healthy

Chinese braised oxtail in Instant Pot

Chinese braised oxtail dish, prepared in the Instant Pot a fantastic new tool in my kitchen. This appliance really has cut down the cooking time impressively compared to a Dutch oven on the stovetop and/or oven technique. Only slow-braising in the slow cooker could be an equal in flavour but definitely not a time-saver. The actual Instant Pot meat/stew program was ready in thirty minutes! More information on the Instant Pot and Instant Pot FAQ links.

In all fairness, the total cooking time all together was around one and half hours;

  1. Sauteing oxtail bones 10-15 minutes
  2. Meat/Stew program 30 minutes
  3. Push the cancel button (if not the pressure will not lower directly, it will also extend the waiting time)
  4. NPR – natural pressure release 30 minutes and final
  5. QPR – quick pressure release 5-10 minutes (keep a towel at hand to cover, just in case the steam bursts with a fountain of depressurized liquid)
  6. Finished oxtail bones only – 1½ hours.
  7. Optional: added vegetables and used the manual slow cook program with adjusted time.
  8. Or use the Warm keep function additionally, set the time preference.

Stovetop and slow cooker actual time would definitely between 4-6 hours or more depending on the cut size and weight including the preparation time before until the end of cooking time. If I had doubled or tripled the quantity in the Instant Pot, the cooking meat/stew program still be consistent ready in 30 minutes.

 

Shared my Instant Pot awe-struck moment of braised oxtail with meat falling off the bone while retaining the shape of vegetables. The Instant Pot microprocessor controlled programs work like magic. I posted a photo of my finished Chinese style braised oxtail bones on FB Instant Pot® Community group and received responses on how to make with a full recipe to share. Here’s a quick image overview.

Chinese style braised oxtail bones – recipe

1. Pushed the Sauté button, added vegetable oil as soon as it heated up I added all the oxtail bones into the pot for 5-7 minutes. When it’s browned well the meat releases easily from the bottom.

Instant Pot Sauté preset

Instant Pot Sauté function on with oxtail bones

2. Stir meat around browning all sides, While turning everything around add the spices; cinnamon and star anise. As soon as they release aroma, add the ginger first than garlic. Keep stirring the pot to mix and pan-fry at the same time. With all the brown bits sticking pour in the Chinese wine and scrape the bottom loose. Followed by all other ingredients and close the lid. Cancel the sauté program and push the Meat/Stew button to start braising the oxtail bones.

Instant Pot Sauté preset

Instant Pot Sauté preset

3. After 30 minutes the beep sounded waited for the pressure to come down, the released pressured air carried a hint of the wonderful aroma. When I opened the lid this is what I saw, tender, moist oxtail meat, and vegetables in a flavoursome gravy with an intense fragrance floating upwards from the pan. Pleased as punch with my dish and my new kitchen gadget.

Instant Pot Meat/Stew program

Instant Pot Meat/Stew program

4. Transferred my braised oxtail dish into a normal pan, time to dish up the plates. Life is good.

Chinese braised oxtail bones

Chinese style braised Oxtail bones

Serve in a bowl with rice or noodles on the side or as a topping making it a one-dish meal. Not shown in the image (too fast gobbling it up), for a beautiful presentation you may choose to garnish it with sprigs of coriander, thinly sliced onion rings, diagonally slices of chilli pepper or a mix of altogether scattered on top.

Click here for the Chinese style braised Oxtail bones recipe.

Please read my disclaimer and disclosure on affiliated links and copyright notice for links and information in this post.

Chinese style braised oxtail bones – recipe

Chinese style braised oxtail bones are served as a topping on rice or served separately in a wide bowl. Vegetables as carrots and cassava are added making this dish a hearty and flavoursome nutritious dish. Paleo fans will enjoy its warming earthiness as much without any gluten ingredients. Interchanging between a variety of bean sauces (Chinese fermented soybean sauces), chilli paste and spices will allow you to play with an aroma to your own liking. Or be adventurous and choose to cook from other south-east Asian cuisines enjoying the different flavour, texture with salivating fragrances.

Serve in a bowl by itself with rice or noodles on the side, or topped above as a one-dish meal for lunch or dinner. As a main dish, if preparing a menu for more persons, I would suggest adding a vegetable- and doufu dish with a light soup to complement each other. The Chinese style braised oxtail bones will be the focus for your guests at the table. For the recipe scroll here below, click here for Chinese braised oxtail in Instant Pot information and photo images.

