Hunan: Aubergine with Minced Pork stir fry

I have been waiting for this book for ages since I heard that it was being written. If you have never been to the Hunan Restaurant in Pimlico, you need to add that to the London Restaurant bucket list. I had a really memorable meal there and can happily say that it was one of the best (non Cantonese) Chinese meals I’ve had in London.

Hunan the cook book, subtitled ” A lifetime of secrets from Mr Peng’s Chinese Kitchen” is a collection of recipes that spans over 50 years of his experience in the kitchen. Taiwanese Mr Peng who is now 70, still regularly works in the kitchen at the restaurant. By his son’s Michael’s own words, he describes his father as focused, uncompromising and a traditionalist. He lives and breathes food.

About Hunan the cook book

The Hunan cook book is beautifully bound like an old Chinese manuscript. It has a lot of brightly coloured pictures for each recipe. If you have eaten at Hunan, this is like a download of the Mr Peng’s brain and it helps you decipher what it was that you ate at your last meal there as they don’t have a menu.

The book has over 70 recipes and many of them are easily achievable at home. I love cook books like this as it both practical and approachable. I have tried a couple of recipes so far and found them easy to follow and to recreate at home. The recipe for Aubergine and Minced Pork below has an unusual flavour and uses miso and white wine vinegar, not usually found in Chinese cooking.

The unique recipes are a mixture of Taiwanese, Hunanese, Sichuan, Guangdong and Northern Chinese. I am quite thrilled to expand my knowledge as my own Chinese recipe repertoire includes mainly Cantonese and Hokkien dishes. The main ingredients needed to create the multitude of recipes in this book are just 3 vinegars, 4 chilli sauces, sugar, salt, a little Shaoxing wine, slivers of ginger, spring onions and garlic.

It is unlike any other Chinese cook books and doesn’t include the usual takeaway favourites. If you are an adventurous cook, you must add the Hunan Cook Book
to your collection. I will certainly be cooking my way through this book over the years.


Aubergine with Minced Pork

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

4 portions

Aubergine with Minced Pork


  • 1 tbsp minced pork
  • 1 aubergine, cut into 5cm batons
  • 10 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp slaked cornflour for thickening the sauce
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • oil for frying
  • For the sauce
  • 3 tbsp chicken stock
  • 1 tsp miso paste or yellow bean paste
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 fresh red chilli, finely sliced
  • 10 coriander stalks, finely chopped
  • Salt and sugar to taste


  1. Mix all the sauce ingredients together in a bowl and season to taste
  2. Heat a little oil in a wok ihntuil almost smoking. Add the pork mince and cook until it changes colour.
  3. Add the aubergines with about 10 tbsp water and cook for about 3-4 minutes until the aubergine has softened
  4. Add the sauce to the wok and stir through before adding the slaked cornflour, white wine vinegar and sesame oil. When the sauce has thickened, it is ready to serve.


This dish works well as part of a meal when served with a few different dishes and steamed white rice.

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Tasting 16 year old Basque Txuletón Beef

The Speciality Food Show is a great place to discover new food producers and identify food trends. The highlight this year was this stand that was showcasing this unusual beef from 16 year old cattle from the Basque country. Being a total Beef Geek, I was drawn to this stand by the aroma of beef frying on the hot plate.

Txuleton Basque Beef

1kg Txuleton Steak

1kg Txuleton Steak. Recommended cooking method, grill and smother with rock salt

This meat is sold by The Txogitxu Meat company who sources this from small farmers in the region. They currently supply meat to top restaurants in Spain including Juan Mari Arzak’s 3 star establishment in San Sebastian.

Beef from such old cattle is a real rarity here. Most commercially reared cattle for the supermarkets are slaughtered at 1-2 years old as it is not economically feasible to keep them longer. They fatten them up quick and sell them quicker.

In Spain, the most popular cut is the massive T Bone which is cooked whole on a hot plate, with a big handful of salt placed on the meat while cooking to enhance the flavours. This is served whole on the table as a sharing platter. Looking at the hunks of meat on display, you are instantly struck by the thick layer of buttery yellow fat and the dark red colour of the meat and the wonderful marbelling. I got to taste a few slices of this meat and it is tender and had a beefy but not overly gamey flavour.

Txuleton Basque Beef

I even got to take home a massive piece to cook at home. This I cooked on a very hot griddle pan that had been oiled by frying up some of the fat and served it rare. The marbling on the meat and frying in its own fat gave this steak so much flavour. The incredible smell from pan frying that massive steak was like the best perfume ever, if only it can be bottled. Not to waste anything, the fat surrounding the meat, I rendered down into a big bowl of beef dripping.

