What’s in Honey Soy Chicken Wings?

I’ve espoused the virtues of chicken wings before in a previous chicken wing recipe, but I’m surprised it wasn’t for this honey soy recipe (probably because I’ve made it so many times I’m on auto-pilot and forget that I’m actually making them).

The actual name of the dish is pretty misleading. If you just mixed honey and soy with chicken wings, it’ll taste pretty flat. It should actually be called Garlic, ginger, honey and soy chicken wings, because it’s really the garlic and ginger that gives it that delicious kick. When I first found the recipe, I scoffed because I really did just want to mix honey, soy and wings together. Who wants to fuss with garlic and ginger? Well, you need to if you want something yummy.

If the Cherubs have a friend over for dinner for the first time, there’s a fair chance they’ll ask for honey soy chicken wings to be served. It’s almost an initiation ritual – if you like these wings as much as I do, then you’re ok and we can definitely be friends. Thus far, luckily for the Cherubs, the wings have received a resounding thumbs up from everyone. And I usually then get a text from their friend’s mum asking for the recipe. So here it is!

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Honey Soy Chicken Wings

Serves: 6 people

 Ingredients:

  • 2 kg chicken mid-wings
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 2 tablespoons ginger, finely grated

Cook:

  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees
  • Line 2 baking trays with baking paper
  • Mix honey, soy sauce, garlic and ginger in a large bowl until combined
  • Add the chicken mid-wings and mix well
  • Arrange the mid-wings in a single layer on the baking trays
  • Bake for 20 minutes, then turn mid-wings and bake for another 20 minutes or until the chicken is nicely browned.
  • Serve with rice and steamed vegetables or salad.

Notes:

  • Mid-wings are the wing bits of choice in our family, but if you’re keen on meatier parts, go for the drummettes.

Prosperity: Crispy Skin Pork Belly

As I’ve mentioned before, the Chinese believe that having meat or even just a lot to eat is a sure sign of prosperity.

If you’ve ever been to a Chinese wedding at a Chinese restaurant, you’ll know what I mean. It’s an 8 to 10 course meat and seafood fest, with vegies just there for aesthetic reasons.

I loved those banquets (I’m at an age where pretty much all my friends are married, and I now have to wait for the next generation to offer me such a feast). I could never pace myself properly and was always almost too stuffed to eat the moreish carb-rich longevity noodles they serve at the end. I said almost, because you need to balance all the protein with something and it may as well be a plate full of white noodles. And then it would be disrespectful not to eat the desserts on offer…

Many years ago, a Chinese friend’s dad came home grumbling about a Chinese couple’s wedding he had attended at the Hilton Hotel in the city. He complained about only being served 3 courses, how they brought out huge plates but didn’t fill them up – there was only a tiny bit of food in the middle, and the only option for dessert was the wedding cake! He consoled himself by driving down to Chinatown afterwards for congee with salted pork and century egg for supper.

The same thought process applies to Chinese New Year – duck, chicken, pork, beef, fish, prawns and abalone – preferably all served in the same meal. The goal is to stuff yourself to the brim, and the aim is to still have food left over because it means you’ll have a prosperous year. And who doesn’t want a prosperous year?

One of my favourite meats is pork belly with crispy skin. The Chinese sometimes refer to pork belly as ‘three layered meat’, but I think ‘three layered fat’ is more to the point. However, meat (and fat) this tasty shouldn’t be shied away from – just embrace the amazing flavoursomeness, the juicy, tender layers of white pork lovingly sandwiched between soft, melt-in-your-mouth fat, topped off with crunchingly fabulously fatty crackling… just don’t embrace for too long or too often. It’s definitely a sometimes food!

With Chinese New Year just around the corner, in honour of those gluttonous protein packed banquets and looking forward to many more, here’s my easy crispy skin roast pork belly recipe.

Crispy Skin Pork Belly

Serves: 6 people

Gluten free

Ingredients:

  • 750g pork belly (ask your butcher to score the skin for you)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice powder

Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Prep:

1 day before:

  • Scrape the bristles off the pork rind if there are any
  • Dry the pork rind with a kitchen towel
  • Rub the pork with the salt and spice
  • Leave uncovered overnight

Cooking:

  • Take out the pork an hour before cooking
  • Preheat oven to 240 degrees celsius
  • For the sauce, combine the ingredients and set aside
  • Place pork, skin side up on a rack in a roasting tin
  • Roast for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 200 degrees celsius
  • Cook for 40 – 45 minutes until crispy
  • Let the pork rest for at least 10 minutes and cut into pieces
  • Serve with the sauce, rice and vegies

Notes:

  • Yes, you do need to prep this up the day beforehand (I sometimes do it 2 days before) because you want to dry out the skin as much as you can – this helps with the crisping process. The advantage of doing the prep the day before is that all you have to do on the day is pop it into the oven.
  • Score the skin in widths that you would like to serve the pork in. This makes life easier because you can just slice along the score lines when you’re ready to serve.
  • The skin should crackle and bubble. During the cooking time, if the skin isn’t bubbling or blistering – take the pork out and brush the rendered fat sitting on the bottom of the tin onto the skin – this will help the crisping process.
  • The lemon in the hoisin sauce helps to cut through the fattiness of the pork.

Fund-Raiser Biscuits

The call’s out. It’s the annual Christmas-Twilight-Market-fund-raising event for the Cherub’s school.They’re asking for volunteers to help out at a food stall, sell tickets, set up or pack up.

This is probably going to get me into some trouble, but I never volunteer to do any of that. I don’t want to set up or pack up and I don’t want to stand for 2 hours cooking and serving dumplings (especially since at the last fund-raiser, they ran out of dumplings by the time I got to the front of the queue. I’m not bitter about it though).

I’m exhausted by the end of each day without having to do extra work as it is. I like to browse the stalls at my leisure, sit down when I want and eat when I want. Besides, they need people to give their funds, so they can actually raise funds right? But kudos and thank you to the amazing parents and teachers who do volunteer their time and energy, I absolutely admire their generosity : )

However, the beauty of fund-raisers is that there’s always a cake stall! And I’ll happily bake something that I would love to eat for the stall. In the last few years, I’ve baked things like oatmeal and raisin cookies, banana muffins, chocolate crackles… all sugar reduced, whole-meal flour and with 70% chocolate where applicable.

It’s not a competition, but why do I always only see the school kids running around with biscuits laden with sprinkles from an unnatural origin and cupcakes piled 3 cms high with garish coloured icing sugar. Bless my little Panda, she always dutifully buys one of my ‘natural’ looking creations and eats it quietly next to me.

Again, it’s not a competition, but this time round, I’m gonna join ’em (ok, so the Cherubs pleaded with me to make something yummy AND fun – but don’t I always??). This year, I’m going to try to make plain WHITE flour  butter cookies dipped in chocolate (Panda’s request) and HUNDREDS and THOUSANDS (Soccer Boy’s request)… Ok, I still reduced the sugar (but not to Sally standards, promise it’s just a small reduction) and the chocolate is a mix of milk and 50% dark chocolate. Did you know milk chocolate has 3 times more sugar than 70% dark chocolate?!?

And if I don’t see cute little kids with butter cookie, chocolate and hundreds and thousands smears on their faces at the markets, I have 2 kgs of icing sugar at home and I’m (sort of) not afraid to use it for the next fund-raiser.

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Butter biscuits dipped in chocolate and sprinkles

Makes: 50

Egg free

Ingredients:

  • 250g softened butter
  • 120g (3/4 cup) sifted icing sugar
  • 375g (2 1/2 cups) sifted plain flour
  • 200g chocolate of your choice
  • Sprinkles (OPTIONAL!!)

Let’s bake!

