中国新的一年快乐 Happy Chinese New Year

( I hope this wishes everyone a happy Chinese New Year )

Following my post for Cantonese Pork and me highlighting authentic Chinese cuisine, I can only follow it by giving my version of a totally bastardised American Chinese dish. A sweet, slightly spicy and I am the first to admit very moreish dish called General Tso’s Chicken. The dish is named after General Tso Tsung-tang, a Qing dynasty general, and statesman, however any connection is very tenuous. The origins of the dishes invention are in the 1950’s influx of Chinese to the United States.

general-tso-chicken

The dish is reported to have been introduced to New York City in the early 1970s as an example of Hunan cooking, though it is not typical of Hunanese cuisine, which is traditionally very spicy and rarely sweet. Fuchsia Dunlop, in the New York Times, identified the claim of a Taiwan-based chef Peng Chang-kuei. Peng was the Nationalist government banquets’ chef and fled to Taiwan during the Chinese Civil War. In 1973 he moved to New York to open a restaurant and experimented and developed Hunanese-style cuisine adopting it for western tastes.

Other chefs claim that they created the dish or variations which include vegetables, meat other than chicken in a sweetened sauce. Later the chicken was deep fried before being added to the sauce, now almost every American Chinese restaurant has General Tso’s Chicken on the menu. Where the dish is cooked outside of the United States the dish is less sweet with more vinegar or rice wine vinegar and soy sauce in the ingredients, this is definitely more to my taste.

For more Chinese Recipes to celebrate in style with a Chinese Buffet go to my recipes for Crab and Sweetcorn Soup, Cantonese Pork, and Beef in Black Bean Sauce.

General Tso’s Chicken                                                             serves 4

As always a general note of caution

BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN FRYING IN HOT OIL.

For the Sauce

1 large Carrot, peeled and cut into fine strips

1 Red Pepper, diced

A small bunch of Spring Onions, washed and sliced in 1 inch pieces

1 small Red Chilli, finely sliced

3 cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

½ piece of Ginger, peeled and finely chopped ( approximately 1 tablespoon )

75 ml quality Chicken Stock

2 tablespoons of Olive Oil

2 tablespoons soft Brown Sugar

1 tablespoon Tomato Paste

2 tablespoons Sherry Vinegar

2 tablespoons Rice Wine

1 heaped tablespoon Corn Flour

2 Cloves

A good pinch of Chinese Five Spice

 

for the fried chicken

2 skinned Chicken Breasts, washed and diced

2 Egg Whites

Juice of 1 Lemon

75 gr Cornflour

Sea Salt and Cayenne Pepper

1 ½ liters neutral Vegetable Oil for frying

For the sauce heat the vegetable oil in a wok and stir-fry the carrots, mushrooms, garlic and ginger for two to three minutes being careful not to burn the garlic and then add the peppers. 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 chicken, sieve the cornflour into a large bowl and add a generous amount of salt and cayenne pepper the mix. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites and lemon juice. Then dip the chicken pieces into the corn flour, the egg whites and back into the corn flour. In a second 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 then place 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 chicken 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 chicken is cooked using the slotted spoon remove from the hot oil, drain on kitchen paper and place into the hot sauce. Simmer for two more minutes and then serve with steamed rice and garnish with a few finely sliced spring onion tops.

My Thanksgiving Ham Recipies

During the holiday season particularly for Christmas and Easter and Thanksgiving in America, many families include a large cooked ham in the culinary celebrations. I first enjoyed this tradition when I was invited along with my then boss Steven ( the short wearing Springbok ) and his family to dine with Russ and Teresa. They lived with their lovely family near Cambridge and Teresa worked in the Red Lion with us. As a serving member of the American air force man, Russ bought a ham of epic proportions, ingeniously spirally sliced and then glazed, from the massive air force hypermarket on the local base. It was a stunning meal with great company and a great day.

