Szechuan pepper, also known as 'fagara' or anise pepper, is used in a wide range of dishes from eastern China. These aromatic peppercorns are the dried berries of an oriental shrub, and they can be bought from large supermarkets as well as Chinese stores. In China, the peppercorns are roasted until crisp, ground, and mixed with a little salt for a table condiment. In this dish, Szechuan pepper adds a sharp, tangy flavour to the lamb, while the dried red chillies make it quite hot and spicy. The lamb is first chilled in a freezer, making it easier to slice.
Preparation time : 15-20 minutes,
Freezing Time : 1/2 - 1 hour,
Cooking time : 25 minutes
12 oz (350 g) lean lamb leg steak
1 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns
1 or 2 dried red chillies
2 medium red peppers
6 spring onions
2 teaspoons cornflour
2 tablespoons shoyu or low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons dry sherry
2 tablespoons dark soft brown sugar
2 tablespoons groundnut oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Wrap the lamb in foil and place it in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. Unwrap the lamb and slice it by cutting across the grain into very thin slivers.
2. Dry-fry the peppercorns for 2 - 3 minutes until their fragrance is released, then crush in a mortar and pestle with the dried red chillies. Put the lamb, peppercorns and chillies in a bowl and stir well to mix. Cover and set aside.
3. Halve and de-seed the peppers, then slice them lengthways into thin strips. Trim the spring onions and slice them on the diagonal into 1 1/2 in (40 mm)
4. lengths. Put the cornflour in a measuring jug and add the shoyu or soy sauce, sherry and sugar, and stir well to mix into a smooth paste.
5. Heat half the oil in a wok or frying pan. Add the red peppers and spring onions and stir-fry over a gentle heat for 3 - 4 minutes until softened. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on kitchen paper.
6. Heat the remaining oil in the pan, add the lamb in batches and stir-fry over a moderate to high heat for 3-4 minutes until crispy and tender. Remove the lamb with a slotted spoon and set aside with the red peppers and spring onions.
7. Stirring all the time, pour boiling water gradually into the cornflour mixture up to the 1/2 pint (285ml) mark.
8. Mix thoroughly to ensure that the cornflour is evenly distributed, then pour the liquid into the pan and stir to scrape up all the sediment.
9. Bring gently to the boil, stirring constantly, then simmer until thickened and return the lamb and vegetables to the pan. Stir to coat in the sauce, season to taste and serve immediately.
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