What’s so special about these 16 year old Basque cattle?

Basque Txuleton

16 Year Old Cattle with thick buttery yellow fat

From their brochure, it was not possible to tell what breed they were and all the other questions one would typically ask. I have asked all these questions and more via email and will update this post when I get a reply.

What breed are the cattle?

What are they fed on?

How many heads of cattle ?

Why only old cattle?

What is the difference?

How long is the meat aged for?


About The Basque Country and Cider Houses Siderias

I did some searches online about this old beef and only managed to find one very old article from Time magazine talking about this being a tradition in that area. These Charcoal Grilled T Bone steaks have been served in the Cider Houses (siderias) of the region for the last 300 hundred years. Traditionally, they will shout out “Txotx” when they dramtically pour out the cider from barrels from a height. The “Txueleton”(sometimes chuleton)  or the 1kg T Bone steaks are typically served simply charcoal grilled at these siderias.

I have not found anywhere in London that serves this yet but I expect we will be seeing this soon. Meat lovers, you will have try this beef for yourself. You will be amazed.

Would love to find out more and to visit their operations. Next stop San Sebastian.

You can find out more details about the company on their site.

See the highlights of this year’s Speciality Food Show on this post.

Pak Awie Malay restaurant

In recent years, London has seen an increase in Malaysian restaurants and in particular halal Malay restaurants. Quite a few of are around the Paddington area to cater to the increasing number of Mara and other Malaysian student hostels in the area and their visiting parents. When Malaysians travel, they like to find Malaysian restaurants as they can’t go for too long without a taste of home. Quite a few of them have been known to bring their sambal belacan or chilli sauce with them to spice up foreign cuisine.

Pak awie Paddington

When I am in need of a taste of home, I veer towards Paddington where quite a few Malaysian restaurants have sprung up in recent years. Pak Awie is one of these newer Malay restaurants in Paddington. It serves Halal Malay food. On the evening we were there, the customers seem to range from some Malaysian students, a group from nearby St Marys Hospital to some Middle Eastern couples.

The smell of belacan (fermented prawn paste) hits you as you walk through the door. The dining room decor is modern unlike  some of the other more drab Malay restaurants in the area catering to students.  The walls of the brightly lit dining room are decorated with some Malaysiana and a couple of portraits of the current King and Queen. A few tables were occupied by On the night groups of Malaysian students, staff from the nearby St Marys Hospital and a few Middle Eastern couples.

On the menu you will recognise some of the more well known dishes like Laksa, Nasi Lemak and the ubiquitous Beef Rendang. As I was there with an English friend with an adventurous palate so we ordered Asian style, lots of dishes to share. We started with an Indian Muslim Murtabak and Mixed Satay. The Satay was well marinated but dry and was served with a decent spicy satay sauce. Unfortunately someone must have ignored the murtabak as it was a burnt,  under seasoned and should not have been served.

The burnt Murtabak

The burnt Murtabak

Malaysian Satay

Malaysian Satay

Beef Rendang

Beef Rendang

Kangkong Belacan

Kangkong Belacan

Ayam Masak Merah

Ayam Masak Merah

Grilled lamb chops

Grilled lamb chops

Pak awie (21)

For mains, our cheerful server suggested the house special grilled lamb chops. The tender lamb chops coated with a sticky glaze and the umami rich Kangkong belacan provided a good taste and texture contrast to the meal. The lightly spiced beef rendang triggered memories of happy meals at home. Thankfully, after the blip with the starters, the mains were much better executed.

The sweet options at Malaysian restaurants are not usually very enticing to a Western palate. The Pak Awie menu had a couple of choices of sweet soups and we picked the Bubur Pulut Hitam, a black glutinous rice pudding with coconut milk. The rice was tender but was rather bland and needed a lot more sugar syrup to taste right. The texture was too much like school food for my friend but I guess this sweet soups as a concept is a step too far for some.

The authentic flavours at Pak Awie was a taste of home although they need to pay a bit more attention to detail and not serve anything overly burnt. Expect to spend about £30 per person but order well and be prepared for the languid service.


EatCookExplore was a guest of Malaysia Kitchen at Pak Awie

Highlights of the Speciality Food Show 2014

Every visit to the Speciality Food Show leads to new discoveries of interesting food producers and food products.

