I realised last week there has been a total lack of recipes lately – September 20th was the last time in fact. It’s not that there hasn’t been any cooking going on – there has. And plenty of eating too. It’s very easy to be distracted in Shanghai.
Take my Chinese lessons which I have just started again once a week. My first attempt was very much classroom bound and I really struggled with the style of teaching. Lecturing more like. Each lesson was a totally different subject so Tuesday would be “the doctor” and Thursday would be ‘in a taxi’. We were allowed to ‘practise’ with the person sitting next to us and that was all. There was no repetition and I missed the only two classes I was really interested in – ordering in a restaurant and the wet market. Apparently that can be covered in a two hour class.
So now I meet the very lovely (and patient) Zoe once a week. Sometimes we meet at the wet market much to the stallholders delight and amusement and I practise asking for my fruit, veg and pork. This is me being easily distracted taking photos of all the ladies doing their embroidery instead of asking for a jin of tomatoes. Like I said Zoe is very patient.
Other times we meet in a local cafe and I try to have a conversation. It’s very basic and I’m mortified at my attempts and too self conscious to actually make any headway but it makes going to the market a little more enjoyable.
What is interesting is realising that every word in Chinese is a picture so the literal translation can often help in memorising vocabulary. Pork mince translates as ‘pork rice’ because the minced meat resembles rice grains – there is no such thing as ‘low fat’ mince here as the fattier joints are the most prized.
After Zoe explained I was trying to learn Mandarin, Mrs Fang the butchers wife now goes out of her way to help me, often making me repeat everything until she is happy with my pronunciation. The problem is that when I appear at the stall, Mrs Fang explains to everyone else what I am doing so then every head turns towards me and I have to try my best not to get stage fright. It’s a slow process but it keeps every else amused even if it brings me out in a cold sweat!!
And because I am a soft touch I can’t go to the wet market without buying pork if she catches my eye. I’ve bought pork ribs, both thick & thin, had them cut in half for American ribs and into small pieces for spicy Hunnan ribs. I’ve bought pork chops, pork loin and pork belly for bacon. And now I’ve bought pork mince. If I come back with a pig’s head you can shoot me.
Six months ago there is no way I would ever have bought mince from the market. But now I see Mr Fang mincing the offcuts throughout the day and most of the time his counter top is closed unlike some of the other stalls. And in any case his mince looks fresher than some of the vacuumed packed stuff in Carrefour.
This filling is one that I use regularly but it’s easy to mess around with it. I know fennel and Stilton are strong flavours for some so feel free to leave out – it’s no biggie. I like to keep the apple chunky otherwise it disappears if you grate it and can make the pastry soggy. And no one liked soggy pastry.
This was my first attempt at olive oil pastry and I have to say it’s a keeper. I used this Karen Martini recipe and it was simple beyond belief. I don’t have a processor at the moment because the cheap and cheerful Made in China one I bought when we landed didn’t last – there’s a shock. Anyway, the pastry came together by hand in 5 minutes in one bowl and washing up was easier than using a processor.
What you need to know:
- There is no good substitute for a buttery, flaky, puff pastry sausage roll but this comes pretty close. It’s not ‘short’ but it does have a crispiness to it. That sounds a bit bollox but you’ll know what I mean when you try it.
- As much as I love the buttery pastry that I use for hand held pies, I’m sure this recipe will replace it in the future.
- No pastry expertise is required – just rub everything together, let it rest, roll it out and give it an egg wash. Easy peasy. If you’ve got kids in the house they could make this with very little supervision.
- If you’re going half/half with/without Stilton don’t sprinkle sesame seeds on the without rolls so you’ll know which is which.
And then because I was on a roll (hahaha) and had bought liange jin of tomatoes (that’ll be a kilo to you) I threw together Nigel Slater’s chunky tomato ketchup. Which was almost too simple but goes a long way to explaining my culinary crush on every thing Nigel.
The recipe looks long and tedious but I promise it’s not.
- 500g plain flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 60ml extra virgin olive oil
- 250ml cold water
- 1 egg whisked
- ¼ cup sesame seeds
- 800g minced pork
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp each salt & cracked pepper
- 1 apple, cored and diced
- 25g breadcrumbs
- 100g Stilton
- 2 red onions, thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- ½ small red chilli, chopped
- 800g tomatoes
- 3 tbsp caster sugar
- 2 tbsp malt vinegar
- 2 star anise
- 1 tsp Szechuan peppercorns, finely ground
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1tbsp minced ginger
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- Preheat oven to 180C.
- In a large bowl mix the flour and salt together. Stir in the olive oil with a spatula to start and then use your fingers to break up the lumps as you would when making shortcrust party. You will have fine crumbs in a few minutes.
- Stir in the cold water with the spatula and then use your hands until the pastry comes together in a soft ball.
- Tip onto a light floured surface, knead for a minute and then wrap in glad wrap and rest in the fridge for an hour. If you have more time, give it two hours.
- Whilst the pastry is resting mix all the sausage meat ingredients together apart from the Stilton.
- Take the pastry out of the fridge and cut in half. Working with one half at a time. on a lightly floured surface roll pastry out in an approximate rectangle – you can see from the photos how approximate I was!
- Cut the pastry in half lengthways. Work out how large you want your sausage rolls to be and shape the meat into lengths to fit the width of the pastry. I was able to stretch the pastry out when I went a little too OTT with the sausage meat.
- If you’re using Stilton take small pieces between your fingers and squash them onto the top of the sausage roll as shown.
- Brush one edge of the pastry with the egg wash, fold over so it overlaps by 2cm and then cut into pieces.
- Place on a tray lined with non-stick paper and brush again with egg wash. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
- Bake for about 20 minutes for small rolls or 25 minutes for larger one until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is piping hot. If you burn you mouth when you taste test they are ready.
- In a heavy pan and over a low heat warm the olive oil and then add the onions and sweat gently for about 5 minutes.
- Roughly chop around 600g of the tomatoes and blitz the remainder in a blender.
- Add the sugar to the onions and continue to cook until the onions are dark and gooey and then add the vinegar, all the tomatoes and chilli. Simmer for 5 minutes and then add the star anise, peppercorns, paprika, ginger and mustard.
- Cook at a simmer for another 15 minutes until the tomatoes collapse when you press them with the back of a spoon.
- The ketchup will be still chunky with a little liquid. Remove from the heat and spoon into a clean jar. Seal, cool and store in the fridge for up to a month.