August 16, 2008

Filed under: Reared Poultry, Malay/Indonesian — ros @ 6:29 pm

Finally we’re out of budget zone. It’s been a gruelling 8 months, believe me. Goon has finally found a job, meaning my salary is now just for me and, as descibed in an earlier post, I won’t be putting down my flat deposit until after I get my final pay from Highgate, meaning everything has settled down.

Last weekend, Goon came back from his cousin’s weddng looking very smug with the news that a company in Baker Street had accepted him as their desktop support man. He filled me in on the details.

“They’re giving you how much!?!!” Goon looked smug as he repeated his salary. “You’re straight out of University! You technically don’t have a degree yet!” 
“Good, isn’t it?”
“But I know people with PhDs that earn less than that!”
Goon thought for a second. “Yes!” he said. “Like you!” Goon stuck his tongue out at me.
“I don’t count!” I replied indignantly. “I’m in for love not money. Plus, given that I work 35 weeks a year, I’m still paid at a better rate.”
 ”Even including my bonuses?”
“You get a bonus?” Goon nodded and looked even more smug. “Wait. You have no degree result. Given you attended precisely 4 lectures during your 3 year course, I don’t want to see your degree result. This is your first job, and they are offering you that much money!?”
“ I have experience.”

I sat bewildered for a second.

“That tinkering you did instead of going to school counts as experience?”
 ”Yep. Enought to earn me more than you!” I shook my head in disbelief.
“No wonder the economy’s collapsing.” Goon snarled at me.
“So how much is this bonus of yours going to be?”
“Twenty percent if all goes well…. so…. ummmm…..” Goon thought hard and scratched his head. “What do you get when you divide my salary by four?

I ran his last sentence through my head again.

“Are you sure they haven’t confused you with one of the other applicants?”

At that, Goon decided he’d taken enough abuse and went downstairs to eat some celebratory cream cakes. I took a minute to get over the news that Goon was going to be better paid than me (I am clearly in the wrong business) and then started looking for places to host a celebratory dinner.

Now he has a job and can therefore stay in London, it is certain that Goon will be living on his own next year. There’s no way he wants to go back to eating tuna rice again so I have bought him a wok and a wok book.

Goon LOVES his wok. It really is the ideal cooking tool for someone like him. He probably won’t do the most exciting cooking with it but he’ll feed himself more healthily than he used to. Admittedly I bought the book primarily for its inclusion of pictures (Goon won’t use a book without pretty pictures) but, from what I’ve seen so far, the recipes are ideal for him. There’s lots of easy dishes taking less than half an hour to cook and, on the off chance he gets more adventurous, more challenging material too. Or, more likely, I’ll just use the challenging mateial when I visit. 

On Sunday he had his first lesson: chicken with satay sauce.

Easy Chicken in Satay Sauce (adapted from The Essential Wok Cookbook, Murdoch Press, various authors- serves 2)

Chicken in satay sauce

  • 400g chicken breast, cut into thin slices
  • 2 limes
  • salt and pepper
  • peanut oil or vegetable oil for frying 
  • 4 spring onions
  • 1 heaped tablespoon red curry paste (from a jar if you’re like Goon, made from scratch if you’re like me)
  • 2 heaped tablespoonfuls peanut butter
  • 200ml coconut milk 
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • Steamed rice to serve and perhaps some vegetables stir fried with ginger, garlic and soy
  • Chopped coriander to garnish (optional)
  1. Toss the chicken strips with the juice of one lime and some salt and pepper. Leave to stand for ten minutes.
  2.  Slice the spring onions into 1cm lengths on the diagonal.
  3. Put a teaspoon of oil in the wok, swirl to coat and get the wok hot. Stir fry the onion until starting to soften. REmove from the pan and set aside
  4. Shaking off any excess lime juice, add half the chicken to the wok and stir fry until they are golden brown in patches. Remove from wok and set aside, repeat with the rest of the chicken.
  5. Add the curry paste, coconut milk and peanut butter to the wok, stir to combine well.
  6. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.
  7. Adjust the heat so the sauce is bubbling gently. Let it reduce until it coatss your spoon thickly.
  8. Retuen the chicken and spring onion to the wok and cook for 2-3 minutes until the choicken is hot all the way through.
  9. Just before serving, stir in the juice of half the remaining lime
  10. Serve with steamed rice, a vegetable side dish, garnished with the remaining lime cut into wedges and chopped coriander.

