Beef in Black Bean Sauce

So you may have guessed I love Chinese food. When I fly to the mainland it is difficult as I want to try every new restaurant but always hanker for a fantastic Chinese extravaganza, a rather greedy feast I am afraid. I recall a delicious Chinese meal in Oakham, Rutland, see I once lived and worked geographically about as far from the sea as you can get in England. In particular, one dish,  crispy, chilli beef served in a deep fried potato nest was fantastic, it was from over fifteen years ago, however, so I cannot guaranty that the restaurant even exists now, just a fabulous memory. Then moist, flavoursome steamed scallop wontons and prawn and pork dumplings from Hakkasan  in Hanway Place, London *, for which I would almost give anything to learn how to make. Finally an awesome crab with ginger and scallions ( Spring onions fellow English readers ), in East Harbor, New York, with a mind blowing Chinese and Japanese menu.  It is rather sad that I have yet had the opportunity to go to China but it is on my list to do, perhaps one day.

Chinese Meal

What I have done was an inspiring course in London with Ken Hom, equipped myself with numerous books, woks, steamers and ingredients from quaint little Asian speciality suppliers and set to work as only a chef can and chopped, pounded, crushed, fried and ate my way through the Chinese canon. Cantonese, Shandong, Hunan and spicy Szechuan cuisine with noodles, rice, black beans, bok choi and lots of seasoning; garlic, chilli, cloves and ginger, and the wonderfully pungent star anise. Am I giving my little local take away a bit of a run for his money what do you think? Enjoy.

* Here is a great little review of Hakkasan to whet your appetites if I haven’t already manage to do so from Frost Magazine.

My Top Tip Add splashes of water or vegetable stock occasionally while stir frying – this will produce steam helping to quickly cook the vegetables and prevents sticking.

Beef in Black Bean Sauce                                                                           serves 4

750 gr quality Rump Steak

2 Carrots, peeled and cut into thin strips or julienne

2 large Onions, Peeled and cut into thin slices

1 Green Pepper, cut into slices

1 Red Pepper, cut into slices

75 ml neutral Oil for stir frying

50 gr Fermented Black Beans

3 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and finely chopped

3 cm piece of Ginger, peeled and finely grated

1 small Red Chilli, seeds removed and very finely sliced

1 tablespoon quality Toasted Sesame Oil

 For the marinade

3 tablespoons Dark Soy Sauce

3 tablespoons Rice Wine or Dry Sherry

¼ teaspoon Chinese Five Spice

1 Clove of Garlic, peeled and finely chopped

2 teaspoons Corn Flour, mixed with a little cold water

 For the sauce

100 ml quality beef Stock

1 tablespoon Caster Sugar

1 tablespoon Corn Flour, mixed with a little cold water

2 Cloves

Place the rump steak in the freezer for thirty minutes, this firms up the beef making it easier to slice thinly. On a secure board slice the beef with a sharp kitchen knife into thin strips and place into a glass bowl. Add the marinade ingredients, mix well to combine together and fully cover the steak strips.

Cover and chill in the fridge for a minimum of two hours. Meanwhile, prepare the black beans by first rinsing thoroughly in cold water then soaking in fresh water for around half an hour, changing the water once. Drain thoroughly, chop finely and set aside.

When ready to cook, drain the meat from the marinade pouring any remaining marinade into a small, heavy-bottomed pan. Add the sauce ingredients to the marinade and heat gently to thicken, stirring occasionally to prevent lumps forming. Heat the oil in the wok until smoking and carefully add the meat. Stir fry until cooked, remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on to some kitchen paper

Heat a little more oil then stir fry onion over medium heat for five minutes before adding the carrots and peppers, continue cooking for a couple more minutes until they are just starting to go soft. Add the black beans and cook for two more minutes stirring continuously, be careful not to burn, then add the garlic, ginger and chilli and cook for a further two minutes. Return the beef to the wok, strain the sauce through a fine sieve and add as well. Mix in the sesame oil  and cook for one more minute stirring all the time to heat the beef through and serve immediately with egg fried rice or noodles.

