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Missing travelling? Neil Perry’s Asian-inspired recipes will transport you far away from your kitchen.
Though travel restrictions have eased and life is somewhat back to a semblance of normality, for many, a long-haul trip is still a distant dream. Almost two years since the start of the pandemic, you’re not alone if your passport has been sat in a draw gathering dust – with the furthest we’re planning on venturing anytime soon being back to our hometowns for Christmas or a staycation with friends. But if you’re longing for the thrill of hopping on a plane and discovering new places and new cuisines, your kitchen is the place to head to.
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The transportive qualities of taste, texture and smell are not to be underestimated, with food able to send us far away from our familiar four walls – whether you’ve travelled to the country of origin or not. And while it may not be quite the same as visiting IRL, we’ll take anything we can get at this stage. Ready to take your tastebuds on an adventure? Australian chef and restaurateur Neil Perry is here to help.
Though border controls are still largely in place for much of Australia – so we sadly won’t be nabbing a table at Perry’s acclaimed Spice Temple and Rockpool Bar & Grill restaurants anytime soon – we can recreate his recipes at home. In his new book, Everything I Love To Cook, the chef takes you to Australia and beyond with a collection of over 230 recipes. Whether you’re looking to boost your kitchen know-how, learn basic knife skills, or master a southern Thai-style chicken curry, the cookbook will have you covered. With Perry famed for his expertise in Asian cuisine, we’ve selected three Asian-inspired dishes to get you started.
Though the recipe for twice-cooked duck with mandarin sauce may appear time-consuming, as the chef explains, the multi-step process actually makes the dish ideal for when you have friends over. The first cook of your duck is done and out of the way, so all you’ll need to do is quickly fry off the meat and douse it in the sweet and sticky sauce – perfect for cutting through the richness of the duck.
And what could be better than crispy pork belly? To achieve the optimum mouth-wateringly crisp skin, the pork is dried out in the fridge overnight before being roasted and served with fresh coriander and Chinese black vinegar for a much-needed dose of acid.
Finally, Perry’s barbecued lamb cutlets with lemongrass and ginger is one to try in place of your usual weekend roast. While the recipe will be ideal in the summer months, the meat can be grilled indoors for those who aren’t brave enough to dust off their barbecues in November. The marinade – which is heavy on flavours of lemongrass, ginger, garlic, coriander and mint – makes a fresh change from the usual winter flavours of rosemary and thyme. One bite and you’ll be whisked away…
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Twice-cooked duck with mandarin sauce
Neil says: “I love the Chinese use of multiple cooking methods. Here the initial steaming or poaching of the duck does two things: it renders some of the fat from the duck; and, because the duck is already cooked, it can be cut into portions and pressed overnight before its second cooking, which is great when entertaining. By the time you come to pop the duck into the hot oil, you are ready, your duck is ready and your sauce is ready. This mandarin sauce is one we made for years at the original Rockpool – the caramel is very moreish.”
- 1 x 2kg Pekin duck
- 1.25 litres vegetable oil, for deep-frying
- 60g cornflour
- Steamed rice, to serve
For the marinade:
- 1 ½ tbsp light soy sauce
- 60ml Shaoxing wine
- 2 spring onions, white parts only, thinly sliced into rounds
- 2 pieces dried tangerine peel
- 1 knob of ginger, finely diced
- 1 star anise, crushed
- 20g yellow rock sugar
For the mandarin sauce:
- 220g grated palm sugar
- Peel from 1 mandarin, pith removed, cut into very fine julienne strips
- 3 tbsp fine julienne strips of ginger
- 2½ tbsp fish sauce
- 2½ tbsp mandarin juice
- 2 mandarins, segmented
Place the duck on a chopping board and remove the fat from the cavity. Cut off the winglets and neck, and with a cleaver, split the duck in half.
For the marinade, put all the ingredients into a saucepan. Bring to the boil and cook for two minutes, then allow to cool. Place the duck in a bowl and rub the cooled marinade all over it. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least three hours, preferably overnight.
Place the duck in a large bamboo steamer and steam over a wok or pan of boiling water for 45 minutes, topping up the water as needed.
When the duck is cool enough to handle but still slightly warm, carefully remove the bones, taking care not to break the skin. Use a small knife to ease out the wing and leg bones. You should end up with two rectangles of duck. Fold all the skin under and cover them loosely with plastic wrap (they will spread as they are pressed), then put into a container. Place another container that fits snugly inside the first on top, followed by a heavy weight, such as a few cans of food. Refrigerate overnight.