Recipe Notes: I think marinading the chicken in a full on lime juice, lime zest, peanut oil, ground cumin and ground coriander marinade would make this better. But Goon is unlikely to have those ingredients next year, so we kept it simple.

*************

Goon has learnt several lessons from this.

  1. It takes ages to season a wok.
  2. Stirring too vigorously makes satay sauce fly across the room. If another person is in the room with you, it may land in her hair and then she may start hitting you with a frying pan.
  3. Woks heat up quickly and thick sauces can cling to the edges and burn if the heat is too high. You must keep the temperature moderate and scrape down any sauce that is clinging to the sides of the wok.
  4. Always read a recipe through from beginning to end before starting. Otherwise you will realise half way through that you actually need a side plate and someone to make some rice very quickly.

I also learned something: It is harder to cook a simple side dish and steam some rice while supervising a Goon than it is to prepare a 3 course meal for four people. Still the result was good, especially given the short list of ingredients and the relatively short cooking time.   The only problem was that the chicken itself lacked flavour despite being decent free range meat. A marinade in spices as suggested in the note may help this. The book didn’t even call for a lime juice, salt and pepper mix.

Goon will have another turn at cooking on Monday. Perhaps something with beef this time and I may get him to do ALL the cooking, including side dishes.

July 16, 2008

Filed under: Reared Poultry, Mexican — ros @ 4:38 pm

Typical! I finally get some time to blog and my stupid camera goes psycho on me! I had a post for last Friday but I’ll have to publish its follow up first, while I battle with the useless customer helpline for my camera.

Over the last academic year, my cookbooks have become full of little yellow post-it notes, urging me to try various things when I had a free moment. A recipe from one of my bargain books was top of my list: drunken chicken with Tequila and plaintains.

As much as I moan about Dalston with it’s horribly busy high street, drunken,noisy nightlife and the general lack of most useful things to buy, it is very good for finding cheap fruit and veg. There have been occasions, while heading home along the walkway that runs along our block, when I’ve turned to look at the Kingsland Road and noticed how much it reminds me of a city street in Sri Lanka. The shops include small eateries and little local barber shops where everyone knows each other. There’s also a feel of it being run down with several buildings that are graffitied and seem to have their shutters down permanently, but most stores here are grocery shops with vast arrays of fruit and veg on display, including some of the greenest potatoes I’ve ever seen and also the most wrinkly peppers. If it weren’t for the slightly out of place gastropub on the corner, I might forget that I were in England.

As well as general fruit and veg, Dalston is particularly good for Carribean ingredients. The liittle market stalls on Ridley Road offer a range of interesting produce that I intend to explore more thoroughly over the weeks before I move. This was useful when I suddenly decided that tequila chicken was on the menu for that evening and I needed a plaintain in a hurry. However, I suggest that, unlike me, you don’t wait until 7pm before you go shopping there. With most of the little stalls shut, the deserted market had a dilapidated and slightly sinister feel to it. I was glad that I’d decided to do this in the summer months while it was still light in the evening.

Only one tiny little stall was open. They had plenty of ripe plaintains, just what I was looking for, and a fair few other things I was curious about, including a box full of some kind of shelled creature that I was too cautious to invesigate. The guy running the stall was rather bemused when I just tried to order one plaintain though, and kept filling up the bag with more fruit. Ah, well, it cost 50p, and I suppose I can make myself eat sweet fried plaintain if really necessary. ;)

Other than the plaintain, the ingredients for this meal are easy to find and the chicken is relatively simple to prepare. The accompaniment of green rice was a tad more time consuming than I imagined, but well worth it in the end.

If you’re going to make this, please note the rice is HOT! Goon didn’t know this, despite watching me puree the green chilli before adding it to the rice. His natural instinct when confronted with a hot dish is to cool his palate with starch. Sadly for him, this time it was the chicken that was sweet and soothing while the rice was fotified with jalapeno. It took him five quickly scoffed mouthfulls before he realised what was going on. :roll:  

The only real problem with this meal is that it included Tequila. I wasn’t expecting it but, through cooking this, I’ve discovered that I like this strange Mexican spirit. A lot. Possibly more than gin which is really saying something. I have consumed almost a bottle fairly quickly in the form of frozen margaritas and now I’ve nearly run out :(

More importantly, I couldn’t get that irritating song by Terrorvision out of my head while I was cooking.

Hmm…. I may need an excuse to buy another bottle… I’m thinking salmon cured in tequila with lime and coriander? Perhaps next week….. 

