Tuesday, 19 January 2010

London dim sum - straight out of Chinatown!

Whenever I get chance to go to London I always try to sneak a trip to Plum Valley in.

Plum Valley is a cute and super stylish dim sum bar on the main drag in Chinatown, it's different to the usual restaurants at that end of town, but its deluxe dim sum don't come with a silly price tag, and for these reasons I can't get enough!

I thought I'd put a few pics of some of the things we devoured on Saturday when we visited, not that I'm going to try to recreate them (I might at some point, need to get hold of that gorgeous translucent pastry first though!) more that I just fancy sharing my love for all things dim sum!

Highlights for Mathew and I included...

- The black cod dumpling with ginger puree and two types of roe (so succulent and tender and possibly the best dumpling I have ever eaten!)
- Vietnamese spring rolls, I'm not sure what their pastry is made of but it's quite bubbly and delicious, and it contained big chunks of prawn and crunchy cabbage
- Grilled pork peking dumpling with rice vinegar dip, succulent filling and lovely crispy pastry, just as they should be
- The roasted red chilli sauce / oil, it's a deep red colour and I think it has roasted garlic and chillies in it, I ate the little dish they brought us BEFORE any of the dim sum had even arrived, it's so good I just couldn't resist!
- Vermicielli rice noodles with fried shallots, red chilli, black sesame seeds and prawns, really delicate, simple and tasty, definately one I'll be trying to recreate at home shortly
- The flowering Jasmine tea, as you can see in the pic it's served in a wine glass so you really get to see the tea flower unfold, pretty and delicious, what a combination!

Tis now my bedtime, I think tonight is yet another night I'll be dreaming in food. Tomorrow I must get to the gym to counteract my indulgences!

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Whole poached chicken Asian style, plus 3 dish ideas to make with it

It seems this poached Asian chicken recipe is the most frequently viewed entry on the blog, getting several hundred hits a month from food fans from all over the world (such a great feeling!)

Because of its popularity, and of course because I love oriental food, I decided to recreate it and to redo the photography, as well as deciding to show a number of different things that can be cooked from it. Hopefully this will please the thrifty, greedy and chili addled among you (and I don't know about you, but I fall in to all three categories).

Poaching a chicken like this is a fantastic way to cook it, not just because of the flavours you can pack in to the flesh, but letting the chicken cool slowly in the pan means you're left with the most juicy and tender meat possible - a real delight to eat.

Three dishes from one bird...
- Ginger, chicken and Szechuan peppercorn broth with rice noodles
- Rice paper rolls with chicken satay, aromatic herbs and crispy fried shallot
- Oriental crispy fried chicken with chillies and five spice

For the whole poached chicken:
1 whole medium free range chicken
4 carrots, cut roughly
2 medium golden onions, peeled and quartered
2 celery stalks, cut into batons
6 spring onions, top and tailed and cut in half
A very large piece of ginger, roughly cut up
A big piece of galangal, roughly cut up
10 star anise
10 cloves
1 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 large green or red chilies, cut down the middle
1 shot of rice wine vinegar
Shaosing rice wine or cooking sherry - 2 shots
Enough cold water to cover the chicken by half and inch in the pan

- Combine all the ingredients in a very large saucepan and bring to the boil on a rapid heat
- Boil rapidly for 20 minutes, skimming any impurities that rise to the surface
- After 20 minutes turn the heat off, put the lid on the pan and leave to cook for 3-4 hours
- Preheat your oven to 180 degrees
- Remove the chicken from the pan leaving the liquor in the saucepan (the chicken will still be warm and perhaps a little hot in the centre) and remove all it skin and discard, then take the chicken apart with your hands removing the meat from the legs, wings and carcass, and separate the breasts from the carcass with a knife (so you remove them both in one piece)
- Put the meat to one side and place the bones and carcass into a roasting tin, roast for 25 minutes turning over once, you're looking for the bones to be turning golden
- While the chicken is roasting, strain the poaching liquor through a fine sieve into another saucepan
- Once the chicken bones are ready, remove them from the oven and add to the liquor, bring to the boil and then simmer for an hour
- Strain once more through a fine sieve, the liquor is now ready to use in a broth, or reduce down further to an even richer stock and then freeze or keep in the fridge

By poaching the chicken and then roasting and simmering its carcass in the liquor once more you'll create an excellent stock packed with aromatic chicken flavours

Dish number one...

Cleansing ginger, chicken and Szechuan peppercorn broth with rice noodles.

Now you know I love noodle soup (I think it should be a food group in itself) so no surprise there's one making an appearance here.

Szechuan peppercorns are very potent and clean tasting, almost mentholated, so they work really well with a big kick of ginger and green chilli, helping the chicken pack a punch in it's fragrant liquor.

So whether you feel like you've overindulged, are a seasoned noodle soup fan, or just want something clean, zingy and packed with flavour, this broth is just the ticket. We like to serve it in a big pot at the table and then help ourselves.

