At this time of year the Chinese choose dishes that are symbolic of prosperity, longevity and a fresh start. So tuck in!
What February needs is something to liven things up, to add a splash of colour and a bit of energy to the dog-end of winter. Lucky then that we can adopt the vibrant annual celebration of Chinese New Year* (In 2016 it falls on 8 February and marks the start of the Year of the Monkey).
Jenny Linford always takes time to celebrate it: “I spent part of my childhood living in Singapore and my memories from that time revolve around food: from eating satay, freshly cooked over charcoal, to family outings with my cousins to dine on tasty Hainanese chicken rice.
Chinese New Year is huge in Singapore. As a child, I loved collecting the ‘ang pow’ (envelopes of money) given to me by family and friends, as is traditional, and feeling very rich! Though I live in London, I still mark the day by cooking a Chinese-inspired meal for family and friends. Bringing together loved ones to feast and talk is always meaningful – and convivial.”
Braised belly pork
A homely stew with a kick is always a welcome sight. Fluffy rice will mop up the juices nicely
1kg belly pork, skin on, boned, cut into 2.5cm chunks
1 tbsp oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 leeks, trimmed and chopped
2.5cm piece of root ginger, peeled and sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 star anise
1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
3 tbsp Chinese rice wine or Amontillado sherry
1 tbsp tomato purée
600ml chicken stock, preferably fresh
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
salt, to taste
chopped green spring onion, to garnish
1 Heat a large, heavy frying pan. Put in the belly pork, skin side down, and cook over a medium heat for 5-10 mins until the skin crisps and browns, then turn over and fry briefly until the flesh whitens.
2 Heat the oil in a large casserole dish. Fry the onion, leeks, ginger and garlic, stirring to prevent browning, until softened.
3 Add the fried pork belly and star anise to the casserole dish and sprinkle over the five-spice powder, mixing well. Add the rice wine and fry, stirring for 2–3 mins.
4 Mix in the tomato purée and add the stock, soy sauce and sugar. Bring to the boil, cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 30 mins. Season to taste with salt.
5 Uncover and simmer for 30 mins to reduce the liquid, stirring now and then. Cover, cool and chill until required, then heat through thoroughly. Garnish with chopped green spring onion and serve.
Turn to page 38 of February’s The Simple Things for the full Chinese New Year menu:
Crispy fried prawn wontons
Steamed sea bass
Braised belly pork
Stir-fried noodles with vegetables
Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce