the packaging properly (look for the words 粉絲 or 冬粉), so you don’t buy the wrong type made from rice which look a bit similar. They come in stiff white bundles (as shown) and become transparent (hence the glass in the name) when cooked. 2 bundles would typically weight 160g, the amount required for this recipe.
  • The thing about glass vermicelli is it can absorb a lot of water, but this will make it very soft and mushy, which you want to avoid. At the same time you can’t boil them separately and pour away the water when they are just right like for pasta, since you want the prawn stock to infuse into the noodles. Therefore make sure there isn’t too much liquid left in the pot in step 9. Even when you turn off the heat they will continue to absorb water until there is no more left.
  • You can use prawns bigger than Tiger prawns, but not the smaller varieties. That’s because the flavour of prawn heads diminishes greatly as the prawns get smaller.
  • Its best to use coarse ground black pepper, or if you have whole pepper corns (of any colour), that is even better.
 
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Posted by on February 4, 2020 in Appetizers, Chinese, Seafood

 

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Chinese-style Spicy Eggplant Casserole

(serves 4-6)
As Chinese New Year nears, I’ve been cooking more Chinese dishes, such as this Spicy Eggplant Braised in Clay Pot. In the winter time, it’s hearty nature will help warm up the whole family. The Eggplant in Clay Pot is a relatively common Chinese dish, as popular in restaurants as it is in the home kitchen, so it’ll be a good dish to try if you are cooking Chinese for the first time. It’s not complicated at all. Although this recipe involves quite a few Chinese sauces, they are the common and inexpensive ones, easy to find in the Chinese section of any large supermarket or any Chinese food store

Ingredients

  1. Minced Pork (200g)
  2. Eggplant (1)
  3. Garlic (6 cloves)
  4. Scallion (4 sprigs)
  5. Anchovies in Oil
  6. Toban Sauce
  7. XO Sauce
  8. Soy Sauce
  9. Oyster Sauce
  10. Chinese Wine
  11. Sesame Oil
  12. Corn Starch

note: Claypot is part of the name of this dish in Chinese (鱼香茄子煲) but you can easily cook this in any deep or large frying pan, and a claypot is not actually required.

Preparation

  1. Marinate the minced pork in a mixture of 1t soy sauce, 1T Chinese wine, 1T sesame oil and 3T of water.
  2. Peel and mince 6 cloves of garlic. Juliene the scallion, keeping the white bits separate from the green bits.
  3. You’ll need the long type of eggplant for this recipe, as some skin is best left on every piece to prevent the flesh from disintegrating when it is cooked. After removing the top, divide the eggplant into 4 cylinders. Slice each cylinder like you would a pie, the ones with a larger diameter into 8 segments, and the smaller ones into 6.
  4. On high heat, stir fry the eggplant in a large claypot (or pan) with 4T of oil until they begin to soften. As eggplants really like to absorb oil, you may need to add more oil halfway. Temporarily remove the eggplant from the claypot.
  5. Spoon 3t of anchovies in oil into the claypot. Add 2T of oil and under medium heat mash the little fishies until you get a paste. Add the minced garlic, the white bits of scallion and 2 heaped t of Toban sauce.
  6. Stir fry until everything is nicely combined, then add the pork and continue to stir fry until the minced pork falls apart and begins to shrink.
  7. Turn the heat down. Stir 1t of corn starch into 1/4 cup of water, making sure the starch is completely dissolved. Next, stir in 1T of Oyster Sauce and 1t of sugar into the water as well and then pour the starch mixture into the claypot.
  8. Stir occasionally to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom. After a while you should end up with something that looks like spaghetti bolognaise, as shown on the right. This is when you put the egg plant back into the claypot. Add 2 heaped t of XO sauce and simmer with the cover on until the egg plant is soft as shown in the top picture. This will take perhaps ten minutes.
  9. When the dish is done, turn off the heat and sprinkle the green bits of the scallion over the top as a condiment. Put the cover back on and serve everything in the claypot itself.

 Notes

  • You are not supposed to eat this Spicy Braised Eggplant by itself and it is traditionally served with steamed rice to balance out its strong taste, but if you are not into cooking rice, some egg noodles like fettuccine tossed in the sauce is a good alternative.
  • Here is some background on this casserole: The dish has its origins in Szechuan Province as a common stir fry dish, hence the use of Toban Sauce as its base. However, when the dish finds its way south to Hong Kong, the chefs there adapt the recipe to local tastes by cooking it in a wetter style inside a clay pot and adding bits of Cantonese salted fish to enhance its flavour. While not obvious to others, this is a really crazy combination, like putting sauerkraut in risotto, but it works. And that’s the story of this the Spicy Eggplant Casserole.
  • Cantonese salted fish is a rather exotic ingredient to expect of a Western kitchen, which is why I have substituted it with anchovies.
  • Some people like to add some corn starch to the pork marinade as well, which makes the pork softer. Personally I prefer more bite to the minced pork, but the jury is still out on whether this is better.
  • There is no need to soak the eggplant in salt water. It’s supposed to remove the bitter taste? But honestly I haven’t tasted a bitter eggplant in my entire life.
 
