PREP 10 MINUTES
COOK 2 HOURS
You can either serve this tender, soft pork belly straight from the slow cooker, roasting tin or pot or pan-fry the chilled thick slices until crisp. Combined with the crushed peanuts, chilli hoisin sauce and pickles, it’s ridiculously good.
2 tsp vegetable oil
2 kg (4 lb 8 oz) skinless pork belly
2 tsp five-spice powder
3 garlic cloves, sliced
100 ml (31/2 fl oz) Shaoxing rice wine
60 ml (2 fl oz) light soy sauce
3 cm (11/4 inch) ginger, julienned
2 tbsp soft brown sugar
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
steamed Bao buns
CHILLI HOISIN SAUCE
1 tbsp hot chilli sauce
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
50 g (2 oz) salted roasted peanuts, crushed
1 tsp mild chilli powder
julienned spring onions (scallions) and Ginger pickles (see page 53) or bought pickles, to serve
In a large frying pan, heat the oil. Season the pork with the fivespice, sea salt and black pepper. Add to the pan and brown on all sides. Remove and place in a slow cooker, large roasting tin or pot.
Add the garlic to the pan and sauté until golden, about 2 minutes.
Add all the remaining ingredients, apart from the buns, along with 75 ml (21/2 fl oz) water and bring to a boil. Pour the liquid over the meat and cook in the slow cooker on high for 4 hours. Alternatively, you can roast in the roasting tin, covered, at 160°C (315°F) or 140°C (275°F) fan forced for 21/2–3 hours or until tender and soft when pierced with a knife.
Mix the chilli sauce ingredients together.
Mix the peanuts and chilli powder together.
Keep the pork belly warm and slice just before serving with the spring onion, peanuts, pickles and the buns.
If preparing in advance, chill overnight, arranged in a tray, covered, and weighed down with something heavy to keep it flat. Just before serving, thickly slice the pork and sear it until brown on both sides in a hot frying pan with a little oil.
MAKES 12 LARGE BUNS OR 16 SMALLER
PREP 15 MINUTES, PLUS 1 HOUR PROVING
COOK 10 MINUTES
100 ml (31/2 fl oz) milk
90 ml (3 fl oz) warm water
2 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra
11/2 tsp fast-action yeast
350 g (12 oz) plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp caster sugar
In a pouring jug, mix together the milk, warm water, vegetable oil and yeast. Leave to sit for 5 minutes to check if the yeast bubbles up (it’s a good test to see if your yeast is working).
In the bowl of a standing electric mixer with a dough hook, add the dry ingredients. With the motor running on low speed, pour in the liquid. Let it come together as a ball of dough and if it sticks to the bottom, then sprinkle in an extra tablespoon or so of flour.
Knead for 10 minutes on the same low speed. You can also do this by hand using a large mixing bowl and spoon, kneading the dough on the counter for 10 minutes.
Remove the dough and place in a lightly oiled bowl for 1 hour or until doubled in size. Cover with plastic wrap.
Knock the dough back, knead for another 2 minutes, and then cut into 12–16 balls and place under a tea towel to stay soft while rolling. Use scissors to cut 10 cm (4 inch) squares of non-stick baking paper for each ball. Roll each ball into an elliptical shape about 15 cm (6 inches) long and 8 cm (31/2 inches) wide. Brush the tops lightly with vegetable oil, fold over and place each on a square of paper. Add to the steamer, then place the lid on the steamer so that they are covered. Leave to rise for a second time, about 30 minutes–1 hour depending on the heat of your kitchen.
Pour water in the bottom of a wok or if you are using a metal steamer, pour water into the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil and then place the steamer on top. Steam for about 8 minutes or until puffy and firm.
If you want to prepare these more than 4–6 hours in advance, I would suggest freezing them cooked and then steaming again from frozen. This keeps them from going stale. You can also store in an airtight container, covered in baking paper, up to a day before using. Once open, they need to be used quickly as they go stale fast.
