Asian Chicken & Job’s Tears Soup

My smug face of finding pearl barley in the Chinese Supermarket was soon wiped off my face when I realised the Chinese pearl barley I bought is completely unrelated to actual barley! Arghh and I was so looking forward to making a lovely Turkish salad with pearl barley and pomegrantes…

Oh well, gotta look on the bright side of life and make it work! I googled this mysterious grain and to my surprise I seem to have stumbled upon an extremely healthy ingredient which is used a lot in traditional Chinese medicine. These grains come from a grass native to South-East Asia and are also known as Yi Yi Ren, coixseeds, hato mugi, adlai and a plethora of other names.

I had no clue as to what to do with this mysterious grain so I chucked a few things in a pot and prayed to the Chinese pantheon of gods. The result was satisfying and I have taken quite a shine to these grains which I can only describe as nutty.

Ingredients

1 chicken carcass

2 chicken wings

2 chicken drumsticks (alternatively use a whole chicken)

5 thick slices unpeeled ginger

1 onion, quatered

6 whole garlic cloves

1 carrot, large chunks

1 turnip, quatered

1 daikon, large chunks

4 handfuls Job’s tears, soaked overnight and drained

3 Tbsp Shaoxing rice wine

2 star anise

½ stick cassia

4 cloves

Salt & pepper, to taste

10 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated & halved

Shiitake dashi (liquid from rehydrating the shiitake mushrooms; make sure you sieve it before using)

2 – 3 bok choy, roughly chopped

2 handfuls mung bean sprouts

Method

1 Place all ingredients except for the bok choy and mung bean sprouts in a large stockpot and cover fully with cold water. Bring to a boil, skim off impurities and then simmer on low for 30 minutes.

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2 Adjust seasoning to taste and then add bok choy and mung bean sprouts. Cook for 5 minutes and then ladle into bowls to enjoy. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice on top if you like, as I do.

Chicken & Job's Tears Soup

 

Chinese Spiced Pork Loin (Pressure cooker)

Every time I need to use a pressure cooker, I immediately remember this movie clip from an excellent Greek film called Πολίτικη Κουζίνα (A Touch of Spice).

All that hissing and whistling always used to completely terrify me and at the back of my mind was that image of the pressure cooker exploding. To rid me of this fear, I asked my mum to demonstrate how to use a pressure cooker; if I see something done at least once, I can then re-enact it and feel more at ease. Ever since then, I have embraced the wonders of the pressure cooker and taken advantage of its functionality.

Initially I was going to roast this pork loin in the oven but as I ended up being cut for time I resorted to the amazing pressure cooker to solve my time sensitivity and in the end I couldn’t have been happier of the results: nicely spiced juicy pork.

Ingredients

800g pork loin, whole

1 large bunch chard, chopped

2 large potatoes, quartered

Marinade

Handful dried cranberries

2cm piece fresh ginger, sliced

2 Tbsp. light soy sauce

1 Tbsp. dark soy sauce

2 Tbsp. Shaoxing rice wine

3 Tbsp. honey

2 tsp. Chinese 5 Spice

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. chilli powder

1 Tbsp. ajo y perejil

½ lemon, juiced

4 Tbsp. cold water

Method

1 Marinade pork with all ingredients and then using a sharp knife, poke some holes into the pork loin and stuff with some of the ginger slices and cranberries. Leave to marinade for a few hours or overnight.

2 In the bottom part of a pressure cooker, sear the pork on all sides til golden brown.

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3 Once seared add the potatoes and chard stalks along with the marinade liquid and some extra water if needed.

4 Close the pressure cooker and wait a few minutes for it to whistle. Lower the flame to low and simmer for 20 minutes.

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5 When the cooking time has elapsed, remove from the stove and release the pressure (refer to your pressure cooker instruction manual as each is slightly different). Carefully remove the lid.

6 Remove pork and cover with aluminium foil. Let it rest.

7 Meanwhile add the chard leaves to the pot and cook for a few minutes. Adjust seasoning to your taste.

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8 Place the pork in a serving dish and spoon over the sauce, potatoes and chard. Sprinkle over a few more cranberries and serve.