Difference between braise, stews and soup – Update 21 December 2015

I received engaging comments with the questions, how much liquid to add. Followed by the difference between braising and stews. In answer to my readers,  I am updating the post with the replied information on the method of cooking techniques used for tougher cuts of meat.

To start with the liquid in any recipe, it focuses on the right volume to add, water, stock or broth. Next, the cut size of the meat (small cubes) and cutting against the grain means cutting crosswise through the long muscle fibres in the meat. Breaking them up makes meat more tender.

Often used cuts are the less tender and gelatinous parts of meat for slow cooking as well as the use of accompanying vegetables in the dish. In order to fuse all the ingredients together to melt into a tender and flavoursome dish, is by breaking down the connective tissue as tendons (collagen) just simmering it slowly using the right low temperature.

Braising and stewing cooking technique are combination cooking methods using the hob and/or oven.

  • Braising is cooking meat on a bed of vegetables in a small amount of liquid, utilising steam and stewing in its cooking process. At the end of the cooking process, the meat often falls off the bone and the concentrated gravy is clinging to the pieces of meat.
  • Stewing is a slow cook method, where the food is cut into smaller pieces and covered in liquid using gentle heat for a long time. Here the meat is fork tender and the liquid is reduced covering the meat pieces in an aromatic thick sauce.

Cooking with high pressure is perfect it doesn’t require a whole lot of liquid, making it perfect for braised dishes in my Instant Pot DUO 7-1 I use or Lux 6-1 (version without yoghurt option). In comparison with my stove high-pressure cooker, where you have to manually set the timer and keep an eye on it still. The IP has automated meat/stew 30 minutes program you just press and walk away, at the end of time cancel the keep warm function so the natural pressure release can come down a bit faster (approx. 30-45 min.).

For a braised result, I submerge the meat by adding water or stock just barely covering it exposing some of the bones and meat. If you would opt for only (e.g. 50%) using half of water or stock to add, be aware that the gravy will reduce significantly as well. Tip: Keep in mind if this dish is completely cooled the gravy of the bones will be very gelatinous (jiggly as jelly). Meat jelly is another Chinese delicacy served eating it cold as homecooked food and can be creatively used in appetisers or bun fillings for example.

If I like to make a stew instead, I will submerge the ingredients covering it to ½-1 inch (1 ½ – 3 cm) above with liquid or more if it calls for a soupy consistency.

 

Drink suggestions:

  • Tea leaves: Green tea or Jasmine tea is very common, but Pu Erh tea has an earthy smokiness which is very pleasant with an added bonus it really cuts the fat down in your body.
  • For the beer fans: You will enjoy this dish with a light beer, a darker beer, even more, tasteful. In The Netherlands seasonal draft beer or bottled bock beer would be nice to pair along, it has richer, sweeter lager with warm toasty undertones and minimal bitterness. More information on Beleef bockbier 2015, with an overview of 125 different bock beers in The Netherlands. Besides Guinness Stout beer or a Kilkenny, share yours.
  • As for wine lovers: A red Bordeaux is an easy choice, but for the adventurous wine sleuth, an Australian Shiraz-Viognier Barossa 2006 is a discovery I can recommend. My all time favourite would be the Chilean Tarapacca Carmenere, rich in berry fruits and spices to pair with my bowl of Chinese style braised oxtail bones. You will not believe it, but I made my acquaintance and fell in love with Tarapacca in Taipei. Of course, there are far more than one grape or bottle, the more reason to cook and pair more meals.

If you have made the braised Oxtail bones, share your dinner send me a photo.

Enjoy!

 

Please read my disclaimer and disclosure on affiliated links and copyright notice for links and information in this post

 

Thai red curry mussels, stir-fried & steamed

Easy week meal, quick, healthy and tasty shellfish in a velvety Thai red curry sauce. In the fridge, I had a container of 2 kg fresh mussels which I transferred into a big bowl to soak/rinse the mussels in water plus 2 tablespoons of salt. The mussels breathe, filtering water and expelling sand. I always take a few hours to soak and change water, by doing so the beard will come loose or a lot easier to remove and the sand sinks to the bottom. The changing of water in between soaks will prevent pouring accidentally sand into the cooking vessel.

Having prepared the main ingredient in advance I was contemplating between French style Moules Mariniere or Belgian style, although I have to admit at times I get confused in discussion regarding ingredients and distinction between the two. With or without cream, wine, herbs, flour etc. Recently I discovered a recipe where I noticed for the first time mentioning ‘Trappist bier’  in Moules à la bière recipe, mussels cooked with Belgian beer of course.

