Contents

All about the ingredients, equipment and techniques you need to start cooking Chinese food at home.

A Beginners Guide to Chinese Cookery

A Beginners Guide to Chinese CookeryIntroductionWhen I first ate Chinese food in the UK in the 1970s, it was really quite unappealing. Everything came in a gloopy sauce and seemed to taste the same, due to the overuse of monosodium glutamate, supposedly a flavour enhancer but in reality, nothing of the kind. Then in the 1980s a new breed of Chinese restaurant arrived (at least it took that long to reach the provinces) which provided lighter, tastier Chinese cooking demonstrating regional differences. There was one drawback, however, which was that this new type of restaurant was much more expensive than the original cheap n tasteless ones. Consequently, I thought how nice it would be to cook Chinese food at home but I had no idea where to start until BBC TV came to my rescue in the shape of Ken Hom, the USA-born chef of Cantonese parents.Ken presented Chinese cuisine in such an easily-understandable way, demonstrating techniques and suggesting alternative ingredients should the originals not be available in your local supermarket. The book which accompanied the series, Ken Homs Chinese Cookery became my bible and I still have my copy, pages stained with oil drips and smears of sauce. To help you on your way to cooking Chinese food at home, Im going to briefly describe the basic equipment, ingredients and techniques which you need to know so that you can produce some simple and tasty dishes. I hope you enjoy the article and that it inspires you to get cooking!EquipmentAlthough there are many implements and pieces of equipment you can buy, to start on the road to cooking your own Chinese food, you really only need a good knife or two and a wok. Woks come in all shapes and sizes, they can be non-stick, flat-bottomed, they can even be electric these days but I still prefer my old carbon steel wok with its rounded bottom and one wooden handle. This is a Pau wok. These are readily available in Chinese supermarkets and are much less expensive than other varieties. There is one important task though, before you will be ready to cook with such a wok and that is to season it. You will need to scrub it with a cream cleaner to remove any residues of machine oil and dry it carefully. Put the wok on the hob over a low heat. Rub the inside of the wok with two tablespoons of cooking oil using kitchen towel. Let the wok heat slowly for 10 to 15 minutes then wipe the inside with more kitchen towel. The paper will come away black. Carry on coating, heating and cleaning off until the kitchen towel comes away clean. Your wok is now ready to use. After use, wash only in water without detergent and dry thoroughly over a low heat. You may also apply a little oil if you wish. This should prevent the wok from rusting but if it does develop rust, just scrub and season again.As well as the wok, you will need a wok stand, particularly if you have an electric hob. This keeps the wok stable if you are using it for braising or deep frying.You will also need something to stir with any spatula, slice or slotted spoon will do metal for a metal wok and plastic or wooden for a non-stick wok.IngredientsBefore you rush out and buy up the whole Chinese section at the supermarket, bear in mind that some ingredients dont keep well if left unused. Just select something simple from your chosen cookery book and buy the things that you need for that then you can expand your selection as you progress through different dishes.Some common store-cupboard ingredients that you will almost certainly need are dark and light soy sauce, some sort of cooking oil and sesame oil, cornflour and rice wine or sherry. For more information, see my article Chinese Cooking - Ingredients and Equipment.TechniquesStir-FryingThe most well known Chinese cooking technique is stir-frying. This is where your wok comes into its own as its shape and size (at least 14 inches diameter with deep sides) is ideal for quick cooking. The secret to successful stir-frying is to have all your ingredients ready in advance.Meat should be cut according to the recipe but normally in thin strips. Vegetables likewise but in any event should be of similar shapes and sizes to ensure even cooking. Long thin vegetables such as spring onions, carrots or asparagus are often cut on the diagonal so that more surface area is exposed for quicker cooking. Measure out sauce ingredients - check the recipe - if they are all added to the dish at the same time, you can put them all in one small bowl. If cornflour is included, dont forget to give it a good stir before adding to the other food.Once you have everything prepared, heat your wok until it is very hot then add oil and using your chosen stirring implement ensure that the oil is evenly distributed over the surface of the wok. Before you add your ingredients. the wok should be so hot that it is almost smoking - this will prevent the food from being greasy. The exception to this is if you are flavouring your oil with garlic, chilli, spring onions, ginger or salt - these will burn if the oil is too hot.Now add your other ingredients in the order stated in the recipe and toss them over the surface of the wok ensuring that nothing rests in one place for too long and moving the food from the centre of the wok to the sides. I suggest that you wear an apron or other protective clothing for this operation as the food often spits due to the high temperature it is cooked at.Deep FryingYou can use your wok for deep frying but be very careful that it is safely balanced on its stand. Under no circumstances leave it unattended. Deep frying in a wok uses less oil than a deep fryer or saucepan but you may find these safer and easier to use.When deep frying, make sure that the oil is hot enough before adding ingredients or the food will end up very greasy. Test it by dropping in a small piece of prepared food or a cube of bread. If the oil bubbles up around what you dropped in then its hot enough. Make sure that food to be deep fried is dried thoroughly on kitchen paper or drained of its marinade before cooking otherwise it will spit.Shallow FryingThis is the same as the Western technique. Fry food on one side, then the other and drain off any excess oil before adding sauce ingredients. A normal frying pan is fine for this.SteamingSteaming is widely used in Chinese cookery. You can use a bamboo steamer in a wok, a heat-proof plate placed on a rack in a wok or other large pan or you can use a normal European steamer.If using a bamboo steamer or plate in a wok, bring about 2 inches of water to a simmer. Put your rack into the wok (if the bamboo steamer is big enough and will sit on the sides of the wok without being in the water, you dont need a rack) and balance your plate or steamer of food on it. Put the lid on your steamer or wok and check occasionally to see if the water needs topping up (use water which is already hot).Whichever method you use, make sure that the food is above the water level and isnt getting wet.BraisingAs with Western cooking, braising is used for tougher cuts of meat and involves gentle cooking of meat and/or vegetables in flavoured stock. Red-braising is the technique where food is braised in a dark liquid such as soy sauce which gives the food a red/brown colour. This type of braising sauce can be frozen and re-used.

