Posts Tagged ‘Chicken’

The Brazillian GP – The final race of the season and some more street food!

November 29, 2011

So we’ve finally reached the end of the season and so it was time to celebrate with some Brazilian food. Brazilian cuisine draws on many influences, starting with Portuguese and also incorporating other European and African influences.

I enjoy tactile food and Brazil is another country with a great street food culture. As a result I chose to make two different snacks for us to nibble upon. The first dish was Coxinhas, deep fried chicken croquettes in the shape of little chicken thighs, and Acarajè, which are black eye pea fritters filled with onions and prawns.

The Coxinhas required the most preparation and so I started on these first.  In order to make 4 (2 each) I needed:

  • 125g of chicken breast
  • 180ml water
  • 2 shallots
  • 2 cocktail tomatoes (about 4 cherry ones)
  • 30ml of cream cheese (I did this by eye)
  • ½ cup of plain flour
  • 10mls oil
  • An egg
  • Breadcrumbs

The first thing I needed to do was to simmer the chicken in the water for 20 minutes with the lid on, leaving me with nice soft chicken and a sort of stock.  When it was done I drained the chicken, reserving the liquid, and allowed it to cool.

I then topped the liquid back up to 125ml (despite having the lid on the pan I lost quite a bit!), put it back in the saucepan and added the flour and oil along with some salt and pepper.  This resulted in something that looked like wallpaper paste, but the addition of heat and a lot of stirring eventually resulted in a ball of dough, although it was touch and go for a while!  The pastry then also went to one side to cool down.

While the chicken was cooling I finely diced my two shallots and the flesh of the tomatoes.   I then shredded the chicken when I was able.

The shallots went into a pan with some oil for a couple of minutes, and when they were soft the tomatoes joined them.  Finally the chicken was added along with seasoning, followed by a good dollop of cream cheese to hold everything together.

When the pastry was cool enough to work with (about 30 minutes in the fridge) I split of into four and began assembling the Coxinhas.  The pastry was quite sticky and so I used plenty of flour on my hands and the work surface.  I stretched each piece of pastry into an approximation of a circle and placed a quarter of my filling in the middle.

I then brought up the sides to encase the filling, creating a point at the top and generally trying to make a shape resembling a chicken thigh (this was not my most artistic moment I will admit).

These were then dipped in beaten and then breadcrumbs (I did this twice to give a good coating) before being deep fried.  I don’t own an oil thermometer or professional fryer so I had to guess the temperature of the oil. \But it only needed to be fairly low so to to crisp the outside and gently warm the Coxinhas through.  After about 5 minutes in each in the oil (I managed to fit two at a time in my pan) I drained them on some kitchen towel and they were ready.

So, while the filling and dough for the Coxinhas were cooling I was actually preparing my Acarajè with a plan to serving the two together.  There was a lot less cooking involved in the Acarajè, largely because I was using tinned black eyed peas.  If I had gone for fresh I would have needed to soak them overnight and then boil them, but as it was I could just use them straight away.  To make the Acarajè I needed:

  • 200g of black eyed peas
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 onion
  • Half a red chilli
  • 100g prawns (I used quite large ones)

The black eyed peas went into my mini chopper to be blitzed to a pulse.  These then went into a bowl and the chilli, the garlic and half the onion were next into the chopper (you can do this in one stage if you have a full size processor, I really need to get round to getting one!) and when finely chopped were added to the black eyed peas.

The other half of the onion was finely sliced and went into a small frying pan to gently sweat down.  To be traditional this should have been cooked in palm oil, but unfortunately I couldn’t get hold of any.  When the onion was lovely and soft the prawn were added and cooked through and the filling was finished.

To make the fritters I shaped the mixture into six balls which I then fried.  In a pan, trying my best to make sure that the entire outside touched the pan at some point and crisped up – this was more or less successful, but I think if I was to make these again in the future it might be easier to just quickly deep fry them!

I have to say I really enjoyed both dishes.  I though the Coxinhas were really great and I loved that you could taste a certain chickenyness in the pastry.  My partner wasn’t so keen as he thought the texture was a bit soft, but they were right up my alley!  The Acarajè were slightly tricky to eat, my filling kept making a break for it, but were also very tasty with a nice bit of heat to give some life to the beans.

The race itself, well Vettel didn’t win this one.  A gearbox problem left him travelling just slow enough that his teammate needed to pass him, but quick enough to keep him in front of everyone else.  For the rest, Hamilton also suffered gearbox issues and had to retire two thirds of the way through, Rosberg continued his run of finishing where he qualified or just slightly back, but managed to outperform Schumacher once again after Schuchy had a coming together with Senna.  The race was interesting, fun while it lasted, but not terribly memorable.

