Like many of us, I’m a champ in the kitchen as long as I stay in my preferred wheelhouse of Italian + other Mediterranean cuisines. OK, maybe I can dabble in Indian food, but take me to Asia and I feel all wrong handed and left footed. I end up reading simple instructions over and over, thinking the whole time “this just feels so wrong”. So much of how one operates in the kitchen is muscle memory and innate use of senses like hearing and smell. But before we get to feeling competent and natural even, we have to climb that learning curve. So getting ready for the interview with Fuchsia Dunlop I decided to leaf through her new book, Every Grain of Rice and see what I could pull together without going shopping. The subtitle of the book is Simple Chinese Home Cooking. Well, I was about to see how simple it really was.By some miracle I had all the ingredients I needed with some slight tweaks: yellow instead of green bell peppers, spring onions cut Korean style in long shreds and despite my ancient 1 btu cooktop which makes dark browning really hard the dish was, in fact, simple. But more than that it had depth of flavor and my experience of making it was very enjoyable. Which means that I’ll be doing a lot of cooking from Ms Dunlop’s book. She will become another Mentor in the Kitchen for me. You can’t have too many I’ve discovered.
Beef with Cumin
from Every Grain of Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop
9 oz trimmed sirloin or another tender steak
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 green bell pepper
4 tbsp cooking oil
1 1/2 tsp finely chopped ginger
2 tsp finely chopped garlic
1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (optional)
2 tsp ground cumin
2-4 tsp dried chilli flakes, to taste
2 spring onions, green parts only, finely sliced
1 tsp sesame oil
For the Marinade:
1 tsp Shaoxing wine
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp light soy sauce
3/4 tsp dark soy sauce
1- 1/2 tsp potato flour
Cut the beef into thin bite-sized slices. Stir the marinade ingredients with 1 1/2 tbsp water and mix well into the meat. Trim the peppers and cut them into strips 3/8 – 3/4 inch wide, then diagonally into diamond shaped slies
Add 3 tbsp of the oil to a seasoned wok over a high flame and swirl it around. Add the beef and stir-fry briskly to separate the slices. When the slices have separated but are still a bit pink, remove them from the wok and set aside.
Return the wok to the flame with the remaining oil. Add the ginger and garlic and allow them to sizzle for a few seconds to release their fragrances then tip in the peppers and fresh chilli, if using, and stir fry until hot and fragrant. Return the beef slices to the wok, give everything a good stir, then add the cumin and dried chillies. When all is sizzlingly fragrant and delicious, add the spring onions and toss briefly. Remove from the heat, stir in the sesame oil and serve.