Bill Granger recipes: Our chef banishes the grey-sky blues with his soul-warming Asian feast

From sticky ribs to earthy shiitake, our chef likes to see off the cold weather with steaming bowls of Asian comfort food

Bill Granger
Sunday 07 December 2014 01:00

Not one for moping and moaning, my preferred coping mechanism when the world around me turns grey is to fight back with soul-warming dishes. Bowls of rich, steamy food are the only sensible way I can see of dealing with the season's grim weather.

An intensely earthy bowl of shiitake chicken broth, a comforting vegetable-packed stew, or complex, sinus-cleansing pork ribs – these are my guaranteed mood-enhancers.

Satisfying and restoring, these dishes take inspiration from Chinese and Korean classics that I have tasted in various guises over the years and probably have a more robust, moody character than what I'd usually cook for dinner. But as we hunker down for the long, hard months of winter, what better time to bring out the big guns?

Bill's restaurant, Granger & Co, is at 175 Westbourne Grove, London W11, tel: 020 7229 9111, and 50 Sekforde Street, London EC1, tel: 020 7251 9032, Follow Bill on Instagram at bill.granger

Red braised pork ribs

These ribs need to cook long and slowly to reach the optimum level of rich, spicy stickiness. Having the ribs cut to bite-sized pieces means you can easily eat them with chopsticks – just watch out for the tiny bones.

Serves 4

2 tbsp light-flavoured oil
1¼kg pork ribs (ask your butcher to cut them into 3cm pieces)
100ml Shaoxing wine
3cm piece ginger, sliced into rounds
6 garlic cloves, sliced
6 spring onions, cut into 4 lengths
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 red chilli, sliced into rounds

For the relish

100ml rice vinegar
10g caster sugar
2 Lebanese cucumbers or ½ regular cucumber, cut into chunks
2cm ginger, peeled, thinly julienned
Steamed plain rice, to serve

Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based casserole dish. Stir-fry the ribs, in batches, until browned. Return all the pork to the pan. Add the Shaoxing wine, ginger, garlic, green ends of the spring onions, spices, soy, salt and sugar. Pour in 1 litre of water and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer over a very low heat for 1 to 1½ hours, until the meat is very tender. Add the reserved spring onions and chilli. Simmer for 5 minutes.

For the cucumber relish, heat the vinegar and sugar in a small pan over a low heat, until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside to cool. Pour into a bowl and toss through the cucumber and ginger.

Serve the ribs with the relish and steamed rice.

Chicken broth with dried shiitake, spring onion and coriander

Once dried, shiitake take on an intensity of depth and flavour that is simply delicious. I enjoy this brothy dish with steamed greens on the side. Or, if extra hungry, I might drop some slippery cooked egg noodles into the bowl as well.

Once dried, shiitake take on an intensity of depth and flavour that is simply delicious

Serves 4

8 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp light-flavoured oil
6 skinned chicken thighs
2cm ginger, peeled, thinly julienned
2 garlic cloves, crushed
½tsp dried crushed chillies
4 tbsp Shaoxing wine
300ml chicken stock
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp toasted sesame oil

To serve

3 spring onions, shredded
Handful coriander

Chicken broth with dried shiitake, spring onion and coriander (Laura Edwards)

Soak the mushrooms in 400ml of hot water from the kettle for 30 minutes. Reserve the soaking water and cut the soaked mushrooms into quarters. Set aside. Toast the Sichuan peppercorns and salt in a small frying pan over a medium heat until the peppercorns release their aroma. Grind with a pestle and mortar and set aside.

Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan over a high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and fry for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until golden. Add the ginger, garlic and crushed chillies and fry, stirring, for 1 minute. Pour in the reserved mushroom soaking water, Shaoxing wine, stock and soy.

Stir in the sugar and soaked mushrooms and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer over a very low heat for 35 to 40 minutes, until the meat is tender. Remove from the heat. Lift the chicken from the pan with a slotted spoon. Pull the meat off the bone, leaving it in large pieces. Return the meat to the pan and discard the bones. Stir in the sesame oil.

Serve in bowls, topped with shredded spring onions and coriander. Take the salt-and-Sichuan pepper mix to the table for people to help themselves.

Korean-style vegetable and tofu stew

Doenjang, the Korean soy- bean paste, is what makes this comforting, homely stew come together. You shouldn't have any trouble getting hold of it in an Asian supermarket. Otherwise, try using a brown miso paste instead, for an equally delicious supper.

Serves 4

2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 onion, cut into large wedges
350g pumpkin or squash, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large courgette, cut into chunks
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 red chilli, sliced into rounds
3 anchovy fillets in oil, drained
750ml chicken or vegetable stock
4 tbsp Korean doenjang
350g silken tofu, cubed
Plain brown rice, to serve

Place the potatoes, onion, pumpkin, courgette, garlic, chilli and anchovies in a large, heavy-based pan. Pour in the stock and cover the vegetables. (Top up with water if necessary.)

Bring to the boil, simmer for 15 minutes then stir in the soy-bean paste and simmer for another 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.

Add the tofu and cover with a lid. Remove from the heat and set aside for 5 minutes for the tofu to heat with the steam in the pan. Serve with brown rice.

Food preparation: Lizzie Harris; Props merchandising: Rachel Jukes

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