A couple of things here that don’t quite make a whole post in themselves, but deserve a wee mention regardless. The moon pastries were my failed – or to be more forgiving, re-conceived – attempt at moon cakes. I followed this recipe for the two kinds of pastry, but I found that there were two stumbling blocks. One was the previously described hassle and mess of making red bean paste by hand – see my earlier post on Steamed Buns with Red Bean Paste. Ohhhhhh, the mess. My goodness. I don’t think I’ll be making it by hand any more, until I get a ricer or one of those cone shaped sieves you see on the telly. It can be bought at the Chinese supermarket, I’ll just cheat. The second stumbling block was not having a mould for the moon cakes. I did have a look online but by that time it was too near to the Moon Festival to order, the mould wouldn’t have arrived in time. I thought I would just fold the pastries up but I couldn’t get the bean paste to the right consistency to roll into a small ball and, in short, ended up with a totally different thing altogether, as you can see…
The pastry I made from the recipe above was nice, but we happened to have a proper moon cake to try, and it was completely different. It was much heavier – and the filling was also utterly different, you could really tell that there was extra fat in the paste and that is was, and maybe aged, too? The real moon cake was filled with lotus seed paste so it was of course going to be different, but I think that the texture was probably indicative of how a red bean paste one would have been, too. Mine was much softer, drier and crumblier, as was the pastry. The recipe didn’t mention any kind of glaze but I feel pretty sure that an egg yolk glaze should have been applied to them before baking to give shine and a more moist finish. The pastries were all eaten, I think everyone tried one and from what I could tell enjoyed it, but they weren’t moon cakes. Still, I need some pastry practise so it wasn’t by any means a loss.
The plum sauce was something I made because I had a punnet of plums ready to go in the bin, if I left them any longer. I was torn between making a jam or making a plum sauce. I changed m mind twice as I was cooking, in fact. When I tasted the plums, I felt like their flavour was too watery to create a nice plum sauce, so I decided to go for jam. Once I’d cut them all up and simmered with 4tbsp of jam sugar, I changed my mind. I added some light soy, a pierced but whole red chili, two big garlic cloves, also whole, some ume plum seasoning, some Chinkiang vinegar and some sesame oil. Note the use of the word ‘some’. That is one of my least favourite descriptive words, as it happens – ‘some’. I used to work in a purchasing department, and thoroughly hated being asked to order things like ‘some Sellotape’. HOW. MUCH? ‘Some’ implies more than one roll, but less than… what? Five? Ten? I was often tempted to order up a crate of the stuff and have it delivered directly to the offender’s desk. Argh. You will have noticed, though, that this hasn’t stopped me from *using* the word myself. I’m not pretending that this is a recipe, it can’t even be properly called a guessipe with such use of vagaries. I’m frankly appalled with myself.
At any rate, I simmered it until all the flavours were infused, and kept tasting and adjusting as I went along. I served it over some roast chicken, stir-fried veg and some fine egg noodles. I love fine noodles, they have such a delicate texture, I want to eat them one at a time, long ways, with just my front teeth. Angh angh angh. That is my eating noise. Egg noodles have such a lovely smell and taste to them even when they’re just plain, too – they just cry out for a hit of sesame. ANGH!
The plum sauce was very light in colour, and bordering on the brown rather than purple. It was an odd texture, too, in that it was rich and thick from the fruit flesh, but when I stirred it through the chicken, noodles and veg it disappeared altogether, though the taste was still very much there, and very pleasant, too. I think it might have needed pureed and possibly strained. I also could have been doing with darker plums, these were very light. The veg I used, as you can see, was red pepper, cabbage and spring onion. Overall a pretty simple meal but if all the ingredients are perfect, you don’t need anything fancy. I didn’t feel like the plum sauce was perfect, by any means, but like the moon pastries it’s a place to work from.