Christmas Pudding

Sunday the 26th November is ‘ Stir-up Sunday ‘ the date when many people traditionally prepare their Christmas Puddings. I thought I would post this recipe just over a month early to enable people plenty of time to prepare and make sure they have all the ingredients bought in ready. If you are not particularly religious you can make your pudding earlier and it will probably be even better maturing for longer.

‘ 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. ’

These are the opening words of the collect for the day in the Book of Common Prayer of 1549 as used on the last Sunday before Advent, the beginning of the Christian Christmas season. The story is as housewives listened to the verse they would be reminded to go home and make the family Christmas Pudding. Many recipes for Christmas Pudding require a period of several weeks for the pudding to mature, I know people who make them for next year’s consumption, however, this Sunday became an informal time for many families to gather together and make their pudding.

Christmas Pudding 3

The pudding mix is stirred from East to West in honour of the three wise men and some people add a silver coin, a sixpence or shilling or today maybe a twenty pence piece, to the pudding mix, finding the coin brings good luck. The Christmas pudding is one of the essential British Christmas culinary traditions assumed to be another of the many made popular and almost sacrosanct by the Victorians, alongside the Christmas Cards, roast turkey and the decorated tree. In reality, the spiced, fruit pudding was most likely popularised by George I, bringing the tradition over from his native Hanover.

Christmas PuddingI love baking at Christmas, the smell of all the warming spices and all the rich delicious cakes and pastries, Gingerbread Houses, Stollen, Pannatone, Mince Pies and the 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 and citrus peel soaked in some good beer, and now I work for a brewery this is not too much of a problem.

Some recipes call for suet but this recipe rather indulgently uses butter but it is for Christmas after all and we all should be a little indulgent. We used to make lots of puddings, spending 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 the stout. The secret to this pudding even making one or two is patience, spend plenty of time in preparation, cook slowly and then wait for five weeks, you won’t be disappointed. Enjoy.

Aunty Mary’s Christmas Pudding         makes two x 2 pint puddings

350 gr Dried Sultanas
350 gr Dried Raisins
150 gr Candied Mixed Peel
100 gr Dried Apricots, cut into small pieces
100 gr Dried Figs, cut into small pieces
100 gr Glace Cherries, quartered
50 rg Blanched Almonds
2 large Bramley Cooking Apples
250 gr Butter, taken straight from the fridge
150 gr Plain flour
150 gr fresh White Breadcrumbs
100 gr Dark Muscovado Sugar
3 large free-range Eggs
2 tablespoons Brandy
1 tablespoon Dark Treacle
Juice and zest of two Oranges
1 level teaspoon ground Cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly ground Nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground Allspice

Using a colander wash the sultanas and raisins under the cold tap and drain. Place into a large glass bowl or plastic container with the candied peel, apricots, figs, and cherries and pour in the stout. Sore in the fridge overnight stirring a couple of times. Prepare the remaining ingredients as follows; roughly chop the almonds. Zest and juice the oranges into a bowl then peel, core and chop the apples into the same bowl, stirring to stop the apples from browning. Drain the dried fruits in a colander. Whisk the eggs, brandy, and black treacle together in a small jug. In a second very large bowl, mix all the flour, sugar, spices and breadcrumbs.

Combine the all of the ingredients apart from the butter and stir well. Holding the butter carefully in its paper, grate a half of it into the bowl, then stir everything together. Repeat with the second half of the butter is grated, then stir for a good couple of minutes. Get all of your family to stir the pudding, and everyone can make a wish. Butter two 1.2 litre/ 2 pint bowls and put a disc of baking paper in the bottom of each then spoon in the pudding mixture. Cover with a double, folded layer of baking paper, with a central pleat to allow the pudding to expand when cooking. Hold in place with a large rubber band, then tie very tightly with butchers string. Cut off any excess baking paper. Place each bowl on a large sheet of thick baking foil and bring the edges up over the top, then put another sheet of foil over the top and bring it down underneath to make a double package (this makes the puddings watertight). Carefully tie with more string, and make a handle for easy lifting in and out of the pan.

Gently steam the puddings in a double pan for eight hours, topping up with water as necessary. Remove from the pans and leave to completely cool overnight. When cold, discard the foil and baking paper messy wrappings and reseal in fresh baking paper, foil and string. Store in a cool, dry place until Christmas.

