Stir -Fried Vegetables in black bean sauce

Black bean sauce is pungent and robust. I love the saltiness of it coupled with the freshness of the vegetables. Originally ,this recipe ,from famed chef Ken Hom, had somewhat of a novelle take by only using Asparagus. Now while I love Asparagus ,I love to include other vegetables ,such as black mushrooms ,snow peas and finally fresh baby spinach. This is my take on this recipe. Serve with steamed rice or noodles.

Serves 2

1/4 lb fresh asparagus, trimmed, cut into 3 inch pieces on a slant

1/4 lb fresh baby spinach ,washed and dried

1/4 lb snow peas, trimmed ,washed and dried

6 pieces black mushrooms ,rehydrated according to package ,sliced lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices.

1 TBS peanut oil

2 TSP finely grated ginger

2 TSP finely grated garlic

2 TBS black beans ,coarsley chopped

2 TSP chili bean sauce

2/3 cup vegetable stock

1 TSP sugar

3 TBS rice wine or Sherry

1 TSP sesame oil

Heat wok and add oil. When hot ,add the ginger ,garlic and black beans and stir- fry for a few seconds.  Add the chili bean sauce ,stir a few seconds. Add all ,but the spinach, the prepared vegetables and stir fry for 2 minutes. Stir in the stock ,sugar  and rice wine. Cook over high heat for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Off the heat    add the spinach, stir just to wilt, add the sesame oil stir and pour into heated serving dish. Serve


Nankathai, eggless Indian Cardamon Cookies

Since my childhood I have been smitten by these little spice scented cookies. The aroma wafting through the house turns me into a kid every time. sadly,I have to wait a full hour till the cookies actually set enough for me to handle. The secret to these cookies is using extreemly room temperature butter, that is to say it should feel like it may melt in your hands. As these are short bread like they should be handled as little as possible during the combining process,allowing the dough to rest at room temperature prior to baking is critcal, as well as grinding the almonds very finely.

Photograph by Rahul Mahtani

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup confectioners sugar

2 cups all purpose flour

freshly grated nutmeg (about a big pinch)

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamon

pinch salt

1/8 cup finely ground blanched almonds

pinch salt

1 TBS semolina

Combine butter and confectioners sugar until just combined. Fold in Flour ,Nutmeg ,Salt ,Cardamon ,Semolina and ground almonds. BE VERY GENTLE. Fold until just incorporated.

Cover the dough and allow to rest at least half an hour or up till 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 300*F

Using a tablespoon, measure dough and roll each piece into a ball,flattening slightly before placing on cookie sheet.

Bake at 300*F for 25-30 minutes. The cookies need to cool completly before placing them in an airtight container. Will keep at room temperature for 1 week.

Chicken in Hot Bean Sauce

Hot Bean sauce can be purchased from asian Markets ,it is moderately spicy and slightly salty, a winning combination.This recipe comes from famed cookbook authour Eileen Yin-Fei Lo. It is written specifically for chicken ,but ,I must admit I have used this very successfully with fish fillets, especially carp, but any fish of your choice will do.

Serves 4


2 TBS egg whites ,lightly beaten

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 TBS tapioca starch (I have used Cornstarch, with success)

1 lb chicken cutlets, cut into 2 1/2 by 1/2 inch strips.


2 1/2 TBS hot Bean sauce

2 1/2 TBS oyster sauce

1 TBS light soy sauce

1 TBS sugar

1 TBS shao-Hsing wine or Shrerry

1 TSP sesame oil

pinch white pepper

1 TBS tapioca starch

1/3 cup chicken stock


5 cups peanut oil, for blanching.

2 TSP minced ginger2 TSP minced garlic1/4 cup scallions,white portions only, cut into 1/4 slices

1 TBS shao- Hsing wine or Shrerry.

Combine all marinade ingredients; Place chicken strips in marinade, mix well to coat and allow to rest 15 minutes,reserve.

While chicken marinates, combine all sauce ingredients in a bowl, set aside.

Heat wok over high heat for 1 minute. Add 5 cups peanut oil and bring to a temperature of 300 *F. Add chicken and marinade. Turn off heat immediately,loosen chicken strips to seperate them. When chicken turns white (about 45 seconds ) turn off heat ,remove with strainer ,and drain over a bowl.

Empty wok of oil, leaving about 2 TBS in well. Turn heat to high and heat for 20 seconds. Add ginger and garlic, stir. Add scallions and cook for 45 seconds. Add peppers, stir together ,cook 2 minutes.  Add chicken ,mix together. Drizzle wine into wok from edges. Make a well,, stir sauce, pour into wok, and stir throughly. When sauce thickens and bubbles,turn off heat. Transfer to heated dish and serve with cooked rice.

