Sunday, March 01, 2009

Saturday Night Chinese Feast

Sichuan Stir-fried Aubergine
Sichuan Stir-fried Aubergine Originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg

Saturday night at our house means more time for cooking! After a very lazy day (too lazy for words...) we were inspired to cook something out of the ordinary. A careful examination of the refrigerator revealed lots of ginger, garlic, an aubergine ('Eggplant' to you 'mericans) and a head of Chinese cabbage. Together these ingredients suggested the perfect foil for the belly pork I'd picked up from the Farm Market in Lensfield Road Friday evening.

Braised Pork Belly
Braised Pork Belly Originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg

We decided to braise the belly pork Chinese style and in the absence of a recipe I winged it - based on having watched our friend Emma prepare this this dish for us one evening. As I've been trying my hand at using the pressure cooker lately, the belly pork seemed a perfect candidate for this method - it would cut the cooking time down considerably.

To accompany this darkly flavoured, meaty dish we made Spicy Sichuan-style Aubergine (top) - a quick and easy dish that has become one of my favourite dishes from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian Cook Book.

White-cooked Chinese Cabbage
White-cooked Chinese Cabbage Originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg

We needed a simple vegetable dish to round off the meal so I chose White-Cooked Cabbage from Kenneth Lo's New Chinese Cookery Course cookbook.
The resulting meal was very good and I'm committing the recipes herein - so I don't forget them!

Hot and spicy Sichuan-style aubergines

450g aubergines (the best ones to use, according to MJ are the long thin Japanese kind)
3 tbsp vegetable or groundnut oil
2 spring onions (white and green parts) cut into fine rings
3 thin slices fresh ginger, peeled and cut into fine dice
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
5 tsp soy sauce
2-3 tsp chilli bean sauce
2 tsp caster sugar
2 tsp red wine vinegar
Salt, if needed
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)

  • Roll cut the aubergines or simply cut them across, at a diagonal at 4cm (1-1/2 inch) intervals.
  • Put the aubergines in a colander or on a steaming rack and steam for 15 -17 minutes or until tender*.
  • Put the oil in a large well-seasoned (or non-stick) wok or frying pan and set over high heat. When hot**, put in the spring onions, ginger and garlic, Stir-fry for 1 minute. Put the aubergines in the pan and stir for another minute, Next add the soy sauce, chilli past, sugar and vinegar, Stir and cook for 3 minutes, Taste and add a little salt, if needed, Add the sesame oil and stir once.
  • Remove from the heat, Sprinkle the coriander over the tip before serving. Serves 4.

*I found the aubergine too soft to retain their shape during the subsequent stir-frying step after this amount of steaming so I recommend reducing the steaming time to 12 - 15 minutes.
**Make sure the oil is very hot (but not smoking) before cooking commences.

White-Cooked Cabbage

1-1/2 tbsp dried shrimps
1 medium Chinese white or Savoy cabbage
2 slices fresh root ginger
4 tbsp vegetable or groundnut oil
20g butter
1/2 tsp salt
Pepper to taste
8 tbsp good stock (I used some pork stock from a cube)
1-1/2 chicken stock cubes (or equivalent of powdered stock)
1 tsp sesame oil

Soak the dried shrimps in hot water to cover for 15 minutes.
Drain. Remove the cabbage stalk (I didn't!) and any discoloured leaves before cutting to 6X5 cm pieces. Finely shred the ginger.

  • Heat the oil and butter in a wok or large saucepan.
  • When hot,. stir-fry the ginger and shrimps for 15 seconds.
  • Add the cabbage and sprinkle with salt, pepper, stock and crumbled stock cubes. Bring to the boil.
  • Toss a few times and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes, turning occasionally.
Sprinkle with sesame oil before serving.

Braised Pork Belly (Pressure cooker method)

2 tbsp dark soy sauce
3 tbsp light soy sauce
300 ml stock (I used pork stock)
3 slices fresh ginger, finely chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 small or 1 large onion, sliced
4 tbsp chinese cooking wine or dry sherry
2 tsp castor sugar
2 pieces star anise
salt to taste (approx. 1/2 tsp, to start)
freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Wash the pork belly and cut into large 3X4 cm (or larger) pieces. If the meat contains ribs, cut the ribs away from the main meat, cut into 2 or 3 pieces and cook with the rest of the meat.
  • Put the pork into the pressure cooker, fill the pot with water to cover the meat and bring to the boil. Boil for 8 minutes.
  • Remove the pork from the heat, pour the meat into a colander discarding the water, and wash the scum from the meat.
  • Return the meat to the pressure cooker and add all of the remaining ingredients. The liquid should come 1/2 to 2/3 the way up the meat in the pot.
  • Close the lid of the pressure cooker and turn the heat on high to bring the pot to the boil. When boiling rapidly, turn the heat down until a steady rocking of the weight is achieved. Set a timer for 20 minutes.
  • After 20 minutes, turn off the heat and allow the pot to cool gradually. This will take an additional 20-30 minutes, during which time the meat will continue to cook.
  • Once cool and returned to atmospheric pressure, remove the lid and poke the meat. It should be soft enough to break with a pair of chopsticks. [If not, return to the heat, boil again and cook under pressure for an additional 10 minutes.]
  • Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings.
Serve in a heated casserole with the juices poured over the top.

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