For the mandarin sauce, put the palm sugar into a small heavy-based saucepan with 60ml of water and bring to the boil. Add the mandarin peel and ginger and continue to cook until the palm sugar turns a dark caramel colour. Stir in the fish sauce and mandarin juice, then add the mandarin segments and keep warm.
Pour the deep-frying oil into a wok and heat to 180°C. To check the temperature without a thermometer, drop in a small piece of bread – it should bubble up to the surface of the oil and start frying immediately. Place the cornflour on a plate and roll the pressed duck in it, making sure it is fully coated. Carefully lower the duck into the hot oil and fry for about 10–12 minutes, or until crisp and golden brown, then drain on paper towel.
Place the duck on a chopping board and use a sharp knife to cut into slices. Arrange the slices on a platter, spoon over some of the mandarin sauce and serve with plenty of steamed rice and the remaining sauce on the side.
Crispy pork belly with red onion, coriander, peanuts and sesame seeds
Neil says: “Here is one of Spice Temple’s classic dishes that I think is perfect for summer, served with rice and perhaps some steamed Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce (page 399). The pork itself is easy to cook – just remember to allow a day or two beforehand for the skin to dry out – and it has many uses. By the same token, the red onion, coriander and peanut salad is great with, say, the meat from a store-bought roast chook, shredded off the bone and tossed through, to make a super-quick dish for a busy weekend.”
- 1kg pork belly
- ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
- ½ spring onion, thinly sliced
- Large handful of roughly chopped coriander, leaves and stalks
- Handful of unsalted peanuts, toasted in a dry frying pan and crushed
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted in a dry frying pan
- 1½ tbsp Chinese black vinegar
- 2 tsp peanut oil
- Sea salt
Place the pork belly on a wire rack set over a plate (to catch any drips) and refrigerate, uncovered, for at least a day to dry the skin out; two days would be even better.
Remove the pork from the fridge about three hours before cooking.
Preheat the oven to 220°C.
Put the pork belly on a chopping board. Using a sharp knife, score the skin deeply in a diamond pattern and rub generously with salt. Return the pork belly to its wire rack and place in a roasting tin.
Roast the pork for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 170°C and roast for a further 20 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through and the skin is blistered and crispy.
Remove the pork from the oven, cover with foil and set aside in a warm place to rest for 20 minutes.
Cut the pork belly into 2cm cubes. Place all the remaining ingredients in a bowl and toss together, then add the pork and mix through. Divide between four plates and serve.
Barbecued lamb cutlets with lemongrass and ginger
Neil says: “Lamb cutlets are one of the great things to barbecue, and there is something really nice about piling them up on a plate and picking them off one by one. Holding onto the bone and chewing on the meat is wildly satisfying. Creamed corn makes a good side.”
- 12 lamb cutlets
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground pepper
- Lemon wedges, to serve
For the marinade:
- 2 lemongrass stalks, tender inner stems only, thinly sliced
- 3cm knob of ginger, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 3 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
- 3 tbsp chopped mint
- 60ml extra virgin olive oil
Remove the cutlets from the refrigerator one hour before cooking.
For the marinade, use a mortar and pestle to pound the lemongrass, ginger, garlic and salt to a rough paste. Add the coriander and mint and pound for a further minute, then stir in the olive oil.
Transfer the marinade to a large bowl, add the chops and mix well, then leave for about one hour to marinate.
Heat the barbecue to hot and clean the grill bars. Put the cutlets on the hottest part of the grill and cook for about two minutes each side for medium-rare. Transfer to a plate, cover with foil and leave to rest in a warm place for 10 minutes.
To serve, place the lamb cutlets on a platter. Mix a little olive oil into the juices left on the resting plate and pour over the cutlets. Finish with a good grind of pepper, then serve with lemon wedges.
Get your butcher to butterfly a leg of lamb, boning it out and flattening it, then spread with the marinade and leave to marinate for three hours at room temperature. Barbecue until a thermometer registers the core temperature of the meat as 55°C, about 20 minutes, then remove and leave to rest for 15 minutes – during this time the internal temperature should rise to 59–60°C, to give you some seriously delicious pink lamb. Carve into slices and serve with lemon wedges
Everything I Love to Cook by Neil Perry (£30, Murdoch Books) is out now.
Photography: Petrina Tinslay