And now, regular broadcasting will continue. And just to prove that I am not completely blinded by my animal love, and that I do understand the need for a balanced, humane and sustainable way of feeding this planet’s exploding population: A post on pork chops.
The adage that you should not judge a book by its cover is, in my humble opinion, completely inapplicable when it comes to food. Yes, I might quietly deduct a point from a restaurant’s score when they feel the need to advertise their food by using photos on their menu (thanks for ruining picture menu’s for me Gordon Ramsay – they’re the only way I know what I’m eating in China and now your Kitchen Nightmares rants have left me reeling as I wrestle with the restaurant photo-menu paradox: I should not be eating in a restaurant that puts photos of their food on their menu, but the only restaurant I can eat in without inadvertently ordering turtle soup with a soupçon of sea slug is a restaurant that puts photos of their food on their menu), but I will also seldom be persuaded to cook something unless it is accompanied by a photo to sell it to me. But I am going to ask you not to judge this dish by its cover. While it might look ugly to the point of being off putting, it is really, really good. In fact, Bush Man declared it the best thing he’s eaten in China – and we’ve been to Mr.& Mrs. Bund. And while it’s not exactly fine dining, and I suspect he was just trying to get into my pants, it does make for an exceptionally good and laughably easy family dinner.
If you found this post searching for “cooking with Chinese vegetables” then you probably think that asparagus is a shameful cop out. But I have included this recipe under that section, because not only is asparagus cheap and plentiful here, but they are really delicious. Tender and sweet with loads of asparagus flavour (as opposed to, you know, leek flavour, or Fresca maybe.) And in the supermarket they are as eye catching as hair vegetable or balsam pear, because they are freakishly long here, so you don’t feel like snapping off the tough end and tossing it away is such a waste. The secret to this dish is to use the best quality pork and asparagus you can find, because the flavour comes solely from these two ingredients.
I must confess, I’ve been shoving it in. Food that is. When my husband ecstatically declared after a foray to the mall near our soon to be new home in China that he “Could buy cheese and ham!” I started going into panic mode. He was getting excited about cheese and ham? What does this mean for the foodie in me?? I have visions of living in a foreign country for years, deprived of a lamb chop. Of months dragging by with not an oozing wedge of Camembert to be seen. Of days spent pining for a piece of bread that contains less sugar than the average Checkers Sunday Morning Cream Cake Special. So I’m getting it in while the getting is good. And even if it’s all my favourite stuff, a surprising number of these dishes really could not be included here. (Like Royco’s Dijon Chicken with homemade chips and All Gold tomato sauce. It is my secret shame that a packaged pronto dish would feature on my list of last meals.) But these really should be. These moreish little mushroom morsels are hugely popular and disappear in a flash so make loads of them! It has been adapted from a recipe I saw in the Huffington Post one year when they featured the best snacks for the Superbowl. I don’t know anything about the original conceiver of this dish. All I know is that her name is Adriene. Thank you Adriene!
Serves: Well, it could serve just me. But probably 6 if I share.
2 punnets of small brown mushrooms (or 4 very large ones)
6 smoked sausages* (anything will do, as long as the texture is fairly chunky)
3 heaped tablespoons plain cream cheese
1 large onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup grated cheese* (preferably something like a Gruyere that melts nicely)
1T tomato paste
a bit of fresh oregano, finely chopped
3 T olive oil
3 T balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper
Wipe mushrooms clean with a damp cloth and pull out the stems and discard. Toss the mushrooms with the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Spread out on a baking dish and bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees C for 20 minutes. Set aside and cool.
Slit the sausage and remove the filling from the casings. Crumble in a dry heated pan and saute until golden brown. Break up into small pieces while it is cooking. Remove from the pan, reserving the pan fats and juices and aside to cool.
Add the onions to the pan, with a bit more oil if neccesary. Cook slowly until caramelized (about 20 minutes), deglazing the pan with a little water if you need to. Then add the garlic and tomato paste and cook for another minute.
Put the cooked sausage, onions and garlic, cream cheese, salt & pepper, herbs and the grated cheese in a bowl and mix well with your hands.
Line up your mushrooms in a greased baking dish with the core side facing up. Stuff each mushroom with a generous portion of the creamy sausage mixture.
Now put the baking dish in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees for roughly 20 minutes or until they are golden brown. (This dish can be made up to 3 days ahead of time and put in the cooler until you are ready to put them in the oven.)
Serve and stand back so you don't lose a finger. Blink and they're gone.
* You can substitute any good bangers for the sausage, but then be sure to use a smoked cheddar cheese.