Spicy duck broth with Savoy cabbage and noodles

While duck isn’t the cheapest meat around, I’d happily eat meat-free for a few days to justify including it on my weekly meal plan. A deliciously succulent meat, it works wonderfully with strong, spicy flavours.

This broth is inspired by a Riverford recipe and features star anise, Chinese five spice, ginger and garlic, as well as that favourite of the veg box at this time of year, the Savoy cabbage. It is the perfect winter warmer, especially when you serve it with a little chilli sauce on the side.

I think the spicy broth would go very well with a glass of Isla Negra Merlot, a soft, easy drinking red wine I was lucky enough to sample the other night during #BoothsCheers,a special festive wine and beer tasting on Twitter organised by the British supermarket Booths. There will be more tastings on Wednesday nights between now and Christmas – maybe you’d like to take part next time? But anyway, enough about the drink and back to the food…

Spicy duck broth with  Savoy cabbage and noodles

Serves 4

2 duck breasts
2 tsp Chinese five spice
1 tbsp vegetable oil
dash sesame oil
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
3cm fresh ginger, peeled and grated
half a Savoy cabbage, finely shredded
2 litres hot chicken stock
2 star anise
150g dried egg noodles
chilli and soy sauces to serve

Preheat the oven to 200ºC / gas mark 6.

Score the duck skin and rub in the five spice. Place the duck breasts on a rack in a roasting tin and roast in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to rest somewhere warm.

In a large saucepan heat the vegetable and sesame oils and fry the garlic and ginger for a minute before adding the Savoy cabbage. Stir fry for a couple of minutes and then add the  hot stock and star anise.

Bring to a simmer and gently cook the cabbage for a couple of minutes. Then add the noodles and cook for around three more minutes until the noodles are just soft.

Pour the broth into bowls, using tongs to serve the noodles and cabbage. Slice the duck breast and place on top. Serve with some soy and chilli sauces on the side. And enjoy!

Cheryl’s Hokkien Mee for the Care to Cook Challenge

My mum with her siblings and cousins in Penang in the fifties

I love the way a certain food or meal can instantly transport you back to your childhood. Food is so evocative and nostalgic. When I was growing up, I had such a strong impression of Penang from the tales my mum would tell me about the different foods she ate there as a child, and from the yearning in her voice I almost felt like I missed them as much as she did.

One of the foods that takes her back to being a teenager in Penang is Hokkien Mee. My mum has sent me her recipe for this dish as her entry into the Care to Cook challenge, which is a celebration of good family food. If you’d like to enter a dish, you still have time – the closing date is 12 August. And there’s a copy of the Care to Cook recipe book signed by Lorriane Pascale for the winner.

So, I hand you over to my mum, Cheryl…

This is my recipe for Penang’s Hokkien Mee. It’s different from how they do it in Singapore or anywhere else in Malaysia,  and it’s so delicious!

We used to eat it at our favourite haunt, a coffee shop with a juke box near Cantonment Road where we lived. The Kopi Tiam or coffee shop had lots of different food stalls around it where you could order food. We would eat the noodles with our ice coffee or kopi-o-peng and meet the Thai boys (who came to study in Penang) and listen to music.

Photo: VKEONG.COM

Penang Hokkien Mee

Serves 10

Chilli paste:

10 tbsp chilli boh (about 35 deseeded, soaked dried chilies – blended in 3-4 tbsp water)
15 shallots (minced)
6 cloves garlic (minced)

Stock:

2kg pork bones
2-3kg prawn shells (chopped)
2 pieces rock sugar (golf ball size)

500g pork
1kg prawns
6 eggs (hard boiled)
300g bean sprouts
Fried shallots
5-6 stalks of morning glory (kangkung or green veg from Chinese supermarket)
300g pork ribs
1kg yellow noodles (chow mein)
1 packet rice vermicelli (bee hoon)

water
salt
pepper
rock sugar
soy sauce
vegetable oil

Wash all the bones clean with salt and put them in a big pot of boiling water. Lower the heat, close the pot with a lid and simmer for about two hours. Remove all the bones and you should get about 15 cups of stock.

Heat about 7-8 tablespoons of oil in a wok and fry the garlic and shallots (leave 1 tbsp of shallots for the cooking of stock) for about five minutes on a low heat. Add in the chilli boh and fry until fragrant. Add a pinch of salt. Scoop out and put to one side the chilli paste, leaving about half a tablespoon in the wok.

Heat up the wok again with another tablespoon of oil and throw in all the prawns. Stir fry until all the prawns curl up. Scoop out the prawns and leave to one side.

Add some more oil to the wok. Put in the chopped prawn shells – drain the shells as much as possible and keep the remaining juice for the stock. Fry the shells until you get that thick aromatic prawn smell. By then, the shells will be a bright orange colour. Pour in the remaining juice from earlier plus another 3-4 cups of water. Let it simmer on a low heat for about two hours.

While waiting for the prawn stock to cook, heat up 2 tablespoons of oil in a soup pot and fry the reserved tablespoon of shallots for about a minute. Add half to one tablespoon of the cooked chilli paste. Mix well and add in the bone stock. Bring to a boil and add in the pork pieces and ribs. Lower heat to a simmer further.

When the prawn stock is ready, slowly and carefully sieve (leaving out all the shells) into the pork stock pot. Bring to boil while adding in 2-3 tablespoons of soy sauce, rock sugar, and pepper and salt to taste. Remove the foam on the surface while retaining some of the floating oil.

Lower the heat and check if the pork is tender. Scoop up in separate bowls. Sliced the meat thinly. Leave all aside for garnishing later.

Cut the hard boiled eggs into halves, quarters or rings to your liking.

Heat up a wok of water and blanch the bean sprouts and morning glory. Make sure you drain the excess water well. Set both aside.

Soak the rice vermicelli (bee hoon) for about half an hour (or according to the directions on the pack). Drain well. Do the same for the yellow noodles.

To serve, place some bean sprouts and morning glory at the base of a deep bowl. Add your noodles then top with some prawns, sliced meat, pork ribs and egg. Pour some boiling soup over the noodles and garnish with some fried shallots and chilli paste.

Chicken and noodle salad with coriander and mint

“Cold noodles? Really? Are you sure?”

That was my husband’s reaction the other day when I told him we were having this chicken and noodle salad.

“But Mum! Noodles should be hot!” was Jessie’s response.

Mia took a mouthful of noodles and promptly spat them out.

Not the best of starts. But after a little cajoling and a bit of encouragement, things did get better.

“Actually, this isn’t bad,” Jason conceded in between mouthfuls.

Once Mia got used to the texture of the noodles, she was tucking in wholeheartedly. And Jessie polished hers off without any further fuss. “Yum,” she declared on finishing.

It can be so easy to serve up the same kinds of foods day in and day out but I’m one of those annoying mothers who likes to challenge her family’s taste buds. And it does pay off. Now they’ve got their heads around cold noodles in a salad, I think we’ll be coming back to this quite a lot.

It’s a beautifully freshy, zingy dish – perfect for summer, or at least helping to give the impression of a summer. The chicken thighs are poached so they are lovely and moist and the fresh coriander and mint, along with the lemon, ginger and garlic in the dressing, pack it full of flavour.

I also added some scrummy broad beans from the veg box; the ones in the garden aren’t ready yet. Shelling broad beans has to be one of my favourite jobs in the kitchen. It makes me feel like a 1950s mother for some reason.

If you were making an authentic South East Asian noodle salad, you probably should also use chilli and fish sauce in the dressing. I left these out because a) chilli would be a step too far for little Mia and b) my husband can’t eat fish – I know! How inconsiderate is that?! But if these sound good to you, go ahead.

Chicken noodle salad with coriander and mint

4 skinless chicken thighs
½ onion, peeled and chopped
5 kaffir lime leaves
small handful black peppercorns
200g vermicelli noodles
3 spring onions, finely sliced
1 carrot, grated
½ yellow pepper, deseeded and sliced
large handful shelled broad  beans
large handful fresh coriander, chopped
large handful fresh mint, chopped
2 tbsp sesame seeds
6 lettuce leaves, shredded

For the dressing

3 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp chopped ginger
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp cider vinegar
2 kaffir lime leaves

Place the chicken thighs into a pan with the onion, 5 kaffir lime leaves and peppercorns and cover with water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Allow the chicken to cool in the liquid.

Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions. Drain and run under cold water to refresh.

Dry fry the sesame seeds for a couple of minutes until golden. Remove to cool on a plate.

Place all the dressing ingredients in a saucepan and heat until the sugar dissolves. Sieve into a jug and leave to cool.

Into a large salad bowl place the noodles, spring onions, carrot, yellow pepper, broad beans, coriander, mint, sesame seeds and lettuce. Pour over the dressing and mix well to ensure everything is well covered. I like to use my hands for this bit.

Slice the cooled chicken thighs, arrange on top of the salad and serve.

I’m entering this recipe into Lavender & Lovage’s Herbs on Saturday blog challenge, which this month is being hosted by me! Find out which other entries have been entered and perhaps submit one of your own?

Chinese sausage and noodle soup

This is not an authentic Chinese soup recipe by any stretch of the imagination. It’s something I concocted using ingredients from the store cupboard in an attempt to liven up another Savoy cabbage to arrive in the veg box.

It also features slices of Chinese sausage, which you should be able to get from an oriental supermarket, but if not feel free to substitute with any cured sausage that takes your fancy.

I made up the dish as I went along and was really rather surprised at just how tasty and moreish it ended up and have made it several times since. As it takes only half an hour or so to rustle up, it’s an excellent contender for a quick mid-week dinner when you don’t want to spend all evening in the kitchen.

Chinese sausage and noodle soup

Serves 4

1 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil
½ onion, peeled and finely chopped
3cm piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped or grated
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 Chinese sausage (I used a skinny one about 20cm long), thinly sliced
½ Savoy cabbage, shredded
1.5l hot chicken stock
50ml light soy sauce
50ml Chinese rice wine (Shaohsing) or dry sherry
25ml black rice vinegar
80g egg noodles (I use either medium or fine)

In a large pan heat the oil and gently fry the onion until golden. Add the ginger, garlic and sausage and fry together for a couple more minutes.

Throw in the cabbage and stir-fry for a minute.

Pour in the hot stock, soy sauce, rice wine and vinegar and bring to a gentle simmer. Leave to cook for 10 minutes.

Add the noodles and simmer for another three minutes or according to the packet instructions. Serve and enjoy.

I’m also sharing this soup at the Fantastic Foods Friday supper party over at Justa’s Kitchen.

A feast fit for a dragon

Photograph of embroidered Chinese dragon by Erin Calaway

This year I got it into my head that I was going to cook my family a proper feast to celebrate Chinese New Year and welcome in the year of the dragon.

I don’t normally celebrate Chinese New Year, despite being part Chinese. My mother grew up on the Malaysian island of Penang and is half Chinese and half Dutch. So you see I’m only a little bit Chinese. But mum has always talked about Penang as home, so I do feel a strong connection and I adore the food.

There’s been lots of talk about Chinese New Year amongst the foodie Twitter and blogging community, which really spurred me on. Trouble is I don’t have the first clue how to cook Chinese food.

And so I called in help from the Chinese members of my family who happen to be scattered around the world. Facebook is a fantastic tool for this kind of thing. I asked them what should I cook for a Malaysian Chinese feast and, more importantly, how do I do it?

Kian chai – I think!

The menu and recipes below come from my Aunty Lorene in the US, Aunty Kim in Canada, cousin Edhish in Sweden, cousin Jezalina in Australia and mother Cheryl in Spain.

All agreed I had to cook Kian Chai Teng, a soup made from Chinese salted vegetables, pork ribs and sour plums, served with chopped chilli and steamed white rice. I’m not 100% sure I got the right vegetables in the Chinese supermarket, although the lady who worked there insisted they were the thing to use.So I’m not sure if I made an authentic Kian Chai Teng, but it sure tasted good. The children gobbled it down enthusiastically and enjoyed picking the beautifully tender meat from the bones.

Penang Char Kway Teow

Next was Char Kway Teow, a Penang fried noodle dish. You should use shrimps and squid but as my husband can’t eat seafood I swapped these for chicken and Chinese sausage. Again not totally authentic but absolutely gorgeous nonetheless.

My mum suggested Chinese spare ribs and gave me her Aunty Seck’s recipe and I also came up with my own recipe for Chinese roast chicken drumsticks. Plus a big bowl of  pak choi steamed with ginger.

It was a fine, fine feast. As is my tendency, I cooked way too much food, so we ate the leftovers for Sunday lunch. The spare ribs in particular tasted even better second time around.

I have to say a heartfelt thank you to my relatives for their advice and supportive words. One day it would be wonderful if we could all get together to celebrate new year somehow. Oh, and of course, gung hay fat choy everyone!

Kian Chai Teng – soup with pork ribs and salted vegetables

Serves 6-8

Salted plums

1 onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp vegetable oil
500g pork spare ribs
4 cloves of garlic, crushed 3 slices of ginger, finely chopped
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp Shaoxing (Chinese rice wine)
2 potatoes
1 packet kian chai (Chinese salted vegetables)
3 salted plums

In a large pan, gently fry the onion in the oil until golden.

Place the pork ribs, garlic and ginger into the pan and enough water to cover. Bring to the boil, then add the soy sauce and rice wine. Turn down the heat so that the soup is on a very low simmer and cook for at least an hour, until the meat is starting to fall off the bone.

Taste your salted vegetables. If they are very salty, you may need to give them a thorough rinse so they don’t make your soup too salty.

Add the potatoes and salted vegetables. Put the lid back on and simmer for another 30-40 minutes.

Serve the soup with a saucer of soy sauce and cut chilli and a plate of steamed white rice.

My Char Kway Teow

Serves 6-8

2 tbsp dark soy sauce
3 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp water
4 tbsp peanut or vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 chicken breasts, chopped into small pieces
1 lap cheong (Chinese pork sausage), cut diagonally into thin slices
500g flat rice noodles
2 eggs (duck eggs if you can get them – I used hen eggs)
4 large handfuls bean sprouts
salt and white pepper

In a small bowl, mix the dark and light soy sauces with the water, and put to one side.

Heat the oil in a wok on a high heat and stir fry the garlic for a few seconds before adding the chicken. Cook until the chicken turns white, then add the sausage and stir fry for another minute.

Add the noodles and sprinkle with the soy sauce mixture, and add salt and pepper to taste. Gently stir fry for three to four minutes.

Make a space in the middle of the work and break the eggs into the hole with a little pinch of salt. Roughly scramble the eggs and then combine with the noodles. Stir fry for another five minutes.

Finally add the bean sprouts, fry for another minute and then serve.

Spare ribs

Chinese spare ribs

Serves 4

550g pork spare ribs
4 cloves garlic, crushed
½ tsp light soy sauce
½ tsp dark soy sauce
½ tsp Shaoxing (Chinese rice wine)
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp tomato sauce
1 tbsp Worcester sauce
½ tbsp sesame oil
½ tbsp sugar
3 tbsp tapioca flour
3 tbsp vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

In a small bowl mix together the garlic, soy sauces, rice wine, salt and pepper. Pour over the spare ribs, make sure thorougly coated and leave to marinade for at least an hour.

Prepare the sauce. In another bowl, combine the tomato sauce, Worcester sauce, sesame oil, sugar and 3 tbsp water.

Coat the spare ribs in tapioca flour and fry in hot oil over a medium heat for around five minutes. You may need to do this in batches. Remove, drain on absorbent paper and place on a baking tray. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes.

Heat the sauce until it thickens. Take the ribs out of the oven, place in a serving dish and pour over the sauce.

My Chinese chicken

4 chicken drumsticks
4 chicken thighs

For the marinade:

2 tbsp runny honey
4cm ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp Chinese five spice
2 tsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp red currant jelly
1 tbsp sesame oil

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

Slash the drumsticks with a sharp knife and place in a bowl with the thighs.

Mix together all of the marinade ingredients and pour over the chicken, making sure they are well coated. Leave to marinade for at least two hours or overnight.

Put the chicken pieces on a roasting tray with a few spoonfuls of the marinade and place in the oven for 40-45 minutes, turning occasionally and spooning over more marinade if it looks like it is drying out.

Also great served cold as part of a picnic or in a packed lunch.

Miss Mash tucks into the pork ribs in her soup

Miss Banger’s favourite was rice with soup spooned over