Sea Bass, Chinese style.

A dear Chinese friend gave a cooking class the other day, in aid of charity of course but it was a fun day.

She described her style of cooking as Home Cooking, but whatever it was, it was delicious.

There were a couple of things that really caught my eye, or rather my taste buds, Steamed Sea Bass, Stir Fried Mango Duck and a sauce, which I will call, Shiitake Mushroom Chinese Sauce. Every cook has a secret ingredient or recipe, which they refuse utterly to share with anyone, and this is Annie’s! So after a lot of google-ing and recipe testing I have finally come up with my own version of Annie’s sauce, I could be totally wrong, and only time will tell if it keeps, it has been sealed in sterilized bottles, so watch this space, and if it is successful, I will divulge.

So onto Steamed Sea Bass and I apologise to Annie for stealing her recipe.

For two people:-

  • A large Sea Bass, gutted and de-scaled
  • a large knob of ginger, peeled and finely sliced
  • a bunch spring onions , sliced lengthwise ( about 5 cm)
  • 2 Tablespoons Low salt Soy Sauce
  • 1 Cup Vegetable oil
  • Bunch of fresh coriander chopped
  • 2 teaspoons of sesame oil

Now Annie, used a steam pan to cook her fish, in fact any pan can be used, and made into a steamer, simply by placing some kind of rack into the bottom of a saucepan and make sure that the boiling water keeps below the rack. A bit complicated? Well, an easier way is to use the dishwasher, Annie steamed her fish for 35 Minutes or so, and I steamed my fish on the lowest WASH ( apart from the rinse programme) for an hour. Of course my fish was completely sealed.

Wash the fish and pat dry, ( assuming you have had it gutted and de-scaled by the fishmonger), Slash the fish and insert some of the ginger, the spring onions and some of the chopped coriander. Pour on some drops of the sesame oil, and wrap in aluminium foil, or if using the dishwasher method, seal in a polythene bag ( I have a vacuum sealer, but a zip lock bag will work well, but I would double bag it)

Steam for about 35 mins in a steam pan, or as I say, my shortest programme with the dishwasher is about an hour, and it works really well.

Just before the fish is ready, heat some vegetable oil, , place the fish onto a serving dish and pour over some of the hot oil and garnish with ginger, coriander and onions. Pour over a little soy sauce and/or sesame oil.

Of course some people do not like eating fish on the bone, so a variation of this would be to have sea bass filets, and put some of the ginger, onions and coriander in-between the filets as a form of stuffing and cook in the same way.

The next thing that Annie did was to cook Duck with Mango, again a fast dinner, but a visual and tasty joy.

For 2 people

  • 2 duck breast
  • 3 spring onions finely sliced
  • 1 small red onion also finely sliced
  • 1 large ripe mango, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tablespoon low salt soy sauce
  • a fresh red chilli sliced
  1. Slice the duck into 1/2″ strips
  2. mix together the red onion, some of the ginger, some of the oil and the soy sauce. Add the duck and leave to marinate, for at least 15 mins, but it is also possible to leave it overnight ( as I did almost by default).
  3. Heat some oil in a wok or deep pan along with some salt and pepper. Add the duck and cook for about 5 mins. Add the rest of the ingredients , leaving the mango to the end, so as not to over cook it.

This might be the traditional Chinese method, but the downside is that Duck has a fatty breast, which of course imparts flavour, but some people might object to the relatively raw fat ( himself and Willowy brunette for starters) , so I adapted the method slightly. I grilled the duck fat side down, after marinating,

then added to the wok as above.

And lastly, I am always fascinated by what I find in Supermarkets, especially when I am not in the UK.

My father once told me that his all time favourite as a boy was being able to afford a can of condensed milk and eating it all straight out of the can. It would seem that little has changed since then, as I found this in a french Supermarket recently. Pocket size, just incase you get a little peckish! Willowy Brunette ( She’s a Dentist will not be recommending that to anyone soon!)img_1389

Accentuate the positive!

Well so far we are only at a rate of 50% positive, which means of course 50 % negative!

Each year after our stay in our mountain home, where we do not eat out very often, given the sameness of the local cuisine ( ham, cheese, potatoes in many disguises)  we choose a hotel  which is 6-8 hours drive, which has a good restaurant, preferably one with a Michelin Star, nearby. The first year we tried this, we ate in a Michelin star restaurant in Reims, the home of champagne. The restaurant was good, the hotel not so good! The following year in wanting to avoid Calais because of the migrant crisis there, we stopped on St. Omer. The town faded and sad, the hotel, basic but new and clean, And with secure parking. But the restaurant!  Upon inspection on arrival, we were rather dismayed, but a surprise was in store, every table was taken, the linen, clean and crisp, the service perfect as was the food!

