A Curious Home-stye Dish of Baked Beans & A Soup of Meatballs

This is an old home-style dish that has been passed down from my grandmother. I remembered my own mother cooking it when she is in a rush and do not want to make anything complicated. It must be an invention of my grandmother’s as I don’t ever remember any other families making it. When I first served it to the husband, he was rather taken aback because he has never seen baked beans prepared this way. To him, baked beans belong to a full English (breakfast, that is). He has since overcome his reticence and now love it as much as my children. Others find it curious that I would serve rice with another carbohydrates but it does not matter here as the sauce is savoury and tasty. A very quick and economical dish to cook, it uses a small amount of meat and is best served with rice together with a plate of stir-fry vegetables.

The meatball soup is a store-cupboard recipe that you could quickly put together with any minced meat that you might have in your freezer. I have used pork but chicken, turkey or prawns cut into cubes would be fine too. I usually have small bags of minced (or ground) meat in the freezer which is handy for these two dishes.

CHINESE-STYLE BAKED BEANS

(Serves 3-4)

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2 tbsp peanut oil
2 clove garlic, chopped
100-150g (4-6 oz.) minced (ground) pork, chicken or turkey
400g (14 oz) tin of baked beans in tomato sauce
3-4 spring onions, thinly sliced
Drizzle of soy sauce
Drizzle of ketchup
Plenty of white ground pepper

Heat oil in a wok over high heat. Add the minced pork or beef and fry for 3-4 minutes, breaking the meat up with your spatula until any liquid has evaporated and the meat has changed colour. Add the chopped garlic and fry another minute or so until fragrant.

Pour over the baked beans, stirring and fry for a minute or two. Drizzle over soy sauce and ketchup to taste, add water to the baked bins can to wash the sauce out and add to the wok (approx. ¼ tin). Add the spring onions, give it a good stir stir and lower the heat. Allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes until slightly thickened, test for taste and sprinkle over plenty of white ground pepper. Remove from wok and serve immediately.

ORIENTAL MEATBALL SOUP

(Serves 3-4)

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For the meatballs:
150g minced (ground) pork, chicken or turkey (or a combination)
½ tsp cornflour
½ tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
½ spring onion, finely sliced
Ground white pepper

1 litre (4 cups) chicken stock
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 spring onion, finely sliced
2 tbsp peanut oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
Ground white pepper
Salt

Prepare the meatballs: mix all the ingredients in a bowl until combined. Wet your hands and pinch walnut-size pieces of the mixture and shape into balls. Place on a plate and continue until all the mixture are used up.

Prepare the garlic oil: in a small saucepan, heat the peanut oil until smoking. Add the chopped garlic and fry until lightly golden. Remove from heat and set aside. Make sure the garlic does not burn.

In a saucepan, bring the chicken stock to boil, add the fish sauce and drop the meatballs into the stock. Bring the stock back to boil, lower the heat and simmer meatballs for 8-10 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked. Test the soup for taste and add salt if need.

Divide the meatballs and ladle into bowls, top with the spring onions and a drizzle of garlic oil. Sprinkle with plenty of white pepper and serve immediately.

Note: I have not used it here but you can also add a small bunch of blanched and softened glass noodles to the soup to make it more substantial.

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