Gok Cooks Chinese, and ginger beef stir-fry

Ginger beef stir-fry served with rice
Today I’ve got a cookbook recommendation from you, and one of my favourite recipes from it. You may already be raising your eyebrows at the title, since Gok Wan is probably more famous for his fashion tips than knife skills, but this book is fantastic. Incidentally, if you have watched his TV show Gok Cooks Chinese then you’ll know that Gok has enviable knife skills, especially with a cleaver, probably learned during his younger years when he helped out in his dad’s Chinese restaurant.
Gok Cooks Chinese cookbook
I was given this book for Christmas two years ago and since then it’s become a firm favourite in our household. The recipes that we’ve cooked have all been delicious, with easy to follow instructions and ingredients lists that aren’t too tricky to track down (a few more specialised ingredients might require a trip to the local Chinese supermarket, but I always find the products are cheaper than those from regular supermarkets anyway). Some recipes that I would highly recommend if you decide to pick up this book are his dim-sum collection (particularly the char siu pork buns and chicken and leek magic potstickers), Poppa Wan’s simple soy-glazed chicken (a quick and easy weekday dish), the unusual stir-fried cucumbers and the spicy Sichuan chicken (this one is strong in flavour, but very moreish).

I always think it’s really hard to recreate Chinese food at home that can compete with the food that you get out in restaurants, but the recipes in this book do absolutely that. In fact, they might even be better. The recipe I’m showing you today is similar to the crispy shredded beef that so many takeaways do, but without the deep-frying and the gloopy sauce. This version is sweet, spicy from ginger and garlic, and the beef is crisp on the outside but soft in the centre. Since I haven’t changed Gok’s recipe from the book I won’t take you through every step – his instructions are detailed enough to easily follow. Instead I thought I’d run you through a few tips that I’ve discovered are helpful, and then pop the recipe down below…

1. This tip applies to all Chinese cooking, not just this particular recipe, and it is to prepare all of your ingredients before you begin cooking.
Weigh out your ingredients, chop all the vegetables and meat, and mix up your sauce. This is usually the most time-consuming part of Chinese cooking, but it will really help when you come to cooking, especially you are going to be cooking quickly in a very hot wok.
Preparing all the ingredients for ginger beef before cooking
2. Buy good quality meat.
It might seem sacrilegious to some to use good quality sirloin steak in a stir-fry recipe, but trust me it is worth it. The beef is cooked quickly at a high temperature so you need a decent cut which will still be tender after this kind of cooking. Splash out on a couple of nice steaks (they don’t need to be huge) and you won’t regret it.
Ingredients for ginger beef stir-fry
3. Get your wok screaming hot and take the time to fry the beef in batches.
Make sure that the steak is spread out in one layer only, don’t (no matter how tempting it is) dump it all in at once. This will ensure that the beef is cooked as quickly as possible, resulting in a crisp coating while still being tender inside. Kitchen tongs are a really useful utensil for frying the batches of steak, and make sure you have a plate with a piece of kitchen roll placed on top to lift the cooked meat out on to. I find that using a freezer bag to coat the steak in seasoned corn flour is the easiest way to do it.
Preparing the work station before cooking the ginger beef stir-fry
Stir-frying the ginger beef
4. I make one and a half times the quantity of sauce stated in this recipe, but this is simply due to our personally preference to have a fairly “saucy” dish. Excellent when you have lots of rice on the side to soak it all up.

And now for the recipe!…
Gok Wan's Ginger Beef
Ingredients for Gok Wan's ginger beef recipe
Recipe for Gok Wan's Ginger Beef
Serve with boiled rice and some steamed green vegetables such as pak choi.
Ginger beef served with rice and steamed Asian vegetables
Do you have Gok’s cookbook and if so what are you favourite recipes from it? Or do you have a different favourite Chinese cookbook to recommend?…

5-hour slow-cooked beef brisket with gravy

Shredding the 5-hour slow cooked beef brisket 1
As I mentioned in my blog birthday post last week, the three most popular posts on my blog since I started it just over a year ago are all slow-cooked meaty dishes (from pork belly to lamb shanks to BBQ pulled pork). And I’m not one to deny my readers what they want! Today I have something that you might not have cooked or even eaten before, but if you like pulled pork then you’re going to love this. Brisket is a cut from the lower chest of beef, and is a muscle that works hard so needs gentle, slow cooking in order to tenderise it. It is a relatively cheap cut of beef, so a great option for when you’re cooking a roast for a crowd.

