Friday, 23 November 2012

Ants Climbing the Tree

I certainly wouldn't say the best thing about this dish is its strange name, but it rather cute. You have a pile of glass noodles (branches), mixed with spicy minced pork (the ants) and garnished with spring onion (the leaves). It's incredibly morish and very quick to boot. I used up the last of my chilli bean paste for this dish, which I was so keen to use up before I leave Australia. It has since become one of my favourite ingredients, and I am considering buying just one more jar so I can make this dish again. 

There are so many different slightly different recipes to choose from when making this. As per usual, I defaulted to using Sunflower's Food Galore blog. The first time I made this dish I used about 1 and a half time the amount of meat, also upping the mince flavouring ingredients, because it needed using. After having tried it both ways, I think I prefer the version with less meat- it feels more balanced. 

*Update- 26/10/15- I made  this recipe after not having made it for a while, and have updated this post with a nicer photo than before.


100g dried glass noodles/cellophane noodles/ mung bean noodles (all the same thing, but it can be labelled under different names)
2 - 3 tbsp cooking oil2 - 3 cloves garlic, chopped1 tbsp of chopped ginger2 tbsp chilli bean sauce/paste, more or less to your taste 120 - 150 g minced pork1/2 - 1 tbsp light soy sauce1 - 2 tsp sugar (optional)1 stick of celery cut into very fine strips 1 chilli, deseeded and chopped 
180ml cup chicken or pork stock or water 2 stalks of spring onions


Soak the noodles in warm water until soft, about 15 minutes, and then drain. Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan, and stir fry the ginger and garlic for a few seconds until fragrant, and then add the chilli bean paste. Cook for a few more seconds, stirring the whole time, and then add the pork mince. Continue to stir fry the mix, breaking up the pork mince as best you can. Season with the sugar and soy,and add the chilli. Stir in the celery and cook for about 30 seconds more. Mix in the noodles, and pour the stock/water into the pan. Give it a quick stir, and leave to cook on a high heat until all the liquid is absorbed. Serve straight away with the chopped spring onion sprinkled on top.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Fried Chicken Buns

Finished buns

I do feel more than a little bit of shame that I am posting another recipe that originates from Sunflower Food Galore, but I've had a week where I cooked almost exclusively using recipes from that blog. Hopefully she is of the belief that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

I can't ape a dim sum restaurant at home, as there are usually only two eaters and just making a batch of one type will make more than we can eat. If I want the full experience of trying lots of delicious morsels, I do have to eat out. However, I do enjoy the process of making them, especially when I am in the mood for pottering around in the kitchen.

These chicken buns are half fried, half steamed, so you get a golden crispy base, but with a steamed top and filling. We couldn't eat all of them in one sitting; there is something very heavy about dim sum.  I set aside half of the buns, clingfilmed in the fridge, prior to cooking, and had them the following day-they didn't seem to suffer any ill effects from hanging round. Although I would recommend either taking them out of the fridge about an hour before you want to cook them, or cooking on a lower heat than usual, as the chicken filling will take longer to cook if it starts off fridge-cold.

Condiments of choice
Before sealing
Buns before cooking

For the dough:
200g white bread flour
100g plain flour
2 tbsp sugar
¾ tsp of salt
¾ tsp of quick acting yeast
2 tbsp of cooking oil

160 – 175 ml of water
For the filling:
350g chicken breast cut into small pieces (I used thigh as I am not keen on breast)
1 ½ tbsp of grated ginger
2 tbsp light soy
1 ½ tbsp of Shaoshing wine
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
2 – 3 tsp of sesame oil
1 heap tsp of cornflour
2 stalks of spring onion, chopped
Few sprigs of coriander, chopped
Small handful of bamboo shoots (optional), cut into small piece (I left these out)
Few woodears, soaked and cut into fine strips – optional (I left these out)
some water and little oil for cooking


Start with the bread dough: mix the dry ingredients together and add the oil. Gradually add stir in the water to make a soft dough. Knead for five minutes until smooth and elastic. Set the dough aside for an hour to rise.