  • Beat butter and icing sugar  with electric mixer until light and fluffy
  • Stir the flour into the mix in two batches until just combined
  • Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth
  • Divide the dough in half and roll each half into a 25 cm log
  • Cover each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about one hour or until firm
  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius
  • Line a baking tray with baking paper
  • Cut the logs into 1 cm slices and place them 2.5 cm apart on the baking tray
  • Bake for about 10 mins
  • Let the biscuits cool on the trays
  • Boil water in a pot
  • Pour the sprinkles (if using) into a small bowl
  • Break the chocolate up into pieces and put into a metal heat proof bowl
  • Put the bowl on top of the pot, making sure that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water
  • Mix the chocolate occasionally until the chocolate has melted
  • Dip the biscuits into the chocolate
  • Dip the biscuits into the sprinkles bowl
  • Leave to set on a tray lined with baking paper or if it’s a warm day, just pop it into the fridge to set.

Notes:

  • When you’re creaming the butter and sugar, you can add the grated rind of a lemon or lime, vanilla essence or any essence you prefer. You can also add nuts to the biscuits before you bake them. I just made plain biscuits this time because the Cherubs asked me not to try anything fancy : (
  • In case you’re wondering – I didn’t buy the 2 kg of icing sugar. My sister A’s neighbour had a lot of it and gave it to AA doesn’t use icing sugar, so she gave it all to me : )

 

Bo Luc Lac (Shaking Beef)

It’s always good to have a few recipes where you’re guaranteed a favourable reception when you take the plate to the table. No one wants to bring a dish out after all that effort in the kitchen just to get heart-felt exclamations of Oh not this! or I don’t want to eat it. I want a cheese sandwich or worse still – stoned silence.

Soccer Boy isn’t too keen on eating meat, but will always ask for seconds when I serve bo luc lac. It’s a Vietnamese dish and translates to ‘shaking beef’ – not because the beef’s scared of being eaten, the crazy amount of garlic will make anyone scared of opening their mouths again, or the eaters are scared to actually eat it, but because you’re supposed to shake the wok to sear the sides of the beef.

For some reason, the transition from cold Winter to warm Spring weather always reminds me to make this dish. And the beauty of bo luc lac? The combination of the fish sauce and garlic is an amazingly strong flavour combination, resulting in a very yummy and moreish meal. Yay! We’re having ‘look luck’ for dinner! It’s fresh and light. It’s quick to prepare and cook. Bring it on!

Vietnamese Shaking Beef

Serves 4

Gluten Free

Ingredients

  • 400g beef sirloin or rump cut into 2cm cubes
  • 6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • ¾ tablespoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Lemon wedges and coriander, to serve

Let’s get shaking!

  • Combine all the ingredients (except lemon and coriander) and coat the beef well with the marinade. Let it stand for at least 1/2 an hour, or in the fridge for about 2 hours.
  • Preheat a wok over high heat and add 2 tablespoons oil to coat the pan
  • When the oil is hot, add the beef in a single layer (there should be a sizzling sound – if there isn’t, take the meat out and wait a little longer). Don’t move the beef around – let it sear for about 1 minute
  • Grab the wok by the handle and give it a quick shake to flip the meat to sear the other side for another minute
  • Shake the wok again and check to see that the sides of the beef are seared and even a little charred and the meat is medium rare – this should only take another 3 minutes.
  • Take the beef out and serve with the lemon wedges, coriander, fresh vegies and rice.

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Notes:

  • I always cook 2 kgs of this dish (!) and so prefer to cook on the bbq because I can do a large amount at once on the hotplate, with the heat at super high to get that spectacular char on the meat that I think is an absolute must for this dish.
  • My mum sometimes forgoes the rice and just wraps the beef in a piece of lettuce with a squeeze of lemon and coriander. Yummy!

Creamy Mushroom Soup

If my high school Economics teacher remembers me at all, I think he’d be proud that I’m consciously putting some economics theory into practice. Namely FIFO, or the practice of First-In-First-Out.

