Category Archives: Recipes – Monday Dinners

Mapo Tofu (Pork mince with tofu in spicy sauce)


For Chinese, this is a traditional dish most families would have at home. In northern China, Szechuan peppercorns would be added to give a unique spiciness that is at best described as a slight tingling sensation, to the more severe as ‘spins and needles’ on the tongue which means you can taste nothing for the next 5 minutes until the numbing feeling subsides.
In Hong Kong, we have milder, sweeter versions.

It wasn’t until a European friend pointed it out to me that I realised how strange this dish is – two proteins in the same dish! I don’t think I’ve ever looked at tofu as a protein and consequently consider why would there be a need to pair it with another (pork mince)?

I have no explanation except that the tofu is there to mix with the sauce and then with the rice as a perfect, wholesome, one plate meal. It just works so let’s not worry about it 🙂

Most recipes ask you to ‘parboil’ the tofu pieces before adding them into the wok. They claim this helps prevent them from breaking up. I have never done that and I’ve cooked this dish for almost 20 years!
What I’ve always done, is sprinkle salt onto the cubed tofu and letting it sit for 10 minutes. This pushes out the water from the tofu and keeps the cubes intact – it works every time. The key to it is in the manner of mixing –  mix the tofu in ever so gently and only till it’s warmed through. No tofu puddle mess at all.

Ingredients:
1 ‘brick’ of firm tofu, cubed
1 teaspoon salt
150g mince pork (or less if preferred)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon chinese garlic chili bean sauce (toubanjan or doubanjiang)
1 tablespoon chinese brown bean sauce (tenmienjan, tenmenjan, or tenmenjiang)
1 tablespoon chinese hoisin sauce
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 spring onion, chopped into small rounds

Marinade:
1 tablespoon dry sherry or Chinese wine
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tbsp sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon szechuan peppercorn (optional)

Directions:
1.  Slice your tofu into 3 sections and then cut into long strips. Cube them into 1.5cm sizes.  Sprinkle salt on the top of the tofu. Set aside. (They don’t have to be perfect so don’t worry about being precise here.) Marinate mince.

2.  Set the wok on high and make sure it is hot.  Add vegetable oil and swirl the pan, then add the mince pork, using the back of your spatula to separate the mince.

3.  When the pork is nicely browned, add in your equal portion of the 3 main sauces: Chinese garlic chili bean sauce, Chinese brown bean sauce and hoisin sauce. Continue to cook for 1 minute.

4. Drain the tofu pieces and add tofu cubes to the wok.
5. Working quickly and lightly, mix the tofu in with the mince. A bit like working an angel cake batter, you scoop from the outside and bring it into the middle.
6. Continue until all the tofu has been mixed with the sauce.
7. Add in chicken stock and thicken with cornflour slurry if you preferring a thicker sauce. Add in your chopped spring onion.
8.  Serve with steamed jasmine rice.
Note: if you are making a bigger portion, you will need to proportionately increase the sauces, maintaining the 1:1:1 ratio.

Massaman Beef Curry


I don’t know about you, but I find that Monday dinners are the hardest to get on the table, fast.
Coming home from a full day’s work after a relaxing weekend – it’s hard to get back into the routine and I’m always in a rush to prepare anything decent.
What I’ve found to work for us, is that I pre-prepare dishes that we can heat up for Monday night.
That way, all we need to do is to cook the rice, add some veges and heat up the main dish.
Therefore you’d find that this blog category mainly consists of curry and other slow-cook meals. Not your typical Monday dinners of quick throw together meals, but instead meals that have been cooked with tender loving care that can be reheated in a matter of minutes.
Click over under the Monday Dinner  tab to see what other slow-cook meals I have in my repertoire.

This curry is sweet with a bit of kick.
J’s review: “I like it because it’s yummy and has potatoes and tender beef. Easy to eat and healthy for you.”

Ingredients:

800 g cross-cut beef, cubed
5 tbsp of spice paste
3 tsp dry spice powder
470ml of coconut cream (1 can)
5 potatoes, peeled and quartered
4 tbs of unsalted, roasted peanuts
2 tbs of peanut oil
2 tbsp tamarind water

Spice Paste:

3 Dried red chilli
1 Lemongrass
5 cloves of Garlic
2 Shallot
5cm Ginger
5cm Galangal
1 tsp Salt
4 tbsp Oil
4 tbsp Palm sugar

Dry spices powder:

combine 1 tbsp of each (except where indicated otherwise) in a mortar and bash them together.
Mustard seed
Fenugreek
Coriander seed
Turmeric
White pepper
Paprika
Cumin
Cinnamon powder
Clove
Cumin
Coriander seed
10 Cardamom seeds
6 Bay leaves
** save the remainder of your spices mix for the next curry.

Method:

1. Coat beef in 1 tablespoon of peanut oil and massaman curry paste. Stir well to coat and set aside.
2. In a large pot, heat remaining oil over a medium heat.
3. Add the curry-coated beef and brown for 1-2 minutes. Add the dry spices. Stir the beef well to coat it in the spices.
4. Add 1/2 can of coconut cream and 1/2 to 1 cup of water until the beef is just covered by the liquid. Stir well and then bring to the boil. Once boiling, turn heat down very low and cover. Gently simmer for 1 1/2 hours. (I leave them in a thermos cooker so I don’t even need to watch it)
5. After this time, add the remaining can of coconut cream, potatoes and peanuts. Stir well. Taste and add a little more fish sauce and sugar if necessary.
6. Turn heat up to medium and cover. Cook for another 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
7. Meanwhile, prepare the tamarind juice. Soak the dried tamarind seed in 2 tablespoons of warm water and use a spoon to push the pulp off the seeds into the water. The water will become brown and pulpy — this is tamarind juice. Discard the seeds.
8. Once the potatoes are cooked, remove the curry from the heat. Stir in the sugar and tamarind juice. Stir well and serve with Jasmine rice.

