San Bei Ji – Three Cup Chicken

If you are looking for a crowd pleaser then look no further as I can guarantee you that plates will be licked clean if you serve up this dish. As well as cooking a pot for grown-ups, I made up a batch for Big A and Little Z (minus the dried chillies) and they absolutely adored it.

The dish originates from the Southern Chinese province of Jiangxi and is a speciality of Ningdu. In addition it has also become a popular dish in Taiwan. I can also guarantee it will become a firm favourite in your repertoire once you’ve tried cooking it once.

San Bei Ji literally translates as three cup chicken – the three cups being sesame oil, rice wine and soy sauce. This recipe uses the trio but less liberally and the result is outstanding and quite frankly addictive.

The last part of the cooking is done in a claypot, but should you not have one to hand (or a heatproof casserole dish) simply continue cooking the final part in the pot you have been using all along. Whilst not completely authentic it will still taste equally divine.

San Bei Ji – Three Cup Chicken

Adapted from Leemi Tan’s book Lemongrass and Ginger

Serves 4 (with no leftovers!)

1.2kg boneless chicken thighs, diced into bite sized pieces

1 tsp sunflower oil

3 cm of fresh root ginger, peeled and cut into fine matchsticks

8 garlic cloves, whole and slightly crushed *

5 spring onions, cut into 5 cm pieces and thinly sliced lengthways

4 small dried chillies, chopped and seeds discarded (if you prefer it less chilli)

250ml Shaoxing rice wine

6 tbsp light soy sauce

3 tbsp sugar (whatever you have to hand)

4 tbsp sesame oil

1 handful of fresh coriander leaves

1 handful of thai basil leaves

1. Poach the chicken in boiling water for one minute to seal and then drain and keep to one side.

2. In a large pan add the sunflower oil and when it is hot add the ginger and stir fry for one minute before adding the garlic and continuing to cook for a further minute.

* to slightly crush garlic place a knife flat over the top and press down hard, allowing it to split.

3. Add the dried chillies and spring onions and continue to fry for another minute, stirring frequently. Add the chicken, rice wine, soy sauce and sugar and cover the pan and cook until the liquid has dissolved – this will take between 40-50 minutes; continue to stir occasionally.

4. Once the liquid has almost dissolved heat up a claypot/heatproof casserole dish either in an oven or if you are able to directly on the hob. Once the liquid has finally dissolved add the sesame oil and when it begins to bubble add the chicken pieces and fresh thai basil and coriander leaves and stir together for a few seconds.

5. Serve immediately so that it is sizzling hot.

Serve with boiled rice and  as a side I often eat it with steamed pak choi and some edamame beans – not particularly authentic but I find it works well.


Lamb Keema Masala – one pot dish

A lot of time has been spent indoors recently due to the unpredictable weather. There is something rather homely and comforting to be inside a warm house as the rain storm causes havoc outside. We’ve had over two weeks of rain, virtually non stop, so I am guessing that the hosepipe ban for the south of England must surely have been lifted or at least close to being lifted. My garden is so lush and green to the extent that it is looking positively tropical.

So when the rain ceased slightly I made a dash for my local ethnic food stores to gather supplies in order to make some tasty dishes for the coming days. Upon returning home laden with exciting vegetables, spices, meats and fish, I decided to prepare Keema Masala for  supper. Keema Masala is in many respects the Asian version of chilli con carne or bolognese, hence it is very straight forward to make. The word ‘keema’ derives from the ancient Turkish word for minced meat and the ‘masala’ is the blend of spices that make up the dish, namely the garam masala.

I tend to eat mine with flat bread or naan and mop it up this way, but eating it with rice is equally pleasurable. I like to compliment the dish with some homemade raita to help balance the spice from the keema masala. It works a treat.

Lamb Keema Masala

Serves 6

1.5kg minced lamb (or beef)

3 tbs vegetable oil

1 and a half red onions, chopped

5 garlic cloves, chopped

3 fresh green chilli, chopped in two

5cm ginger, grated

6 black peppercorns, whole or ground

6 cloves, whole or ground

5 cardamom pods, whole or ground

3 bays leaves

3 tsp ground coriander

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp ground turmeric

2 tsp ground almonds

2 tbsp tomato puree/or 2 fresh tomatoes chopped

50 ml boiling water

2 tbsp natural yoghurt

handful of fresh coriander to garnish

1. Warm the oil in a pan and then add the onion and garlic. When it begins to darken after 3-5 minutes add the ginger, green chillies black peppercorns, cloves, cardamom and bay leaves and gently fry all the ingredients for another couple of minutes.

2. Add the remaining spices: ground coriander, turmeric and cumin as well as the garam masala and stir thoroughly and then add the ground almonds and tomato puree/fresh tomatoes along with 50 ml of boiling water.

3. Place the minced lamb into the pan and stir into the fragrant ingredients. When the lamb has become brown add the salt and natural yoghurt. You will need to stir it frequently at this stage so that the mince does not clump together.

4. Leave to simmer for 25 minutes. You can cook it earlier in the day and reheat it when you are ready to eat.

Note: You may find you need to add a very little boiling water when reheating it. 

