Archive for November, 2010


The China syndrome …

November 29, 2010

Inspired by our Chinese sojourn a few weeks ago, I tried this Dong Do Pork featured on Poh’s Kitchen recently. I cannot tell you how good it is, and how simple. I cooked it for two hours, several hours ahead of serving time, and just left it in the cooking pot on  the cool stove-top.

Then just before serving I cranked the heat back up to warm the sauce as we carved the meat, although ‘carved’ is the wrong word really – more like ‘nudged’ and it fell apart with great lusciousness!

I doubled the sauce quantity as at first my pork belly piece seemed to sit a bit too high out of the liquid – possibly my pot was too big – but again, it worked perfectly once the liquid was doubled. Next time I’d tone down the sugar a little, but that could be just my own preference.

I did sear the meat skin-side first as per the recipe, and although as you can see my scoring and cross-hatching of skin wasn’t nearly as elegant or intricate as Poh’s, it did the job of rendering away some of the fat just fine.

Everyone who ate it loved it, and the meat itself was utterly melt-in-the-mouth. Good free-range pork no doubt helped matters.

I urge you to try it – you’ll love it.

Alongside the pork I served a little sesame cucumber salad.

One of the biggest surprises to me about Chinese food in Shanghai (and elsewhere during our previous trip) was how brilliantly and how often the Chinese use cucumber as a side dish or snack before the meal. This cucumber salad, replicated from here, is a slightly Westernised version – and it’s very good. Light and zingy and fresh, perfect accompaniment to the richness of the pork.

Cucumber salad to accompany Poh’s Dong Do Pork

  • 5 Lebanese cucumbers
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Asian sesame oil
  • 2 ½ tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • ½ teaspoon chilli flakes, or to taste
1. Halve the cucumbers lengthwise, remove the seeds and then halve again crosswise and cut into batons.
2. Place the cucumber strips in a colander and sprinkle the salt over. Let the cucumbers sit for  about 30 minutes, weighed down if you can, to allow some of the water content to leach out.
3. To make the dressing, combine all remaining ingredients and mix well.
4. Lay  the cucumber batons in a dish and pour the dressing over. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for a few hours; serve cold as a side dish with the pork and some rice.

All-day luscious lamb

November 22, 2010

If you’re cooking for a crowd, this all-day, slow-roasted leg of lamb has to be just about the easiest – and most meltingly, lipsmackingly good – way to do it. I’ve adapted this recipe slightly from Patricia Wells’ Bistro Cooking, but there are countless recipes around for similarly slow cooked lamb.

For some reason, when I’ve attempted this kind of thing before I have sometimes found that the lamb has been a bit dry and stringy, but this time it was perfect. I suspect in the past I actually haven’t cooked it for quite long enough, but also on too high a heat, so it dried out before getting to the fall-apart stage that makes it so divine. This time, I made sure to use a very large leg – about 3.5kg – and of course, being from Feather and Bone, the meat was top, top quality which I’m sure helped matters. And after an initial blast for browning, I kept the heat very low all day, at about 120 degrees C, and turned off the oven’s fan function.

Circumstances made me start this in the oven an hour or so earlier than I would have – had to go out for lunch, poor me – but in hindsight I think this was very good, because it made sure there was plenty of time. In the end, I cooked this for almost nine hours! The outside of the lamb had a burnished, golden crust, but was incredibly moist and succulent beneath the skin, breaking apart at the touch.

Do try this if you get a chance, and let me know how it goes, because I want to see if this recipe is actually foolproof or if it depends too much on ovens and sizes of meat and so on. For serving, I was going to shred the lamb and serve it in a bowl on a bed of the cooked vegetables, but my guests talked me into simply plonking the whole thing on the table in its baking tray, and we all dug in. The meat was so tender you could literally pull it away from the bone with a spoon, so that’s what we did. Rustic and slurpily good. This fed seven guests who are good on the tooth, with a hefty heap leftover, so I think you could safely say it serves eight to 10 people.

Luscious all-day lamb

  • 1 large leg lamb (around 3-3.5kg)
  • 6 onions, quartered
  • 1 head garlic, cloves separated, peeled & chucked in
  • 6 carrots, quartered
  • 6 bay leaves
  • bunch thyme
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1½ bottles dry white wine
  • tiny chat potatoes, as many as you want

1. Preheat oven to 220°C  (I put ours on the full fan-force setting).

2. Layer the onions, carrots, garlic, bay leaves and thyme over the base of an uncovered large roasting pan (you need one that has a lid – a few layers of foil might work but you need to seal it very carefully at the next stage).

3.  Plonk the lamb on top of the vegetables, rub with salt & pepper and a little olive oil and roast, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

4. Remove from oven and turn the heat down to 120°C. I turned the fan off at this stage, which I think helped keep the meat moist.

