Thursday, September 22, 2011

Taiwanese beef noodle soup

I was in the butcher's today and saw what was described as "runner beef". I'm not quite sure what cut it is (should have asked) but it was cheap and looked as if it would add plenty of flavour to a soup.

When I got home, I did a bit of googling, and came up with a recipe for Taiwanese spicy beef noodle soup or niu rou mian, which I adjusted a little bit both to reflect the contents of my cupboards and in an attempt to please the delicate palates of my children.

vegetable oil
1 kg runner beef (or another cheap cut)
1 large leek, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp red chile bean sauce
4 tbsps rice wine
1/2 tsp five spice powder
1 tsp allspice berries
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
3 tbsps light soy sauce
2 litres of water
500g of broccoli, cut into bite-size pieces
250g of thick egg noodles noodles

  1. Heat a few tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large pot and brown the beef thoroughly.
  2. Add all the remaining ingredients (except for the broccoli and noodles), bring to boil, cover and turn to minimum, and simmer gently for 2-3 hours until the meat is completely tender.
  3. Set lid ajar and allow to cool, then strain the broth into a large bowl. Take out the beef and set aside. Discard the other contents of the strainer (spices, leeks, garlic, ginger etc.).
  4. Return broth to pan, bring to boil, add broccoli and noodles and cook until tender.
  5. Meanwhile, remove beef from bone, trimming off the fat and any gristle, and cut into thinnish slices.
  6. Ladle the broth with noodles and broccoli into soup bowls, add beef slices and serve.
Three cheers for Taiwan
Apparently this is the national dish of Taiwan. To do it justice, I decided to buy the most expensive noodles in my local Chinese supermarket - a Taiwanese brand which cost somewhere between two and three times as much as the alternatives. I was not disappointed, as they were also at least two to three times as good! If you can get hold of them, these are the ones to go for:

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Raspberry jam

We had a second trip to Craigie's Farm to pick some more strawberries, together with some raspberries (which were not yet ready on our first visit). I was really enjoying picking the raspberries at a very leisurely pace, but made the mistake of bringing four over-enthusiastic helpers with me. While I was strolling up and down between the raspberry canes, picking only the very best fruit at a rate of about one berry per minute, they were galloping through the strawberry tunnel and came back with 5 kilos of the things, no less! They then applied the same treatment to the raspberries and within half an hour we had another 5 kilos of them. "You've got to take advantage while they're in season!" they chorused. I said nothing but groaned inwardly, thinking of the little red hen and her farmyard friends. At least they hadn't actually loaded her down with industrial quantities of wheat.

Sure enough, when we got back home my 'helpers' melted away, leaving me alone in the kitchen with an unfeasible amount of soft fruit. I churned out a couple of batches of strawberry jam, and also did a large (2kg) batch of raspberry, before reluctantly freezing the remaining rasps. And the next day, trying to get at least a token contribution to the whole process, I was flatly informed that writing labels was "boring". Well, I shall label them myself: "Tim's Solo Raspberry Jam".

1kg fresh raspberries
1kg sugar

  1. Put a dinner plate in the freezer. Sterilise your equipment: 4 x 1 lb jars and lids or 8 x 1/2 lb ones, a ladle and a jam funnel. I sterilise the jars by washing them then placing them upside down on the oven rack, setting the oven to 140oC and keeping them there for 30 minutes or so.
  2. Measure the sugar in to a heatproof bowl, and heat for 5 minutes or so in the oven.
  3. Put the raspberries in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat until the juices begin to run, then add the warmed sugar.
  4. Bring to a boil, skim, and boil for 5 minutes or so, until setting point has been reached. To test for set, drip a couple of drops of the jam onto the cold plate. Leave to cool for a few seconds. If it is ready, then the surface will wrinkle when you push the drop with your fingernail. (Or you can just stick your finger in it and see if it has a slightly sticky, jammy consistency rather than a syrupy one.)
  5. Remove pan from heat and leave to sit for 10 minutes before ladling the jam into the sterilised jars and sealing.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Damson, greengage and apple chutney

As part of my ongoing battle against the fruit mountain which has been threatening to overwhelm us, I made some chutney yesterday. The main ingredients were just what I reckoned was least likely to be eaten if I didn't cook them.

Ingredients (makes 1 kg)
500g granny smiths
250g greengages
250g damsons
8 spring onions
125g sultanas
175g brown sugar
200ml cider vinegar
good pinch of salt
4 cloves
1 stick of cinnamon
10 coriander seeds
10 allspice berries
2 slices of fresh ginger

  1. Put the spices in a muslin bag. Core and peel the apples and dice. Cut the damsons in half, removing stones if possible. (If not, remove after cooking). Cut greengages into four, removing stones. Top and tail the spring onions, and cut into 1 cm segments.
  2. Put all the prepared fruit, the spice bag, the sugar, vinegar and salt into a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to boil, reduce heat to minimum and simmer for 1 to 2 hours, stirring frequently. When the chutney can be parted with a wooden spoon to reveal the bottom of the saucepan, it is ready. Transfer to sterilised jars, seal and store for at least 2 weeks (longer if possible).

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Pineapple salsa

We are caught in the middle of a fruit glut at the moment. Yesterday we went to a pick your own farm and returned with 5 kg of strawberries and another 5 kg of raspberries. When we got back, our veggie box was waiting on our doorstep, brimming with apples, bananas, pears, damson and greengages, together with the usual vegetables. And when I opened the fridge to try to clear some space for them, I was confronted by a pineapple staring aggressively back at me.

I thought about making a batch of pineapple picalilli, but as I was already planning to make some chutney with the damsons and greengages, pickle the pears, and produce industrial quantities of strawberry and raspberry jam, I decided to go for something a little less labour-intensive. A bit of googling and some improvisation on my part produced this pineapple salsa.

1 pineapple
4 tsps of minced red chilli
4 finely chopped spring onions
3 tsps of salt
juice of 2 limes
half a large bunch of coriander (or a couple of miserly supermarket packs)

  1. Remove the skin from the pineapple, cut into quarters, remove the fibrous core, and chops the flesh into small chunks.
  2. Combine in a large bowl with the rest of the ingredients, stir well to mix, and leave to rest for 30 minutes to allow the flavours to develop.