5. When served garnish with fresh coriander.

Homemade Raita

7 tbsp yoghurt

1/2  cucumber, grated

1/4  tsp salt

3/4  tsp ground cumin

pinch of paprika

pinch of black pepper

1. Mix all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl and then place into a small serving bowl.

2. Serve chilled.


Chickpea Curry with Tomatoes, Spinach, Fresh Mint and Coriander

After a full on Monday there is nothing more exhausting than having to cook a long and complicated recipe for supper. So I always try to cook something healthy, tasty and speedy in equal measure. I have always loved the taste of chickpeas and find they compliment so many dishes, but for this dish they feature as the main ingredient. There are so many good chickpea curries I was in a quandary on which to show you first, but settled with this one as it can be prepared and cooked within 15 minutes. Seriously it is so fast you’ll impress even yourself. The fresh mint and coriander, whilst not usually paired together, compliment each other well in this dish as the mint gives a sweet undertone that balances really well with the bold coriander and all the other Indian spices.

I cook this curry using canned chickpeas (shock horror), which will save you having to soak them overnight and boil them for an hour or two. Whilst the curry is perfect to eat on it’s own, if you want to make more of a feast you could cook this delicious salmon curry, which also takes no time at all. I will be eating mine with some wholemeal pitta bread, a dollop of natural yoghurt and squeeze of lemon. Simple and yet satisfying, I hope you agree.

Chickpea Curry with Tomatoes, Spinach, Fresh Mint and Coriander

Serves 2 (as a main meal or up to 4 if having other dishes)

1 tin of drained chickpeas

2 tbsp ghee (or ground nut/mustard oil)

2 green chillies, chopped

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

2 large tomatoes, chopped

1 handful chopped fresh mint

1 handful chopped fresh coriander

2 handfuls of fresh spinach

1 tsp salt

50ml boiled water

1. Heat the ghee/oil and when it is nicely hot add the chopped onion, garlic and chillies. After a few  minutes, when the onions are beginning to brown slightly, add the ground turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander, paprika (I use this hot paprika one I mentioned in this blog post) and garam masala and stir into the onions, garlic and chillies. Leave to simmer gently for another minute.

2. Add the chopped tomatoes, mint and coriander and again stir into the other ingredients. The smells coming from your pan will be heavenly!

3. After draining the chickpeas add them to the curry and stir in thoroughly. As the curry will seem a little dry at this stage, add the boiled water and stir into the ingredients. Leave to simmer for a few minutes.

4. Add a couple of handfuls of fresh spinach and stir into the curry. Once it is wilted (this will only take a minute) leave the curry to simmer for a couple more minutes. If you think it is still a little dry just add a little more water. Add the salt and stir into the curry before letting it rest for a short while before eating. Equally you can cook it earlier in the day and simply reheat it when you are ready to eat in the evening, although you will have to add a little boiled water when you re-warm it.


Monkfish curry with tamarind, coconut, ginger and coriander – inspired by Skye Gyngell

This curry is always a crowd pleaser. The talented Skye Gyngell, of Petersham Nurseries fame, does the decadent lobster version in her book ‘A Year in My Kitchen’ and I have tweaked her recipe slightly to suit my style of cooking, but the essence of this recipe stems from Skye, I sadly take no credit.

So the main things I have done differently to Skye are:

1. Blending the onions after they have been cooked on a low heat. I found that I preferred a slightly smoother texture, but not blending them works equally well. It’s just a personal choice.

2. I have only used one 400g can of coconut milk. I find that it is more than sufficient.

3. I use a little less sugar.

4. I have omitted the toasted coconut flakes to serve – mainly because my husband finds it a bit of a coconut overkill, but again this is down to personal choice.

5. Skye uses a whole tamarind pods and breaks off a little piece as she needs them. She soaks these pieces in hot water for 20 minutes.

In the photo above I put 1 tablespoon of caster sugar as Skye suggested, however, with hindsight, I would reduce this amount but half. Add a little, then taste it to see if it needs any extra sweetness.

Monkfish curry with tamarind, coconut, ginger and coriander 

Serves 4

850g of Monkfish, cut into 2 inch pieces

2 onions, peeled and finely sliced

5cm piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and grated or diced

4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

2 red chillies, chopped

1 tbsp of coriander seeds, toasted

5 ripe tomatoes, chopped

1 tbsp caster sugar

3 tbsp fish sauce

3 tbsp of tamarind water

1 x 400g can of coconut milk

To garnish: either unsweetened dried coconut flakes, lightly toasted or coriander leaves

1. Break a small piece of tamarind (the blocks that you can buy NOT the paste) into a bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave to stand for 15 minutes. Following this strain the liquid into another bowl. Really press the pulp into your strainer with the back of a spoon and then put the extra strained pulp into the water. Tamarind has a wonderful sour taste,which adds real depth and balance to a dish. I absolutely adore it.

2. Cut the monkfish into 2 inch pieces, or larger if you prefer, and clean under cold water. Set aside.

3. Heat a small frying pan and when it is hot, gentle toast the coriander seeds for 30 seconds so they begin to brown, then set aside.

4. Heat a little olive or vegetable oil in a pan over a medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they become translucent. This will take around 5 minutes.

5. Put the ginger, garlic, chillies, toasted coriander seeds and tomatoes in a blender and whizz to a paste. Then place the translucent onions into the paste and whizz again briefly. Transfer the contents back into the pan and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. If you prefer it less smooth then obviously do not blend the onions.

6. Add the sugar, fish sauce, tamarind water and coconut milk and stir so that the contents are merged into the tomato and onion sauce. Simmer for a further 5-10 minutes. Add the monkfish and add additional seasoning if it requires it. Keep the heat on medium/low heat stirring occasionally for no more than 10 minutes. Be careful not to break up the monkfish!

7. Ladle into a warm bowl or soup plate and garnish with coriander leaves or coconut flakes. Serve with a bowl of steamed rice.