5. Pour the wine and tomatoes into the pan, cover with lid or foil and return to the oven.

6. Leave it in there and go about your business, checking from time to time. The first time I opened the oven was after it had been cooking for around four and a half hours. It looked wonderful, but when I prodded it, it didn’t quite yield very easily, so I bunged it back in for another several hours, checking every hour or so. Patricia Wells, who doesn’t turn the heat down, says:

“Timing will vary according to the size and age of the leg of lamb, and type of roasting pan used. But once the wine has been added, it will general take 4 to 5 additional hours of baking. Obviously, it is best to check on the lamb from time to time, reducing the oven heat if the lamb begins to burn or the liquid begins to evaporate too much.”

7.  An hour or so before you want to serve, add the potatoes to the liquid, pushing them down so they are well covered. Cover and return to the oven till the spuds are tender.

There’s no need to rest the meat – to serve, remove the vegetables (now very soft) to a wide, shallow serving dish, pull the meat apart with tongs and pile it on top, and serve the delicious cooking juices separately. Or go rustic and serve directly from the roasting pan as we did, with a green salad on the side, and a good red wine.


Breakfast of champions, Shanghai style

November 15, 2010

Here are a couple of mini videos I took of the making of our brekky pancakes – I think the Shanghai locals eat them any old time, but they’re very popular for breakfast on the way to work. And that’s when we got them, out for a stroll with our nephew baby Archie, or on the way to the park.

This first video below shows the making of the doughy Shanghai breakfast pancake that I included in the photos last post. Please forgive my idiocy in turning the camera halfway through! These people were lovely, we visited them a few times – everybody was very friendly and most happy to do the camera thing once we made it clear we were there for buying too. The doughy pancakes have an egg broken on top with some shallot, are flipped, cooked in lots of oil and then you add your own hoy sin-ish and chilli sauces as you wish. It’s folded in three, tossed in a plastic bag, and you’re on your way – all for around 30 Australian cents. Breakfast of champs indeed.

This second pancake below is more a batter, which as you’ll see is spread very thin and cooked till crisp. Into this one goes egg, garlic (I think – could be ginger but very mild), shallot, the hoysin-ish sauce, and some chilli – note the pause as she asks us doubtfully if we want some (it’s me saying ‘a little bit’). Also into this one goes a light crisp wafery waffly thing, so you have a delicious crunch in the middle. I love the fast and furious production here, and so neatly done. A joy to watch – and to eat of course.


On the street: Shanghai snacks

November 10, 2010

The best thing about Shanghai for us was just strolling the streets, and clapping eyes on a new kind of street food stall every day. Lots of snack foods are sold from carts and barrows, and others from shops with windows into the street. Gives new meaning to the term ‘fast food’ – while there are lots of regrettable imports (think Subway and Domino’s Pizza, for sobbing out loud), these stalls are extremely popular with Shanghai locals and lots of anglos too. The several kinds of breakfast pancake were our particular faves as we strolled in the early morning to check out the 7am park life (thousands of people doing their own thing – from tai chi to fan dancing to shuttlecock, parks are a blur of colour and movement in China in the mornings).  Here are a few of our favourite street food things …. if you click on the photo you’ll get a larger version and a wee description. And hopefully if Hamish manages to drop in he might tell us more about these morsels he gets to try every day, the lucky devil.

Next post, hopefully some street food video!


Nuts for tamari almonds

November 10, 2010

When did tamari almonds start appearing in health food shops? A few years ago, I’d say, was the first time I spied them and couldn’t stop eating the smoky, salty little suckers once I started.

Trouble is, the ones I’ve bought at those fancy macro lahdidah shops – you know the kind, staffed by those elegant yoga belle types with sparkly eyes and perfect skin, the sort of gals who study Sanskrit while doing headstands and munching down on a bit of millet for kicks – are bloody expensive. But once I bought some cheaper ones in the grocers – staffed by normal-looking, bored and pudgy middle-aged women like Oneself – and they were absolutely vile, tasting of some icky preservative-ish lemony stuff, and with a horrible powdery texture.

It just couldn’t be that hard to make ’em, I decided. So thanks to a combination of recipes found on the interwebs, I made some tamari almonds of my own the other day, with excellent results. I must point out, though, that it can be that hard, because the first time I made them I burnt the buggers, and they were horrid. Senor, who, you may remember, is a food waste fundamentalist and in possession of cast iron guts, decided they were perfectly edible and chowed down on charcoal almonds for about a week. But they were ghastly.

Second time around, nearly half a kilo of almonds turned out perfectly, and I’ve been scoffing them by the fistful for days. Yum.

  • 400g raw almonds
  • 3 tablespoons tamari sauce
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • salt

1. Chuck em all together, mix well and leave for about an hour, stirring now and then to make sure the almonds are well coated.

2. Spread almonds out on baking paper in a tray, then roast in a moderate oven for about 15 minutes, removing the tray every five minutes to check and turn the nuts.

3. Leave to cool – they grow crunchier as they cool and dry.

4. Store in an airtight container when thoroughly cooled, and try not to eat too many at once.


PS: Just back from ten days in Shanghai and Hong Kong, hence the recent silence, and this post I prepared earlier … stand by to be bored witless by some obsessing about Shanghainese street food …