Regular readers will know that it’s very unusual for me to let a weekend go by without writing a new blog post. But this weekend I had an excuse – Shane, Shan and Dermot arrived from Beijing on Saturday and I had forgotten how much one small, precious person can turn a house upside down, become the focal point of all your attention, grab hold of your heart strings and turn your brain to mush!
The bank holiday weekend has been a whirlwind of family get togethers leaving little Dermot somewhat bewildered as he encountered one new face after the other with every relative wanting to give him a hug and a cuddle so today he is having a well deserved rest.
From all the memories made in the last few days, some will remain with me forever.
After a long, restless journey, Dermot was asleep when he arrived at Dublin Airport and he opened his eyes in Ireland for the first time in the car on the way home to find me sitting beside him in the back seat.
Then yesterday came a moment we had all been waiting for when his great granny got to meet him at last.
On that beautiful, sunny bank holiday Monday, Shane fulfilled a promise made as he and I watched the Kerrygold “Made of Ireland” ad last Christmas – that his baby’s feet would touch Irish soil first. Dermot loved the tickly sensation of the grass.
And yesterday morning Dermot, who will be 4 months old tomorrow, “danced” on my lap in fits of giggles to Tiny Dancer, a moment too special to interrupt with camera or video recorder.
On Sunday night we had a rare moment of quiet while Dermot slept and visiting was done for the day. So I took my courage in my hands and cooked a Chinese meal for Shane and Shan, conscious that I am up against stiff competition in the culinary stakes from Shan’s MaMa in Beijing.
It seemed appropriate to include in the meal the dish that inspired me to start this blog last July and the very first that Shan taught me to cook long distance – Sichuan fried green beans. Since my first post on 29th July of last year, I’ve tried several variations of fried green beans including Shan’s recipe, the version prepared by the chefs in China Sichuan and the one in Fuchsia Dunlop’s Every Grain of Rice. I suspect every Chinese cook has their own variation. This is the recipe I was taught at Hutong Cuisine in Beijing last March by Chunyi who trained in Chengdu in Sichuan province and has now become my definitive version of the dish. Shane and Shan gave it the thumbs up for flavour although Shan said I could chop the beans smaller and add some more minced pork if I wanted to create a slightly different texture.
Dry stir-fried green beans – gan bian si ji dou
- 500 g green beans, cut into 5 cm lengths
- 60 g (or about 2 tbs) minced pork marinated with 1/2 tsp rice wine and 1/2 tsp light soy sauce
- 6 dried Chinese chillies, seeds removed, finely chopped
- 1 tsp Sichuan pepper, finely chopped
- 1 tsp minced ginger
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 spring onions, white part only, finely chopped
- 4 tbs Sichuan preserved vegetable – ya cai (Tianjin preserved vegetable can be used as a substitute).
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ to 1 tsp sugar
- ½ tsp sesame oil
- Heat the wok over high heat and season with 3 -4 tbs oil. Reduce the heat to medium, add the green beans and stir fry until fragrant and slightly burnt. This will take about 7 minutes. Remove the beans from the wok leaving the oil behind.
- Heat the remaining oil (about 1 tbs) over low heat. Add the Sichuan pepper and stir for a few seconds to release the flavour. Remove the peppercorns leaving the flavoured oil behind. Add the dried chillies and once they begin to brown add the minced pork and cook until well done, stirring to break up the pork.
- Add the ginger, garlic and spring onion, stir for about 10 seconds. Add the Sichuan preserved vegetable – ya cai – or Tianjin preserved vegetable and stir for 10 seconds.
- Return the green beans to the wok, season with salt and sugar. Stir for a minute or two to mix and heat through.
- Turn off the heat, add the sesame oil and serve immediately.
I used ya bing ya cai for this which I picked up in Beijing
but you can also use Tianjin Preserved Vegetable which is available in Asia Market in Drury Street Dublin and other Asian Markets in earthenware jars. If using this, rinse in a sieve under cold running water and squeeze out excess moisture to reduce the saltiness.