Last year we detoured to Colombey Les Deux Eglises, the spiritual home of Charles de Gaulle, a quaint, very touristy town, accommodation quaint but the restaurant a big disappointment. Although it holds a Michelin star, in my mind not warranted. The food, faddish ( serving a piece of steak on a huge beach pebble, impossible to eat) and the service decidedly not up to scratch, when himself left the table with napkin duly dumped, it was reassigned to a new duping ground ( in the middle of the table, whilst the next course was served, minus himself being at the table. Next, his red wine had a fly in it, which was removed, wine discarded but not replaced!!

So here we were again, it is August and despite it being the height of the holiday season, many of the good restaurants and hotels are closed, After all it is August and France shuts down for August! I finally settled on Le Touquet Paris Plage, about an hours drive from “Le Tunnel sous la Manche ” ( the channel tunnel to you and me) Perfect? No! The chosen restaurant was full, so plan b came into force. The restaurant that was recommended ( a bit of, You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours, springs to mind) was Les Cimaises, in Hotel Le Westminster, part of the Barrière group, An expensive hotel for a quick overnight stay! And on top of that just in case you abscond, they automatically add an extra €200 to the deposit Credit card!! Umm !!!

As it was a quick overnight stop, we did not see too much of Le Touquet, but it looks a really nice town, not at all Margate more like Padstow. That is being unfair to Margate, memories of a former life, but really nice tree-lined avenues and lovely looking  thatched houses, must go back I have said to myself, but not to the Le Westminster. Apart from the price, the bar was so old-fashioned ( and empty), dark and gloomy, the restaurant unsatisfactory and the rooms? well the rooms, spacious enough, clean and bright, comfortable, but the bathroom, well, the shower one could kill oneself, in getting in and out of the bath, the hairdryer, on of those hot air tubes, attached high up on the wall, and the Bidet??? to use it, if you must, shove a table halfway around the room, to get to it!

So, onto our “Gourmet” dinner. The our amazement the restaurant was full ( lucky us we had reserved), and very noisy. Uncle Tom Cobley and all were there, along with screaming kids, and snotty nosed geriatrics ( not us you understand) but one of whom was in my direct vision, who used his napkin constantly to wipe his nose!!

We soon discovered why the restaurant was so popular, a Buffet, !! every Friday but maybe on other days as well, and even though I did not even look at the buffet, I knew at once, that there would be a few choice items and then the rest would be fillers, in the form of salads and starch. Sure enough, there was the constant flow of diners marching up and down to the buffet, returning with their plates laden sky-high, half of which would be then left on their plates!

So we ate a la carte, the menu was fine, not very imaginative but there were two things on it that I really wanted to try. The first, was something I had never eaten before, L’Os à Moelle Rôti, ( Roasted Marrow Bone) and the second something that I like,

Riz de Veau ( Veal Sweetbreads).IMG_8742

The roasted marrow bone was a revelation, tow large pieces of bone was perhaps a little too much, but was in fact very tasty. The Riz de veau on the other hand was decidedly odd, served with some rather dry macaroni ( I never eat macaroni) and some melted Mozarella, the Riz de veau alone were nice though, but forget about the other bits! We skipped dessert, decamped to the bar, which is when we discovered it to be really rather dull!

The final insult for our little jaunt in Le Touquet, was the morning Tea. Given the fact that they charge a Caution, in case we abscond, the morning tea cups, were paper!!IMG_5589However on my return to the UK, I visited my local Waitrose, only to find that they had Marrow Bones cut lengthwise! Whole foods often has Marrow bones, but cut across so to make Osso Buco.

Needlessly to say I just had to buy them and headed home to try for myself. Easy it is. According to Fergus Henderson, in his book The Complete Nose to Tail Victorians would serve Onion Soup and Bone Marrow  Toast to sickly children, to make them grow big and strong.

All that is needed to make Marrow Bone toast, are the bones, and a baquette cut in half lengthwise, rubbed with some olive oil, toasted and sprinkled with some Fleur du Sel. Simply roast the bIMG_9564ones, marrow side up in a fairly hot oven until the marrow is soft and brown. Serve with the toast and a spoon to scoop out the marrow. Yummy !!