Chilli Fried Squid with Flahavan's Multi Seed Oat Flakes

When I visited London last week I used the opportunity to get a small taste of the variety of Chinese food on offer and to rue the absence of a wide range of Chinese cuisine in restaurants here in Ireland. I will write up the little I learned in the coming days but meanwhile two dishes caught my eye – one was an unusual dish of a tempura style cauliflower which I had in YMing in Greek Street, Soho. I wrote about my lovely experience in in the restaurant last week. The manager at YMing served the cauliflower to me with prawns.

Cauliflower and Prawns as served by YMing

The second was a dish of chilli fried squid with oatmeal and curry leaf which I had for lunch at Yauatcha, Broadwick St, London, an upmarket dim sum restaurant, resembling a night club, recommended to me by Kevin Hui of the China Sichuan in Sandyford, Dublin.
Chilli fried squid with oatmeal and curry leaf from Yauatcha

I set out to try and recreate both dishes at home tonight using Irish cauliflower, squid from my favourite south Co. Dublin fishmongers Roberts of Dalkey and good old Flahavan’s Porridge Oats – the multi-seed variety – which is one of the Love Irish Food brands.
I based the recipe on Fuschia Dunlop’s traditional Salt and Pepper Squid – Jiao Yan You Yu – which she included in her recent book Every Grain of Rice and I also took into account what I learnt about preparing seafood inside the kitchen of the China Sichuan.
It was only tonight that I realised that the jiao yan of “salt-and-pepper” is three parts salt to one part ground roasted Sichuan pepper and an extremely versatile seasoning and dip.
I also have to admit that I didn’t know what curry leaves were until my Twitter pals enlightened me this evening and then I only managed to find them thanks to a closing-time dash by Peter of Roberts of Dalkey to nearby Select Stores where he grabbed the last remaining pack they had in stock. Now that’s what I call service.
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Unveiling the Secrets of the Red Lantern

When I was discussing Asian food with Kevin Hui, owner of the China Sichuan recently, he mentioned his interest in Vietnamese food and his belief that it will grow in popularity in Ireland in the coming years. He introduced me to the writings of Luke Nguyen and lent me his book Indochine which documents the profound effect of the French on Vietnamese cuisine. He told me a little of Luke’s fascinating personal journey from being born in a Thai refugee camp, after his family fled Vietnam as boat people, to becoming chef and owner of the award-winning Sydney Vietnamese restaurant, The Red Lantern.
I’ve ordered the book Luke co-authored with his sister Pauline Nguyen, Secrets of the Red Lantern, from Amazon, so that I can get some sense of how Vietnamese food differs from Chinese.  I look forward to trying out some of his recipes starting with this one which, in yet another coincidence, @Pat_Whelan passed my way recently. These Red Lantern Crisp Parcels – Cha Gio – are another take on spring rolls and different in filling and dipping sauce to the recipe I used earlier today.
But first I wanted to hear first hand what his food is like.
So, after whetting my daughter Claire’s appetite with a sumptuous Chinese meal at the China Sichuan when she was home in Dublin for a few days recently, I despatched her and Mike for dinner at The Red Lantern, on one condition – that they would review it for me (I love this delegation lark). I will let her take up the story from there.
“Review of Red Lantern on Riley
No AA Gill, my review can be summed up in one word, YUMMY!
I was thrilled when Mum (Shananigans blogger, social media guru and slighted obsessed Chinese cooking nut!) asked if she might send myself and my husband Mike off to the Red Lantern so that I could review it for her blog. It ended up being our 2nd Anniversary celebatory dinner following a trip home to the UK and Ireland, where incidentally I ate more Chinese food than on my trip to Beijing in June!
First up I must confess that I booked us into the wrong place. I had thought that we were going to the original Red Lantern on Crown St but we were actually eating in the 4 month old new addition to the the Nguyen clan food empire on Reilly St. The restaurant is the brainchild of TV chef Luke Nguyen, his sister Pauline, brother-in-law and chef Mark Jensen and partner Suzanna Boyd.
My initial disappointment at my mistake was quickly dashed on arriving at the restaurant, cozy and dark with red wallpaper and obvious Saigon influences in the furnishing. Tables are close together but not on top of each other. My husband does not enjoy it when you are sitting on the knee of the person next to you so he was suitably pleased. Best of all the kitchen is glass fronted so you can see the chefs working away and the dance of an Asian kitchen in full flow.
The staff are great and put my inner waitress at ease immediately. They are the right mixture of bubbly, knowledgeable and engaged. They got us started with a cocktail from Red Lilly the funky cocktail bar at the restaurant. Mike had a whiskey sour which he enjoyed and I had a Halong Breeze, yum, I’m a sucker for anything with passion fruit and vodka!

