A seasonal recipe! Cauliflower is very October, which is all the excuse I needed to make this tonight. I’m sure I must have learnt this from my mum although I can’t actually remember her making it in living memory… Anyway! Promise you it’s better than its takeaway equivalent 🙂 Don’t be put off by the prep and cook time, mostly it’s time spent leaving stuff to do its thing so is not as heinous as it might look at first glance.
Beef & Cauliflower in Oyster Sauce
Better than takeaway, honest!
- 1 cauliflower, cut into bite sized florets
- 1 medium white onion, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Rump steak, thinly sliced
- Oyster sauce (Lee Kum Kee if you can get it)
- Oil for cooking
- Salt for seasoning
- Knorr chicken powder, optional
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- pinch of sugar
- Cut up the cauliflower and put the pieces into a collander, wash thoroughly and leave to dry. Slice the onions, and mince or finely chop the garlic.
- In a medium sized bowl (anything bigger than a cereal bowl should be fine) mix the oil, cornstarch and sugar for the marinade. You’re aiming for a consistency like runny honey so add a little more oil if its too thick or a little more cornstarch if its too thin.
- Next, slice the rump steak very thinly – a Chinese cheat is to put it in the freezer an hour beforehand – and then add the slices to the marinade bowl and stir well to coat the steak. Leave for 15-30mins.
- Heat a generous tbsp of oil in the wok over a medium high heat and then add the cauliflower pieces and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes (I like to let the edges singe a little). Season well with salt (and a spinkle of chicken powder if you have any) before adding a cup of water. Put a lid on it and turn the heat right up until all the water has evaporated. When the wok is “dry” again remove the cauliflower to a plate and set aside.
- Put the wok back on a medium heat and add about a tbsp of oil. When it’s hot add the sliced onion and stir-fry until they are soft and translucent. Add the minced/chopped garlic and keep it moving about in the oil for about a minute without letting it burn before adding the marinaded steak. Keep moving everything to break up any clumps of steak or onions and to ensure an even stir fry.
- As soon as the steak is sealed and browned all over (don’t worry if there are a few bits still pink) tip the cauliflower back into the wok and then add 4-5 good shakes of oyster sauce straight out of the bottle.
- Stir to coat everything in the wok well, then add 1/2 to 1 cup of cold water and stir again. The cornstarch in the marinade should thicken the sauce a little as the added water heats up. When the liquid starts to bubble at the edges turn the heat down until the sauce is simmering and leave it for about five minutes.
- Serve over fluffy boiled white rice, and devour!
This is a bit of a spur of the moment post! I rustled these up for lunch and thought they looked good enough to snap, and the pics turned out well enough that it would have been sad not to use them. So here’s a quick and tasty weekend lunch dish, as scoffed by me today 🙂
I should start by confessing to being a total noodle-head. I love them in pretty much any shape or sauce I can get my hands on – ramen noodles, chow mein noodles, Singapore noodles, Pad Thai noodles, udon noodles, Malaysian style char-grilled street noodles, even pot noodles (don’t judge me!). But I was never much good at making them myself (except for the ramen and pot varieties, obviously) and it wasn’t until I watched the way my mum sauced the egg noodles last year, and saw her tricksy way of doing it, that I finally made any myself that I was happy with. Like these!
I’ve found that these really only work with the thinnest of egg noodles, and would rather wait until they’re back in stock than use medium if that’s all the store has. And it’s not a meat heavy dish so you can buy a small cut of steak, even half of what I’d use for a strog for example. In fact, I’ve quite happily made these in a vegetarian stylee with just the broccoli and it was still tasty good. The trick is making sure the noodles themselves have enough flavour… but more about that later 🙂
PS – I think the writing up of how to make these actually took twice as long as actually making them!!
Beef & Broccoli Noodles
A simple, classic noodle dish that's perfect for a lazy weekend lunch.
- Half a packet of dried thin egg noodles
- 1 packet Broccoli spears (if you can’t get spears, broccoli florets cut up so that they’re fairly thin work too)
- Rump steak, thinly sliced
- 1 clove garlic
- Oyster sauce (Lee Kum Kee or bust!)
- Dark soy sauce
- Corn / vegetable oil
- Chinese chilli oil, optional
- Salt for seasoning
- Knorr chicken powder, optional
- Halve any large broccoli spears, or cut up your broccoli florets, and rinse under cold water.
- Skin the garlic clove and put it in the garlic crush, but don’t crush it yet, and set aside.
- Thinly slice the rump steak. Fill the wok with enough water to cook the noodles in, and heat on a high heat until it’s boiling. Fill the mixing bowl about 2/3rds full of cold water and set near the sink.
- When the water in the wok is boiling, pop the noodles in and cook per the packet instructions (usually for about 3 minutes) using chopsticks , or cooking tongs, to loosen the noodles up as they’re cooking.
