Bloody Volcano

The skies have been wonderfully clear, brilliant blue air – and it’s getting colder again. Even lit a fire again tonight. So although my kitchen is full of fresh veg, I want something dark and warming. Result?

Braising steak cut up bitesize and cooked long and slow with wedges of carrot, massive slices of ginger, crushed pineapple, rice vinegar and soy sauce. Served with long strips of crunchy veggies stir fried with black beans and wild garlic.

There are Daleks visiting Sheffield railway station tomorrow, we shall go and investigate. A friend has good news, we may celebrate with cake from Fancie in the Winter Gardens.

Lamb Breast

I heard a rumour today that you can still get lamb breast in Morrison's, from the butcher counter. Chinese spiced lamb breast shredded in lettuce wraps, with deep fried rice noodles, here we come …

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Chinese Braised Oxtail

We liked the lamb shank braise, and I was reading Nigel Slater the other day, and he suggested oxtail. And I remembered I'd seen some excellent fresh oxtail in Waitrose, so I went and bought some. Stupidly cheap, half the price of braising steak and not that much bone. Nigel had a recipe variation on the standard red wine braise, which had a Chinese theme, with ginger and star anise. I like star anise with carrots, Dad does them like that for special dinners. I was most of the way through preparing this when I realised it's also a variant on the beef stew with clementine and ginger that we had before Christmas. I didn't follow the Nigel recipe, which involved flouring the oxtail and included onions. I just assembled in a casserole dish:

4 pieces of oxtail (weighed about 1.3 kgs)
3 capfuls Winter Pimms (the orange brandy one)
10 slices of peeled ginger, each about the size of a 10p / quarter
3 cloves garlic, chopped in half
4 medium carrots, in wedges, cut on the diagonal
3 sticks trimmed celery, ditto
3 tablespoons low salt soy sauce
2 whole star anise
A few grindings of black pepper

I brought it up to hot but not necessarily boiling, covered and bunged it in the oven at Gas Mark 3, it's had three hours so far and will get about another one. Every so often, I took it out, turned the oxtail over, and submerged the veggies more in the juices. Smells lovely. John has some work to do this evening, as soon as he's ready I'm going to zap some Thai noodles and dish up, probably in time for Coronation Street.

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Restaurant Review – Jabu

We're going to Jabu tonight, we haven't been for quite a while. Last time we went, I wrote this:


Can't believe I haven't mentioned Jabu before, but it seems not, or at least I can't find it. Went out with John, Guinness, the Lawsons, Julia, and Julian, for a pre-Eastercon gathering as some people are heading up today and will miss the regular pub this evening.

Jabu is a Chinese Fondue and Dumpling house, a dark pine and orange plastic cafe. Each table has an electronic hotplate. First course is a choice of fresh steamed dumplings, Northern Chinese style. Lamb and Coriander is one of our favourites, there are beef, pork, chicken and veggie based ones, heavy on the seasoning and with lots of interesting textures. £4 for 12, with dipping sauces, one soy/vinegar, one chilli/sesame. Then they bring a wok-style pot, with a divider down the middle. You choose two flavours of broth (chicken and spicy for us), they fill the pot and put it on the hotplate. Little plates of goodies (from a long, long list) arrive and you cook your choice in the broth. More dipping sauces – sesame paste, sweet chilli, garlic, wasabi/soy. Goodies last night included squid, salmon, scallops, chicken, paperthin sliced beef and lamb, assorted veggies, udon and slim noodles, and a softshell crab. You can also have a range of tofu, meat and fish balls, mushrooms, seasonal veggies, more seafood including about four types of prawns, and tripe. After you've played the cooking game for a while and run out of things to experiment with, they bring small bowls and you have the last of the noodles with the now concentrated and flavoured soup. A few pieces of cut fruit for dessert. Tea to drink throughout, they have a full menu of Chinese teas and will explain the differences. The main waitress is a phenomenon, permanently bouncy, enthusiastic about everything, will show you how to cook things if you're wary, and scurries around refilling tea, soup etc  as necessary. It was a fun evening, it's a highly social event with lots of messing about. Seven/eight is about the maximum number, though, even then people were having to stand up or stretch to reach the pot. And stunningly cheap – it worked out at £10 per head for a good 2 – 3 hours entertainment and gorgeuous food. Healthier than your average Chinese meal as well, with no deep-frying or overly sweet sauces. Yum Yum.