Life’s a (Halong) breeze in Sydney

We decided to have the 5 course tasting menu plus wines (thanks Julie and Derry) called ‘Delicious Dalat’ at $135 with matching wine.
The first course was Goi Cha Cuon, soft rice paper rolled with pork and duck terrine, vermicelli, cabbage and pickled carrot and Muc Rang Muoi lightly battered chili salted squid with fresh lemon and white pepper dipping sauce. In Vietnam we took part in a Vietnamese cooking class in Hoi An and I can tell you the Red Lantern’s rice paper rolls were a lot better than my attempt! Both the rolls and the chili squid were very tasty and a great start to the meal. Continue reading Unveiling the Secrets of the Red Lantern

Cold Comfort 3 – Warm Chocolate Puddings

There’s something about the aroma of chocolate cooking in the oven that makes you feel like having dessert beforedinner. Green & Black’s chocolate, with 72% cocoa solids, was still a novelty in 2004 when Catherine Cleary (@Catherineeats) developed this recipe for the Sunday Tribune after getting a present of the chocolate from her sister-in-law.

Chocolate puddings served up
Warm chocolate puds with raspberry coulis and fresh cream

Now there are lots of great Irish chocolates to choose from and I used Ó’Conaill Chocolate from Cork. Their coverture chocolate which I picked up in Superquinn has a 70% cocoa content and a lovely texture to work with. It is made using cocoa butter and has a clean, precise “snap” on breaking and a smooth full-bodied taste.
O’Conaill Chocolatiers

These delicious little puddings have no flour in them so they are a decadent dessert for the wheat intolerant among us. They are a lovely way to finish off a meal after a starter of Mango Goat’s Cheese and Parma Melts and Chilli Steak with Just-Cooked Greens. Continue reading Cold Comfort 3 – Warm Chocolate Puddings

Cold Comfort 1 – Mango Goats Cheese and Parma Melts

Do you feel like pretending, just for a day that we are back in 2004 with all that self-confidence, ebullience and inflated sense of our own wealth? Well you can pretend in the kitchen at least with this fast and cheerful meal – what Catherine Cleary (@Catherineeats) called “a happy meal without the fries” when she published it in her Food & Drink column in the Sunday Tribune on 18th January, 2004.
I love recipes cut out from newspapers, the memories they evoke, and they way they remind you how life has moved on in the meantime. I found a treasure trove of them at the back of a cupboard the other night, some going back to the early 1970s and I look forward to re-discovering some old favourites.
Meanwhile I promised to post the starter and desert from Catherine’s 2004 menu so that you too can re-create the full dinner menu including her Chilli steak with just-cooked greens and a dessert of Warm Chocolate Puddings. There’s nothing the least bit Asian about the starter and desserts but the 3 dishes work well together for easy entertaining or a family dinner.
Don’t you just love the reference to the old pound coin below? Any chance we could have it back please??
Mango goats cheese and Parma melts

Mango goats cheese and Parma melts

When I used to make this starter back in 2004, I struggled with getting the “towers” to stay upright during cooking. This time I used Good Food Ireland member Ardsallagh Soft Goats Cheese from Carrigtwohill close to Cork City  in Ireland (@Ardsallaghgoats). it was the perfect consistency for the dish – smooth and creamy but sufficiently firm to hold together for 20 minutes in the oven, even without the benefit of cocktail sticks.
The quantity below could serve 4 people but I like to serve two goat’s cheese towers per person so feel free to double the quantities. Continue reading Cold Comfort 1 – Mango Goats Cheese and Parma Melts

Dishing up Shan's Black Pepper Beef

One of the joys of Chinese cooking is the possibility of dishing up a tasty meal in mere minutes.
In preparation for cooking Shan’s Black Pepper Beef I decided to do some homework on Chinese cooking. Thanks to a blogger/ tweeter friend The Silver Chicken @silverchicken1 I discovered Gok Cooks Chinese – a six week, Channel 4 TV series in which Gok Wan @therealgokwan, a well known fashion expert (who I have to admit I’d never heard of before today – sorry Gok) recreates his family’s recipes and cooks them alongside his Dad, Papa Wan.
So far I’ve only had the chance to watch the first episode on “Catch Up” on Channel 4’s 4oD App on iPad (only accessible in the UK and Ireland) but a few things were obvious – preparation is key – line up your bottled Chinese flavourings, have all the fresh ingredients prepped and in separate bowls in advance and cooking is a cinch. Visit http://dcwcasing.com/ for more details.
It wasn’t difficult to find Oyster sauce and Shaoxing Chinese Rice Wine in Good Food Ireland Member Kate’s Farm Shop in Wexford, Ireland along with all the fresh vegetables I needed and the excellent fillet beef came from Wallace’s SuperValu in Wellington Bridge, Wexford. I used groundnut oil for cooking to give that authentic Chinese flavour but rapeseed or sunflower oil could also be used,

All set and ready to cook

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