Sweet and Sour Pork or Chicken

Growing up in the UK, the only foreign food we were exposed to was Chinese, bought as a takeaway for special occasions, or when my mother was too busy to cook. Occasionally we went to a Chinese restaurant to celebrate one of my parents’ birthdays. Sweet and Sour Pork was always one of the dishes we chose.

This Chinese food was not very authentic, but at the time we loved it. In some parts of Britain Chinese restaurants served chips with everything, in order to keep the locals happy. Maybe they still do.

When our kids were growing up they loved the Sweet and Sour Pork I made at home, although they preferred it made with chicken. The recipe works well with either and I make it when I feel like a bit of nostalgic comfort food. The original recipe came from the Australian Women’s Weekly Chinese Cookbook.

500g lean pork or boneless chicken thighs
1 Tbs soy sauce
1 egg yolk
1 Tbs cornflour
1 red capsicum
1 green capsicum
1 medium onion
3 canned pineapple rings
½ cup cornflour, extra
Vegetable oil for frying
2 cloves garlic
Sauce:
3 Tbs vinegar
3 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs tomato ketchup
4 Tbs water
½ tsp salt
2 tsp cornflour

Mix soy sauce, egg yolk and cornflour. Add chicken or pork cut into 2.5cm cubes, cover and leave aside while you prepare the other ingredients. Seed peppers and cut into 2.5cm squares. Peel onion and cut into eighths, then separate into slices, cut pineapple into cubes.

Add extra cornflour to chicken or pork and mix well. Heat about 2.5cm oil in a wok or large frying pan and fry chicken or pork pieces for 4-5 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Drop them into the hot oil one at a time. Remove and drain on paper towels. Pour off oil, leaving about 1 Tbs. Add crushed garlic, peppers and onion and cook over high heat, stirring, for 3 mins. Add chicken or pork, pineapple and the sauce and stir until it thickens and boils. Serve with plain boiled rice.

Serves 4-6

Filipino Chicken Curry

This quick and easy curry is not too spicy, making it ideal for a family meal which includes kids.

It reminds me of the simple curries my mother used to make using ready-made curry powder, rather than all the different spices. Serve with steamed rice and chutney.

1 kg boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbs curry powder or paste, or to taste
1 can coconut milk
1 can tomatoes (diced or whole)
1 Tbs sugar

Cut chicken into 2cm chunks and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large frying pan and gently fry the onion and garlic for a few minutes until soft but not brown. Add curry powder or paste and the chicken and continue to fry, stirring, for 2-3 minutes or until chicken is starting to colour.

Add coconut milk, tomatoes (chop them if they aren’t already) and sugar. Simmer for 20-30 minutes or until chicken is tender and sauce has thickened. If the sauce is getting too thick before the chicken is ready add a small dash of water. Serve with steamed rice and chutney.

Serves 6-8

Sesame Salmon

This delicious recipe was given to me by my daughter Catherine. She and her husband love raw fish and meat dishes, so they eat a lot of ceviche and carpaccio. If you’ve never eaten raw fish, this is a good way to start as it honestly doesn’t taste raw. The recipe serves 2 as a starter, but it’s easy to multiply the ingredients to serve 4 or 8. It’s also very quick to make.

The black sesame seeds add a nice colour contrast and the fried shallots add a bit of crunch. The fried shallots do make the photo look a bit dark, but they make a great garnish for all kinds of savoury recipes. If preferred leave them out or garnish with some chopped herbs such as coriander or chives.

If I had to describe this dish I would say it’s like a Japanese prawn cocktail, made with raw salmon instead of prawns!

1 portion salmon (about 180g)
1 small or half a large avocado, cubed
Zest and juice of ½ lime
2 tsp sesame oil*
2 tsp Mirin
1 Tbs pickled ginger, finely chopped*
1 spring onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbs Kenko Creamy Sesame Dressing*
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
To garnish:
Black sesame seeds*
Fried shallots*
Lettuce leaves
Olive oil

Remove skin and any bones from salmon then cut into small cubes. Mix with remaining ingredients. Taste and see if it needs a little more lime juice or sesame oil.

Serve immediately on lettuce leaves, garnished with black sesame seeds, fried shallots and a drizzle of oil.

Serves 2

* sold in Asian supermarkets. For the Kenko Dressing you will need to find a shop that sells Japanese ingredients. If you can’t find it substitute mayonnaise. Not quite the same but it will do.

