My Kung Pao Chicken

Chinese New Year and Kung Pao Chicken

Chinese New Year and Kung Pao Chicken.  Today we welcome in the Chinese New Year 2019 the year of the pig. This year to celebrate I have made a trio of Sichuan inspired dishes. A vegetarian Mapo tofu, spicy Sichuan Salt and Pepper Prawns and today’s recipe the classic Kung Pao Chicken. Now you should beware many western versions of this lack the serious dual hit of fiery red chilli and the mouth tingling Sichuan pepper. In fact Sichuan peppers were banned from America for quite sometime? The US version is often just a variant of General Tso’s Chicken with carrots, onions and bell peppers in a sweet and sour sauce. You will find Western versions are often much tamer than the authentic dish.

Why is it called Kung Pao Chicken?

Kung Pao chicken (  宫保鸡丁 ) is believed to be named after a Governor of Sichuan province who held the official title ‘ Gongbao ‘ or palace guardian. I’m sure you have seen the similarity already. Because of this Imperial connection it was renamed during the famous Cultural Revolution. The new name was the rather less catchy ‘ fast fried chicken cubes ‘. It’s more famous name was restored in the nineteen eighties.

Authentic Kung Pao Chicken

You make real thing from stir-fried soy marinated chicken, leeks and raw peanuts. Your flavour comes from Sichuan peppercorns and red chillies. They are first heated in hot oil with perhaps some ginger and garlic. Then you serve the finished dish with simply steamed rice.

Sichuan Pepper
Sichuan pepper

Happy Chinese New Year

If you find my Sichuan recipes a little too fierce remember you can always reduce the amount of Sichuan peppercorns and / or red chillies. If you you like something less spicy altogether why not try some of my other Chinese recipes over the celebrations? Classic roast Char sui Pork, my version of sweet and sour Cantonese Pork, and the perfect bowl of rice. Or what about delicious Beef in Black Bean and Garlic sauce and slow-braised Lamb with Ginger. Whatever you choose I wish you a prosperous Chinese New Year. Watch out it won’t be long before I post another recipe from one of my favourite cuisines.

My Kung Pao Chicken
My Kung Pao Chicken
You can exchange the thighs with chicken breast if you prefer just cook a little less.

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.

My Rhubarb Fool – A perfect Seasonal Dessert

What is Rhubarb Fool?

Rhubarb fool is a great seasonal dessert when fresh fruit in the UK is in pretty short supply. Early in the New Year ( Happy 2019 everyone ) and many of us are thinking about trying to shift the extra weight we may have put on over Christmas. I’m not sure I can go as far as something really healthy, but what I do have is an idea to revitalise any jaded party palettes. As it is time for the earliest of the season’s rhubarb, what about this delicious sweet? Forced rhubarb will be available from good greengrocers but it can be pricey, you can wait for the season’s main crop. The best forced rhubarb comes from the rhubarb triangle in West Yorkshire.

We chefs can sometimes overlook simple classic dishes that have pleased people for a very long time. The fruit fool is a versatile and first-rate example of an underrated culinary star, tart fruits with sweetened cream. You can make them pretty much throughout the year starting with rhubarb, then strawberries, gooseberry and elderflower is delicious and finish with late season raspberries in Autumn.

Trimmed Rhubarb Stems

My Rhubarb Top Tip

I was bought up from an early age by three formidable ladies, my Mum and the aunties Elizabeth and Mary, all incredible cooks. Peeking over the kitchen table I watched them pickle, preserve, knead, ferment, blanch, pluck, peel and chop with carefree abandonment. My guess is a little must have rubbed off on my shoulders. They were all armed with Mrs. Beeton, Robert Carrier, the Bero book and all became particularly big favourites of the Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady.

Rhubarb Leaves are Poisonous!

I do not remember if my tip for today was in the book, but I remember it was full of beautiful illustrations and lots of old country lore. I am pretty sure most people are aware that the leaves of rhubarb are poisonous, but they do have a use. If you have a badly burnt pan leave it to soak for a couple of hours with some torn up rhubarb leaves covered with water. The carbonised food should then be easy to shift with warm soapy water and a scourer, please make sure you rinse thoroughly.