I first cooked this recipe last year when I scribbled it down to take on a weekend holiday with friends (I got the original recipe from a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall article, but now I can’t find it…however I will pop a link up here when I come across it again). I knew at the time that it would be a great recipe to blog about, but holidays aren’t the time to be photographing a recipe step-by-step and it was gobbled up so quickly that there wasn’t even time for an end-result picture – definitely a sign of a recipe worth sharing.
Ingredients for 5-hour slow cooked beef brisket
Ingredients (serves 4)
Beef brisket
2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
2 carrots, cut into wedges
4 sprigs of rosemary
3 cloves of garlic
English or Dijon mustard
Large glass of red wine
Salt and pepper

1 tbsp corn flour
1 beef stock cube, made up with 300ml boiling water

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 170C/150C fan/Gas Mark 3. Heat the olive oil in a large casserole pot and generously season the beef all over with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, place the beef in the pot and brown on all sides.
Browning the beef brisket
2. Turn the beef so that it is fat side up and nestle the vegetables, rosemary and garlic cloves around it.
Adding vegetables and fresh herbs to the casserole pot
3. Spread the top of the beef with mustard and pour the red wine into the bottom of the pot, along with a large glass of water. Put a lid on the pot and cook in the oven for 5 hours, basting the beef with the surrounding liquid once an hour. Add a little extra water if necessary during the cooking time.
Spreading mustard on the beef brisket
4. After 5 hours remove the beef and leave to rest on a warmed serving plate, covered with foil and a dish towel.
Beef brisket after 5 hours of cooking and basting
5. As it rests, put the pot back on the hob and heat until the remaining liquid starts to bubble. Add the corn flour and stir to combine. Slowly add the stock until the gravy is the consistency that you like. Strain.
Shredding the 5-hour slow cooked beef brisket 2
As the brisket is so tender, it will easily be shredded using two forks so no carving is necessary (can I hear cries of delight?!). I served the beef brisket with mashed potatoes, which I think is essential when you have a rich gravy on the side, and steamed cabbage slathered in butter and generously sprinkled with black pepper.
Slow cooked beef brisket served with gravy, mashed potatoes and steamed cabbage
This dish would also go perfectly with the traditional Sunday roast trimmings of roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings, but unless you have a second oven then the timings can get tricky since the beef cooks at such a low temperature. Either way, I promise you are going to love this cut of beef for Sunday dinner as much as a flashy sirloin cut. Humble and delicious.

Beef shin and mushroom casserole

Beef shin and mushroom casserole served with homemade bread and red wine
Happy New Year gorgeous readers! I hope your festive break was filled to the brim with your favourite people, your favourite food and drink, and your favourite films, music, books and games. I know mine certainly was, and so much more. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much. You know that kind of laughter that makes your stomach and throat hurt and your breathing difficult? Yeah, that.

And so now it is January. The fruit bowl has been piled high, the vegetable drawer in the fridge is stuffed full and gym memberships have been renewed with gusto. I have just discovered Yoga with Adriene’s 30 Days of Yoga and what a revelation it is. I had forgotten how amazing just a short yoga practice every day is, plus there is the bonus that Adriene is an absolute babe. Serious babe crush going on.