Rick Stein’s Vietnamese Duck Braised in Spiced Orange Juice

We watched Rick Stein make this dish on a TV cooking show recently. He described it as a Vietnamese take on Duck à L’Orange and said it was easy to make and delicious.  Matthew is not a big fan of duck, but I am, so he felt magnanimous in suggesting we make it.

The recipe calls for a 2.5kg duck but I bought a frozen one from Aldi for $14.99 which was 2.2kg. I also bought a bottle of orange juice with pulp from the same place.

The recipe says to cut the duck into six portions, but you can only get 4 decent portions from a whole duck – two breasts and two Marylands (leg and thigh). I used the wings as well, so I did have six portions, but there’s not much meat on them. A better solution, especially if you’re entertaining and want six decent portions, is to buy six duck portions. If you use a whole duck, remove the portions, then use the carcass to make stock for another meal.

I was left with more than a cup of duck fat which I poured through a sieve into a jam jar and put in the fridge. There’s nothing quite like potatoes roasted in duck fat – see last week’s recipe.

1 Duck weighing between 2 and 2.5kg
Or 6 duck portions
1 Tbs crushed garlic
2 Tbs peeled and chopped or thinly sliced ginger
1 litre orange juice
4 Tbs fish sauce
1 Tbs sugar
5 whole star anise
4 bird’s eye red chillies
2 lemongrass stalks, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 spring onions, finely sliced on the diagonal
½ tsp cornflour

Remove the breasts, legs and wings from the duck so you have four decent portions plus the wings. Heat a large heavy-based frying pan over medium to high heat. Cook the duck skin side down for 5 to 6 minutes until skin is crisp, then on the other side for 2-3 minutes, or until all the fat has rendered off. Once cooked, place in a deep saucepan and set aside.

Pour all but 2 tbsp of the duck fat off and keep it (see Note below). Add the garlic and ginger to the frying pan and cook gently till soft, then add to the pan with the duck. Add the orange juice, fish sauce, star anise, chillies, lemongrass and season with black pepper. Simmer gently for 1 hour and 30 mins.

Remove duck and set aside, skim off any excess fat from the sauce then bring to a boil and simmer vigorously until reduced and concentrated in flavour. Mix cornflour with 1 tsp of water, mix into sauce and simmer for a further minute. Recipe can be made ahead to this point.

Put duck portions back into the sauce for a minute or to and heat through. Serve duck with rice and a green vegetable, garnished with the spring onions.

Serves 4 using a whole duck or 6 using portions

Note: After removing the duck portions from the carcass I had quite a few pieces of duck fat or fatty skin. I put them into a frying pan and cooked them gently until most of the fat had been rendered. I added this to the fat obtained when browning the duck portions and poured it through a sieve into a jam jar.

Asian Green Salad

This recipe was given to me some years ago by my friend Donelle. She made it with Pak Choi but today I decided to use fresh spinach from the garden, because we have copious amounts.

I’m not sure if you can buy packets of crispy noodles everywhere in the world. If you can’t find them substitute crushed corn chips. Just something to give a bit of crunch.

The pomegranate arils weren’t in the original recipe, but they add a touch of colour. Some supermarkets sell these either fresh or frozen. I keep them in the freezer and just scrape out a few as required to sprinkle over the top of salads.

Full of iron and other good stuff, this recipe is very healthy!

1 bunch Pak Choy (or substitute spinach or kale)
1 bunch spring onions, thinly sliced (use the white and most of the green)
1 bunch coriander, chopped
¾ cup flaked or slivered almonds (or substitute pine nuts)
1 packet (100g) crispy noodles
Dressing:
2 Tbs lemon or lime juice
¼ cup olive oil
2 tsp soy sauce
1 Tbs fish sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
1-2 tsp grated fresh ginger
Dash of Siracha (or other chilli sauce,) to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs brown sugar
To serve:
Pomegranate arils (optional)

Wash, spin dry and shred the Pak Choy, spinach or kale with a large sharp knife. Place in serving dish with the nuts, which have been lightly toasted in a dry frying pan over moderate heat. Add spring onions and coriander.

Place all ingredients for dressing in a jar and shake well. Mix dressing with salad and top with the crispy noodles. If liked garnish with pomegranate arils and serve immediately.