My Rhubarb Fool

I’m not sure if the purists would serve a fool on a biscuit base but I like the butter ginger biscuit base which adds a nice little contrast to the softly whipped cream and poached fruit. The choice is up to you if you wish to leave it out. So while I am not going to win any points for calorie-free food I think this is winner on flavour. Enjoy

My Rhubarb and Ginger Fool
You can adapt through the changing fruit seasons with rhubarb, gooseberry, raspberry and loganberries. This recipe is adapted from one by one of my culinary hero’s, Simon Hopkinson. I like the flavour combination of rhubarb and orange with the buttery ginger biscuit base. You can make it with caster or golden sugar but again I like to use soft brown sugar for the added extra toffee / caramel flavour.

My Delicious Homemade Buttery Mince Pies

Sweet pastry Mince pies

I love mince pies, I love mince pies so much. Lilly and I set a challenge this December to try all of the mince pies we could possibly get our hands on in Jersey. Shall I let you into a secret none of them match up to today’s recipe. We hope you like them just as much.

A bit of Mince Pie history

Mince pies are a peculiarly British individual pie now eaten across the English speaking world. They are traditionally served over the Christmas period. Although in America they are more likely to be made in large tart cases and eaten at Thanksgiving. It is thought the name is derived from mince meat and preserved fruit pies first bought back during the crusades. These would have been quite heavily spiced with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Today when we make mince pies we omit the meat but most recipes contain suet. You can use the tradition beef suet or a vegetarian option if you prefer.

My Last Minute Mincemeat Recipe

You can use a good quality mince meat but you might like to use my own quite luxurious recipe. As with a lot of my recipes you can always adopt to your own tastes. You can add Drambuie instead of brandy, some freshly grated orange zest,  and fresh cranberries for example.

Mincemeat is traditionally made in advance and stored in sterilised air-tight jars but I this recipe is just as good and read to use immeadiately.
Buttery sweet pastry mince pies ready for baking

The best Mince Pie Recipe

The basic recipe is for sweet buttery sable pastry and any left overs can be used to make Christmas biscuits. You can make the pastry ahead and freeze and defrost as you require. If you want to make a more traditional cover seal the edges with a little cold water, top with pastry and snip a small hole in the top.

Mincemeat is traditionally made in advance and stored in sterilised air-tight jars but I this recipe is just as good and read to use immeadiately.
Crab Bisque

My Shellfish Bisque

Crab Bisque
Jersey Crab Bisque with white crab meat

I’ve recently featured a lot of soup recipes. From a really tasty store cupboard classic to a spicy Thai inspired coconut fish soup. In the run-up to Christmas I’ve just time for one more, a rich Shellfish Bisque. Now as you would expect living on an island and working as a chef, I have recipes for lots of different shellfish bisque recipes. Traditionally a bisque is a French soup. You can make your shellfish bisque can be made from lobster, crab, prawns, and crayfish. The shells are used to make a stock and then you incorporate the meat into the finished soup.

What is the difference between soup and bisque?

Bisque is thought to have derived from either the word Biscay, as in Bay of Biscay. Biscay is famous for oysters and other shellfish. Alternatively, the name could have evolved from the shellfish being twice cooked, in French, “bis cuites”. Certainly, when I make crab or lobster bisques in commercial kitchens the shells are first roasted lightly, then simmered with vegetables and herbs before being strained. Traditionally a bisque is thickened by grinding up the shells and you need some pretty powerful industrial food processors to accomplish this. At home, you can thicken with flour or adding a handful of rice to the cooking stock. The name bisque is now often used for thick and creamy roasted vegetable soups.



