Updated: 2011-01-24 09:33
By Pauline D. Loh (China Daily)
There will be many meals to prepare as family and friends gather during the Spring Festival break. Pauline D. Loh suggests some easy but impressive recipes to wow them all.
My many nephews and nieces are budding gourmets who go online to search for the best dining deals. They are more familiar with Italian pasta and Spanish paella than some of China's more remote provincial cuisine these days and they love my cooking for its occasional exotic quirks that their own mamas frown upon.
And I am happy to please them with French and American classics that they may not get to eat in their culinary adventures in Beijing's restaurants.
For the coming holidays, I'm playing with some easy poultry recipes that are spun-off from the complicated cookbooks. I have pared down a duck l'orange for example and made it an easy make-ahead dish that will reheat easily.
I have also got a huge bag of chicken pieces marinating in the fridge in buttermilk, ready to be fried up, Southern-style.
Together with a huge fruit and vegetable salad, these dishes will do well for the first day of Chinese New Year when the children flock back to our courtyard house with best wishes for the grandmother. There'll be noisy games of mahjong, video games and clusters of cousins catching up on the latest news.
I hear there will even be a couple of new girlfriends and boyfriends being brought back to meet the clan.
It's an exciting time, and a happy noisy start to the spring and its prospects of warmer weather ahead.
Even if you are not entertaining hordes, these two dishes are great for smaller parties. They will form the core of your menu, and you can add a few staples like pasta, couscous, salads, or a couple of plates of tapas or appetizers.
They are a lot of fun to do as well, and do not take a huge amount of kitchen skills. They do need a longer period of seasoning, but that's easy. Season them a day or two ahead, put them in the fridge and take them out on the actual day to finish them off.
Recipe | ORANGE MARMALADE DUCK
1 duck, about 1.5 kg
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
1 tbsp salt
150 ml thick-cut orange marmalade
1 cup orange juice
Zest of 1 orange
1. Clean and dry the duck. Place the duck on a large cutting board and press down hard on the duck, breaking the bones.
2. Roast the Sichuan peppercorns and salt in a dry wok. Pour into a pestle and mortar and pound to a powder. Rub the mixture inside and outside the duck.
3. Place the duck in a large zip-lock bag and pour the orange juice, orange zest and orange marmalade over. Rub the mixture over the duck, and inside. Leave to marinade for a few hours or overnight.
4. Place the duck on a rack on a baking tray and roast in 180 C for about one hour. Increase the heat to 200 C and baste the duck with any marmalade remaining. Finish the duck in a hot oven for another 15 minutes to crisp the skin.
5. Cook the marmalade marinade in a pot to reduce until syrupy. Serve with the duck.
Don't have an oven? Cook the duck in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add all the marinade to the pan and as the duck cooks, the juices will reduce and form a syrupy glaze over the duck. Watch the duck as it cooks. The trick is to use medium heat to cook the duck thoroughly, and increase the heat at the last to reduce the juices and glaze the duck.
Recipe| SOUTHERN FRIED CHICKEN
3 kg whole chicken or chicken legs, cut into pieces
1 liter buttermilk (or substitute 1 cup thick yoghurt mixed with 2 cups milk)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp chili flakes or sweet paprika
1 shallot, finely minced
2 sprigs thyme, chopped
1 stalk spring onions, chopped
Salt and pepper
3 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp cracked black pepper
1. Rinse and dry the chicken pieces well. Place in a very large basin.
2. Add minced garlic, chili flakes, shallots, thyme, spring onions and salt and pepper. Mix with the chicken pieces and blend well so each piece is coated.
3. Pour buttermilk mixture over the chicken pieces and marinade overnight in the fridge.
4. When ready to fry, toss the plain flour with baking powder, salt and pepper.
5. Heat oil to medium hot, when the oil is just about to smoke.
6. Shake off excess buttermilk and dust the chicken pieces thoroughly with flour.
7. Ease the chicken pieces into the hot oil and fry 8 to 10 minutes each side or until golden brown and cooked.
8. Drain and serve with lemon wedges.
If you cannot find buttermilk, marinate the chicken pieces in diluted yoghurt. Or acidulate milk by squeezing in the juice of a lemon. The combination of acids in the marinade will help to tenderize the chicken, resulting in a moist juicy chicken with a crispy skin.
The Spring Festival is the most important traditional festival for family reunions.
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