- When they’re ready, pour out over a sieve and drain the noodles, shaking as much loose water out, and then tip the noodles into the bowl of cold water and leave them for just now.
- Dry the wok and then set it back over a medium-high heat with a slug of corn oil. When the oil is hot, add the broccoli and stir fry for about 3 minutes, adding salt to season and a little scattering of chicken powder if you’re using it (I like my stir fried broccoli a little browned at the edges so tend to whack the heat up during this bit).
- After the 3 minutes or so is up (or you have enough brown bits!) add just enough tap water to cover the bottom of the wok. Put a lid on the wok and leave it on the heat until the water has all disappeared – this should steam the hard crunch out of the broccoli without over-cooking it. Try a bit and if it’s still too crunchy for you then add a wee bit of water and steam again. When your broccoli is cooked to taste, remove to a plate or bowl and set aside.
- Add a little more corn oil to the wok, crush your garlic into it and then throw in the rump steak quickly, so that the garlic doesn’t have a chance to burn. You really just want to flash fry the steak and should only need to fry it for 2 to 3 minutes, or until nothing (or almost nothing if you’re more of a medium-rare person) looks raw or bloody.
- Add a couple of dashes of soy sauce and move everything around the wok for another minute, then empty the steak and soy sauce over the broccoli.
- Put the wok back on the heat, add a little more corn oil, and while that’s heating pour the noodles back into the sieve and drain off all the cold water. Shake to get rid of any lingering water before adding the noodles to the wok. Chilling the noodles before trying to cook with them just stops them from clagging together and becoming an immovable mass of noodle that you can’t work with. For some reason, cold noodles are just easier to move around. Bit like how you really can’t make fried rice with hot rice, just cold. But I digress!
- Now we get to the saucing of the noodles, the Chinese way, or maybe it’s just my Chinese mum’s way, but it works!
- Pour some corn oil over the noodles, it helps the noodles to move and not clag together.
- Add a few good glugs of oyster sauce and some Chinese chilli oil (fifi says... if you're not used to this, be sparing at first as it can be quite potent. You can always add more later if you need to, which is far easier than trying to get the chilli out!).
- Take your chopsticks, or tongs if you find them easier to use, to the noodles and just shoogle them about to coat the noodles evenly with sauce while you’re reheating them (fifi says... my mum actually dons the trusty CSI gloves and gets her hands stuck into the mass of noodles to do the shoogling. I haven't been quite that brave. Yet...).
- Add more oyster sauce and/or chilli oil if you think it needs it, and shoogle well again. If the noodles start sticking together then add a little more corn oil. Taste again, and if you think it still needs more sauce then have at it. Basically, sauce to taste. And keep shoogling them about in the wok until they are hot (heat hot, not chilli hot).
- Share the noodles between two bowls (tongs are really good for getting a grip on the by now slippery noodles), top with the still warm broccoli and steak, and tuck in!
I have a couple of signature dishes, things I’ve been making ever since I learnt to cook and have fed my friends for years. If I could only pick one though, this would be it. There’s just something about the rich and silky sauce that just warms my heart (and my tummy!). And not just the strog that I cook. My favourite ever strog was from the Hong Kong Football Club away back when I was sulky teenager in the 70’s, and then Jimmy’s Kitchen (also in Hong Kong). The two dishes were so similar that I’m still convinced Jimmy’s knicked the HKFC’s chef!
There must a dozen variations, and then some, on how to cook this though. I remember having a pretty lengthy discussion with a friend at school about whether it should or shouldn’t have paprika, and whether the sauce should be beige or orange (it was an all girl’s school, so it wasn’t like we had any boys to talk about…). A recent article over at lovefood.com looks at even more ways to make this, as well as its history, and how it’s not Russian but French.
This is also my ex-flatmate’s favourite, who I used to catch eating the leftovers cold, off the serving ladle, straight out of the pot! I took it as a compliment, and still cook it for him when he visits 🙂
As to why it’s my favourite… did I mention the rich and silky sauce, or “jup”, a Chinese catch-all word for all things saucey and gravy that you will ALWAYS hear my family asking for more of, including Hubby (I suspect that may have been the first Chinese word he picked up from us!) And the fat little bites of succulent mushroom. And the melt in the mouth tender strips of steak. And… and… do you really need any more reasons than that?
And now for a wee health warning… This dish shines because it’s cooked in butter. Full fat, tasty, butter. You can use cooking oil instead, but prepare to be totally underwhelmed if you do because oil is not a satisfying substitute for butter. I’m just saying.
As a note on the serving size, I’ve noted that this feeds four, and it happily will. Three, if you’re feeding hungry people. Or, if my ex-flatmate is involved… two. At a push.
