Monday, 23 January 2012

Spicy Chicken Noodle Stir Fry for Chinese New Year

If you are reading this in China - or simply happen to be Chinese - Happy New Year! Today is the first day of the Chinese New Year so what else could I feature but a Chinese dish? As 2012 is the Chinese Year of the Dragon, I decided also to add a little bit more fire to the dish than you may normally expect from a Chinese stir fry by adding some hot green chilli pepper.

Ingredients for One Serving

1 chicken breast fillet
3oz portion of dried Chinese noodles (fresh noodles work equally well)
1/2 red bell pepper
5 small closed cup mushrooms
2 small shallots
1/2 hot green chilli
Sachet of stir fry sauce
1 egg white
1 tsp cornflour
Sunflower oil for frying


It is not absolutely essential but strongly advisable that you begin by velveting your chicken. This is a Chinese technique which serves to offer the chicken some level of protection from the intense heat of the stir frying process. It means your cooked chicken will be much softer and more tender when served.

Chop the chicken breast in to bite sized pieces. Put the egg white in to a small bowl and stir in the cornflour. Season with salt and add the chicken. Stir well, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for about twenty minutes.

If you are using the dried noodles, they should be cooked while the chicken is velveting. The instructions should be on the packet but in this instance they were required to be added to boiling water and simmered for four minutes. Drain them through a colander or sieve, lay them on a plate and cover until required.

When you are making a stir fry, you should have all your ingredients prepared and ready for the wok before you start. This is because you simply won't have the time to start chopping vegetables or preparing meats once you start cooking. While the chicken was in the fridge, as well as cooking the noodles, I wiped and halved the mushrooms, peeled and finely sliced the shallots, finely chopped the half chilli and sliced the half red bell pepper.

Drain the chicken thoroughly through a colander or sieve. Add a couple of tablespoons of oil to a very hot wok and fry the chicken only until it is sealed. This is when it has turned white/opaque. Remove it to a plate with a slotted spoon. Add your vegetables to the wok and fry for about a minute before re-adding the chicken.

The stir fry sauce used in this recipe was oyster and spring onion (scallion) but you can use whichever variety you prefer. This should be added to the wok after the chicken and the mix cooked for a further minute or two.

The noodles should be added to the wok and stirred through the mix to heat through for about thirty seconds before the meal is plated and served.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Haggis with Clapshot and Breast of Partridge - A Burns Night Special

Haggis, tatties and neeps is usually the main meal served at a Burns Supper, on or around January 25th each year. This recipe is just a slight variation on the traditional to hopefully spruce up what can - in all honesty - be a pretty bland creation at times. The idea for including a partridge breast with the haggis came about entirely by coincidence a few days ago. I had some partridge breasts and was scouring the Web looking for inspiration for partridge recipes when I found one for haggis stuffed partridge breasts. I thought the combination sounded interesting and was delighted the way this worked out.

Ingredients for One Serving

1 small haggis
1/2 small Swede turnip (rutabaga)
1 large baking potato
1 skinless partridge breast fillet
Canned or frozen peas
2 tsp chopped chives
1 small measure of single malt Scotch whisky
1oz butter
Salt and white pepper
A little vegetable oil for frying


Clapshot is simply mashed tatties and neeps (potato and Swede turnip/rutabaga) with chopped chives. The first step in preparing this meal is to peel the potato and Swede and chop to around one inch pieces. Add the pieces to a large pot, season with a little salt and pour in enough cold water to comfortably cover all the pieces. Put on a high heat until the water boils then reduce the heat to achieve a steady simmer for twenty-five to thirty minutes until the vegetables are softened.

If you buy a haggis prepacked, the cooking instructions should be written on the packaging. If you buy it from a butcher's and need advice on the cooking procedures, simply ask your butcher. The instructions on this prepackaged small haggis were to wrap it in foil, lay it in an ovenproof dish with around three-quarters an inch of water and bake in the oven, preheated to 180C/350F, for twenty-five minutes.

