Vegetarian Hot and Sour Soup

Much as I enjoy a blue fillet steak or a bacon sandwich,  there are times when it feels good to lay off the meat and enjoy meals without. This doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice flavour though.  Hot and Sour Soup is perfect for days like these. Filling, warming, and full of exciting flavours. If you want to add cooked chicken or prawns though,  go ahead. Extra vegetables? Go for it!

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This version was inspired by a recipe from a much used and favoured cookbook, Gok Cooks Chinese. Although my predictive text called him God. He’s good, but not quite THAT good!

Ingredients (to serve 4 generously)

  • 1.5 litres of light, unsalted vegetable stock or use water
  • 50g approx of mushrooms, sliced  (I used chestnut with a few shitake)
  • 1-2 fresh red chillis, finely sliced (or a teaspoon of dried chilli flakes) depending on  how hot you like your soup
  • 50ml light soy sauce
  • Approx 3 heaped tablespoons of thinly sliced bamboo shoots (I used tinned, drained bamboo)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and very finely sliced then diced
  • 5cm piece of fresh ginger peeled and grated (or use frozen chopped ginger)
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and grated or crushed
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 4-6 tablespoons of rice vinegar  (to taste)
  • Optional 2 heaped teaspoons of cornflour dissolved in a little cold water
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Finely chopped spring onion or chives to serve

Bring the stock to a gentle boil and add the carrot. Simmer for about 5 minutes then add all the ingredients except the cornflour, vinegar,  egg and spring onion.

Simmer for about 10 minutes then gradually add the vinegar, tasting as you go until it reaches a level of sourness you enjoy.

If you prefer a slightly thickened soup, add two heaped teaspoons of cornflour to about 50mls of cold water and add to the simmering soup. Allow to thicken (this will take a minute or two).

Turn off the heat and add the egg, whisking as you do to create fine ribbons of cooked egg. Serve garnished with the finely sliced spring onion and marvel that it was quicker to prepare than ordering and waiting for a takeaway delivery.

(For a gluten free option use tamari instead of soy sauce and omit the cornflour).

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Spicy Cucumber Salad

We recently celebrated Mother’s Day in England and for my mother I cooked a Chinese inspired meal with lots of different dishes. Some I’ve cooked before, like Stir Fried Beef with Ginger. Alongside the meat and fish dishes, I made a fresh and crunchy salad, inspired by one in my Gok Wan Cooks book. Sadly, there were very few leftovers the next day, and none at all of the salad!

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Ingredients to serve 4-6

  • 1 cucumber, partly peeled
  • ½ fresh chilli, finely sliced
  • 3 spring onions, finely sliced
  • A few handfuls of bean sprouts
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon caster sugar
  • A pinch of salt

Slice off the ends of the cucumber then slice it in half lengthways. Scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon and then cut the cucumber into chunks about .5cm wide.

Mix the cucumber with the chilli, beansprouts and spring onions. Mix the rest of the ingredients together to make the dressing and pour over the salad a couple of minutes before serving.

Twice Cooked Melting Pork

Regular readers of this blog will know that last year I discovered the cookbook by Gok Wan and was converted to cooking simple Chinese dishes at home through his wonderful recipes. For new readers – welcome! – do check out this book if you get a chance. I know he’s …er…”famous” for fashion advice and you may be dubious (I certainly was) but take my word for it, it’s a great book.

Twice Cooked Melting Pork (8)

This one was recommended to me by best pal Maria and I’m so glad I took her advice. The original recipe calls for Belly of Pork, I used a boned shoulder joint. Just as tasty, perhaps a little less moist than the belly (less fat) but perfect nonetheless. It take a little while to prepare as there are two stages, but it’s not complicated and is a great dish to part prepare ahead, then finish off in the oven when you are ready to eat.

In the book it is called “Poppa Wan’s Show Stopping Twice Cooked Melting Pork” – it’s a recipe of his father’s. So cheers Mr Wan, we loved it!

Ingredients to serve 4 generously

  • 500ml rice wine or dry sherry (I used about 250ml of dry sherry and 4 tablespoons of white wine vinegar as I didn’t have rice wine) plus water
  • 2 star anise
  • A 5cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and bruised
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and bruised
  • 3 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons of light soy sauce
  • 1.25kg pork belly (rind left on but unscored) I used 1kg boned pork shoulder joint

For the glaze – 4 tablespoons of runny honey mixed with 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce

Place all the ingredients except those for the glaze into a deep pan and add enough extra water to cover the meat generously. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for about 1 ½ hours (until the meat is very tender and cool enough to handle.

Twice Cooked Melting Pork (5)

Preheat oven to 200 C/400 F/Gas 6. Remove the pork from the liquid and place onto a board. Remove the top layer of skin and place onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper.

Pour the marinade over (it will be runny) and cook for 20-30 minutes, basting frequently.

Place onto a serving dish and cut into slices or chunks. I served ours with mushroom and ginger rice and steamed pak choi. Wonderful and enough left over for sandwiches the next day…but more of them another time!