Chocolate Almond Pate (eggless) With Marscapone cream

The description for this dessert is simply Sublime. Just a winner from The Culinary Institute Of America ,in Hyde Park ,NY. It is simple and elegant,and can be prepared up to 2 days ahead of time, refridgerated and sliced thinly just prior to serving and served with whipped cream. I am going to include my recipe for a simple Marscapone cream,that is an option and I love to serve fresh berries with it.

Serves 10

11/4 cups whipping cream

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1lb bittersweet or semisweet chocolate ,chopped

1 cup ground toasted almonds

1 teaspoon almond extract

Line 71/2 by 31/2 by 21/4 inch loaf pan with waxed paper. Bring cream and butter to simmer in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat to low . Add chocolate and stir until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in ground almonds and extract. Pour into prepared pan . Cover and chill overnight. (can be made 2 days ahead).

To unmold, invert loaf pan onto work serface. Peel off waxed paper. Cut pate into thin slices with warm thin bladed knife. Place pate slices on plate. Garnish with rosettes of whipped cream, whole almonds and mint.

Marscapone whipped cream

8 oz marscapone cheese ,at room temperature

1/2 cup very cold heavy cream

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons Amaretto liquor (Italian almond flavored liquor,optional)

Whip Marscapone cheese and heavy cream till light. Add all other ingredients and whip just till combined. Refridgerate till ready to use. Serve with Chocolate Almond Pate and berries.

Pumpkin -Corn Pudding

This savory side dish is a staple at our holiday table. it was featured in Bon Appetit some years back and was an instant hit both with family and friends.I love the fact that it uses the stove top only ,freeing up much valued oven space.

serves 4

2 TBS butter

1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels

1 TBS minced garlic

2 cups (or more )milk

1 cup canned solid -pack pumpkin

1 cup cornmeal

Melt butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add corn and garlic. Cook 3 minutes,stirring frequently. Mix in 2 cups milk and pumpkin. Bring mixture to simmer. Gradually stir in 1 cup cornmeal. reduce heat and cook until mixture is thick,stirring constantly,about 4 minutes. Thin mixture to desired consistency with additional milk if necessary. Season pudding generously with salt and pepper

Szechuan Pork with Green beans

Joyce Chen designed this recipe to use her brand of products and sauces. I have great difficuly locating these products so I use store bought Szechuan sauce and cooking oil,feel free to substitute if you find the items. The pork in this dish is shreddedto match the shape and size of the green beans. The easiest way to shred the pork is to wash and dry the pork,place it in the freezer till partially frozen ,and shredding is a snap.

1/2 lb lean pork ,shredded

1/2 TBS cornstarch

3 TBS Szechuan sauce

1 lb fresh green beans

4 TBS cooking oil

1/4 cup water

Mix shredded pork with corn starch and sauce

Remove stems and string from green beans and snap into 2-3 sections. Wash and drain well.

Put 3 TBS oil in wok over medium high heat and cook shredded pork and stir fry for 3-4 minutes or until pork is throughly cooked. Remove pork to plate.

In same pan add 1 TBS more cooking oil and beans. Stir then add 1/4 cup water to pan and bring to boil. Cover and continue cooking over medium low heat for 5-10 minutes,depending on how crisp you like the beans.

Add cooked pork bake into wok,stir and serve hot.

Chocolate pecan Toffee Squares (EGGLESS)

I love bar cookies for gift giving ,entertaining or just a square with my afternoon tea. Growing up in the mediterrean ,on a island long influenced by the British,High tea was the fashion, Our home economics class even hosted a coffee morning fund raiser with great success, this was the type of pastry we prepared. to save time ,I prepare bar cookies ,when time permits,allow them to cool fully then wrap well in plastic and a freezer bag and free till needed. Just defrost ,warm in the oven and serve.



1 cup sifted all purpose flour

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup cold unsalted butter,cut into bits


1/2 cup unsalted butter

2 tablespoons dark corn syrup

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup light cream

1 cup chopped pecans

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 oz semisweet chocolate ,chopped coarse

Preheat oven to 350*F.

In a bowl combine flour and brown sugar. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom of an 8 inch square baking pan . Bake in the lower third of the oven for 35 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool.

In a heavy saucepan melt the butter, add the dark corn syrup and the brown sugar, and bring the mixture to a boil over moderate heat,stirring with a wooden spoon. Boil the mixture stirring ocassionally until the mixture registers 260*F on a candy thermometer.. Remove the pan from heat and add the pecans and cream, stirring gently.Return the pan to heat , bring to boil and cook to 240*F on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat ,stir in the chocolate and vanilla,stir till chocolate melts.

Pour topping into shortbread base,spread with knife.Allow to cool completely ,for about 2 hours ,before cutting into 2 inch squares.