I’ve really enjoyed my tour around the globe cooking the cuisines of each of the race locations.  I’ve cooked a lot of dishes that I don’t think I would have tried otherwise, and have found some new favourites.  It’s not all been easy and it hasn’t all worked, but I’ve learnt a lot and I feel quite sad now it’s all over and I don’t have another race to plan for.  I need to find a new project!


Abu Dhabi GP – Trying out some Emirati cuisine

November 14, 2011

As a result of the cancellation of the Bahrain GP this was Formula 1’s first visit to the Persian Gulf this year and therefore my first chance to try out the cuisine of the region.  The cuisine is traditionally a fragrant one of rich spices, rice and meat.  I cooked two dishes over two days.  The first (for the Saturday qualifying) was from the modern cuisine of the regions, a Shawarma chicken kebab.  For the race itself I made something a lot more traditional – a chicken Kabsa (كبسة).

So, my Saturday night ‘Quali kebabs’ (my partner works Saturdays so I catch up on quail in the evening).  For these I used:

  • 2 breasts of chicken
  • Lebanese flat breads (or any Arabic bread or pitas)
  • Ground cumin
  • Ground coriander
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Harrisa powder
  • Lemon juice
  • Garlic
  • Yogurt
  • Dried mint
  • Lettuce
  • Tomatoes

Despite this long list of ingredients this is a really simple dish to make and it took about 10 minutes start to finish.  I began by flattening my chicken breasts, coving them in cling film and hitting them with a rolling pin.  Next I prepared the spices to go on them.  I mixed ½ teaspoon each of cumin and coriander with ¼ teaspoon each of cinnamon and harrisa (I bought my harissa several years ago in Morocco and it’s incredibly strong so you may want to use more!). To this I added 1 teaspoon of lemon juice and another or oil (I used peanut) and smothered the resulting marinade over the chicken.

I then cooked the chicken in a griddle pan for ¾ minutes each side so that the chicken was cooked but still moist.

While the chicken was cooking I quickly whipped up the accompaniments.  Some cherry plum tomatoes were sliced and some lettuce was shredded!  For the sauce I combined half a little tub of yogurt (about 60g) with ½ teaspoon of dried mint and a good squirt of garlic puree (I would guess about 2 cloves worth).  Finally I sliced the cooked chicken into strips about 1cm wide and it was time to assemble the kebabs!

Onto each flatbread went the shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes.  The chicken went onto and then plenty of garlic sauce finished things nicely.  The amounts I have given made three kebabs, two for the hungry boy and one for me, but you could also make two deep filled kebabs!

I really enjoyed these kebabs, they were quick to make and fine to eat.  The bread I had let things down a little, it was quite dry and sweet, but that’s my own fault for buying the pre-packaged version as the fresh was sold out.  The chicken itself was wonderfully tasty and the garlic sauce was to die for.  I think that it may soon be accompanying many of my meals.

The chicken Kabsa was not so quick to make, but still pretty straight forward.  For two I used:

  • 4 chicken thighs
  • A carrot
  • A tomato
  • An onion
  • A small tin of tomato puree (140g)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Orange peel (Satsuma peel in my case)
  • 8 ounces of long grain rice
  • Flaked almonds
  • Raisins
  • Two cardamom pods
  • Two small cinnamon sticks
  • Two cloves

The cooking started, as so many great dishes do, with the browning of the onions.  To the onions I added the chicken thighs, the chopped flesh of the tomato, two crushed garlic cloves and the tomato puree.  This combination was stirred and left to cook for 5 minutes.

Next into the pot went the carrot, which had been grated, the satsuma rind and the spices along with 375ml of hot water.  The lid went onto the pot at this point and everything was left to simmer for 25 minutes.

Once the chicken was cooked I removed it from the pan and placed it, covered, in a dish in a warm oven to keep it hot.  The rice was then added to the cooking liquor and the lid went back on for another 30 minutes for the rice to cook and absorb all the juices.

When the rice was done it was time to serve.  The chicken thighs were retrieved from the oven and served on top of the rice, then the sliced almonds and raisins were sprinkled on top.

I really enjoyed this dish.  The chicken was wonderfully soft and the rice had loads of flavour.  My partner wasn’t particularly keen on the fruitiness that resulted from the peel, but I loved it (spicy fruity couscous is one of my favourite meals, but he won’t go near it!).  This dish had no spice, but it still had plenty of flavour.  The amounts I’ve given should have served two, but it produced loads of rice!  With a bit more chicken it would go much further and as it is I will be using the spare rice as a lunch this week.

As for the race, Vettel didn’t win for a change.  Unfortunately this wasn’t because he was fairly beaten but because he fell off the track at the second corner with an unexplained right rear puncture which ended his race.  Hamilton was quick to take advantage of this and speed off into the lead, with Alsono in pursuit with both of them barely seen for the rest of the race.  The top end of the field was mainly about strategy, with not much overtaking, the main highlight being Buttons intermittent KERS system .  Further back there were plenty of squabbles as the lower teams fought hard for non points places in an effort to secure their seats for next season.  All in all this wasn’t the most exciting of races, but it wasn’t the worst either, and hard though it may have been on Vettel, it was great to see Lewis back to his winning ways.

