Thursday, December 28, 2006

Feast from the East

Thanks for your comments, and good to hear from Mo again. Do hope she gets her computer sorted. Keep in touch Mo if you can (libraries now have computers which everyone can use).

Today I'm using ingredients 'wot I 'ave already got' - and the perfect use for these is a Chinese Meal. On its own a Stir-Fry is substantial in its own right, but I'm also giving a soup recipe, plus garnishes in case you wish to make more than a meal of it. A good menu for when you have guests. Follow the tips to make it easy to prepare.

First - the Sweet and Sour Sauce. This can be bought ready made, but useful to know how to make it. Indeed there are many versions, so I've cobbled one together which I know works. Cornflour is used for thickening, but if you wish for a really clear sauce, then use arrowroot.
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tblsp sherry*
4 tblsp tomato ketchup
2 tblsp white wine vinegar, or ordinary white vinegar
2 tblsp sugar
1 tblsp cornflour or arrowroot
7 fl. oz (200ml) water
1 -2 tblsp ginger syrup
Mix the cornflour with 3 tblsp water. Put all the other ingredients into a pan, heat to blend and then stir in the slaked cornflour. Stir until thickened. This can be made a day or two ahead of the meal.
Tip:* If you have no sherry, then use pineapple or orange juice or just water. How to make your own ginger syrup was mentioned in an earlier posting.
Do keep arrowroot in your storecupboard. It makes a wonderfully clear sauce that looks much better than when using cornflour. Toss sliced apple in arrowroot before putting in a pie and it will thickens the juice as it bakes.

Velvet Corn Soup: - serves 4
approx 8oz (225g) canned sweetcorn, including the liquid
1 pint chicken stock
2 tsp. cornflour
2 egg whites
5 tsp milk
In a saucepan, bring the chicken stock to the boil and add the sweetcorn.
Slake the cornflour with 4 tsp sweetcorn liquid/cold water. Beat the egg whites until frothy and stir in the milk.
Pour the cornflour into the soup and stir constantly until thick and clear. Turn out the heat and immediately pour in the egg-white/milk mixture, stirring only once. Pour into individual bowls and serve at once.
Tip: the left over yolks can be used to make fried rice, or the Egg Roll (both recipes given below).

Stir-Fried Vegetables:
A mixture of very thinly sliced carrot, strips of red and green peppers, some broccoli florets, broccoli stalks sliced thinly, a few cauliflower florets, onion chopped into strips, frozen (thawed) peas, sweetcorn (if not serving soup), sliced rib of celery, sliced mushrooms. Stir-fry the vegetables in a little hot oil, starting with those that need the longest cooking: celery, onion, cauliflower, carrot. Add the remainder. Shake in a little soy sauce and add a little chicken stock, cover and steam until vegetables are cooked .
If you have any of those scraps of cooked chicken taken from a 'free' carcase, then shred some and include these in the dish if you wish.
Tip: To make this more upmarket, serve mange tout peas instead of ordinary, also add cashew nuts or peanuts. Worth getting a can of pineapple, open and save/freeze the juice for sweet and sour sauce or to add to jellies. Freeze also pineapple rings, then cut up one to add to a stir fry or the sauce to give extra flavour.

Instead of using chicken scraps which are perfectly suitable for family and guests, push the boat out a bit more and serve a vegetablet Stir-Fry with:
Lemon Chicken: serves 2 - 4
One chicken breast cut into chunks or strips. Fry in a little oil until white. Pour over the juice and zest of one or two lemons. Continue cooking for about 5 minutes. Spoon in a tablespoon of honey, stir and cook on until thick and syrupy.

Egg Roll Garnish: serves 2 - 4
Beat one or two eggs. Heat a shallow frying pan and brush with a little butter or oil. Pour in just enough egg to make a thin coating in the pan. Cook until the top has set but do not turn. Remove pancake and keep warm by placing on a plate standing over a pan of hot water. Make another in the same way, put this on top of the first pancake. Use up all the egg in this way (one egg should make three pancakes).
Roll up the stack of pancakes like a swiss roll, starting at one end slice thinly to make what looks like noodles. Use to garnish the top of the stir-fry.
Tip: add the left over yolks from the soup to one whole egg plus 2 tsp water.

Egg Fried Rice:
1 pint measure of cold cooked (left-over) rice
1 small onion, finely chopped
few frozen peas, thawed
2 eggs, or 1 egg plus 2 yolks
Pour a little oil into a frying pan, first saute the onions, then add the rice and peas, heat through thoroughly then pour in the egg stirring with a fork so that it mixes and cooks with the heat of the rice.

Apart from the Lemon Chicken, and that is optional, you will have noticed that all the remaining ingredients are inexpensive. As the meal seems time consuming looking at it as a whole, do as much advance preparation as you can. Prepare the sauce a day or two ahead. Arrange to keep back some boiled rice if intending to make the Fried Rice. Slice and dice the vegetables in the morning, covering tightly with clingfilm. Carrots can discolour if left too long, so I blanch these for one minute then drain.
Have the other ingredients standing by ready to use. Very easy when you know how. All I can say now is - have a go!