Vinaigrette Dressing, A Simple Balsamic Recipe Will Do

Vinaigrette Dressing, A Simple Balsamic Recipe Will Do

A balsamic vinaigrette dressing is not some closely guarded secret made mysterious by a celebrity or gourmet chef. A good tasting vinaigrette is easy to make, and healthy for you. Oil and vinegar salad dressings or vinaigrette recipes can be made by those of us who have not attended the culinary institute.Times have sure changed since Seven Seas Italian Dressing and Wishbones Green Goddess sat on every store shelf as salad dressing staples. Remember when we thought Original Ranch was a vast improvement for our salad dressing repertoire, and store bought bacon bits were a hit? Then packaged spring mixed greens became available, and pine nuts were considered healthy and just a moment; you still buy bottled salad dressings? Our quest for lighter fare and healthy greens in our diet, has led us down a daunting path, searching for that elusive healthy salad dressing. Low carbs, low cholesterol, and healthy for all that ails you, has become a must. So what is it, that we should, (or better yet) are allowed to put on top of our salad thats good for you?Today we walk down the salad dressing aisle in a gourmet food store and behold the gourmet condiments from floor to eye level. Organic spreads, sauces, and accoutrements. Wine vinegars, infused oils, and herb flavored vinaigrettes. Some endorsed by celebrities. Some seen on TV. Some made by celebrities, (yeah, right). Some made on a distant island, in some strange sounding place. (We move on a step further.) We shake our head at Modena consortium, imported Spanish, and California Napa Balsamic vinegars. A huge question mark appears over our heads as we gaze at Aceto, Traditionale, aged, and Special Blends. We mutter, What hath God Wrought? Inventor, Alexander Graham Bell, couldnt have verbalized our incredulous thoughts more accurately.A simple oil and vinegar salad dressing, why is the degree of difficulty exponential? It neednt be. A simple "vinaigrette dressing" recipe can be made easily, from simple ingredients, be healthy for you, and actually taste great.The key ingredients in a vinaigrette dressing, is a traditionale aged balsamic vinegar, and an excellent olive oil. You dont have to spend a fortune for the balsamic either. Two very good balsamic vinegars that are very reasonably priced, are Caroliva Reserve balsamic and Masserie di Sant'Eramo balsamic. (Those other vinegars that are under $8, dont bother).Your balsamic vinaigrette dressing will go great with other dishes besides a salad, too. A balsamic vinaigrette is outstanding with fresh lobster and scallops, artichokes and asparagus. A balsamic dressing also goes well with fresh sliced tomatoes or steamed vegetables and greens. A balsamic dressing recipe can be altered to your individual taste. The normal proportions for a balsamic vinaigrette dressing are one part balsamic vinegar to three parts olive oil, with seasoning of salt, pepper and Dijon mustard. A rule of thumb is one teaspoonful of mustard for every half cup of salad dressing. The flavor of balsamic vinegar is rich and intense, and with a delicate olive oil you may want to use proportions of one part vinegar to four or five of olive oil. Other herbs and spices will enhance a "balsamic vinaigrette" , such as chives and sage. Even a bit of finely grated fresh ginger root will add zest to your dressing. It is all a question of how you want your finished dressing to taste.Simple Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing Recipe (that you can make yourself)INGREDIENTS 3 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar1 teaspoon Dijon mustard1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed through a garlic press3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oilSalt and freshly ground pepper, to taste Use a blender to mix the ingredients. It will produce a thicker vinaigrette dressing. One serving will equal 2 to 3 tablespoons of dressing. One cup should easily be enough for 6 to 8 servings of mixed green salad. Refrigerate and store in a covered container. Whisk well before serving.

