Summer has arrived in Ireland at last. The temperatures are heading for 30 degrees. While in China they dial up the chilli heat when the temperature and humidity rise, here in the drier heat of Ireland I find myself reaching for a simpler, lighter dish with lots of vegetables that’s good to enjoy outside on a balmy evening.
This is a Cantonese style recipe that was submitted as part of the Chinese New Year celebrations back in early February by the New Millennium Restaurant in the city centre of Dublin – the restaurant is just along from the Gaiety Theatre – I’ve adapted it slightly to include Pickled Shitake Mushroom prepared to a recipe given to me by Tom Walsh, Chef at Samphire at the Waterside, Donabate.
The pickled mushrooms are yet another ingredient that you can make up a batch of to have in your fridge or store cupboard along with Tom Chef’s Chilli Jam and Homemade Chilli Oil. So far I’ve discovered these mushrooms work well with steak marinaded in a soy based chinese sauce and griddled on the barbecue, mixed in with a duck noodle salad or on the side with oven roasted whole duck or duck breast.
This simple, non-spicy supper dish will tickle your taste buds and go a long way to meeting your 5-a-day vegetable intake. Stir-fried Chicken with Pickled Shitake Mushrooms
Serves 2 to 3 Ingredients:
1 large egg white
½ to 1 tsalt
¼ to 1 tpepper
2-3 t groundnut oil
1 tlight soysauce
2 cloves of garlic, each sliced into 5 pieces
6-8 large stalkshinly sliced on the diagonal
4 thin of ginger, peeled from a thumb of ginger
5 or 6 pieces of canned bamboo shoot
About 8 thick slices of Tom Chef’s Pickled Shitake Mushrooms, drained (see below)
1 t oyster sauce
1 t of wine
Preparation and cooking:
Cut the chicken into thin strips.
Mix with egg, corn, 1/2 ofsalt, 1/4 t of pepper and soy sauce until smooth.
Hea of vegetable oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Add all of the coated chicken strips and the garlic to the wok. Cook about 5 minutes until chicken pieces turn golden making sure not to burn the garlic. Transfer to a plate.
Add celery, carrots, ginger 150 ml boiling water for 30 secondshen on a plate.
Heat 1 tablespoon of groundnut oil in the wokchicken strips the wok. Cook about 3-4 min
the oyster saucesugar and cooking and cook for about 1 more minute until bubbling.
Tom Chef’s Pickled Shitake Mushrooms
1kg fresh shitake mushrooms, stems removed and thickly sliced
500ml Chinese white rice wine vinegar (or ordinary white wine vinegar)
250 ml bottled still water
200g castor sugar
a few star anise
A few cloves
2 or 3 bay leaves
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
Simply boil all the pickle ingredients except the mushrooms.
Chill the pickle then add the sliced mushrooms.
Leave to infuse, covered over night, then store in sterilised kilner jars in the fridge until needed.
If you haven’t time to make the pickled shitake mushrooms, use a few canned straw mushrooms drained and sliced or a handful of dried shitake mushrooms soaked for about 20 minutes in hot water, then drained, the moisture squeezed out of them, stem removed and thickly sliced.
You will get canned bamboo shoots in most supermarket – Blue Dragon is a reliable brand – and the leftovers will keep in a sealed container in the fridge. Canned straw mushrooms are available in the Asia Market.
We’ve a little thing going on my four month old grandson and I. We dance around the bedroom to the same song, “Tiny Dancer”, each day of this his brief visit home. He joins in the fun as I sing along out of tune.
We converse. I tell him what I think is important, how I feel about him, what it’s like to have him snuggle against me and chew my shoulder with his teething gums, how I will never forget these moments. He stretches his legs, bounces on my lap and answers with intense concentration, with burbles and giggles and smiles as he struggles to articulate … He seems to understand….
