Monday, April 4, 2011

Chinese Whispers – Part 2

After the gin. After the duck. After gingerly ducking into a taxi and putting myself 'to sleep’ the night before the day after, there came The Morning.

Those Mornings are unforgiving.  Uncomfortable and you always swear unrepeatable. Under pressure to advance further than pillow by midday I found my way to the couch.  The prospect of sharing the morning with Senior Smug on Saturday Kitchen did not raise my hopes for the day, but did provide me the requisite distance from my bed to satisfy my Vitamin D-deficient conscience.

James, Jeremy Clarkson has called the police.
It's time to move off his front lawn. No autographs today!
When I’m ‘under the weather’ it’s not a favoured past time of mine to fraternise with those who could convincingly quip: “Top o the morning to you!” This is mostly due to the lack of leprechauns in my immediate friendship circle, but also due to the self-criticism such perksters tend to promote.  So when I flicked across to find ex-model turned chef and sexy kitchen celeb, Lorraine Pascale, her legs, her smile, her interior design and not to mention her general existence prompted me to recoil with slovenly demi-judgement as to her apparent kitchen credentials. "Huuuummppfff...Sure she can cook" (grumbled in a grump-laden tone reserved for teenage years and adult episodes inspired by those teenage years).

Life's famous formula of cupcakes + long legs really do equal happiness.
After tossing know-it-all rebukes around the living room on a one for you, one for me basis for the first 10 minutes, the oddest thing started to happened. When Lorainne removed her sticky glazed Asian ham from the oven whilst replacing it with trays of plaited French bread I didn't hate her.  By the time those little cheesecake cups went in the fridge I thought maybe she and I could get along. And once the chorizo and thyme fougasse crisped up I decided I must get my butt out of these track pants and up to the book store to buy her book, Baking Made Easy. Immediately!

She’s right, her recipes are easy. They work. They taste good. Boundaries pushed. No. Solid staples. Yes. Over the next week I glazed a sticky Asian ham…


And after reaching my ham consumption threshold I perfected a pizza base…


Then I took her recipe for banana bread and gave it a little Canadian makeover adding maple syrup, some additional vanilla paste, bi-carb soda for consistency and finally walnuts in place of pecans.


And then I started thinking again how good that sticky glazed Asian ham was …and how much I like sticky Asian ribs…and of course how you can find sticky ribs in China Town…and next about the prawn crackers served before sticky ribs…and before I knew it I was back in China Town where this inebriated cycle had begun the week earlier.

Ready to be wrapped...
This time I’d come prepared not for cocktails, but for dim sum.  And, for a change, the construction of rather than just the consumption of.  It seemed, Ms Pascale had left me wanting in the miniature dumpling recipe department (yah hahh! I knew she couldn’t be the simple master of everything) so after scouring the pages of my culinary library (a more aspirational than actual title for my unruly pile of cookbooks), I oddly found a great recipe for Sui Mai at www.davidlebovitz.com. I love all his ice cream and sorbet recipes and now I can add his dim sum expertise to the respect list too: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2006/01/my-sui-mai/

I used the same dumpling mix four ways and each prep
method resulted in very different tasting parcels.
Averting my gaze from the front door of ECC Chinatown in fear of the accidental consumption of cocktails in the morning, I got every ingredient I needed at Loon Fung (42-44 Gerrard St, W1D 5QG, 020 7437 7332), meat and prawns included. It's crowded and busy and smelly and most of the shelves contain unidentifiable ingredients...collectively, this is for me the perfect Asian grocery store experience.


Sticking roughly to David’s recipe (adding chili and upping the coriander) I shaped a variety of dumplings using both won ton wrappers (egg based) and dumpling wrappers (rice based). Steamed were great, fried absolutely the best and steamed then pan-fried some unnecessary gyoza like compromise I should probably have just committed to the fryer. Best tip, place your wrapper on a saucer and cup your hands around the dumpling while spinning simultaneously.  Like Ghost in a Chinese kitchen.

Something I’ve picked up from my professional kitchen time: Use every part you can of your produce…don’t waste it!
Ready to be covered with water and simmered.
Make a master stock from the prawn heads by pan-frying them with ginger, garlic, lemongrass and chili before covering the red-coloured heads with water, adding coriander stems and simmering for 20-30 minutes.  You can flavour the stock at any stage with soy sauce, fish sauce, chili oil…basically what ever you want the highlight flavours of your stock to be. Strain it and reduced the liquid by about a 1/3 to really maximise the flavour.


I used this reduced prawn stock and some left over glaze from my sticky Asian ham to make a mixed noodle dish with chicken, left over prawns and odds and ends from the vege drawer.

I’m not even sure at this stage what the moral of this post is.  Is it that Experimental cocktails lead to experimental dim sum? That I shouldn’t assume the length of a model’s legs are in any way mathematically related to her culinary talents? I’m sticking with this one: The more cocktails and dim sum a girl consumes, the more likely it is that a modelling contract and budding television career will eventuate. Flawless logic. 

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

This would be great meal over the Christmas period if you are in town.