Chinese Five Spice

Chinese Five Spice is a staple in Chinese kitchens although not used in every recipe, an even blend of the following aromatics; pungent star anisecloves, and cinnamon, fiery Sichuan pepper, and fennel seeds. However, like many recipes, it is not definite and other ingredients may be added or substituted such as ginger, nutmeg, turmeric and in south China orange peel. It is often used in ‘ Red ’ cooking or Chinese slow cooking, where meat is braised for many hours in heavily flavoured stocks or sauces

Chinese 5 Spice.jpeg

The sweet, tangy taste of Chinese Five Spice is excellent with fatty meats such as roast pork, duck or goose staples of classic Cantonese cuisine. An extremely versatile flavoured salt can be easily made by dry-roasting table salt with five-spice powder on a low heat in a wok until the spice and salt are well mixed. It makes an excellent spice rub for chicken, duck, pork, particularly Char sui – Cantonese BBQ pork, ribs, and seafood.

Chinese Five Spice Recipe

For best results blend the following whole spices in a spice grinder and store in an air-tight container in a cool, dark cupboard.

10 Star Anise pods

1 heaped tablespoon Fennel Seeds

3 cm piece of Cinnamon Stick

6 Cloves

½ teaspoon Sichuan Peppercorns

Optional Ingredients

½ teaspoon of White Peppercorns

½ teaspoon ground Ginger



Fresh Red Chillies
Fresh Red Chillies

Many Tex-Mex, Cajun and Asian recipes contain chillies in various proportions to add from just a little kick to a beer swilling, throat ripping heat. Chillies are one of the earliest cultivated crops and come from the south-west of the Americas. Christopher Columbus called the chillies ‘ peppers ‘ after the taste similar to the black and white peppercorns already used in Europe. Travellers were often in search of new sources of spices due to their immense rarity and value. The chilli spread through many of the Spanish and Portuguese colonies to particularly to Mexico, Goa, parts of China and Indonesia. Chillies can be served sliced and diced raw, or dried and flaked or ground to a powder.

Chillies are all part of the nightshade family of plants some common variations are the red and green Bell peppers ( green are simply unripe bell peppers ), Cayenne, Jalapeño*, Anaheim, Serrano and Poblano peppers ( which when dried are the Ancho pepper ) these collectively are Capsicum annuum peppers. Capsicum frutescens are the family of hotter chillies including the Piri piri, Tabasco and African Birdseye chillies. The hottest chillies are the Habanero, Scotch bonnet and Naga chillies from the Capsicum chinense chilli family. Chillies are high in Vitamin C, Potassium, Magnesium and Iron but do not add greatly to the overall nutritional content of a meal because of the relatively small amounts in a dish.

* The Chipotal pepper is a variety of smoked then dried jalapeño

Chillies come in many varieties here are just a few examples;

Sweet and Fresh – have distinct vegetal aromas reminiscent of freshly cut red bell peppers and fresh home grown tomatoes, Costeño, dried Anaheim, California or Colorado and Choricero peppers.

The Hot Ones – Can be like Cascabels with some complexity and depth of flavour or others like the Pequin or Arbol,which are all about heat.

Dried / Smoky – Some chile peppers, like Chipotles are dried and smoked Some are naturally just dried like Ñora or Guajillo used to make a mild salsa for tamales.

Rich and Fruity – Have distinct aromas of sun-dried tomatoes, raisins, chocolate, and coffee. These include some of the best-known Mexican chiles, like Ancho, Mulato, and Pasilla.

Using Chillies

When preparing, try to handle cut and chopped chillies as little as possible. Many chefs wear disposable latex gloves. Wash and clean any equipment that comes in contact with the peppers thoroughly. The main active constituent in the chilli is the naturally occurring chemical Capsaicin. ( It is now the main ingredient in pepper spray and some animal deterrents ). The majority of the Capsaicin is found in the seeds and pith, if your not a fan of chilli heat remove these before preparing your chillies.

Chilli ‘ heat ‘ is measured in Scoville Heat Units, I’ve listed a few varieties of chilli pepper and their SHU to give you an idea of the scale and the relative strength of commercial available peppers. Interestingly some of the the hottest chillies in the world have recently been grown not in Mexico or Asia but in Grantham and Poole in the UK.