 

***********************

Sweet-Sour Tequila Chicken with Green Rice (adapted from Mexican Cooking by Jane Milton, feeds two big eaters generously)

tequi;a chicken

For the chicken….

  • small handful dried raisins
  • around 100ml dry sherry 
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • Meat from 6 boneless chicken thighs ( I left these as 6 separate chunks)
  • plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper- enough to lightly coat the chicken thighs
  • 1 small onion, finely sliced into half rings
  • 2 fat cloves garlic, minced 
  • 1 ripe plaintain
  • A handful of slivered almonds
  • 2 small granny smith apples
  • 200ml chicken stock
  • 200-250ml tequila
  1. Put the raisins in a mug and pour over the sherry. Leave to soak for around 20 minutes.
  2. In the mean time, coat the chicken in the seasoned flour and brown over a high heat. Drain and set aside.
  3. Sweat the onions and garlic together in some vegetable oil until soft.
  4. While the onion is sweating, peel and core the apples. Chop the apples into small cubes.
  5. Add the apples and plaintain to the pan.
  6. Stir and cook for a few minutes.
  7. Add the raisins, sherry, chicken stock and tequila. Bring to a gentle bubble.
  8. When the mixture has reduced by around 40%, add the browned chicken thighs. Cover and allow to cook until the chicken thighs are fully cooked.
  9. Stir in the almonds.
  10. Adjust seasoning and serve with the green rice.

For the Green Rice……

  • 4 handfuls rice
  • 1 big handful coriander
  • 1 big handful parsley
  • 1 big green chilli (jalapeno was recommended)
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 small onion/ half a medium onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 200 ml chicken stock
  1. Cut the pepper and chilli in half and remove the seeds. Place under a medium grill, skin side up, until the skins are blistered and charred. Remove from the heat.
  2. Cover the rice with boiling water. Leave to stand for around 20 minutes.
  3. When the pepper and chilli are cool, peel the skin from them and roughly chop the flesh.
  4. Process the pepper and chilli with the garlic. Then add the herb leaves and process until you have a smooth paste, adding a little chicken stock if necessary.
  5. Drain the rice.
  6. Fry the (now almost cooked) rice and onion together until the rice is golden brown. Add the herb paste and fry for around 5 minutes, allowing the rice to absorb the moisture in the paste.
  7.  Add the chicken stock a little at a tiime (risotto style) and allow it to be absorbed until the rice is cooked.

Serve the chicken garnished with chopped herbs with the green rice and sauce and maybe a green salad if you want to be healthy.

*********************** 

Recipe notes 

This dish had a real kick to it, which mostly came from the sherry soaked raisins. The tequila imparted an interesting, deep earthiness alongside the sweet-tart flavour of the apples. I was pleased with the flavours in the dish, although I think it definitely needs something texture wise. The sauce is thick and the plaintain soft, giving it a bit of a gloopy feel at times. The firm chicken meat made up for this a little but something with some more bite would have turned this meal from good to fantastic. Any suggestions would be most welcome!

My favourite bit of this meal was the rice. It was flavoursome and had a good chilli kick. I think I may have used a bit too much herb paste though- I think it turned out greener and more moist than it should have. About 25g of each herb woul;d have been sufficient. 1 chilli was certainly sufficient although the recipe suggested 2.

February 3, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized, Mediterranean, Reared Poultry, Rice — ros @ 1:26 pm

Is it me, or has this been one of the coldest and most miserable winters ever? Perhaps it was the lack of a decent summer that did it, or perhaps it is the daily 75 minute trek beginning at 7am that I now have to endure,  but this winter has definitely made me more grumpy than I’ve been in a long time.* Within ten minutes of leaving the house I find I lose all feeling in my hands, feet and face and this really irritates me. I find it even more irritating that, despite the near arctic temperatures, I still end up breaking a sweat from the effort of climbing Highgate Mountain. Someone needs to build a chairlift  for that hill. 

The one advantage of working at the highest point in London is that it provides some fairly pretty views. On a clear day, from the top floor of our science block, you can see all the way to Kent and,looking out from the top of the maths block after it gets dark, the glittering lights of Central London look quite stunning. However, this is poor compensation for the hypothermia induced by standing on top of an extremely windy hill in sub zero temperatures at midnight, trying to hail a taxi home.

I know that there are some good things about winter (pheasant springs to mind, and venison casserole) but this week I just wanted to put myself in a state of total denial and pretend it was mid July. It was time to make something packed with mediterranean flavours to remind me of the sunshine we’ve all been missing so much. 