I’m trying to get into the habit of clearing out the fridge once a week, and I’m instigating a FIFE program. Or the practice of First-In-First-Eat – the older stuff to be eaten first before we buy fresh ones. It’s a bit of scary task because sometimes I really don’t want to know what mouldy/slimey/shriveled vegetable or fruit is lurking in the back of my fridge. Because if – ok, when I do find something, I feel bad having to throw it out (even if it does go to our pet worms), or worse, trying to find something useful to do with it. Like cooking it.

I knew my program wasn’t working too well when Daddyken came home from the shops with a lovely bag of plump, white button mushrooms (which I put on the shopping list). And I’d just found a bag of half shriveled brown ones (they used to be plump and white) crammed in the back corner of the fridge from 2 weeks ago.

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But you know sometimes when things just align and come together right before your eyes when you least expect it? Well, today was one of my alignment days. Daddyken asked me what I wanted to do with the 2 leeks that a neighbour had given him a few days before, at the precise moment that I found half a bottle of cream that was nearing its use-by date. Mushrooms. Leeks. Cream. Just like that Ebony and Ivory song, but with mushrooms, leeks and cream.

This is a mushroom soup recipe based on one that Daddyken’s aunt gave me a few years ago, but I never got around to making it because I’ve never accidentally had mushrooms, leeks and cream in the one place, at the same time, begging to be used. And I’m cooking another yummy non-protein meal. Destiny was never so obvious as today.

Creamy Mushroom Soup

Gluten free

Serves 3 – 4

Ingredients

  • 60 g butter
  • 1 – 2 leeks, white part only, chopped
  • 250 g mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons chopped chives
  • 3 – 4 slices sourdough bread (optional)

Let’s Cook!

  • Melt butter in a pot on medium-high heat
  • Add leeks and cook until soft
  • Add mushrooms, chicken stock, wine and Dijon mustard
  • Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes
  • Add cream and take off the heat
  • Puree with a stick blender
  • Stir in chives and serve with sourdough bread

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Notes:

  • I used 2 leeks because the ones we had were half the size of the regular ones I buy from the shops, and I also needed to use them up : )

Cauliflower and Mushroom Soup

I suck at doing vegetables. I really do. Salads? No balance and drenched in dressing. Stir fries? Never enough ‘wok breath’. So I just alternate between vegie sticks and steamed broccoli every night.

And I’m not saying it just to garner protestations in favour of my culinary genius with non-proteins. Because seriously, there’d be a long uncomfortable silence from everyone.

Except maybe my family. With my family, honesty is generously doled out like the continuous stream of water that gushes out when there’s a massive hole in the water pipe out in the street. Daddyken might say something supportive like Oh but you steam your vegies perfectly most times or You chop your fresh vegies really well. But I don’t make him in trouble for being such a smart ass, because firstly, he’s right, and secondly, it gives me a chance to remind him of his repertoire of culinary disasters.

I’m more comfortable cooking and eating meat, because that’s what I grew up with. In the olden times, meat was expensive, so the Chinese believed that having lots of protein to eat meant that your family was prosperous and doing well. So vegetables are really just an aside.

Notice how Peking duck pancakes only come with a sliver of cucumber and a shallot? I think the vegies are mostly for colour, because if you took the vegies out, duck skin, duck meat, hoisin sauce and a little floury pancake would still taste amazing. So the odds were cumulatively stacking up against me and vegies anyway.

However, things on the green front are now looking a little more promising. Since Soccer Boy started school, I’ve been working from home 1 – 2 days a week and found that I needed a lunch that had flavour, was easy to eat and not messy (oily touch pads on laptops make life hard). Also, I didn’t want anything heavy as I was pretty much sitting down for 4 hours straight (the toilets are a lot closer at home than they are in the office, so it almost doesn’t feel like I’ve actually moved at all).

That’s why I love this Cauliflower and Mushroom soup. Even though it’s light, I’m not faint from hunger an hour later, and it can be made in advance and frozen until needed. I also get a little buzz from the fact that I’m cooking with vegetables – and it’s absolutely delicious!

