Spicy Sichuan Salt and Pepper Prawns

My spicy Sichuan salt and pepper king prawns are the type of recipe I just love to eat and share. So it had to be the next recipe in this year’s celebration of the upcoming Chinese New Year. Be prepared, however, even though they have a spicy kick they are very addictive. The prawns are quickly deep-fried in the lightest coating then seasoned with my blend of salt, chilli, and pungent Sichuan pepper. If you like salt and pepper squid, you can substitute thinly sliced Calamari as an alternative. The result is mouth watering and delicious. Enjoy

Sichuan Cuisine

This spicy salt blend is typical Sichuan Chinese cuisine. Sichuan cooking typically uses lots of strong flavours such as chilli bean paste, chilli oil, and Sichuan peppercorns. Authentic Sichuan salt is obtained from local springs and does not contain iodine, but I use sea salt as an alternative and there is no major difference in taste. Sichuan dishes are often very hot, and the peppercorns produce a slight tingling sensation on the lips.

Spicy Sichuan Salt and Pepper Mix

You will find this mix is great as a rub for seasoning pork or chicken, like chicken wings, and can be used as a dry dip as well as with seafood like king prawns or calamari. If you don’t want to deep fry your prawns, you can stir fry them in their shells in a wok and add the Sichuan salt and pepper mix a couple of minutes before serving.

60 gram Sea Salt

10 gram Sichuan Pepper

5 gram dried Chilli Flakes

3 gram ground Star Anise

Heat the Sichuan peppercorns and sea salt in a heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium-low heat, until the salt starts to turn grey. Toss the pan occasionally to stop the peppercorns from burning. Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool. Grind the mixture in a pestle and mortar with the chilli flakes and Star anise. Store in a dry air-tight container and use as required.

Sichuan Prawns
Sichuan Salt and Pepper King Prawns
For this recipe you will need King prawns with the head on, that have had the shells removed and been deveined. You can get these from good fish-mongers or large supermarkets.
Red Braised Pork

Shanghai Red-braised Pork Belly

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Today’s recipe is for Shanghai Red-braised Pork Belly, in China red coloured meats are eaten for good luck as red is the colour of fire, a symbol of good fortune and joy. ‘Red cooking’ is a popular method of braising dishes in northern, eastern, and southeastern China. The name is derived from the dark red-brown colour of the cooked items and the sauce using both dark and light soy sauces, Chinese Rice Wine, and caramelized sugar flavoured with whole spices such as Star Anise, Cassia bark, and Fennel seeds. ‘Red cooking’ stews may contain meat, vegetables and other ingredients such as hard-boiled eggs. Dark soy sauce is actually not as salty as the light variety, and it is often used hearty Chinese dishes like stews that require body and colour.

Red Braised Pork
Shanghai Red Braised Pork Belly

Perhaps the most famous ‘Red cooking’ recipe is Shanghai Red-braised Pork Belly or Hong Shao Rou, reputed to be the favourite of Chairman Mao Tse-tung, so much so he supposedly he ate it every day. In China belly pork is a highly valued cut of meat and the perfect order of fat, meat, fat and meat under the skin is known as the ‘Five layers of Heaven’.

Shanghai-Style Braised Pork Belly ( 红烧肉 )

1 kg of Pork Belly, cut into 3 centimetre thick pieces

A small bunch of Spring Onions, trimmed and cut into 2 centimetre pieces

450 ml Water

5 tablespoons Chinese Rice Wine

3 tablespoons Vegetable Oil

3 tablespoons Rock Sugar or Golden Caster Sugar

3 tablespoons Light Soy Sauce

3 tablespoons Dark Soy Sauce

3 whole Star Anise pods

A couple of piece of Cassia bark

2 centimetre piece of fresh Ginger, peeled and sliced

2 cloves of Garlic, peeled and sliced

Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Carefully drop in the pieces of pork and blanch for a couple minutes, as this gets rid of any impurities. Remove the pork with a slotted spoon and place on kitchen paper to drain. Over low heat, add oil and sugar to your wok and melt the sugar. Add the blanched pork and increase the heat and cook until the pork until it is lightly caramelised. The pork may spit as it caramelises so be careful, but it is important to help give the dish its distinctive colour and flavour.

Turn the heat back down and carefully add the rice wine, then the light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, star anise, garlic, cassia, ginger and the water. Cover the wok and simmer for about an hour or until pork is really tender. Whilst the pork is cooking stir every five minutes to prevent burning and add a little more water if it gets too dry. Once the pork is cooked, if there is still a lot of visible liquid, uncover the wok, turn up the heat to reduce the sauce, stirring continuously until it is a sticky and glossy coating.