Serves 4-6

Malaysian Spicy Fried Chicken

I tore this recipe out of one of the weekend newspaper magazines last month. It’s from Billy Law, a Malaysian cook who was on MasterChef back in 2011. I adjusted the recipe to use fewer dried chillies (2 instead of 5) and made a few other slight tweaks – spring onions instead of leeks because that’s what I had.

The result is a delicious, spicy chicken dish which should serve 4, but Matthew and I both went back for seconds and there was less than half left! The method is a bit more fiddly than the recipes I usually post, but it’s worth it. Definitely a keeper.

750g skinless, boneless chicken thighs cut into bite-sized pieces
3cm piece ginger, grated
2 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs mirin
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup potato starch (I used a packet of instant mashed potatoes)
1 egg
Vegetable oil for frying
1 small onion or ½ large one, chopped
2 dried red chillies, sliced
1/3 cup peanuts, toasted
Chopped fresh coriander
Chilli Oil:
¼ cup vegetable oil
5 cloves garlic, halved
2 cm ginger, peeled and sliced
1 leek or 8 spring onions, thinly sliced (use mostly the white part)
1 Tbs dried chilli flakes
Sauce:
2 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs vinegar
1 Tbs cornflour mixed with ¼ cup water

Mix chicken with ginger, soy sauce, mirin and pepper and leave to marinate for an hour. Mix in the potato starch and the egg. Heat about 2.5 cm of oil in a wok and fry the chicken pieces, in 2-3 batches, until golden brown and crispy all over. Remove and drain on paper towels. Wipe out the wok.

For the Chilli Oil, heat the oil in a frying pan and add the garlic, ginger and leek or spring onion. Stir fry until golden then remove with a slotted spoon to a small bowl. Add the dried chilli flakes to the oil and stir for a minute, then pour through a sieve, discarding the chilli flakes and keeping the oil.

Heat the reserved chilli oil in the wok and add the chopped onion. Stir until softening, then add the chillies and the sauce – soy sauce, sugar, vinegar and cornflour mixture – and stir till thickened. Add the fried chicken and the peanuts, stirring to coat for 1-2 minutes.

Garnish with the reserved garlic, ginger and leek mixture and fresh coriander and serve with steamed rice.

Serves 4

 

 

Spicy Korean Beef with Rice

 

This is a good way to use up leftover cooked rice and leftover roast beef. If you don’t have either, cook some rice and slice about 300 grams of raw beef steak into thin strips. Stir fry the beef in the oil for a couple of minutes, then remove from pan, add the vegetables to the pan and proceed according to the recipe.

2 eggs
1 Tbs water
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbs oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 carrot (coarsely grated)
1 red capsicum (pepper) cut into thin strips
2 cups leftover roast beef, cut into thin strips
1 Tbs Korean chilli paste (or substitute Harissa or Sambal Oelek)
3-4 cups cooked long grain rice
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
To garnish:
Chopped fresh coriander
2 tsp black sesame seed

Beat eggs withIn water and seasoning then make a thin omelette in a small omelette pan, using half the oil. Remove from pan onto a plate and cool, then cut into thin strips.

In a wok or large frying pan heat remaining oil and cook the onion, garlic, carrot and capsicum, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes or until softened. Add the beef, chilli paste, rice, soy sauce and sesame oil. Stir fry for a couple of minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning by adding salt and pepper or a bit more soy sauce. If it’s not spicy enough, add a little more chilli paste.

Serve in bowls, topped with the omelette, the coriander and the black sesame seeds.

Serves 3-4

Asian Steak with Zucchini

With zucchini growing in the garden at the moment I am on the lookout for new ways to use them.

This recipe appeared in a recent Weekend Australian magazine as a salad. I have adapted it by adding the rice and heating the marinade (rather than discarding it) and pouring it over the finished dish. This recipe is quick but delicious.

1 medium zucchini (courgette)
250g steak (two small steaks or one large one)
Marinade:
1-2 Tbs white or brown sugar or honey, to taste
4 Tbs water
4 Tbs soy sauce
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
Juice 1 lime or ½ a lemon
Pinch chilli flakes, or fresh diced chilli, to taste
2 tsp sesame oil
To serve:
Steamed rice
3 Tbs roughly chopped coriander
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 Tbs dried shallots (available in the Asian section of most supermarkets)

Place sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve. Add soy sauce, ginger, lime juice, chilli and sesame oil. Using a vegetable peeler, slice the zucchini  into long, thin ribbons. Cut steak into thin slices downwards, across the grain. Marinate the zucchini in half the dressing and the meat in the other half for about 5 minutes.

