Tag Archives: cornflour

Sweet and Sour Horse

No, not Tesco’s latest tasty offering, but a re-post of something I originally offered at the start of the year of the rabbit, reheated for the year of the horse. Though having watched Ken Hom eat a traditional dish of fried rabbit’s head in Chengdu on TV this morning, perhaps horse wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all. Whatever your choice of meat, veg or tofu – a happy, prosperous and healthy year of the horse to one and all! 

Sweet and Sour Sauce in a Yin and Yang bowl

Learning a language as an adult is far more difficult than doing so as a child when the relevant bits of our brains are more plastic, malleable and hungry for linguistic stimuli. And as it is with language, so with tableware. I could read English by the time I went to nursery school, but I didn’t meet my first pair of chopsticks until I was in my twenties. By then I could speak knife and fork with ease, and could happily conjugate the correct cutlery course combinations for soup, fish, cheese etc. But my adult mind has never mastered more than a rudimentary grasp of chopsticks. My fingers lack fluency, and even when I do successfully manage to convey a morsel of food to my mouth I’m sure it’s done with a thick English accent, clearly audible to anyone within spitting distance whose mother tongue is chopsticks.

I learnt years ago that to leave one’s chopsticks in a bowl of food shows disrespect for one’s ancestors [that’s what the rests are for people, do not dis the dead], but I’m usually more worried about the disrespect for my dining companions shown by showering them with flicks of my food.

However having recently received some smart new pairs emblazoned with the animals of our birth years I decided we needed to inaugurate them at the dawn of the year of the rabbit. And that’s where a sticky sauce like this comes in very handy for a chopsticks dunce like me. It’s effectively food glue, and I’ll be less likely to starve if I can use it to entrap some errant grains of egg fried rice. There’ll be forks involved before we’ve finished for sure, but like learning just a few words of a new language, at least I’ll feel like I’ve made an effort.

“Gung Hay Fat Choy!”

Very many recipes suggest this same basic technique and combination of ingredients though the proportions vary slightly. I’m not sure how traditional an ingredient tomato ketchup is but it’s certainly popular! Take 100ml of Chinese rice vinegar, 3.5 tbsps brown or cane sugar, 2 tbsps tomato ketchup and 1 tsp of soy sauce. Boil all together in a small pan for a couple of minutes and then thicken with a rounded tsp of cornflour mixed with water. This gives you quite a thick, dark sauce which is probably best for dipping.

I wanted something looser and less intense, so added 200ml of passata, 100ml of water and another good glug of rice vinegar. If you’re doing the same taste the sauce and adjust with more vinegar or sugar to balance the sweet and sour. Quickly stir fry an onion and a pepper [roughly chopped], add cooked chicken [unsurprisingly leftovers in my case], then the sauce and chunks of tinned pineapple. After a quick bubble and stir it’s time to check and adjust again.

I had another wok on the go to fry cooked rice, spring onion, small strips of chilli, some finely shredded smoked duck, peas, a beaten egg and a generous splash of soy sauce. Fried rice is another good place to use up scraps of this and that – the duck was leftover from our recent fondue. If only I’d had a bit of rabbit.

The sauce itself is suitable for vegetarians and vegans. If you prefer not to have it with meat then some fried tofu would eat very well.

Wal-Slaw and PFC

 A coleslaw salad including celery and apple

Whilst to some of my younger readers this will clearly mark me out as some sort of antediluvian anachronism, I can actually remember a Britain before McDonalds. The golden arches didn’t make it to our sceptred isle until 1974, fully 6 years after I first landed, and it would be many years more before Ronald showed his face in the provincial backwater that was my childhood home.

Colonel Sanders on the other hand was quicker off the mark and KFC opened its first UK outlet in Preston in 1965. I don’t think the one I remember, a roadhouse style takeaway on Preston New Road, was the ground-breaker but it seemed always to have been there. We didn’t use it often – it was enough of a drive for the food to get cold before we got home, and being ‘foreign’ was clearly not intended for everyday consumption – but it was my first real introduction to the then exotic world of the fast food takeaway.