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Cantonese Crab and Sweetcorn Soup

As the Chinese New Year approaches, I thought for my next classic Chinese recipe it would be nice to marry my love of Chinese food with some of the amazing produce available here in the Channel Islands.  What better ingredient to use than fresh local crab, indulgent perhaps, but this recipe uses brown and white meat to really get an intense flavour. So just as every Chinese restaurant has a version of sweet and sour, a great many have their own version of this Cantonese dish on the menu, today’s recipe, Crab and Sweetcorn Soup.

Chinese Crab and Sweetcorn Soup

It is best to view most authentic Chinese soups as highly flavoured, aromatic broths and it is important to note that in Chinese kitchens they take as much care in their cooking as we in western kitchens devote to good stocks and much-celebrated consommés. This does not mean however that this is a complicated or indeed difficult dish. In fact, this is an incredibly easy recipe resulting in a fantastically tasty soup using brilliant local seafood. Enjoy.

The recipe calls for a fish or chicken stock the making of which I will cover in a future post. You can however achieve excellent results with a good quality stock purchased from your local Deli or supermarket, try to source one that is jelly like in consistency as this will add to the fished soup.

Cantonese Crab and Sweetcorn Soup                           serves 4

500 ml good quality Fish or Chicken Stock

100 gr cooked Sweetcorn Nibs

100 gr picked White Crab Meat

100 gr Brown Crab Meat, mashed with a fork

1 small Red Pepper, very finely sliced

A small bunch of Spring Onions, finely shredded

75 ml Rice Wine or Dry Sherry

20 gr Ginger, peeled weight, cut into very fine strips or finely grated

2 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

½ small Red Chilli, de-seeded and finely sliced ( optional )

1 Star Anise pod

Juice of one fresh Lemon

2 tablespoons cornflour

2 tablespoons light Soy Sauce

1 tablespoon Fish Sauce

Small bunch of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Place the stock, sherry, soy, star anise, garlic, chilli and ginger into a medium sized, heavy bottomed pan and bring to the boil, reduce the heat and very gently simmer for at twenty minutes. This will allow the aromatic flavours to infuse into the stock. Do not simmer longer as the stock may go bitter.

Remove from the heat and strain. Return to the pan, bring back to a simmer and thicken with the cornflour mixed with a little water. Add the sweetcorn and peppers and cook for five minutes before adding the crab and spring onions. Heat for a further couple of minutes to thoroughly warm the crab, correct seasoning with the fish sauce and lemon, add the coriander and serve.

My Cantonese Pork

When you go out to eat or have a take away from your local Chinese Restaurant you will most likely be eating Cantonese style cuisine. The recipes are often crude copies of authentic Cantonese adapted for Western tastes, which is a huge shame as Cantonese is revered in China as one of the most celebrated national styles of cooking. In the eighteenth century, the Qing Dynasty allowed the Guangdong region, home to Cantonese, to be opened to the first foreign traders and natives from the area were amongst the first immigrants to settle in the United Kingdom and America exporting their traditions and food.

Cantonese PorkCantonese cuisine is all about simple dishes, letting the flavour of the key ingredients stand out, using fish and seafood from the region’s coast and the abundant agricultural produce.  The key additional flavours in Cantonese cooking are the ‘trinity’ of scallions or spring onions, ginger and garlic, with the addition of rice wine and soy sauce. Spices and herbs are only used in moderation although fresh coriander is used as a garnish, perhaps the most popular is Chinese Five Spice. The key method of cooking is stir-frying in a wok.

The most abused Cantonese recipe is the probably Sweet and Sour with cannon ball sized lumps of stodgy, deep-fried dough floating in over-sweet, violent orange coloured, gloopy sauces and don’t even get me started on pineapple.  The following recipe is I hope a little more authentic and delicate, although I am not so sure about the fried egg, but it is a delicious addition! The joy of many, but not quite all, Chinese recipes is they are very quick and easy and once you have a few key staples in your cupboard you have any number of dishes available to you. Enjoy.

Cantonese ( Sweet and Sour ) Pork                                   serves 4
AS ALWAYS A NOTE OF CAUTION BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN FRYING IN HOT OIL.

