Cookbook Extract: Chinese Food Made Easy, by Ross Dobson • Glam Adelaide

Cookbook Extract: Chinese Food Made Easy, by Ross Dobson

Master the art of cooking Chinese food at home with these six simple, flavour-packed dishes by bestselling author Ross Dobson.


Chinese Food Made Easy is the home cook’s guide to Chinese food that’s simple to make, packed with flavour and delicious to share.

Taking favourite recipes from each of China’s diverse culinary regions, Ross Dobson simplifies them so you can recreate them with ease at home. Including expert guidance on finding and selecting the key ingredients to stock your pantry, plus step-by-step guides to essential techniques such as blanching greens and making dumplings, this book will have you turning out favourite dishes like spicy Shanghai noodles, fragrant beef hotpot and Hainan chicken rice in no time. Also included is a detailed meal planner with suggestions on how to put together a truly fabulous Chinese feast.

Ross Dobson is the bestselling author of numerous Murdoch Books cookbooks. He is also a recipe developer, prep chef and caterer with the special skill of creating flavour-packed recipes that are designed specifically with the home cook in mind.

Thanks to Murdoch Books, you can also begin to master the art of cooking Chinese food at home with these six sample recipes from the cookbook.

Bean Curd Spring Rolls (Starters and Soups, page 38)

These vegan spring rolls are made from bean curd sheets (or skins). You need to look for soft sheets and the best way to test for this is to bend them in the packet. They should not break or crack when bent. One packet will have more than four sheets but they can be stored in an airtight bag for later use.

Serves:  8 (as a starter)
Preparation: 30 minutes
Cooking: 15 minutes

  • 1 carrot, coarsely grated 1 celery stick, finely sliced
  • 150 g finely sliced Chinese cabbage
  • 4 fresh shiitake mushrooms, finely sliced
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced
  • Chilli & Soy Sauce to serve
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  • 3 teaspoons plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon light soy sauce
  • 4 bean curd skins

Heat the vegetable oil in a wok over high heat. Swirl the wok around so that it is coated in oil. Add the carrot, celery, cabbage, mushrooms and spring onions and stir-fry for 3–4 minutes until all the vegetables are tender.

Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of the flour over the vegetables and stir-fry to combine. Add the soy sauce and 3 tablespoons water and stir- fry for 1 minute until the mixture has thickened. Transfer to a bowl and leave to cool.

Cut 4 squares from the bean curd, each measuring about 30 cm. Lay them on a clean work surface and wipe with a damp cloth to soften them slightly.

Combine the remaining flour with 2 teaspoons cold water in a bowl. Brush around the edges of the bean curd.

Put one-quarter of the filling in the centre of each bean curd square. Fold the edge nearest you up and over the filling, fold the sides in, then roll up into a log shape.

Add enough oil to come one-third up the side of a wok and heat over medium–high heat. The oil is ready when a cube of bread turns golden brown in 10–15 seconds. Add the rolls and cook for 5 minutes, turning them so they cook to an even golden colour.  Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel.

Serve with the Chilli and Soy Sauce (Basics, page 214)

Small fresh red chillies are used here. They can be super hot, so remove the seeds if you want to reduce the heat but keep all the flavour.

Makes: 125 ml
Preparation: 2 minutes

  • 2 small red chillies, finely sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 spring onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon caster sugar

Combine the ingredients in a bowl, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Cover and refrigerate for 2–3 days.

Peking Duck (Chicken and Duck, page 92)

This must be one of the most famous dishes to come out of China. Many recipes call for all sorts of tricky things to be done to the duck, but this one keeps it very simple. The breast meat is used for the pancakes; any remaining meat can be shredded and used in fried rice, salads, stir-fries and soups.

Serves: 8 (as a shared starter)
Preparation: 30 minutes
Resting: 30 minutes
Cooking:  1½ hours

  • 1 duck, about 2 kg, preferably with neck intact
  • 4 spring onions, white and green parts separated
  • 2 Lebanese (short) cucumbers, cut into 8 cm x 5 mm batons
  • 1 quantity Peking Pancakes (see recipe below or ready made)
  • 1 quantity Five-spice (see below)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons rice malt syrup hoi sin sauce, to serve

Preheat the oven to 220°C/Gas 7. Place a cooking rack over a baking dish and half fill the baking dish with water.