Adding Almonds May Let You Reign In Spain

Adding Almonds May Let You Reign In Spain

For many, warmer weather means eating lighter and healthier. Here's a quick, new recipe for a Summer Delight Salad. The sliced almonds help to give it a Mediterranean accent.Summer Delight Salad3/4 cup Sunkist Almond Accents Honey Roasted sliced almonds8 cups torn spinach or mixed greens1 (5-oz.) pkg. yellow teardrop tomatoes1 cup quartered fresh strawberries1/3 cup sliced red onion1/2 cup crumbled blue cheeseraspberry vinaigrette dressingIn large bowl, toss half the Sunkist Almond Accents Honey Roasted sliced almonds and the next 4 ingredients. Arrange onto salad plates; top with blue cheese and remaining Sunkist Almond Accents Honey Roasted sliced almonds. Drizzle desired amount of dressing over salad.Makes 4 to 6 salads.Preparation Time: 10 min. Almonds are nutrient dense, vitamin rich and have long been used to add flavor and crunch to dishes from different parts of the Mediterranean. Sunkist Almond Accents are dry roasted with no added oil and have no cholesterol, no saturated fat, and just 1-2 grams of carbohydrates per serving. And now, using almonds in any dish may earn five lucky contestants a trip to Spain.A Culinary AdventureA seven-day, six-night epicurean adventure for two to Barcelona, including round-trip airfare, hotel, optional cooking lessons, food and wine tastings, excursions to wineries and local food producers and guided tours of historic sites, is the grand prize in a contest that celebrates the variety, flavor and health benefits that dishes that use almonds have to offer. A Slice Of Spanish FlavorSunkist Almond Accents will send five grand-prize winners of its Barcelona Culinary Sweepstakes on the all-expenses-paid trip for two to Barcelona, Spain.Two hundred first prizes, consisting of a set of hand-painted, hand-thrown dishes, will also be awarded.

The Well-Stocked Kitchen Starts With Cutting-Edge Knives

The Well-Stocked Kitchen Starts With Cutting-Edge Knives

Preparing meals that are a cut above the ordinary may be easier if you start with the right cutting tools.Well-designed cutting tools are engineered with style, safety and performance in mind. A smartly constructed knife is fashioned of forged high-carbon stainless steel and chromium for optimum rust and stain resistance.For example, Insignia2 cutlery has fully tapered blade edges that are engineered with Chicago Cutlery's signature Taper Grind™ Edge for extreme sharpness, performance, edge retention and resharpening ease.When choosing a knife, look for heavy forged bolsters between the blade and the handle. These bolsters provide greater balance and safety by preventing fingers from riding up on the blade. A full tang blade, extending from the tip of the knife to the end of the handle, provides additional strength, balance and control.A good knife collection features patented ergonomic polymer handles for exceptional durability and handling. Triple compression stainless steel rivets should secure the handles to the blades.Available in 18-piece and 12-piece slanted hardwood block sets, the Insignia2 collection contains a four-piece forged steak knife set, a three-piece set with paring, utility and chef knives, and a two-piece Asian set featuring a seven-inch Granton-edge Santoku and a 3.5-inch paring knife.A new concept in cutlery is the collection's Partoku™, a five-inch knife that delivers the versatility of a Granton-edge Santoku with the convenience of an easy-handling paring knife. It's designed for chopping, dicing, slicing and mincing and works well as a cleaver, slicer and chef's knife. The five-inch version can accomplish kitchen tasks that would be unwieldy with a larger knife.After stocking your kitchen with the best, most ergonomic knives, you may want to use them to reward yourself by preparing these delicious recipes: Braised Chicken in Wine SauceServes 45 slices bacon, diced1 cup onion, roughly chopped1 31/2-lb. chicken, cut into eighths1/4 lb. mushrooms, diced8 small new potatoes, cut in large pieces1 clove garlic, mincedsalt and pepper to taste1/2 tsp. dried thyme1 cup chicken broth3 cups Burgundy wineChopped parsleyWith a Chicago Cutlery Insignia™ Partoku, dice uncooked bacon and mushrooms; roughly chop onions and cut potatoes and chicken into pieces. In a large skillet, saut diced bacon with half the onions until bacon is crisp. Remove and drain well. Add chicken pieces to skillet and brown on all sides. Remove chicken and set aside.Put remaining onions, mushrooms, potatoes and minced garlic in skillet. Add browned chicken pieces, bacon and onion mixture. Add salt and pepper, thyme and enough chicken broth and wine to nearly cover chicken. Cover and simmer on low heat for 45 minutes or until chicken is tender and juices run clear when pricked. Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.Easy Scalloped EggplantServes 41 medium eggplant, peeled and cubed (about 3 cups)1 Tbsp. parsley, finely chopped12 ounces grated cheddar cheese; reserve a few tablespoons for topping2 eggs1 medium onion, chopped1 cup cracker crumbsSalt and pepper to tasteButterPeel and cube eggplant. In a medium saucepan, boil eggplant until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain well. In a lightly buttered baking dish, combine eggplant, parsley, cheese (reserve some for topping), eggs, onion and cracker crumbs. Sprinkle with remaining cheese, salt and pepper and dot with butter. Bake at 350 F for 25 minutes or until firm. Serve immediately.