Cauli Mush Soup

Cauliflower and Mushroom Soup

Serves 3 – 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 leeks, chopped into 1/2 cm rounds
  • 500g button mushrooms
  • 1 medium cauliflower
  • 3 teaspoons curry powder
  • 3 teaspoons Dijon mustard (or to taste)
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
  • Sour cream (optional)
  • 3 – 4 slices sourdough (optional)

Cook:

  • Preheat oven to 180°C
  • Coarsely chop mushrooms and cauliflower and put on separate trays lined with foil
  • Sprinkle 1 ½ teaspoons curry powder and 1 tablespoon olive oil over each tray
  • Bake for 25 minutes
  • Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a pot over medium-high heat
  • Add leeks and cook until softened
  • Add mushrooms, cauliflower, Dijon mustard and stock to the pot
  • Cook until it comes to a boil
  • Add cream and take off the heat
  • Season to taste
  • Puree with a stick blender
  • Serve with sour cream, parsley and toasted sour dough bread

Notes:

  • Don’t worry if you don’t have the patience to puree all the vegies – the little chunks give it texture.
  • You can omit the cream if you prefer – the original recipe didn’t ask for it : )
  • I like my soups thick, but if you prefer yours runnier, just add more stock.
  • Fried, crumbled prosciutto on top makes it extra yummy… but heavier!

Coconut Flour Brownies

If you took a quick look in my pantry, you’d think I’d be able to live off it for at least 2 months if all the supermarkets were hit by exploding space rocks sent by greenie aliens gleefully plotting to make us more self-sustainable.

But that’s all just speculation (about my pantry content). So if the above does happen, I don’t want to go to the cupboard and find it bare – of food actually within the limits of their use by date.

And so I found the 1 kg bag of coconut flour bought late last year because I’m a sucker for a good marketing spiel – High in fibre! Digestible carbohydrates! Low GI! Healthy fats! And never thought through how I would use them in a practical way in my everyday life (I’m also looking at you agave syrup).

So my first foray into the world of the coconut flour was coconut flour pancakes. Six eggs and some coconut flour later, Soccer Boy cried for his ‘usual’ while Panda gagged. The texture was grainy, the combined smell of the eggs and coconut was too strong and a little unpleasant, and it just tasted heavy. I ended up wondering what the hell I was going to do with 15 pancakes (we’re kind of on a sustainability and reducing waste kind of theme here so I won’t tell you what I did with them).

Not to be deterred, and aware that the count-down to its use by date would be soon approaching, but strangely confident that the aliens wouldn’t make their move until I used up the coconut flour and replaced it with something that the Cherubs would actually eat in our lock-down, I present to you my quick and easy 1 bowl, 1 spoon Coconut Flour Brownie Recipe.

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Coconut Flour Brownies

(Gluten free)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup cacao powder
  • 1/2 butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
  • 3 eggs at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • Icing sugar (optional)

Let’s bake!

  • Preheat oven to 150°
  • Line a 20 x 20 baking tin with baking paper so it covers the bottom and sides
  • Put all ingredients except the icing sugar in a large bowl and mix until well combined
  • Transfer to tin and smooth down with a spatula
  • Bake for 30 mins or until a skewer inserted into the middle of it comes out clean
  • Leave to cool in tin
  • Dust with icing sugar if desired, but they’re just as good without

Notes:

  • If the mixture is thick and hard to smooth down, just do what you can and put it into the oven. Wait 10 mins, then take it out to smooth down when it’s warmed up a little.
  • I find honey is a little too thick to use in the winter with this recipe, so I prefer to use maple syrup in the colder months.
  • The flower in the image is an edible native violet that we’ve got growing in our garden. It tastes like mild grass.
  • The original recipe asked for 1/2 a cup of honey or maple syrup, but I found it a little too sugary for my liking so I’ve reduce the quantity.
  • You can substitute coconut oil for the butter if you want to make it a paleo brownie. The Cherubs found the coconut oil version too strong on the coconut.