The Thanksgiving meal has evolved like a traditional English Christmas dinner into a celebration of good food and a table laden with sides, sauces, and vegetables. Sweet potato casserole topped with fluffy toasted mallow pieces, cornbread dressing ( a type of stuffing ), cranberry sauce, creamed potatoes, mac ‘n’ cheese, wild rice pilaf, green beans with creamed mushrooms, glazed carrots and lots of pan gravy. Then to finish a veritable array of pies from pecan to pumpkin. Yummy.

traditional-baked-ham

Traditional Bake Ham

Ask your butcher to source a traditionally prepared dry cure ham and to tie it for you. A dry cure ham will shrink less during cooking and produce a better quality easier to cut joint of meat. Now for the crafty part, poaching the ham before finishing the joint in the oven also improves the carving quality and produces a flavoursome stock from which you can make traditional pea and ham soup. I added a selection of my favourite glazes for you to try out.

1 whole or piece of boned and rolled dry cured ham around 3 to 4 lb is a nice joint

( ask your butcher to weigh it this is important for cooking times )

1 to 2 White Onions, peeled and quartered

2 large Carrots, peeled and halved

2 sticks of Celery, washed

2 Bay Leaves

4 Cloves

Around 10 whole Coriander Seeds

5 or 6 Black Peppercorns

 

Place the ham in the pan and cover with cold water. Place on the cooker and bring to the boil. Carefully take to the sink and pour out the water and wash off any scum from the ham. This initial boiling will help reduce excess salt in the finished ham. Cover again with cold water and add the carrots, celery, coriander seeds and peppercorns. Pierce the bay leaves with the cloves, pin to the onions and add to the pan. Bring back to the boil, turn down to a gentle simmer and cover with lid. Cook for twenty minutes per pound of raw weight. Once the cooking time is finished turn off the heat and leave to go cold in the cooking liquor. This can be done the night before.

 

For the Delicious Glazes and Baking

 

Wholegrain Mustard and Honey

4 tablespoons Soft Brown Sugar

4 tablespoons Runny Honey

2 tablespoons Wholegrain Mustard

Mix the sugar and mustard together in a small bowl. Rub in half of the mustard and sugar mix. Pour over one tablespoon of honey and put in the oven. After fifteen minutes spread on the remaining sugar, mustard and honey. Finish off glazing in the oven for another fifteen minutes turning the oven down if the ham starts to burn. Remove and serve hot or cold.

 

Spicy Mustard with Apricot and Peach Preserve

4 tablespoons of Apricot Jam or Preserve

1 fl oz Peach Schnapps

3 tablespoons Dijon Mustard

¼ teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper

Heat the preserve in a small thick bottomed pan until it melts whisk in remaining ingredients until thoroughly combined. Spread half the mixture over the ham and place in the oven. After fifteen minutes spread on the remaining mix. Finish off glazing in the oven for another fifteen minutes turning the oven down if the ham starts to burn. Remove and serve hot or cold.

 

Wicked Bourbon and Coca-Cola Glaze

1 can of Coca Cola

2 fl oz Bourbon Whiskey

2 oz Soft Brown Sugar

½ teaspoon ground Allspice

½ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

¼ teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper

Pour the coca cola into a small heavy bottomed pan. Reduce by two-thirds, simmering over a medium heat until you achieve a thin syrup. Add the sugar, whiskey, and spices and reduce again by half. Spread half the mixture over the ham and place in the oven. After fifteen minutes spread on the remaining mix. Finish off glazing in the oven for another fifteen minutes turning the oven down if the ham starts to burn. Remove and serve hot or cold.

 

Cinnamon and Mustard

2 oz Soft Brown Sugar

1 tablespoon French Mustard

½ tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Mix the ingredients together in a small bowl. Spread half the mixture over the ham and place in the oven. After fifteen minutes spread on the remaining mix. Finish off glazing in the oven for another fifteen minutes turning the oven down if the ham starts to burn. Remove and serve hot or cold.

