Monday, November 24, 2008

HK Style Cheese Baked Rice

I'm like on a cooking spree these week, perhaps its just an appreciation of my free time remaining before I start losing it next week in a different work setting...

Another new thing I've not really tried before, but conceptually it shouldn't be too difficult, the HK Style Cheese Baked Rice. It basically goes with most chinese stir fried dishes, and just adding an additional layer of cheese on top and baked it in the oven. Tonight, the base is gonna be Stir fried Pork with Broccoli and Chinese Mushrooms in Oyster Sauce. Yup, the name is a handful, but the ingredients aren't.

You'll need 400g-450g of pork, about 10-12 dried chinese mushrooms (soaked a few hours till soft), 1 big broccoli, garlic (cloves crushed), oyster sauce, shredded cheese (cheddar/mozzarella), rice. So whilst cooking the rice (I used brown rice here, hence taking longer), boil some water and cut the broccoli into bite size pieces. Pour the boiling water into a pan, and steam the broccoli over it in the covered pan for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, slice the pork thin lengthwise, about 2-3 cm each. In a bowl, season the pork with some cornflour and dark soy sauce. Take care not to oversteam the broccoli and it's perfectly cooked with a nice crunch (not mushy!)

Heat the oil till hot in the wok, fry the garlic, add in the pork and show of your wok stir frying skills :P After 5-7 minutes, or whenever is pork is almost done, add the mushrooms and broccoli in to the mixture, add a little bit of water for more sauce, and add 1-2 tablespoon of oyster sauce (it's very salty, adjust the amount to your taste buds). Gently mix and coat with the sauce and it should be done when the pork is cooked.

The final step is simple just assembling your cheese baked rice, get an oven proof plate/bowl, spoon some rice at the base and gently place the stir fried dish on top, sprinkle generously with some cheese of your choice (red leicester is possible too, giving you an orange topping!), and pop it in the pre-heated oven of 160C for 2-3 minutes and dinner is ready!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

My Very Own Beef Stew

It's winter time now and wrapped up like a giant snow(wo)man, I decided its time for some comfort food. Taking a peek in my fridge/food cupboard, I have 500g baby potatoes, chestnut mushrooms, onion, 450g of beef shoulder meat, a can of organic chopped tomatoes. With my spice rack, I think I could just about whip up my first winter stew!

Having some rough idea forming in my head, its always helpful (and advisable) to sense check with my cookbook collection. There were some beef stew suggestion, but non of them I actually have the exact ingredients and patience for them. So, its the usual Grace-style improvisation and doing it my way :)

I normally don't eat beef and have been trying to beef up my consumption of it lately since its so nutritious and contains lots of good-for-you iron and protein, without too much fat. The thing about stews is that although the ingredients list is more extensive than say a chinese stir-fry, but the cooking method requires way less attention to speed/timing. There's always a trade off, but never in flavor, cos you have to have confidence in your awesomeness always (not too much tho).

So I just quartered my mushrooms, sliced the onions into thin long strips, washed the baby potatoes and cut the meat into big chunks. Heat up some olive oil, and fry the onions till brown and soft. Meanwhile, put a tablespoon of flour into a plate, season with some salt and pepper, and lightly dust the meat, and fry them along with the onions for another 5 minutes or so. Lastly, add the mushrooms, potatoes and the tomato puree in. Mix thoroughly and season with salt and pepper to taste. I added a glug of red wine in too :P If you find it too dry/thick, add a cup or two of water and let the mixture boil for a 2 minutes. Don't forget to put in some herbs (basil/oregano/thyme/rosemary, I had these mixed in a bottle) and sprinkled some on for a nice aroma...

Then, in a slow cooker pot, pour your stew into it and leave it for 4-5 hours on medium heat. Your flat will smell pretty lovely by then and its ready to be served, with warm crusty white baguettes or just a simple buttered brown toast, just like below...


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Back to Basics

First things you always crave for after not cooking for ages are the ones you grew up eating... And for me its nothing more than simple homey styled dishes, improvised of course with what's available in Britain.

Spring onion and ginger is always a match made in heaven for Chinese cooking, it somehow gives a subtle invigorating flavor to meat dishes. Goes particularly well with white meat, e.g. fish, chicken and frog (yes, frog meat, which tastes something like poussin). However, nowadays its common with red meat like beef too, and can be pretty much found on the menu of any chinese hawker-style restaurants.

I'll stick with the classics for now, starting with Chicken with Ginger and Spring Onion. Thighs/drumstick meat is preferable (chicken breast is ok but drier texture). So for a you'll need about 6-8 sprigs of spring onion, 2-3 inch ginger, 400g-500g chicken meat, dark and light soy sauce, garlic, sesame oil, chilli (optional).

I used thigh meat, and de-boned about 8 thighs and cut into bitesize pieces. Spring onion stalks are chopped about 2 inch long, separating the white bit (at the bottom) and the 'leaves' (the green bits at the top). Slice the ginger thin, producing a size like your thumb print. For the garlic, I prefer to just skin them and crush the cloves with the back of the knife (yup, I'm one of those that actually love fried garlics, hehe), and we're ready to go!

So heat up a little bit of oil, and once hot, put the ginger and the white stalk of the spring onions in and stir quickly. About 2-3 minutes, the ginger should be brown and then add the garlic and chicken meat in whilst tossing as usual. The key point should be here, add a few drops of sesame oil for wonderful nutty aroma and flavor, then the usual light soy sauce for taste, dark soy sauce for a little bit of color... Do add a little bit of water if its too dry, and the meat should be roughly cooked in 5 minutes or so. Remember to add the green leave bits of the spring onions, and continue to stir fry for a minute or so, and its done! You can garnish with finely chopped red chillies on top for that extra spicy kick :)

The next vegetable dish is somewhat of an experiment, inspired by a dish in Chinatown recently. It was some sort of tofu dish with leafy vegetables stir fried in bean sauce. Here's my version of it with long beans instead.

It's just a 5 ingredient dish!! 1 carrot (sliced into matchsticks), fried hard tofu or taukwa (sliced lengthwise), long beans (sliced into 2 inch pieces), garlic (crushed cloves), and fermented soy bean sauce (tau chu). This sauce is available in many Asian grocery stores, and is basically soy beans fermented and tastes sweet and salty.

Heat some oil in the pan, and let the garlic sizzle in it till slightly brown-ish. Carrots in first, and 2 minutes later the long beans. Alternatively, you could actually pre-cook the long beans and carrots by steaming them for about 3 minutes before stir frying if you prefer. It's perhaps faster and healthier. For the former case, the stir frying time is longer, and adding some water helps. 5 minutes later, or whenever the vege are cooked till your preferred level of crunchiness, add in the tofu and half a tablespoon of the bean sauce, adjust to taste, and it's ready to be served with some rice!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Seasons Change

Last 2 months have been manic, admittedly haven't had much time to pursue my usual culinary endeavors. In crazy times like this, though easier said than done, but the best move forward is probably not to worry too much, cruise along and soak up as much experience you can as it probably only happen once in ones lifetime...

And yes I haven't forgot about cooking yet, and got a nice cookbook for present, which means more kitchen meddling projects to come, starting tomorrow. Have a few wish list of stuff that I want to start playing around a bit more, like improving pasta making, exploring and building a better spice rack, and making use of the oven more :)

Now, just time for some sleep to recuperate ...