The last couple of years have been about revisiting wholesome comfort food. And with that, many traditional dishes have started coming back into popularity. But these classic dishes we grew up with are not like they used to be, they’re getting revamped as chefs take them to new heights and make them their own.
Our grandmothers’ recipes are set to be back in vogue. As with fashion trends, food trends are also largely cyclical. And at the end of the day, a chef can always stay relevant by looking back on what’s been done and finding a new way to make it exciting. Not only that these old cooking techniques make us look at our modern pantry with fresh eyes, they also help us see every ingredient as more resourceful than ever, from nose to tail, root to leaf.
“Traditional food is an eye into the past and into the culture of a country, when you understand that, you can start to cook their food.” Nat Alexander, head chef behind pop-up restaurant concept Yang Jing Bang shows how to take a classic British Cottage Pie and absolutely rock it using traditional Chinese condiments and mixing tofu into the mashed potatoes. We’d love to hear what you think.
Lurou Cottage Pie Ingredients
800g Pork shoulder
2tsp Oil or lard
1pc Medium onion
1pc Medium carrot
1pc Star anise
1pc Stick cassia
2pcs Bay leaves
2tbs Yellow rice wine
3tbs Light soy sauce
1 ½tbs Dark soy sauce
15g Rock sugar
8pcs Quail eggs
175g Silken tofu (about half a pack)
Salt and pepper
Step 1: Cut Pork into 1cm slices, trimming off excess fat. Then cut into thin strips and into small cubes. Add oil to pot on high heat and add pork, keep stirring to make sure it doesn’t stick. Continue cooking over high heat until the liquid released from the meat has mostly evaporated.
Step 2: While the pork is cooking, chop carrot and onion finely, and place into a bowl. Cut the ginger into thick slices and bruise with the side of the knife. When liquid in the meat has evaporated, add the chopped vegetables, along with the aromatics (ginger, star anise, cassia and bay leaves). Stir occasionally and cook until onions have become translucent (about 5 minutes). Add yellow rice wine, allow alcohol to burn off and add light and dark soy sauces. Mix well. Lower heat to a simmer and cover for about 20 minutes. Check after 10 minutes to make sure it doesn’t dry out, otherwise add a little water or stock.
Step 3: Bring a small pot of water to the boil. Add quail eggs carefully to the water using a slotted spoon so that they do not break, cook for 2 minutes. Remove quail eggs and put into iced water to cool. Once cooled, peel carefully, as they should still be soft in the middle. Add the peeled eggs to the meat sauce and gently fold into the meat mixture. Turn off heat and allow to cool slightly. Remove the aromatics and cover.
Step 4: Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Peel potatoes and cut into quarters. Once the water has boiled, add potatoes and salt. Cook for 20 minutes or until just soft. Drain and put the potatoes back into the pan. Mash the potatoes until smooth. Place the tofu in a separate bowl and using a whisk, mix it until smooth. Add tofu to the potatoes and season with salt and pepper. Mix well.
Step 5: Pre-heat the top of your toaster oven or the grill of your regular oven to high. Put the mashed potatoes into a piping bag. Pour the sauce into an ovenproof baking dish, ensuring the quail eggs are evenly placed throughout. Use the piping bag to cover the sauce with mashed potatoes. Once it is covered, use a fork to draw lines over the top. Place the baking dish on a shelf close to the heat and brown the top until it gets golden crispy. Serve with Worcester sauce.