Sichuan Inspired Green Beans with pork mince and Kale – My First Post Of 2013

Firstly, a belated happy new year!  I hope 2013 has been treating you well so far.  For me, it has been a good start although I have been putting off blogging since the holidays; so much to share, but I needed something to kick start me again and that happened earlier this week.

The absence of posts is mostly due to the lack of time to experiment since the holidays.  Although, I do have a couple of noteworthy holiday recipes to share at some point.  Maybe I will save them for later in the year as they aren’t so season appropriate right now!

 There has however been some cooking happening and for the most part it has been with a more health conscious focus in mind.  

Chinese is one of my favourite cuisines to eat out and the recipe I am sharing is inspired by a very popular Chinese Sichuan dish; a dish I had not tried until a couple of years ago.  I was surprised that all these years I had missed this because it is absolutely delicious!  Of course, now I order it almost anywhere new I try just to taste the differences and let me tell you there are many!  My favourite version of this dry fried green bean dish is when it has pork in it too.  What I love about this recipe is that it is delicious to eat on its own if you are omitting carbs in the new year, for example.  As well as having a much higher ratio of vegetables to meat than other dishes, it is healthier too.  If you use lean mince and the oil  a little more sparingly you will still have a dish packed with flavour, texture and lots of deliciousness!

 

My Sichuan Inspired  Gan Bian Si Ji Dou – Fine Green Beans With Pork and Kale

One of my favourite quick weekday dishes.  In the past I have also cooked this with duck breast fillets chopped up to a course mince consistency with excellent results.  I also add a little more 5 spice powder and sugar when cooking the duck version.  This is a delicious alternative to the pork.

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Serves 4-5

Ingredients

1 pack of fine green beans topped and tailed and cut in half (200-300g)

500g lean pork mince (you can also try using duck.  Use skinless breast fillets and chop finely to a course mince)

1 bag of curly kale (200g) chopped and any large stems removed

5 cloves of garlic pressed/grated or chopped finely

1 small white onion chopped finely

2-4 green chilies chopped finely (adjust quantity according to taste)

2-4 tbsp dried shrimp chopped finely (if you cannot find this, you may omit)

1/2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns crushed well

1 good tsp 5 spice powder (a little extra if cooking duck)

1 tbsp red chili flakes (adjust to taste)

3 tbsp Shaoxing wine or dry sherry

1- 11/2 tbsp toasted sesame oil

1 1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar (I add this because traditionally preserved greens are added to this dish.  The vinegar adds a pleasant balance as a substitute)

3-4 tbsp  dark soy sauce (adjust seasoning at the end)

1 1/2  tbsp sugar (adjust to taste- for duck use a little more)

I spring onion chopped finely for garnishing

Check seasoning at the end- you may add a little more soy or salt.

Groundnut or Rice bran oil (or any other oil you may want to use that has a high burning point)

Method

  1. Heat a large wide based pan.
  2. Drizzle over 1 tsp of oil over the chopped beans and toss before putting into the hot pan. You just want a light coating on the beans as your aim is to dry fry the beans at a high temperature to retain some texture and colour. Some recipes suggest deep frying the beans, but apart from adding a lot of calories, having tried it, I found I much preferred the fresher taste when just a little oil was used. Cook the beans at a high temperature, tossing them regularly for about 5 mins until they have evenly blistered and soften slightly.  When done remove from the pan.
  3. In the same pan add a couple of tbsp of the oil you are using and add the pork.  Fry until you get some colour for a couple of minutes.
  4. Next add the onions and green chilies.  This is something extra I have added in my version. I like the sweetness from the onion and the flavour of the green chili. Fry with the meat until the onions are translucent and have softened.
  5. Now lower the heat and add in the finely pressed garlic and chopped dried shrimp.  If you can’t find the dried shrimp you can just omit it.  There really isn’t a substitute   You could try to find a chili oil that is made with shrimp paste and omit the red chilies and use that instead.  The dried shrimp are usually in the refrigerated section in a Asian supermarket. They come in different sizes, but for this dish any small ones will do.  Fry for a minute or two.
  6. Now you can turn the heat back up and add the liquids and spices- the 5 spice powder, the sugar the Sichuan peppercorns, the red chili flakes, the soy sauce, the rice vinegar, toasted sesame oil and the Shaoxing wine. Stir well as the liquid evaporates.  Once it has evaporated check for seasoning.  Remember that the beans and kale have no seasoning so you need to add a little extra.
  7. Finally add the beans back in with the kale leaves (stalks removed) and stir well.  You do not need to cook it much- 1-2 mins.  You just want the beans warmed again and the kale to wilt slightly. Check seasoning.
  8. Take off the heat and garnish with spring onions.  You can serve this with steamed Jasmine rice for a hearty meal.

