Category Archives: Recipes – Monday Dinners

Borscht soup, Hong Kong style 羅宋湯


Borscht soup, Hong Kong style

Borscht soup, Hong Kong style

Borscht soup, Hong Kong style

Borscht soup, Hong Kong style

The other night the topic of food trends came up at home. S and I talked about the food we had in our teenage years and shared with J, our fond memories of Hong Kong restaurants that were born out of the then-growing western influence in the 1980s. Their menus typically include pasta, pizza and grilled meats. Often, there will be set menus (which is still a very common thing to have on all restaurant menus) that goes typically like this:

1) choice of soup: soup of the day, creamy mushroom (“white” soup), tomato borscht type soup (“red” soup)

2) main of grilled meats (chicken thigh, pork chops and beef rump, or a mixture) with choice of pasta, potatoes/vegetables or rice. You also get to choose between a black peppercorn, belchamel or tomato sauce.

3) coffee or tea, and of course the “combination” drink yin yeung.

Sometimes you also get for dessert a small bowl of jelly or ice cream served in a tiny aluminium bowl.

This became in my mind, the iconic western meals in the 1980s to 1990s for the previous British colony. A step up from the cha chaan teng, which serves the more basic Hong Kong fare, like macaroni soup, pineapple buns and “stocking” milk tea.

For 99% of the time I will choose the borscht soup, which is an adapted version of the Russian Ukrainian tomato soup. It doesn’t normally have beets, and can have a variety of stable vegetables from any Hong Kong vege market. It’s the most popular soup in my childhood days, and is now J’s favourite soup.

My mum makes this with oxtail or beef shin. I’ve been able to source end-cuts of parma or prosciutto and prefers that now for the depth in flavour it adds to the soup (one time I didn’t use prosciutto and S and J both asked me about the lack of flavour. Seriously!) You can also use bacon or ham bones too.

This soup tastes better when cooked for longer. Cook on the stove for a few hours, in a crock pot, Instant Pot or a thermos, it will all work!

This quantity easily serves 5-6 people.

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, cut into large chunks
  • 2 carrots, cut into large chunks
  • 2 small potatoes, cut into large chunks
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into large chunks (I sometimes leave out)
  • 1/2 cabbage, cut into large chunks
  • 1 can of whole peeled tomatoes
  • 50g tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp beef stock (I use Simon Gault’s)
  • 2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
  • 300g parma ham, end cut or substitute with other meats like beef shin, oxtail
  • 2 – 3 litres of water

Instructions

  1. Lightly oil a hot pan, sautée the onions, carrots and celery. Transfer into a large soup pot (I use a Thermos pot, similar to a Crock Pot, except it has no heating function).
  2. Add potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes, tomato paste, beef stock, Worcestershire sauce and parma ham into the soup pot.
  3. Add enough boiling water to cover, about 2 litres, and bring it to a boil.
  4. Let it boil for 15 minutes and then turn it down to a simmer for 2 hours. If using a thermos cooker or Crock Pot, after the initial boiling, transfer that into the thermos/Crock Pot and let it continue to cook for a few hours. I often prepare this the night before and leave it to cook overnight.
  5. It’s ready when the cabbages and other vegetables are soft. Taste and add salt as required.

Borscht soup, Hong Kong style

Chawanmushi 茶碗蒸し


Chawanmushi - Japanese savoury egg custard

Shiitake mushroom chawanmushi

Shiitake mushroom chawanmushi

Shiitake mushroom chawanmushi

Shiitake mushroom chawanmushi

Shiitake mushroom chawanmushi

Little tiny dishes with delicately plated ingredients, perfect execution of cooking and tastes of deliciousness. I love Japanese meals that are presented as several courses, and especially when they integrate well, following naturally from one to the next.

One iconic dish, Chawanmushi, is often served as part of the course. This savoury egg custard is cooked with a fragrant dashi broth, hiding amongst it treasures to be revealed when you dig in. Made with delicate and seasonal ingredients, the best ones are silky smooth and very light. The dashi broth is very important as it is the unique flavour of Japanese food. I used packets of dashi powder mixed with water.

Dashi

Until recently, fresh Shiitake mushrooms were not commonly found in New Zealand. This is key to Asian cooking and I’m excited that Meadow Mushrooms, the 50 year old mushroom producer in NZ has extended their range to include these now. Grown on sawdust logs which have been inoculated with Shiitake mushroom spores, these grow quickly and are harvested in 14 days. They are bold in flavour, with a strong umami taste adding depth to most dishes.

Here I have also added wakame and fish cake. Other fillings such as prawns, crab meat, clams, small pieces of chicken thighs and onion slices are also excellent options. Traditionally steamed, you can also cook this in a water bath.