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Pavlova

Pavlova is a fluffy meringue dessert with a crispy exterior named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. The dessert is believed to have been created in honour of the dancer either during or after one of her tours to Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s, and there are many arguments as to who created the dish first. Matthew Evans, a restaurant critic for The Sydney Morning Herald, said that it was unlikely that a definitive answer about the pavlova’s origins would ever be found. “People have been doing meringue with cream for a long time, I don’t think Australia or New Zealand were the first to think of doing that.” It is most likely whoever first thought of the dish was influenced by German tortes and cakes.

Pavlova

A classic Pavlova has a crisp and crunchy outer shell, and a soft, moist and fluffy marshmallow-like center. The principal difference from meringues is the addition of an acid such as lemon, cream of tartar or white wine vinegar and cornflour to the mix and a reduced cooking time as you do not want the Pavlova drying out. A traditional Pavlova is usually decorated with a topping of whipped cream and fresh fruit. The dessert is very popular in both Australia and New Zealand, particularly for parties, celebrations and at Christmas time.

Pavlova        Serves 6-8

250 gr Caster Sugar

125 gr Egg White

2 teaspoons of Cornflour

1 teaspoon White Wine Vinegar

A few drops of Vanilla Essence

A pinch of Salt

Preheat the oven to 200 C /400 F/ Gas mark 6. Line a baking tray with baking paper and add the sugar. Put in the oven for five minutes. Meanwhile, whisk your egg whites – using an electric whisk – with a pinch of salt in a clean metal or glass bowl until foamy. Remove the sugar from the oven. Turn the temperature down to 120C/ 250F/ Gas mark ½, leaving the door open to cool it down quickly.

Add about a third of the hot sugar to the meringue and whisk for about three minutes. Add the rest of the sugar one tablespoon at a time, whisking well after each addition until all it’s used up. Add the cornflour, vinegar, and vanilla and continue whisking for another three minutes until you have a thick, glossy mix. Spoon the mix onto a baking tray lined with baking paper or a silicon slip mat in a large round or oval shape, thicker on the outer edges and bake for thirty minutes to set the meringues shape. If you can drop the temperature even further to 100 C/ 210 F/ Gas mark ¼ or prop the oven door open for another hour. Turn the oven off and allow the meringue to cool.

National Baking Week

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We are in the middle of National Baking Week and at The Online Cookery School are posting a series of classic cake and biscuit recipes as well as traditional Christmas Pudding and Christmas Cake recipes to help you get ready for the festive season in plenty of time. We have also added a useful new page with handy temperature conversions.

So if you are curious about why we eat a Victoria Sponge when we have afternoon tea, would like a recipe for perfectly crisp Almond Shortbread Biscuits or delicious Strawberry Milkshake and White Chocolate Cupcakes then why not have a look at the blog. And with four more days to go, there are more recipes to get you dusting off your rolling pin, putting on an apron and baking.

Taking the Biscuit – Almond Shortbread

You say that something or someone (really)

takes the biscuit when they have done

something that you find extremely annoying or surprising

Cambridge Dictionary

I am very partial to a biscuit, a digestive or two dipped in my tea and who does not like custard creams, which always remind me of the Church fêtes of my childhood, scrambling for the biscuits in the tea tent trying to avoid being left with the rich teas. As you get older your horizons widen and there are dark chocolate dipped ginger thins, brandy snaps filled with cream or a world of cookies in all their delicious variations.

Shortbread

My all-time favourite bought in biscuit has to be all butter shortbread, Walkers of Aberlour are one of Scotland’s biggest exporters with a turnover of over £100 million a year, their distinctive tartan packages are recognised all over the world, so someone else must like shortbread too. On the island of Anglesey, they bake a rich shortbread marked with or baked in scallop shells called Teisennau Berffro or James Cakes. In American recipes, the shortbread is often whipped up and piped while the crumblier traditional recipes gently rolled and cut.

Traditional shortbread is made from only three ingredients flour, butter, and sugar in a 3:2:1 ratio. The type and quality of butter are important as the butter gives the shortbread flavour so I guess I am lucky to have wonderful Channel Islands butter to hand. Unsalted butter is fresher than salted ( which acts as a preservative ) and is my preference.