EDIT – I did mention it before, just didn't tag it properly. Fuller review here – nothing much seems to have changed, though!

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Ramen Stock

I like making simple noodle broth dishes, they're quick and healthy, refreshing in summer and warming in winter. But it's always been a pain to do one quickly without using stock or flavour concentrate, or tinned consomme. Wine isn't appropriate, and water doesn't cut it. The bought concentrates from the Chinese shop are very salty, or too hot, or just come in HUGE packs. I found a recipe for Vegetable Pho by Sophie Grigson in the Waitrose food magazine for July 2005, which is fairly standard, but did include this roast vegetable stock. It's my intention to make it once to try it, and if it works, make it in quantity and freeze in portions enough for 2-3 servings. This amount serves 4, supporting 125 gms rice noodles, lots of veg and 150gms tofu for the protein.

  • 6 cm root ginger, sliced thickly
  • 1 large onion, cut into 8 wedges
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 carrots, quartered lengthways
  • 3 stems celery, thickly sliced
  • 1 leek, trimmed and thickly sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 litres water
  • 3 tbsps soy sauce
  • 0.5 tbsp caster sugar

Preheat oven to Gas Mark 8. Toss the veg and spices in the oil, and tip into a roasting pan. Roast for half an hour, until the veggies are patched with brown. Transfer to a big pan, scraping all the residues in. Add water, soy sauce and sugar. Boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain.

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Bang Bang Turkey

This is a noodles and meat variation on the Gado Gado salad, with a peanut dressing. From Good Food, December 2005. Another recipe from Ainsley Harriott, who in the same article posited the wacky Asian Fish with butter. This looks a bit more ethnically traditional, and would be a tasty way of using up cooked turkey. 4 portions at 351 calories per serving.

  • 6 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
  • 2 tbsps dark soy sauce
  • 125 gms thin rice noodles
  • 8 oz cooked turkey breast, shredded
  • 1 small iceberg lettuce, shredded
  • 1 large carrot, matchsticked
  • Half small cucumber, halved, deseeded, matchsticked (doesn't say peeled)
  • 4 spring onions, shredded

Put the peanut butter in a bowl and add the chilli and soy sauce. Stir in 4 tbsps boiling water until well combined and runny.

Soak the noodles as per packet instructions, drain.

Toss everything together, drizzle the sauce over. Serve with extra soy if you like.

It's the same method of making the peanut sauce as in the Gado Gado, but more simplistic – no fish sauce, no lime juice. If you weren't having anything else with it, you could add some extra calories with some fresh roasted peanuts. And I think a chilli-garlic sauce instead of the sweet chilli would make it a bit more interesting. When I've had Bang Bang in yer bog-standard Chinese restaurant, it's usually served as a tossed salad with the meat neatly laid on top and then the sauce.


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Tea-marinated salmon with pak choi

From Waitrose free quarterly seasonal food magazine, Winter 2005. Edited to serve 2. Again, the kind of food we're eating a lot of now.

331cals per, not allowing for any rice / noodles.

  • 1 Waitrose Assam tea bags
  • 2.5cm piece fresh root ginger, grated
  • 0.5 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp sweet soy sauce
  • 0.5 tbsp clear honey
  • 2 fresh salmon fillets
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 200g pack green pak choi, halved lengthways

Make tea with 100 ml boiling water, sit for 5 minutes. Add ginger, garlic, soy sauce and honey and leave to cool.