Perhaps because of this childhood association fried chicken still holds a special place in my arteries, and is one of the few fast food staples that I might still crave before 2:00 a.m. and whilst stone cold sober. The colonel’s spice mix is of course as secret as the recipe for Coca Cola [apparently not even the factories who make it know the exact proportions, which I would have thought could prove to be a tad awkward, manufacturing-wise?] but it’s not actually that difficult to cook up a reasonable facsimile at home. Many of the myriad American recipes available online use frankly frightening amounts of MSG but even if this did figure in the Colonel’s own mysterious mix you don’t need it. Plenty of good old fashioned salt and pepper does the trick.

Of course you can’t have fried chicken without some sort of slaw. When making this I had crunchy celery and apple to hand [as in a Waldorf Salad] and hey presto, Wal-Slaw was born! The sweet-corn is another classic fried chicken accompaniment so into the salad it went. A buttered baked potato finished off the finger lickin’ feast.

Wal-Slaw

  • Half a small red cabbage, finely shredded
  • Half an apple, diced
  • A shallot, finely diced
  • One carrot, grated
  • A small tin of sweet-corn kernels (not Colonels!)
  • Two sticks of celery, finely sliced
  • The juice of half a lemon
  • A splash of malt vinegar
  • Sufficient mayonnaise to bind

First dice the apple and toss in the lemon juice and vinegar. Then just throw everything else in and stir in the mayonnaise to your liking. Season and chill.

Philip’s Fried Chicken [PFC]

  • 6 chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
  • 4 tbsps plain flour
  • 1 soupspoon cornflour [optional]
  • 2 medium eggs, beaten
  • 2 tsps salt
  • 2 tsps ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp celery salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 stick of celery broken into four [optional]
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Soak the chicken thighs in the beaten egg and allow them to wallow for a while. Place the flour [and cornflour if using], seasoning and spices into a zip-lock plastic bag and shake well to combine. Throw the chicken pieces into the spiced flour, zip up the bag and shake well to coat them evenly. Rest the whole lot in the fridge for a few minutes whilst you heat up the oil and shake again.

In a heavy, lidded skillet or frying pan heat about half an inch of vegetable oil. The depth needs to be such that once the chicken is in the oil will not reach higher than half way up the side of the pan. To see when the oil is hot enough for frying insert the handle of a wooden spoon – when the oil forms lively bubbles around the handle you’re ready to go [NB very vigorous bubbling means the oil is too hot, allow it to cool a little and try again]. Using tongs gently place the chicken pieces into the oil, skin side down, and add the celery pieces if using – it may be an old wives’ tale but this is supposed to help to crisp the chicken.

Cover and cook for nine to ten minutes, checking from time to time that the underside isn’t browning too quickly – if it is, lower the heat. Again using tongs turn the pieces and cook for another nine to ten minutes but this time without the lid. When all the chicken pieces are beautifully golden brown all over remove from the oil and drain. Some say this is best done on brown paper such as a grocer’s bag but kitchen roll will do too. Let the chicken cool for a few minutes before you dig in to avoid southern fried lips, a less appealing dish by far.

Sweet and Sour

Sweet and Sour Sauce in a Yin and Yang bowl

Happy New Year to everyone celebrating the Spring Festival – may the year of the rabbit bring you prosperity, happiness and good health.

Learning a language as an adult is far more difficult than doing so as a child when the relevant bits of our brains are more plastic, malleable and hungry for linguistic stimuli. And as it is with language, so with tableware. I could read English by the time I went to nursery school, but I didn’t meet my first pair of chopsticks until I was in my twenties. By then I could speak knife and fork with ease, and could happily conjugate the correct cutlery course combinations for soup, fish, cheese etc. But my adult mind has never mastered more than a rudimentary grasp of chopsticks. My fingers lack fluency, and even when I do successfully manage to convey a morsel of food to my mouth I’m sure it’s done with a thick English accent, clearly audible to anyone within spitting distance whose mother tongue is chopsticks.