The following recipe includes almonds for a delicious flavour, which might anger shortbread purists and cornflour to maintain a light texture. So, should call this recipe shortbread or am I despicably taking the biscuit?  That is debatable but it certainly produces a crisp, dainty tea time treat.

Almond Shortbread   around 12 to 16 biscuits

100 gr Plain Flour

50 gr Ground Almonds

50 gr Cornflour

140 gr Salted or Unsalted Butter, diced and kept cold in the refrigerator until required

100 gr Caster Sugar, plus a little extra to dust

1 tablespoon Cold Water

1 teaspoon Almond Essence

Preheat the oven to 325 F / 160°C/ Gas mark 3. Place the flour, cornflour, and almonds in a food processor and add the butter. Blend together for a couple of minutes then add the sugar. Blend until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs. Then add water and almond essence, using the pulse setting combine the ingredients into a paste stopping as soon as the mixture binds together as to not overwork the dough.

Roll out a sheet of cling film onto your work surface and spoon on the paste in a line. Roll tightly in the cling film to make a sausage-shaped parcel, tying the ends. Refrigerate for at least an hour until hard. Take out from the refrigerator and slice using a sharp knife into three quarters of a centimeter-thick slice and place on a baking tray covered with either baking parchment or a silicon slip mat. Sprinkle with some extra caster sugar and bake in the preheated oven for 10–15 minutes or until lightly golden. Once out of the oven allow the shortbread rounds to rest for 10 minutes.

Victoria Sponge

Afternoon tea, the cream tea or high tea has an incredibly grand history and an impeccable pedigree, the Duchess of Bedford is believed to have created with what we now think of as high tea. As tastes changed and the huge Georgian midday meal had become less important and perhaps more importantly smaller, the Duchess is said to have suffered from “a sinking feeling” at about four o’clock in the afternoon. To counter this Duchess had her servants sneak her a pot of tea and a few baked cakes, bread and pastries into her dressing room. She soon invited friends to join her for this additional afternoon meal at five o’clock in her rooms at Belvoir Castle which centered around small, dainty cakes, bread, and butter, later to become delicate sandwiches, assorted sweets, and, of course, tea.

This practice proved so popular, the Duchess continued it when she returned to London, sending cards to her friends asking them to join her for “tea and a walking the fields”. The practice of inviting friends to come for tea in the afternoon was soon adopted by other social hostesses up to and including her Majesty Queen Victoria. This was presumably the holy of holies, the highest of high teas. From this humble beginning came what is now a baking classic, a simple cake recipe which was said to be one of the queen’s favourites particularly at Osborn House, on the Isle of Wight. According to historians, it was here that the cakes were named after her.

Victoria Sponge

In the classic 1874 cookery book ‘Mrs. Beeton’s Cookery and Household Management ‘, a recipe is included for Victoria Sandwiches,

Ingredients; 4 eggs; their weight in pounded sugar, butter and flour; 1/4 salt spoonful of salt, a layer of any kind of jam or marmalade.

Mode; Beat the butter to a cream; dredge in the flour and pounded sugar; stir these ingredients well together, and add the eggs, which should be previously thoroughly whisked. When the mixture has been well beaten for about 10 minutes, butter a Yorkshire-pudding tin, pour in the batter, and bake it in a moderate oven for 20 minutes. Let it cool, spread one half of the cake with a layer of nice preserve, place over it the other half of the cake, press the pieces slightly together, and then cut it into long finger-pieces; pile them in cross bars on a glass dish, and serve.

Average cost, 1s 3d Sufficient for 5 or 6 persons. Seasonable at any time.

 

My Perfect Vanilla Victoria Sponge

A Victoria sponge is produced by creaming the ingredients together. Other sponges can be made by whisking up the ingredients or by making a smooth batter. The rise in this cake is provided by the incorporation of beaten eggs and the self-raising flour, I find the extra half a teaspoon of baking powder guarantees a perfect result every time. I love the flavour of vanilla in my sponge recipe and the vanilla infused sugar just adds that little extra.