 

Traditional Spiced Christmas Ham

2 tablespoons soft Brown Sugar

2 tablespoons English mustard

½ teaspoon ground Allspice

¼ teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper

A large handful of cloves

Mix all the ingredients, except the cloves, together in a small bowl. Spread half the mixture over the ham and then stud the fat with cloves pushing the pointed ends down in towards the meat. Place in the oven, after fifteen minutes spread on the remaining mix. Finish off glazing in the oven for another fifteen minutes turning the oven down if the ham starts to burn. Remove and serve hot or cold.

 

My Mardis Gras Cajun Gumbo

And so it is Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras, and today I am cooking a Cajun classic, Gumbo. Gumbo is a type of stew from southern Louisiana combining the ingredients and techniques of a melting pot of cultures, including French, Spanish, German, West African, and Choctaw. In general, a Creole gumbo generally contains shellfish, tomatoes, okra and filé * powder. Native words for either of the last two ingredients are the likely root of the word gumbo. A Cajun gumbo is generally based on a dark roux made from fat and flour and is spicier. Both use a ‘ Holy Trinity ’ of ingredients,  chopped onion, celery and green pepper as a base,  developed from the classic mirepoix. Andouille sausage * or ham is often added to gumbos of either variety. After the base is prepared, vegetables are cooked down, and then the meat is added. The dish simmers for a minimum of three hours, with shellfish, filé and extra spices added near the end.

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*Gumbo filé powder is a necessity for cooking authentic Creole or Cajun cuisine. Filé powder is the powdered leaves of the sassafras tree. When ground, they have a rich, spicy flavour with a hint of eucalyptus. Andouille sausage is a staple of Cajun and Creole cooking brought to the United States by French immigrants to Louisiana. It is a course pork sausage flavoured with garlic, pepper, onions and wine.

If you are going to cook Cajan then you can get in the mood with this version of the Hank Williams classic. My Gumbo recipe is no exception, the only time I waiver from the truly authentic is adding a little extra butter to my chicken, sausage and prawns to produce a rich sauce to top the finished dish. As they say in New Orleans,

” Laissez les bons Temps Rouler -let the Good Times Roll “

My Cajun Gumbo                                                                                      serves 4

12 large prawns, peeled and de-veined

4 chicken breasts, butterflied

200 gr Andouille sausage, sliced

200 gr Long Grain Rice

150 gr Butter

50 gr Flour

1 litre quality Chicken Stock

50 ml Olive Oil

1 Large Onion, peeled and finely chopped

4 sticks of Celery, washed and chopped

1 Green Bell Pepper

6 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and finely chopped

4 tablespoons of Cajun-style seasoning

2 tablespoons Filé powder ( available from a good Deli )

2 Bay Leaves

1 teaspoon Tabasco hot sauce ( you can use more if you prefer )

Juice of 1 Lemon

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

Freshly chopped parsley

In a medium bowl mix the prawns, chicken half the sausage and 2 tablespoons of the Cajun style seasoning. In a large heavy-bottomed, saucepan heat the oil over a medium heat and cook the onion, pepper and celery for ten minutes without burning. Remove from the pan and reserve. Melt half of the butter and stir in the flour. Cook out the roux over a gentle heat, stirring continuously until a dark nut brown. Add the cooked trinity, the seasoned chicken, garlic, bay leaves, the sausage, the remaining Creole seasoning and Tabasco sauce. Pour in half of the chicken stock and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook over the lowest possible heat for two and a half hours. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.

In a second pan, cook the rice by bringing the remaining stock to the boil, add the rice and place on a tight cover. Simmer for five minutes then remove from heat and leave to steam for ten more minutes. Add the prawns to the gumbo and reduce the cooking liquor down by a third until the prawns are cooked. Add the filé powder, the lemon juice, butter and check seasoning. Finish the gumbo with chopped parsley then divide the cooked rice into bowls using a slotted spoon and top with a piece of chicken, prawns, sausage and some cooking liquor.

My Cajun Seasoning

3 tablespoons Smoked Paprika

2 tablespoons Onion Powder

2 tablespoons Garlic Powder

1 tablespoon Hot Mustard Powder

1 tablespoon Cayenne Pepper

1 tablespoon Dried Oregano

1 tablespoon Dried Thyme

1 tablespoon Salt

½ tablespoon ground Bay Leaves

½ tablespoon ground Black Pepper

Mix in a food processor and store in an airtight container.

