Monday, 30 January 2012

Winter Paella with Chinese Sausage and Mussels

The Jellied Eel magazine is holding a "Love Your Local Sausage" competition, together with London Farmers' Market, to find our best local banger. The ones nominated for Pimlico Farmers' Market (which I work at) are Downland Pig's Breakfast Maarmalade, your traditional fat pork sausage with a hint of sweetness, and 12 Green Acres'' Cooking Chorizo, a wonderful British substitute for the famous Spanish sausage. I'm excited for them, and Cheryl from the market has also asked if I can try to share some kind of recipe involving sausage, in the spirit of this event.

I did this paella a few weeks after I came back from Spain, because I was kind of missing the sun there, and I've got Spanish goodies from the trip that I wanted to use up, e.g. the vintagey-designed pretty tin of paprika sitting on my table. I didn't have chorizo then, and because it's the dead of winter and I try to eat seasonally, there were no peppers or fresh tomatoes or green beans or peas. Instead, I made use of what I had on hand, Chinese sausage lap cheong (a traditional sweet cured chorizo-style sausage), mussels, onions, canned tomatoes and lots of fresh parsley. Of course, this would be a brilliant recipe to try the Cooking Chorizo with, so you can give it a go with that!

Winter Paella with Chinese Sausage and Mussels
serves 2-3
200g of paella rice
1 onion, chopped
1/2 can of tomatoes (400g tin)
500ml of stock i.e. water i.e. the reserved mussels cooking liquor
1/2 chinese sausage (or cooking chorizo)
500g fresh mussels
pinch of saffron (the most expensive thing by weight in my house currently)
1 tsp smoked paprika
unrefined sea salt, to taste
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

to serve
chopped fresh parsley

1. Clean the mussels, scrub well and remove the beard. Throw away those that don't close after tapping, they're dead. Add mussels to a pot, add cold water, and cover and bring to a boil. Cook until the mussels open, it takes only 3 min or so. Drain, discarding those that don't open. To make your stock, just add the saffron strands to the hot reserved cooking liquor and let infuse.

2. Add the chinese sausage to a hot shallow frying pan (mine was about 12" wide for that number of servings) and let it cook till lightly charred and the fat oozes out. Drain and set aside.

3. The all-important sofrito. Add the olive oil to the fat and sweat the onions, then add the canned tomatoes and paprika and keep frying till it reduces to a thick paste and becomes darker in colour.

4. Add the rice and stir for a couple of min till well-coated. Now add the stock, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Make sure the rice is spread out well i.e. all under the surface of the liquid. Leave it alone and DO NOT STIR (it's the opposite of risotto). You want a crust "soccarat" to form at the bottom.

6. When all the liquid has been absorbed, arrange the mussels and chinese sausage artistically over the rice. Cover the pan with foil and turn off the heat, and let the rice finish steam-cooking, for about 10 min.

7. Serve straight from the pan with a big squeeze of lemon and scatter of parsley.

This easily cured my winter blues. They say one eats with the eye before the mouth, and just looking at all the colours made me think of summer and sunshine! It wasn't the most authentic paella, but the deliciously greasy and savoury chinese sausage, the sweet mussels, the fresh fragrance of parsley made up a beautiful substitute. The star of the show however, is of course, the rice, dyed a happy golden yellow and plump with all the flavours from the mussel stock, paprika, saffron, tomatoes and sausage.

Oh and Londoners, please go have a little wander around the farmers' markets and vote for your favourite sausage.The contest ends in about 3 weeks time. You stand a chance to win prizes too including a meal for two at a top London restaurant and a bag of the top 5 bangers (!!!)

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Steamed Cabbage Dim-Sum Dumplings

Chinese New Year is in a few days' time! Growing up, that was the day we all looked forward to and got excited about. It's when we have festive cheesy music, new clothes, huge family gatherings with relatives you never knew you had, and of course, lots and lots of food. See why I never was that excited about Christmas? This is our "Christmas".

That's one thing that's keeping me cheerful. My laptop's been taken away for a repair, and it's not only costing a hell lot, it's smack before portfolio submission, and will take about a week. It's not just withdrawal symptoms I'm suffering from, it's the flu symptoms too.

I've got here a slight twist on traditional dim-sum, using cabbage leaves instead of gyoza/potsticker wrappers or wonton skins. It's a lot lighter and fresher, and makes for a welcome change from the indulgent treats around this period, especially if you, like me, are feeling under the weather lately.

Steamed Cabbage Dim-Sum Dumplings
Makes 10 cabbage rolls
5 large cabbage leaves (I used a January King, wrinkly savoy would be pretty too)
300g free-range british pork mince
1 bunch of spring onions, finely chopped
1/2" piece of ginger, finely chopped
1 tbsp good soy sauce (traditionally brewed and fermented)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
generous dash of white pepper

Dipping sauce
2 tbsp good soy sauce
2 tbsp black rice vinegar
(opt, not for the s) chilli oil

1. In a large bowl, mix the ginger, soy sauce, pepper and sesame oil with the pork, stirring vigorously in one direction till the mixture comes together. Gather the ball of mixture and slap it back down into the bowl repeatedly. These tips are important! They will result in a better springier texture.

Stir in the spring onions after that or they get mushed up (I realised this from experience) then leave to marinade.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, and blanch the cabbage leaves so they become more flexible and easy to work with. Refresh in cold water and pat dry. Slice each leaf into half, removing the hard stalk in the meanwhile (don't waste, just pop into your mouth;)

3. To wrap, place 1 tbsp of filling in the centre of the leaf wrapper. Bring the bottom up, the sides together, and then roll away from you, till you get a nice tight cabbage roll.

4. Arrange the cabbage dumplings on a lined bamboo steamer, or you can simply use a plate set over a steaming rack. Steam for 8-10 min till cooked.

5. Serve warm with the soy-vinegar dipping sauce.

I think the savoy cabbage really just begs to be stuffed, its large, beautifully wrinkled leaves serving as the perfect wrap, but you can use any cabbage really. The leaves become really soft and delicate after steaming, so you can easily bite through into the savoury, juicy pork-and-spring-onion filling. And the super simple vinegar soy dipping sauce just adds that bit of acidity which complements each bite really well, I think it'd be nicer with shreds of ginger in it too actually.

You can of course stuff it with your filling of choice. Prawns, maybe water chestnuts or something crunchy, and if you want to use chicken, make sure it's kind of fatty, i.e. not breast meat. I've done something similar before in spring with collard greens, "pseudo-lmades"; they're larger so I stuffed them with rice, toasted nuts, sweet raisins and lots of fresh herbs, but anyway, this is just so you know you can really stuff these cabbage dumplings with whatever you want!

Happy Chinese New Year, may it be filled with food, prosperity (definitely need a bit of this after the laptop repair), health, happiness, and more food (:

I'm also happy to add that this recipe appears in this month's Flavour magazine!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Kimchi Pheasant Pot-Roast

This is the reason why I made a new batch of kimchi the other day; the last of my 2 month-old mature kimchi went into this pheasant pot-roast.

I'm still relatively new to game, having grown up in a country where the closest we get to shooting season is when the government sends pest-management people to shoot crows. I tried venison recently, loved it, and now am on to the next least scary one on the list of game meats (see below). It's not very expensive either, plus I pretty much got it free (job perks heh). Pheasant really does remind me of a smaller chicken, but with much leaner meat and a slightly gamey smell to it, which was why I decided to braise it with the powerful spicy and tangy kimchi and kimchi juice. As with most things I'm unsure about, I went the easy way, low and slow, and the results were deliciously tender.

Photo from 2 years ago, when I first came to borough market.
I didn't know they were meant to be eaten.

Kimchi Pheasant Pot-Roast
serves 2
1 pheasant
1 large onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, smashed
3 pieces of ginger
1 cup chopped kimchi+ 1 cup kimchi juices
4 tbsp groundnut oil
unrefined sea salt, white pepper

1. Preheat oven to 150 degrees celsius.
2. Place a heavy-bottomed casserole pot over the stove. Add the oil and when the oil is hot, add the pheasant to brown, until golden all over, about 10 min.

3. Set aside. Add the onions and garlic and stir-fry till softened and fragrant. Add the kimchi to the pot and stir-fry for a couple min more.