4 fresh Free-range Eggs

200 gr soft Butter or a mix of Butter and Margarine plus a little extra to grease the tins

200 gr Vanilla Caster Sugar

200 gr Self-Raising Flour

½ teaspoon Baking Powder

½ teaspoon Vanilla Extract*

Two 8 inch ( 20 cm ) sandwich tins

Preheat your oven to 180C/ 350F/ Gas Mark 4 and prepare your sandwich tins by first rubbing a little butter around the inside of the tins until the sides and base are lightly coated. Line the sides and the bottom of the tin with baking paper.

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Place a damp cloth onto your worktop to prevent your mixing bowl from slipping. Place a large mixing bowl on top of the cloth and add the butter and sugar. You are going to cream or beat the two ingredients together, the easiest way to do this is with an electric hand mixer, but you can use a wooden spoon. When the butter and sugar are thoroughly mixed, sift the flour and baking powder together into a container and beat the eggs and vanilla extract in a second container.

Creaming

Add a spoon of the sieved flour to your creamed butter mixture and about one-fifth of the beaten eggs. Beat in to thoroughly incorporate the egg, the flour will prevent the mixture from curdling or splitting. Repeat the process until all of the egg is completely mixed with the creamed butter and sugar.

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Now change your whisk or wooden spoon for a metal serving spoon and fold in the remaining flour cutting through the mixture with the edge of the spoon in a figure of eight motion. The finished mixture should be of a soft ‘dropping’ consistency – it should fall off a spoon easily.

Divide the mixture evenly between the two prepared sandwich tins gently smoothing down the surface of the cakes. Tap the tins gently on the work surface to knock out any air bubbles and place the cakes on the center shelf of your oven for twenty minutes. DO NOT BE TEMPTED TO OPEN THE DOOR while the cakes are cooking. After twenty minutes you can check them, they may need another five minutes. A small skewer inserted in the center of the cake will come out free from any wet dough or crumbs.

The cakes are done when they’re golden-brown and coming away from the edge of the tins. Press them gently to check – they should be springy to the touch. Remove them from the oven and set aside to cool in their tins for five minutes. Then run a palette or rounded butter knife around the inside edge of the tin and carefully turn the cakes out onto a cooling rack.

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Set aside to cool completely. To assemble the cake, place one cake upside down onto a plate and spread it with plenty of jam. If you want to, you can spread over whipped cream too. Top with the second cake, top-side up. Sprinkle over the reserved icing sugar

* Vanilla extract is more expensive than flavouring or essence but a far superior product and a little goes a very long way.

Feuilleté Pastry Tarts

Puff pastry can be used to make many different savoury hors d’oeuvre or bite sized appetisers. The most famous of these being little-stuffed Vol-au-vent cases topped with a little lid or delicate Crolines, small lattice topped parcels. My recipe today is how to make the third, great little tartlet case that can also be made slightly larger and used as a savoury starter, light lunch or filled with whipped cream and fruit as a simple, elegant dessert.

Seafood Tart

Feuilleté Pastry Tarts

Why not try your finished Feuillettes filled with roasted Provençal vegetables topped with whipped Goat’s cheese and a little rocket dressed with sea salt and Balsamic, creamy garlic mushrooms with brandy, thyme and nutmeg or a fabulous seafood medley as well as fruit purées and Confectioner’s custard or glazed poached peach halves and raspberries if you have a sweeter palate.

Puff pastry ( ready made or homemade )
Egg wash

Preheat your oven to 400F / 200C / Gas Mark 6. Roll out your pastry on a lightly floured work surface.

 

Puff Pastry 2

Cut into squares 4 by 4 inches for a large case 1 1/2 inch squared for smaller bite-size tarts.

Puff Pastry 3

Carefully cut two L – shaped into the pastry like the picture above. Make sure to you leave to small pieces of uncut pastry to hold the edges together.

Puff Pastry 4

Egg wash the pastry square the fold over the cut pastry strips.

Puff Pastry 5

Egg wash the tart case again including the sides of the pastry. Dock or prick the center of the case with the tines of a fork, this will prevent the center rising. Transfer to a non -stick baking sheet and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes to relax the pastry. This will help prevent the pastry from shrinking.

Puff Pastry 6

Place in your heated oven and bake for between 10 to 20 minutes depending on the size of your feuilette, until crisp and golden brown. Remove to a wire rack and cool. You can make your cases ahead of you needing them and store in an airtight container.