National Seafood Week – Mussels with Beer and Chorizo

This lovely Autumnal recipe pairs two fantastic flavours with fresh mussels and is perhaps my favourite of all the mussel dishes I regularly cook. There is something about the combination of the pungent braised chorizo and aromatic, slightly bitter, beer with the cooking liquor of the mussels which creates a wonderful broth in which to dip great chunks of freshly baked crusty bread. For the beer I would naturally recommend Liberation IPA or Butcombe Bitter of course but Adnam’s Broadside, Fuller’s London Pride or Moorland Old Speckled Hen all give great results, for the braised chorizo recipe follow the link to The Online Cookery School.

Mussels with Beer and ChorizoMussels with Beer and Chorizo Sausage                            generously serves 6 people

2 kg fresh Mussels ( about 350 gr of Mussels per person )
140 gr Braised Chorizo
A good sized nugget of Butter
A slug of quality Olive Oil
6 large Shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
3 cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed
½ pint of deep flavoured Beer
3 tblsp Tomato Puree
A good handful of Parsley, washed and finely chopped
The juice of 1 freshly squeezed Lemon
Freshly ground Black Pepper

To prepare the mussels see my recipe for the classic Moules Marinières

In a large, heavy bottomed pan melt the butter and add the olive oil. Add the shallots and sauté for about ten minutes until they are soft and gently coloured. Turn up the heat and add the garlic, tomato puree, chorizo and a generous few turns of the pepper mill. Stir well and cook for two minutes. Pour in the beer, stir and bring to the boil before tipping in the mussels. Cover with a tight fitting lid and steam for five minutes until the mussels are all open. Remove the lid and simmer for two more minutes to slightly reduce the cooking liquor. I like plenty of the cooking juices to mop up with lots of crusty bread. Finish the mussels with the lemon juice and lots of parsley and serve.

Classic Moules Marinières

Now the summer is over it is time to eat mussels again but where do you start or who do you look to as an authority for the perfect Moules marinières recipe? My shelves are groaning with cookery books by experts on classical French Cuisine and seafood cookery. Well every author is different in their interpretation and so here I guess is the rub, it is time to experiment and find out if you prefer onion to shallots? What type of white wine do you prefer? And most controversially do you add cream, mayonnaise or crème Fraiche? Well, I don’t add cream to my classic Moules marinières the butter is enough to make the cooking liquids really luxurious.

Mussels

Classic Moules Marinières                                      serves 4

Allow 500 gr to 750 gr of mussels per person for a generous portion. To prepare your mussels first rinse them in plenty of cold running water and throw away any mussels with cracked or broken shells. Give any open mussels a quick squeeze, if they do not close immediately, throw away as well as they are dead and not to be eaten. Then using a small knife scrape the shell to remove any barnacles or dirt and pull out any beards by tugging towards the hinge of the mussel shell. If you intend to cook later that day, store in a plastic container in the bottom of your refrigerator covered with a damp tea towel.

1.5 kg of prepared Mussels

3 large ( Banana ) Shallots, peeled and very finely chopped

100 gr Alderney Butter

4 cloves of Garlic, peeled and very finely chopped

A very generous sprig of fresh Thyme

A bay leaf

A large glass ( 325 ml ) of good quality dry White Wine

A small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, washed and finely chopped

Freshly ground black pepper

Plenty of warm crusty bread

Heat half the butter in a large heavy-bottomed pan and add the shallots, garlic, bay leaf and picked thyme leaves. Soften for five minutes without colouring then pour in the wine and bring up to the boil. Simmer for a further five minutes before turning up the heat to high. Tip the mussels into the pan and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Steam for three minutes until the mussels have all started to open and remove from the heat. Add the remaining butter and the parsley, replace the lid and put back on the heat for thirty seconds shaking the pan well to distribute the parsley. Season with freshly ground black pepper and serve immediately, removing any mussels which have remained closed.