Sunday, 30 December 2012

How to chop an onion like a boss

Right, here we go with my first "how to" guide!  As you will see, I'm still not quite sure how to use my new camera properly, but here goes...

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Pastries of Death Part 5: Morbid Mince Pies

Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without mince pies.  They're right up there with pretending to believe in Jesus and the classic familial arguments over whether to watch Ben Hur or Hook.  And, thanks to my indomitable Christmas spirit, here is a recipe that you still have time to make before the big day!

"Mincemeat" in mince pies is so called because of the use of beef suet, not because they actually contain minced meat.  However, you can get vegetarian suet these days, so it's all good.

Nothing fancy here - just some easy home-baked goodies that everyone can enjoy.  Some people use sweetened pastry but I think normal shortcrust is fine, especially since you're going to dust them with sugar anyway.  Enjoy them hot or cold and add some whipped cream if your waistline doesn't bother you - to be honest you were probably pretty far gone by this point anyway.

Ingredients (to make 20 pies)

  • 500g shortcrust pastry (see here for a recipe:
  • Juice and grated zest of one orange
  • 100g raisins
  • 100g suet
  • 100g sultanas
  • 100g dried apricots, shredded
  • 100g Muscovado sugar (bit of a pattern forming here isn't there)
  • One Braeburn apple, peeled, cored and grated
  • Cheeky splash of brandy
  • Caster sugar, to dust
  • Splash of milk, to glaze
  • Vegetable oil to line the tin
  1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees.
  2. Mix everything apart from the pastry (duh) and caster sugar together in a bowl.
  3. Roll out your pastry thinly and cut little rounds using ether a cookie cutter or an upturned cup (if you're too poor to buy the former).  You want some excess to make inverted pentagram lids.
  4. Using a screwed up piece of kitchen roll, smear a little bit of vegetable oil around the bases of your bun tins, then arrange your rounds in the tins.  Fill the bases with the mincemeat mixture, then cut little straight bits of pastry and arrange awesome pentagram patterns on top of the pies. Give them a glaze of milky glaziness using a pastry brush, sprinkle caster sugar over the top and put them in the oven for 15-18 minutes until they're golden brown.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Pennoni with Pork Ragú

You know, you've got to love a bit of sausage. Sausages are cheap and versatile ingredients.  Here, I've squeezed them out and used them as a cheap alternative to your standard beef Bolognaise sauce for delicious Italian eats on a budget.

Pasta is a brilliant but somewhat misunderstood ingredient.  Often, when we Brits eat a pasta dish, we think of the pasta as a side dish to a gargantuan portion of meat, much as we would use potatoes.  Really, the pasta is supposed to be the main event, and if you include meat it's supposed to be a sauce to lightly coat it.  This is why you get different pasta shapes - it's not purely cosmetic, it's designed to hold a certain type of sauce, and with short tubular pasta like pennoni or macaroni the meat sauce will get caught in the recesses.

I'm also going to take a rebellious break from the usual format of my recipes.  I recommend making a large quantity of sauce that you can slow cook and then keep in the fridge so that you can make quick but tasty meals later in the week.  Traditionally a ragú would use red wine rather than stock, but this cheaper alternative works fine and I think it's silly to spend more money on expensive wine for what is supposed to be a peasant dish.

  • 12 x good quality pork sausages
  • 2 x 400g tins Italian chopped tomatoes
  • 4 x garlic cloves
  • 4 x bay leaves
  • 1 x level tbsp dried oregano or basil
  • 1 x tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 x large white onion
  • 1 x large carrot
  • 2 x sticks of celery
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • Splash of Worcestershire sauce
  • 100g pennoni (for each individual serving)
  • 2 x tbsps olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat a large, heavy-based saucepan on a medium-high heat.
  2. Finely dice your carrot, onion and celery.  Heat some olive oil in the pan and sweat the vegetables and garlic cloves off with a bit of salt.  When the vegetables are transluscent,  stir in the oregano until it's fragrant, then add the squeeze the meat out of the sausages and into the pan, breaking up any clumps with a wooden spoon.
  3. Once the sausages have browned, create a well in the centre of the pan and add your tomato purée to it.  Cook it out for a few minutes to take the edge off it a bit, then mix it into your meat sauce.
  4. Add the tinned tomatoes, season the sauce with salt and pepper, throw in the bay leaves and add just enough chicken stock to cover.  Bring it to the boil, then let it simmer gently for about two hours, stirring occasionally, and check the seasoning (it shouldn't need too much as the sausages are already seasoned).  If you're not going to eat it right now, let it cool completely before storing it in the fridge in a clean airtight container.
  5. When cooking the pennoni, you want to use 1 litre of water for every 100g of pasta.  Add a bit of salt and bring it to the boil.  Add the pennoni and give it a good stir to prevent sticking - don't waste olive oil, your pasta won't stick.
  6. Give the pennoni about ten minutes to cook.  If you've made a large quantity of the ragú, reheat some in a non-stick saucepan.  Taste it to check that the pennoni is al denté, add a bit of water to the sauce to loosen it, drain the pennoni and stir it into the ragú, making sure it gets nicely coated, and serve immediately.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Broccoli Soup with Stilton and Bacon

