green onions

Crab in Black Bean Sauce


The ingredients in this crab recipe are quite similar to the ingredients in Steamed Crab Cantonese, but the cooking method is different – in this one the crabs are fried in a wok. You have all had this cooked with black bean sauce, but I have done it without too, when it is almost unrecognisable as the same recipe. You must have a lid for your wok for this recipe. (You should have one anyway.) The quantities given here are for one mud crab or approximately two sand crabs.

1 mud crab or 2 sand crabs, uncooked, but well cleaned
3 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 egg, lightly beaten

2 teaspoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon fermented black beans, well rinsed and chopped, or 1 tablespoon black bean sauce (both optional)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar or mirin
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
¾ cup stock or water
2 teaspoons cornflour dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
Shallots to serve
Freshly ground black pepper

Have all ingredients ready and at hand before you begin. Heat wok over high heat until hot, add oil, swirl; add ginger, garlic, then fermented black beans or black bean sauce if using either. Stir quickly for 30 seconds. Add crab pieces, splash in the rice vinegar or mirin and stir a few times as it steams up, turning the crab pieces to ensure they are well coated with the hot oil. Add soy sauce, stock or water and the pepper. Even out the crabs in the wok, cover and steam for 4 minutes for sand crabs, longer for mud crabs, the time depending on the size of the claws.

When you think the crabs are almost cooked, uncover and stir well. Lower the heat, give the cornflour and water a good stir and pour it into the sauce. Add sesame oil and stir until the sauce thickens.

Then pour the beaten egg over the crab in a circular motion, remove from heat and let the egg flow into the sauce.

Remove to serving platter and serve immediately with shallots.

Roasted (brown) chicken stock

I have never had a problem with chicken carcasses being placed straight in the stock pot without prior roasting. However Philip Johnson included a recipe for roasted chicken stock in his e’cco 1 cookbook, giving it as an alternative to traditional chicken stock. Gordon Ramsey, the bad boy of English cooking is unequivocal. White chicken stock, he says, is anaemic and to give it more depth of flavour, the first thing to do is to brown the carcasses. (He actually calls it Brown Chicken Stock.) I am sticking with Philip’s  name, (because a sauce made from browned chicken carcasses will not, technically, be a brown sauce). This recipe is a combination of both of theirs, plus mine. They both include raw garlic in the stock and I believe that raw garlic gives a harsh, unpleasant flavour. If I were using garlic, I would use garlic confit.

2 kg chicken bones and carcasses
1 carrot, diced
1 – 2 onions, roughly chopped
a few cloves of garlic confit (optional)
1 leek, well washed and sliced
2 tablespoons tomato puree
4 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoons white peppercorns
a few parsley stems
1 cup of white wine

Preheat the oven to 200C. Place chicken carcasses in a roasting pan and roast until golden. Take care not to colour the chicken too much as this will make the stock bitter.

Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the bones to a large stock pot and add remaining ingredients, except the wine. Cover with cold water and bring to the boil, skimming off any impurities that rise to the surface.

Pour off and discard any fat from roasting pan, then place pan over moderate heat and deglaze by adding the wine and stirring well to loosen the sediment. Pour mixture into stock pot and continue to simmer gently for 1 ½ hours, skimming occasionally.

Strain stock, cool and refrigerate overnight. Next morning, carefully remove any fat from the surface.

Freeze until ready to use.

Chicken stock

Making Chicken Stock

Chicken frames, as many as you can comfortably fit in the stock pot
1 – 2 onions, roughly chopped
1 carrot, chopped
4 – 6 sticks celery roughly chopped
A handful of parsley
Water to cover
Freshly ground black pepper

Place the frames in a large stock pot, add the onion, carrot, celery and parsley and cover with water. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat, then cover and allow to simmer over very low heat for 5 – 6 hours if possible.

