Sunday, 26 June 2011

Char Siew - Chinese BBQ pork

I miss home. I miss being able to roam out for dinner, scouring the food court for good cheap fare. If there's anything my stay here has taught me however, it's that a lot of the food that I and many others miss can be replicated to varying degrees of success. One which I have not seen done too often though is char siew - Chinese BBQ pork. Typically, the meat is marinated in a sweet sauce made of various ingredients, including honey, hoisin sauce and rice wine, amongst others, before being roasted, all the while being basted with the same sweet sauce. The process is pretty involved, which given the timetable constraints faced by most university students, might explain why I never saw my friends try this at home.

Curiosity got the better of me however, and when I came across the Sainsbury's Basics Pork Shoulder Joint, I knew I had to try it, somehow. If anything, I guess to the British readers who form the majority of my reading audience it might be an interesting variation on the traditional pork roast.

In coming up with a recipe for char siew I made use of two references. The recipe itself was by and large taken with slight modifications given what I had to hand in my kitchen from Jacqui Tezyk's Recipe Quest, a forum where recipes are shared between members. I used this as it featured marmalade, which piqued my curiosity; perhaps the author is also based away from home and had to improvise. The cooking technique from Rasa Malaysia was used as it appeared to be more suitable for cooking large joints of meat similar to what I bought.

Combine the following for 1.4kg of meat:
  • 2 tablespoons marmalade
  • 4 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed and finely chopped
  • 8 tablespoons light soya sauce
  • 2 tablespoon dark soya sauce
  • 3 tablespoons honey

Soak the meat in the marinade overnight, draining all fluid from the pork before putting into the bowl. If you made a mistake like me and had the fluid in the bowl, set it up as follows, damming the marinade up, assuming the bowl is that small.

The following day, preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Shake off excess marinade from the pork before transferring to a roasting pan.

To calculate the amount of time needed for roasting, for every 500g of pork, add 45 minutes, and on top of all that add an additional 20 minutes. After 30 minutes, reduce the temperature of the oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Reduce the excess marinade that you may have, and one hour before the roast is due to be done, take out of the oven and coat with the reduction.

It's a pity that I burnt the skin of the pork, as it would probably have been one of the tastiest parts of the joint. I'm supposed to bring this for my bible study group session on Tuesday evening, but I have had a taste of the reduced marinade and have found it to be close enough to the taste of char siew that I'm familiar with. Not sure how much the marmalade actually contributed though.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Medium-cut Marmalade£0.30454g+£0.61Choice of cut, higher fruit content
Boneless Pork Shoulder£2.99/kgby weight+£2.00/kgNot known, better pork quality?

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Honey Beer Cake

It has been a while since my trip to the States. While I was there I have had the privilege to get to meet my counterparts at work and people who like me have left our home country to be overseas. While staying over at one of theirs I came across Booze Cakes, a cookbook dedicated to making cakes using alcohol. While this might raise a few eyebrows in the UK, this is perhaps considered normal amongst Americans. In any case, within the book was a recipe that would come in useful in running down my leftover Basics lager, while also providing the British another way to enjoy what is by far their most popular form of alcohol - beer.

I have decided to make a few changes to the recipe found in the book, adding Sainsbury's Basics sultanas. Having never tried these sultanas before I cannot offer much information on them, so I went to do a bit of research. It appears that sultanas actually refer more to a grape variety, although they are nowadays commonly accepted to be the raisin derived from the grape. Known for their sweetness, sultanas are also also known as the threeway grape to their triple use in winemaking, raisins, and being served as table grapes. In light of this information perhaps a future feature on wine cake might be appropriate.

But for now, let's begin. Mix together 430g of Basics plain flour with about 3 teaspoons of Bicarbonate of Soda, a bit of salt and some cinnamon, and set aside.

Cream one stick of Sainsbury's Basics butter and sugar until fluffy. Add four eggs before adding 10 tablespoons of Basics honey.

Pour in the flour mixture and beer, alternating between the two. Fold in the sultanas and bake at 165 degrees Celsius for 45 minutes, or until a knife can be cleanly inserted and taken out.