Egg fried Rice

In the West, we normally tuck into a bowl of egg fried rice as part of a pile of food placed in front of us on the table in our local Chinese restaurant. In a Chinese banquet, the host will normally serve the rice at the end of the meal as the last course. After a host of other delicious dishes, it is hardly ever eaten. At home, we often tuck into a bowl with a few extras thrown in often whatever we have in the bottom of the fridge, peas, peppers, mushrooms, sweetcorn, peanuts and maybe some cooked chicken or prawns, so I’m going to include two recipes.

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The only downside to this recipe is it is best made using pre-cooked rice which can be prepared before your banquet but unless you are like me and a hopeless judge of how much rice to cook not good for a quick supper, but ideal if you have a tub of plain boiled rice left over from the day before. You don’t need to use anything fancy for egg fried rice like Jasmine or Basmati as the delicate flavours will not hold up, I use a quality long-grain rice from the supermarket.

Egg fried Rice ( 1 )                                                          Serves 2 rather generous portions

500 gr cooked Long-grain Rice, at fridge temperature

2 fresh free-range Eggs, beaten

2 Spring Onions, finely chopped

3 tablespoons Vegetable Oil

2 tablespoons Light Soy sauce

2 tablespoons Sesame Oil

Freshly ground Salt and Pepper

Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or large frying pan on high heat until smoking, then add the rice, toss until coated well with the oil. Stir fry until the rice is heated through. Whisk the Soy sauce into the eggs and add to the wok, stir quickly so some of the egg is absorbed into the rice and it has just begun to brown a little in places. There should still be some generous flecks of cooked egg throughout the mixture. Season and stir in the sesame oil then serve topped with Spring onions.

Egg fried Rice ( 2 )                                                                      Serves 3 – 4 as a side

650 gr cooked Long-grain Rice, at fridge temperature

750 gr cooked Long-grain Rice, at fridge temperature

200 gr cooked Chicken Breast, diced ( or prawns )

75 gr cooked Garden Peas

1 small Red Pepper, deseeded and finely diced

4 fresh free-range Eggs, beaten

1 bunch Spring Onions, chopped in 1 cm long pieces

4 tablespoons Vegetable Oil

4 tablespoons Light Soy sauce

3 tablespoons Sesame Oil

Freshly ground Salt and Pepper

Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or large frying pan on high heat until smoking, then add the rice, spring onions, peas, pepper, and chicken, toss until coated well with the oil. Stir fry until the heated through. Whisk the Soy sauce into the eggs and add to the wok, stir quickly so some of the egg is absorbed into the rice and it has just begun to brown a little in places. There should still be some generous flecks of cooked egg throughout the mixture. Season and stir in the sesame oil then serve.

King Prawn Chow Mein

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The words means ‘fried noodles’, chow meaning ‘ fried ‘ and mein meaning ‘ noodles ’, in which the noodles are stir-fried with onions, celery and flavoured with soy sauce. The dish can is most popularly made with chicken ( however you can substitute pork, beef, tofu and in our case king prawns ). Chow mein is one of the original fast foods and there is some evidence that the dish was originally made in northern China where wheat is a staple crop. The dish was popularised by emigrant Chinese workers from Taishan, many of whom worked on building the American railroads, an estimated half a million Chinese Americans are of Taishanese descent.

King Prawn Chow Mein

There are two styles of chow mein, steamed with large, long, round noodles and crispy chow mein which is sometimes known as Hong Kong style chow mein, with fried flat noodles. In early China, chow mein was eaten with a spoon; now everyone eats theirs using chopsticks. One of the earliest chow mein style recipes although not directly called chow mein is from Madame Wu’s Recipe Book written during the Song Dynasty (960 – 1280 CE).

In American chow mein can have any number of additional ingredients, Pak Choi, Mung Beans, Chinese Cabbage, Carrots, and Broccoli and has been readily adapted to suit local tastes, in fact the founder of the food manufacturer Chun King and the creator of canned chow mein admits of using Italian spices to make his product more acceptable to Americans whose ancestors came from Europe. There are adapted recipes for chow mein suiting local tastes in Brazil, Canada, India, Australia and across the Caribbean.

I’ve added water chestnuts and peppers for some extra texture and flavour to my recipe. Adding the sesame oil towards the end of cooking is an authentic tip that will give the dish a glossy finish and a slightly smoky flavour.