The Sweetness Of Grilling: Create Scrumptious Desserts Without Heating Up The Kitchen

A meal just isn't complete without dessert. But instead of reaching for store-bought sweets or those unimaginative brownies from a box, get more mileage out of your grill by grilling your next dessert."Years ago, even the most inventive cooks treated the idea of making desserts on a grill with skepticism, but now you can't claim to be a master griller unless you have at least a couple desserts in your repertoire," said Jamie Purviance, author of Weber's Real Grilling. "The truth is out about their great taste, and then there is the dramatic effect of opening the lid and surprising your guests with sizzling sweets."Preparing a grilled dessert can be as easy as warming fresh fruits such as halved bananas, split peaches or sliced pineapples over direct heat and serving them with a scoop of ice cream. Or you can use indirect heat to actually bake something simple such as a fruit cobbler or crisp."In many ways, a covered grill works as an oven," said Purviance. "The hot flames cook like a broiler that has flipped to the bottom of the oven, browning the surfaces of cut fruit, making them tender and sweeter. And, if you grill over indirect heat by turning off the middle gas burner or pushing the coals to the sides and closing the lid, you can cook a dessert in a pan over the unlit area of the grill."Purviance has partnered with Weber-Stephen Products Co., the premier manufacturer of charcoal and gas grills, grilling accessories and other outdoor room products, to offer consumers useful and creative tips for firing up desserts on their grills. Before You Begin. If grilled fruits are on your menu, select ones that are ripe (or almost ripe) and firm. Purviance says that fruits will soften on the grill, so he recommends selecting firm produce to ensure they will hold their shape while cooking.Time and Temperature. Purviance suggests knowing how long and at what temperature to grill to produce the finest results. Peaches should be cut into halves and grilled over direct medium heat for 8-10 minutes. Bananas are best split lengthwise, with the skin left on to hold the fruit's shape, and grilled over direct medium heat for approximately 6-8 minutes. Pineapples should be peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch slices or 1-inch wedges, then grilled for 5-10 minutes over direct medium heat.Hold the Chicken. While that teriyaki chicken was delectable, its remnants left on the grill won't taste good on grilled peaches. Purviance offers this remedy before grilling up desserts-simply brush the grates clean with a stiff wire brush.Better with Butter. Butter makes almost anything taste better, and fruit is no exception. Purviance recommends brushing fruit lightly on all sides with melted butter and a little sugar for sweetness before grilling it. This coating will also help prevent the fruit from sticking.Never Leave Your Post. The sweet succulence of most fruits turns golden brown and delicious on the grill, but left too long in place, golden brown can turn to black and bitter. Purviance recommends watching the fruit carefully and turning occasionally. To check the color and doneness, slide a thin spatula gently under the fruit and slightly lift. Your sweet tooth will never be the same.

Braising 101

The results of braising are comforting, healthy dishes that retain the nutrients of the ingredients and require little fat. For braising, foods are slowly cooked in a relatively small amount of liquid in a covered pot on top of a stove or in an oven. This is closely related to stewing, although with less liquid and bigger pieces of food, usually.Large saucepans are ideal for braising. The versatile Dutch oven is my favorite and can be used on top of the stove or in the oven. Contrary to the general rule that healthful foods should be prepared as close to mealtime as possible, braised dishes are often times better when prepared the day before. This waiting period allows the flavors to meld. In addition, when these dishes are refridgerated, any fat forms on the surface allowing easier removing when reheating.How to Braise

  • Start with sturdy cuts of meat and season them well.
  • Brown on all sides and transfer to a plate.
  • Add an aromatics, such as onion and celery and cook them according to the recipes instructions.
  • Return meat to the pan, pour in the liquid, and bring to a boil.
  • Cover the pan and cook over low heat.
  • Summary

    All about the ingredients, equipment and techniques you need to start cooking Chinese food at home.