But on the other hand, we are still in the depths of winter. The days may be getting gradually longer, but it really doesn’t feel like it right now. So let’s all agree that we still need some comfort food every now and then, yeah? We can stick to stir-fry and steamed vegetables and baked fish during the week, but on a Sunday night let’s snuggle up together on the sofa, wearing our comfiest pyjamas, with steaming bowls of stew and glasses of red wine. Cheers to that.
Ingredients for beef shin and mushroom casserole with parsnips
Ingredients (serves 2-3)
1 generous tbsp dried ceps (aka porcini mushrooms)
2 small onions, finely chopped
1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
2-3 small carrots, cut into chunky wedges
2 medium parsnips (or in my case, one daddy, one mummy and one baby parsnip), cut into chunky wedges
350g beef shin
180g mushrooms, either cup or button
Large glass of red wine
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp redcurrant jelly
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 160C/140C fan/Gas mark 2. Lightly crush the dried ceps in a mortar and pestle.
Dried ceps in a pestle and mortar
Dried ceps lightly crushed in a pestle and mortar
Cover with a few tablespoons of hot water and leave to soak.
2. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a casserole pot or pan and gently fry the onion and garlic over a low heat for 5-10 minutes until soft and just beginning to brown.
Sautéing finely chopped onions
3. Turn the heat up so the onions sizzle and add the carrots and parsnips, mixing well to coat them in oil. Allow the vegetables to cook for another 5 minutes.
Adding carrots and parsnips to the onion
4. Remove the vegetables from the pan and set aside. Add a little more olive oil and wait until very hot. Generously season the beef shin with salt and pepper and add to the hot pan. Fry on a very high heat for a couple of minutes until brown and caramelised on both sides.
Browning the seasoned beef shins
5. Pour the wine into the pan and bubble for 3-5 minutes to reduce the liquid by about one third.
Adding red wine to the beef shin
6. Add the vegetables back into the pan, along with the now-rehydrated ceps (including the soaking water), and stir. Season and tuck a couple of bay leaves into the stew, pop the lid on the pan and put into the oven.
Adding the vegetables back into the casserole
7. Remove the stalks from the mushrooms, peel and cut in half. If you’re using button mushrooms then skip this step and use them whole! Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Peeled and chopped mushrooms
8. After an hour and a half remove the stew from the oven and stir in the mushrooms and redcurrant jelly. If necessary add a splash of water to the stew.
Adding mushrooms and redcurrant jelly to the beef shin casserole
9. Continue to cook the stew in the oven for a further 30-60 minutes. The meat should be beautifully tender and the relatively large amount of fat in the cut of beef shin should have melted away into the sweet, rich liquid.
Beef shin, mushroom and parsnip casserole
Serve with potatoes, cooked in the style of your choice, or some lovely fresh bread which you can use to mop up the delicious sauce. And of course, since it’s January, I suppose some steamed vegetables on the side will help to make us feel that little bit more virtuous.
Beef shin casserole served with green vegetables and homemade bread

Steak Pie with Flaky Puff Pastry

Inside the steak and mushroom pieSteak pie is a dish that is strongly associated with childhood memories for me. Just last week my sister and I were reminiscing about those rare evenings when we’d get home after school and spot a Marks and Spencer steak pie in the fridge – what a treat! We absolutely loved the rich, meaty filling and the crispy top on the puff pastry, but sometimes the best part was that bottom bit of the puff pastry right next to the beef which would go a little bit soggy. A serious pleasure. I still think you’re hard-pressed to find a better ready-made steak pie than those at M&S (apart from at a butchers I suppose), but a homemade one has all the same qualities – the melt-in-the-mouth beef, the rich gravy and the flaky pastry – with the added satisfaction that you get when you make a pie.

