Sunday, April 27, 2008

Fusion Food

The following recipes for Japanese chicken and fish stock are made in a very similar way, the main difference is with the timing. Am so taken with this recipe for chicken stock that today I will be defrosting all the (free) chicken winglets that I have hoarded in the freezer for months, using also root ginger that has been stored in my freezer, again for weeks, and still have those leeks I vacuum packed the other week. As this makes a fair amount of stock, will need to reduce qantities, but certainly - once made and chilled - it can be frozen..
chicken bouillon (stock): (F)
2 lb (1kg) chicken pieces and bones
4 slices fresh root ginger
1 leek, coarsely chopped
3 pints (1.5 ltrs) water
Put the chicken pieces and bones into the water and bring to the boil. Carefully remove the scum that rises to the surface (this may need doing two or three times), then add the ginger and leek, reduce the heat and simmer for an hour and a half. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for 20 minutes, then strain through wet muslin placed in a sieve or colander that is standing over a large bowl. Leave to cool then chill in the fridge, removing all the fat once it has set. In Chinese cooking (not necessarily here) it is expected the stock should be completely clear, so - if necessary - strain it a second time. Freeze for later use.

If you have a friendly fishmonger in your vicinity, or live close to a fishing harbour, you may well be able to get free fish bones and trimmings, maybe even (at the harbour side) cheap fish.
fish bouillon (stock): (F)
1 lb (500g) fresh fish bones and trimmings (sole, brill etc)
4 slices fresh root ginger
1 leek, coarsely chopped
1 tblsp mirin or medium dry sherry
3 pints (1.5 ltrs) water
Rinse the fish and bones under cold running water, then put them into a large pan with the measured water and bring to the boil. Remove any scum from the surface as it rises (this may need doing several times).
Add the ginger and leek, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain through muslin. When cold add the mirin or sherry. Freeze for later use.

Following the above recipe for stock is one for fish soup, and perfect for making a small amount of fish go a long way. Cutting and slicing the fish as thinly as possible makes it look more even though it is only 2 oz (50g) per serving. Possibly, using a very sharp knife (it helps to freeze the fish for half an hour before slicing to enable very, very thin slices to be cut) we could make the soup using 6 oz (175g) of fish. Because the raw fish is prepared in this way, it cooks immediately the boiling stock touches it. Although the fish is given as in the original recipe, other - and cheaper - white fish could also be used.
Japanese Clear Fish Soup: serves 4
8 oz (225g) fresh white fish fillets (sole, brill, turbot etc)
4 spring onions, chopped
2 pints (1.2 ltrs) boiling fish stock (see above recipe)
Cut the fish into very thin slices, then cut each slice into thin strips. Divide these between four serving bowls. Sprinkle over the spring onions then pour over the boiling fish stock. Serve immediately.

Many Asian and Caribbean recipes use coconut milk as an ingredient. An easy way to make this is with desiccated coconut, and note that this recipe will make both the thick and the thinner coconut milks.
coconut milk:
7 oz (200g) desiccated coconut
2 pints (1.2 ltrs) boiling water
Put the coconut into a blender with half the boiling water and blitz for 30 seconds. Strain through a sieve lined with muslin, leaving everything as it is until the coconut is cool enough to handle, then tighten the muslin into a bag and squeeze as much liquid out as possible, adding it to the coconut milk drained into the basin. This is classed as thick coconut milk.
To make thin coconut milk, returned the squeezed coconut to the blender, adding the remaining boiling water and repeat the straining, cooling and squeezing.

Another useful storecupboard/fridge standby is pickled ginger. This I usually buy in jars as I just love to eat it with sushi, but it can also be added to other dishes. Now I will be making my own. When using fresh root ginger that has been frozen, allow time for it to thaw. If not intending to use it often, make smaller amounts.
pickled ginger:
1 lb (450g) fresh root ginger
14 fl.oz (400ml) rice vinegar
6 tblsp sugar
1 tsp salt
Peel the ginger and blanch in boiling water for 1 minute, then rinse under cold running water. Pat dry with kitchen paper, then cut into fairly coarse shreds. Put the vinegar into a pan with 5 tblsp water, add the sugar and salt and stir until these have dissolved, then add the ginger. Bring to the boil, then immediately remove from heat and spoon into small, warm sterilised jars, topping up with the liquid. Screw on airtight lids and store in a cool place for up to 3 months.

The first of the main dishes today is Chinese scrambled eggs - enough for four when served as a side dish, however, this would make a good lunch or even supper dish for one or two people. Easily extended.
Cantonese Scrambled Eggs with Spring Onions:
4 egg, lightly beaten
pinch sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp ginger syrup
1 bunch spring onions, chopped
5 fl.oz (150ml) chinese chicken stock
2 tblsp groundnut or sunflower oil
2 beef (or large) tomatoes, skinned and diced
parsley sprigs
salt to taste
Put everything except the parsley into a bowl and mix together. Heat the oil in a wok, swirling the pan round so the oil coats the sides, then when the oil is hot tip in all the mixture in one go, and stir-fry until set but still moist on the top. Serve at once onto warm plates (or if you wish, on toast) and garnish with the parsley.

This next recipe uses firm white cabbage which is so reasonable in price. It could be served with hot or cold meats, or as one of a selection of vegetarian dishes.
Peking Sweet and Sour Cabbage:
1 lb (450g) white cabbage
4 tblsp groundnut or sunflower oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
1 small dried red chilli
2 tblsp malt vinegar
2 tblsp ginger syrup
1 tblsp hoisin sauce
2 - 3 tblsp chicken stock
Slice the cabbage into thin shreds. Heat the oil in a wok and stir fry the garlic and chilli until the garlic has turned golden, then remove the garlic and chilli from the oil. Add the cabbage to the wok and stir-fry for five minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients. Stir to mix everything together, then bring to the boil. Cook for one minute then serve immediately.

Desserts do not play an important part in Eastern cuisine, although some - mainly fruit - can be served after the main courses. Note I said 'courses' for several (often many) dishes are served so that everyone can have a sample of everything to go with their bowl of rice. Sometimes, when soup has been the starter, it is far better to end the meal with a refreshing bowl of tea (with no milk and no sugar). Green tea would be perfect.