Orange and Rosemary Roasted Chicken with Saffron Rice and Smoky Red Pepper Sauce

For The Chicken 

  • 1 free range medium sized chicken
  • 2 oranges
  • 8 sprigs rosemary
  • 100g butter
  1. At least 12 hours before you’re ready to cook, take the chicken and use your fingers to loosen the skin from the breast meat by pushing your fingers under the skin at the neck end. Make a nick at the bottom of each leg and loosen the skin from the legs too.
  2. Peel one of the oranges. Slice the flesh as thinly as you can and push it under the skin of the chicken so the breasts and legs are completely covered. Push down on the chicken skin gently so the juice from the orange is releaed onto the meat.
  3. Push the rosemary sprigs under the skin of the chicken so that they are in direct contact with the meat.
  4. Cover the chicken and leave it to marinate in the fridge for at least 12 hours.
  5. In the meantime, make some orange infused butter by zesting the second orange, and mixing the grated zest with 100g of melted butter. Leave this to infuse for a few minutes, then transfer the butter to a container and refrigerate until ready to use.
  6. Ten minutes before you’re ready to cook your chicken, preheat your oven to gas mark 7.
  7. Remove the orange pieces from under the chicken skin but leave the rosemary as it is.
  8. Push a chunk of the orange infused butter between each side of the chicken breast and the covering skin. Do the same to the chicken thighs.
  9. Roast the chicken for ten minutes at gas mark 7, then turn the heat down and roast for a further hour at gas mark 5, or until the juices run clear when the thickest part of the chicken thigh is pierced with a skewer.
  10. Remove the chicken from the oven, cover it with foil and let it rest for 20 minutes before serving. 

For the Red Pepper Sauce

  • 2 red peppers, cored, deseeded and cut in half vertically
  • 2 fat cloves smoked garlic (or ordinary garlic)
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 100ml chicken stock   
  1. Place the peppers and garlic cloves on a baking tray under a medium grill until the pepper skins are blistering and charred. Remove them from the grill and leave until cool enough to handle.
  2. Peel the peppers, roughly chop the flesh and place in a blender. Squeeze the garlic cloves from their skin and add to the pepper along with the paprika and chicken stock. Blend until smooth.
  3. Transfer to a small saucepan and bring to a gentle bubble. After around 5 minutes the sauce should be a good consistency.

For the Saffron Rice (essentially a simple vegetarian paella)

  • 4 handfuls paella rice 
  • 1 small onion, very finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small courgette, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
  • large pinch saffron dissolved in 100ml chicken tock
  • Additional chicken stock (up to 400ml) 
  • olive oil
  1. Soften the onion over a low heat in about a tablespoon of olive oil. When soft, add the garlic and courgettes and fry for another two minutes.
  2. Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil. Fry gently for another couple of minutes.
  3. Add the chicken stock witht he saffron, turn up the heat to medium and stir continuously until the  stock is absorbed
  4. Add a ladleful of the remaining stock and stir until absorbed
  5. Repeat step 4 until the rice is cooked, then stir in the parsley. Taste and season.

Carve the caicken and serve on the saffron rice surrounded by the pepper sauce. Garnish with more parsley and rosemary.

******

 

 

*and if you remember how grumpy I was last year, you’ll know that’s saying something.

June 21, 2006

This time I got photos.

Kukul mas, breadfruit and kiribath

The reddy-brown stuff on the right is ”kukul mas.” That’s chicken curry to the rest of us. Like most Sri Lankan curries, it’s very hot. Roasted Sri Lankan curry powder gives it a dark colour and a distinctive flavour. I added  a little bit of paprika to bring out the red colouring.

I have talked about kiribath before. This time I tried to make it into diamond shaped blocks in the way it is traditionally served. The freshly cooked rice is made into a big rectangle like this.

mungatta kiribath

As it cools, the rice becomes more sticky and you can cut into shapes. You can see these in the top picture.

The yellow curry is bread fruit. This was one of my favourite things when I was growing up. Until last night, I hadn’t had it for years and I was delighted when my Dad brought me some. As far as I’m aware, you can only find bread fruit in cans in Britain with the skin removed and the white flesh chopped into small pieces and cooked. It has a wonderful texture and, when it is heated in a curry, the fruit almost disintegrates. This thickens the curry and makes a wonderfully soft and gooey accompaniment to kiribath.

There is already a recipe for kiribath here. Try it! It is very nice. Also recipes here for the chicken and the bread fruit.