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.
There is such a thing as grace.
This evening, some 40 of my mother in law Alice O’Neill’s immediate family gathered in the room where she held court for so many years to mark 4 weeks from her passing with a “Month’s Mind” Mass celebrated by her and our good friend Fr. Malcolm. We ranged in age from her youngest great grand-child barely 1 to nearly 76 years of age. We piled into that small space grabbing slots on stools or cushions and, whether you had a religious bone in your body or not, you could not fail to be moved by the quiet peace that descended on the room as we followed an age old ritual. Her presence cast a soothing warmth on the gathering and I could sense her quiet smile of delight as she surveyed the crowd that gathered to remember her. In large families, even your children, their spouses and those grandchildren close at hand are enough to generate a satisfying crowd.
The occasion was doubly poignant because earlier this week we lost Mrs O’Neill’s daughter, my lovely sister-in-law Deirdre after a short but vicious illness. That is a death that is even harder to come to terms with – a young woman leaving behind a husband, 3 sons, a young daughter, 4 sisters and 5 brothers, all devastated by her loss. Dee – warm, generous, funny, colourful, loyal, free-spirited, a leader, determined, a keeper of promises – we miss you.
I know at times in the past few weeks, as we came to terms with the finality of Dee’s illness, our emotions ranged from disbelief to anger to deep sadness to numbness and a bone-rattling, chilling shock. Tonight, in that room, there was something else, a quiet acceptance, a letting go and a communal sense of love and compassion.
Afterwards we ate beef-filled pasties prepared by the sisters to their mother’s recipe, shaped like the jiaozi pot-sticker dumplings served at Chinese family get togethers – dumplings to remind you how family wrap themselves around you even when you are far away.
Shane commented to Shan earlier this week in Beijing that it had been a rotten start to the year and she replied that no, it was just a bad end to the old year. Because, as the last moon of the lunar year wanes, Chinese people across the world prepare to say farewell to the year of the dragon. The year of the snake is almost here. In our house, we are all in favour of starting the new year over.
As we wait to see if Shane and Shan’s baby will be a Dragon or a Snake, the time seemed right for me to embrace this new dimension of our family and our tiny Sino-Irish dynasty in the making. So I have been collaborating with the Dublin Chinese New Year Festival to develop a new dimension to the festival this year – A Taste of China. You can read all about it here.
Over the next few weeks, we hope to post a different recipe each day from a wide variety of restaurants around Dublin and further afield, both Chinese restaurants and Irish restaurants where the chefs are even a little bit susceptible to Asian fusion influences. First up are recipes for Stir-fried Chicken with Celery from New Millennium Restaurant in Dublin and Confit Duck Spring Rolls from Tom Walsh, Head Chef at Samphire@The Waterside.
We hope you will join in the fun and if you are a chef, restauranteur or food blogger who would like your recipe included on the Chinese New Year website, just leave a message here, a comment on my blog or DM me on Twitter @julieon.
Here in our family, we have all been changed by the events or recent weeks, in ways we don’t yet fully understand. But we owe it to the generation yet unborn to continue to nurture the multi-cultural traditions of family. And what better way to do that than through food.
春节快乐 Happy Spring Festival