What to Drink? Matching wine with Chinese food used to be considered very difficult but try your pork with a full of fruit, sweet, jammy Australian Shiraz or blended Cabernet-Shiraz and why not try a crisp, refreshing Continental style Pilsner lager as your beer choice.

Allergens in this recipe are;

    Flour

There will be Soya and may be gluten in your Soy Sauce

Please see the Allergens Page

Red Lantern

Whisking Bearnaise Sauce

How to make a great Bearnaise Sauce

Valentines Cover

A Bearnaise sauce is simply an egg yolk, a shallot, a little tarragon vinegar, and butter, but it takes years of practice for the result to be perfect.”

Fernand Point, French chef, and restaurateur

Bearnaise is a classic accompaniment for a Valentine’s Day steak particularly a Côte de bœuf or Chateaubriand, the rich luxurious sauce pairing excellently with the meat, it can also be served with fish such as Brill and Turbot. Bearnaise was most likely created by chef Collinet who also graced the culinary world with pommes de terre soufflées. The sauce is believed to have first been served at the 1836 opening of a restaurant near Paris, named after King Henry IV of France, who was born in the Béarn region, hence the name.

Whisking Bearnaise Sauce
Bearnaise Sauce

Bearnaise is a derivate of the master sauce Hollandaise, an emulsion of beaten egg yolks and warm butter and distinctively flavoured with the aniseed like Tarragon ( some recipes also contain Chervil ). You can use a good quality white wine vinegar, Champagne vinegar for fish or for an extra hit of tarragon use some homemade tarragon vinegar.

Bearnaise Sauce                     for 4 to 6

300 gr Unsalted Clarified Butter

4 fresh free-range Egg Yolks

2 largish Banana Shallot, peeled and finely sliced

5 tablespoons White Wine, Champagne or Tarragon Vinegar

3 tablespoons fresh chopped Tarragon, reserve the stems

1 Bay Leaf

3 of 4 crushed White Peppercorns

Sea Salt and Cayenne Pepper

First clarify the butter by gently warming it in a small, heavy-bottomed pan. When the butter starts to foam, remove from the heat and leave it on the side to cool and for the buttermilk and impurities to sink to the bottom of the pan. Carefully ladle out the butterfat and pass through a fine sieve and discard the solids.

Clarifying Butter
Clarified Butter

Pour the vinegar into a small aluminium saucepan and add the shallots, tarragon stems, bay leaf and crushed peppercorns. Place on a medium heat and bring up to a gentle simmer and reduce the amount of liquid by half. Remove from the heat and allow to completely cool then strain.

Reduced White Wine
Tarragon infused White Wine Reduction

Lightly beat the egg yolks with a splash of cold water in a medium glass or metal bowl, then whisk in the infused vinegar. Carefully suspend the bowl over a pan of simmering water ( do not allow base of the bowl to touch the water as this will overcook the eggs and cause them to quickly scramble). Whisk the egg yolks continuously until they have thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon and they have tripled in volume.

Remove the pan from the heat leaving the bowl suspended over the hot water and slowly pour in the clarified butter in a thin stream, whilst whisking continuously until the mixture is thick and smooth. Fold in the tarragon leaves and season, to taste, with salt and a pinch of Cayenne pepper.

Whisking Bearnaise Sauce
Bearnaise Sauce

Your Bearnaise will keep warm set above the warm water covered lightly with tin foil for fifteen to twenty minutes. If your sauce splits or curdles you have probably tried to add the butter too quickly, a couple of teaspoons of freshly boiled water whisked vigorously into the split sauce may help retrieve it. If this does not work, you can whisk up a further egg yolk in a fresh clean bowl then slowly add the split hollandaise whisking all the time.

Allergens in this recipe are;

 Milk Eggs   There may be Sulphites in Vinegar

Please see the Allergens Page

Valentines Cover

Valentine’s Day Oysters Blonde and Blue

Valentine’s Day How to Cook the Perfect Steak

Valentine’s Day Chocolate Mousse

Chorizo Jam

If you have read any of my posts you may be aware of a few reoccurring themes, cream, garlic, bacon, seafood and barbecuing but bacon is probably up there as a potential favourite. Now I waxed lyrical about an American recipe Bacon Jam*, a mouth-watering combination of sweet onion, salty bacon with just a tickle of chilli heat but I think I might have just found something even more sticky and moreish. I saw a post for cheese and biscuits online, a fantastic piece of Manchego with a ramekin of Chorizo Jam!

