Sunday, June 6, 2010

Easy BBQ salads, Chinese 5 spice mix and a Chinese Marinade

With Saturday another lovely sunny day before the storm due on Sunday afternoon, we had another impromptu BBQ with friends.

After a morning spent weeding and pottering around the garden it seemed a really good idea to kick back and relax with a cocktail and plenty of food.

I whipped up a couple of salads - really easy and quick.

Pasta salad with french beans

Cook up a generous pile of pasta (about 500g) - for this sort of cold salad I just use the cheap twirl pasta and boil for 2 minutes less than the recommended time, for the last couple of minutes, turn off the heat and leave the pasta in the hot water to continue cooking, test to make sure the pasta is still firm then drain and immediately pour over some cold water to stop the cooking process. You want the pasta to be firm and not soggy.
Cook 250g of french beans (or cheat by using a tin!), drain and leave to cool, then mix with the cooled pasta
In the meantime, take 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise, add a tablespoon of wholegrain mustard, stir together then stir through the pasta and beans, then grind over some sea salt to season.

Whole grain wheat with sweetcorn

I buy this here in France in the dried pulses aisle along side rice and cous-cous, just boil up for 10 minutes, then drain and rinse with cold water, leave to cool. Add a tin of sweetcorn, stir in a tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

My pork I decided to marinade in a Chinese flavour for a change.
Chinese marinade:

2 tablespoons of honey
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of sherry (or sweet wine, or port, or some red wine with a pinch of sugar - whatever you have to hand)
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil - I normally use sunflower as that is what is normally in the pantry as a back-up, don't use olive oil, the flavour mix is not right
1 tablespoon Chinese 5 spice mix
1 generous pinch of salt

Massage well into the meat, leave in the mix for at least two hours in the fridge before cooking., the oil will help it cook on the BBQ without sticking to the grills.

Chinese 5 spice

As this mix is not readily available here in France I make my own in large batches to use when I need it.

My recipe is:

2 teaspoons of black peppercorns
4 cloves
8 star anise
1 stick of cinnamon
2 teaspoons of fennel seeds

Either grind in a mortar or whizz up in a blender - I have a mini blender for this sort of thing but sometimes it can leave the bits too big and not grind them down into a fine powder so normally I whizz it then grind in the mortar to just make sure I get a fine powder.

Lovely evening sat outside in the garden watching big beetles flying into the studio light.
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