Tuck the neck and wing tips under the duck’s body. Trim off and discard any excess fat around the cavity end of the duck. Insert the green parts of the spring onions and all the Five-spice into the cavity. Rub 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil over the skin of the duck.

Combine the remaining sesame oil, dark soy sauce and rice malt syrup in a small bowl and set aside.

Sit the duck on the rack and bake for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C/Gas 4. Brush the duck with some of the reserved sesame mixture and cook for a further 1 hour, brushing with the sesame mixture every 20 minutes until the skin is glossy and coffee coloured. Remove the duck and leave to rest for 30 minutes.

Cut off and discard the wing tips. Use a large cleaver or sharp knife to cut between the breasts and remove the breasts from the body of the duck. Reserve the remaining meat on the duck for later use. Slice the breast meat into thin strips and transfer to a serving platter.

Cut the white parts of the spring onions into 8 cm pieces. Arrange the spring onions, cucumbers, pancakes and hoisin sauce on the serving platter with the duck to serve.

Mandarin (Peking) Pancakes (Basics, page 216)

Ready-made Peking pancakes are sold in some Asian food stores but they are very easy to make at home. Two pancakes sandwich a thin layer of sesame oil. When gently pan-fried, the pancakes are golden on one side and softly steamed on the other. The perfect savoury pancake!

Makes: 24
Preparation: 10 minutes
Resting:  30 minutes
Cooking:  10 minutes

  • 300 g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1–2 tablespoons sesame oil

Put the flour in a food processor. With the motor running, add 180 ml boiling water, plus a little extra if needed, until it forms into a ball.

Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and briefly knead to form a smooth ball. Cover with a clean cloth and set aside for 30 minutes.

Cut the dough in half. Lightly flour a work surface and roll one portion of dough until it is 2–3 mm thick. Cut out circles using a 7 cm round cutter to make at least 12 circles. Repeat with the other portion of the dough to make 24 circles in total.

Lightly brush one side of half the circles with sesame oil and put another one on top, gently pressing them together to seal. Roll these circles on a lightly floured surface until they are about 15 cm across and very thin.

Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium–high heat. Working in batches, cook the pancakes for about 1 minute each side until golden and steam puffs out from the centre. Transfer to a plate and cover to keep warm.

These can be made a day in advance and kept covered in the fridge. To reheat, wrap in foil and cook in a 180°C/Gas 4 oven for 10 minutes.

Five-Spice (Basics, page 213)

Five-spice is the quintessential Chinese spice mix. It is used to deeply flavour slow-braised and roasted meats and chicken. To make more, simply double or triple the quantity. It will keep for ages, stored in an airtight container.

Makes: 50 g
Preparation: 5 minutes

  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds 2 cloves

Combine all the ingredients and store in an airtight container.

Almond Lake (Sweets, page 194)

Almond lake pudding is sometimes cut into cubes or triangles to serve. This is a slightly creamier version, using less gelatine and served in individual glasses where it really does resemble an almond lake!

Serves: 8
Preparation: 15 minutes
Chilling: 6 hours
Cooking: 10 minutes

  • 720 ml milk
  • 175 g strawberries
  • Chopped pulp from 2 passionfruit
  • 6 gelatine sheets
  • 110 g white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 210 g tinned drained lychees

Put the gelatine sheets in a bowl and cover with cold water. Leave for 7–8 minutes until the gelatine is very soft. Drain the sheets well and set aside.

Combine the milk and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook for a few minutes until the milk is just warm to the touch. Stir through 1 sheet of gelatine at a time until it has dissolved in the warm milk. Repeat until all the gelatine has been incorporated into the milk. Stir in the almond extract.

Pour into 8 individual serving glasses. Refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight, until firm but still a bit wobbly.

Arrange the fruit in a bowl and serve on the side to spoon over the puddings.

Images and text from Chinese Food Made Easy, by Ross Dobson, photography by Lisa Linder. Released 31 March 2020 through Murdoch Books. RRP $39.99.

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