On the right, some sliced pig’s ear served as part of a Sichuanese hors d’oeuvres.
On the left: me modelling a nice pig’s head in Yangzhou.
For the first time, to my delight, I’ve found garlic scapes in one of my local shops. They are thicker than Chinese garlic stems (suan tai 蒜薹 , suan miao 蒜苗 , suan xin 蒜芯 – they have different names in different parts of China), with much larger bulbs, but have a similar flavour. Of course I cooked them in my favourite Sichuanese way, stir-frying them with a little streaky smoked bacon. With wok-scrambled eggs and a beansprout salad, they made a glorious lunch.
These scapes come from The Garlic Farm on the Isle of Wight, just off the coast of southern England.
This morning I cooked Twice-cooked Swiss Chards, a recipe from Every Grain of Rice, for Jane Garvey on Woman’s Hour, BBC Radio 4. It’s actually one of my favourite recipes from the book, because it transforms a very ordinary vegetable into something magnificent. Like many Sichuanese vegetable recipes, it involves lifting the flavours of cheap ingredients with the punchy flavours of chilli bean paste, ginger, garlic and other aromatics. If you boil the chards and do all your chopping in advance, it takes about five minutes to cook. I like to serve the dish with plain rice (often brown rice for an everyday meal), and perhaps some fried eggs or some leftover chicken dressed in a Sichuanese chilli sauce. You can find the recipe, and hear the interview, here.
Yesterday morning, I was on BBC Radio London, talking to the wonderful Jeni Barnett, who I haven’t seen since she was the presenter of Great Food Live on UK Food TV. It was a pleasure as always, and I would have been happy to go on yakking all morning! You can hear the interview here – it’s about an hour into the podcast (1h 2mins to be more exact).
It’s just a home-made lime-and-lemon jelly with plenty of sliced jellyfish and some gouqi berries for colour.
As you might expect, the jellyfish is transparent and has a jelly-like consistency, although one slightly more taut and elastic than that of the actual jelly. It’s completely tasteless, so please don’t imagine this lovely tea-time jelly has a fishy flavour to it.
Like jelly, jellyfish has a very satisfactory wobble when moved from side to side (hang a strand from the end of your spoon and see).
Has anyone else tried making a jellyfish jelly?
Here’s the recipe, as far as I can remember it:
海蜇冻 Jellyfish jelly
Two packs of ready-to-eat jellyfish (each 150g)
175g white sugar
Six gelatine leaves
One 20g piece of ginger, skin-on, slightly crushed
4 tbsp dried gouqi berries
The theme of this year’s Oxford Food Symposium was ‘Stuffed and Wrapped’ – so we spent the whole weekend discussing dumplings, pasties, stuffed vegetables and the like. We ate stuffed and wrapped foods, like langoustines in filo pastry, saddle of lamb encroute, summer pudding, stuffed vegetables from Gaziantep in Eastern Turkey, baklavas and German sausages, And after dinner on Saturday night, I led a small Chinese dumpling-making session in the bar, teaching people how to pleat jiaozi and baozi, gather up shao mai and make various other pastry shapes.
This was all made possible by the generosity of the lovely Sophie Liu and Chefs Zhou Jianjun and Ren Qiang of My Sichuan restaurant in Oxford, who rustled up large amounts of dumpling dough and lent me a Chinese rolling pin! (Chef Zhou used to work at Barshu.)
Here is a picture of some of our efforts!