An Island Chef Top Soup Recipies

Beer and Cheese Bisque

Seafood Tom yam Soup

Cauliflower Veloute with Curry Oil and Cauliflower Pakora

Gazpacho

Patatas Riojanas - Spanish Chorizo and Potato Soup

I have slightly altered the recipe to allow for the fact the most household food processors are not built to break up extremely tough crab shells. Using prawns gives a slightly sweeter if less intensely minerally flavoured soup but it is never the less a real show stopper. This would be an ideal start to your Christmas day dinner. 

Start your Christmas Culinary Countdown on Stir up Sunday

Stir up Sunday

Stir up Sunday? Christmas Culinary Countdown? What is that I hear you cry? Well this Sunday is thirty days before Christmas and a week before Advent. Advent, yes the thing with the calendar! Stir up Sunday is a Victorian tradition where the family gathered together to make the Christmas pudding or plum duff. The tradition is believed to originated from families listening to the collect for the day from the Book of Common Prayer for this particular day;

 ‘ Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people;
that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works,
may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen. ’

Advent is observed in Christian churches as a time of waiting and preparing for the Nativity.  Advent is derived from the Latin for “coming”. So your pudding is bound in the Christian Christmas tradition. And you thought Advent was all about a calendar with little doors and chocolate. So this special time would seem good enough for me to be the perfect start posting my Christmas recipes.

A Christmas Countdown

I am going to post lots of recipes in the run up to Christmas. A collection of classic dishes and a few unexpected twists in case you don’t like Turkey, so that you will be able to cook up a cracker of a Christmas. In this post you will find lots of ideas for home baking this festive season.

Get your Christmas Bake On

Lets look at a couple of the iconic Christmas recipes the Christmas pudding and the fruit cake. Now you don’t have to be scared or be a baker capable of winning the Great British Bake Off to make a great Christmas pudding or cake. As you will see it is really about preparation and making in advance.

Just click on the dish name for the recipe.

Aunty Mary’s Christmas Pudding

“This recipe is from one of my culinary inspirations my Aunty Mary, a brilliant cook, it really is the best I’ve ever encountered with lots of dried fruits, citrus peel and good soaking in some good beer, and now I work for a brewery how the circle has turned. We used to spend most of the day sorting through the dried raisins and sultanas to make sure there were no small stones in the bags, then they would be left overnight in stout.”

Christmas fruit cake

“For those of you who like to be organised now is an ideal time to start to prepare your Classic Fruit Cake for the festive season and start preparing your Christmas pudding and your mincemeat. This is my go-to recipe for fruitcake, rich and flavoursome enough for a christening or wedding cake or our family Christmas Cake, it is a sufficiently sturdy bake to carry the weight of marzipan and icing and can be used in tiers.”

Sable pastry Christmas cookies
Sable pastry Christmas biscuits

Christmas Biscuits

“My Christmas biscuits or cookies are a definite family favourite. They are great if you want to make something with your children to decorate the Christmas tree. But don’t worry they are very tasty too.”

Mixed Jam Linzer biscuits
Assorted Linzer Biscuits

Linzer Biscuits

Linzer biscuits are made with sable pastry which is cut into rounds and baked. The top biscuit often has a small cut out which allows the jam or fruit preserve to be seen when two biscuits are sandwiched together with jam in between. The finished biscuits are dusted with icing sugar


Biscotti

“Biscotti or cantucci ( most commonly used in Tuscany ) are delicious twice-baked Italian biscuits. They are usually made with almonds. Traditionally they are served with a sweet Italian dessert wine called Vin Santo. You might also find them on the side of a cappuccino or latte. To be honest I’m very happy dipping them in nothing more than a mug of tea. We always make several batches at home, in December, as they are a wonderful handmade small gift at Christmas time.”

Sweet pastry mince pies

Homemade Buttery Mince Pies

“Mince pies are a peculiarly British individual pie now eaten across the English speaking world. They are traditionally served over the Christmas period. Although in America they are more likely to be made in large tart cases and eaten at Thanksgiving. It is thought the name is derived from mince meat and preserved fruit pies first bought back during the crusades. These would have been quite heavily spiced with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. “