Darina Allen: Pork with Beijing Scallions and other recipes

Darina Allen: Pork with Beijing Scallions and other recipes

Darina Allen offers up some recipese with a Chinese flavour.

RECENTLY I went all the way to China … The impetus for the trip was the news that my last book Grow Cook Nourish had been shortlisted for a World Gourmand Cookbook award. It was up against stiff competition including Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Companion and Oprah Winfrey’s Food, Health and Happiness… I reckoned that my tome urging people to take back control over their food, grow some of their own and cook it, wouldn’t have a chance.

Nonetheless it was an excuse to spend a few days doing some edible research in China and surprise, surprise, Grow Cook Nourish WON a special award and my publisher Kyle Cathie received the Publisher of the Year Award so that was definitely the ‘icing on the cake’.

On this trip we took in Beijing, Datong, Pingyao and Yantai where the awards were hosted.

Peking duck is the great speciality of Beijing. Of course there are a myriad of restaurants who serve it, Mongolian hot pot too.

A wander through a local vegetable market is an illuminating window into local culture and eating habits. One of Beijing’s most fascinating is the Sanyvanli Market, opens at 6am and has stall after stall of beautiful super fresh vegetables and exotic fruit, mangosteen, durian, lychees, pomelo, also ripe mangoes and huge hard scary grapes, some round, others pointy.

Stalls were piled high with fish and shellfish, scallops, sea urchins, crabs, lobsters, crayfish, much of it still alive.

Butcher shops selling freshly slaughtered meat, black and white skinned poultry and tons of offal. A wild mushroom stall with a mind-blowing selection of fungi including cauliflower mushrooms the size of a baby’s head. Two little bakeries, making Chinese flat breads, were nestled among the stalls.

The night markets are also a must, there are many but we visited the one just off Wangfujing Street, Beijing’s posh shopping street where all the luxury brand shops cluster. This area really comes to life after sun down. Here I ate scorpion kebabs and crispy silk worms, surprisingly delicious once you grit your teeth and decide to be adventurous. Lots of offal, squid and dumplings, chicken feet and gizzards and tiny toffee apples — a Beijing speciality. Lamb kebabs were also delicious but a roast goat (kid) leg with cumin and chilli was the best of all.

Street food vendors are still a vital part of everyday life in China. Dough stacks, youtiao, snacks like scallion pancakes, Jianbing. Sweet potatoes roasted in old cooking oil drums are also delectable.

Don’t leave China without attending a tea ceremony, a wonderful ritual after which tea will never be the same again. We tasted ginseng, jasmine and gunpowder tea and puer, exquisite but sadly the teas I bought having been assured that they were identical quality were anything but — a frequent occurrence in China. Follow the guidebooks advice, insist on using the taxi meter and check your bill meticulously…. otherwise a brilliant and delicious experience.

Pork with Beijing Scallions

This one comes from the Shanding region

Darina Allen: Pork with Beijing Scallions and other recipes

Serves 4

300g (11oz) pork belly, sliced into lardons

1 tbsp cornflour

3 tbsp vegetable oil

3 Beijing scallions or 6 scallions cut into 3cm (¼ inch) lengths

1 tbsp Tianmianjiang (sweet bean sauce)

1 tsp light soy sauce

1 tbsp rice wine

½ tsp salt, plus extra to taste

Steamed rice

Combine the pork with cornflour in a bowl, and then stir in 1 tablespoon oil.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a wok or large skillet/frying pan. Add the pork and stir-fry over a medium-low heat for 4-6 minutes until cooked and crisp. Transfer the pork to a plate and set aside.

Put the scallions into the wok and stir-fry over medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add the Tianmianjiang, soy sauce, wine, salt and the pork, stir-fry over high heat for another minute. Season with salt and taste. Serve with steamed rice.

From China: The Cookbook by Kei Lum and Diora Fong Chan

Congee with Chicken, Shrimps, Mushroom and lots of Coriander

Serves 4-6

250g jasmine rice (well-washed and drained)

2 litres water

100g raw or cooked shrimps

100g shredded raw chicken breast

1 teaspoon ginger

1 chilli, thinly sliced, optional

100g thinly sliced mushrooms (cooked)

Vegetable oil for frying

1-2 tbsp sesame oil

2 tbsp spring onion, sliced thinly at an angle

2 tbsp coriander leaves

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Put the rice into a saucepan, cover with water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until the rice is cooked and slightly soupy. Add the finely shredded chicken and shrimps, ginger and chilli to the rice; cook for 4-5 minutes.

Meanwhile, sauté the mushrooms on a hot pan in a very little vegetable oil. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add to the soup, drizzle with sesame oil and sprinkle with spring onion and coriander leaves. Taste and correct the seasoning if necessary. Serve this comforting nourishing soup as soon as possible.

From Grow, Cook, Nourish by Darina Allen, published by Kyle Books.

Fuchsia Dunlop’s Quick-Fried Lamb

The city of Liuyang lies on the banks of the Liuyang River, amid gentle, wooded hills to the east of the Hunanese capital. There ‘the mountains are beautiful, the water is beautiful and the people are even more beautiful’ (shan mei, shui mei, ren geng mei), so they say.

