I had a special kind of Monday evening tonight. For many years a group of us women friends, mostly busy mothers, met in Marlay Park, Rathfarnham on a Sunday morning for a run and an aerobic workout on the steps of the old house. And every Monday night we would go to an aerobic class in nearby Lamb Doyles with Gladys our wonderful teacher. Well 10 years or more have passed, kids grew up, a lot of us drifted apart. I haven’t seen most of those women in years.
Until tonight that is when Gladys got us all together for one night only as a charity fund-raiser for Crumlin Children’s Hospital – her daughter is running the New York Marathon for them. Even the pressure to get home from town in rush hour traffic and make a quick change into workout gear brought back old familiar feelings, When we walked into that room, shrieking with delight at recognising old faces that hadn’t changed nearly as much as we feared, all we were short of was the leg warmers.
The music came on – “I will survive” inevitably – and with a tear in my eye, muscle memory kicked into action and we were off. Apart from a few moans and groans, and nobody pregnant, it was as if we had never skipped a beat. Gladys didn’t spare us, well she cut back on the leaping about a bit, so we will have some aches and pains tomorrow. It was a bit of magic, a chance to catch up with old friends who are wearing rather well and to marvel at the daughters who turned up, the same age as the ones we used to fret about on our Sunday morning walks, now grown up into gorgeous young adults.
Having undertaken to cook dinner for “the lodger” aka my lovely niece Jodie, I didn’t hang about for coffee afterwards but it was still 9.30 by the time I got home and I was on a high and ravenous. The meal that follows was on the table by 10. Maybe it was the mood but this was one of the tastiest Chinese meals we have had yet. Inspired by the taste, I went onto the internet and my rambling bought me to Bay vs Kitchen, where I found many a great recipe.
I was prompted to try Ching-He Huang’s version of Twice Cooked Pork after seeing her prepare it on Saturday Kitchen Live on BBC1 last Saturday morning and it is included in Exploring China – a Culinary Adventure. It uses pork belly – wu hua rou – 5 layers of heaven – skin, fat, meat, fat, meat. Chin-He was great fun on the programme by the way and you can follow her on twitter @chinghehuang. I rang ahead on the way to Duncannon last Saturday evening and got the last piece of pork belly in Wallace’s SuperValu Wellington Bridge just as they were closing at 7 pm. It’s best to boil the pork the day before you use it – see below.
The green beans are a vegetarian variation of Shan’s recipe for fried green beans which was the very first dish I cooked for the blog. I like this version as you don’t need to have small amounts of minced pork in your fridge to make it. I found it in Fuchsia Dunlop’s Every Grain of Rice. Fuchsia is also on twitter @fuchsiadunlop. The excellent Irish green beans came from P.Ryan in Rush Co. Dublin.
See Chinese Kitchen Essentials for any unusual ingredients you don’t recognise.
Twice Cooked Pork
- 300 g fatty pork belly, skin on
- groundnut oil
- 1 tbs Shaoxing rice wine
- 1 tbs Sichuan chilli bean paste
- 1 tbs yellow bean paste
- 1 tbs fermented black beans soaked in warm water for a few minutes and water squeezed out
- 1 spring onion sliced on the diagonal into “horse’s ears” (optional)
- 1 tsp dark soy sauce
- 1 tsp light soy soy sauce
- pinch of sugar
- sea salt and ground white pepper.
- Place the pork in a saucepan, cover with cold water, bring to the boil and boil for 30 minutes. Drain and leave to cool. Press between two plates, wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge, for at least an hour but preferably over night, to allow the layers settle and make it very easy to slice.
- When ready to cook, cut the pork into very thin slices, about 0.5cm/ 1/4 inch.
- Mix the chilli bean paste, yellow bean paste and black beans in the bowl and have them close at hand.
- Heat a wok over high heat, add oil (about 2 tbs), then pork.
- As the pork starts to brown, add the rice wine and cook until the pork is browned and the skin slightly crisp.
- Add the three pastes and stir-fry for a minute.
- Add the spring onion (if using) and stir-fry briefly to mix.
- Add a good dash (about a teaspoon) of each soy sauce, a pinch of sugar, season and serve.
Simply delicious and perfect for a busy Monday night. The green beans were on the table within 2 or 3 minutes of the pork.
And the vegetarian green beans – recipe updated on earlier blogpost – were the perfect accompaniment. The brown bits are not pork. They are Tianjin Preserved Vegetables. I also served plain boiled rice but it’s not essential.