Who else sometimes craves past guilt-ridden and meat-filled Chinese takeaways? I definitely do. I’m talking about piles of fried rice with sticky sweet sauces, piled high with crispy pieces of unidentifiable meat. Who knows what you were really eating? My mushroom and ackee alternatives should satisfy your cravings and definitely won’t leave you feeling as guilty as before!
Ackee is the perfect substitute for egg. It is best to buy it tinned, so that the fruit is definitely ripe enough for eating – not that I have ever found it in its raw form in England before! Once opened, wash the ackee to get rid of the brine and any extra saltiness. You may find the ackee resembles some sort of alien life form, but fear not, it is edible and its texture is creamy, just like scrambled egg. If you don’t live in close proximity to an international market/shop, then you may find it difficult to locate tinned ackee. I am lucky enough to live near to Brixton Market, where ackee is plentiful. However, you can buy it online or substitute in drained tofu instead.
Now to talk about mushrooms…I am obsessed with mushrooms! This came as a surprise to my family, especially my mushroom loving sister, as I used to detest anything that even resembled fungi. But I have seen the light and well, quite frankly, I now can’t get enough. There are so many varieties of mushrooms and each has different textures, flavours and favourable methods of cooking. But wait, it sounds like I’m describing meat here – all of this variety with no violence, I hear you cry?! Yes! You can eat them raw, pickle them, braise them, pull them, make them into steaks, and even cook them just like scallops! Woah! If this excites you as much as it does me, then you must follow Derek Sarno, who I believe to be ‘The Mushroom God’.
For this recipe, I use a meaty king oyster mushroom. I treat it like pork and slow cook the mushrooms in a dry rub until soft, before shredding it and covering it in sauce. After a little more cooking, you get a sticky and crispy, meaty, shredded, glorious, delicious mess of yumminess. Jackfruit step aside, let’s welcome the hardy mushroom back into the room. Not only is it more widely available, but it’s also extremely sustainable! The only catch is, where do you stop?!
Whilst I am using king oyster mushrooms here, you can choose to use alternative mushrooms, particularly if you are in a rush. Maitake (already has a pulled/shredded appearance) and oyster mushrooms will cook much quicker, just make sure you keep an eye on your timings (I tried out smaller mushrooms and it took half the cooking time).
I could chat about mushrooms all day, but I will spare you for now. You are probably starting to think that this recipe sounds almost alien and extremely unusual. So let’s come back down to earth and discuss the simple sauce. If you are in a rush, or just feeling lazy (we’ve all been there), you can buy ready-made hoisin sauce or any other sauce you may desire. However, I do find it easy to whack this sauce out in minutes with the help of a good blender! Here is my recipe:
Put 2 tbsp peanut butter, 4 tbsp tamari (or use soy sauce), 2 tbsp agave, 2 tsp rice wine vinegar, 2 tsp toasted sesame oil, 1 tsp sriracha, 1/4 tsp black peppercorns and 1 garlic clove in to a blender and blend until smooth.
This can be kept in the fridge for a week
Goma-ae is a side dish that I learnt at Demuths Cookery School (see previous post). This is my version of their recipe – I use agave syrup and black sesame instead, because I am cutting down on sugar and I like the colour contrast of the black sesame with this particular dish. Save some of the seeds for the end to scatter over your dish to make it look pretty 😉 you can use white sesame seeds if they’re easier to get your hands on.
The final result is a flavoursome, wondrous plate of joy that brings back memories of a Chinese takeaway with the soft, eggy fried rice and the crispy meat. Yum.
Don’t be put off by the range of ingredients and the alien-like techniques/ingredients – this is such a simple dish to make, especially when you buy your own sauce and have your rice pre-cooked. It’s a super fun dish to create and you will enjoy the process of cooking and pulling the mushrooms – I hope it inspires you as much as it does me!!
Recipe – Ackee Fried Rice with Pulled Hoisin Mushrooms
200g King oyster mushroom (approx. 2) or alternative mushrooms (see above)
1 tsp Chinese 5 spice
100g Hoisin sauce
Black Sesame Goma-ae Broccoli
1 tbsp Black sesame seeds
1/2 tbsp Agave
1/2 tbsp Tamari
Dash of water
Ackee Fried Rice
200g Ackee (drained)
400g Cooked rice
1 tbsp Sunflower oil
1 tsp Sesame oil
3 tsp Tamari
A few spring onions
1. If you are making your own hoisin sauce, do this now.
2. Start by scoring the mushrooms and then rub in the Chinese 5 spice with the oil. Place in an oven dish with a lid and stick in the oven at 180 degrees (fan oven) for 1 hour. During this time, get on with making the broccoli and rice.
3. Steam your broccoli until cooked and allow to cool whilst making your goma-ae sauce.
4. To make you goma-ae, place the sesame seeds in a frying pan and toast until they are fragrant and look a bit darker.
5. Place your sesame seeds in a mortar and pestle and grind to a fine powder, then add the other ingredients until you have a sauce. Add water to make it thinner if you wish. Pour on to the broccoli and allow to cool – this is great eaten cold.
6. Cut springs onions for the rice and rinse the ackee to get rid of the salty brine.
7. After one hour, take the mushrooms out of the oven and pull them apart with two forks – it is easiest to pull them lengthways down the mushroom. You should end up with stringy bits of mushroom that look quite meaty.
8. Add the hoisin sauce and put back in the oven for 10 minutes without the lid.
9. Heat both the oils for the rice in a wok/large frying pan until very hot.
10. Add the rice and heat through, stirring often to avoid it sticking.
11. Add in the tamari and the spring onions until incorporated.
12. Throw in the ackee, heat through and voilà!