Broth and noodles for two:
The shredded meat of one of the chicken legs
1.5 pints of the poaching liquor (making sure you've skimmed the fat from the surface first)
A large piece of ginger, peeled and cut into slender matchsticks
2 large spring onions, finely shredded lengthways
A small handful of fresh mint and coriander leaves, finely shredded
Half a teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns
1 green chili finely cut
Enough skinny rice noodles for two (however many you like really) made up as per their instructions and then sat waiting in cold water

- Place the broth, ginger, peppercorns into a saucepan and bring to the simmer for 10 minutes so the ginger and peppercorns can infuse into the broth
- Strain through a fine sieve into another saucepan and put back on the heat (you don't want to chew down on one of those peppercorns!) pick the ginger out of the sieve and put it into the saucepan with the liquor
- Bring to the simmer again then add the chicken, spring onions and noodles - cook for around 5-7 minutes to heat everything through and then add the chilli, spring onion and fresh herbs
- Either ladle into bowls ready to eat or transfer to a soup dish for the table

Dish number two...

Rice paper rolls with chicken, crispy fried shallot and aromatic herbs.
I love these rice paper rolls, you can wrap up loads of tasty things in them like a spring roll - but these don't come with any guilt.

I've eaten them a few times in Vietnamese restaurants and have always really liked them, though the best time I tried them was in Thailand, not from a street vendor or somewhere only the locals go, but in Bangkok airport between flights.

You could put loads of different things in them, I decided to go for satay in these as it gives them a real richness and is a classic combination with the chicken. Homemade satay is infinitely nicer than shop bought, and as it's really easy to do there's no reason not to give it a go.

We like to make them then cut them in half, stand them on their ends and then drizzle a tiny bit of light soy sauce into them before eating.

For four rolls:
4 sheets of rice paper - you'll get this from an Asian supermarket
200g peanuts (plain)
2 tablespoons light muscavado sugar
3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
One garlic clove, peeled
100mls coconut milk
2 spring onions, cut into 3" length shreds (this is so they can fit easily into the rolls)
Quarter of a cucumber, core removed, cut into the same slender shreds (like you see with hoisin duck pancakes)
A handful of fresh coriander (leaves and stalks)
A handful of fresh mint, leaves torn
One red chilli, finely sliced
5 shallots, peeled and finely sliced
Groundnut oil for frying
Soy sauce to serve

- In a food processor place the garlic, peanuts, sugar, lime juice, rice vinegar, coconut milk and dark soy sauce and blitz until smooth, this is your satay done - easy see
- Fill a large bowl with the hottest water your hands can stand to dip in to, then take one of the rice paper sheets (which are very brittle so be careful) and put it into the water for just 30 seconds, then remove
- You need to be careful when you take them out to try to keep them from sticking to each other, it has a funny sticky texture so a light touch is needed
- Lay the sheet flat onto a plate, then start to place your herbs, cucumber, onion, chillies, chicken and satay sauce lengthways at the side closest to you - don't be scared to mix it up with your fingers instead of having them there in layers
- Now as when making a spring roll, bring in the sides of the roll and then the end closest to you up over the top of the ingredients, the bottom piece of the rice paper will stick to the sides that you pulled up first making it really easy to finish the roll
- Tuck the ingredients into the pocket you've created then turn it over to seal the roll. Place to one side and then repeat with the other three rolls until you've used all the ingredients
- Once this is done these can sit and wait, they're eaten cold after all. Heat the groundnut oil (about an inch deep) in a pan until its very hot and then add the shallots to the oil to deep fry them. Cook in the hot oil for a few minutes until the shallots turn golden, then remove them and drain on kitchen paper
- Dress the top of the rolls with the crispy shallots then eat

Dish number three...

Oriental crispy fried chicken with chillies and five spice
After those semi-virtuous dishes this one is chance to be a bit naughty, KFC oriental style - delicious!

Crispy chicken for two as a snack or starter to share:
One of the chicken breasts, torn by hand with the grain of the chicken into several large-ish pieces
One egg, beaten
2 teaspoons five spice powder
A generous scrunch sea salt
A few pinches dried chili flakes
A few handfuls panko breadcrumbs
A few tablespoons plain flour
Groundnut oil for frying
Shredded spring onion and a little fresh coriander
Sweet chilli sauce to serve

- Mix the panko with the five spice, salt and chillies in a bowl
- Place the flour into another bowl, and the beaten egg in another - line them up with the egg in the middle
- Take each piece of chicken in turn and lightly coat in the flour, then the egg and finally the panko, sit them waiting on a plate
- Heat some groundnut oil in a deep pan (you need the oil a couple of inches deep really) and when its very hot carefully put the chicken in, cook until golden and turn if you need so they are golden all over
- Remove from the pan carefully when they're ready (this should take around 6 minutes) and drain on kitchen paper
- Place into a serving dish along side the sweet chilli sauce and a napkin (tis finger food after all) then eat