I've got a bit of man flu going on at the moment, so I thought a nice hearty, healthy bowl of soup would be just what the doctor ordered.  Then I threw a load of cheese and bacon into it.

Vegetable-based soups are incredibly cheap and easy, and they taste so much better than anything you can buy out of a tin.  They're also a good way of introducing children/fussy eaters to vegetables.

Use the freshest broccoli you can get, as that way it compliments the cheese and thus creates a smoother flavour.  Omit the bacon if you're vegetarian, obviously.

Ingredients (to serve four):
  • Two large heads of broccoli
  • A small knob of butter
  • Water
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Two good quality streaky bacon rashers
  • Small slice/chunk of Stilton
  • Extra-virgin olive oil to drizzle
  1. Chop the florets off the broccoli, making sure none of them are too big (so that they cook evenly) and leave them in a colander to one side.
  2. Chop the stalks up into small chunks and fry them in butter in a large saucepan for a few minutes until they've started to turn golden.  Add enough cold water to cover them, put the lid on and simmer for about 30 minutes.  This will make a very simple broccoli stock.
  3. For a few minutes towards the end of the stock cooking time, place the colander on top of the saucepan, cover the florets with tin foil and then stick a lid on top.  Let them steam until you can slide a knife right through them.
  4. Meanwhile, put your bacon rashers into a cold frying pan and turn the heat up to about medium-hot.  Turn the rashers once and drain them on some kitchen paper to help them go crispy.
  5. Strain your stock into a heavy-based saucepan, reintroduce the florets and add your salt and pepper.  You will probably have to dilute the stock a little with boiling water, but add it only a little bit at a time as you (obviously) don't want to make the soup watery.  Using a hand blender, blitz it in between each addition of water and check that it's at a consistency you like; personally, I recommend you leave it on the thick side so that you have a nice concentration of broccoli flavour.  Season to taste.
  6. When you serve the soup, crumble a little Stilton and crispy bacon in and give it a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil to finish.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Heavy Metal Cooking vs Your Takeaway Part 2: Flying Spaghetti Monster

This is one of those recipes that everyone should have in their arsenal, ready to unleash at a moment's notice, like a ninja.

If you want, you can use fresh basil rather than dried for this recipe; if so, rip it up roughly and chuck it in towards the end as it's quite delicate.  Dried is fine, however, and this recipe is predicated on the assumption that you've just got in from work, your boss may have been sexually harassing you, and you just want to throw something together with what's in your cupboard.  Buy good quality spaghetti - it's still pretty cheap and you get a much better flavour and texture for just a few more pence per meal, whereas crap pasta loses its bite and releases all of its starch into the water to make it look like your saucepan has rabies.  I've also used tinned tomatoes as they are the better option for those of us who don't live in the Med.

Although this recipe is very quick and easy (it takes about ten minutes), use it as an opportunity to get the small things right e.g. pan temperature control and seasoning.  If you want to elaborate on this recipe, try adding chilli, capers and/or anchovy fillets.

