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How Do I Make ... ?
Splodge

'Splodge' is a dish I developed over the years as being a very cheap, quick and filling meal. It is based upon a vaguely Italian theme, but adaptable to whatever you may have lying around in tins or the refrigerator - things that need using before they go off. I am sure many of you have thrown together similar recipes in the past.
 
I have since made this dish in China many times, but again due to what is available here, the ingredients vary, although the overall result was pretty much the same. I will first detail the version from Blighty, and then the Chinese one secondly:

Recipe Source:

Image: Jonno on the streets of Foshan, China Jonno, China Expats, Foshan, China  
Websites:China Expats.com
Jonno is a keen chef for friends and family. He has cooked and interpolated many dishes over the years, and invented ones of his own: Most notably 'Splodge', which is vaguely based upon Italian cuisine  
 

Quick Tips:

1. If you use salt in any parts of this recipe, then always add it last. My personal experience confirms that salt enhances and 'fixes' the final flavour of the dish, at the point it is added to the process. Meaning that if you add herbs and spices afterwards, then they really won't work very well.
2. Cooking oil is also very important. Olive oil works far better than any other.
3. This dish is very much 'thrown-together', therefore not all quantities are defined, and definitely never weighed. Please use your initiative.
4. Please note: a 'Wardrobe' of garlic means the whole bulb. It is British humour for where you put your 'clothes' (Cloves)
Let's get started:- Jonno's Splodge - British Version
Ingredients:  
   
• 1 tin ready-mix minced beef
• 1 tin cheap tomatoes
• 8oz Pasta shells
• 1 large or 2 small white onions, 2/3rds diced, 1/3rd chunks
• Olive oil
• 1/2 wardrobe of Garlic, peeled, trimmed, squashed and diced
• 2 inches cubed of fresh ginger, finely chopped
• 10 Button mushrooms - excellent!
• Chopped Capsicum Peppers - differing colours make a great presentation
• 1 dessertspoon Oregano
• Salt and Pepper
• chilli sauce
• Smallest pinch of turmeric
• Variables, listed below
Image: Splodge
Variables:
Obviously this dish is slightly different every time, depending upon your mood, and what is easily to hand. Here is a brief list of some of the more common additions I regularly add:
Ripped fresh basil leaves
1 potatoe diced into 1-inch cubes
Fresh chilli's
Chopped Parsnip
Chopped Celery (3 minutes cooking only)
Aubergine (Eggplant)
Broccoli
Courgette (Zucchini)

Herbs and spices:
• Fresh Chinese coriander leaves are sold everywhere, and a bit harsher in flavour than Western versions. However, they do work very well with this dish, and as a substitute if you cannot find Oregano.
• A hint of Cinnamon works well, as does a sniff of nutmeg, and Thyme.
Note:
Turmeric powder is very powerful + an excellent health additive. If you use too much it will take over the entire flavour of this dish with an unwelcome dry sensation. Use a tip of a teaspoon to start, and increase with practice until it blends without becoming obvious. However, I have found this essential to bind the various ingredients, and for colour presentation.
 
Method
1. Put the pasta shells into a very large saucepan and cover well with water, add a pinch of salt and set aside. They will hydrate without heating. You can just as easily use Penne, as I like a pasta that can hold some of the main dish fluids.
2. Add olive oil to a medium sized saucepan, adding the garlic, ginger, and half to 2/3rds of the diced white onion. The remaining onion is not diced, but cut into large chunks and added within the last minute of cooking. Heat and stir continuously. Add oregano and a very little turmeric. Turn down heat to low simmer and let this sweat for 10 minutes stirring occasionally. The idea is to bring all these separate ingredients together as a composite single taste.
3. Add the tinned tomatoe chunks and bring back to a reasonable simmer.
4. Add black pepper to taste
5. Now put in the tin of ready-mix minced beef in gravy, and stirring, bring back to a good simmer. Cover and leave for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6. If you are using any ingredients such as potatoes or parsnips that need cooking for a while, then add these now.
7. Start heating the pasta by bringing it to the boil, and then reduce to a happy simmer. This should require 5-minutes, but check to ensure they are cooked properly, and not chewy (Nothing worse).
8. Open a bottle of Chianti Ruffo from the refrigerator (4 degrees C is best), and whilst setting aside to rest, help yourself to an ample glass for tasting purposes only.

Once the pasta is cooked, this dish comes together very quickly.

If the sauce of your main dish thickens too much during cooking, then add a little hot water from the kettle and stir-in thoroughly. You are looking for something with the constitution of whole cream milk (Shaken, not stirred).

9. I nearly always add button mushrooms, so these go in 3-5 minutes before serving. I want them heated through thoroughly, and just enough time for some of their juice to extend into the mix.
10. Drain the pasta and immediately add the contents of the other saucepan to this one; folding gently so as nothing sticks to the bottom, yet retain shape and texture.
11. Now add the sliced peppers, remaining onion, and chilli's or chilli sauce. About 1 teaspoon of Encona Brand West Indian Hot Pepper Sauce should be ideal.
12. Stir for 1 minute under a good heat and check the flavour. If it is OK, add the salt. If not OK, adjust and then add the salt.
13. Stir for a further 1 minute and serve. Sliced french flour baguette with butter and a side salad makes an ideal accompaniment.

Alternative serving suggestion:
Drain the pasta and retaining it in the saucepan, immediately add a large knob of butter. Coat the pasta with this, and then sprinkle a little fresh parsley or fresh coriander leaves on top - finely diced of course. Serve as a separate dish. A hint of fresh mint leaves also works.