Although the two cities are no more than 50 miles apart, Liuyang has its own distinctive character and its people speak a dialect that is incomprehensible to the inhabitants of Changsha. Liuyang is a world centre of firework production, and is known poetically in Chinese as ‘the home of smoke-flowers’ (yan hua zhi xiang).

A meal in Liuyang, like its most famous product, is an explosion of glittering colours; the lovely green of fresh soybeans, the brilliant red of fresh or pickled chilies, the warm sunset of a pumpkin soup.

I remember one day, when grey mist had reclaimed the hills, sitting around a table laden with dishes as torrential rain rattled on the rooftops outside and thunder cracked the sky.

This is one of the dishes we ate, a colourful stir-fry traditionally made with one of Liuyang’s famous products, the black goat (hei shan yang), but which works equally well with lamb.

300g (10½ oz) lamb, lean and boneless

1 tbsp of Shaoxing wine

1 tsp light soy sauce

½ tsp dark soy sauce

¼ tsp salt, plus extra to taste

2 fresh red chilies or ½ red pepper

75g (2½ oz) fresh coriander or Chinese celery

2 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger

2 tsp finely chopped garlic

1 tsp dried chilli flakes (optional)

1 tbsp finely chopped Chinese Angelica Root (optional)

1 tsp sesame oil

3 tbsp groundnut oil for cooking

Cut the lamb across the grain into thin slices. Place the slices in a bowl; add the Shaoxing wine, soy sauces and salt and mix well; set aside.

Cut the red chilies into thins slices (if using red pepper, cut into small squares.) Cut the coriander stalks or celery into 5cm (2 in) sections. Reserve some leaves for a garnish and set the other leaves for other uses.

Heat the wok over a high flame until smokes rises, then add the ground nut oil and swirl around.

Add the ginger, garlic, fresh chilli or pepper, chilli flakes and angelica root, if using and stir fry briefly until fragrant.

Add the lamb and continue to stir fry adding salt to taste, if necessary. When the lamb is almost cooked, add the coriander or celery and stir a few times until barely cooked.

Turn off the heat, stir in the sesame oil and serve with coriander leaf arnish if desired.

Variation

The same method can also be used to cook beef.

From Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook by Fuchsia Dunlop

Fuchsia Dunlop’s Fisherman’s Prawns with Chinese Chives

This is based in a dish I enjoyed eating in Yueyang, where it is made with small river shrimp, cooked in their shells. I’ve adapted the recipe to be made with shelled prawns, which have a different texture, but are still delicious (prawns and Chinese chives are a particularly happy combination). If you want a glossy, restaurant — style sauce, add a little stock at the end of cooking and thicken with a mixture of potato flour and water.

500g (1lb 2oz) fresh or frozen raw prawns, thawed if frozen

100g (3½oz) Chinese chives

2 tsp finely chopped garlic

1 tbsp shopped salted chillies or 1 teaspoon dries chilli flakes

1 tsp Chinkiang vinegar

1 fresh red chilli de-seeded and thinly sliced.

Salt

1 tsp sesame oil

200ml (7fl oz) groundnut oil for cooking

For the marinade:

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp potato flour

1 small egg white

Shell and devein the prawns, removing and discarding the heads and legs, if necessary, then rinse and shake dry. Put them in a bowl; add the marinade an ingredients and mix well; set aside.

Trim the chives, discarding any tougher or wilted leaves (they should be pert and fresh) and cut into 3cm (1¼-inch) pieces.

Heat the oil in a wok over a high flame until it reaches 150C/300F. Discard any excess egg white from the prawns, then add them to the wok and fry briefly until pinkish but not fully cooked. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Drain off all but 3 tablespoons of the oil. Add the garlic and chopped salted chillies and stir fry briefly until fragrant. Add the prawns, stirring well, followed by the vinegar.

When all is sizzling and delicious, add the chives and fresh chilli and stir-fry until they are barely cooked. Season with salt to taste, then remove from the heat, stir in the sesame oil and serve.

Variation

A similar recipe uses finely chopped garlic stems instead of Chinese chives; the method is the same except that you stir fry the garlic stems with the ginger and chopped salted chillies until fragrant before adding the prawns.

From Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook by Fuchsia Dunlop

Scrambled Eggs with Shrimps and Coriander

In Beijing this was served with rice but I enjoy it with hot buttered toast or fresh soda bread.

Serves 4

8 organic eggs

175g to 225g (6oz to 8oz) cooked small shrimps

Good pinch of chilli flakes (optional)

A knob of lard or butter

2 tbsp full cream milk

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tbsp fresh coriander, coarsely chopped or Chinese (garlic) chives

Break the eggs into a bowl, add the milk and season with salt and pepper. Whisk well until the whites and yolks are mixed well. Over a low heat, put a blob of lard or butter into a cold saucepan, add the chilli flakes (if using), pour in the egg mixture and stir continuously, preferably with a flat-bottomed wooden spoon, until the eggs have scrambled into soft creamy curds. Add in the cooked shrimp, coriander or chopped Chinese (garlic) chives.

Serve immediately on warm plates with lots of hot buttered toast or fresh soda bread.

Hot tips

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