I thought of that tonight as I listened to the writer John Banville in conversation with Olivia O’Leary. What distinguishes humans from animals, he said, is the ability to use words, the capacity to create sentences. I wonder what sentence Dermot will speak first and in what language…
We had our own little Gathering last Sunday, one of those days from which memories are carved.
We were joined for a BBQ in our garden by my Italian friend Solange, her Argentinian husband Agustin and their identical twins, just 10 months old.
The last time we adults had all been together was for Christmas 2011 when Shan came to visit us for the first time. That was very special as Claire and her Welsh husband Mike were also able to be with us from Australia for part of the time, an event described by one wit on Twitter as a cross between the Davos Convention and an international rugby tournament.
This time we were feeling the absence of Claire and Mike but the sun was beating down from a cloudless sky, and it was still a day to savour.
While she has attempted to teach me Italian, I have kept company with Solange through her journey into motherhood and she has supported me as I adapted to being a long distance granny, sharing hugs from her little boys. It felt important to introduce these three little people to one another with the hope that some day “i cugini” might become friends.
Well “introduce” might be pushing it a bit but they all got to eye one another up with varying degrees of interest while one set of parents remembered what it was like to cuddle a snuggly little person and the others imagined a day when their little man would be taking off on all fours at a rapid pace to explore a small urban jungle.
Between us we had at least 6 languages – English, Mandarin, Italian, Spanish, Romanian and Irish – and 5 nationalities, but the 3 little boys all hold Irish passports and are set to be multilingual citizens of the 21st century.
In all the circumstances it seemed appropriate to have a barbecue that was a bit Irish, a bit Chinese and a bit Italian so a big thank you to Rozanne Stevens for the inspiration in her new Relish BBQ book.
From it I chose:
an Italianish main course of Norman’s butterflied leg of lamb with lively salsa
an Asian mushroom, pak choi and potato salad and
a Chinesish dessert of lychee jam jar cheese cake.
All were a resounding success.
For starters I recreated an Irish take on a Chinese classic – confit duck spring rolls from Chef Tom Walsh of Samphire at the Waterside in Donobate who gave me this recipe for a post I did for Taste of China during this year’s Chinese New Year Festival. Tom was one of the nominees for chef of the year in the Dublin regional finals of the Restaurant Association of Ireland Awards this week. Pay his restaurant a visit and enjoy his great food. Tom Chef’s Confit Duck Spring Rolls
1. Confit Duck Legs: Ingredients:
2 duck legs
Salt and pepper
2 jars of duck fat or goose fat
A few sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme
A few whole cloves garlic
2 star anise
Allow the duck legs to dry out at room temperature and season well with salt and pepper.
Place in a small oven proof dish along with the rosemary, thyme, garlic and star anise.
Melt the duck or goose fat and pour over the duck legs making sure they are covered completely. (Top up with light olive oil or sunflower oil if necessary.)
Cover with foil and confit slowly in the oven at low temperature until the duck meat is falling away from the bone – at least 1 ½ hours at 130 degrees C, or you can cook at 110/120 degrees C for several hours.
2. Duck Spring Rolls: Ingredients:
2 confit duck legs (as above)
1 carrot cut into thin julienne strips
1 red onion thinly sliced
100g bean sprouts
1 tbs oyster sauce
1 clove garlic (crushed)
20g pickled ginger*
25g chopped coriander
25g chopped chervil
6 sheets of spring roll pastry 10’’ square
1 egg white
Sunflower oil for deep-frying
Chilli jam* to serve
Corander and/or chervil to garnish
*See below Preparation:
Shred the confit duck leg and mix with all the other prepared ingredients. Taste and adjust the seasoning to taste.
Take 1 ½ sheets of pastry for each spring roll.
Placing a full sheet down and a half on top, from one corner, fill the doubled-side, near the centre with some duck mix.
Starting at the doubled corner, roll to half way then fold in the sides and continue rolling to the end.
Brush some egg white on the far corner to stick the pastry together.