Using all my small sized cups and ramekins, I made mini portions. They were 60ml to 80ml each and I made seven with these quantities below. Increase your steaming time by 3 minutes if your bowls are larger.

Ingredients

  • 400ml water
  • 1 x 8g packet dashi powder
  • 3 eggs (180g)
  • 1.5 tsp soy sauce
  • 1.5 tsp cooking Sake or mirin
  • 2 tsp dried wakame
  • 4-5 Shiitake mushrooms, sliced and halved
  • 14 thin slices of Japanese fish cake

Instructions

  1. Using a measuring jug, make up dashi stock. Add wakame to rehydrate it within the stock.
  2. Lightly beat the eggs and strain it through a sieve into the dashi stock, to remove any clumps of egg. This helps with the smoothness of the dish, ensuring no clumps or air pockets inside the custard. Add soy sauce and cooking sake.
  3. Place your fillings in the chawanmushi cups, reserving a few pieces of mushroom and fish cake for the top.
  4. Pour egg mixture into chawanmushi cups.
  5. On top of the mixture, add 2 small pieces of Shiitake mushrooms and a piece of fish cake, allowing it to float.
  6. Using a bamboo steamer over a wok, gently steam chawanmushi cups on low for 12 minutes. (mine were tiny 60ml to 80ml portions so steamed quickly. If you are making bigger portions, steam for 15 mins).
  7. If not using a bamboo steamer, where water vapor is allowed to escape, use aluminum foil to cover the tops of each cup to prevent condensation from dripping into the cups. You can also wrap a large clean tea towel around the steamer lid to contain the condensation from the steaming.
  8. Insert a wooden toothpick to check if it has cooked through. They are ready if clear juice comes out.
  9. Serve warm.

Shiitake mushroom chawanmushi

Soba noodles with a Basil, Cardamom and Coriander lime sauce


Soba noodles with Basil, Coriander, Cardamon, garlic and lime dressing

Soba noodles with Basil, Coriander, Cardamon, garlic and lime dressing

Soba noodles with Basil, Coriander, Cardamon, garlic and lime dressing

Soba noodles with Basil, Coriander, Cardamon and lime vinegrette

A few weeks ago I went to a pottery workshop in beautiful Titirangi, Auckland New Zealand. They served a delightful vegetarian lunch and one of the dishes served was from Yotam Ottenlenghi‘s SIMPLE. The cookbook is filled with really easy recipes and after tasting this soba dish, I just had to remake it at home.

My recipe below is an adaptation of the original recipe, as J is allergic to pistachios and avocados are out of season. We also don’t have Nigella seeds so have used chilli flakes instead. This is optional.

Love the tanginess of the lime, but mostly, I am blown away by the cardamom. Feel free to up the cardamom quantities, I have been quite liberal with it myself! You should have left over dressing with the quantities below, which is great stored in a jar for a second meal.

Ingredients

  • 250g buckwheat soba noodles
  • ½ tsp of cardamom seeds, crushed in a mortar and pestle
  • 35g (1 cup) basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 35g (1 cup) coriander leaves, roughly chopped
  • 3 limes: slightly press and roll limes on the bench surface. Finely grate for 2 tsp zest, then juice to get 80ml.
  • Extra lime, cut into 4 wedges, to serve
  • 5 tbsp olive or avocado oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 drops of garlic essence (optional)
  • 1 red or green chilli, deseeded and finely sliced (optional)
  • 2 ripe avocados, deseeded and cut into thin slices (optional)
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes (optional), to sprinkle over
  • 1 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet.
  2. Once cooked, drain into a colander and rinse under cold running water. Set aside in the colander to drain well.
  3. Crush the cardamom seeds in a mortar and pestle (if using pods, open for seeds and discard the outer husks).
  4. Place the crushed cardamom seeds in a mixing jug with the basil, coriander, lime zest and juice, oil, garlic, chilli, avocado (if using) and 1 tsp salt.
  5. Place noodles in a large mixing bowl and pour dressing in. Mix everything together well, taste and add more seasoning if needed.
  6. Serve platter style. Sprinkle over the chilli flakes, if using, and serve with a wedge of lime.

Soba noodles with Basil, Coriander, Cardamon, garlic and lime dressing

Spring onion pancakes


Chinese Spring onion pancakes 葱油餠

Sometimes we just crave simple food that brings back memories. For a simple meal, we often make rice congee and have stir fry noodles with it. The rice congee would take some time to prepare, in order for the rice grains to break down enough to be creamy. While that’s going, I can also prepare Spring Onion pancakes to go with the meal. They do not resemble the western pancakes though, as these are not light or fluffy. Instead, they are chewy and most definitely savoury in taste (you can also make sweet versions with red bean paste filling, another stunner!).

