Sweet and sour chicken.
Sweet and sour chicken. Photo: Supplied

Sweet and sour chicken

This is a retro dish that really deserves a comeback. The sauce also works well with fish or pork chops, so double the quantity and keep it on hand for another dinner.

Salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Recipes from <i>Everyday</i> by Karen Martini.
Recipes from Everyday by Karen Martini.

8-10 chicken thighs, skin on and bone in

a small handful of coriander leaves, to serve

Steamed rice, to serve

Sweet and sour sauce

200ml malt vinegar

130ml Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry

100g sugar

2 tsp salt flakes

4 garlic cloves, crushed or finely grated

80g fresh ginger, cut into thin batons

1 long red chilli, cut on the diagonal

Half medium yellow capsicum, cut into thin batons

1 x 400g tin diced Italian tomatoes

Half pineapple, cored and cut into 5mm dice

2 tbsp light soy sauce

1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan-forced (200C conventional).

2. To make the sweet and sour sauce, place the vinegar, wine or sherry, sugar and salt in a heavy-based saucepan and stir over high heat until the sugar dissolves.

3. Bring to the boil, add the garlic, ginger and chilli, reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Add the capsicum, tomatoes and pineapple and simmer for a further three minutes. Stir in the soy sauce, remove from the heat and set aside.

4. Put a large, heavy-based frying pan over high heat and allow to heat for four minutes. Season the chicken thighs, then add, skin side down, to the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and cook the chicken for eight minutes, then turn over and cook for a further three minutes. Transfer to a baking dish and pour over the sweet and sour sauce. Bake in the oven for eight minutes until bubbling.

5. Scatter with the coriander and serve with steamed rice.

Serves 6 to 8

chowmein"

Chow mein

This was one of my mother's staple dishes when I was growing up. In my reinvention, I've added a bit more spice and detail and some crunchy noodles for a textural contrast.

3 tbsp olive oil

500g beef mince

2 pinches of Chinese five-spice

2 pinches of chilli powder (optional)

1 large brown onion, sliced Chinese-style (thinly sliced from root to top)

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

150g (about 15cm long) piece of ginger, peeled and grated

3 long green chillies, thinly sliced

⅓ wombok cabbage, thinly sliced

250ml hot water

125ml oyster sauce

4 tbsp tamari sauce or light soy sauce

3 tsp sesame oil

150g frozen peas

1 handful of green beans, thinly sliced

5 spring onions, sliced on an angle

160g vermicelli, reconstituted in boiling water for 10 minutes (chopped into 5cm lengths with scissors)

100g bean sprouts

Sunflower or rice bran oil, for deep-frying (it needs to be about 6cm deep)

50g vermicelli noodles, uncooked, to garnish (optional)

1. If garnishing with vermicelli noodles, heat the oil in a deep-sided frying pan to 180C (when a cube of bread dropped in the oil turns golden brown in 15 seconds), carefully add the noodles and fry for 20 seconds. Remove and drain on paper towel.

2. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a wok or large saucepan over very high heat, add the beef and fry, stirring constantly for three to five minutes until browned. Mix in the five-spice and chilli powder and tip out into a bowl.

3. Pour a splash more oil into the same pan and add the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli, and stir-fry over high heat for a minute until fragrant.

4. Stir in the cabbage and half the hot water, then add the oyster sauce, tamari sauce and sesame oil and cook for eight minutes until the cabbage is just softened. Add the peas, beans and spring onion and stir in the drained vermicelli, bean sprouts and the cooked beef. Add a splash more water and soy sauce if necessary.

5. Garnish the chow mein with the crispy noodles and serve.

Serves 4

trout

Ocean trout with smoky eggplant and minted walnut salad

Simple, quick and delicious, the flavour of the ocean trout works so well with the luscious, smoky eggplant, and the mint and walnut salad adds a nutty freshness.

2 large eggplants

Salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

2 tbsp plain yoghurt

2 tbsp tahini

1 garlic clove, finely grated

Juice of 1/2 lemon

2 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Six ocean trout escalopes cut on an angle, about 150g each

Minted walnut salad

4 spring onions, thinly sliced

100g walnuts, toasted and chopped

75g frozen peas

6 mint sprigs, leaves picked and shredded

1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

Juice of 1/2 lemon

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Variation

This also works perfectly with salmon.

1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan-forced (200C conventional).

2. Turn your largest burner on high - if you have induction use a griddle plate - and rest your eggplants directly on the flames, rotating every three minutes until all sides are blackened. It should take about nine minutes. If you have no direct flame or griddle plate, you can prick the eggplants and roast them in the oven for 45 minutes, which will give you the desired consistency but not the smoky flavour.

3. Place the eggplants on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

4. Cut each eggplant down the middle and scoop out the soft flesh, leaving the black shell behind. Chop the flesh to make a chunky paste, put into a bowl and season. Mix in the yoghurt, tahini, garlic, lemon juice and half the oil.

5. Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl to marinate while you cook the trout.

6. Season and cover the ocean trout escalopes well with the remaining oil.

7. Heat a large heavy-based frying pan over high heat for four minutes, place the trout on it and sear for one minute. Turn and sear on the other side for another minute.

8. Put the trout on a serving plate, spoon on some eggplant and scatter over the minted walnut salad.

Serves 4

Recipes from Everyday by Karen Martini, published by Plum; RRP $39.99.