Bell Peppers 0 units

New Mexico Green Chillies 1500 + units

Jalapenos 2500 + units

Birds Eye Chillies 50,000 + units

Scotch Bonnets 100,000 + units

Habaneros 300,000 + units

Nag Viper chillies 1,300,000 units

for comparison Tabasco sauce is around 2000 units

A brilliant site for chilli lovers


Ginger is a flowering plant of which the large underground stems or rhizomes are used grated or once dried, ground as a powder in numerous style of cooking and cuisines. Ginger is part of the same family as turmeric, cardamom, and galangal. Ginger is believed to have first grown in India, certainly, by the first century AD it was part of the spice trade to Europe and was a staple of Roman cooking.

GingerPowdered ginger is used extensively in baking in gingerbread and parkin, ginger snap biscuits and fruit cakes and as the principle flavour in ginger beer and ginger ale. Candied ginger, or crystallized ginger, is the root cooked in sugar until soft and is a type of confectionery.

In Indian cuisine, ginger is one of the main spices used for making lentil based curries and vegetable dishes. Fresh, as well as dried, ginger is used to spice tea and coffee. In Japan, ginger is pickled to make Beni shōga, 紅生姜 the pink-hued accompaniment to many rice dishes. In fiery Kimchi, the fermented Korean cabbage dish ginger juice or minced ginger is added to the ingredients of the spicy paste just before the fermenting process. Chinese cooks slice ginger onto steamed fish alongside sesame oil and spring onions and chopped ginger is added with garlic to stir fry dishes. Ginger is also used in a number of Burmese, Thai, Indonesian, Malaysian and Vietnamese dishes.

Ginger is used in traditional Indian medicine and some small studies have found that it can be effective as a treatment for seasickness and morning sickness when taken as a tea or infusion.

Seasoning your Wok


Virtually every home now has a Wok. They are incredibly versatile, useful pans and you can certainly cook an amazing variety of dishes in one. The classic stir fry, deep fried, boiled and with a bamboo basket steamed dishes, are all staples of Wok cookery. There are two main differences between a western Wok and the authentic Chinese item.

First the flat bottom, the principle of the Wok and its concave construction is to concentrate and evenly distribute the heat allowing quick cooking, extremely valuable in fuel poor environments. The flat-bottomed Wok is a modification to simply allow the Wok to sit on modern hobs, a concave Wok is best. The second innovation is Teflon or similar non-stick coatings. A correctly prepared Wok itself is non-stick and you can save money on buying a traditional cast iron or lighter carbon steel Wok rather than a non-stick version. When purchased a cast iron Wok is porous, seasoning seals the surface before any cooking.

Seasoning your new Wok
It will be best to season your Wok in a well-ventilated kitchen with the window open as the process can get a little smoky. Be careful of smoke alarms. You will need some cooking oil, plenty of paper kitchen toweling and a pair of tongues. Wash any of the manufacturers shipping oil from the pan, this is the only time you should wash your wok in soapy water. Place your wok over a high heat and watch as the metal heats up. It will shimmer and change through a rainbow of colours silver, red, purple and brown. The Wok will become very hot and start smoking. Drizzle some oil onto a very thick wad of kitchen paper. BE VERY CAREFUL AND DO NOT POUR ANY OIL INTO THE PAN AS IT CAN CATCH FIRE.

Using the tongs wipe the Wok with the oiled paper. Turn the heat down to the lowest setting and replace the Wok on the heat. ‘ Cook ‘ the Wok for fifteen minutes, at first as some of the oil burns off this will create some smoke. This process allows the oil to soak into the steel. After fifteen minutes the surface should be a burnished black colour. Turn off the heat and allow to cool. Wipe off any excess oil.

When you have used your Wok just rinse in warm water and clean with a non-metal scourer. Dry and wipe with a little clean oil. If you use soap or an abrasive scourer you will need to repeat the seasoning process. The seasoning technique can also be used for cast iron sauté pans.


There are many types of Chorizo sausage popular not only in Spain and Portugal but also Mexico, South America, the Philippines and in Cajun and Creole cooking. They are normally made from pork, pork fat and salt and can be flavoured with garlic, wine and spices, and herbs such as cloves, thyme, and oregano. Chorizo sausage is usually made with natural casings and can be raw, in which case they require cooking, or fermented, cured or smoked. The different textures, flavours and tastes mean Chorizo is very versatile, the softer varieties used for slicing and the fattier sausages used for cooking or flavouring dishes.