Strain, pressing the bones with the back of a spoon, to release all the juices. Transfer to a clean container and allow to cool. Refrigerate as soon as possible, then leave overnight until stock is completely cold and all fat has risen to the surface. De-grease the stock carefully. This is particularly important if you are making a consomme. The stock should be a thick jelly. Reheat just enough to liquefy the stock and pour into airtight containers, some of which should be no bigger than 250ml capacity.

Freeze when cool.

 You will notice that I never add salt to chicken stock. I prefer to season the dish to which the stock is added.

Before you begin – Shallots and Green onions


Shallots, spring onions, scallions and now, ‘green onions’.  The word ‘shallot’ in a recipe always presents a dilemma. If the recipe book is written by an Australian, you can be fairly sure that what is meant by a shallot is a long green onion, rather like an overgrown chive. However, in an attempt to resolve an already confused situation, some Australian recipe books have begun referring to these as ‘green onions’.

A true shallot looks very much like a large clove of garlic. Also known here as a French shallot, its skin has a pinkish tinge, whereas garlic has white skin. There are also brown shallots, with brown skin. If you are reading a French recipe book and you have a choice, buy the French shallots. They are available here, but only at the better fruit and vegetable outlets. If you can’t buy French shallots, use small brown pickling onions as a substitute. Some Australian writers, such as Stephanie Alexander, have bitten the bullet and are calling a shallot a shallot.

In America, a shallot is a true French shallot. What we know as ‘shallots’ are called ‘scallions’. I do not know how this confusion arose, but I do wish somebody would fix it. That, of course, would mean re-educating every little fruit and vegie seller in Australia. Perhaps if the big supermarkets began a campaign, something might happen, but if there is no money in it for them, I can’t see it happening.

In this recipe book I have tried to be consistent and use the term ‘green onion’.

Peking duck pancakes

True Peking duck pancakes are, of course the first part of three that are served when you order Peking duck at an Australian restaurant. (In China, I understand, the skin is cut from the duck, and the meat removed from the bones and cut into small rectangles. These are then arranged on a serving platter, between the legs and the wings to create a symbolic whole duck. The bones are then made into duck soup. Pieces of meat as well as skin can be rolled into Chinese pancakes much as they are served here.)

We make Peking duck pancakes at home really only when we intend to make a red duck curry from the meat of a barbecued duck bought from Chinatown, because the skin is not required for red duck curry. Given what you pay in a restaurant for this as a starter, it’s such a waste not to do it for guests.

If I were intending to serve duck pancakes as finger food for a party, I would probably use tiny savoury pancakes instead of the true steamed Chinese ones, and might top the pancakes with duck meat, rather than duck skin, and slivers of fruit, or with plum sauce instead of the traditional hoisin sauce.

1 barbecued duck from Chinatown
1 packet Chinese pancakes from Chinese barbecue in Chinatown
1 bunch green onions
Hoisin sauce

Firstly, prepare the green onions. These can be simply be cut into strips, or they can be “frilled”. To do this, cut the white part of the green onion into approximately 4cm lengths, then with a sharp knife, cut 1.5cm deep slits all around both ends of the green onion, leaving about 1 cm of solid green onion in the centre. Place them in a bowl of iced water and leave them in the refrigerator for about an hour. The ends will curl and stiffen making balls of green-white ‘frills’.

We have recently discovered that re-heating the duck helps to separate the skin from the meat and also helps to re-crisp the skin. Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees and wrap the duck in al-foil. Reheat in the oven for approximately 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and using a flexible knife, cut the skin away from the duck. Don’t pull it as it will tear. The skin should have some meat attached.

Heat the pancakes by folding them in half and placing the folded pancakes onto a plate and steaming them in a traditional Chinese bamboo steamer, or by placing them in a microwave steamer (with water) for about two minutes.

To serve, smear a pancake with hoisin sauce. Place a piece of duck skin onto the pancake, top   with a green onion strip or frill, roll up and serve.