Alas, no beers but Pilsner (Lager) so skipped that for another night and since the weather changed, I opted for a bit of heat and spice instead. However, was missing a few ingredients, in that case you make do with what is available at hand. I had ran out of coconut cream and coconut milk, so I replaced that by  using coconut oil and a small packet of Alpro soya cream which was given as a sample. The alternative recipe is as shown with this post photo images, but for authenticity I will mention at the bottom how to cook using fresh herbs as lemon grass, coriander etc that would have complemented the Thai flavor and as decoration (chili too for heat and color).

Thai red curry mussels, stir-fried & steamed

Improvising with a few ingredients I came up with a bit of heat and spice making it flavorful and nice 🙂

ทานให้อร่อยนะ! Thān h̄ı̂ xr̀xy na (than hi aroy na) Enjoy your meal

Thai Red Curry, Palm Sugar, Coconut oil, Soy cream

Thai Red Curry pase, Palm Sugar, Coconut oil, Soy cream

Coconut cream or milk would be preferred for taste and flavor, but soy cream was a good alternative ingredient to thicken the sauce slightly (soy milk is not an option!). If you don’t have palm sugar, regular white sugar works fine. At the background you just can see the bottle of oyster sauce (works as substitute), which I didn’t use, what is missing in this image is Thai fish sauce.

Coconut oil and red curry paste stir fried

Heat coconut oil, add red curry paste and stir-fry quickly, to mix and release flavors

Red curry paste with leeks and soy cream

Add the leeks, soy cream and stir till it starts to boil.

Thai red curry mussels, stir-fried & steamed

Thai red curry mussels, stir-fried & steamed

Thai red curry mussels, stir-fried & steamed in a velvety sauce

Thai red curry mussels, stir-fried & steamed in a velvety sauce

For a change I flat out had no herbs in my kitchen (no ginger, no galangal, no lemongrass even shallots were finished) so I used finely sliced leek instead. If you do have the aforementioned ingredients than chop it up finely, heat the oil in the wok add the ingredients and when it releases aromas add the red curry paste. Give everything a good stir than add the coconut milk to bind it all together, while rinsing off the mussels in a sieve , let it drip off all the excess water, add them into the wok. Put the lid on and let it cook steam for approximately 7-8 minutes till all shells have opened while giving it two good shakes in between. When done open the lid and tadaa! Stir around the sauce so it coats all the mussels. Wholladuh goodness,Thai red curry mussels, stir-fry & steam ! If you happen to have coriander at hand, chop a handful and scatter on top add finely sliced red pepper for color and a bit of fresh heat.

Cooking with fresh herb ingredients only intensifies the flavors, but even with the minimum I had this time it still was a great dinner. Serve on a plate with plain Jasmine rice and enjoy your Thai infused mussels.

Bitter Melon juice with Ginger, Honey and Lemon

The basic recipe for bitter melon or bitter gourd juice:

  • 2-3 small spiky bitter melon cleaned, halved remove sponge with seeds and pith or 1 medium-large smooth bitter melon
  • honey and lemon juice to taste
  • water

In some cooking and juicing recipes you can use the whole vegetable only removing the ends and chopped, the seeds are edible but work on your digestive system, a known side effect is a gastrointestinal discomfort.

Drinking bitter Melon juice plain mixed with a little bit of water is common, but it gets more palatable by adding ginger, lemon/lime juice and honey. For more recipes click here.

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Bitter Melon Juice with Ginger, honey and lemon

 

Apricot Banana Soymilk -Yoghurt Smoothie recipe

wpid-frankie.jpgWe are going out jogging with the Watcher and guardian of our house Frankie, during the week it’s compulsory daily dog walks but in the weekend we often take her on longer walks to parks or fields where she can dash and frolic around. It’s a morning ritual as soon as we step out of our bedrooms, she either is sitting up on her haunches wiggling her tail or doing her morning stretches and then follows us down the stairs for her breakfast and water bowl.

Today we have decided to walk along the Rijn-Schie kanaal in Leiden and Frankie knows she is going along with us, eagerly standing before the door ready to go. She rushes through her breakfast bowl while I am preparing ours to fuel us with energy and vitamins.