King Prawn Chow Mein                        Serves 4

30 Raw King Prawns

750 gr Soft Egg Noodles, cooked and refreshed.

500 gr Beansprouts

100 gr Water Chestnuts, thinly sliced

6 sticks of Celery, washed, peeled and cut into batons

A small Bunch Spring Onions, sliced in 2 cm pieces

Small Red Pepper, de-seeded and sliced

Small Green Pepper, de-seeded and sliced

Small handful of fresh Coriander, torn

2 cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

5 tablespoons Soy Sauce, or to taste

3 tablespoons Vegetable Oil

1 tablespoon Sesame Oil

1/2 teaspoon Salt

Carefully peel off the king prawn shells, these can be reserved and frozen to make a shellfish stock. Lay the prawns flat and make a small cut all the way down the back and take out its intestines. You will see this as a black line running down the back of the king prawn. Boil some salted water in a large pan and cook for two minutes until pink.

Next heat the oil in a wok, over a high heat and add the beansprouts, celery, noodles and garlic, cook stirring continuously for two minutes. Next add in the king prawns, spring onions, peppers, and water chestnuts and fry for a further three minutes. Add salt, sesame oil and soy sauce to taste and cook for another two minutes. Stir in the coriander and serve.

For an extra garnish top with some extra finely chopped spring onions.

Beef in Black Bean Sauce

In Chinese cooking Blackbeans, Salted Blackbeans or Douchi ( 豆豉 ) are the fermented and salted black soybean, and they are most widely used for making black bean sauce dishes. They have a sharp, pungent, smell and the taste is salty and somewhat bitter. They are the oldest food made from the soybean and their use has been dated as far back as 165 BC, after being found in the excavation of a sealed tomb in central China. Blackbeans are only used in a small amount and only as a flavouring due to their saltiness.

Some common dishes made with Blackbeans are steamed spare ribs with fermented black beans and chili pepper and today’s Masterclass recipe Beef in Blackbean sauce.

Chinese Meal

My Top Tip Add splashes of water or vegetable stock occasionally while stir frying – this will produce steam helping to quickly cook the vegetables and prevents sticking.

Beef in Black Bean Sauce                                                                           serves 4

750 gr quality Rump Steak

2 Carrots, peeled and cut into thin strips or julienne

2 large Onions, Peeled and cut into thin slices

1 Green Pepper, cut into slices

1 Red Pepper, cut into slices

75 ml neutral Oil for stir frying

50 gr Fermented Black Beans

3 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and finely chopped

3 cm piece of Ginger, peeled and finely grated

1 small Red Chilli, seeds removed and very finely sliced

1 tablespoon quality Toasted Sesame Oil

 For the marinade

3 tablespoons Dark Soy Sauce

3 tablespoons Rice Wine or Dry Sherry

¼ teaspoon Chinese Five Spice

1 Clove of Garlic, peeled and finely chopped

2 teaspoons Corn Flour, mixed with a little cold water

 For the sauce

100 ml quality beef Stock

1 tablespoon Caster Sugar

1 tablespoon Corn Flour, mixed with a little cold water

2 Cloves

Place the rump steak in the freezer for thirty minutes, this firms up the beef making it easier to slice thinly. On a secure board slice the beef with a sharp kitchen knife into thin strips and place into a glass bowl. Add the marinade ingredients, mix well to combine together and fully cover the steak strips.

Cover and chill in the fridge for a minimum of two hours. Meanwhile, prepare the black beans by first rinsing thoroughly in cold water then soaking in fresh water for around half an hour, changing the water once. Drain thoroughly, chop finely and set aside.

When ready to cook, drain the meat from the marinade pouring any remaining marinade into a small, heavy-bottomed pan. Add the sauce ingredients to the marinade and heat gently to thicken, stirring occasionally to prevent lumps forming. Heat the oil in the wok until smoking and carefully add the meat. Stir fry until cooked, remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on to some kitchen paper

Heat a little more oil then stir fry onion over medium heat for five minutes before adding the carrots and peppers, continue cooking for a couple more minutes until they are just starting to go soft. Add the black beans and cook for two more minutes stirring continuously, be careful not to burn, then add the garlic, ginger and chilli and cook for a further two minutes. Return the beef to the wok, strain the sauce through a fine sieve and add as well. Mix in the sesame oil  and cook for one more minute stirring all the time to heat the beef through and serve immediately with egg fried rice or noodles.

