Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The Fantastic Five

Maiale con 5-Spezie, Pepe, Cavolini di Bruxelles al Olio di Sesamo & Vermicelli Asiatiche
5-Spice Peppered Pork with Sesame-Toasted Brussels Sprouts and Glass Noodles

Time for quick, tasty, fiery and fun! This is a little old-school, harking back to the 70's and those first days of the Chinese take-aways and restaurants here in Europe, when everything was exciting and exotic! For me it was always the 5-spice powder that I loved, not the soy sauce or the stir-fry... it just tickled my taste buds and made me feel good! 

It is the combination of fennel, cloves, cinnamon, star anise and Szechuan peppercorns and you can pick it up at any Asian Supermarket. And yes, I do have a ready-made mix at home that I usually use. But being as this evenings dish was going to be a simple affair- I thought I would go to the trouble of grinding my own powder by hand. So I gently roasted the spices in a dry pan to heighten their flavors and then ground them up with my mortar and pestle...
and what a divine fragrance they gave off!

For my simple little dish, I cut the pork into bite-sized strips and marinated them for 20-30 minutes in a little light soy sauce, some sesame oil, orange juice, and a few slices of ginger.
Whilst the pork was marinating, I prepared the glass noodles by pouring boiling water over them, letting them sit for 10 minutes and then draining them off. I added a drop of oil and  a tiny squeeze of lemon juice to them and set them to one side to keep warm whilst I turned my attention to the Brussels Sprouts... Asian food is all about timing and that means being able to juggle and multi-task!

For the sprouts, I cut off the ends, peeled off the outer leaves and then proceeded to pluck the sprouts apart into separate leaves. They cook much quicker this way and have a totally different character to them- obviously much lighter tasting and especially nice I think cooked like this: In a hot frying pan, add a little sesame oil and then toss the sprout leaves gently, along with some very finely sliced ginger. Season with salt, pepper, a hint of sugar and a pinch of chili powder- after about 2-3 minutes, de-glaze with a half glass of orange juice, stir, turn off the heat and let them finish cooking in the residual heat.

Fry the pork in a very hot but relatively dry frying pan, adding finely sliced ginger, finely sliced garlic, bell peppers and some finely chopped Thai basil. Sprinkle with the 5-spice mix and keep stirring, so that all of the pieces of pork are coated. Now add some slices of bell pepper and continue frying for a further 2-3 minutes and then add some finely sliced spring onions. Add a little sweet chili sauce and a little soy sauce, a splash of sherry and you are ready to serve!

The freshly prepared spices are what make this simple dish special, but an added sprinkle of fresh pepper, chili and Szechuan pepper make it really wonderful. But don't take my word for it- give it a try!

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