Follow the steps above for the main dish, and serve separately. If using this delivery, then consider cooking the potatoes with the pasta.

To freeze, combine both saucepan contents and stir under heat for a minute or so. Spoon out into freezer containers that hold about 1lb weight, or about 1 pint of fluid. Allow to go cold, put lid on and put in the freezer.

The whole emphasis of this dish is that it is very simple, extremely tasty, and filling for a hungry boy.

Given you now have the essentials, I will now tell you how I have adapted this for China - a land where tinned mince and cheap tinned tomatoes do not exist.
 
Jonno's Splodge - Cantonese Version:
 
The main problem with making this dish in China, is that there are no tins of minced beef on supermarket shelves, and the tomatoes are either incredibly expensive (tinned), or that fresh ones are useless for cooking with.

Tomatoes: China does one kind of general tomatoe. It looks OK, but turns into a brown mush on the forth day in your fridge. Not good. Cutting one open reveals the inside to be mainly composed of something pithy and yellow. You cannot cook with these things - and believe me I have tried many times. Seasonally you can get 'Beefeater tomatoes', and these are ok for cooking with, but very expensive.

However, all Chinese supermarkets sell 'Del Monte' Brand Italian tomatoe sauce mix in double sized cans. These are excellent, and although they cost a couple of pounds each, they actually work - probably because they contain Italian style plum tomatoes = essential. The herb version is probably best suited to this dish, but the others are ok.

There is often another brand on sale called 'Hunt's'. This is notably cheaper and ideal for making pizza base tomatoe sauces. It is not suitable for this dish, which has a far lighter ambience.

Meat:
This is another area where there is nothing remotely viable, so after much trial and error, I decided that the balls of beef with black pepper where about the closest to what I required tastewise. Supermarkets everywhere sell these things in frozen packets, but pay a little more for good ones.

Preparation:
First I boil these if frozen, but only so you can cut them with a table knife. Alternatively, you could wait for them to thaw out? I want to keep the juices for the main dish. If you do this, then put this juice to one side, and add to the main dish instead of water if it thickens more then you like.

When only just cooked, I chop these into small pieces using any kitchen knife. I am trying to replicate minced beef, so that is your size guide.

Incidentally, I did get up and go to the local wet market for 6am one morning in order to buy fresh beef, which I accomplished. It was disgusting to the point I would probably not even give it to the dog! Anyway, this dish is all about taste and being immediate with what is to hand.

Chilli Sauce:
China is awash with a plethora of chilli sauces. Do not use chilli sauce based on the rounded square Sichuan types (Scotch Bonnet) - this has the wrong flavour totally. For a hot one, use Lantern Brand from Hainan island - it is sold everywhere. For a fuller flavour, and one that truly compliments this dish, use Guilin chilli sauce - also available everywhere. If your supermarket does not sell these jars, then choose a proprietary brand chilli and garlic sauce.

Fresh chilli's:
China is always a land of contradictions;
Therefore; if you want a mild chilli then buy some red ones. Now I know that green chilli's mature and turn red, getting hotter as they turn - I grow my own. But this isn't how it is in China - a land where Green chilli's are always hotter. For this dish I am looking for a palatably playful Gutierrez (wrong spelling I am sure) chilli of Indian decent, as common in UK. These are the gnarly ones about 4-6-inches long, that rate as factor 7-8 on the international chilli-geiger counter (Scoville Scale).

Other Ingredients:

Everything else you need for this dish is readily available everywhere - except Oregano and similar Western herbs and spices. I bring back catering packs of the stuff when I go to UK, although you can find it presented in miniscule fancy jars in Hong Kong, at vastly inflated prices.

In particular, China is fantastic for mushrooms as the choice is incredible. The best ones are the ones that look like small grayish eggs, although all the versions of button mushrooms are as you would expect.

If you buy pasta loose from the supermarket, then know the white looking pasta shells are made from rice flour and don't work. The yellow coloured ones are made from wheat flour, which is OK.

If you have time, then emulate the tinned minced beef by adding 3 parts cornflour and one part Bisto (Again bought in UK, and expensively available in Hong Kong) to a saucepan, add a little water and heat stirring continuously. And I mean - continuously! You can also add a hint of black pepper to this for taste. Add more water as soon as it looks like a goo. With your other hand, add in the diced meatballs and a little diced onion. Keep stirring! When bubbling away happily at a nice viscosity, add a pinch of salt to fix the flavour, and put aside - or ladle meat straight into the main saucepan if your timing is right.
Note: You will probably not need all of this sauce, so what is collected naturally on your ladle with the meat is fine for the main dish. Freeze leftover sauce once cooled (Any plastic bag is fine), and use as instant gravy - or for your next splodge.

If at any time you feel harassed during the cooking process; then simply switch off all the heat, cover, and re-taste the Chianti, allowing one full glass from a new bottle for yourself, and a second glass from the rested bottle for your girlfriend. If things go very well, you can always finish cooking this for breakfast

However; she will be far more impressed with you if you finish cooking the dish and present it well. Some 'Home made' French bread - Baguette is best (The stuff sold in all Chinese supermarkets is probably made with wood pulp, and designed to beat wayward Donkeys with); butter curls, and a side-salad are very good with this dish.

I'll add a picture and/or video walkthrough next time I make it.

Enjoy!
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