Wednesday, August 8, 2012


It may seem from my postings that I never cook anymore, and that I eat out every night. Whilst I have to admit to eating out a lot more than I did at home, I still like to cook too, maybe just not so often.
It can be cheap to eat out, and I have the wonderful situation of  eating out with my husband on work related dinners. A real treat, and also a great way of meeting the people he works with everyday. Win, win!

However a few weeks ago I decided to invite some friends over for supper, and promised I would cook a Chinese meal.  Almost immediately regretting my promise, as one of my guests was to be Chinese. Would I mess up and have her laugh at my efforts? I would just have to be very careful with what I chose to serve. After much deliberation I went for Gok Wan's twice cooked pork, I knew this was achievable, fried rice, no problem, ribs in a sticky sauce, had done this before, okra in batter with a dipping sauce, a first and no recipe, how wrong could I go with this? prawns in a sweet and sour sauce, an old favourite, and last but not least my piece de resistance would be crispy duck, another first, but a quick google brought me a Jamie Oliver recipe, and another google brought me the recipe for the pancakes. I was sorted, I hoped.

I spent the afternoon marinading, chopping, mixing sauces and generally getting everything ready to go. With Chinese cooking most of it has to be done at the last minute so the preparation is very important. The pork had to be boiled in a delicious aromatic broth for a couple of hours, and the duck, after being rubbed with salt and crushed ginger, had to be roasted for two hours. So at this stage I was as ready as I could be, just the table to put together. I seemed to have it under control. I sat down to relax for a while when suddenly I realised I had forgotten to make the pancakes for the duck! It was just over an hour until guests arrived............

I rushed to the kitchen, I knew flour and boiling water were the only ingredients. I knew it would be a bit before I could handle the hot pastry after making, 30 mins the recipe said. I didn't really have 30 mins, so I went early. Still a bit hot to be handling but there was no alternative if I wanted to serve the duck as I had hoped. Rolled out the pancakes, then saw I had to brush with sesame oil and place one on top of the other, seal together then dry fry.  All went well until I tried to peel the two apart, as was the instructions. They were really hot. Really, really hot. Ok so I ripped few edges, and they weren't perfectly round, given more time I think I could sort out these things, but they tasted fine. Panic over. Guests arrived, food was put on the table and we all tucked in. Duck was a big hit, as was the pork the ribs and rice. I felt prawns were a little sweet, but they were all eaten. The fried okra was okay but having to be fried at the very last minute made it a bit of an added problem. 

So all in all a success. I am not the laughing stock of the Chinese community, I can hold my head high. I had fun doing it, learned a few lessons, and I will do it again. One of the nice things about having Chinese people for dinner is that no dessert is expected, therefore all my efforts went into the main dishes. But as I love making desserts I will have a special dessert event for my expat friends, I know they will enjoy it. 

Happy in the kitchen as always, and stretching my skills also makes me happy, and of course happy sharing my experiences with you. Maybe I should cook more than I have been lately.


  1. What is Gok Wans book like? do you like it as much as Bill Grangers? The meal looks superb Jacqui!! Esp like the sound of the crispy duck!! I find it so interesting that the asian cuisine can be so varied, Filipino food being much more bland and less spicy and less varied.. I am not even sure that I have ever seen duck on sale here ( other than breast in mega expensive ex pat delis!) Chicken, pork and beef are really my only options in Manila .. which limits the beautiful cook books that I have!! xxx

  2. I like Gok's book. Easy tasty dishes, and very similar to some of the food we eat here. We have every kind of food you can imagine on offer here, from fish and chips to Greek to tapas, to Italian, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai and almost anything else you can think of.