4. Return pheasant to the pot, pour kimchi juices over.

5. Bring to a simmer, cover with a sheet of aluminium foil (some fancy French technique) followed by the lid, and place in the oven for 3 hours. When done, sprinkle over chopped spring onions, and let rest for a while, tented with foil, before carving (or rather, tearing. It's tender enough.)

Maybe it was the 3 hours, or maybe it was the enzymes in the kimchi juices at work, but the pheasant was deliciously juicy and tender despite its reputation of being too lean. If you're not normally crazy about the plate of cold kimchi on the side of your Korean meal, you might quite likely change your mind with this. The slow-braising in the oven kind of mellows the pungency of the kimchi out while intensifying its flavour, so all that sour, spicy and savoury flavours just infuse the roasted pheasant with all things good. Super healthy too I might add. Definitely worth offering the last of my kimchi for this beautiful bird.

P.S. Charles!! It's the first dish I cooked in your pot (:

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Better Homemade Kimchi

It's 2012! A new year! Out with the old, and in with the new. I decided to use up the last of the 2 month-old kimchi in a stew, and to replace that, I made a new batch a few days back. For those of you who might not have heard of kimchi (you obviously have not been hanging around hipster modern English restaurants/ London streetfood carts enough), it's like Korean sauerkraut, with a kick. Sour, spicy, just delicious, oh and also incredibly healthy, even arguably the Koreans' secret to longevity.

I've made kimchi before, but I don't think it was the best it could be. It is very simple though, so if you want a no-faff, passable kimchi recipe, you may still like it. This new one is inspired by Maangchi and many other Korean youtube videos, made with grated pear instead of sugar, and with an extra step of making a "porridge". This is still considered an easy version i.e. mak kimchi, the traditional one uses the whole cabbage. You don't have to use napa cabbage, I've tried it before with your normal white cabbage, works brilliantly too.

2 small/medium (about 2kg) napa cabbage i.e. chinese leaf lettuce
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sweet rice flour i.e. glutinous rice flour
1 cup water
1/2 cup fish sauce
1 cup of Korean hot chilli pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic, minced
1" piece ginger, minced
1 large onion, minced
1 pear, peeled and grated

1 carrot, shredded
1 bunch spring onions, shredded
(Whatever you like that's in season. I've added shredded beetroot before too. You can even add raw oysters/ squid etc. for a deluxe version.)

1. Chop cabbage up into bite-sized pieces.
2. Soak in cold water for about 5-10 min. Drain, sprinkle the salt over evenly. Leave it for 1 1/2 hours, but turn about 2-3 times through to salt evenly. By then, the cabbage would have sweat and reduced in volume by quite a lot. Rinse 3 times.

This basin was full to the brim an hour ago. 

3. Meanwhile, make your spice porridge. Add rice flour to water and bring to a simmer, keep stirring. Remove from heat, and when cool, add the rest of the ingredients to the rice paste.

4. Combine the cabbage, add-ons, and spice porridge. Get your largest mixing bowl and mix well.

5. Transfer from the mixing bowl into a sealable container (non-reactive, i.e. not a cheapo thin plastic) , and wait. Remember to press down well, and continue doing so for the next 2 days, submerging the vegetables under the kimchi juices that gets released.

6. About 2 days later, you'll see bubbles and it will smell slightly sour (in a nice way), that's when you can transfer it to the fridge, where you can try some 2 days later, or let it stay for a months even, depending on how mature you like it. I think a week is the minimum for good kimchi-ness.

I love kimchi, it's spicy sour tang instantly whets your appetite, and it makes an easy side to grilled meat/fish or even plain rice, or for the older ones, I add it to stews, or even just batter it to make kimchi fritters, yum. Because I like my kimchi really mature, I can only say for sure if it's better than version one a month or so later, but I've sneaked bites (it's been a couple of weeks) and already I like it.

Is this the best possible kimchi? Of course not, Koreans have nationwide competitions for it and they add fresh raw oysters and squid and all sorts of goodies to this powerful pickle. But this is a lot more realistic and doable for a starving student. Now the difficult bit, to wait.