A little bit of online research later and a couple of trials……………..

Homemade Chorizo Jam
Manchego Cheese and Chorizo Jam

So, I only made Chorizo Jam for the first time three week ago and I have eaten Chorizo Jam on toast, stuffed Chorizo Jam into Chicken breasts and used Chorizo Jam as a garnish for soup, but this sweet, slightly spicy, slightly smoky, relish is a must with a cheese board, absolutely delicious in fact. Enjoy

* I was a bacon jam evangelist.

Chorizo Jam

200 gr quality raw Chorizo

2 large Cooking Apples, peeled and diced

1 large Spanish Onion, peeled and very finely diced

2 large cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

100 ml Port

100 ml Water

50 ml Olive Oil

150 gr soft Brown Sugar

Juice of one freshly squeezed Lemon

½ teaspoon freshly picked Thyme

½ teaspoon Smoked Paprika

¼ teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper

Cut the Chorizo into small pieces at most half a centimetre square. Pour the oil into a large, heavy-bottomed, pan and place over a medium heat. Add the Chorizo and fry stirring constantly to prevent sticking and burning until the Chorizo is nicely brown, caramelised and crispy. When the Chorizo is cooked remove it from the pan and strain to drain off the excess oil.

Add the onions to the pan in enough of the oil to allow them to gently fry. Cook over a medium heat, for fifteen to twenty minutes or until clear. Add the garlic, stir well and cook for another two minutes. Add all of the remaining ingredients and bring to a low rolling boil. Stir in the Chorizo and reduce the heat until the jam is simmering. Stir frequently and cook until the onions are meltingly soft and the liquid is reduced to a thick syrup. Be careful due to recipes high sugar content you must keep stirring to prevent the mix sticking and burning.

Remove pan from the heat and allow the mix to cool for fifteen minutes. Using a funnel transfer into sterilised glass jars and seal tightly. The jam will keep in the refrigerator for a month.

Allergens in this recipe are;

  Flour     Check the ingredients in your Chorizo

Please see the Allergens Page

World Apple Day – Jersey Black Butter Ham

Black Butter Ham

The history of Apple Day, held on the 21st of October, is relatively new, the first official celebration was in 1990 in Covent Garden, this event has grown and is now a fixture all over the UK. However, there have been fairs across the south-west cider growing regions for a much longer time. Apple Day is now a celebration of all the myriad varieties of apple, their cultivation, cooking with them and, of course, making cider. There is another tradition much older, as old as cider making itself invoking pagan gods in an ancient fertility ritual which is Wassailing, which takes place in the cider orchards on January 17th.

Black butter

Jersey and Guernsey have a proud apple growing tradition going back many centuries and in Jersey around a fifth of the islands, fertile growing land in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was occupied by orchards. Today both islands boast fine cider makers in La Robeline in Jersey and Roquette in Guernsey. But Jersey has another old, traditional product made from sharp, cider apples, ‘ black butter ’ or ‘ Le Nierre Buerre ’. Black butter is now made on Apple Day, with a great many islanders taking part in the production at the Jersey Nation Trust.

Black butter is made from cider apples, cider and sugar which is slowly cooked and reduced over a very long time, often all night with volunteers stirring all evening, with a special wooden paddle, to prevent the mix burning due to the high sugar content. The concentrate is then flavoured with a secret blend of spices, lemon, and liquorice. During the evening there is traditional singing, dancing, story-telling and perhaps drinking of a few glasses of cider.

The finished product is a sweet, dark, sticky spread which you can eat with a salty cheese or perhaps as an alternative to jam with a scone but my favourite is as a glaze on baked ham.

Black Butter Ham

Ask your butcher to source a traditionally prepared dry cure ham and to tie it for you. For more information on curing please visit A Cooks Compendium. A dry cure ham will shrink less during cooking and produce a better quality easier to cut joint of meat. Poaching the ham before finishing the joint in the oven also improves the carving quality and produce a flavoursome stock from which you can make traditional pea and ham soup.

A piece of boned and rolled dry cured Ham, around 1.5 kg – 2 kg is a nice joint

( ask your butcher to weigh it this is important for cooking times )

1 or 2 Onions, peeled

2 Carrots, peeled and halved

2 sticks of Celery, washed

2 Bay leaves

4 Cloves

10 – 12 whole Coriander Seeds

6 – 8 Black Peppercorns

100 gr Jersey Black Butter

a large pan sufficient to submerge the ham

Place the ham in the pan and cover with cold water. Place on the cooker and bring to the boil. Carefully take to the sink and pour out the water and wash off any scum from the ham. This initial boiling will help reduce excess salt in the finished ham. Cover again with cold water and add the carrots, celery, coriander seeds and peppercorns. Pierce the bay leaves with the cloves, pin to the onions and add to the pan. Bring back to the boil, turn down to a gentle simmer and cover with lid. Cook for twenty minutes per pound of raw weight. Once the cooking time is finished turn off the heat and leave to go cold in the cooking liquor. This can be done the night before.