My absolute signature dish, savoury and satisfying on so many levels.
- 1 white onion, sliced
- 1 packet chestnut mushrooms, sliced
- Rump steak, thinly sliced
- 1 beef stock cube / stock pot
- 1/2 pint hot water
- 2-3 tbsp tomato puree
- 2-3 heaped tbsps sour cream/creme fraiche
- Juice of one lemon
- 3 tbsp plain flour
- 1 tbsp English mustard powder (Colman’s)
- Salt and pepper for seasoning
- Butter for cooking
- Boiled rice
- Slice up the onion, I think chunkier onion slices work best with this sauce so don’t fret if they’re not cheftasticly thin. Same goes for the mushrooms, wipe them clean and then slice them so that you get four thick slices per shroom.
- Slice the rump steak up, but unlike the veg, slice thinly.
- Then mix together the flour, mustard powder and a generous grinding of black pepper in a bowl and roll the steak pieces in it until they are all well coated. Set aside for 15-30 minutes.
- In a large frying pan, or wok, melt some butter over a medium heat and then fry the onion until its translucent.
- Add the mushrooms, and a sprinkle of salt, and cook for another couple of minutes.
- Then remove the onions and mushrooms to a plate, and return the wok to the heat with some more butter.
- When the butter starts to bubble, shake the excess flour/mustard from the steak before adding and turn up the heat. Don’t worry if some of the loose flour/mustard goes in as it will help thicken the sauce, you just don’t want all of the flour/mustard leftovers in there.
- The steak will initially stick together, in which case a meat fork or chopsticks are really helpful to shoogle the steak up and separate the pieces. Treat this like a stir fry and brown the steak off quickly to keep it tender.
- When the steak is browned off (I like to stop while it's still pink in the middle) turn the heat down to medium and add the tomato puree, stirring it in so that it coats all the steak pieces. Give it a minute or two before adding the vegetables back in. Put the kettle on at this point, and when its boiled pour half a pint’s worth over a stock cube, and then pour it into the pan to cover the steak and veg mix. Stir well before turning the heat back up.
- When the liquid starts to bubble up, turn the heat down again so that the sauce is gently simmering. Taste, and season with salt if required, and then leave it to simmer away for 10 minutes.
- After the 10 minutes is up, add the lemon juice, stir through and then take the pan off the heat. Stir in the sour cream (or creme fraiche) before dishing up generously over boiled rice.
- Sprinkle with parsley if you’re poshing it up 😉 and then tuck in!
Spaghetti Bolognese is my go to comfort food, even if it bears little if any resemblance to its Italian ancestor! Like most of my favourite dishes it started off as a hand-me-down recipe from Mum, and over the years I’ve added to it, and taken away from it (pancetta, I’m looking at you!), until it’s settled down to this recipe.
In an ideal world, make it the day before and let it develop overnight. But it’s such a mood thing for me that I usually cook it and eat it the same night, and it tastes just fine. Also freezes really well for another day.
So if you’re ever looking for a hug in a bowl, allow me to heartily recommend this 🙂
Slow-Cooked Spag Bol
My take on a classic British favourite, and my first go to dish when I need comfort in a bowl.
- 500g mince beef
- 1 medium white onion, diced
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 pack of chestnut mushrooms, diced
- 1 can of tomatoes
- 2 tbsp tomato purée
- 1 beef stock cube / pot
- 2-3 bay leaves
- Small glass or mug of milk
- Worcestershire sauce
- Balsamic vinegar
- Olive oil for cooking
- Optional extras: Parmesan cheese, Tobasco
- Dice the onions and mushrooms, and mince the garlic. Simples!
- Heat some oil in the pot and cook off the onions and garlic on a medium heat until the onions start to look transparent.
- Add the mushrooms (you might need to add a little more oil if it starts to get a bit dry) and once they've cooked down too, remove the lot to a bowl.
- In the same pot, brown the mince. I find the best way is to push the mince down until it covers the entire base of the pan with no gaps, this helps it to brown rather than broil. Once one side is browned, flip the mince over to cook off the other side.
- Turn the heat up to high and tip in the milk, and keep the heat up until the milk has all soaked in to the mince (the milk really helps to tenderise the mince).
- Turn the heat back down to medium and squeeze in about half a tube of tomato purée. Stir it all in before adding the onions, garlic and mushrooms back into the pot.
- Then, add the can of tomatoes and the stock cube and give it all a good stir. (fifi's top tip - If your canned tomatoes are whole I recommend draining the tomato juice into the pot first, then take a tomato and holding it over the pot squish hard in your hand and drop whatever is left into the sauce. Repeat until all the tomatoes are squished, it's almost as satisfying as popping bubble wrap!! Be warned, though, as the tomatoes do have a tendency to kick back and end up on your clothes if you squish too hard.)