Cantonese Pork

When you go out to eat or have a take away from your local Chinese Restaurant you will most likely be eating a Cantonese style meal. The recipes are often not the most authentic and are Cantonese cuisine adapted for Western tastes, which is a huge shame as Cantonese is revered in China as one of the most celebrated national styles of cooking. In the eighteenth century, the Qing Dynasty allowed the Guangdong region, home to the Cantonese, to be opened to the first foreign traders and natives from the area were amongst the first immigrants to settle in the United Kingdom and America exporting their traditions and food.

Cantonese Pork

Cantonese cuisine is all about simple dishes, letting the flavour of the key ingredients stand out, using fish and seafood from the region’s coast and the abundant agricultural produce.  The key additional flavours in Cantonese cooking are the ‘trinity’ of scallions or spring onions, ginger and garlic, with the addition of rice wine and soy sauce. Spices and herbs are only used in moderation although fresh coriander is used as a garnish, perhaps the most popular is Chinese Five Spice. The key method of cooking is stir-frying in a wok.

The most abused Cantonese recipe is the probably Sweet and Sour with cannon ball sized lumps of stodgy, deep-fried dough floating in over-sweet, violent orange coloured, gloopy sauces and don’t even get me started on pineapple.  The following recipe is I hope a little more authentic and delicate, although I am not so sure about the fried egg, I had this in a great little restaurant in China Town, and it is a delicious addition! The joy of many, but not quite all, Chinese recipes is they are very quick and easy and once you have a few key staples in your cupboard you have any number of dishes available to you. Enjoy.

Cantonese ( Sweet and Sour ) Pork                                   serves 4
AS ALWAYS A NOTE OF CAUTION BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN FRYING IN HOT OIL.

1 Carrot, peeled and cut into fine strips

1 Red Pepper, diced

A small bunch of Spring Onions, washed and very finely sliced

1 small Red Chilli, finely sliced ( you can omit this but I like a little kick of Chilli )

6 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

½ piece of Ginger, peeled and finely chopped

A good pinch of Chinese Five Spice

2 Cloves

1 tablespoon Corn Flour ( approximately )

100 ml quality chicken stock

2 tablespoons of Olive Oil

2 tablespoons Soft Brown Sugar

2 tablespoons Sherry Vinegar

2 tablespoon Rice Wine

1 tablespoon Tomato Paste

1 tablespoon Dark Soy Sauce

A small bunch of Coriander to Garnish

for the fried Pork
500 gr Pork Loin, skin removed, washed and diced

2 Egg Whites

Juice of 1 Lemon

60 gr  Cornflour

Sea Salt and Cayenne Pepper

1.5 litres Vegetable Oil

For the sauce heat the vegetable oil in a wok and stir-fry the carrots, garlic and ginger for two to three minutes then add the pepper. In a small pan, heat the chicken stock, vinegar, rice wine, sugar, cloves and Chinese five spice and bring to the boil. Simmer for five minutes then thicken with the cornflour mixed with a little water and the tomato puree. After another five minutes simmering, strain into the wok and set on a very low heat.

For the pork, sieve the cornflour into a large bowl and add a generous amount of salt and cayenne pepper. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites and lemon juice. Then dip the pork cubes into the corn flour, the egg whites and back into the corn flour. In your wok or a large heavy bottomed pan heat the oil to 160°C / 320 F using a thermometer to check. If you do not have a thermometer have a few cubes of stale white bread to hand. Place in a bread cube in the oil if it rises to the surface and cooks to a golden brown in a couple of minutes the oil is hot enough.

Fry the pork in batches carefully lowering into the hot oil, for around six to eight minutes or until the batter is crisp and golden, turning from time to time with a large slotted spoon. When the pork is cooked using the slotted spoon remove from the hot oil, drain on kitchen paper and keep hot in a warm oven. When all the pork is cooked place into the hot sauce with the finely sliced spring onions. Stir and then serve with steamed rice and garnish with fresh coriander ( add an egg if you are feeling adventurous ).