It also highlights food trends that are about to hit our supermarkets. This year, there was an abundance of new coconut water brands, Jerky companies, British Charcuterie, Bilitong, Raw Honey, beetroot ketchup, a 16 year old Basque Beef, designer salt and some medicinal mushrooms made into chocolates.

As usual, there are lots of interesting branding and labels too.

Woodalls British Charcuterie

Woodalls British Charcuterie – the make some amazingly tasty hams. Check them out!

Txuleton Basque Beef

Txuleton Basque Beef


Txuleton Basque Beef (6) Tideford 197

Speciality Food Show 2014

Tideford 241 Tideford 198 Tideford 199 Tideford 200 Tideford 201

Interesting salts from the salt house

Interesting salts from the salt house.

Tideford 203

Tideford 215 Tideford 217 Tideford 218 Tideford 219 Tideford 220 Tideford 221 Tideford 222 Tideford 223 Tideford 224 Tideford 225 Tideford 227 Tideford 228 Tideford 229 Tideford 230

Delicious Turkish Delights from Irish Company Hadji Bey.Tideford 232 Tideford 233 Tideford 234 Tideford 235 Tideford 237 Tideford 238

You can also watch a quick video of the highlights here too.


Some interesting products at #sfff14- Basque beef, Raw honey. Posh salts, Jerky, biltong, etc

A video posted by May London (@londonmay) on

Giant cous cous with roasted vegetables

Here is an idea for a warm Autumn salad. I used this new ingredient that Sainsburys provided me to trial. It’s just called Giant Cous Cous on the packet. A little bit of research revealed that this is used a lot in Israeli cuisine. Unlike the more common cous cous, this needs to be boiled for about 10 minutes.

Giant Cous Cous can also be added to soups or used like pasta. After cooking, the texture is quite chewy but beware not to over cook it as it  can get gelatinous.

Giant Cous Cous and Roast Vegetable Salad

Giant cous cous with roasted vegetables


  • 300g Giant Cous Cous
  • Sweet Potato, peeled and cut into wedges
  • Red Onion, peeled and quartered
  • Courgette, cut into wedges
  • Carrots, cut into wedges
  • Rapeseed oil for roasting
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil for dressing
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Sea Salt


  1. Heat your oven to about 180C.
  2. Prepare the vegetables to roast. I have not put the amounts for this as you can choose how much of each you want to cook.
  3. Toss the vegetables in some rapeseed oil, balsamic and sea salt.
  4. Lay out on a baking tray and cook in a hot oven for about 30 minutes or until tender.
  5. Boil the cous cous for about 10 minutes or as per instructions in the packet in some stock for flavour.
  6. When ready, combine the cous cous with the roasted vegetables.
  7. Adjust seasoning, drizzle more Extra Virgin olive oil and serve immediately.

The Giant Cous Cous was supplied by Sainsburys for this recipe.

Heston’s Slow Cooked Pulled Pork

Pulled Pork. It’s so on trend right now. London is in love with the flavours of the Deep South. We are seeing pulled pork, buttermilk fried chicken, hush puppies and all that on lots of menus.

From street food stalls to high end eateries, we have embraced these dishes and served them up with our own twist. I have collected so many Pulled Pork recipes and have not had a chance to try them all. Some of these are quite intriguing like the one that uses a can of coke, ketchup and some chopped onions in a slow cooker. I will have to test that one out soon.

Here is a very easy Pulled Pork recipe that I cooked recently for the Waitrose BBQ Off party. It’s one that Heston did for his Ultimate BBQ series for Waitrose. It doesn’t take that long, only 1 1/2 hours on the stove and is really good. This recipe yields quite a lot of BBQ sauce too and I used that leftover sauce to make some BBQ Pork Ribs too. I just added the ribs to the leftover sauce in the pan, braised them for about an hour and grilled them for the nice charred effect after. I will definitely make this one over and over again.

For this I used my new cast iron Chasseur pot from Viking which has a 5.2 litre capacity, ample for the amount of pork in my recipe. These pots are really heavy and solid and has a matt black finish. The heavy cast iron ensure even heat distribution and is great for this slow cooking recipe. After cookign it it was very easy to clean too (it’s also dishwasher safe). Their cookshop is on sale right now and you can get these cast irons posts at a really great bargain price. Top tip: In the sale, you can get a Chasseur cast iron pot for about 1/3 of the price of a Le Creuset equivalent.