Marinate salmon in mixture at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

Remove the salmon from the marinade and pat dry with kitchen paper. Reserve the marinade. Heat the sesame oil with half the olive oil and add the salmon, skin-side down. Leave for 2-3 minutes then turn and cook for a further 3 minutes. Remove the salmon and place on a dish. Cover – it will finish cooking in its own steam while you cook the pak choi.

Add the remaining olive oil to the pan with the pak choi. Stir fry over a high heat until wilting, then pour in half the reserved marinade. Boil and leave it to bubble for 3-4 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated and the pak choi is tender. Serve immediately with the salmon.

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Five-Spice Duck and Ginger Noodle Soup

from Delicious magazine, date unknown

Edited to serve 2. Cal count 464 per serving – which is quite a lot for what's basically enhanced ramen, but, hey, DUCK.

  • Pinch crushed dried chillies
  • 1/8 tsp five-spice powder
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 1 large duck breast, skin removed
  • 1 litre fresh hot chicken stock
  • 2.5 cms fresh ginger, in thin strips
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 100 gms wholewheat noodles
  • 1/2 fresh chilli, deseeded and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 bunch spring onions, trimmed and thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 100 gms beansprouts
  • 2 heads pak choi, chopped
  • Fresh coriander
  • Dark soy sauce

Grind the crushed chillies and mix with five-spice, sugar, some sea-salt and black pepper. Put the duck breast skinned side down into the spices, cover with a plate and weight down, leave for 10 minutes.

Put ginger in stock and boil. Taste for seasoning and keep hot.

Heat oil in a heavy pan, add the duck breasts spice-side down, cook for 3 minutes each side and rest for 5 minutes.

Cook the noodles, drain and divide between 2 heated serving bowls. Sprinkle with fresh chilli, half the spring onions.

Add pak choi and beansprouts to stock, cook 1 minute, and ladle over noodles.

Thinly slice duck on diagonal and put on top of soup. Scatter with the rest of the onions, coriander and serve with soy sauce on the side.

(I'd sprinkle some dark sesame oil in there somewhere?)

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Duck, Figs and Pak Choi

from a Waitrose recipe card, dated December 2005

Reckons 407 cals per serving, 10.8 gms fat. Don't think the calorie count includes the noodles. Sounds like a good winter dish. Serves 2.


  • 1 tsp oil
  • 225gm pack mini duck fillets
  • 3 tbsp clear honey
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2.5cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 red chilli finely chopped
  • 2 tbsps dry sherry
  • 4 fresh figs, quartered
  • 100gms pak choi
  • (egg noodles to serve)

Heat the oil and stir-fry the duck for 6-7 minutes until just cooked, pink. Put the fillets on hot plate, cover and keep warm to rest.

Mix honey, soy sauce, ginger, chilli and sherry. Deglaze the pan with this mix and heat gently for up to 2 minutes until thick and syrupy.

Add figs and pak choi, cook, stirring, until figs are soft and sticky and pak choi is wilted.

Put the duck back in the pan and heat through for about a minute. Serve with plain egg noodles.


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Chinesey Beans and Sea Bass

Today we were supposed to have drgourmet's Sea Bass with White Beans and Tomato Vinaigrette. But we couldn't go shopping until today, and it being Monday the store had very low stocks of fresh fish. He did have two small sea bass fillets, marinaded in soy and peppers and spring onion. So I brought them home and baked them quickly in a hot oven and served them with:

Most of a medium carrot, match-sticked, and the white part of a leek, finely chopped, stir-fried in a sprinkling of dark sesame oil with a teaspoon each of lazy garlic and ginger. I added a drained tin of white beans (cannellini), a tin of four slices of pineapple in juice, cut up but with the juice, a half cup of chicken stock, and two tablespoons of black rice vinegar and simmered it while the fish was cooking. When the beans were nearly dry, I dished up and sprinkled some fresh coriander on the top.

OK, could have used a bit more punch. Maybe next time some fresh spring onion at the last minute, or a bit more vinegar or chili at the end. Lime peel?

I suspect the calorific value wasn't that far off the original, with the pineapple subbing for the tomato.

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