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Posted by on January 21, 2020 in Chinese, Main Courses, Seafood

 

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The Dragon King’s Scallop Soup

(serves 8)
The Dragon King’s Scallop Soup is a fancy soup served in Chinese restaurants
carrying all the different tastes of the sea, such as prawn, scallop and crab, in a medley of tiny morsels. The soup uses a lot of different ingredients and involves a fair bit of work, but you would expect that for a soup that is fit for the Dragon King. I’ve worked the recipe such that it can be prepared in a Western kitchen, so you don’t have to worry about any exotic ingredients. With the Chinese New Year just around the corner, this is the perfect time to prepare such an extra special treat for your friends and family

Ingredients

  1. Scallops (300g)
  2. Medium Prawns (300g, about 12)
  3. Cooked Crab (1 tub, 8oz or 250g)
  4. Seafood Stock (4 cups)
  5. Eggs (3)
  6. Asparagus (6 spears)
  7. Carrot (1)
  8. Ginger (3 slices)
  9. Hard Beancurd (1 block, 340g)
  10. Straw Mushrooms (200g)
  11. Chinese Wine
  12. Bicarbonate of Soda
  13. Corn Starch

Preparation

  1. Prepare the seafood stock ahead of time in a large pot. See notes below.
  2. Leave the crab meat in a solution of 4T Chinese wine and 2 cups of water. Stir to loosen up the packed meat.
  3. Drain the beancurd block and flip it onto a large smooth plate. Using a butter (or other toothless) knife cut one slice lengthwise along the block that is one quarter of the width. Flop the slice onto the plate and gently move what is left to a new position by pushing along the entire surface with your open hand, such that there is sufficient space for another next slice to flop down. For the last 2 slices move the remaining beancurd to a spot that leaves space for them to flop in opposite directions. Cut each slice into cubes without moving them any further.Dragon Tofu
  4. Deshell and devein your prawns. Dice the meat into small pieces. Mix the white of one egg with a pinch of bicarbonate and 1 flat t of salt. Marinate the prawn in the egg white for 1 hour, then rinse off the egg.
  5. Dice the scallops and soak the pieces in a light brine made up of 2 cups of water and 2t of salt, for twenty minutes.
  6. Peel a carrot and dice it. Dice the mushrooms. Apply a peeler to the lower half of each asparagus spear to remove the fibrous layer and then cut the asparagus into thick slices.
  7. Drain the scallop and crab brine into the stock pot followed by 3 slices of ginger. Bring the stock to a low simmer.
  8. Heat up a few T of oil in a pan and pan fry the crab meat until most of its wetness has evaporated. Add one ladle of stock to the pan as a deglaze.
  9. Turn off the fire temporarily. Slowly drizzle the white of 2 eggs into the pot while stirring in a circular direction. Resume the simmer.
  10. Transfer the crab meat into the soup pot, followed by the diced carrots. Gently slide the beancurd from the plate into the pot. The beancurd is delicate so let gravity do the work.
  11. Wait for the soup to come to a simmer again. Mix 2T of corn starch with half a cup of cold water until the starch dissolves. Test with your fingers to make sure there are no lumps. Pour the starch mixture slowly into the pot while stirring gently. The soup will soon thicken.
  12. Bring the soup to a strong boil add the diced prawn and scallops, the asparagus and the mushrooms.
  13. In about 2 minutes when the asparagus has softened but is still crisp, turn off the heat. Stir in 1 flat t of white pepper. Add salt to taste and serve immediately.

 Making the Stock

  • The most common ingredient for boiling Chinese seafood stock is cured whole scallops (a.k.a. conpoy, pictured on the bottle label) but there are a variety of other cheaper alternatives to try such as cured whelk, conch and squid.
  • Fresh fish can be used for the stock, but it should be fried until it is crispy first. Fresh shellfish should be soaked in cold water first.
  • If you add the prawn heads to the stock you will get their extra flavour, but they will impart a reddish hue to the soup, which purists who expect a totally white soup will object to.
  • For the modern kitchen I recommend dried scallop granules (pictured, the whole bottle).  I usually use 1t of  per cup of water. Its convenient, cheaper but taste just as good. You can also use fish stock cubes, hon dashi granules or any combination of  everything mentioned above.
  • If you want more details, a few years ago I made an entire post about making Chinese Consume which you can refer to.

