23 October 2005

What a catch!

All right, I confess, I didn't whip this up for supper last night. My camera has gone AWOL and I am dipping into my reserves. I cooked this big fella (an 8kg salmon, thank you very much) and his twin brother for a party of 35. We started the meal off with gazpacho, then moved onto this poached salmon with a big aioli. We finished off with polenta cakes with strawberries and crème fraîche and everybody seemed pretty pleased.

It's amazing how resourceful you can be when necessity strikes. I mean these suckers (the salmon, not the guests) just would not fit in any poacher or pot that I could find. I end up triple lining the biggest roasting pan I could find with foil and sealing the top to trap the steam. And maneuvering it afterwards onto the platter? Yikes! Yet somehow it all worked, right down to the cucumber scales...

10 October 2005

Smokey the Duck (Paper Chef # 11 - Favourite Fall Foods)

Well gosh, I am a Paper Chef virgin and I have to say I'm quite excited! I saw the ingredients list and thought hmmm, what to do? Then I realised I actually had all the ingredients (duck breasts in my freezer, hazelnut butter on the shelf, ginger in the fridge and pears in the fruit basket). So I set myself the further challenge of not buying anything else for this experiment.

Just a few words about the ingredients; I LOVE duck (sorry Daffy!), more meaty and flavourful than chicken, but not quite as heavy as a beef or mutton. In fact I often do a braised duck dish about now with daikon or a little bit later on in the year with chestnuts. Ginger is warming which is good to remove some of the chill we are starting to get. And it's a great time for pears, the markets are full of them at the moment. How to put all that together (and nut butter too)?

After mulling about it for a little while, a dish started to take shape. Okay it's fall, but in London it is neither here nor there in terms of weather. I saw people in the park today in T-shirts, yet as soon as the sun went behind a cloud, I was very happy for my jacket, it all turned chilly quick. So I needed some in-between kind of food which led me to a warm salad, those are always good right? Then I thought, let's make it a bit more interesting by smoking the duck breast after marinating in spices. The hazelnut butter sauce was inspired by a sesame sauce that I do for chicken and I added the ginger for a bit of zing. Pears are good in a salad as long as they're not overripe and I added the daikon for pepperiness and crunch and the red pepper for colour, sweetness and crunch also.

Anyway, the recipe is a bit long-winded but it turned out just fine. My husband sure seemed to like it and had a second helping! Good thing I always cook too much ;-) The dish had a great combination of flavours and textures, just the thing after a long afternoon walk in the park.

(NOTE: The quantities are all approximate as they are from memory, I didn't take notes as I went along, tsk, tsk!)

Tea Smoked Duck Breasts and a Ginger Hazelnut Butter Sauce
with a Pear, Daikon and Red Pepper Salad

Spice rub/marinade:
2 tbsp. Sichuan peppercorns
2 tbsp. coriander seeds
1 tbsp. cardamom pods
1 tbsp. 5 spice powder
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. Maldon sea salt

2 duck breasts (preferably Barbary)

Smoking agents:
½ cup black tea
½ cup white rice
½ cup sugar

1 tsp. fresh ginger Microplaned (fine)
1 tbsp. hazelnut butter (or nut butter of your choice)
1 tsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sugar
Salt & pepper

1 pear, sliced
1 red pepper, julienned
2 inch piece of daikon, julienned
Mixed salad greens (lollo rosso, watercress, beet greens, batavia)
Oil & vinegar
Salt & pepper

In a dry pan, toast the first 3 spices until fragrant and grind in a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder. Put ground spices plus 5 spice, sugar and salt in a container that will hold the 2 duck breasts. Score the duck breast skin lightly then coat in the spices and leave to marinate overnight.

The next day, rinse off the spice mixture and pat dry. Line a heavy bottomed pan with two layers of foil then add the smoking agents and heat. When it starts to smoke, put the duck breasts on a rack in the pan and cover. Smoke the duck for 10 minutes on each side. Remove and cool.

When ready to eat, put the duck breasts skin side down in a hot, dry pan for 2-3 minutes until the skin is crispy and golden brown, then turn over and cook for a minute on the other side. Remove and let rest, covered with foil.

Dress the salad, daikon, pepper and pear with a light vinaigrette made with the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Pile the salad on a plate. Slice the duck and arrange next to the salad. Drizzle with the hazelnut ginger sauce and serve extra sauce on the side. Enjoy!

© Vivian Pei, 2005

08 October 2005

Another way to incorporate kimchi into a meal...

Okay so I lied, I've still been a lazy blogger... I did work a LOT in France in September and all my pictures were home in London so that's sort of an excuse. But basically I was just lame. Anyhoo, I never was very good at keeping daily journals, so you'll have to put up with my sporadic appearances.

That said, one thing I do actually do daily is eat (and in true Hobbit fashion, more than 3 meals a day if I can help it!). When I am not too greedy and I remember, I try to record some of the more interesting things I put in my mouth, ahem. I've been experimenting more with Asian food lately, having had such an overload of French (as good as it was). Below is my version of that Korean classic, Bibim Naeng Myun.

I don't have an exact recipe, but here's what I do:

First I make Braised Beef (I buy beef shank for some yummy texture) by scalding the beef with boiling water to remove impurities then putting it in a big pot with water, soy sauce, Shaoshing wine, ginger slices, whole spring onions, brown sugar, and a spice bag with cinnamon, star anise, fennel and clove. Bring it to a boil then cover and simmer for a couple of hours.

Then you have to make the chilli sauce. Take some kochu jang, add some soy, sesame oil, sugar, 7-Up (yes, seriously), and vinegar. Mix it up to taste.

Prepare a thin omelette with a couple of eggs, a pinch of salt, some water and a splash of Shaoshing wine, then cook up a very thin omelette (in 2 batches if you have a small frying pan) which you will slice up once cool. Julienne some cucumber, kimchi, Asian pear if you can get some. Cook up some Korean myun (noodles), rinse under cold water and toss with the chilli sauce you made earlier. Transfer to a large metal bowl, top with finely shredded beef, cucumber, omelette, pear and kimchi. It tastes delicious and I think it looks pretty too, don't you? Try it, you'll like it!