I experimented a bit with fried rice by using no obviously Chinese ingredients (aside from the rice itself). There were some pitted olives hanging around in my fridge, some fatty pork slices and a tomato, together with leftover rice. It worked quite well my dried mixed herbs and plenty of freshly ground black pepper, but didn’t taste very western at all. I guess you can’t run away from the Chinese-ness of garlic, pork and rice. But it’s so yummy from the interplay of soft tomato, pungent olive and tasty fatty pork that I might do it again even if I don’t have olives to finish up!
2 garlic cloves
20 pitted black olives from a can, drained
1 tbsp olive oil
100g fatty pork, chopped
1 tsp dried mixed herbs (I used herbs de provence, but it doesn’t really matter)
1-2 cups cooked rice
1 tomato, diced
- In an electric chopper, pulse the garlic and olives together till chopped fine.
- In a work, heat the olive oil and gently fry the garlic-olive mixture till fragrant.
- Turn up the heat and add the pork and fry till no longer pink, then stir in the dried herbs.
- Now add the rice and stir till well incorporated, heat through. Add salt to taste.
- Off the heat, stir in the tomatoes and serve.
Serves 2 or 3 (i.e. with 2 people you get leftovers, yay!).
To accompany the fried rice, I made some mushrooms braised in red wine. It’s a really simple dish that so luscious and sinful. I normally think of them with German sausages and thickly sliced bread, but they didn’t do too badly with the fried rice!
50 g butter
1 onion, sliced
300 g button mushrooms (1 punnet – brown ones are generally nicer)
1 wine glass of red wine (I normally freeze leftover wine for occasions such as these)
- Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat and sweat the onions gently. Let them colour a bit, but not brown.
- When the onions are soft, add the button mushrooms and stir.
- Turn up the heat and pour in the red wine.
- When the mixture starts to boil, turn down the heat to simmer for about 15 minutes or till the gravy has thickened.
- Add salt and pepper to taste before serving.
Another day, the word “chermoula” kept floating in my head. I’d not really thought much about trying one out till now, and I couldn’t shake it off. Knowing that I had to get it out of my system, I went to the supermarket and picked up whatever seemed right to go into a chermoula. According to Wikipedia, a chermoula is of North African origin. Commonly found in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, it’s a thick marinade or sauce made out of herbs, lemon, garlic, cumin and oil. It’s supposed to accompany seafood and fish, but I used it to top poached chicken breasts instead. It really livened up the plain chicken and added such zing to a simple dinner. For this meal, the poached chicken was accompanied by boiled beans, carrots and fennel, with a side of wheat berries done in the rice cooker. Top the chicken breast with chermoula and crispy chicken skin (20 mins in 160 °C) and it’s a fairly healthy dinner.
4 garlic cloves
1 pack coriander (50g?)
1 pack parsley (50g?)
3 tsp coriander powder
2 tsp cumin powder
4 tsp paprika powder
juice and zest of 1 lemon
- In an electric chopper, pulse the garlic, herbs, powders and zest with half the lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil.
- Keep pulsing till smooth, adding more oil to help the process along.
- Add salt and more lemon juice to taste.
Makes enough for 4.