Mapo tofu

Vegetarian Mapo Tofu

Mapo tofu (麻婆豆腐) is a very popular Sichuan Chinese dish made from tofu, Douchi or fermented black beans, rice wine, pungent Sichuan peppers and a double hit of chilli flakes and Douban, a chilli and bean paste. Classically the dish is made with ground beef or pork and so spicy as to make the diner sweat. In this recipe, I have substituted roughly chopped Shiitake mushrooms for the meat to make a tasty vegetarian option. Last year I posted a serious of recipes from one of my favourite Chinese cuisines to celebrate Chinese New Year including My Cantonese Pork and Crab and Sweetcorn Soup. This year I am going to post some Sichuan dishes to add to the collection.

Mapo tofu
Mapo tofu

Mapo Tofu History

The origins of the dish are a little confusing but one thing is for certain and all of the experts agree on the meaning of the name ‘ Mapo ‘. Ma stands for pockmarks and po is derived from the Chinese for old lady or grandma. So Mapo tofu is a shortening of the name Pockmarked Ma’s Bean Curd. This lady may have owned a restaurant, or been a relative of a restaurant owner, or simply being hospitable. whatever she created a stunning dish packed with flavour. Today there are many variations and recipes that are often adapted with less spice, but you should really give the authentic recipe a try. Enjoy.

Mapo Tofu Ingredients

Sliced tofu
Sliced Tofu

Tofu or bean curd is made from soy milk. In a process similar to making cheese it is first made into curds which are pressed into blocks. The finished product has a soft yielding texture and is quite bland in taste but is often used in really highly-flavoured dishes such as Mapo tofu.

Sichuan Pepper
Sichuan pepper

Sichuan pepper is not like any of its namesakes the smell and taste is unique. It has a citrus aroma, in fact, it is a member of the citrus family and creates a mild pleasant numbness in the mouth.

Doubanjiang or douban is a salty spicy paste made from fermented broad beans, soya beans and rice and red chillies. It is known as ‘ the soul of Sichuan cuisine ‘.

Fermented Black Beans
Douchi – fermented black beans

Douchi ( 豆豉 ) are semi-dried fermented and salted black soybeans used in Chinese cooking. The finished taste is both sweet and salty so the beans are used sparingly as a flavouring to dishes. Douchi are one of the oldest know products made from soybeans dating back over two thousand years.

Top Tips

Use a wooden spoon or flat spatula to gently stir the dish when cooking to avoid breaking up the tofu. As both the fermented black beans and the douban are salty check the flavour of the dish before adding any additional salt. If you want a little more Sichuan hit sprinkle the finished dish with extra freshly ground Sichuan pepper.

As you will be making this quickly in a wok it helps to have all the ingredients ready before you start cooking.

My Perfect Christmas dinner – sides

My perfect Christmas Dinner – sides

My perfect Christmas Dinner – Sides. A perfect Christmas roast turkey dinner isn’t a perfect Christmas dinner for me without the stuffing, gravy, roast potatoes, and the rest of the sides. Honey roast parsnips, buttered carrots and today’s recipes braised red cabbage, Brussel sprouts and of course cranberry sauce.

My perfect Christmas dinner -Braised Red Cabbage

Braised red cabbage is a beautifully versatile accompaniment to a host of winter dishes pies, casseroles and stews, seasonal roasts such as venison and game birds. You can adjust / experiment with the recipe and adapt it to suit whatever you are serving it with.

My perfect Christmas Dinner – Sides – Braised Red Cabbage
You can experiment and add a large grated cooking apple to your recipe and braise in cider, replace the redcurrent jelly for cranberry sauce or add a small handfully of raisins to the pan at the start of cooking.

Stir Fry Brussel Sprouts

We all love Brussel sprouts and I am sure you will too if you follow this simple recipe.
If you bought your sprouts are on the stalk, twist each one off. Remove any discoloured or damaged leaves. Next, trim the base and cut an larger ones in half. Wash and drain.

My perfect Christmas Dinner – Sides – Brussel Sprouts

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the Brussel sprouts. Remove after five minutes and plunge into cold, iced water. This stops the brussels over cooking. Drain thoroughly. To serve heat two heaped tablespoons of butter in a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan with a splash of olive oil. Toss the brussels in the pan over a medium-high heat for three to four minutes until thoroughly heated but still a little crunchy. Season well, top with a few toasted flaked almonds and serve.

My perfect Christmas dinner – cranberry sauce

My perfect Christmas Dinner – Sides – Cranberry Sauce

This is my go to recipe for a delicious homemade Cranberry sauce. It may seem quite a lot but it goes just as well a roast chicken or in a cold turkey sandwich.

I promise you will never go back to cranberry sauce from a shop again once you have tried this.
Butterflied BBQ Sticky Chicken Breast

BBQ Butterfly Chicken Breast – UK BBQ Week

My last recipe for this year’s National BBQ Week is a simple sticky BBQ butterfly chicken breast ( no bone so no need to worry about cooking the meat through ) with a nice simple sticky Kansas city style BBQ sauce which can be used on ribs and other BBQ meats. Don’t use it too early during the cooking process as it will easily burn due to the relatively high sugar content. For more information on how to BBQ successfully please read my post on grilling temperatures. When you make it use a good quality ketchup as I find cheaper varieties a little too acidic. Enjoy.

If you are like me and love BBQ food please follow my BBQ inspired blog here.

Butterflied BBQ Sticky Chicken Breast
Butterflied BBQ Chicken Breast

Brilliant BBQ Style Chicken Breasts

A butterfly chicken breast is sliced nearly through to open out the breast allowing it to be stuffed and rolled, batted out and breadcrumbed or simply cooked quicker.

4 large butterflied Chicken Breasts ( ask your butcher to do this )

A little Olive oil

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

For the sauce

400 ml quality Tomato Ketchup

100 gr Soft Brown Sugar

3 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

2 tablespoons Sherry Vinegar

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons melted Butter

1 teaspoon English Mustard Powder

1 teaspoon Smoked Paprika

½ teaspoon dried Thyme

½ teaspoon Celery Salt

A couple of splashes of Sriracha hot sauce ( to your taste )

For the sauce, take a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan and sauté the garlic gently in the butter until tender and without overly browning which will make the sauce bitter. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer, stirring regularly to prevent the sauce sticking to the pan and burning. Cook out for five minutes and remove from the heat and set aside.

To cook the chicken breasts, brush with a little oil, season well and cook over a medium-hot BBQ for eight to ten minutes each side then baste with the sauce and cook for five to ten more minutes, continuing to baste until the meat is cooked and any juices run clear.

Alternatively, line a baking tray with aluminium foil and lightly grease. Place on the chicken and cook under a medium hot grill as above. After cooking either under the grill or on the BBQ brush the chicken breast generously with extra sauce and serve.

Wine

What to Drink? Continental style Blonde beers cut through the sweet sticky sauce and I like to pair the chicken with sweeter, lower alcohol Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc white wines.

 

Allergens in this recipe are;

Celery  Mustard

Please see the Allergens Page

 

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

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