Tag Archives: rice

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.

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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.

Risotto of Peas, Mint and Paski Sir [with or without leftover lamb!]

Another risotto, but a traditionally made one this time – albeit with a less than traditional ingredient in the form of Paški Sir, of which more later. For a vegetarian version omit the lamb and use vegetable stock.

 Paski Sir, a Croatian ewe's milk cheese

Since my old friend Geoff first taught me to make a proper risotto in his tiny Battersea kitchen some twenty odd years ago I’ve always found it a really gratifying way to spend twenty odd minutes of my time. It does demand your 100% attention for a while but your efforts are repaid many-fold, and the constant, controlled stirring and the slow addition of stock have a meditative rhythm all of their own.

Paški Sir is a hard ewe’s milk cheese from Croatian island of Pag, and we think it’s quite a discovery. The cheese has the sweetness of sheep’s milk, hints of the herby meadows where the sheep graze, and gains further complexity by being rubbed with olive and ash before maturing. Last time I checked yellowwedge cheese was one of only two UK stockists but after its recent success at the World Cheese Awards [winning the Barber’s Trophy for Best New Cheese] I’m pretty sure that there will soon be plenty of others.

Use a good flavourful stock for this dish, perhaps reduce one you already have until further intensified. I had a bulb of roasted garlic to hand and added this to my stock for its sweetness and depth of flavour.

The leftover lamb is not essential, and if making a vegetarian version clearly you’ll want to leave it out, but I had some leftover shank from an earlier braise and the other ingredients – peas, garlic, mint for heaven’s sake – seemed to be crying out for it. And as I had hoped it worked well with the Paški Sir, but then ewe’s milk cheeses do have an almost incestuous affinity with lamb. If you don’t believe me trying following your next roast lamb dinner with a cheese board of Wigmore, Beenleigh Blue and Paški Sir [or Manchego if you can’t get hold of any]. If you are using it tear and / or chop the lamb into small slivers and nuggets. Be sure to do this and all the other prep before you start.

The shopkeeper has a deep seated aversion to re-heated lamb [I have not been able to cook proper shepherd’s pie at home for over 15 years!] and there was much grumbling and muttering about potential take-aways during the preparation, but in the end the entire bowlful disappeared without complaint. It may even have been enjoyed.

Easily feeds two, especially when one of them doesn’t want any in the first place

  • 175g risotto rice
  • 60g butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 fat clove of garlic, or a couple of skinny ones, crushed
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1.5 tsps mint sauce
  • 200g frozen peas, defrosted
  • 750ml of good chicken or vegetable stock [see above]
  • 75ml vermouth or white wine
  • 120g leftover lamb [optional]
  • 120g Paški Sir, two thirds finely grated and one third coarsely grated or shaved into ribbons

Melt the butter and add the onions, some salt and about a teaspoonful of the mint, the rest of which will be added towards the end. Sauté over a low to medium heat for 10 minutes until softened, adding the garlic for the last two minutes. Meanwhile heat the stock in another pan and hold at a barely trembling simmer. Add the rice to the softened onions, stir well to coat with the buttery juices and give it minute or two more.

Turn up the heat under the risotto pan and add the vermouth. Stir constantly, around and in a figure of eight, exposing the hot base of the pan where the returning liquids will turn to steam and cook the rice. Once the liquid has all but disappeared add a ladleful of hot stock and repeat. Continue in this manner for around 15 minutes.

Test a grain or two of rice between your teeth, it should be almost cooked with a bit of crunch still at the core. If not continue as above, testing after each ladleful of stock has been absorbed. Now add the lamb, and a ladle or two more of stock. With the last addition of stock add the mint, parsley, peas, mint sauce and finely grated Paški Sir.

The risotto is ready when the rice is just al dente and the consistency is creamy and moist, usually after around twenty minutes. If necessary add a final dose of stock, turn off the heat and allow to rest, covered with a clean tea towel. Check the seasoning, you’ll want plenty of black pepper, top with the rest of the Paški Sir, and serve.

Peas and Mint

Mushroom and Raisin Risotto

Dried Porcini mushrooms soaking to produce the stock

Firstly, a very happy new year to all my readers. For my first post of 2011 I’d like to share a favourite recipe which would be ideal for a twelfth night supper – an antidote to too many treatments of left-over turkey, but still with hints of Christmas from the sherry and the fruit. And the whole thing is oven baked like a Ligurian Arrosto so you won’t need to spend forever stirring at the stove. Perfect for chilly early January.

What began as an old friend from Delia Smith’s winter collection took a new twist one day when I was looking at the photo in the book and thought I saw raisins. Hang on, I thought, why not? The dish is rich with the forest floor earthiness of the mushrooms, salty and savoury with Parmesan, and warmed by the booze – why not add some sweet pearls of fruitiness? Trust me on this one, you’ll be back for more.

For two hungry people

  • 50g raisins
  • 180ml Oloroso sherry [or Amontillado if you prefer]
  • 20g dried porcini
  • 250g chestnut or portobello mushrooms cut into 1 cm dice
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 175g canaroli or arborio rice
  • 70g butter
  • At least 150g grated parmesan, plus more to finish if you wish [grated or shaved]*
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • Plenty of freshly ground black pepper

First pour 570ml of boiling water over the dried porcini and leave for a couple of hours. The soaking liquor will provide your stock, so don’t rush it as the longer it soaks the richer it will be. At the same time soak the raisins in the sherry.

Melt the butter and sauté the onions for a few minutes, then add the diced mushrooms. Drain the porcini [reserving the stock liquor], chop, and add to the pan along with the garlic. Allow this mixture to sweat on a low heat for another fifteen minutes, stirring from time to time. As the mushrooms sweat heat the oven to 150˚C and set a shallow dish to warm.

Turn up the heat under the pan, add the rice and stir well to coat with the buttery mushroom juices. After a minute or so pour in the sherry from the raisins and stir for another thirty seconds. Pour in the mushroom stock, the raisins, the salt and pepper and stir thoroughly. Tip everything into the warmed dish and give it twenty minutes in the oven.

Remove from the oven and gently turn everything over with a slotted spoon whilst also incorporating the grated parmesan. Back in the oven for another fifteen minutes, and it’s done. The finished dish will sit happily under a tea towel for a couple of minutes whilst you warm a couple of serving bowls. Top with more parmesan before serving.

*For a strictly vegetarian version try replacing the parmesan with Old Winchester, a British hard cheese from Lyburn Dairy made with vegetarian rennet. Find out more about Lyburn and Old Winchester in my article here.