Stir Fried Beef with Ginger

A recent discovery is that our local “Big” supermarket sells packs of thin beef steaks. Ok, it may not be a patch on what we can get in England, but for dishes that require quick cooking, it’s tender and surprisingly tasty.

You may recall I recently made the “acquaintance” of Mr Gok Wan and his cooking and his book travelled back with me to Spain. Sudden temperature highs of around 30 degrees mean it’s time for food that is quickly prepared and cooked.

Stir Fried Beef with Gnger (3)

I served this beautifully fragrant beef dish with pak choi (or bok choy), but more of that another day. If you invest a few minutes (or ten) in getting everything ready, the cooking is quick and ready to serve in just a few minutes. I had to make some adaptations, as ever, and Big Man asked if this was “Cocina Ibero-Chino” (Spanish-Chinese Cooking). I am sure that if had used sesame oil and carrot (which were the things I had to substitute) it would have been even more delicious, but as we didn’t have a scrap left over, I think it was a success!

To serve 2

  • About 4 tablespoons of cornflour
  • Salt and pepper (the recipe calls for white, I used black
  • About 300g steak (the recipe calls for sirloin, I think mine is called “flash fry)
  • Oil for frying (original recipe says groundnut, I used olive oil)
  • 4cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 3 spring onions, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot peeled and cut into matchsticks (I used a small courgette)
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil (I used olive oil)
  • 1-2 teaspoons rice or cider vinegar

Coat the meat strips in the cornflour and seasoning and fry in a hot wok or frying pan until browned. I did this in batches. Remove and place on kitchen paper.

Wipe the pan and add a little more oil then add the ginger, garlic, spring onions and carrot. Fry on high for a minute or two until the edges of the onions start to brown a little. Add the soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, vinegar, a pinch of pepper and about 3 tablespoons of water and cook until the sugar has dissolved. Taste and adjust the flavours to your liking (I added a little more vinegar as I found it quite sweet).

Add the beef into the pan and gently mix into the sauce. Remove from the heat and (optional) garnish with chili flakes.

A beautiful dish, aromatic and quick to prepare.

For another beautiful Chinese Beef dish, check out Mandy’s Shanghai Steak over at The Complete Cookbook.

Chinese Spiced Aubergines & Cast Iron Excitement

Don’t you just love it when something you want falls into your lap? Well, sort of. Best buddy Ria had been raving about a book she had recently bought by Gok Wan. It seems he makes programmes about making women look and feel good about themselves but as I had not been in the UK (previously at least) and seen his programmes, he was unknown to me. Then, it seems, he bought out a cookbook. As you do. I was very doubtful about the whole thing but got to look at her book which he had written based on his experiences as a young man working in his father’s Chinese Take Away Restaurant. Home cooking made speedy, and Ria had successfully cooked and  thoroughly enjoyed several recipes so I threw away my scepticism.

5 Spice Aubergines MAin

A few days later I was wandering round a Car Boot Sale, a particularly British institution I think, and someone was selling a brand new copy of the book for a couple of pounds. Cleary a sceptic like me (but unconverted) so I snapped it up. Well…I’ve already cooked several recipes from this book and every one has been tasty and easy. Even Big Man, who is not a particular fan of Chinese Food, has commented on the wonderful flavours each dish has. A result!

Here’s a vegetable dish that I made (inspired by a recipe for Braised Aubergine with Pork from the book) and served with noodles, no meat needed, the texture of the aubergines is wonderful and filling too.

Ingredients (per person as a main course or for two as a side dish)

  • 1 aubergine cut into cubes
  • Half a pepper, cut into slices
  • Half an onion sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of dark soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of Chinese Five Spice
  • Water (about 200ml)
  • Sesame or vegetable oil for frying
  • Fresh chili (optional) I used dried as that’s what I had available
  • Finely sliced spring onion to garnish

Add a little oil to a wok or large frying pan and fry the onions on a medium heat until softened then add the aubergine, peppers and garlic. Turn up the heat and cook until the aubergines start to char at the edges.  Add the 5 spice, soy sauces (and chili if using) and then pour over water until the vegetables are about half covered. Stir gently, turn the heat down, cover with a lid or foil and simmer until the aubergines start to turn pulpy and the peppers are soft. Stir once or twice during cooking (about 10 minutes). Most of the liquid will evaporate and the sauce will be slightly sticky.

Sprinkle the spring onion over the aubergines to serve.  Wonderful with rice or noodles. Who needs a book to tell you how to dress to feel good about yourself when you can eat food like this and feel amazing?!

If you’re still craving Asian aubergine dishes, take a look at Rosemary’s beautiful Spicy Aubergine with Beef.

And before I wish you all a beautiful rest of the weekend, what do you think of the fabulous cast iron fire surround some pals gave to us? They of the lace and fabric are now giving us an amazing Victorian original which came out of their home during a refurb. Love that we’re using so much beautiful “preloved” stuff in our Down By The Sea Home.

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Finally, a gratuitous pup shot. Well…it is the weekend.

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