- If there’s not a lot of liquid then add some water, about 1/3rd of the empty can of tomatoes.
- Season! Salt and pepper, bay leaves, a splash of balsamic vinegar (the sweetness cuts the tinniness that you sometimes get with tomatoes), and a dash (or ten!) of Worcestershire sauce. This last is really a personal taste thing. Me, I like LOADS of Worcestershire sauce so there’s no such thing as too much of it, but it’s easier to add more than remove what you've put in, so start with a little and taste it and work up to the perfect amount of dash for you.
- Once it’s all bubbling away, turn the heat right down to the lowest setting and put a lid on it for 1.5 hours, stirring and tasting to check the seasoning every half hour or so.
- Take the lid off for the last 30 minutes. If it starts to look a bit dry then add a little hot water. If it looks too wet then turn the heat up a little.
- Serve on spaghetti with a generous grating of parmesan. And if you like a little heat in your food, try adding a couple of dashes of Tobasco to the spaghetti. I’m sure it’s the last thing an Italian would add to their ragu, but I’ve been Tobasco-ing mine since I was a kid and couldn't eat Spag Bol now without the hot red stuff!
Adapted from Mum's recipe
Adapted from Mum's recipe
I thought I’d start with a family favourite, Dad still gets excited if he knows it’s for dinner 🙂 It’s the curry I usually cook for friends, and have been since Uni which is probably when I wheedled the recipe out of Mum.
I’d say this curry is on par with a madras, both for flavour and heat. I say ‘on par with’ because I’m pretty sure it’s an Anglicised curry rather than an authentic one, and is cheating by using ready made curry paste, but it’s properly delicious and, at the end of the day, isn’t that what’s most important?
Don’t be put off by the long cooking time. Not only does it make for meltingly tender chunks of beef, but you do all the work in the afternoon and just leave the curry to do its own thing while you do yours, and come supper time all that’s left to do is dish it up. Nom!
If you have enough leftover it freezes really well. Except for the potatoes. I usually decant those into a bowl with a little sauce and keep them in the fridge to nibble on. They’re ridiculously moreish cold (I actually prefer them cold to hot!) and I’m lucky if they last 48 hours! And if you just have sauce left and no meat, or none to speak of, the sauce lends itself really well to being scooped up with a chapati, so still worth freezing and maybe having a lazy Tiffin style lunch one day with some pop in the oven Indian starters. Moar nom!
Mum's Epic Beef and Potato Curry
A rich and unctuous Madras-inspired curry. A real family favourite!
- 1lb (500g) cubed stewing steak or skirt
- 2 medium white onions, roughly chopped
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 1 thumb size piece of ginger, peeled and grated
- 2-3 tbsp madras curry paste (I recommend Patak’s)
- 1 level tsp chilli powder (optional and/or to taste)
- 1 beef stock cube/pot
- 5 or 6 potatoes that suit boiling
- Cooking oil
- Boiled white rice (I like Thai fragrant myself!)
- Plus Mango chutney if you like it, it’s entirely optional but I can’t eat it without!
- Pop the onions into the food processor and blitz until they are almost pureed. This is the base of the sauce so needs to be almost liquid.
- Mince the garlic, and grate the ginger (fifi's top tip - If you freeze the ginger, it grates really really easily and without that fibrous stuff, as well as keeping for longer than if just in the fridge).
- Heat some oil in the pot, and on a high heat fry off the cubed meat in batches so as not to crowd the pot. Once the meat is browned and sealed, remove to a bowl.
- In the same pot, pour in enough cooking oil to entirely cover the base and then some, and turn the heat down to medium/low.
- Fry the onions with a sprinkle of salt for 5 minutes.
- Add the ginger and garlic and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Add the stock cube, curry paste and chilli powder and cook for another 5 minutes.
- While you’re on the last 5 minutes, put the kettle on to boil.
- Add the steak back into the pot and then add enough boiling water to cover the meat. Bring to the boil before turning the heat down to simmer.
- Season, put a lid on it, and leave it for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
- Just before the 2 hours are up, peel the potatoes and cut them into half (or quarters if they’re large). Once the curry reaches the 2 hour mark pop the potatoes in, put the lid back on, and leave for another 2 hours. Check on it and give it a stir every now and then. Taste and season if needed, and add more chilli powder if there isn’t enough of a kick. Hubby likes to bash the meat down throughout the cooking time, so that it almost collapses and becomes part of the sauce.
- This is an oily curry, so expect it to have a slick. If anything, you might need to add a little more oil towards the end to make it have that slightly oily look. If the sauce looks too watery add a little gravy mix – I’ve never done this myself, but my Mum swears by it.
- Serve with rice. I highly recommend trying some mango chutney too 😉
Adapted from Mum's recipe
Adapted from Mum's recipe