1 Carrot, peeled and cut into fine strips

1 Red Pepper, diced

A small bunch of Spring Onions, washed and very finely sliced

1 small Red Chilli, finely sliced ( you can omit this but I like a little kick of Chilli )

6 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

½ piece of Ginger, peeled and finely chopped

A good pinch of Chinese Five Spice

2 Cloves

1 tablespoon Corn Flour ( approximately )

100 ml quality chicken stock

2 tablespoons of Olive Oil

2 tablespoons Soft Brown Sugar

2 tablespoons Sherry Vinegar

2 tablespoon Rice Wine

1 tablespoon Tomato Paste

1 tablespoon Dark Soy Sauce

A small bunch of Coriander to Garnish

for the fried Pork
500 gr Pork Loin, skin removed, washed and diced
2 Egg Whites
Juice of 1 Lemon
60 gr  Cornflour
Sea Salt and Cayenne Pepper

1.5 litres Vegetable Oil

For the sauce heat the vegetable oil in a wok and stir-fry the carrots, garlic and ginger for two to three minutes then add the pepper. In a small pan, heat the chicken stock, vinegar, rice wine, sugar, cloves and Chinese five spice and bring to the boil. Simmer for five minutes then thicken with the cornflour mixed with a little water and the tomato puree. After another five minutes simmering, strain into the wok and set on a very low heat.

For the pork, sieve the cornflour into a large bowl and add a generous amount of salt and cayenne pepper. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites and lemon juice. Then dip the pork cubes into the corn flour, the egg whites and back into the corn flour. In your wok or a large heavy bottomed pan heat the oil to 160°C / 320 F using a thermometer to check. If you do not have a thermometer have a few cubes of stale white bread to hand. Place in a bread cube in the oil if it rises to the surface and cooks to a golden brown in a couple of minutes the oil is hot enough.

Fry the pork in batches carefully lowering into the hot oil, for around six to eight minutes or until the batter is crisp and golden, turning from time to time with a large slotted spoon. When the pork is cooked using the slotted spoon remove from the hot oil, drain on kitchen paper and keep hot in a warm oven. When all the pork is cooked place into the hot sauce with the finely sliced spring onions. Stir and then serve with steamed rice and garnish with fresh coriander ( add an egg if you are feeling adventurous ).

Sesame Crusted Scallops with an Asian Style Salad

Sesame ScallopsI adore Scallops. I love cooking them and they are most definitely in my top five favourite foods to eat, anytime, anywhere. This recipe is a little different from seared or pan fried scallops as they are pan fried in a crust of Sesame seeds. The sweet firm flesh of the scallop is a perfect foil for the sweet, sour, salt flavours of the dressing and the crisp Asian inspired salad. The Syrup can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator, it makes a great dipping sauce for spring rolls and dim sum.

Sesame crusted Scallops with an Asian style Salad                                  serves 4

16 diver caught Scallops ( ask your fishmonger to prepare them )

Sesame Seeds

A good slug of Olive Oil

A large knob of Jersey Butter

2 tablespoons Sesame Oil

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

for the Asian style Salad

1 large Carrot, washed and peeled

1 bunch Spring Onions, washed and trimmed

1 small bulb of Fennel

1 Red Pepper

1 Green Pepper

1 small tin of Bamboo Shoots, drained

1 small tin Water Chestnuts, drained

100 gr fresh Bean Sprouts

1 Red Chilli, finely sliced

A small handful of Thai Basil or Coriander

Freshly ground Black Pepper

for the Dipping sauce

200 ml Water

100 gr Caster sugar

2 cloves of Garlic, peeled and finely crushed

1 small Red Chilli, finely diced

1 small piece of fresh Ginger ( about 25 gr ) peeled and finely grated

2 stems of Lemon Grass, peeled and crushed

2 tablespoons Fish sauce

2 tablespoons Light Soy Sauce

Zest and juice of 2 Limes

In a small heavy bottomed sauce pan place the prepared chilli, ginger, lemon grass and garlic. Add the sugar, the juice of two limes, fish sauce, soy and the water. Bring to the boil and simmer for ten minutes taking care not to caramelise. Reduce to a light syrup. Set aside and allow to thoroughly cool.