During the dough's rising, mix all the filling ingredients together.

When the hour is up, tip the dough onto a floured surface and knead briefly. Leave for a few minutes to relax, then divide the dough into 12 equally sized pieces. Take one of the pieces of dough and roll into a ball. Stretch or roll the ball into a 8cm circle. Put a lump of filling in the centre of the circle, and bring the edges together to seal. Dust the bottom of the bun lightly in flour, and set aside to rise. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

Heat a little oil over a medium-low heat in a frying pan that has a lid. Cook the buns in batches- carefully transfer them to the pan, and cook covered for 1-2 minutes. Check one of the buns, and if the base is pale golden, the drizzle 4 tablespoons of water around the buns and replace them lid. Leave to steam for another 2 minutes, once the water has evaporated add another 2 tablespoons of water and cook for about another four minutes. All the water should be evaporated.
Serve immediately.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Easy Frozen Yogurt

 I was really happy with the results of the instant fruit sorbet, and wanted to see if the method would transfer to frozen yogurt. To make it, I just put a good dollop of Greek yogurt with the sorbet ingredients in the food processor, and blending it to creamy frozen fruit yogurt. I am happy to say it was a successful experiment. If you like a very soft dessert you can eat it straight away, otherwise, put it into a container and freeze. Every half an hour, take it out and stir. Because the fruit starts off frozen this is a much quicker than making ice cream or other iced puddings from scratch.
First frozen yogurt was a straight raspberry one, and second was banana, cinnamon and maple syrup. This was simply 2 very ripe bananas that I had sliced and frozen, blended with about 100ml maple syrup, a pinch of cinnamon, and 150g Greek yogurt. It was delicious with extra, warmed maple syrup on top.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Chengdu Chicken/ Chen du ze jee

This is yet another one of my favourites from Sunflower Food Galore. Szechuan food is often described as 'hot and numbing', this chicken dish certainly is. It is also fragrant, from the dried orange peel. Szechuan peppercorns cause a slight numbing sensation to the mouth, hence the 'numbing' title.

I haven't really touched the recipe, except when I made it the second time I used the liquid from soaking the orange peel in the recipe.

I think this makes an excellent winter dish, especially if you are tired of eating the usual  heavy casseroles and stodge to warm you up.

500g chicken
2 - 3 tbsp of cooking oil
2 tbsp of chilli bean paste
1 small thumb of ginger
1 small piece of chinese dried mandarin/tangerine peel
1 tbsp of Szechuan peppercorn (whole)
1/2 - 2 tsp of crushed chilli flakes
2 - 3 tsp of chinese black rice vinegar (Chinkiang vinegar)
1 - 2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
2 tsp sugar
1 heaped tsp of cornflour
 To garnish
1/2 tsp ground Sichuan pepper
2 stalks of spring onion, finely chopped to garnish

Soak the orange peel in some warm water for about 20 minutes until softened. Meanwhile, peel and finely chop or grate the the ginger. Cut the orange peel into very thin shreds, I find it easiest to use a pair of scissors.
Cut the chicken into small pieces.
Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan. When the oil is hot, add the whole Szechuan peppercorns, and fry for a few minutes until the oil is fragrant. Remove the peppercorns and discard. Add the chicken and chilli flakes, and stir fry until the chicken is golden brown. Add in the ginger, orange peel and chilli bean paste. Cook for two more minutes, and then add the vinegar, wine and sugar. Meanwhile, slake the cornflour in a little water (mix together to make a thin paste).
 Add some water- how much depends on whether or not you like a saucy or dry dish. I like to use the orange peel soaking liquid. Add the cornflour paste, and stir until it the sauce has thickened.
Transfer to a serving dish, and sprinkle over the spring onions and ground peppercorns