Fill a wok about a third full with sunflower oil and heat until a cube of bread turns golden in a few seconds. Deep fry the springrolls until golden.
Slice each spring roll in two on the diagonal and serve with the chilli jam garnished with coriander and/ or chervil.
3. Pickled Ginger:
You can buy pickled ginger but I love Tom’s homemade version which keeps for weeks in the fridge. Ingredients:
200g fresh ginger
250g white wine vinegar
125g still mineral water
2 star anise
2 bay leaves
Good sprig of thyme
Weigh all the ingredients, except the ginger into a saucepan.
Bring to the boil all and leave to chill.
Peel and slice the ginger and steep in the chilled pickle.
Store in a sealed container in the fridge.
4. Tom Chef’s Chilli Jam
Since Tom gave me this recipe, I have served it as a dip with everything from crisps to barbecued chicken wings and my guests rave about it. Bottled chilli jam will never again cross our threshold. It keeps indefinitely in a Kilner jar in the fridge. It is very simple to make, just take a little care to cook it slowly so that it doesn’t burn. Ingredients:
6-8 red chilli peppers chopped roughly
300g castor sugar
300g white rice wine vinegar (ordinary white wine vinegar will do)
Place all the ingredients in a small saucepan, bring to the boil and cook gently to reduce to a syrupy, jam-like consistency being careful not to burn.
Blend with a stick blender.
Store in a sealed container in the fridge.
5. Homemade Chilli Oil
And while I’m on a roll, here’s another store cupboard condiment that transcends western and Chinese flavours and is great for barbecues. I picked up this recipe at cookery class in Hutong Cuisine in Beijing. It is simple to prepare and, once savoured, you will never want a shop bought version again. In recent weeks I’ve brushed this over prawns and crab claws and sizzled them on the BBQ, painted it on to fish fillets to be baked in the oven and drizzled it over Italian pizza, even though it was originally just intended to accompany this Sichuan Spicy Chicken Salad. Ingredients:
2 thumbnail size pieces of cinnamon (preferably the wider Chinese type)
1 tsp of Sichuan peppercorns
1 large cardamom pod, crushed to release seeds (preferably the large black Chinese cardamom pods)
4 bay leaves
4 tsp Pixian broad bean paste (Lee Kum Kee Toban Djan chilli bean sauce, which is readily available in Ireland can be used instead)
2 slices of ginger
1 spring onion, white part only, cut in two
4 tbs crushed chillies
2 tsp sesame seeds
Heat the oil in a wok over low heat and add all the ingredients except the chillies and sesame seeds. Stir slowly over gentle heat for at least 8 to 10 minutes until the spices have begun to turn brown in colour, released their fragrance and infused the oil.
Sieve the oil and discard the spices. By this time it should have turned into a gorgeous warm red colour. Return it to the wok with the crushed chillies and sesame seeds. Stir over a very low heat until the chilli has turned light brown in colour.
When cool, pour the oil into a glass container and keep over night before use. Store unused oil indefinitely in an airtight jar.
Yes when Chinese meets Irish meets Italian, who knows what fun things can happen.
Grazie Solange, Agus, Oli e Fredi per la giornata indimenticabile 🙂
I’ve been enjoying cooking “fish fragrant” recipes since I started this blog and I have discovered several different ways of creating the salty, spicy, sweet, sour yu xiang flavour which the people of Sichuan love to use in their land-locked region to recall the flavours they associate with fish. The description often causes confusion among westerners as there is no fish or fish sauce used in these recipes.
The first time I made fish fragrant pork I used a recipe given to me by Chef Ricky when I went inside the kitchen of China Sichuan in Dublin and you can read it here. That version used chilli garlic sauce and owner Kevin Hui told me that in the early years they described it as Pork in Spicy Garlic Sauce on the menu to avoid putting off diners!
More recently I’ve cooked fish fragrant pork using fish fragrance marinaded peppers, as prepared by the chefs of China Sichuan at the Taste of China cookery demonstration. Before I left for China I promised to post the recipe for using this marinade and it is now below.