I learnt years ago that to leave one’s chopsticks in a bowl of food shows disrespect for one’s ancestors [that’s what the rests are for people, do not dis the dead], but I’m usually more worried about the disrespect for my dining companions shown by showering them with flicks of my food.

However having recently received some smart new pairs emblazoned with the animals of our birth years I decided we needed to inaugurate them at the dawn of the year of the rabbit. And that’s where a sticky sauce like this comes in very handy for a chopsticks dunce like me. It’s effectively food glue, and I’ll be less likely to starve if I can use it to entrap some errant grains of egg fried rice. There’ll be forks involved before we’ve finished for sure, but like learning just a few words of a new language, at least I’ll feel like I’ve made an effort.

“Gung Hay Fat Choy!”

Very many recipes suggest this same basic technique and combination of ingredients though the proportions vary slightly. I’m not sure how traditional an ingredient tomato ketchup is but it’s certainly popular! Take 100ml of Chinese rice vinegar, 3.5 tbsps brown or cane sugar, 2 tbsps tomato ketchup and 1 tsp of soy sauce. Boil all together in a small pan for a couple of minutes and then thicken with a rounded tsp of cornflour mixed with water. This gives you quite a thick, dark sauce which is probably best for dipping.

I wanted something looser and less intense, so added 200ml of passata, 100ml of water and another good glug of rice vinegar. If you’re doing the same taste the sauce and adjust with more vinegar or sugar to balance the sweet and sour. Quickly stir fry an onion and a pepper [roughly chopped], add cooked chicken [unsurprisingly leftovers in my case], then the sauce and chunks of tinned pineapple. After a quick bubble and stir it’s time to check and adjust again.

I had another wok on the go to fry cooked rice, spring onion, small strips of chilli, some finely shredded smoked duck, peas, a beaten egg and a generous splash of soy sauce. Fried rice is another good place to use up scraps of this and that – the duck was leftover from our recent fondue. If only I’d had a bit of rabbit.

The sauce itself is suitable for vegetarians and vegans. If you prefer not to have it with meat then some fried tofu would eat very well.

Fondue of Lancashire Bomb, Roasted Garlic and Zinfandel

 Fondue of Lancashire Bomb, Roasted Garlic and Zinfandel which is surprsingly purple!

Do not adjust your sets – this is supposed to be purple. It’s the red wine you see. Anyway it’s three for the price of one today, two fondues and a leftovers tip.

Here’s a game for you to play – try mentioning the word ‘fondue’ in conversation and see how long it is before someone says ‘retro revival’, or something similar. Well I’m sorry, but it’s got to stop. Fondue is no longer in ‘revival’. It is, officially, revived! Delicious but easy to prepare food which is ideal for sharing with friends is not only very contemporary but indeed a timeless concept, so ditch the flares [unless of course they’re the latest ‘revival’!] and dig out your fondue sets.

I’m done lecturing now.

For several  years I have owned a copy of the excellent recipe collection “Fondue – Great Food to Dip, Dunk, Savor and Swirl” by Rick Rodgers, but am so partial to my standard recipe that I have seldom strayed from it. Until now. ‘My’ recipe is not really mine at all but was given to me by my good friend Sophie Scott whose genius as a neuroscientist is equalled only by her genius in the vegetarian kitchen. Sophie, please forgive my meaty intrusions [and people, I will not tell you again about sniggering at the back!]. To make it use 200g each of Emmental, Gruyere and Keen’s Cheddar and 550ml white wine and follow the method below.

One of Rick’s recipes in particular had always intrigued me – a simple but intriguing mixture of fruity red Zinfandel, sweet roasted garlic and sharp cheddar. Then it occurred to me to substitute the cheddar with Andy Shorrock’s glorious Aged Lancashire Bomb [if you haven’t yet met the Lancashire Bomb you clearly haven’t been to yellowwedge cheese lately] and the excitement generated provided the momentum to break free of my customary ways. I have made some other slight changes to Rick’s recipe. If you want to see the original do buy the book [click on the picture below to find it on Amazon] – it’s a worthwhile investment.