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Moong Dhal (Indian – Style Yellow Split Mung Beans)

I found a bag of mung beans at the back of my larder from when I made Korean Nokdu Bindaetteok a while back and realised they were two months away from spoiling so I rattled my brain to what to do with them. Then I remembered that they are also used a lot in Indian cuisine and remembered a dhal I made a long time ago.

Dhal is a dried pulse (lentil, peas, and beans) that has been hulled and split. It comes from the Sanskrit verbal root dhal, meaning “to split”. Dhal is also the word given to the soups and stews made with these pulses common in many South Asian countries such as India.

This recipe involves using Tarka which is an Indian technique whereby spices are tempered in hot ghee or oil and then added to the cooked dhal, similar to the spanish way of cooking lentils .

You can boil the traditional way or you can use a pressure cooker which drastically cuts down on the cooking time. I always used to make it the traditional way but now prefer to use the pressure cooker method as it is much faster (30-40 minutes vs. 15 minutes).

Ingredients

2 cups moong dhal (Yellow Split Mung beans)

4 ½  cups water

½ tsp. turmeric

2 Tbsp. ghee (or mixture or oil and butter)

1 Tbsp. cumin seeds

4 cloves garlic, sliced

2 cm piece ginger, diced

3 dried cayenne chillies

1 fresh green chilli, halved

1 large tomato, diced

1 tsp. red chilli powder

2 tsp. kasoori methi

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp mace

1 tsp garam masala

½ lemon, juiced

Salt, to taste

N.B. The cup measurement is just a normal (at least for me) drinking glass, not the American measurement system, although feel free to go by that if you wish.

Method

1 Rinse moong dal in cold water a few times and let it soak for 30 minutes or overnight. Drain and set aside.

2  Pour water in a deep pan and add drained moong dal and turmeric. Bring to boil and simmer on a low flame for 30 – 40 minutes or until the dhal is soft. Alternatively, use a pressure cooker and cook for 15 minutes. Season with salt.

3 Make the tarka by frying cumin seeds in hot ghee and once they start to pop add cayenne chillies, green chilli, garlic and ginger and fry for 30 seconds. Add tomato, red chilli powder, cinnamon, mace, garam masala and kasoori methi. If it becomes to dry add a little bit of water. Cook for 1 – 2 minutes.

4 Pour this tarka over the cooked dal and stir well. Adjust seasonings to your taste.

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5 Add lemon juice and ½ cup of water, mix well and boil for 2 – 3 minutes.

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6 Add this point you can serve just like this, which would be the traditional method, or go rogue and blend it to your desired consistency using a hand blender.

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If I cooked this the traditional way, I find that the moong dhal doesn’t quite breakdown perfectly so I prefer to to use a hand immersion blender to reach my desired consistency. However, if I’ve used a pressure cooker, I never end up using the hand immersion blender as it breaks down to perfection and no blender or masher is needed.

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Potaje de garbanzos y acelgas (Spanish Chickpea and Chard Potage)

As with most of my Spanish recipes, I learnt this potage from my mum who in turn learnt it from my grandmother.

There are two Spanish techniques in this recipe: chascar and sofrito. I have talked about chascar before and have an explanation of it here. There are lots of types of sofritos but the one in this recipe is basically lightly fried garlic with pimenton and flour. This sofrito is then chucked into pan with the other ingredients when the water comes to a boil. This sofrito is commonly used as the base for a myriad of spanish soups and stews such as Spanish Style Lentils.

In the UK, I can never seem to find the acelgas (chard) that we use in Spain; the closest I’ve found is swiss chard. If you can’t find this vegetable you can substitute for spinach too, which is also used a lot in this particular potage.

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To drastically cut down on cooking time (and perhaps because I am lazy), I prefer to use cooked chickpeas but if you prefer, go ahead and use the dried stuff.

Ingredients

Serrano ham,1cm thick strips (not sliced serrano ham-can substitute for pancetta)

6 cooking chorizos

3 garlic cloves, sliced

1 Tbsp. sweet pimenton (or paprika)

2 Tbsp. plain flour

2 tsp. grated nutmeg

3 large potatoes, chascadas or cut into chunks

500g cooked chickpeas, washed and drained

1 large bundle of chard (can substitute for spinach), chopped

3 Tbsp. dried breadcrumbs or 1 Tbsp cornflour (optional)

Method

1 In a large pan, boil serrano ham and chorizo with enough cold water to completely cover the ingredients. When it begins to boil, skim off the impurities and white froth.

