This has become one of my favourite dishes to take work for lunch. It is easy to make, healthy and very convenient to eat. It is also comforting… It is probably miles away from the real thing, but it still tastes good enough to pass every foodie standard of deliciousness.
Sweet and sour chicken (adapted from Dave Myers and Si King’s The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight)
- 1 x 425g/15oz can pineapple chunks in natural juice
- 2 tbsp cornflour
- 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp soft light brown sugar
- 2 tbsp tomato ketchup
- ½ tsp dried chilli flakes
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 2 tbsp sunflower oil
- 1 medium onion, cut into 12 wedges
- 2 peppers, red, green, orange or yellow, deseeded and cut into chunks of about 3cm/1¼in
- 100g of Brazil nuts
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 25g/1oz piece fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated
- freshly ground black pepper
To make the sauce, drain the pineapple in a sieve over a bowl and keep all the juice – you should have about 150ml/5fl oz. Put the cornflour in a large bowl and stir in three tablespoons of the pineapple juice to make a smooth paste. Add the remaining juice and 150ml/5fl oz water, then stir in the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, ketchup and chilli flakes until thoroughly combined. Set aside.
Cut each chicken breast into eight or nine even pieces. Heat a tablespoon of the oil in a large non-stick frying pan or wok and stir-fry the onion and peppers for two minutes over a high heat. Drain the water chestnuts and cut them in half horizontally.
Add the remaining oil and the chicken to the pan and stir-fry for two minutes until coloured on all sides. Add the garlic, ginger, pineapple chunks and water chestnuts and stir-fry for 30–60 seconds.
Give the cornflour and pineapple mixture a good stir and add it to the pan with the chicken and vegetables. Stir well, season with some ground black pepper and bring to a simmer. Cook for 4–6 minutes until the sauce is thickened and glossy and the chicken is tender and cooked throughout, turning the chicken and vegetables a few times. Serve with a small portion of rice.
Last time I tried pork and prawn balls, it was a mess… After that, I talked myself to never try this dish again and stick to the Asian restaurant around the corner for my prawn and pork fix. Then, I saw Gordon Ramsay cooking them on his Ultimate Cookery Course and I sort of changed my mind. As usual, a very brief list of ingredients and a method which looked foul proof – definitely something worthwhile trying. In fact, it is so easy to do it has become one dishes I do over and over again. In less than 30min, I have the balls ready to be eaten. To make it even more convenient, once fried, the balls keep in the fridge for a few days. All you have to worry about is get the stock going and in less than 10min, you have your freshly cooked dinner ready. For added valued, almost not fat and no carbohydrates in sight…
Pork and prawn balls in aromatic broth (adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course)
For the balls
- 100g raw prawns, peeled, deveined and finely chopped until almost minced
- 250g minced pork
- 1½ tbsp finely chopped chives
- 1.5cm piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and diced
- Enough sunflower sun for pan frying the balls
- 2 big handfuls of spinach
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 spring onion, trimmed and finely sliced, to garnish
For the aromatic broth
- 1L stock, home-made or from stock cubes
- 1 lemon grass stalk
- 2 whole star anise
- 2 teaspoon oyster sauce
- 2 teaspoon soy sauce
- 2cm piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
Place the minced shrimps in a bowl with the pork, chives and ginger. Season with a good pinch of salt and pepper and mix until the ingredients are well combined and sticking together. Roll the mixture into small balls about the size of a golf ball. Transfer to a plate, cover and chill until needed.
Meanwhile, get started on the broth. Heat the stock in a saucepan, add the other ingredients and mix well. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and gently simmer for 10 minutes to infuse, then taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.
Heat a heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat and add a dash of oil. Fry the pork and prawn balls, turning frequently, for 6–7 minutes until golden brown all over. Transfer into the gently simmering pan of broth and leave to cook for 5 minutes until the balls are cooked through. Add the spinach and cook for 1 minute until just wilted.
Taste the dish and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve garnished with spring onions
And another cook off: pork and prawns balls in aromatic broth. It is a bit of a foreign taste to my Mediterranean roots, but still delicious enough to me go back to it over and over again. Nothing that I would cook for myself, though. Never having cooked them before, the broths seem too complex and the flavours seem to be quite hard to get in the right proportions.
But, this Hairy Dieter’s version seemed achievable. A lot of work, but still, within my possibilities… Halfway through the process, there was a lot of huffing, puffing and fiddling around. Indeed it soon become a full blown mess, which included the mixer to go on strike to never work again. To make matters worse, it wasn’t as delicious as one would expect after all process. Well, maybe I haven’t “followed the recipe to the letter”, as The Hairy Dieter’s strong recommend, but after all this effort, I was somehow expecting something a bit more elevated… It is very unlikely I will try it again.
Pork and prawns balls in vegetables and noodles aromatic broth (adapted from Dave Myers and Si King’s The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight)
For the broth
- 2 liters chicken stock
- 2 lemongrass stalks
- 4 chillies (2 cut across, 2 deseed and thinly sliced)
- 6 kaffir lime leaves, dried or fresh
- 2 long shallots, thinly sliced
- 50g fresh root ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved lengthways
- 4 tablespoons of fresh lime juice (1 1/2 limes)
- 3 tablespoons of Thai fish sauce
- 2 medium carrots peeled and cut to thin ribbons with a vegetable peeler
- 1 small red pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 small yellow pepper, thinly sliced
- 150 chestnut mushrooms
- 150 mangetout
- 50g fine vermicelli rice noodles
- large handfull of fresh coriander
For the pork and shrimp balls
- 250g lean minced pork
- 100g cooked peeled prawns, thawed if frozen
- 1/2 long shallot peeled and finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 chili, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoons of cornflour
- fine salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh coriander leaves
Start with the broth, pour the stock in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer and add the lemongrass stalks. Split w of the chillies lengthways almost all the way through and pop them in the pan.
Add the lime leaves, half the sliced shallots and finally, all the ginger and garlic. Bring the broth to a low simmer and cook gently for 20min. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to stand for about 30min.
While waiting for the broth to cool down, start the balls. Put the minced pork and prawns in a large bowl. Add the chopped shallots, garlic, deseeded chilli, cornflour, salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper in food processor. Blend to make a tick, slightly textured purée. Add the coriander leaves and it another quick blitz until just combined. Take out the processor blade the roll the pork and prawn mixture into 20 small balls.
Strain the infused stock through a sieve into a clean pan. Stir in the remaining sliced shallot, lime juice and fish sauce. Stir in the remaining chillies, very finely chopped. Bring to a gentle simmer and add to the pork balls. Let it cook for 5 minutes, allowing the liquid to bubble gently. In the meanwhile, cut the carrots into large ribbons using a vegetable peeler. Deseed the peppers and slice them thinly; clean and slice the mushrooms. Trim the mangetout and cut them in half diagonally. Still the carrot strips, mushrooms, mange tout, peppers and noodles into the broth and let it simmer for 3-4min more, or until the pork balls are cooked through and the vegetables and noodles are just tender, stirring occasionally.
Ladle the broth into deep bowls and scatter the coriander on the top.