The year of the Golden Dragon is upon us and last night, my friend Karen, cooked the most amazing meal to celebrate the Chinese new year. I realise my first blog should probably start with food produced by yours truly, but as it was so very much enjoyed by yours truly, I thought this reason enough to mention here! Besides, I was chief taster/deputy chief dishwasher and I did provide the pudding – although admittedly it wasn’t quite in keeping with the Chinese theme – but more on that later.
Karen produced the following menu – chicken gyozas (fried dumplings), crispy peking duck with pancakes and all the trimmings, sweet and sour prawns and chicken claypot served with egg fried rice. Delicious!
My favourite course had to be the peking duck, cooked from scratch to perfection following Tim Hayward’s guidelines in the Guardian, http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2012/jan/17/how-to-make-peking-duck. The duck was initially dunked 6 times in boiling water and white vinegar, after which its cavity was powdered with salt, star anis, szechuan pepper, cinnamon, ginger, orange peel and a couple of cloves. The duck was then glazed with maltose, soy sauce and rice vinegar and hung upside down (to dry out the skin) for about 5 hours (assisted by a portable fan!) and then roasted for an hour and a half, before being shredded, wrapped and demolished!
The sweet and sour prawns were stir fried with ginger, garlic, chilli, soy sauce, sesame oil, tomato puree, fish sauce, spring onion, red and yellow pepper, mangetout and baby sweetcorn.
For the chicken claypot, the chicken was marinated in hoi sin sauce, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, honey and sesame oil for 3-4 hours. Shitake mushrooms, pak choi and chicken stock were then added to the chicken in the claypot which was then placed in the oven for an hour, gradually increasing the temperature to 160°C.
Moving onto pud, I tried to find a nice traditional Chinese dessert recipe, but with no luck – not even Ken Hom was able to help! I can only deduce that the Chinese are a very healthy lot, seemingly sticking mainly to fruit. So, with a far more prodigious calorie count in mind, I plummed for pecan pie instead
This was a variation on Nigella’s “Pecan-Plus Pie” recipe which I’d tried out on the family over Christmas, see link http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/pe. But this time, instead of using an assortment of different types of nuts as suggested, I stuck solely to pecans based on feedback from certain family members that the additional nuts were excessive.
The best thing about Nigella’s recipe is the pastry – you just mix together plain flour, vegetable oil, salt and milk into a rough dough and press down into the pie dish with your hands and put the dish into the freezer – no rolling or blind baking required, phew! Whilst the pastry is doing its thing in the freezer, you crack on with making the caramel (melting butter, light brown sugar and golden syrup in a saucepan, adding vanilla extract and allowing to cool for 10 mins before whisking in the eggs).
At this point, Nigella adds the mixed nuts to the pastry lined dish (removed from freezer), pours over the caramel and puts straight into the oven. Instead, I mixed half of my pecans (chopped) into the caramel, poured this into the pastry and then arranged the remaining half (pecan halves) on top. 40 mins later at 180°C, a dollop of ice-cream and hey presto!
All in all a great night and a great way to welcome in the Chinese new year. Mind you, I’m not too sure about the accuracy of the chinese fortune cookies predictions. After slaving away over a hot stove and a dunking duck all day, Karen opened up her cookie to find the prediction “Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook”!
Love Anna xxx