2 Make a sofrito by frying garlic in plenty olive oil, enough to completely cover the bottom of a frying pan. Add pimenton and flour and fry for a few seconds. Add this sofrito into the pan of water with the other ingredients once it has come to a boil.

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3 Add, 1 tsp nutmeg, salt, potatoes and if using chard; add the stalks at this stage as they take longer to cook than the leafy part. Simmer on a low flame for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are nearly cooked.

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4 If at this stage the potage is too thin for your liking you can add some dried breadcrumbs to help thicken it up. Add the chickpeas and the leafy part of the chard and cook for circa 5 minutes. Take off heat, sprinkle with nutmeg, cover and let it stand for 5 minutes.

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Ekşili Köfte Çorbası (Turkish Meatball Soup)

In Greece there is a very similar dish known as γιουβαρλάκια αυγολέμονο (yiouvarlakia avgolemono). I am not going to get into the Greek/Turkish claim of invention but I learnt this dish from a Turkish person and therefore I’d classify this under Turkish cuisine.

The particularity of this soup is the terbiye (avgolemono in Greek); a mixture of egg and lemon.

Ingredients

Köfte:

1lb. minced beef

1 onion, minced

2 garlic cloves, grated

6 Tbsp. raw long-grain rice

7 sprigs fresh parsley, chopped

2 tsp. dried oregano

1 egg white, slightly beaten

salt and pepper, to taste

Çorba:

Water

3 carrots, thickly sliced

2 potatoes, quartered

1 Tbsp hot pimenton (or paprika)

Terbiye:

2 eggs, beaten

1 lemon, juiced

2 tsp. cornflour

Method

1 Make the köfte (meatballs) by combining the mince, onion, garlic, rice, parsley, mint, oregano, salt, pepper and egg white. Combine well and shape into walnut-sized köfte. Set aside.

2 Make the soup by boiling carrots and potatoes in cold water. Bring to a boil, add the meatballs and add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes.

3 Remove from the heat while making the terbiye.

4 Make the terbiye by diluting cornflour in lemon juice and adding to beaten eggs. Beat in 1 cup of hot broth from the soup to this egg-lemon mixture in a slow and steady stream.

6 Slowly add the terbiye into the soup pot and continuously stir until all has been incorporated. Return the soup to the heat (low flame) and keep stirring until it has thickened. Make sure it doesn’t boil otherwise you may end up scrambling the eggs instead. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle over pimenton.

Ekşili köfte çorbası

Fideuà de shiitake (Shiitake Fideua)

Sometimes the best dishes are created out of desperation and limited resources much like this fideua. I had nothing in the fridge and none of the usual ingredients I would use in a traditional fideua but I thought I’d give it a go without the usual suspects and leave it the hands of the Gods.

I had a tin of tomatoes in the panty (normally I’d use fresh), some dried shiitake (life-saver) and some fish stock in the freezer (I always have at least one stock in the freezer). This is by no means a traditional fideua but do you think I really care? It was so good that I needed to share on here 🙂

Ingredients

3 garlic cloves, sliced

3 dried cayenne chillies (optional)

1 Tbsp. sweet pimenton (or paprika)

½ tin tomatoes, diced

12 dried shiitake mushrooms, dehydrated and sliced

Fish stock (optional if you want to go vegan)

Shiitake dashi (water where shiitakes were soaked in)

4 handfuls fideua pasta (this depends on your paella pan. The one I used in this recipe is a 4 person paella dish).

Few strands of saffron, diluted in hot liquid

Method

1 In a paella pan fry garlic and cayenne chillies. Make a well in the centre and fry the pimenton for a few seconds before quickly adding the tomato to prevent the pimenton from burning. Add shiitake and fry for 1 – 2 minutes.

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2 Add stock and shiitake dashi to just above the two nails on either side of the paella pan. Add saffron and salt to taste.

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3 When the liquid has reduced to just below the nails add the fideua pasta. To add the pasta, it is best to sprinkle it in a line spanning the width of the pan and then distributing it with a spatula. Simmer on low for 8 minutes or until the pasta has soaked up most of the water and the pasta is al dente.

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4 Take the pan off the flame, cover with a kitchen towel and let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.

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Serve with Ajoaceite and a squeeze of lemon juice