Spanish ChorizoSpanish Chorizo and Portuguese Chouriço get their distinctive taste and distinctive deep red colour from the addition of lots of pimentón or dried smoked red peppers. The two main styles are Dulce which is sweet and mildly spiced and or Picante with a lot more kick. Dulce Chorizo are normally longer and thinner in shape and shorter sausages tend to be Picante but this is not always the case. In Spain texts from the Yuste Monastery mention the manufacture of sausages from the 16th century, before pimentón was widely produced in Spain. Peppers were introduced in Spain by Christopher Columbus after his first voyage to the Americas, in 1493. Spanish Chorizo can be eaten simply sliced into a sandwich, or fried and grilled. Spanish Chorizo is the staple ingredient in many tapas dishes.

Portuguese Chouriço is made with pork, fat, wine, paprika and salt and slowly dried over smoke. There is also a blood Chouriço (chouriço de sangue) very similar to the peppery black pudding in English cuisine. A popular way to prepare Chouriço is partially sliced and flame-cooked over a burner at the table. Special glazed earthenware dishes with a lattice top are used for this purpose.

South American ( Mexican ) Chorizo sausages tend to use locally grown chilli peppers rather than the sweeter milder pimentón pepper. The meat is normally ground or minced rather than chopped and tends to be quite fatty, releasing a flavoursome oil on cooking. In Mexico, restaurants, and food stands make tacos, burritos, and tortas with cooked Chorizo often with refried beans. Perhaps the most famous dish is Chorizo con huevos served at breakfast it is made by mixing fried Chorizo with scrambled eggs. Another popular dish is Chorizo con queso, small pieces of Chorizo served in or on melted cheese, and eaten with small corn tortillas. Mexican Chorizo is also a very popular pizza topping.

Perhaps the most famous tapas is Chorizo a la sidra, from Asturias. Slices of Chorizo stewed in cider and olive oil, a classic combination the cooking is typically Spanish, decidedly uncomplicated relying upon premium quality ingredients. As the cooking liquor is reduced and the slight sweetness of the cider infuses the Chorizo and the garlic, paprika and fat from the sausage enrich the stewing juices. Serve with some crusty bread and cold, crisp, still cider.

Chorizo a la sidra

300 gr raw Chorizo

500 ml dry still Cider

100 ml quality extra virgin Olive Oil

Slice the Chorizo in one and a half centimeter slices. Heat the olive oil on a moderate heat in a large, heavy-bottomed, frying pan. Add the Chorizo slices and fry until they change in colour and start to caramelise but take care not to burn. Add the cider and bring to the boil, cook for ten to fifteen minutes, until the sauce has reduced by around a quarter. Serve in small bowls while still warm.

Cooking with Chorizo

Patatas riojanas

Paella de marisco

Saute Squid with Chorizo and Harissa

Mussels with Chorizo and Beer

Sauté Scallops, Sweet Potato and Coriander Purée with Braised Chorizo

Baked Portobello Mushrooms with Chorizo and Egg

Chorizo Jam

Panné or Breading

When you panné, you coat your meat, fish, shellfish or vegetables in breadcrumbs, recipes such as crispy, deep fried mushrooms or whitebait, pan fried fillets of plaice or the classic dishes Weiner Schnitzel and Chicken Cordon Bleu. The breadcrumb coating protects the enclosed foodstuff when it is cooked most often in the oven or deep fat fryer. Like recipes with food cooked in batter the result is a quicker cooking process and juicy final product.

Breading 1

The process is simple but you need a reasonable amount of free worktop space available and if you don’t like getting your hands dirty some thin food grade disposable gloves. You can purchase prepared breadcrumbs or make them by blitzing stale dry bread in a food processor. You can add garlic, herbs, nuts and Parmesan to the breadcrumbs for extra flavouring.

Once you have prepared the item you are going to panné you need to prepare three trays containing the following; sieved seasoned flour, a mix of beaten eggs and milk or buttermilk and your fine breadcrumbs. Many chefs and restaurants use Panko, it is a variety of flaky bread crumb from Japanese cuisine and the special way it is made results in a very crisp, light coating that absorbs less oil during cooking than convention crumb. You can also use cornmeal.
Dip and coat the prepared item first in the seasoned flour and shake off any excess. Then dip in the egg mix and hold over the container to allow to drain for a few seconds. Take the flour and egg coated item and thoroughly coat in breadcrumbs. If you are preparing dishes such as Chicken Cordon Bleu or deep fried Brie or any dish where part of the filling may liquefy during the cooking dip in the egg and breadcrumbs for a second time. Place on kitchen paper and repeat the process until all your recipe items are coated then cook as required.