Prepare the salad vegetables by slicing the spring onions, carrot, peppers and fennel into fine strips or Julienne. Plunge into a bowl of iced water, or ten to fifteen minutes, this will really crisp them up. Thinly slice the water chestnuts. In a large mixing bowl place the lime zest and six to eight tablespoons of the cooled syrup. Grate in a little freshly ground pepper and stir. Thoroughly drain the salad vegetables and dry on kitchen paper.

In a heavy bottomed frying pan melt the butter and olive oil over a high heat. Season the prepared scallops immediately before cooking and roll in sesame seeds. Place carefully in the pan and sauté for one to two minutes until the seeds are golden brown. Turn over and cook for one more minute. Sprinkle with sesame oil and set aside. Toss all of the salad ingredients in the dressing and add some roughly torn Thai Basil before placing in the centre of the serving plate. Place on the scallops, drizzle with a little extra syrup and serve.

Spicy Crab & Prawn Fishcakes with Sweetcorn and Coriander and a Thai style Dipping Sauce

Everyone who cooks has a list of purely personal favourite dishes, their own or at a restaurant, they can be terribly simple or frighteningly complex. As a chef you develop a list of go to classic recipes that work every time, easy to cook and as incredible eating for family, friends or paying guests. Thai Spiced Crab and Prawn Fishcakes would get an entry near to the top on to both of my lists although a little extravagant. I know living on an island spoils you with the ability to get hold of great ingredients like fresh crab every day. I love the layers of flavours in Thai cooking and while this dish is only my interpretation I hope it has a little of the depth, spice and variety with the typical hot, sweet and sour tastes. The Thai style dipping sauce can be made a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator but is best served at room temperature.

Thai style Crab Cakes

Spicy Crab & Prawn Fishcakes with Sweetcorn and Coriander

and a Thai style Dipping Sauce                                            serves 4 – 6

150 gr firm White Fish such as Cod, Haddock or Coley

100 gr freshly picked White Crab Meat

50 gr fresh peeled Prawns, roughly chopped

50 gr cooked Sweetcorn Nibs

1 medium sized, fresh, free range Egg

2 stems Lemon Grass, peeled and finely chopped

2 small, hot Chilli Peppers, finely diced

1 piece of Preserved Ginger, finely grated

1 tablespoon of Fish Sauce

Zest and juice of 2 fresh Limes

½ teaspoon of ground Coriander

¼ teaspoon of freshly ground Black Pepper

1 Bunch of fresh Coriander, finely chopped

A large knob of Butter and Vegetable oil for frying

for the dipping sauce

1 small Carrot, peeled and very finely diced

1 Banana Shallot, peeled and very finely diced

1 stick of Celery, very finely diced

1 sweet Red Pepper, very finely diced

2 small hot Chilli peppers, finely diced

2 stems Lemon Grass, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed to a pulp

1 piece of Preserved Ginger, finely grated

3 tablespoons of Fish Sauce

2 tablespoons of Palm Sugar or soft Brown Sugar

Zest and juice of 2 fresh Limes

1 tablespoon of fresh Coriander, finely chopped

freshly boiled Water

First prepare the dipping sauce by placing all of the ingredients excluding the coriander in a glass bowl just covered with boiling water. Stir and allow to cool. When completely cooled down stir in the coriander. Adding the coriander whilst hot can discolour the chopped leaves, allowing the sauce to cool will ensure an appealing fresh green colour. The temperature of the boiling water is sufficient to soften but not cook the vegetables leaving a slight crunch.

Blitz the fish in a food processor for two minutes on the pulse setting. You do not want to let the motor get hot as it will start to cook the fish. For a professional finish you can pass the fish through a fine sieve to remove any unprocessed lumps. Add the egg, fish sauce, lime zest and juice and process for a further minute. Transfer to a bowl and work in the remaining ingredients. Do not worry if the mixture seems quite loose as it will produce a moist crab cake.

Cooking Crab CakesHeat a thin coating of oil in a heavy bottomed non stick frying pan over a medium-high heat add the butter and using an ice cream scoop drop in four or five balls of the crab mix. Flatten gently with a spatula and cook for five to six minutes before very carefully turning and cooking for a few more minutes. When the crab cakes are golden brown on both sides and firm to the touch but not solid, remove on to kitchen paper and keep warm. Wipe out the pan and repeat the process to use up the crab mixture. Serve with the dipping sauce and lime wedges.