PREP 5 MINUTES
COOK 10 MINUTES
A few years ago just outside the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, I discovered tamagoyaki. An omelette made from rolled up layers of sweet egg, it’s a snack, sushi component or part of a bento box. Mesmerised by a street stall with eight pans on the go, I was inspired to try it at home. They served it up with a nostrilflaring hot mustard, but I’ve concocted a more mellow version using a little miso.
4 eggs, beaten
1 tbsp mirin
2 tsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp Japanese light soy sauce
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp finely chopped chives, for sprinkling
SWEET MUSTARD SAUCE
1 tbsp hot yellow mustard
2 tbsp mirin
1 tsp pale (shiro) miso
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp honey
Mix the sweet mustard sauce ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.
In a medium bowl, add all the remaining ingredients, except the oil and chives, together with a pinch of salt. Whisk until smooth.
Pour into two small bowls so you can make two pancakes.
Heat a medium frying pan or, even better, a rectangular tamagoyaki frying pan. Brush the oil over the bottom of the pan.
Keep the pan over a low–medium heat and pour in a thin layer of the egg mixture from one of the bowls.
Using two spatulas, roll the egg up after 30 seconds while it’s still slightly gooey. Push it to the end of the pan and pour in another thin layer of egg. While it’s still slightly wet, roll up the omelette over the new egg. Repeat the process until you have used up all the egg, then slide onto a plate. Repeat with the second omelette.
Let the omelettes cool for a minute and then cut into 2.5 cm (1 inch) squares. Sprinkle with the chives and serve with the sweet mustard dipping sauce.
A normal non-stick frying pan works fine here, but you can buy the little rectangular omelette frying pans at Muji for not much money.
PREP 10 MINUTES
COOK 15 MINUTES
Tamarind is one of my go-to ingredients for sauces or glazes. It’s practically calorie-free and I never tire of its sweet-and-sour vibes. I discovered naam jim jaew, a chilli-garlic tamarind sauce, in Bangkok, where it's served alongside kai yang chicken. It works with any grilled meat or vegetables. Keep the skin on the salmon while it grills as it acts as a barrier and protects the fish from drying out.
1 tbsp vegetable oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
200 ml (7 fl oz) tamarind purée
4 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp red chilli flakes
4 tbsp palm sugar
4 tsp light soy sauce
750 g–850 g (1 lb 10 oz–1 lb 14 oz) large salmon fillet, with skin
2 thumb-sized red chillies, shredded
handful mint and coriander (cilantro) leaves
steamed rice, to serve
In a small saucepan, heat the oil and slowly sauté the garlic until it goes golden, about 2–3 minutes. Add the tamarind, 100 ml (31/2 fl oz) water, the fish sauce, chilli flakes, sugar and soy. Simmer for 5 minutes and then remove from the heat.
Preheat an outdoor grill or chargrill pan. Spoon a couple of tablespoons of the tamarind sauce over the fish and sprinkle over a few chilli slices.
Grill the salmon, skin side down, over low direct heat and with the hood closed if using the outdoor grill, for about 7–8 minutes. It’s better if the centre is slightly pink and juicy rather than overcooked.
The skin may stick a little to the grill, but don't worry as you will be discarding it anyway.
Peel the skin from the salmon and place the flesh on a platter.
Sprinkle with the fresh herbs and remaining red chilli. Serve with the remaining tamarind sauce and steamed rice.
Other meaty fish like barramundi, halibut and red snapper would also work nicely here.
Serve this salmon with a refreshing salad of sliced baby cucumbers and small shallots, dressed with a splash of rice wine vinegar and sprinkle of sea salt.
Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup
PREP 20 MINUTES
COOK 2 HOURS
You can use a pressure cooker to speed up the cooking of this iconic Taiwanese dish or make it on the weekend when you can putter around the kitchen and take in all the lovely smells. Toban jiang, the fermented broad bean paste, adds a spicy, salty kick and is worth seeking out. Buy it online or visit your local Asian store.
