“The Summer Palace is a sprawling imperial encampment of temples, pavilions and halls set in a park around the vast Kumming Lake. The imperial family once used this wonderland of noble follies as a summer residence. If the weather is is fine, a visit here can make for a memorable day…” Thus said my favourite guide book to China from National Geographic Traveller (and by the way I strongly recommend National Geographic Guide Books for those who would rather a traveller than a tourist be). We had missed it on our winter visit to Beijing 5 years ago, so last July we set out with Claire and Mike, 11 km north west of Central Beijing, expecting something like this:
Instead we endured one of those misty, smoggy Beijing days when it was hard to appreciate fully the beauty of the place.
I somehow doubt that the Imperial family of old would have tolerated the smog of Beijing extending to their summer hideaway. All the same the elaborate Marble Boat and the views from the Pagoda of Buddhist Fragrance conveyed a sense of the decadence and sumptuousness of the glittering playground it must once have been.
We had hoped to visit the restaurant at the Aman Resort at the Summer Palace which had been recommended to me by Twitter friend @paulshoebox but we didn’t manage it this time around.A few weeks ago I cooked @Pat_Whelan ‘s very special Wagyu beef from his herd at Garrentemple, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary for the first time,. The meat is high in omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids as a result of its intense marbling. It is also significantly lower in saturated fat and higher in healthy monounsaturated fat making it far healthier than any other breed of beef available on the market. The beef is dry-aged for a minimum of 21 days.Before deciding how to prepare it I did lots of research by Twitter and I finally settled on making a Shabu Shabu hotpot which was very successful. But there were those, including Shane’s foodie friend and restaurant reviewer Carl Hayward in Beijing, who felt a better way to treat this delicate and precious beef would be to pan fry it as a steak.
Last weekend we were celebrating, long distance, the official marriage of Shane and Shan in China so I decided it was a sufficiently special occasion to be an excuse for purchasing some strip loin Wagyu steaks on line from James Whelan’s Butchers. This time I decided to use the method Carl learned when he attended a cooking class with, and subsequently interviewed, Japanese chef Naoki Okumura who, as it happens, is the executive chef at the Japanese restaurant in the Aman Resort at Summer Palace. Carl’s interview was published in That’s Beijing and you can read it here. Continue reading Wagyu Steak Naoki Style
This is where the roller coaster comes in. The emotional roller-coaster that is. Our daughter Claire (@ClaireB-Oz) breezes in and out of our lives like a whirlwind leaving a tangle of images and memories in her wake.
Yesterday Claire and myself met up with my friend and Italian teacher Solange who recently gave birth to identical twins. I get to see these gorgeous little boys once a week and there is nothing more delicious than nuzzling the baby-soft skin at the nape of their necks. This morning at Dublin Airport I tucked in a stray label in the back of Claire’s hoody just before she passed through security and suddenly the image of her as a tiny baby who I could wrap up and protect came flooding back. Once a Mammy always a Mammy I guess.
Anyway we had a fantastic few days including a wonderful send-off meal in China Sichuan last night where Kevin did us proud with a “no menu” spread that included whole Irish lobster and Sichuan rabbit. Claire has gone back saying she ate more Chinese food here than when in China and armed with Gok Cooks Chinese and Fuchsia Dunlop’s Every Grain of Rice and lots of good intentions to cook and contribute to the blog.
Of all the memories of Claire’s visit, one of the nicest is of Claire and her friend Diane filling spring rolls on the butchers block in my kitchen, glass of wine at hand, chattering ninety to the dozen as they caught up on all the news and gossip.
From the day I started this blog Pat Whelan (@Pat_Whelan) of James Whelan Butchers has been asking me when I am going to make spring rolls. There’s not much point making them unless you have an excuse to prepare a batch of 20 or more, so having a gang in for the wagyu hotpot the other night was a great opportunity to experiment and serve them as an appetiser. Then I realised I had taken on far too much for a mid-week dinner party after a long day’s work so I was very glad when Claire and Diane rolled up their sleeves and got stuck in as very competent sous chefs.
I never had a spring roll in China and I find the stodgy versions you get from Chinese takeaways here very off-putting so I searched around all my cookbooks to find a recipe that might have a fresher, lighter taste. The recipe below is in The Food of China – A Journey for Food Lovers and the homemade plum sauce is from Gok Cooks Chinese.