“Who the hell is Lord Paddington?”

Not my usual way to start a post but circumstance has forced my hand. My two grown-up (in age only) daughters were having a conversation in the way that only the female of the species can. L (the elder) looks up from typing on her computer and says “It’s great that Laura and Paddy are coming to dinner on Sunday.” Without lifting her head from deep study of Facebook, S (the younger) replies; “Who the hell is Lord Paddington?” Now, just over a week hence, my nurse niece Laura and her fireman boyfriend Paddy have become forever the single entity “Lord Paddington”. On Sunday the venerable one travelled from their Waterford home to Dublin and spent the afternoon with us. Given the occasion and a promise made to do some Chinese cooking here, my mind was made up.

The menu 
Homemade spring rolls 
Chinese Boiled Chicken with Complex Sichuan Sauce 
Diamond Cut Belly of Pork
Steamed sea bass with Chinese Mushrooms and Spring Onions
Sweet & Sour Cucumber 
Boiled Thai Fragrant Rice 
Fresh Fruit Salad

Here’s what I did. 
On Tuesday, I made the spring rolls. I did this in the evening time with help from the wife. We were focussed on getting them done rather than recording the process. So, no photos. These can have pretty well anything in them. I used: 2 bunches of spring onions, 6 carrots, 8 pork chops, 4 peppers, a can of water chestnuts, a tray of mushrooms, (all the above cut up small and stir fried with some soy sauce and black pepper (the pork on it’s own). We wrapped the filling into spring roll pastry from the Chinese supermarket and put them in the freezer. A yield of 31.

The finished spring rolls (cooked in the oven). Not as crispy as deep fried but marginally healthier.

Diamond Cut Belly of Pork
A 2.5 kilo piece of pork belly. Poured a kettle of hot water over the skin to seize it. Then rubbed it with salt it all over and stand for an hour.

A nice piece of pork belly with layers of meat and fat.

Then cut through the skin and top layer of fat with a very sharp knife to make a diamond pattern. Rubbed it all over with 5 spice powder (about a teaspoon and a half) and soy sauce (about a tablespoon and a half).

Rubbed all over with soy sauce and five spice powder. Very aromatic.

Leave to stand for 45 minutes then into a 230 degree C oven on a rack for 20 minutes. Turned down to 200 and gave it another 55 minutes or so. Let it stand for a few minutes and then sliced between the diamonds.

Crispy crackling, soft white meat, wonderful food.

Chinese Boiled Chicken with Complex Sichuan Sauce 
More help from the wife here. On Saturday morning, she cooked the chicken using a Chinese method called “cooking on a reducing heat”. Boiled a large pot of water. Added six slices of root ginger and a chicken. Boiled at high heat for 10 mts. Reduced the heat and simmer for 20 mts. Turned off the heat. Left the chicken in the water to cool overnight. She took the chicken out of the water. Then took the skin, jelly of protein, bones and any other bits not for eating and returned them to the pot. (This to make a couple of pints of excellent chicken stock.) Then she shredded the chicken and told me to get on with the sauce.

The flavours are a lot more complex than the sauce is to make, thank goodness.

The sauce uses the ingredients in the picture and a teaspoon of ground Sichuan peppercorns, in the following proportions: Sugar – 1 and a half teaspoons. Sesame sauce – 2 tablespoons. Sesame oil – 1 tablespoon. Soy sauce – 4 table spoons. Red wine vinegar– 2 tablespoons. Chilli oil – 1 teaspoon. Garlic – 3 cloves crushed and cut up fine. Ginger – about the same amount as the garlic. Spring onions – 4 to six cut up fine. Water – 4 tablespoons. No cooking involved. Simply mix well until the lumps are gone.

Chicken & Complex Szechuan (many different spellings) Sauce

The Steamed Sea Bass

A pair of sea bass, gutted, cleaned, scaled and ready for dressing.

I cleaned and gutted the fish, reconstituted some dried Chinese mushrooms, chopped some spring onions, stuffed the fish and dressed it with the above, drizzled with soy sauce and sesame oil. Then onto tinfoil and into the steamer.

Sea Bass, dressed and ready to steam

Sweet and Sour Cucumber
This one sounds weird but tastes great. I sliced the cucumber, set it out and sprinkled with salt. This is to draw out excess water.

The simplest of dishes. Sliced the cucumber to start.

Left for a half hour and poured off the excess with kitchen paper. Then put two tablespoons of sugar into one tablespoon of vinegar. This needed to be warmed to get the vinegar to absorb all the sugar. If it does not for you, add a bit more vinegar. I let it cool and poured it over the cucumber.

The finished dish. Really tasty and oh so easy to prepare.

The finishing touch was sprinkling with fresh-cut ginger.

Then it was a matter of getting the timing of the rice, the pork and the fish correct and we were ready to serve. The fruit salad was a mix of fruits served with cream. The only unusual addition for us was a Pomelo, perhaps we just got one that was not very nice or perhaps they are dry and bitter?  The overall salad was nice and light after such a feast. (again, no opportunity to photograph.)

The main course – ready to serve.

We had a good time, the meal taking significantly longer to plan and prepare than to demolish. The food is now eaten and will soon be forgotten. However, Lord Paddington will stick in our thoughts. I hope the meal did them justice.

Lord Paddington, the two at the far end of the table, come(s) to dine.

It’s good practice to quote sources. I have a built up over the years a couple of yards of cookery books. This pair has been my best source of Chinese recipes over the past decade or more. The above, bar the spring rolls, are based on recipes therein.

Well worn and only about an inch and a half of the couple of yards.

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Latest comments
  • Wow! Impressive dinner and preparation! Nice to see that Lord Paddington appears to be having a great time!

  • Wonderful dinner. I am only a skip and a jump on the other side of the Atlantic, but I think i will be able to come for dinner…. Love Chinese food, great menu and great presentation. Thank you.

  • That sounds great and looks fantastic. Thanks for sharing. I must try that pork.

    • Thanks Pete. It really is very easy and very tasty.

  • The meal that you prepared would have impressed anyone, Lord Paddington included. It certainly impressed me.

  • Wow! Looks amazing Conor! Your photographic techniques are fab too. I’m on the pork next week too!

  • Thats an ambitious looking menu! And family are the hardest critics!

  • I agree , This looks like a very delicious well put together Asian feast! I really must try to make that chicken 🙂

    • Do. It is really easy and so tasty. I love what you are doing over there. Keep at it.

  • Very nice looking meal! I like the idea of throwing some boiling water over the skin of the pork – will try that next time!

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