A straw poll round the office has found that there are some common misconceptions about Chinese food: firstly that there are very few decent contemporary Chinese cookbooks out there. Secondly you need lots of tricksy ingredients and hard-to-find spices.
And sometimes it just takes one bad, bland gloopy takeaway to put you off Chinese food for ages.
That's why sisters Helen and Lisa Tse are so our favourite people right now. Just in time for Chinese New Year celebrations this Saturday these British Chinese chefs have brought out their first - and long awaited-cookbook, out now. Filled with recipes that come with gluten and dairy-free options this is authentic Chinese food at its freshest, tastiest – and simplest, and perfect for anyone who is throwing a Chinese-themed celebration this weekend!
If you need reminding who Helen and Lisa Tse are, they are the twin sisters who gave up their careers to open restaurant Sweet Mandarin in 2004, turning it into one of Manchester’s most popular food destinations. Since then they’ve won countless awards and accolades along the way. Gordon Ramsay is a huge fan, and they have won investment from Dragons Den’s Hilary Devey and Duncan Bannatyne to develop their range of gluten-free oriental dipping sauces. Just this month they were been awarded MBE’s in the New Years Honours List 2014 for their dedication to services to Food and Drink.
But what we love most is the fact that the Queen loves them – apparently she wrote them a personal letter saying how much she loves their sauces! So without further ado, here’s two of Helen and Lisa’s recipes to tempt your tastebuds. Happy Chinese New Year!
Sweet Mandarin Cookbook by Helen and Lisa Tse, published by Kyle Books, priced at £18.99, photography by Gareth Morgans.
CHAIRMAN MAO'S PORK
'This was Chairman Mao’s favourite dish and it is not surprising. The dark red, caramelised sauce penetrates deep into the pork during the slow-cooking process, making it sweet and succulent and meltingly tender. One of the key ingredients to this dish is soy sauce. There are two kinds of soy sauce, dark and light, with the light soy sauce tasting considerably saltier than the dark. In this dish, we include dark soy sauce for colour and light soy sauce for flavour. Use tamari rather than soy sauce and hoisin sauce.'
Preparation time 10 minutes
Cooking time 2 hours
- 400g boneless pork belly, cut into
- 5cm cubes
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 100g daikon or turnip, peeled and cut into 5cm cubes
- For the sauce
- 100ml dark soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 50g brown sugar
- 5cm piece of fresh root ginger (kept whole)
- 2 star anise
- 5cm piece of cassia bark
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Fill a saucepan with 400ml water and bring to the boil. Add the pork and simmer for 15 minutes until cooked through. Remove the pork with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper; set aside. Skim the scum from the cooking liquor and measure out 200ml into a jug; discard the rest.
- Heat a second deep saucepan until hot and add the vegetable oil. Put in the cooked pieces of pork and brown well on all sides for about 5 minutes. Pour in the reserved cooking liquor and add the ingredients for the sauce. Bring to the boil, cover the pan with a lid and simmer gently for 1 hour. Add the diced daikon and continue to cook for a further 30 minutes.
You can also add carrots to the dish, which will give it extra sweetness. If you have any leftovers, this dish is even more delicious reheated the next day.
GREEN CURRY WITH VEGETABLES
'Our grandmother came to the UK in the 1950s. The ship took 35 days to sail from Hong Kong to Liverpool, taking in Singapore, Penang, Ceylon, Bombay, the Suez Canal, Gibraltar and Southampton along the way. It was on this journey that Lily perfected her green curry recipe, which wooed the local community in Manchester on her arrival. Elements of the dish were learnt in Singapore, where Lily stopped off to visit her sister (who had relocated there with her husband) and the secret blend of spices was perfected in Bombay. Today green curry is a firm favourite of the family, especially on cold days when the heat of the dish helps to warm you up. Any leftover curry paste can be spooned into a jam jar and stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. If you don’t have time to make your own green curry paste, use 1/2 tablespoon of shop-bought paste instead.'
Preparation time 15 minutes
Cooking time 15 minutes
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 x 400ml can of coconut milk
- 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
- 100g bamboo shoots
- 100g water chestnuts
- 100g Chinese leaf, cut into
- bite-sized pieces
- 1 carrot, peeled and cut into thin slices on the diagonal
- 1 aubergine, cut into 2cm cubes
- 225ml chicken stock (see page 12)
- 50g grated coconut (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- juice of 1/2 lime
For the green curry paste:
- 3 green bird’s eye chillies
- 2 stalks of lemongrass, chopped
- 6 spring onions, chopped
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon shrimp paste
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- juice of 1 lime, plus 1 teaspoon
- lime zest
- 2–3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
- Prepare the curry paste by mixing together all of the ingredients in a blender. Blitz to a smooth paste.
- Heat the oil in a wok over a high heat and fry off 1/2 tablespoon of the green curry paste to release its fragrance into the oil, approx. 1 minute. Add the coconut milk, stirring well to blend.
- Bring to the boil, throw in all the vegetables and cook simmer gently for 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock, bring to the boil until the sauce has reduced by one-third, which takes approx. 5 minutes.
- Stir in the grated coconut (if using) and season with salt, sugar and lime juice. Serve with fragrant steamed rice.