 

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Chicken, Chive & Garlic Quenelle Style Dumpling Soup For The Heart & Soul

My first July post.  It’s the second week of Wimbledon and the first week in July, but of course, it feels like October! Welcome to the British Isles!
Normally at this time of year I’d be craving delicious salads that I could dress with interesting concoctions, I’d be enjoying the best of the summer fruit and the long summer nights outside. Unfortunately, I don’t feel the slightest inclination to make a salad or even enjoy a simple bowl of strawberries today.

After an extremely long weekend of labour, my plans for this week were dashed unexpectedly and the summer sun has hardly offered a glimmer of warmth to compensate, therefore my answer to this is soup.

I’ve talked about the magic of soup in my previous posts and today called for some of the special pick-me-up kind.  I was trying to decide what kind to make when I remember an episode of Rachel Khoo’s The Little Paris Kitchen.  The one where she makes that delicious, quick and easy looking Chicken Dumpling soup.  That was it.  My heart made up my mind.

Trying to remember the episode, I looked it up on YouTube and found the clip which was barely 3 minutes and so after a quick watch of the clip I set about gathering ingredients to make my own version.  I had a quick walk outside to see what I could gather from the garden and after an armful of delicious produce( carrots, bay, thyme, kale and chives ) from my ever expanding kitchen garden (at least the plants are enjoying the rain in July!) I set about making my own rustic & hearty variation of Rachel’s recipe.

 My Chicken, Chive & Garlic Quenelle Style Dumpling Soup

For the  Dumplings:

This recipe yields enough quenelles for 2 lots of the soup recipe below. (About 32-36)  I’d estimate this dumpling recipe serves 6-8 people well, but be sure to adjust the broth quantity accordingly. I made this recipe larger as I wanted to try freezing half the mixture for a super quick soup fix for next time or try poaching and then baking the quenelles in a Gratin de Quenelles de Volaille of sorts.  I will keep you posted when I come around to it.  If you just want to make enough for the broth below, half this recipe.

Ingredients

400g  skinless, boneless chicken meat.  I used a mix of thigh and breast, but either alone would also work well.  Ensure that tendons and gristly bits are removed.

200g stale white bread. The white bread adds to the fluffiness.

200ml cream- whatever you have to hand (single, double, whipping).  I had double

2 eggs and 2 yolks or 3 eggs will work too.  More yolk adds a richness. If you’re halving the recipe 1 egg and 1 yolk would work best.

2 cloves of garlic crushed

4-5 tbsp finely chopped chives.

salt and pepper

Method

  1. Take all the ingredients above apart from the chives and put in a food processor.  Blend until a whipped paste consistency in acheieved.
  2. Remove mixture from food processor bowl or if your food processor bowl fits in your fridge, then just take the blade out and stir in the chives well.
  3. Refrigerate the mixture while you prepare the broth.
  4. Once the broth is ready, make quenelle shapes of the chicken mixture by shaping with 2 tablespoons and drop into the broth.
  5. The dumplings are done when the float to the surface, about 5 minutes.
For the Broth :

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 l  homemade chicken stock (4 1/2l water, chicken bones of 1 or 2 chickens -I keep some bones in the freezer after a roast or when I am de-boning a chicken for something else, a bay leaf, small onion halved, 1 carrot in chunks. Simmer for an hr.) or if you’re in a rush an equal measure of  good quality ready made stock or as a last resort 2-4 good quality organic chicken stock cubes/chicken boullion, quantity used dependent on the salt content.  Try Kallo and taste for seasoning after the second cube. Add a bay leaf to the two alternatives for flavour.

1 medium onion finely chopped

2 carrots finely cubed

2 sticks of celery finely cubed

2-3 cloves of garlic crushed

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar (optional)

a few springs of fresh thyme or parsley (optional)

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

Salt pepper

8 or so large leaves of kale or greens of your choice finely shredded to add at the end (optional)

  1. Heat a pan and add the oil and butter.  I like to use some butter for the flavour, but some oil too as it doesn’t create a film on a broth soup as much as butter does.
  2. Sweat the onions for 5 mins on a medium heat ensuring that they don’t brown.
  3. Add the celery and carrot and sweat for a further 5-8 mins or until softened.
  4. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or so, until the raw smell disappears
  5. Now pour in the stock and bring to the boil before adjusting the seasoning.
  6.  Finally add the optional apple cider vinegar.  This really lifts the dish and cuts through the richness of the quenelles.
  7. Now follow the instructions above for cooking the quenelles.
  8. Once floating to the surface, switch off the heat and stir in the shredded kale and sprigs of thyme/parsley if using and serve immediately with some hearty sourdough.