Saturday, September 5, 2009

Bulgur wheat with aubergines and mint

Serves 2

Bulgur is one of those mild, warming grains that both soothes and satisfies. I find great value in its nubbly texture and nutty flavour. To me this is supper, but others may like to use it aside something else such as grilled chicken or a gravy rich stew. At this time of year, it's just one of the mesmerising display of cold mezzah we assemble as part of the opening scene of our Iftars.

6 tblsp olive oil
a small onion
a bay leaf
2 small aubergines
2 large cloves garlic
225g bulgur wheat
500ml vegetable stock
4 tomatoes
3 tblsp pine kernels, toasted
15-20 mint leaves

Warm the olive oil in a shallow pan, peel and finely slice the onion and let it cook slowly in the oil with the bay leaf. When the onion is soft and pale gold, add the aubergine, cut into 3cm pieces, and the peeled and chopped garlic.

Let the aubergine cook, adding more oil if necessary, until it is golden and soft. Pour in the bulgur wheat and the vegetable stock.

Bring to the boil, then leave to simmer gently for 15-20 minutes till the wheat is tender and almost dry. Halfway through cooking roughly chop the tomatoes and add them, then, once the wheat is cooked (it should still be nubbly and have some bite), stir in the toasted pine kernels and chopped mint leaves.

Check the seasoning, for sure it will need both salt and pepper.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Crispy duck boregi

Serves 8

The sights, sounds, smells and mayhem that Ramadan brings every evening at Iftar. It is a magical time of year, and the intensity of some of the food can be quite unique. There seem to be the full range of offerings, from a simple lentil soup to whet the appetite from a day of fasting - to full blown spicy stews like the meatball heavy dawood basha with gutsy seasoning and solid content. These spring roll like boregis fall in the middle, and in fact are probably better suited to snacking on late into the night after the main meal has had a chance to digest.

6 duck legs
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
100g dried chick peas, soaked overnight
1 baking potato, peeled and cut into 4
180ml extra virgin olive oil
75g currants
4 sheets of filo pastry

Pre-heat oven to 180c, trim duck legs slightly of excess fat, season well on both sides with salt and place in a roasting pan with, sugar and spices. Add enough water to come half way up the duck legs. Cover twice with foil and braise for 1 ½-2 hours until duck meat falls off the bone when grabbed with a fork or a pair of tongs. Strain liquid off the braising liquid and allow duck legs and liquid to cool.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, cover chickpeas with 1 litre of water and boil for about 20 minutes until really soft. Remove from the heat and season the water to taste with salt. Let stand for about 5 minutes to absorb the salt. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile in a separate saucepan, cover potato with water and simmer for about 20 minutes until tender. Drain immediately and push through a ricer. Place in a mixing bowl.

Puree chickpeas in a food processor with 100ml extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, until smooth and creamy. Stir into the riced potatoes and re-season with salt and pepper.

Remove the duck meat from the bone and shred. Stir into the potato mixture. Skim the braising liquid. Place currants in a small bowl and add 100ml of warm braising liquid to them. Let them plump and add the liquid and currants to the duck mixture. Check again for seasoning.

Cut each sheet of filo dough in half widthwise. Brush each half with some of the remaining olive oil. Place duck filling in a straight skinny line on the bottom of each filo and fold in ends. Roll up like a cigar and bake or deep fry.

Serve with a tahini sauce and some chopped fresh peeled and seeded tomatoes, seasoned with salt, pepper and olive oil, at sunset of course...

Monday, August 31, 2009

The old colony did us proud (part one)

What a difference a week makes? While there are still a few places on our fine earth where the culinary diversity on offer never fails to amaze, a city where wonder and delight is almost expected, Hong Kong always does it so well.
Having just returned from a 7 day whirlwind trip, where amongst many other things, I dined in a collection of eateries from simple dai pai dongs to Michelin starred joints, and everything in between - revisited two favourite restaurants I'd been to before, and had I think 8 meals in places for the first time. No two the same, all utterly fantastic, so many flavours, so much inspiration....

The week kicked off in a restaurant I had been to before, in fact where I've eaten quite possibly the best crabs in my life (possibly until Tuesday that is) but this time round all I wanted was steamed rice, steamed fish and vegetables. Anyhow, these amazing black bean and chilli clams weren't on the original agenda, but thank heaven they made it in there due to this place doing Chiu Chow style food so so well. It was great to have properly steamed fish, rice that held together in a way that it can be dragged through a little sauce on the end of your chopsticks without losing its way en route to your mouth, and great steamed green vegetables to balance it all off, but the clams stole the show.
Day two went from a great but simple dim sum lunch, to an amazing 10 course Michelin starred Chinese dinner, one of the highlights if I had to choose one was the very first course of thinly shredded chicken leg mushrooms fried with chilli, and devoured with great champagne - awesome, and may have been eclipsed by the curried crabs which were inspired by the sikh cooks the chef used to allow to take over his kitchen once a week back in the good old days. I could write about this meal for way longer, and would love to show photographs but sadly none that night - although here was the 'simple little lunch' from earlier in the day - lovely fresh har gau, pork filled cheong fun, turnip and dried shrimp cake (lo bak go) Chazhou dumplings with peanut, pork and chives, braised squid, more vegetables and a great meaty fried rice, which was as delicious as it was unnecessary...

The third day began with one of the best macaroons I've had in an age, then on to noodles, and it still staggers me how I held off till the 3rd day for noodles... Proper, hot, busy and noisy - at the peak of the lunchtime demand, no better place to be, and queuing outside for a table not only confirms you're in good company, but gets the appetite turning cartwheels in anticipation. These noodles were just perfect, bouncy and resistant with a hand mashed fish ball, some gorgeous tender braised beef and a super fresh prawn wonton - a splash of red vinegar and touch of red chilli oil fire, and I'm in lip smacking heaven.

I'm stuffed just recalling a few bits and pieces... more to follow soon...