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Popty Ping – MasterChef and my homage to last year’s winner

‘Popty Ping’ means microwave in welsh. Although there is not a microwave in sight in the below recipes, it does give a clue as to the inspiration for the Malaysian dinner party I hosted a few weeks ago for my nearest and dearest, in celebration of my upcoming TV debut.


And the loose theme I chose was Malaysian, as an ode to last year’s MasterChef Champion 2014, the fabulous Ping Coombes.

It was Ping’s flawless home-style Malaysian cooking and attitude to food that prompted me to submit my application! From the beginning her dishes were amazing, giving John and Gregg, and the viewers at home a real culinary lesson. She cooked from the heart, using flavours and techniques learnt from her family, and made everyone realize that you don’t have to dine out in expensive restaurants to know about amazing food. So I prepared a (maybe not so traditional) Malaysian feast, with a few of my own little touches too. Entertaining for a big group in a tiny flat takes plenty of planning and lots of prep, so the dishes I chose were nice and simple, and very easy to prep in advance. Here’s the menu:

Snacks to start
Five Spice Pigeon Spring Rolls
Cucur Udang (Ping’s Malaysian prawn fritters)
Main dishes
Malaysian Vegetable Curry & sesame Rice
Ping’s Mince Pork Noodles with Coriander and Fish Sauce
Spiced Apple crumble

Recipes for my dishes

Five Spice Pigeon Spring Rolls

I prepared the filling to the spring rolls the night before, cooked them the morning of and heated them up when everyone had a drink in their hand. I recruited my girlfriend for the day to help me prepare the spring rolls before everyone arrived. Pigeon works perfectly as an alternative to duck; the rich pink meat is lovely with sweet plum sauce and mixed with crunchy vegetables one whole pigeon goes along way.

Makes 15 small spring rolls For the filling:

  • 1 squab pigeon; I sourced mine from Borough market for around £5
  • 1 tsp Chinese 5 spice
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 3 tbsp plum sauce
  • 50g beansprouts
  • 1 stick of celery, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced at an angle for long strips
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 pack filo pastry sheets, cut into 5inch squares (I couldn’t source spring roll wrappers in my area)
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked in a bowl
  • 3 tbsp sunflower oil

Preheat the oven to 200°c. You need to spatchcock the pigeon so that it sits flat in an oven dish. To do this, take a small, sharp knife (or a pair of kitchen scissors) and carefully cut down the back of the bird on both sides of the back bone to remove it (don’t throw this away). Open up the bird and remove any seed that may be still inside, as well as the giblets if they haven’t already been removed. Now turn the bird around on a chopping board so the breast is facing upwards and press down with your palm to break the bone and flatten the pigeon. This can be fiddly with suck a small bird but don’t worry if it’s a little messy, as we are striping the meat from the bone later. Season on both sides with salt, pepper and the Chinese 5 spice Take your diced vegetables and a glug of olive oil and soften slowly in a casserole dish. When the onions are just translucent, crank the heat up and add your pigeon, breast down, and the back bone, for around a minute or so until there is a lovely golden crust on the skin. Then flip over and seal on the other side. When the pigeon skin is browned on both sides, pour in the chicken stock and plum sauce and stir. Turn the pigeon breast side down in the pan. You need to create a cartouche, to create some steam so that the pigeon cooks quickly but gently, so that it pulls easily off the bone. To do this take a piece of baking paper a bit wider than the diameter of the dish and push down so that it covers the surface of the pigeon filling. Now cover your pan with a lid or use a piece of foil to cover the top. Cook this in the oven for around 1.5 – 2 hours. To check if the pigeon is soft enough, remove from the oven and carefully pinch the breast meat. If it starts to give and break apart easily, you can remove from the oven. If not, add a little more chicken stock and return to the oven for 30 mins and check again. Once out of the oven, leave this to cool slightly with the cartouche and lid (the meat is easier to strip off when the bird is still a little warm. When this mix is cool, discard the back bone and place the pigeon on a chopping board. With your fingers, pull off all the skin and discard. Now pull off all the meat from the breasts and as much meat as you can from the legs and wings and shred up with your fingers. Add back to the softened vegetables in the dish. This mixture should be soft but still with some texture. Add the beansprouts and spring onions to the mix and your filling is ready IMG_0295 To assemble the, take a filo sheet on your chopping board. Pour some sunflower oil into a ramekin and brush over the square of filo. Now add another square and brush with oil, then add a final layer, so you have 3 layers of pastry per roll. IMG_0300 You need an oiled baking tray at the ready. Place a spoonful of pastry close to the tip of the square and spread out to about 2 inches. Fold the left and right sides in then roll up the roll away from you. Spread a little egg on the tip and then stick together. Place your roll on the oiled baking tray. Repeat until you have used up all the filling. This technique takes a little practice and the first might tear and look like a mess – but persevere! IMG_0318

All other recipes

Ping’s Prawn Fritters


Ping’s Minced Pork Noodles


Apple Crumble Tart

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