The Chinese New Year, which starts on Sunday, is one of those annual events that really captures the imagination. It is celebrated in such a colourful and joyous way and Chinese food is so delicious, quick and simple to make that I hope you won't be able to resist having a go at it. Buy in the dim sum and make the ice cream ahead and all you need make on the night is the stir-fry.
A selection of dim sum
Luxury seafood stir fry, steamed pak choi
Stem ginger and almond ice cream, mandarin oranges and fortune cookies
350g cooked, peeled prawns
2-3 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped
1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger or ginger paste
1 tsp finely grated fresh garlic or garlic paste
1 1/2 tsp Vietnamese or Thai fish sauce
2 tsp light soy sauce
1/4 tsp sesame oil
1 medium egg white
1 tbsp ground rice
Salt, pepper and a pinch of caster sugar
About 5 thin slices white bread, preferably 2-3 days old
60-75g sesame seeds
Put the prawns in a food processor or blender along with all the other ingredients except the bread and sesame seeds and whizz until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for an hour or two for the flavours to amalgamate.
Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas 8. Cut the crusts off the bread and toast lightly. Cool then spread each slice thickly with the prawn paste. Cut each slice into six. Put the sesame seeds into a shallow bowl. Press the prawn toasts upper side down lightly into the sesame seeds then lay them on baking trays. Bake for about 5-6 minutes until the toasts are warm and the sesame seeds lightly browned. Cool for 10 minutes then serve.
400g large prawns, thawed if frozen
200g fresh queen (small) scallops
1 level tbsp cornflour
200g broccoli florets (about two medium heads of broccoli) cut into smaller florets3 tbsp sunflower or light olive oil
4-6 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
125g shitake mushrooms, wiped and finely sliced
1 large clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 knob of ginger about 2.5 cm square, peeled and grated
1/2 tsp Sichuan pepper or crushed chillies (optional)
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
For the sauce
225 ml light vegetable stock made with 1/2 an organic stock cube or 1 rounded tsp vegetable bouillon powder
Sieved juice of 1 large lemon (about 3-4 tbsp)
3-4 tbsp rice wine, sake or fino sherry
1 level tbsp caster sugar
1 level tbsp light soy sauce (or 1 1/2 tsp dark soy sauce)
1 rounded tsp cornflour
Reserve any liquid from the prawns and scallops. Pat them dry with kitchen towel and put in a large bowl. Sprinkle over the cornflour, season with 1 level tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp white pepper and toss thoroughly then set aside (in the fridge if you’re preparing the dish more than 30 minutes in advance) Microwave or blanch the broccoli in boiling, salted water for 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.
To make the sauce combine the stock in a jug with the lemon juice and 3 tbsp of the rice wine, sake or sherry. Stir in the sugar and the light soy sauce and check seasoning, adding more rice wine or other ingredients to taste. Mix the cornflour with 1 tbsp of water
When you’re ready to cook heat the wok, add 3 tbsp of oil and tip in the spring onions and sliced mushrooms. Stir fry for 2 minutes then add the broccoli, garlic and ginger. Stir fry another minute then season with sichuan pepper or crushed chillies if using. Tip in the seafood, the sauce and any liquid from the prawns and scallops and cook, stirring, until it comes to the boil (about 3 minutes) Add the cornflour and stir till thickened. Take off the heat and check the seasoning adding extra salt or pepper if needed. Serve with plain boiled rice and some steamed pak choi.
4-6 pieces of stem ginger + 3 tbsp of syrup from the jar
150ml Stone’s ginger wine
1 tbsp Cointreau or other orange liqueur + extra to serve
300g carton fresh custard
142ml carton whipping cream
A few drops of almond essence
Fortune cookies and mandarin oranges to serve
Chop the ginger very finely and place in a bowl. Put the syrup in a small saucepan with the ginger wine and Cointreau, bring to the boil and simmer for about 8-10 minutes until the liquid has reduced by about half. Pour over the ginger and cool for 10 minutes.
Transfer the custard into a large bowl and stir in the ginger and syrup. Whip the cream lightly and fold it into the custard, then add a few drops of almond essence to taste. Pour the custard into an ice cream machine and churn until firm, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Or, if you don’t have a machine, pour the mixture into a shallow dish or plastic container and place in the freezer then remove after 1 1/2 hours and whisk with an electric hand whisk. Repeat this freezing and whisking process 2 more times then leave until thoroughly frozen.
Store the frozen ice cream in a sealed plastic box and freeze for 24 hours.Transfer the ice cream to the fridge for 30 minutes before serving to make it easier to scoop. Serve with fortune cookies or another light crisp biscuit and tinned mandarin oranges drained and marinated in 2 tablespoons of Cointreau or another orange liqueur. Do give each person 8 segments - 8 is a sacred number in China and considered to bring luck and prosperity!
What to drink:
There are two ways to go with the wines for this menu - an aromatic white such as Riesling (I would recommend a young dry Riesling from Germany or Alsace), or a fruity Bordeaux rosé which is surprisingly good with Chinese food. I’ve also discovered that a good cold gin and tonic is exceptionally refreshing with fried dim sum such as prawn toasts and spring rolls although you could equally well serve a glass of Champagne or sparkling wine. Finish with a cup of delicate jasmine or chrysanthemum tea.