Preheat your oven to 400 F /200 C / Gas mark 6. Take out your ham from the cold stock which you can strain and reserve to make an excellent soup. Place on a baking tray and with a sharp knife remove the skin leaving a nice layer of fat. Score through the fat with the tip of your knife to leave small, squares or diamonds. Spread over the Black Butter and cook in the oven for thirty to forty minutes turning the oven down if the ham starts to burn. Remove and serve hot or cold.

Bacon Jam, National Toast Day and the Best Ever Hangover Cure

Wholegrain Toast with Bacon Jam and Fried Egg

It is National Toast Day so I want to share with you one of my favourite recipes. When you read the title, you might think I’ve lost the plot ( again ) but there is definitely something very, very moreish* about the combination of sweet onion, salty bacon with just a tickle of chilli heat. You will also probably think that this is quite an expensive dish to make with a lot of bacon** but rather like marmite this is something to use sparingly on your toast, and unlike marmite, there will be no polarisation, I’m sure everyone who tries it will LOVE it.

bacon-jam-on-toast-23-02-2017

This recipe for bacon jam is my adaptation of any number of American recipes, each perfectly wonderful, reflecting the availability of ingredients and my own personal preferences. You can try substituting Maple syrup for the honey and adding more chilli if you want more kick in your finished jam. Other recipes I looked at substitute a cup of ground coffee or beer for the water. Next time I am going to use Guinness and I’ll let you know about the result.

*Everyone I know who’s tried it, and I’m a bit of a bacon jam evangelist, always asks for more. It is the ultimate hangover cure on thick toast topped with a fried egg.

**Ask your local butcher if he has any bacon and gammon offcuts this will help with the price.

jar-of-bacon-jam-23-02-2017

Bacon Jam

500 gr quality dry cure Smoky Bacon ( this is better if it is quite fatty )

2 large Spanish Onions, peeled and finely sliced

2 large cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

200 ml White Wine Vinegar

100 ml Water

250 gr soft Brown Sugar

100 ml runny Honey

1 medium hot Red Chilli Pepper, finely diced

2 dried Bay leaves

10 – 12 Coriander Seeds

3 – 4 Cloves

½ teaspoon freshly picked Thyme

¼ teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper

bacon-jam-ingredients-23-02-2017

Slice the bacon into half inch thick strips ( any smaller and they tend to burn ). Put the bacon strips into a large, heavy-bottomed, pan and place over a medium to high heat. Fry the bacon stirring constantly to prevent sticking and burning until the bacon is nicely brown, caramelised and crispy. The bacon will cook in its own fat which will melt down, this process is called rendering. When the bacon is cooked remove it from the pan and strain to drain off the excess fat. This can be stored and used for cooking*. Once the bacon is cool, chop very finely into very small pieces.

cooking-bacon-bits

Add the onions to the pan in sufficient bacon fat to allow them to fry. Cook over a medium heat, for ten to fifteen minutes or until clear. Add the garlic, stir well and cook for another two minutes. While the onions are cooking blitz the spices in a coffee grinder ( you can, of course, use a pestle and mortar ). Add all of the remaining ingredients and bring to a rolling boil. Stir in the bacon and reduce the heat until the jam is simmering. Stir frequently and cook until the onions are meltingly soft and the liquid is reduced to a thick syrup. Be careful due to recipes high sugar and honey content you must keep stirring to prevent the mix sticking and burning.

Remove pan from the heat and allow the mix to cool for fifteen minutes. Process the jam using the pulse setting in a food processor to help break up the onion, If the result is still quite liquid return to a pan and bring back to the boil. Simmer to reduce the liquid further stirring all the time. Using a funnel transfer into sterilised glass jars and seal tightly. The jam will keep in the refrigerator for a month. Served warm or hot on toasted bread or breakfast muffins and top with a fried egg.

*I’m unashamedly old school just as you cannot have too much butter, cream, alcohol or garlic in your cooking, pretty much anything tastes better fried in bacon fat. Pour the melted bacon fat through a piece of muslin cloth and keep in the fridge in an airtight container.