Spaghetti with meatballs in red wine tomato sauce


A friend was looking for an easy pasta dish to extend her family meal repertoire. Her daughter loves pasta and meatballs and so I thought to write up my recipe and share it with her.

If you don’t have time to prepare the meatballs, you can easily use the mince to make a spaghetti bolognese instead. Just omit the egg and panko crumbs while marinating, and fry off the meat after the shallots and onions.

Serves 2 hungry adults and 1 pasta-loving child

Ingredients

300g spaghetti

For meatballs:
500g minced beef and pork ( 50/50 is fine )
1 egg
2 tbsp tomato paste (condensed tomato)
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp thyme (dried is fine)
2 tbsp basil leaves, torn (dried is fine)
1 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp panko crumbs (or bread crumbs)

For sauce:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 shallots, finely diced
1 tbsp chilli flakes (optional)
small glass of red wine
1 tin, chopped tomatoes
1 tin, tomato purée
handful of basil leaves
100g pecorino cheese
salt to taste
Brown sugar to taste

Instructions

In a large bowl, mix the minced meat, egg, tomato paste, light soy sauce, sugar, diced shallots and herbs together. Using a small spoon, shape the meat into small balls and place in an oven proof dish. You will have about 30-40 small balls. This can be prepared night before.

Preheat the oven to 180C.
In a frying pan, gently sauté onions and shallots in the olive oil until soft. Add chili flakes and red wine, let it simmer for about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and purée and let it bring up to the boil. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes to reduce. Stir occasionally to avoid it catching on the bottom of the pan. Taste it while the sauce is cooking – trust your taste buds and add a bit of brown sugar if it tastes too sour for your liking.

While the sauce is cooking, put the dish of meatballs into the oven and bake for 15 minutes or till juices run clear. By all means try a piece.

At the same time, put water into a large pot and bring it to the boil. Add the pasta in and add 1 tsp of salt. Cook it till al dente, about 10-12 minutes. Test it close to the 10 minute mark as I find my kind of al dente might be different to yours and I certainly don’t always follow the suggested times in the packet 100%. Drain pasta and add to the sauce. Add the meatballs to the pan, mix well and serve with freshly grated pecorino cheese (optional) and freshly picked basil leaves.

20120927-160538.jpg

Quick and Easy Chicken Spaghetti Soup


It is a simple one pot dinner. I put everything in the pot, and while it cooks I can spend time with my family. My daughter can even help with tearing the meat. This is especially good for the cold winter when family members may be sick and need some simple hearty meals. You can turn it into a simpler, short-cut variation of this dish if you use chicken breast fillet rather than the whole chicken. However by keeping the chicken whole while cooking, moisture is retained and the chicken is a lot more succulent as a result.

Ingredients

2 litre chicken stock
1 litres water
2 carrots, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 medium onions, diced
6 black peppercorns
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp parsley
1 Tbsp thyme
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt and pepper
1 chicken breast fillet or 1 size 10 chicken or 3 chicken legs
1 packet of spaghetti

Instructions

  1. Place the chicken stock and water in a large stockpot and bring it to a boil.
  2. Add everything except the spaghetti. Bring it back to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to a simmer, skimming the surface of any foam. Cook for 40 minutes until the chicken is just done. If you are short in time and using chicken legs or chicken breast, simmer for 12 minutes only./li>;
  4. Remove the chicken and place in a large bowl of ice for it to cool. Skim and remove the peppercorns, garlic clove, parsley, thyme and bay leaf from the stock.
  5. Bring the stock back to a fast boil. Add in the spaghetti, and cook until the noodles are al dente (about 12 minutes).
  6. In the meantime, remove the skin from the chicken, and using your fingers, gently tear the meat off the bones. Set aside.
  7. Serve the chicken meat with the hot noodle soup.

Don’t forget to check out my earlier post for a chance to win $200 to spend at a camera shop!

Hand-shredded chicken with Japanese roasted sesame sauce


Who doesn’t love juicy, succulent chicken? Especially when it is cooked healthily with minimal effort? This dish only takes 20 minutes to make too – perfect for weeknights. By keeping the skin on the chicken while it’s steaming it helps retain the moisture of the chicken. I’ve used store bought Japanese roasted sesame sauce here. Previously I have tried mixing my own, using sesame paste, sugar and vinegar for a Sichuan flavour sauce. It isn’t as tasty as this Japanese style sauce though! So I’ve given in. I’m all for letting J participate in the makings of a dish. This one I let her pour in the sesame sauce just as we are about to serve it, she loves her ‘job’!

Ingredients

4 boneless chicken thigh cutlets or chicken breasts, skin on
1/4 telegraph cucumber, julienned
2 spring onion, whites only, juilenned
A handful of coriander, leaves only, washed and dried
About 4 tbsp Japanese roasted sesame sauce (more if you prefer a stronger taste)

Instructions
Marinate the chicken with 3 tbsp light soy sauce, 1.5 tbsp sugar, 1 tbsp corn flour, 1 tbsp of shao shing wine (or sherry).

Steam the chicken in a wok for 10 minutes.
While the chicken is cooking, prepare your vegetables and place in a bowl.
Remove the chicken and let it cool a bit.
Put on some disposable gloves (making sure there is no powder on the gloves! Or wash your gloved hands). Remove the chicken skin and tear the chicken meat into strips, following along its natural contours.
Pile into the bowl with the vegetables.
Pour over sesame sauce.
Mix and serve.
Simple. Easy. Delicious.