Drain meat (keep marinade) and stir fry in a large non-stick frying pan over high heat for 2-3 minutes. Drain the zucchini and keep the marinade. Place some steamed rice in two serving bowls. Top with the meat, then the zucchini ribbons. Place both lots of reserved marinade in the frying pan, bring to the boil, then pour over the top.

Garnish with coriander, sesame seeds and dried shallots.

Serves 2

 

 

Sri Lankan Squid Curry

My friend Doug and his wife had a holiday in Sri Lanka last month. The gourmet food tour was organised by a company called Intrepid Travel and they had a fantastic time tasting delicious local food at restaurants, cafes and private homes, as well as visiting food markets and factories.

This Squid Curry was one of Doug’s favourite dishes so he sent me the recipe and I decided to give it a try. I left out the pandanus leaf because the Asian supermarket I use only sells it in huge bunches, but I did buy the curry leaves. The ones I didn’t use will keep for next time. I added a touch of sweetness with the palm sugar and used spring onion as a garnish because I didn’t have any coriander.

The squid itself doesn’t have much flavour but the overall result makes a nice change from the usual chicken, beef or pork curries.

1 kg squid tubes, cleaned (I used a frozen pack)
3 Tbs vegetable oil
10 dried curry leaves (I used a few more than that)
1 tsp each whole mustard and whole fennel seeds
A square inch piece of Pandanus leaf (optional)
1 Tbs grated or finely chopped fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Half a large onion or 3-4 French shallots
1 tsp each ground cumin, coriander and turmeric
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
1 x 400ml can coconut milk or cream
Ground cayenne pepper and salt to taste
2-3 tsp palm sugar or brown sugar
Garnish:
Chopped fresh coriander or thinly sliced spring onion

Cut squid into bite-sized chunks and score any thicker pieces. Mine were all the same thickness so I didn’t need to do this. Wash and dry with paper towels. Heat oil in a wok or large pan over high heat. When very hot add the curry leaves, pandanus leaf and whole seeds and stir for a few seconds then add the ginger, garlic and onion. Stir fry until starting to brown then add the ground spices and tomatoes. Stir-fry for a few minutes.

Add coconut milk and mix well. Simmer to reduce slightly, season with cayenne pepper and salt. Can be prepared ahead of time to this point. Mix in squid and cook for a few minutes until tender. This won’t take long and if you overcook it the squid will be rubbery.

Garnish with coriander or spring onion and serve with steamed rice.

Serves 4-6

Japanese Meatballs

According to No.1 son, this easy mid-week recipe is the way to get kids to eat broccoli. Well it worked with his two sons who are ten and eight. If you can’t be bothered with the Ponzu sauce just serve the meatballs as they are, or with some soy sauce drizzled over.

1 large head broccoli cut into florets
2 Tbs olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs miso paste (see note)
1 Tbs butter
1-2 tsp honey, to taste
2 cups corn (canned or frozen, thawed)
Meatballs:

500g pork mince
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 spring onion, finely chopped
½ cup breadcrumbs (preferably Panko crumbs)
1 Tbs sesame oil
1 egg
1-2 Tbs grated ginger (to taste)
Salt and pepper
To serve:
Steamed rice
1 spring onion, finely sliced on the diagonal
Ponzu Sauce (see note)

Preheat oven to 180°C. Mix all ingredients for meatballs and form into 2-3cm balls.

Mix broccoli with half the oil, salt and pepper. Line a tray with baking paper, arrange broccoli in one layer then roast for 20 mins. Heat remaining oil in a large non-stick frying pan and brown meatballs all over. Place them on another paper-lined tray and bake them for 5-10 minutes. Broccoli and meatballs should be ready at about the same time.

Wipe out frying pan then add the miso paste and butter and heat to dissolve. Add the corn, broccoli and meatballs and cook, stirring, for a minute or two, until coated with the sauce. If mixture seems a bit dry add a couple of tablespoons of water.

Serve the meatballs with steamed rice, garnished with the spring onion. Pass the Ponzu sauce round separately.

Serves 4

Note: Miso paste is a Japanese ingredient available in some supermarkets and Asian shops. If you can’t find Ponzu sauce make your own by mixing 2 Tbs soy sauce, 1 Tbs each lemon or lime juice and mirin (sweet rice wine), 1 tsp sugar and a pinch of cayenne pepper.