The partridge breast should be cooked about ten minutes before the haggis and vegetables are due to be ready. Bring a little vegetable oil up to a medium heat in a small, non-stick frying pan. Season the partridge breast on both sides with salt and white pepper and fry on a medium heat for two minutes each side. Transfer to a heated plate, cover with aluminium foil and leave to rest.

When the haggis is ready, remove it from the oven and carefully unwrap it. Line a small round bowl with clingfilm. Remove any remaining packaging from the haggis and carefully pack it in to the bowl with a spoon. Turn the bowl upside down in the centre of your serving plate. Hold the edges of the clingfilm, lift the bowl away and peel off the clingfilm. Drizzle the whisky over the top.

Heat the canned peas gently in a saucepan, or if using frozen peas, add them to boiling water for three minutes. 

Drain the potatoes and Swede and return them to the empty pot with the butter. Mash with a hand masher and season with white pepper. Stir in the chopped chives with a spoon.

Use an ice cream scoop to plate the clapshot as shown in the image below.

Drain the peas and spoon them on to the plate. Unwrap the partridge breast and slice carefully in half. Lay it on top of the haggis and serve.

If you are looking for an authentic Scottish dessert for your Burns Night supper, why not try Cranachan (pictured below)? Fresh raspberries and cream, Scotch whisky and honey, all simply combined to truly delicious effect...

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Steak, Kidney and Oyster Puff Pastry Pie

The traditional version of homemade steak and kidney pie has been one of my favourite meals for many years. I have always resisted the temptation to tamper too much with the recipe for what is a classic dish, believing that improvement on near perfection would be nigh on impossible. When, however, I happened to come by some pristine, fresh oysters yesterday from Loch Fyne, I decided to do an adaptation of an old steak and kidney pudding recipe and incorporate them in a version of my favourite pie. Although I normally subscribe to the belief that the best way to eat oysters is raw, with perhaps a little squeeze of lemon juice, I was more than delighted with these results.

Ingredients for Two Servings

3/4lb stewing steak
1/2lb ox kidney
1/2lb puff pastry
4 large fresh oysters
2 pints fresh beef stock
Baby new potatoes (quantity as desired)
Brussels sprouts (quantity as desired)
1 tsp chopped chives
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Beaten egg for glazing
A little bit of vegetable oil for browning

Begin by adding a little bit of vegetable oil to a large pot. Bring it up to a medium heat, add the steak and kidney and season with salt and pepper. Stir on a high heat to evenly seal and brown. This should take three or four minutes.

Pour in the beef stock and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for an hour and a quarter. Turn off the heat, put the lid on the pot and leave for what will need to be at least an hour to cool. Do not be tempted to assemble your pie while the meat is hot as it will make your pastry soggy before it can rise and totally spoil the whole dish.

Shuck your oysters, careful to reserve the liquid in the shells as well as the oyster meat. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooled steak and kidney to a 9" x 6" pie dish. Pour the oysters on top (including the liquid) at regular intervals. Pour in enough of the cooled beef stock to almost but not quite cover the meat. Put your oven on to preheat to 220C/450F.

Roll out your pastry on a clean, floured surface to a rectangle 10" x 7" (essentially, an inch each way larger than the pie dish). Carefully lay the pastry on top of the pie dish and tuck and crimp it around the edges. Glaze with the beaten egg and make a "+" shaped cross in the centre to serve as a steam vent. Put it in to your oven for thirty to thirty-five minutes until the pastry is beautifully risen and golden.

Wash the potatoes and add them to a pot of cold, salted water. Bring the water to a boil and simmer for thirty minutes. Add the sprouts to a pot of boiling, salted water and simmer for twelve to fifteen minutes.

When the pie is ready, sit it to the side for a few minutes to rest while you finish the preparation of your potatoes and sprouts. Drain the potatoes and return them to the empty pot. Add a little butter and the chives. Gently swirl the pot to ensure all the potatoes are evenly coated. Drain the sprouts, cut your pie and assemble your meal for service.