2 tbsp vegetable oil
900 g (2 lb) beef shin
5 garlic cloves, sliced
2 onions, quartered
4 cm (11/2 inch) ginger, chopped
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
1 tsp fennel seeds
3 whole star anise
1 tbsp red chilli flakes
2 tbsp toban jiang (hot chilli bean paste)
1 tbsp black vinegar
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
4 tomatoes, cut in chunks
125 ml (41/2 fl oz) light soy sauce
125 ml (41/2 fl oz) Shaoxing rice wine
250 g (9 oz) Chinese egg noodles
4 baby bok choy, halved, or Chinese broccoli (gai larn), cut in chunks
chopped spring onions (scallions), to serve
Add the vegetable oil to a large pan with a fitted lid. Slice the beef shin into 4 cm (1½ inch) pieces. Brown the meat pieces and then add the garlic, onion and ginger and let soften for 5 minutes.
Roughly grind the peppercorns and fennel seeds, then add to the meat with the star anise, chilli flakes, hot bean paste, black vinegar, soft brown sugar, tomatoes, soy and rice wine. Pour about 1 litre (34 fl oz) water into the pan so that the meat is covered by about 3 cm (11/4 inches) of water.
Place the lid on and let the soup simmer for 1 hour 30 minutes or up to 2 hours on the lowest heat possible. Stir every 20–30 minutes so that it doesn’t stick. When the meat is fall-apart tender, it’s done.
Alternatively, you can place everything at this point in a pressure cooker and cook on high for 30 minutes. The opposite can be done with a slow cooker – cook on the low setting for 8 hours or the high setting for 4 hours. Your oven can be used too – cook in a preheated 170°C (325°F) or 150°C (300°F) fan forced oven for 2 hours.
Boil the noodles until al dente, adding the greens in the last minute. Drain and place in four bowls.
Pour the stock/sauce over and top with the meat. Sprinkle the spring onions over to serve.
PREP 45 MINUTES, PLUS
1 HOUR CHILLING
COOK 40 MINUTES
Japanese matcha powder is a wonder to mix into frostings, ice cream or cream for its Shrek-like colour and astringent taste. Here it pairs beautifully with chocolate for a showstopper dessert. I’ve cooked many chocolate cakes in my lifetime, but this one is the ultimate. My sister-in-law Amy divulged her family recipe to me and the cake has a springy moist texture and a pure cocoa flavour, but is not too rich.
250 ml (9 fl oz) boiling water
75 g (21/2 oz) cocoa powder
350 g (12 oz) plain flour
350 g (12 oz) caster sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1 tsp salt
250 ml (9 fl oz) milk
125 ml (4 fl oz) vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
325 g (111/2 oz) salted butter, at room temperature
650 g (1 lb 7 oz) icing (confectioners’) sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp matcha powder
3 tbsp milk
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) or 160°C (315°F) fan forced.
Grease and line two 20 cm (8 inch) or three 18 cm (7 inch) round springform cake tins.
Pour the boiling water into a measuring jug and add the cocoa.
Whisk the mixture smooth and let cool while you measure out all the remaining ingredients.
Pour the remaining dry ingredients into the bowl of a standing electric mixer or use a large bowl and electric hand mixer.
In another bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla extract.
When the cocoa mixture has cooled enough, whisk into the egg and milk mixture.
On a slow speed, add the liquid until combined. Beat for 1 minute on slow speed. Pour the mixture into the tins. It will seem very liquid, but will bake up very light. Bake for 35–40 minutes on the centre rack of the oven. Cool in the tins and then remove.
To make the matcha frosting, in the bowl of the standing mixer, whisk the butter on slow speed for 6–7 minutes until pale and fluffy.
It’s imperative that your butter is at room temperature to get a smooth, silky texture. Add the sifted icing sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, keeping the speed slow. When finished, add the vanilla, sifted matcha and milk and keep beating until the mixture is very smooth.
If it’s too thick, add another tablespoon of milk.
Place one cake on a serving platter. Spread a thick layer of frosting to sandwich the two or three cakes. Ice the sides first and then the top. If you want to get a perfect finish, try 'crumbing' the cake by first spreading a thin layer of frosting around the outside and top of the cake until everything is smoothed at the same level.
Place in the fridge for 1 hour and the cake will set. Remove and then ice the cake with more frosting.