My method for steak pie is basically to make a delicious beef stew, allow it to cool and then pile it into a pie dish and top with pastry. I usually pack as much flavour into my stew as possible with extras like mustard, redcurrant jelly and herbs. A little glass of red wine or a dark beer will also add flavour to the stew, and I almost always add mushrooms, partly because I like the texture but also to bulk up the stew without spending lots of money on beef. You can cook the stew on the hob, but I find that a couple of hours in a low oven is the best way to achieve melting chunks of beef. You can also use short crust pastry – puff pastry is just my personal preference when it comes to steak pie, probably from those M&S ones – and shop-bought pastry is perfectly acceptable if you’re short on time. Or patience. This puff pastry follows the exact same method as I showed you before, and the ingredients are nearly identical. The one difference is that I substituted a small amount of the butter for white cooking fat for added flakiness. Never a bad thing.
Ingredients for homemade steak and mushroom pie with puff pastry
Ingredients (serves 4)
450g casserole or stewing steak, cut into large chunks
2 heaped tbsp seasoned flour
1 white onion, diced
1 garlic clove, crushed or finely chopped
2 carrots, diced
250g mushrooms, cut into quarters if large
1 tsp dried rosemary
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Few drops of Worcester sauce
Small glass of red wine or ale (optional)
500ml beef stock
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp red currant jelly
1 bay leaf
Vegetable oil

190g plain flour
100g butter
25g white cooking fat
20 tbsp iced water
1 egg, beaten

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 160C/140C fan/ Gas Mark 3. Toss the cut beef in the seasoned flour. You can do this in a bowl, but I find it easiest to pop everything into a freezer bag, tie the top and give it a good shake.
Casserole steak covered in seasoned flour
2. Heat a few tablespoons of vegetable oil in a casserole pan (the casserole pan needs to have a lid and be able to go in the oven). Fry the beef until golden brown and remove onto a plate with some kitchen roll to soak up the excess oil.
Frying the seasoned and floured steak
It’s best to do this in batches, so that the beef is just in one layer at the bottom of the pan. Don’t worry if the meat sticks to the pan, and leaves behind crispy bits – this is all added flavour in the end.
Frying the casserole steak in batches
3. Throw the onion, garlic and carrot into the hot oil and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any residue from the beef that has stuck to the bottom of the pan. Cook for 5 minutes until the vegetables are soft and turning golden brown.
Frying the onion, garlic and carrots
4. Tip in the mushrooms and continue cooking for a few more minutes, then add the beef back in, along with the dried herbs, and give everything a good mix.
Adding the mushrooms
5. Pour in the balsamic vinegar and let it bubble for a few seconds. If you’re using wine or ale then add this now and bubble for a few minutes until the liquid is reduced a little. Otherwise go ahead and add the stock, mustard and red currant jelly. Bring to the boil, tuck the bay leaf into the stew, top the pan with the lid and pop it into the oven.
Adding the seasonings and liquid
6. Cook for about 2 hours or until the beef is tender and the liquid has thickened to a gravy consistency. Check the stew after about an hour – give it a stir and add a little extra stock if necessary. Once ready, remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Homemade beef stew for a steak pie
7. While the stew cools you can make the puff pastry. This follows exactly the same steps as the puff pastry I showed you here (with more pictures): mix the fats into the flour; add the iced water and bring roughly together with a knife; tip onto a floured surface and shape into a rectangle; fold the top third down, the bottom third up, roll, turn and repeat. Once you have a smooth pastry, cover in cling film and pop into the freezer for 10-15 minutes to rest.
Ingredients for rough puff pastry
Combining the ingredients for rough puff pastry
Rough puff pastry ready to be rested
8. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas Mark 6. Spoon the beef stew into your pie dish and spread out evenly.
Chilled beef stew for steak pie
9. Roll out the puff pastry until it’s about 1cm thick and bigger than the pie dish. Lift the pastry onto the pie and press down firmly round the edges – a little egg wash round the lip of the pastry dish will help to stick it down. Cut round the pie with a sharp knife to remove the excess pastry.
Ready to assemble the steak pie
Rolling out the rough puff pastry
Topping the steak pie
10. Use the pastry trimmings to decorate your pie if you like. Brush with egg and bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. If you’re not ready to bake the pie right away, you can leave it in the fridge until you are.
Steak and mushroom pie ready to be baked
Steak and mushrom pie with puff pastry
This pie will easily feed 4 people, served with a pile of lightly steamed and buttered green vegetables. However, you could definitely make it stretch to 6 people if you also make a generous helping of mashed potatoes.
Steak and mushroom pie served with green vegetables and red wine
Steak pie for Sunday dinner
A glass of red wine is not essential, but advised.