Ingredients (to serve one):
  • 100g good quality dried spaghetti
  • 10g salt
  • 1 litre water (1 litre of water per 100g pasta is the proper ratio)
  • Half a red onion
  • Half a tin of Italian chopped tomatoes
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp dried basil or oregano
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Freshly grated Parmesan, to serve
  1. Get your pan up to a medium heat and put the water on to boil in a separate saucepan  (well, duh) with a bit of salt.
  2. Finely dice your onion.  Add the oil to the pan and gently saute the onions until they're soft and starting to go transluscent.
  3. At this point the water will probably be at a rolling boil, so chuck in your spaghetti so that it's all submerged and doesn't stick.  Bring it back up to the boil for six minutes (no, I don't care what your packet instructions say).
  4. The onions are probably done by now, so throw in the garlic, herbs and seasoning.  When it's fragrant, throw in the tomatoes and ramp up the heat.  Break the tomatoes up so that your sauce doesn't go too lumpy.
  5. When the spaghetti is done, add a little splash of the water to the sauce to help loosen it up a bit, drain it, then add it to the pan and stir it in well for about two minutes, making sure you get a nice coat of sauce all over.
  6. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Rime of the Ancient Marinated Anchovies

Here's a quick little recipe that I like to use for pizza toppings. I've been making my own pizza a lot recently and discovered this quick, simple trick for making anchovies that little bit more interesting. All you need are the following:

  1. Tin of anchovies or, if you can get them, high quality fillets of anchovies
  2. Juice of half a lemon
  3. Olive oil
  4. Chilli peppers of choice (I used a scotch bonnet, for added attitude)
  5. Salt, pepper, sugar

Squeeze half the lemon into a small bowl, and make up the rest of the marinate with 2-3 times as much olive oil. Mix it well till it forms an emulsion. A small whisk does wonders here. Then, chop your chilli pepper. For my scotch bonnet, I diced it. If you're using a regular green chilli or red chilli then just slice it so that it keeps it's cross-section shape (purely for aesthetic). 

Then, place the anchovies and chilli into the marinade and add a generous pinch of sugar, then grind in pepper and salt if required. Then, just leave it till it's ready. The longer you leave it, the more the flavours will infuse and the hotter and spicier it'll taste.

Then, you can add the chillis and anchovies onto your pizza, draining off any excess liquid before adding it to the topping. 

The leftover marinade can then be used to drizzle the pizza if you like, or you can use it as a spicy salad dressing, or as a dip. It taste so good that it's a waste to throw it away. Have an experiment and you'll be able to find something to use it with. 

Monday, 6 August 2012

Pastries of Death Part 4: Because vegetarian food is always healthy

Get some more cushion for the pushin' with this leek, potato and cheese pie recipe!

I recently had a pie party at my flat.  I did the steak and Guinness pie from before (see but I thought a vegetarian option was in order, so I came out with this one.  It's hard to find a vegetarian recipe that doesn't involve a metric ton of cream, cheese and carbs, and who am I to buck the trend?

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees.  Roll out your pastry until it's the thickness of a pound coin, then carefully drape it over a lined baking tin, make it fit, and cut off the excess.  Prick the base with a fork to stop it from rising into a load of bubbles and blind bake it for about 25 minutes, then remove it from the oven.  Leave the oven on for later.
  2. Get some salted water on the boil.  Peel your potatoes and cut them into thin slices - you want them to be about half a centimetre thick.
  3. Cut the offending ends off your leeks and slice them lengthways.  Wipe any dirt out of them under cold running water, then chop them into little half moons.
  4. Gently fry your leeks in butter and give them a bit of seasoning.
  5. Blanch your potato slices in the water for about three minutes.
  6. Layer your potatoes and leeks in the pie according to the cutting-edge diagram below.  Season well in between each layer.
  7. Pour in the cream and grate a buttload of cheese all over the top, then bake it in the oven for about 45 minutes until it's golden brown.

Polenta Double-Team Action Part 2 - Steaky Steak Steak

Oh man I love the steak.

In this second instalment of our series on the wonderful things you can do with polenta, we'll be looking at what you can do with the leftovers from the previous recipe.  Formed into a cake and fried like bubble and squeak, it develops an awesome coating, making it crispy on the outside and smooth and creamy on the inside (like an armadillo).  Serve it with some seared cow and it's business time.