Apricot Banana Soymilk Vanilla Yoghurt Smoothie

Our morning ritual when we open our eyes is a strong cup of coffee or tea first since we are going for a long walk we choose to make a breakfast smoothie. I had soaked the soybeans the day before and made a fresh batch of soy milk yesterday, together with fresh apricots, a ripe banana and quick oatmeal for fibres to fuel us and extra energy.

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Fresh homemade soy milk 1 cup of soybeans yields 1,5-2ltrs

 

Apricot Banana Soymilk smoothie

Apricot Banana Soy milk yoghurt smoothie

Citrus boost with Grapefruit, Orange, Carrot and Ginger

Busy lives with changeable weather and cold fronts hanging around the corner we need to make sure we get all the vitamins to ward off the sneezes and other fly symptoms. Need to go out to buy groceries and re-stock our fruit basket, with the sun rays shining into the kitchen, what better invitation do you need to make the following Citrus supercharger.

Citrus boost with Grapefruit, Orange, Carrot and Ginger Fruit Juice

Citrus booster; Grapefruit, Oranges, Carrot & Ginger

Citrus booster; Grapefruit, Oranges, Carrot & Ginger

  • The Citrus boost mix consist of four ingredients, with the grapefruit and oranges it quadruples the amount of many minerals and vitamins, both juices provide a significant amount of three vitamins and flavonoids.  Citrus fruits are the sole source of a group of flavonoids called flavanones that functions as antioxidants.
  • Carrots are another excellent source of vitamins and beta-carotene ( antioxidant) gives carrots their bright orange color and makes this drink sure look even more vibrant.
  • Ginger has many benefits, such as anti-inflammatory qualities relieving swelling and pain, it also eases headaches, sore throats, helps fighting against cold and flu symptoms. Besides nutritional value it adds a nice zing to the Fruit Juice and deepens the flavor, for beginners start with smaller amount to balance the taste result to your palate or liking.

Cleaning of fruits is a must, but with our Philips Fruit Juicer HR 1861 there is no need for cutting up in smaller pieces it all goes down the wide-mouth feeder. We have this model for several years now, I purchased the juicer while living in Singapore years back and it has been in use and moving with us. There is a beautiful new model HR1871/OO 800 watt out, which is more compact and technical an upgrade, but I am still content with the first HR1861 model performing without a glitch. It has not let me down ever, still doing its job centrifuging all the best of fruits and vegetables into fresh juice.

If you are interested you can purchase it online at Amazon.co.uk or Blokker in The Netherlands, stores and online. I’ve added the links for your convenience to check for more information. It’s a great addition in aiding a healthier lifestyle approach as well as finishing last fruits with or without vegetables in nutritional drinks made at home.

Oranges & Grapefruit

Oranges & Grapefruit, peel and remove as much pith from the fruit.

Just remember to remove as much pith (white membrane covering citrus segments), especially of Grapefruits it taste of all citrus fruits very bitter, leaving even a little bit of sting on your tongue if you eat them right after only peeling the skin.

Philips HR1861 Fruit Juicer

Home & Kitchen appliance Philips HR1861 Fruit Juicer

If you only mix Oranges, Grapefruits, mandarin or lemons you can easily just squeeze them but mixing it with carrots and ginger, which have a much harder consistency and impossible to squeeze by hand. A fruit juicer is a household appliance if you give it a good spot on your kitchen counter, visible next to fruit basket you will downsize on spoilage and increase intake of freshly made juices with health benefits. Especially when its easy to handle and to clean, give it a go and experiment with various fruit combination and become bolder with adding vegetables to the mix.

Citrus Boost MIx

Freshly juiced, the jug yields 1.250 ml of Citrus Boost!

The family enjoyed this combination, tried, tested and approved 🙂 As another option next to good old Orange Juice as a change of flavor and vitamin charger. It sure does not hurt that it boost up your metabolism, wards off colds, helps with weight loss but above all “feeling good”!

 

Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad Gluten-free

Many summers back we had an impromptu BBQ dinner with friends at our Taiwanese home. Our guests brought Pot Luck to our home, one of the dishes a fantastic Tabbouleh salad made with bulgur. My first attempts to remake Tabbouleh was disappointing since then I learned of my mistakes such as not squeezing hard enough to remove all liquid.

While parsley is the main herb ingredient, you can easily make adaptations with other herb options. Based on this salad but creating a different taste is by adding 1 tablespoon of sun-dried tomato tapenade instead of tomato puree for a pronounced flavour.

A healthy dish with memories, running out of bulgur gave room for another twist by preparing this salad with Quinoa seed. With every bite, the seeds will pop a little giving it an extra dimension.