Please don't do as I have done and use the Pyrex bowl that you mixed the cake batter in for baking. Transfer the lot into a shallow tray instead, to allow the cake to cook quicker. It also helps with the washing up as the cooked cake batter on the surface around the inside of the bowl is now harder to remove.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Sultanas£0.99500g+£0.55Not known

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Home-made Jaffa Cakes

If there is anything that I would miss when I go back home, it's Jaffa Cakes. Apparently I'm not alone too; while browsing on the web, I have come across many people outside of the UK who laments the lack of availability of the incredible chocolate-topped snack cake with an orangey centre. Or if they're available, that they're not affordable. Already I get regular complaints from readers who came to the UK for studies and have since gone back to their respective hometowns about not being able to get their Jaffa Cake fix, and that efforts to try to get their local distributor for McVities products to import the snack have proven in vain.

The next best thing then, is to make the cakes from scratch. A quick Google search reveals that the Jaffa cake is nothing more than a low-fat sponge topped with some gelatinous substance before the entire top is coated with chocolate. The difficult bit is trying to find the low-fat sponge recipe, which wasn't too difficult; that information came along with the jaffa cake recipe search. Which leaves us with the fun stuff - the chocolate coating and the jelly-like centre.

Some recipes I've come across call for proper jelly to be in the centre, but others have commented that marmalade would suffice. I gambled and just used Sainsbury's Basics Orange Marmalade, and found it to suffice. Since it's medium cut, there would be a fair bit of rind and other bits suspended in the spread, which might annoy some. Personally, I think it provides for some interesting texture.

So start by making the low-fat sponge. Beat one egg together with 50g of caster sugar until fluffy. Add 50g of plain flour and keep beating until a smooth batter is obtained.

Grease a muffin tin, and add the batter to the tin holes. It should be good enough for six cakes, so scale the recipe as desired.

Bake at 180 degrees Centigrade for about 8-10 minutes.

Melt some Sainsbury's Basics chocolate either in a double boiler or a microwave set on high for two minutes. I went with milk chocolate as I felt that some contrast was needed against the slightly bitter and sour Basics marmalade.

Put a small teaspoon of  marmalade in the centre of each cake, before applying a coat of chocolate over the top. Adjust thickness of coating to taste.

Leave to cool before transferring to fridge to let the chocolate set.

I overdid the coating, such that it overpowered the marmalade and made the cake stodgy overall. Had that gone well though, the cakes would have made for a really great light snack. It's also good to know that the joy of eating Jaffa Cakes is also no longer restricted to places which sell them, since the recipe is pretty easy to reproduce at home.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Medium-cut Marmalade£0.30454+£0.61Choice of cut, higher fruit content

Friday, 3 June 2011

Cereal Bars

I'm off to Europe for a short break. I still have a bunch things to do though, and my flight is today, so anything that can help me save time through the morning would be beneficial. I came across the Sainsbury's Basics Cereal Bars while doing my groceries yesterday evening and thought that they might be could make a quick breakfast.

The bars come in boxes of six, and come in two varieties - chocolate, and oat & raisin. The latter has a few extra marks on the side of the box that promote its health benefits, while the former quietly states that it is suitable for vegetarians.

Of the two, I very much prefer the chocolate one. It has chocolate bits both on top of the bar and embedded within it, and certainly had more flavour than the oat & raisin bar, which pretty much tasted like cardboard. A comparison of ingredients shows why: 15% chocolate-related goodness overall compared to just 7% raisins.

I was still pretty hungry after eating the two bars though. I suppose they are supposed to be a snack or a side in a packed lunch rather than a complete breakfast in itself. At about 15.5p per bar, these might provide some level of comfort from either all the other value foods that you might have in your diet, or the convenience foods that you might have had or might be having as meals while studying, with exams around the corner.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Oat and Raisin Cereal Bars£0.826+£0.64Yoghurt and Cranberries for Red Fruit Balance Bars
Chocolate Chip Cereal Bars£0.926+£0.54Healthier, less chocolate content
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