I really am so daft that when I'm cooking dinner, I will put on music that fits what I'm cooking. Usually this means listening to some Banghra or some Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan while making a curry or Dean Martin while tossing a pizza. What can I say, it gets me in the mood.
While making these Chinese beef and enoki mushroom lettuce wraps, because I don't have any classical Chinese music (my MP3 library THAT varied), I thought Wraps! Raps! And so I put Tupac on my iPod dock and made a genius play list.
There's nothing like the sound of an overly sensitive smoke detector mixing with the dulcet tones of Lil Kim's Hard Core album to get you slicing and dicing like there's no tomorrow. Maybe it's a Big Momma Thing?
These speedy little treats were inspired by fellow foodie blogger Cajun Chef Ryan, who always tempts and delights with bold flavours and clever techniques.
My recipe isn't really the same as Ryans, because I wanted to use up a spare steak I had and some bits I've picked up during my grocery shopping. I also know that if I don't serve carbs with dinner (especially if it's Chinese!) my stepson will be hungry again .0445837 seconds after he's cleaned his plate.
The rice is cooked with star anise and lots of black and white sesame seeds, which give a lovely perfume and texture. The stir-fry is soft and spicy, while the lettuce is cool and crisp, so the combination of the three is lovely. Just as I did after reading the Cajun Chef's post, you can totally tweak this to make use of what you have knocking about in your fridge or your personal preferences. Shrimp or minced pork would be a particularly lovely substitution for the beef.
So go put on some Snoop Dog or Pitbull and get cookin'
serves 4, takes 30-40 minutes
400g (14oz) rump steak, trimmed of fat sliced 5mm (3/16") THIN
1 large onion, sliced top-to-bottom into half-moons
1 bundle enoki mushrooms, bottoms trimmed, separated carefully
200g white cabbage (or napa) sliced very thinly
2cm fresh ginger, roughly chopped
2 whole red chillies, roughly sliced*
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp Szechuan peppercorns*
2 tbsp preserved black beans*
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce (yes, I know this isn't Chinese, but it tastes really good so there.)
1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine (or dry sherry)
2 tsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp oyster sauce
100ml (4oz) water
2 tsp corn starch
2 tbsp ground nut, sunflower or canola oil
16 baby gem lettuce leaves (or the top half of romaine leaves) washed and dried
1 cup long grain rice
1tbsp white sesame seeds
1 tbsp black sesame seeds
3 star anise
1/2 tsp salt
sliced spring onions to serve
As with any Oriental meal, it's best to get all the prep done before the flame meets wok, as things move pretty quickly. I usually freeze meat that I want to slice v.v. thinly for an hour or so to make it easier to slice.
Mix together the soy sauce, fish sauce, corn starch and rice vinegar and stir the beef slices into this mixture and set aside while you do the rest of the prep.
Put the chillies, ginger, garlic, Szechuan peppercorns and black beans in a pestle and mortar and pound for a few minutes to make a coarse paste.
Wash the rice for a few minutes in cold running water, then put into a small saucepan with 1 1/2 cups of cold water, the salt, star anise and sesame seeds.
Bring the rice to the boil then immediately turn down the heat to low, cover and leave to finish cooking for 7-9 minutes, until all the water has been absorbed. Leave the cover on the rice until you're ready to serve.
While the rice cooks, start the stir-fry.
Heat a wok or a large frying pan over a high heat until smoking and add the oil. Add the beef to the hot oil and stir-fry quickly for 3-4 minutes until well browned and going a little crisp, then remove to a plate with a slotted spoon. If there's not much oil left in the wok, add another tbsp and toss in the chilli-bean paste you've made. Stir-fry for a minute until very fragrant and beginning to go golden, then add in the onions and cabbage tossing well into the paste for a minute before adding a little water, any leftover beef marinade and the oyster sauce. Cook for about one more minute, until the veggies are *just* going tender, then toss in the mushrooms and turn off the heat, as they really don't need more than a second's cooking time.
Serve the rice and stir fry with the lettuce leaves and some sliced spring onions, letting everybody build their own wraps, so that the lettuce stays crisp and cool.
*These ingredients may be replaced with a couple of tablespoonsful of a good quality chilli bean paste if you like.