By bringing back this oldie, I’m creating memories with my daughter too. J loves rolling these out, and have recently discovered via the Woks of Life a shortcut to these crispy delights: using round store-bought wonton pastry, create 6 layer stacks of pastry, oil, salt and spring onions. Roll these out and pan fry on a dry pan. Super quick and I hope that she will remember these and make them in the future, be it traditional way or the shortcut!

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups white flour
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tbsp Sesame Oil for the pancakes
  • 2 tsp fine salt
  • 1 bunch spring onions
  • Rice bran oil for the pan

Dough Instructions

  1. Mix flour with water until it forms a smooth dough. Knead by doubling the dough over and pressing it down repeatedly, until the dough is shiny, smooth and very elastic. Coat this ball of dough lightly in oil and put it back in the bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let the dough rest for about 30 minutes.
  2. Finely chop the spring onion. (I use both the green tops and the white parts.) Set them on your work surface along with a small bowl of salt.
  3. Time to roll out the dough – Cut the dough into 4 equal parts. Roll out one part of the dough on the board. Roll until it is a thin rectangle at least 20 x 15 cm.
  4. Lightly brush the surface of the dough with sesame oil, then sprinkle it evenly with chopped spring onions and salt.Chinese Spring onion pancakes
  5. Starting from the long end, roll the dough up tightly, creating one long log of rolled-up dough.
  6. Cut the dough log into two equal parts.
  7. Take one of these halves, coil into a round dough disc. Let it rest for at least 15 minutes and ideally longer, while you repeat this process with the rest of the dough.Chinese Spring onion pancakes
  8. With you hands, press down a rolled dough disc into a flat, smooth, round pancake. Flatten it further by rolling with a rolling pin.Chinese Spring onion pancakes
  9. Chinese Spring onion pancakes
  10. Heat a pan over medium-high heat. Place the pancake dough in the dry pan and cook on medium heat for 2 minutes.
  11. Flip the pancake over and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes on the other side, or until golden brown. Repeat with the rest of the pancake dough rolls.

To Serve
Cut the pancake into wedges with a sharp knife, and serve immediately. Serve with your usual dumpling sauce (soy and vinegar).

Recipe Notes
Oils: This recipe calls for oil in two different places: Once to make the filling, and once to fry the pancakes. For the filling, any neutral oil will do, but tasters (and I!) prefer sesame oil.

Make-Ahead Tip: If you would like to make a few pancakes but save the rest for later, you can save the dough in the fridge for up to 3 days and in the freezer. Just make sure the dough is oiled and well-covered. You can also roll out individual pancakes and stack them between well-oiled layers of baking paper.

Chinese Spring onion pancakes 葱油餠

HelloFresh…hello delicious (+ NZ 30% off discount when ordering through me! )


HelloFresh upcoming menu

HelloFresh upcoming menu

HelloFresh upcoming menu

Over the years, there has been a steady increase in the number of online companies delivering meal kits to households NZ-wide. From a simple but fulsome range of veges and fruits from the farm to your door, fresh pasta delivery, budget meals aimed at young school leavers, meat boxes, fresh fish (literally still swimming in the sea the morning of delivery day) to full variety meal plans for small to large family and also meals that have been part preped with sauces already made for you.

We tried all of them. They all brought something unique, and there were small points of difference. Many of my friends regularly use them. However, it wasn’t enough to keep me on long term.

[Note: this post is not sponsored, and we did not receive a meal kit in exchange for writing this post (as I sometimes do, I thought it proper to make the distinction.)] The reason I wanted to write a post [tell the world] about it is because I have finally found a service that allows me to choose what I am going to have for dinner.

This has been the main niggle I have with other services: On a week night, I simply don’t have the energy or patience to persuade the family to eat a dish, designed albeit by chefs and nutritionists alike, that is new or with ingredients that has not often graced our dinner tables for one reason or another.

Don’t get me wrong, we are all for adventures and trying new things, but on weeknights, I choose the path of least resistance.

To me, this is the beauty of HelloFresh: I showed J the upcoming weeks’ menus (three weeks’ worth are available to preview) and she decides what she would like to try. Amazingly, she picked things that I didn’t think she would.

Our delivery is still a week away, and I can’t wait to share our meals with you when I get to cook it.

They have a large market presence overseas in Europe and US, and has only just launched in NZ. Have a look over on their website, and enter in my code (HDA30) at check out for a 30% discount off your order. (With such a generous discount, it is definitely worth trying!)

I will share our thoughts about the meals later too! Follow me here on the blog and over on Instagram for more delicious adventures.

xxx

ps. photos here are screenshots of their menu, not my photos, as I have yet to cook them!!!

pps. The links have been updated in this post since May 2019 with an affiliated link. What this means is I will receive a small commission for every new HelloFresh customer using the link and code.