Ingredients (to serve one):
  • 1 x well hung rump steak
  • Handful of cooked polenta with parmesan from the previous recipe
  • Handful of fresh leafy green veg, like kale
  • 1 x clove of garlic
  • 2 x rosemary sprigs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Few knobs of butter
  • Splash of red wine to deglaze
  1. Get your meat out of the fridge at least half an hour in advance to allow it to adjust to room temperature.
  2. Heat a frying pan up - you want it REALLY hot - and get your other ingredients ready to go.  That means smashing the garlic clove, forming a nice flat hockey-puck type shape with your polenta and smashing the garlic clove with your palm heel.
  3. Heat another frying pan up on more of a medium heat and cook your polenta in olive oil or butter for a few minutes on each side until it's crispy.
  4. Season the steak on one side with salt and a liberal amount of black pepper - beef and pepper are best friends, like Kerry Katona and every plumber in Cheshire.
  5. When the pan is up to heat, drizzle a bit of olive oil in - don't worry about smoke, smoke is good (forget what they told you at school).  Assuming your steak is about 1 inch thick (that's not a euphemism), sear the steak on the seasoned side for 1 and 1/2-2 minutes for rare meat (go on my son!), 3 for medium rare (eh... ok) and 4 for well done (hang your head in shame).  DO NOT TOUCH THE STEAK UNTIL THIS PART IS FINISHED.
  6. When that side is cooked to your liking, season the other side, flip the steak and cook the other side for the same amount of time.  Chuck the butter, garlic and rosemary into the pan too.  When it's done, baste it and remove the steak to a warm plate.
  7. Deglaze the pan with the red wine, pour the jus all over the steak and serve with the polenta and some steamed veg of some sort!

Monday, 25 June 2012

Polenta Double-Team Action Part 1 - Tony Soprano Sausages

Welcome to the first of a two-part mini-series showcasing the versatility of polenta.  It's a form of ground cornmeal that's popular in the North of Italy but not quite so well-known over here (yet).  It's one of those staples you can have stashed in your store cupboard along with your pasta, rice and potatoes.  The texture is like creamy mashed potato, though it tastes very different.  In this case, I've used it as an alternative to the latter.

This is the kind of dish I can imagine Tony Soprano sitting down to after a hard day's work.  And by work, I mean shooting people in the kneecaps for money they owe him.

Ingredients to feed four fat Mafiosi:
  • 300g polenta
  • 12 good quality garlicky sausages
  • 2 medium onions
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • Generous drizzle of Worcestershire sauce (I do love precise measurements)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • A few sprigs of thyme tied together
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 50g butter
  • 25g Parmesan
  • 250ml Chianti
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat up a large frying pan.  Peel your onions into half moons and leave them to one side for now.  Finely dice the celery, then peel and finely chop the garlic cloves.
  2. Add some oil to the pan and sear your sausages on all sides on a high heat.  Remove them to a plate.
  3. Reduce the heat, then chuck in your onions with a knob of butter and the sugar.  Season with a bit of salt and black pepper.
  4. When the onions have caramelised nicely, turn the heat back up and add your celery and garlic and grate the carrot in.  When the garlic is fragrant, add the tomato puree, letting it cook in the centre of the pan for a bit to take the edge off it.  Stir it all together, then deglaze the pan with the wine.
  5. When the wine has reduced by about half, add your tomatoes, bay leaves and thyme and throw the sausages back in.  Simmer for at least half an hour until the sausages are cooked.
  6. Get a measuring jug and measure out one part polenta to four parts cold water.  Bring it to the boil in a saucepan and then reduce it to a simmer.  Stir it frequently for at least half an hour, making sure you give it a good scrape on the bottom of the pan.  When it's finished, add the remaining butter and grate in the parmesan.
  7. Do a cool Masterchef swipe with the polenta and arrange the sausages on top like the picture says.  Serve with a bottle of Chianti and two Russian prostitutes.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Unholy Mackerel with Fennel, Apple and Walnut Salad

I love it when a plan comes together!

Since it's been a while since we put a new recipe on here and it's a (relatively) warm time of year, I thought I'd come up with a seafood dish using the underused but cheap, sustainable and delicious mackerel - no, it's not just for cat food.  The walnuts, apple and fennel compliment the meaty flavour of the mackerel with their respective saltiness, tartness and aniseediness (I just invented that word), and the vinaigrette binds it all together on the pallet.