 Notes

  • Timing is everything in this recipe. If you cook the prawn or scallop too long they will get rubbery. If you cook the carrots or asparagus too long they will get mushy but you want them crisp. So cut and marinate everything ahead of time and follow the sequence of the recipe.
  • Knife work is also important, you want all the components to be of the same size, like in a Olivier salad. The reason you cube the beancurd first is to know the size of one cube. Dice everything else, the prawn, scallop, carrots etc. to the same dimensions.
  • Frozen seafood is no problem for this recipe, just make sure you defrost everything ahead of time. If you are buying frozen prawns that are already shelled, reduce the weight used accordingly. 
  • There is more than one type of beancurd. Make sure you buy the type that is hard or after some cooking the beancurd might disintegrate when your stir.
  • If you don’t have any Chinese wine, just use sherry.
  • If you can’t find straw mushrooms, you can substitute another type but make sure you choose a light coloured variety. Oyster mushrooms are a good alternative.   
 
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Posted by on January 12, 2020 in Chinese, Seafood, Soups

 

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Warm Duck Breast Salad with a Cranberry Dressing

(serves 4-5)
I just made this duck salad on Christmas eve and it is one of my favourite appetizers for the festive season; it’s got just the right amount of red, and green. Duck breast is surprisingly easy to prepare once you know the essential steps, perhaps easier than chicken breast even. Another thing I like about this recipe is the use of cranberry. We are used to having orange or red wine as the primary flavour that goes with duck and cranberry makes for a refreshing change. It is also a great ingredient for a salad dressing.   

Ingredients

  1. Duck Breasts (2, frozen)
  2. Baby Spinach (150g)
  3. Leek (1 cup, chopped)
  4. Cranberry Sauce
  5. Marmalade
  6. Mustard
  7. Balsamic Vinegar
  8. Liquid Smoke
  9. Salt
  10. Brown Sugar (soft)
  11. Brown Mushrooms (10)
  12. Cherry Tomatoes (10)

Preparation

  1. Defrost the duck breasts and brine in a solution of of 4 cups of water, 3T salt, 1T muscovado sugar for about 4 hours.
  2. After rinsing the duck breasts, Rub them with 2t of liquid smoke.
  3. Julienne the white portion of a stalk of leek until you have 1 cup.
  4. Using a sharp knife, scour the duck skin as shown. Do not cut all the way through the fat; if you can see the meat below, it’s too deep. Also, you should space the cuts in accordance with how you intend to slice the duck later. Here I’ve made my cuts two slices apart.
  5. Heat up a pan with a dash of oil and on low heat pan fry the duck breasts for 2 minutes. Only pan fry with the skin side down and move the breasts occasionally to make sure they don’t stick to the pan. The purpose here is to render as much duck fat as you can from the skin.
  6. Place the breasts on a lightly oiled baking pan with the skin facing up. Place the pan in an oven preheated to 175oC (350oF), for 12 minutes. I prefer to use the toaster oven which takes a bit longer, 15 min. If the breasts begin to shrink, this means they are done.
  7. Allow the meat to rest on the pan outside the oven.
  8. Saute the leeks in the duck fat in the pan until they become limp.
  9. Add 5 heaped t of cranberry sauce (ocean spray), 1 heaped t of marmalade, 1T balsamic vinegar, 2t mustard, 1 flat t of salt and 1/4 cup of water to the pan. Stir fry until the mixture comes to a boil. Then transfer it to a bowl. Pour the drippings from the pan into the bowl and mix well.
  10. Cut the duck breasts into slices, making sure some cuts are coincident with the cuts in the skin. The meat should be pink or you’ve over cooked the duck.
  11. Slice the mushrooms and cut each cherry tomato into 2. Arrange the baby spinach, tomatoes and mushroom slices into a bed on each plate.
  12. Arrange the duck slices on the salad and drench with the cranberry and leek sauce. Sprinkle with black pepper.

 Notes

  • Frozen duck breasts sometimes are already brined. Please check and if they are already brined, you can skip the relevant part. The same goes for the smoked.
  • The choice of salad components was made with Christmas colours in mind. You can really make the salad with whatever you like. A white plate would really complete the festive look.
  • I’ve found the safest way to score the skin properly is to use a sawing motion with a knife with small teeth, applying no downward pressure.
  • You can precook the duck breasts and leave them around for a few hours, but only slice the meat and and plate the salad at the last moment.  
 
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Posted by on December 28, 2019 in Appetizers, French, Poultry, Recipe, Red Meat, Salad

 

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