I know some of you have had these marinaded peppers in your fridge for at least 3 weeks now so it should be nicely flavourful. I used my now 9 week old marinade tonight, this time with chicken, and it was delicious.
When I visited Beijing recently, I learned how to make a classic fish fragrant sauce based on pickled chillies chopped to a puree with a cleaver blade. The recipe for fish fragrant aubergine below is the one taught to me by Chefs Chun Yi and Chao at Hutong Cuisine in Beijing and is the way Chun Yi learnt to make it when she trained as a chef in Chengdu in Sichuan Province. Hutong Cuisine fish fragrant aubergine – yu xiang qie zi
I figure I’d better give you my lovely readers a few new recipes soon or you will begin to think that this is less of a food blog and more “The Ramblings of a Besotted Nai Nai”. So to start with here are two I practised at Hutong Cuisine in Beijing – Sichuan spicy chicken salad and homemade chilli oil.
I learned such a lot from the lovely Chunyi and Chao at Hutong Cuisine. Their cookery school has a cosy, personalised feel as if you were in your Granny’s kitchen – if your Granny was Chinese and lived in a courtyard house in a hutong that is! Claire and Mike also attended a class there and were equally impressed.
Once I got over jetlag I relished getting back into the kitchen at home at the end of a busy day although I miss using a gas hob and the ease with which you can tell on sight whether you have the “fire heat” correct. I had discovered that the single biggest mistake I was making in my Chinese cooking was the assumption that “high heat = good” and I have been over-using the boost function on my induction hob as a result. In nearly every new recipe I learnt, the trick in releasing flavour lay in cooking the oil over moderate or gentle heat. Already this has begun to transform the results.
Take home made chilli oil for instance – la jiao. Many Sichuan recipes call for a tablespoon or two of chilli oil with sediment and a dash of it can enliven milder Cantonese dishes. Up to now I’ve been making do with bottled chilli oil from the Asia market but not any more. The recipe below can be prepared and cooked very easily and bottled to use when required. Once tasted there is no going back to a shop bought Chinese version. So when I had a sudden longing for a Friday evening Sichuan kick and a fix of Dan Dan noodles, it was as good a time as any to make up a batch so that I could use some in the sauce. Home Made Chilli Oil –la jiao
I used a good quality organic Irish rapeseed oil to make this as I love its flavour and I guessed its rich golden colour would become a beautiful shade of red as it became infused with the spices and seasonings. Crushed chillies, picked up on my expedition to Jiang Tai market with qing jia mu, added flecks of colour, texture and sediment to the oil. (At cookery class we used vegetable oil and ground chilli powder). This oil will keep indefinitely in an airtight jar. Ingredients:Continue reading Sichuan Spicy Chicken Salad with Home Made Chilli Oil
This is just a quick little post because some of you have been asking for the recipe for the chilli jam which chef Tom Walsh of Samphire@TheWaterside, Donabate included in his recipe for Spring Rolls of Confit Duck which is on the Taste of China section of the Dublin Chinese New Year Festival website. You can read his full recipe here.
Here it is – simplicity itself, absolutely delicious and goes with so many things, not just Chinese food. Try it with cheese, meat pies, or as my sister-in-law Dervilla did, with pasties.
6-8 red chilli peppers chopped roughly
300g castor sugar
300g white wine vinegar
Bring to the boil and cook gently to reduce to a syrupy, jam consistency being careful not to burn.
Blend with a stick blender.
This will keep for a long time if stored in a sealed container in the fridge.
My sister-in-law Dervilla made a version of the jam yesterday. She didn’t blitz it because she liked the appearance of chilli seeds throughout the jam. Her jam is also more orange in colour because she had no wine vinegar in the store cupboard so she used a white malt one instead. Thanks for sharing Dervilla and thanks for the inspiration Tom. 🙂