Ingredients (for one):
  • 2 mackerel fillets, pin-boned
  • Half a fennel bulb
  • Half a braeburn apple
  • Small handful of walnuts
  • About 1 tbsp olive oil, for frying
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Handful of parsley leaves
  • For the vinaigrette: 1 dsp cider vinegar, 3 dsp extra-virgin olive oil, salt, 1 tsp English mustard and 1 tsp honey
  1. Put the vinaigrette ingredients in a bowl and whisk until they emulsify.  Check you're happy with the seasoning and then refrigerate.  This makes a bit more than you strictly need for this recipe, but it makes more sense to make this in bigger quantities and you can always use it for other salads.  It also means you can have a ready-made supply in the fridge ready for action at a moment's notice, like Chuck Norris.
  2. Get a pan nice and hot.  While you're waiting, pin bone the mackerel fillets using tweezers and slice the fennel into julienne strips (matchsticks to you or me).
  3. When the pan is hot, make a few very small incisions on top of the mackerel skin and season, then pour some oil in the pan and put them in skin side down.  If they don't sizzle vigorously on contact then the pan is not hot enough - take them out and wait.  Once the fillets are cooking, leave them alone and don't touch them until you can see that almost all the flesh has turned white, which should take a few minutes.
  4. While the mackerel is cooking, cut the apple into julienne strips.  The reason I recommend doing that at this stage is that apple can start turning brown if it hangs around for too long.  Chop up some fresh parsley and toss all the salad ingredients together with some of the vinaigrette.
  5. Get a hot plate ready with the salad on as a base.  As soon as you can see that the mackerel is almost cooked, flip it, take it off the heat and place each fillet on the salad - fish isn't hard to cook, but it will be very unforgiving if you overcook it.
  6. Serve immediately with a glass of crisp, dry white wine or cider.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Eggstreme Noise Terror

If you want to make something that sounds like a fancy Italian dish without requiring effort or skill, why not try this caramelised shallot and spinach frittata?

This is a nice light lunch that's very quick to prepare and full of healthy goodness.  And cheese.  It's basically an omelette that you put under the grill rather than flipping in the pan.

I've done this recipe to feed one person, but if you have friends and they sometimes join you for food you could make a bigger one and cut it into slices.  You could also experiment with different types of cheese.

  • 3 medium sized free-range eggs
  • 1 garlic clove (bring it)
  • 3 shallots
  • Handful of grated cheddar
  • Big handful of spinach leaves
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1) Get the grill hot and heat up a small frying pan on the worktop.  While you're waiting for it to heat up, peel your shallots and garlic cloves and slice them finely, then peel and slice your garlic clove (smash it first with your palm heel Matrix-style as this will make it easier to peel).

2) Cook the shallots in the olive oil on a medium heat for a few minutes until they caramelise and season them with salt and pepper.  If you prefer a sharper taste to contrast with the cheese, give them a bit less cooking and don't let them brown.  Meanwhile, lightly beat your eggs.

3) Add your garlic and then the spinach.  If you haven't cooked with spinach before then put in what looks like way more than you need as it will shrink considerably.  Stir it until it's wilted a bit, then add your egg mixture.

4) Turn the ring off immediately and add your egg mixture.  Don't stir it, but tilt the pan a bit so that it's nicely covered, then add your cheese and stick it under the grill until it goes golden brown.

5) Now for the fun bit: when your frittata is ready, take it out from under the grill and put a large plate on top of the pan.  Hold the plate firmly in place and quickly flip it over, then put another plate on top of the first one and repeat the process.  As you can see from the picture, I moved so fast I was a blur.  This is the easiest way to get the frittata out in one piece.

I've incorporated one last picture so you can see how the frittata should look on the inside.  Buon appetito!

Friday, 23 March 2012

Guest recipe - cantuccini biscuits

Biscotti di Prato (almond cookies from Tuscany)

by Miss Camel


175 g whole almonds – preferably without skin; if
you have to peel them put them into boiling
water for some time, try to peel them, get angry
because 1. it doesn’t work and 2. Stabbing
almonds underneath your finger nail is damn
painful; if you manage to get rid of the skin be
happy J let the almonds dry overnight or don’t – couldn’t make out much a difference
250 g plain wheat flour
180 g sugar
2 packages of vanilla sugar
½ bottle of bitter almond flavour (be careful – we’re talking about German ingredients and I
have no idea how much they put into your flavouring bottles)
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 pinch of salt
25 g butter – not too cold
2 eggs


Put the ingredients into a bowl, make a sticky dough, make a ball and put into the fridge for half an hour. (As I figured out it doesn’t matter to leave the dough inside the fridge overnight in case of a sudden laziness.)

