Chilli & garlic prawns; Sweet & sour pork

I received Ching-He Huang’s Chinese Food Made Easy cook book for my birthday a few weeks ago and so last weekend decided it was high time to try out a few recipes. For starters, I plumped for the “zesty chilli & garlic tiger prawns” followed by the sweet and sour pork.

The prawns are from the spicy sichuan section of the book, and were really flavoursome, tasty and juicy. I will definitely be making these again!

To serve two –

  • Around 200g raw prawns
  • 2 tbsps groundnut oil
  • 5 (yes, 5!) finely chopped cloves of garlic
  • 1 medium red chilli, finely chopped (the recipe calls for it to be de-seeded but we left some in as we like a bit of a kick)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • chopped French beans
  • 1 tbsp rice wine
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • pinch sea salt

Before starting, butterfly the prawns (cut in half down the middle of the back), which somehow seems to make them more satisfying! Heat the oil in a wok and stir fry for the garlic and chilli. Add the prawns, rice wine and lime juice and keep stir frying until the prawns are beginning to turn pink. Add the beans (we had par-boiled ours just for a few minutes first). Once the prawns have cooked through, season with the salt and chilli flakes and tuck in! These were so tasty, really moreish, and the sauce that formed in the bottom of the bowl was eaten afterwards with a spoon!!

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Moving onto Ching-He’s Sweet and Sour Pork, the recipe calls for the following, to serve two;

  • 2 pork loin chops
  • 2 tbsp groundnut oil
  • few dashes light soy sauce
  • dash of rice wine
  • steamed jasmine rice

For the pork coating;

  • 3 tbsps roasted whole soya beans (Which we couldn’t get), or dry-roasted peanuts
  • Few pinches of ground white pepper
  • 1 tsp crushed dried chillies

For the sauce;

  • 4oz tinned pineapple in natural juice
  • 4fl oz pineapple juice
  • 3 tbps freshly squeezed lime juice (we almost doubled this as it just tasted too sweet for our tastes)

Grind all the ingredients for the pork coating in a pestle and morter then sprinkle onto a plate or board and press the pork into the mix so that it sticks to the meat.

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Put the ingredients for the sweet and sour sauce into a blender and blitz into a paste. Heat the oil in a wok on a high heat and add the pork. Cook on one side until browned then turn over.  Once cooked, remove the pork from the pan and keep warm. Pour the blended pineapple and lime into the wok and simmer for a few minutes until reduced and thickened, season with the soy sauce, rice wine, salt and pepper. We served this with pak choi stir fried with soy sauce, rice wine and a little garlic.

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This dish was nice enough, but, I have to say, a bit of a disappointment. I didn’t think the sauce was that great, maybe we did something wrong, but the flavour just didn’t seem quite right. Having tried a few of Ching-He’s recipes in the past I expected this to be as tasty as everything else of hers!

There are still plenty of great sounding recipes in this book though which I am looking forward to trying out!

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Lebanese at Zaytoon’s

There is a little strip just around the corner from our house, less than a ten minute walk infact, where there are a handful of restaurants and bars. This cluster is home to two of our favourite bars in Chorlton as well as our faithful Yakisoba, always a reliable fallback when we don’t want to/don’t have time to cook.

There are a few other restaurants here that we have been meaning to try for a while and so on Friday night finally got round to visiting the rustic little Lebanese place, called Zaytoon. The place was busier than we have seen it before and we luckily arrived in time to secure the last free table. The owner came over within a few minutes of us sitting down to welcome us and explain the menu which was lovely. This is a small family run establishment with just a handful of tables and shelves down one side of the room stacked with all sorts of knick knacks, it sort of lent the feeling that you were sat in someone’s living room, which I thought was quite a nice touch!

We ordered a beer each and began to peruse the menu, aside from the fact I could see Barlow Moor Road out the window and the icy wind that was whistling around outside, I began to feel  a little like I was on holiday!

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For starters we shared some moutabel – a smoky aubergine dip similar to baba ganoush with toasted pitta breads, and some absolutely delicious falafel which came with tahini and a tasty spicy little salad. I am a big fan of falafel but do often find them to be disappointing – either too dry, too heavy or just plain soggy. These little beauties however were absolutely perfect in both texture and flavour, delicious!

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The menu is quite small, which tends to go down well with me, a few expertly cooked dishes are much better than a large menu of dishes that are just cooked averagely. The owner also reeled off lots of tempting sounding specials however, including lots of fish and lamb dishes, some specifically for two or more people. We decided to order off the menu this first time however, although next time we visit (and there will definitely be a next time!) I think we will sample some of the specials.

Rob ordered a chicken shish kebab while I went for the chicken shawarma, both were served with plenty of hummous, more pitta breads and a lovely big helping of salad. The salad, which had a special name but unfortunately I can’t remember it, was liberally sprinkled with sumac. Sumac has quite a tart, lemony flavour, and it worked really well on top of the salad. I love lemony citrusy flavours anyway (zingy!) so this was a big hit with me, I have already been out to buy some as I think it will be a good way to get Rob to eat more salads!

The chicken kebab was incredibly juicy and moist with a lovely subtle garclicy flavour while the flavouring of the shawarma was a little more robust. Both were very tasty and it just felt nice to eat a nice healthy meal of grilled meat with lots of salad, bursting with flavour. I was impressed with how the sumac helped lift even the most tired bits of iceberg lettuce!

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The menu listed baklava as the only desert, although when you can eat baklava, you don’t need anything else in my opinion! We were trying to be good however so decided to sample this another time! And we definitely will be back to try out some more of these lovely simple homecooked Lebanese dishes, as we assured the owner on our way out the door! It is well worth a visit!