5.2l Chasseur Pot


Heston’s Slow Cooked Pulled Pork

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes


Heston’s Slow Cooked Pulled Pork


    For the braising liquid
  • 1 x ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 1 x ½ tsp sweet smoked paprika
  • 1 x ½ tsp mustard powder
  • 1 x ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 1 shallot, peeled and finely sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 500g pack Heston from Waitrose Chicken Stock
  • 325g Cooks’ Ingredients Soffritto Passata
  • 250g tomato ketchup
  • 175ml cider vinegar
  • 175g dark muscovado sugar
  • 10ml Worcestershire sauce
  • 25g golden syrup
  • 1 tsp tamarind paste
  • For the pulled pork
  • Pack of 4 essential Waitrose British Pork Shoulder Steaks or an equivalent weight Pork Shoulder from a butchers
  • Spice mix, reserved from making the braising liquid
  • Heber Chicory Wood Chips for smoking (optional)
  • Braising liquid
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 burger buns or wraps


    For the braising liquid
  1. Combine the ground ginger, paprika, mustard powder and salt in a bowl. Mix well.
  2. Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. When hot, add the shallots and sweat until very soft and caramelised for approximately 8 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to sweat for 1 minute.
  3. Add half the spice mix – reserving the other half for a rub – and the rest of the ingredients to the pan and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer for 15 minutes then blitz with a hand-held blender until smooth.
  4. Pass the liquid through a fine meshed sieve and set aside.
  5. For the pulled pork
  6. Season both sides of the steaks with the remaining spice mix. Sear in a hot pan (or place on a hot barbecue – see smoking tip, below) to colour both sides for approximately 1 minute on each.
  7. Remove the steaks from the heat. Place the braising liquid in a large pan, add the seared steaks and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat until the liquid barely simmers. Allow to cook for 90 minutes.
  8. After the time has elapsed, allow the meat to cool in the sauce completely. Remove the steaks and place on a chopping board. Use 2 forks, as shown, to pull the meat apart until it is finely shredded. Place the shredded meat back into the barbecue sauce.
  9. When ready to serve, warm the meat in the barbecue sauce by placing the pan over medium heat. Check the seasoning and adjust with salt and freshly ground black pepper if necessary. Warm the burger buns by placing them cut-side up in a warm oven or on a warm barbecue. Place some of the meat on the bottom half of the bun, add some slaw and place the other half of the bun on top.


Heston’s barbecue tip To intensify the smoky flavour of the meat, place wood chips in a square of tin foil, folding it round the chips to make a closed parcel. Using a sharp knife, poke holes in the parcel. When the barbecue has cooled down slightly, put the parcel on to the coals. Place the steaks on the grill and cover with the barbecue lid, allow to stand for 10 minutes, flipping after 5 minutes.

You can find more Heston Ultimate Barbecue recipes here.

The Chasseur pot was a review item from Viking Direct. 

Cooking Heston’s Barbecue for a BBQ Off

We are enjoying a nice summer this year. Walking around the residential streets of London, you will smell the wafts of meat grilling and the sounds of clinking glasses and drifts of conversation.

Last weekend, I had a little BBQ party with a few friend and to make it a bit more fun, we did a BBQ off. Everyone had to bring a dish and we would all judge their efforts and someone would be crowned an overall winner. Using Heston’s Ultimate Barbecue for recipe ideas, I decided to make Heston’s pulled pork recipe using pork shoulders and serving it in a wrap instead of a bun. I also made an Asian tangy slaw with red cabbage to go with it.

Waitrose BBQ Off Heston's Pulled Pork

Heston’s Pulled Pork with Asian Slaw

You can see the recipe here. It was much easier and faster to cook than I expected, took just 1 1/2 hours on the stove in stead of hours in a low oven. The use of smoked paprika in the braising liquid gives the bbq sauce a nice smokey flavour too. This recipe also gives you a lot of very tasty barbecue sauce from the braising liquid. I used this sauce to make some barbecued spare ribs after too.

Waitrose BBQ Off

The competition was meant to be based on everyone making the same recipe but of course no one ever follows the rules so we had some great spicy chicken, awesome beer steamed BBQ ribs and some courgette and haloumi skewers.

Waitrose BBQ Off

It’s not quite Guy Fawkes yet but we decided to make a big bonfire in the field too. This took half a day to build and we smeared ghee all over the bigger pieces of logs to make it burn faster and longer. It was quite awesome and I think we’ll be doing that again in the Autumn.

Waitrose BBQ Off (2)

You can get more ideas and recipes for Summer Parties here:

This BBQ off was sponsored by Waitrose Groceries.