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Divide the dough into 6 slices and form – Tim says –  “sausage shapes”, put them onto a baking tray with baking parchment and bake for 13 minutes until they are golden.

Let them cool.

Cut the “sausages” into finger width slices, arrange them with the not-yet-baked side down on the tray (my very German way to explain what I mean J ) and bake/roast for another 10 minutes (200°C) until golden.

If you have done your job well – enjoy your cantuccini with a nice latte macchiato, cappuccino or anything you prefer and share your flatmate.

You can also store them for quite some time if you put them into a tin.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

All Hail the Oxtail

A great English classic gets the Heavy Metal treatment.

Some people get a bit funny about the idea of eating oxtail for some reason.  This is stupid.  It's just meat - and extremely flavoursome, tender meat at that.  So tender, in fact, that I actually had difficulty picking it up with the fork.  Add a rich gravy into the equation and you're on cloud #666.  It's also nice and cheap.  I recommend making a large quantity in advance so you can refrigerate it and have a quick easy midweek meal ready to go.  More people should eat oxtail.

Ingredients (to serve four):
  • 1kg oxtail
  • Two medium sized onions (beef and onion, hell yeah)
  • Three celery sticks
  • Four carrots
  • A few thyme sprigs tied into a bouquet garni
  • Two bay leaves
  • 750ml beef stock (I think)
  • 250ml red wine (use ale or stout if you prefer)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsps plain flour
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • A couple of knobs of butter
  1. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees and chop up the onions, celery and carrots into chunks.
  2. Heat some olive oil in a heavy-based casserole.  Season the oxtail pieces (as always with beef, be liberal with the pepper) and sprinkle them with a bit of plain flour.  Sear them on all sides, starting with the fatty sides to start rendering the fat down, then remove them to a plate.
  3. Throw the vegetables in the pan with some butter.  Season them lightly and gently fry them until golden, then deglaze the pan with some wine.  When the wine has almost completely reduced, put the oxtail back in, mix it all up and pour in enough beef stock to almost cover the beef.
  4. Skim any scum from the surface of the stew, then chuck in your bay leaves and herbs.  Put the lid on the casserole and stick it in the oven for three hours, then discard the bay leaf and herbs.  Simples!
  5. Enjoy with mustard mash.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Heavy Metal vs Your Takeaway Part 1: Chicken Stir Fry with Sweet and Sour Sauce

Celebrate the Chinese New Year four days late with my take on this fast food favourite that probably isn't Chinese anyway.

I'll admit it: even I, on occasion, succumb to temptation and order myself sweet and sour chicken with egg fried rice from the local takeaway.  It sounds like a good idea at the time but I always find myself thinking "hmm... that was expensive and it tasted crap".  Some kind of love/hate thing going on there.

This chicken stir fry is lighter than the deep fried balls of crap you get from your takeaway, and the sauce has the lovely flavour of real ingredients rather than the usual mix of Toilet Duck and communism.  You can vary the ingredients if you like, e.g. by using mushrooms and bell peppers.  The sweet and sour sauce would also make a nice dipping sauce for canapes at a middle class dinner party.

