Saturday, August 21, 2010

Stir fry beans and pork balls

Last Friday Quadrille kindly sent me a copy of Real Food From Near and Far - Stevie Parle's book in their series New Voices in Food. It's a lovely looking book - buff covers and beautiful illustrations and a utilitarian feel to it makes me think it is a practical tome to have in the kitchen when the temperature rises. It is meant to be cooked from as well as devoured.

The timing of its arrival was fortuitous. I had made my usual rough outline for a menu for the upcoming week, deciding to go for grouse Saturday night rather than Friday, and a fair variety of things filling the rest of the week. But I had no definitive plan for either Friday night or what to do with the next lot of beans on the wigwam in the garden. What is appealing about Real Food is that it is not only divided into the months of the year with recipes themed around what is abundant but the inspiration for the food comes from all round the world, placing British ingredients into a much broader context, which is the way I love to cook.

A quick flick to August reveals beans and myriad ways to use them. I contemplated the salad with rocket and Parmesan but had nothing to go with it, having even run out of eggs last week. I did have some bean curd puffs in the fridge and little packets of pork mince so the Chinese delight of beans and pork beckoned needing only a minor tweak or two to accomodate the stuff I had to use.

Szechuan beans with little bits of pork

In Szechuan they use yard long beans for this dish. We don't often find those here, though you can grow them.

Serves 4-6

green beans, tops cut off, 250g

garlic cloves, green sprout removed, 1

anise seeds, 1 tsp

dried chilli, 1 tsp

szechuan pepper, 1/2 tsp

minced pork shoulder or belly, 80g

tofu puffs, 6-7, each cut in half

flavourless oil, a splash

fresh root ginger, grated, 5cm

rice wine vinegar, a splash

Chop the beans a bit. Crush the garlic in a mortar, add the spices and crush them until they become a paste, then mix this well with the pork. Roll the pork into little bits about the size of a marble.

Heat a large pan or wok and pour in the oil. Put in the little bits of pork and fry them, mixing. When they start to turn a little crispy, add the tofu, stir for a minute then throw in the beans and the ginger. Fry until the beans start to look cooked, splash in a bit of vinegar, reduce the heat and cook until the beans are soft.

Adding the garlic and spices to the pork was good and the end result was a great mouthful of crispy meat, crunchy beans and slightly spongy tofu. Recommend.

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