 

With no fresh lemons available nor bottles of lemon juice, I substituted with Chinese rice vinegar and adjust seasonings for the olive oil based dressing. The same reason I tried Apple vinegar which would be my last resort since it has a higher acidity you need less. So start with just one tablespoon and increase with half if needed.

Last summer our youngest came back from her holiday in Morocco with student peers. She brought Aragan oil purchased from a local vendor in a small village. There’s a reason why it is called Moroccan liquid gold as one of the rarest oils in the world.

The nutty taste and fragrance is absolute heaven! I am not an exaggerating type but Aragan oil really does give an extra dimension to salad dishes. If not available you can replace with walnut oil, olive oil will work but has a different end taste.

Liquid gold, it is an unequalled and understandably rare commodity outside of Morocco. A food gem in my kitchen cabinet for as long as the treasured food gift last.

Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad, Power food

Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad


Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad

Quinoa is a basically a powerhouse full of nutritional value and a good choice on the menu. A super grain high in protein and fibre, an ancient seed re-ignited as a super food. If Aragan oil is gold liquid than the mother grain of the Inca’s are gold nuggets. Apparently, NASA sent astronauts into space with Quinoa on the menu as the power food.

Today’s Tabbouleh version has no parsley, instead, it is prepared with fresh mint and coriander. You can serve the dish for lunch with bread, dinner or barbeque as a side dish.

For other salad inspiration, try our Red Beet Salad with Orange, Feta Cheese, Mint recipe or Yum Nua Thai Beef Salad recipe.

Lemongrass ginger herbal tisane – My Cup 茶馆

Lemongrass & Ginger tea, a thirst quencher with nutrition and health benefits.

Lemongrass & Ginger tea, a thirst quencher with nutrition and health benefits.

While I am typing this post it is raining again as it was yesterday, although I don’t mind the cold or wetness it’s the sun and warmth I crave the most. This early morning the day started with sun rays bursting through the window, but winter chills is still holding a firm grip and the wind doesn’t help much to change the mood throughout the rest of the day. While browsing through the fridge to see what I would come up with for dinner, I saw one last stalk of Lemon grass left. I decided instead of using to cook with it I would make a soul-warming tea with ginger to warm up my body and at the same time a soothing taste comforting me by filling up the house with fragrance and taste of the tropics.

Lemon grass has tremendous health benefits and is packed with so much goodness, it aids many chronic conditions due to its anti-microbial, anti-oxidant,
anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer properties. Lemon grass as a therapeutic tea helps improving digestive tract, detoxifies, lowers cholesterol and has a purifying effect just to highlight a few remedies.

Consumption of ginger has great health benefits too, I discovered not early enough that it is a great remedy in aiding to reduce pain with menstruation cramps and relieving tremendous migraine pains as well anti-inflammatory effects. In my younger years I relied to much on painkillers and have taken larger dosages to find release and feeling comfortable again. At that time I also didn’t appreciate the taste nor the belief that Ginger would help. Well that changed 360° after my first mug of infused ginger tea, since then I have been praising the benefits and healthy nutrition of ginger and advocating to others to chop, slice, dice, mince more of ginger to eat and drink of this mighty Ginger rhizome. See Ginger root, raw nutrition facts here.

If the pure ginger flavour is too strong at first, start with a light infusion to get used to the taste  even as a flavoured water it still works its magic for you. How to make ginger infusion tea from light to strong to each taste preferences will appear shortly, but after intake you will absolutely notice difference in your body it will lift up your mood and responsiveness. The combination of Green tea, Ginger & Cinnamon tea has been proven to reduce blood sugar level after a meal, read this article on synergistic effect of green tea and spices.

To add sweetening to ginger tea with mixed herbs or spices, you may add a teaspoon of sugar cane  sugar or coconut palm sugar (both have low GI index as a better health choice) or honey.

Here are some other variation of infused Ginger Tea’s to make at home instead of pre-made bags and packages:

  • Green tea with Ginger & Cinnamon tea
  • Cinnamon with Ginger & Date tea with honey (Korean-style)
  • Lemon-honey with Ginger
  • cinnamon, cardamom & ginger tea (Indian fused style)
  • Ginger tea with Cinnamon & Anise
  • Coconut & Ginger tea or juice

I’m literally out of my ingredients and need to shop, as soon as I can I will make preparation to upload photo’s of each with recipes and instructions for you to make herbal infusion tea’s at home too.