Fondue, a book by Rick Rodgers [click to buy on Amazon]

Even the greatest fondue can be elevated further by the choice of dipping ingredients. My top tip?
V A R I E T Y. Yes there must be bread, but it doesn’t all have to be the same. A baguette is almost compulsory but accompany it with one or more others. We had a potato and rosemary sourdough. Cherry tomatoes are good, as are big chunks of mushroom sautéed with garlic, rosemary and a splash of sherry. Raid your local deli or deli counter too. Good chunks of thickly sliced ham, turkey, salami, pieces of smoked duck breast or slices of speck – whatever takes your fancy. What about mini chorizos, or big pieces of grilled Cumberland sausage [or like me, both]? Even pieces of apple and pear can make interesting dips for a cheese fondue. See below for some all vegetable suggestions if you don’t eat meat. Another top tip? Secure slipperier items like tomato or mushroom with a piece of bread on the fork too.

As I mentioned above, this does produce a purple coloured fondue. You might want to warn people about this. If you’re expecting a golden coloured gloop then it can come as something of a surprise. The Shopkeeper never quite got over the shock, and I think enjoyed the meal less because of it. Forewarned is forearmed, and all that.

Feeds six lactose tolerant adults

  • 1 original Shorrock’s Lancashire Bomb, wax and muslin removed
  • 100g Gruyere
  • 100g Beaufort [or if unavailable just use 200g Gruyere]
  • 40g Parmesan
  • 600ml Zinfandel, or other fruity red wine
  • 3 medium sized bulbs and 1 clove garlic
  • Some sprigs of thyme
  • A splash of olive oil
  • 1.5 tbsps cornflour slaked with Kirsch, Vodka, Cognac or water
  • Kitchen foil
  • A fondue set

First roast your garlic. Take the three bulbs, slice in half across their equators and drizzle with the olive oil, some thyme and salt, and re-assemble. Make a foil parcel for the bulbs, add the rest of the thyme and a splash more olive oil, seal tightly and roast in a 200˚C oven for around fifty minutes to an hour. They are done when the garlic is a deep caramel colour and can be easily squeezed from its skin. Squeeze out this sweet fragrant pulp, mash with a fork and set aside.

Next grate the cheese – for this amount I use a food processor. Cut the single clove of garlic in half and rub the insides of the fondue pot well with the cut surfaces.

Prepare your dipping ingredients other than the bread and arrange on a large platter around the base of the fondue. Tear or cut the bread at the last minute so that it doesn’t become dry. Warm the fondue pot over a low flame or in a low oven.

To make the fondue warm the wine in a pan until you see the tremble just before the simmer. Add one handful of cheese at a time, stirring with a whisk until each has melted before adding the next. Once it is all incorporated add the puree of roast garlic and stir well, then add the cornflour mixture until the fondue thickens to your desired consistency. Transfer to the warmed fondue pot and set this atop it’s burner in the centre of the table.

Asking your guests to stir well with each dip will to help to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pan. You can also introduce forfeits for dropped morsels of food, but if you go as far as something like removing an item of clothing you might want to have a few stiff shots of the kirsch before you begin!

However much fondue I start with, and however many people are eating, I always seem to end up with about an inch left in the bottom of the pot. If you have the same then allow it to cool, scrape it out of the pot [removing any mislaid bits of bread], and reserve for the following day along with any stray scraps of your meatier dipping ingredients.

The following day…

Sauté an onion and a clove of garlic. Add your leftover pieces of mushroom, ham etc. and a splash of wine. Tip in a tin of tomatoes or some passata, simmer away for a few minutes then stir in your leftover fondue. Serve with some penne or macaroni, straight away or as a pasta bake.

At the risk of sounding obvious all of the above can serve as a vegetarian feast by omitting meaty dipping ingredients. The list of vegetable alternatives is endless, but why not try some chunks of caramelised fennel, charred wedges of red pepper and sautéed baby onions? With the exception of tomatoes I find that cooked [but still crunchy] veg make happier fondue bed fellows than raw.