Stir fry ingredients (to serve two):
  • 200g basmati rice
  • 1 free range egg
  • 1 chicken breast
  • 1 large carrot
  • 3 savoy cabbage leaves
  • 5ish spring onions
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-2 tbsps vegetable oil
Sweet and sour sauce ingredients (vary to taste)
  • Thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger
  • Small splash of rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsps dark soy sauce
  • 3 tbsps soft brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • Juice from a small tin of pineapple rings
  • 1 tsp English mustard
  • 2 tsps Chinese five-spice powder
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 100ml chicken stock
  • 2 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 tbsps tomato puree
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  1. Soak your rice in about 300ml cold water for about twenty minutes, then bring it to the boil and stir it ONCE, then turn the heat right down low (or off completely on an electric hob - you could even take it off the heat temporarily to speed this bit up) to let it steam.  When it's all clumped together, which should take about 10 minutes, drain any excess water and let it rest while you get on with the other stuff.
  2. Heat some vegetable oil in a non-stick saucepan.  Peel your ginger and finely chop it along with the garlic.  Add to the oil (not too hot or the garlic will burn), then add your five spice powder and dried chilli flakes.  When it's all fragrant, add the flour to make a sort of roux (this will thicken the sauce without making it lumpy).  Next, cook the tomato puree out a bit, and finally, chuck everything else in.  Bring it to the boil and then simmer it briskly until it reduces to a consistency you like.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a wok up - you want it pretty damn hot.  The key to a good stir fry (not that I'm really an expert in this kind of cooking) is to have everything ready chopped, otherwise your ingredients will burn while you're adding the next lot.  Remove the stems from the cabbage leaves and roughly chop them.  Peel and julienne the carrots (that means chop them into little thin strips) and finely slice the spring onions.  Slice the chicken breast thinly.
  4. When the wok is hot, make sure your smoke alarm is not going to get a whiff of anything and add some oil to the pan.  Season your chicken strips and chuck them in the pan, tossing them around so that they don't stick (if you're a bit of a lad - if not, use a wooden spoon).  Then add your veg in order of density until the chicken is cooked through, the carrots are al-dente and the cabbage has wilted a bit.
  5. Finally, put the rice in the wok and break in an egg, then stir fry it so that little bits of scrambled egg get spread around the mixture and serve it immediately with the sweet and sour sauce.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Roast chicken on your Jack Jones

We all love a nice Sunday roast, but this is the 21st century, house prices are going up, we're all marrying and owning homes much later in life... basically, the idea of cooking something like a roast just for yourself can seem like a lot of fuss and bother, leading to a tendency to have Bachelors Super Noodles and a few cans of special brew before crying into your pillow about how you've wasted your life and no-one will ever love you.  Not anymore!

I recommend buying a good quality chicken at the beginning of the month, jointing it yourself (guide coming soon) and freezing each individual part separately.  You can get several decent meals out of one chicken that way rather than just buying a bag of frozen breast fillets.  I've been fairly minimalist with this recipe as it's all about the juicy chicken, crispy skin and fragrant garlic and rosemary.

  • 1 chicken leg
  • 2 whole garlic cloves
  • Good handful of white cabbage leaves, washed
  • 1 medium sized red potato
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2-3 tbsps of olive oil
  • 250ml good quality chicken stock
  • 1 level tbsp plain flour
  • A couple of knobs of butter
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Get your chicken out of the oven at least half an hour before you want to cook it so that it can adjust to room temperature.  This will help it to cook evenly.
  2. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees.  Smash a garlic clove and put it in a small roasting tin with a bay leaf, then the chicken leg and finally a sprig of rosemary on top.  Season the chicken well with plenty of salt and pepper, drizzle a bit of olive oil and stick it in the hot oven.  If you like you can french trip the drumstick prior to putting it in the oven, but as you can see from the above pic, I forgot to do that.
  3. After 20 minutes, baste the chicken with a spoon, then lower the heat to 180 degrees and cook for a further half hour.
  4. Meanwhile, shred your cabbage leaves (a good, sharp, heavy knife with a big blade will make this easy) and slice your potato into slices that are roughly 5mm thick - don't do them too thick or they won't cook in the centre.  Heat a frying pan to a medium-high heat and add a liberal splash of olive oil.  Season the potato slices and put them in the pan, seasoned-side down.  Saute them for a few minutes until they're crispy and golden, then turn them over.  Chuck in a smashed garlic clove, a rosemary sprig and some butter.  When the aroma of loveliness fills the air, baste the potatoes with a spoon.
  5. When the chicken is done, rest it and the potatoes in a warm place (i.e. the oven you just turned off with the door open) to let the meat relax and stop the potatoes from going cold while you do the next bit.  Fry your cabbage in the potato pan, season it and add a little drop of water to stop it from burning.  It should only take a few minutes to cook because this isn't 1957.  Put the chicken roasting tin on a ring on the hob and turn up the heat, stir in the flour to make a roux, then add the chicken stock, scrap any sediment off the bottom of the tin and reduce to taste.  Strain the gravy into the jug and pour it generously over the chicken.