The Indian GP – Indian Street Food

November 7, 2011

On the 30th October the inaugural Indian GP took place.  Unfortunately I was away with work and unable to watch it live.  After two days of desperately trying to avoid news on the race (largely succeeding, but I did find out about Hamilton’s and Massa’s crash!) I managed to watch a recording of it on the Tuesday evening once I was back home.

In terms of what to cook I didn’t want to go for the obvious choice of a curry, plus there are so many varieties of curry that I wouldn’t have been sure where to start.  Instead I thought it would be interesting to try and recreate some of the wonderful street food that is so prevalent and popular throughout the sub continent.

Trying to get a list of some good street food to cook proved to be more of a challenge than I expected.  The majority of Indian food sites I found just had food to cook at home; no one had any lists of street food.  Then I remembered, back in Cardiff there is a restaurant that specializes in Indian street food – Chai Street, and so in the end I looked at the food on their menu and found some recipes based on that.

The dishes I decided to cook were Poricha Kozhi (fried spiced chicken) and stuffed bread pakoras (a kind of deep fried potato sandwich).

The first thing I needed to do was to marinate my chicken legs for the Poricha Kozhi.  The marinade for 2 persons (4 chicken legs) was:

  • A small onion
  • 2 inches of fresh ginger
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 125ml of yogurt
  • ½ teaspoon of chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon of garam masala
  • ½ teaspoon of turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon of ground fennel seeds.

The onion, ginger and garlic all went into my mini chopper and were blitzed till almost a paste.   They then were added to the rest of the ingredients to make the marinade.  I scored the chicken legs and smothered them in the marinade and left everything for a couple of hours.To cook the chicken they went into a nice heavy bottomed pan with 125ml of water.  The water was brought to a simmer and the chicken cooked uncovered for about 20 minutes till the water had evaporated. With the water gone and the chicken nice and tender I added some oil to the pan to crisp the chicken up and that was it – done!The bread pakoras would be stuffed with mash potato and so the mash was the first thing I needed to make.  To 4 medium potatoes worth of mash I added:

  • A sliced green chilli
  • Half a bunch of chopped coriander (stalks included)
  • 1 teaspoon of garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • ½ teaspoon of coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon of black onion seedsThe batter for the pakoras were made from:
  • A cup of flour
  • 1 teaspoon of chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric
  • A pinch of salt

To this I added enough water to create a very thick batter.To make the pakoras I took 6 slices of bread and removed the crust.  I spread the mash potato on three of the slices giving a layer about 1cm think.  I then put the other pieces of bread on top and cut the ‘sandwiches’ to get 6 triangles. Each triangle was coated in the batter and fried in some oil for around 5 minutes till all the batter was  cooked.I served up two pieces of chicken and three stuffed break pakoras each.The chicken was delicious.  There was a gentle heat but the overall flavour was more fragrant than spicy, it had also penetrated right into the meat which was great.  The meat was soft and came easily away from the bone.  The pakoras were a lot spicier, particularly if you got a bit of the sliced chilli! For me, I felt the texture of the pakoras was a bit soft.  The batter had crisped as it cooked, but the bread and the mash were very soft and this made them a little hard to eat overall.  There were still pretty tasty though!

So, the race.  Well once again Vettel had pole position and comfortably led the race from start to finish, pinching Nigel Mansells record for most laps led in a season in the process (and with 2 races to go!).  The result of this was that we saw very little of Vettel all race as he cruised round by himself.  Behind him there was a bit racing to watch.  The usual first corner carnage resulted in 4 cars needing to pit, but the big talking point of the race was Massa and Hamiltons coming together, something that has happened too many time this season.  The feud between these two is really heating up.  This time it was Massa who turned into Hamilton as he tried to pass.  Both cars managed to carry on but Massa received a penalty and then had to retire later in the race after breaking his suspension on a monster curb.  All in all this race was not as exciting as I would have hoped.  The track looks great, but the dusty conditions meant that it was hard to go offline and so there wasn’t as much overtaking as I would have liked.

Singapore GP – Laksa

September 30, 2011

Sunday was the Singapore GP and for the first time I have had difficulty deciding what to cook.  The cuisine of Singapore is a mixture of Malay, Chinese and Indian all cooked with their own local twist, but I struggled to find a dish that was native to Singapore (please let me know if you have a suggestion for a dish that is!).  In the end I settled on cooking Laksa because it’s really popular!

Laksa is a noodle curry/soup that comes in many variations.  As a fusion of Chinese and Malay styles of cooking it is a regular street food in Singapore.  I decided to create my own prawn and chicken version inspired by the recipes I found on the internet.

The first thing I needed to make was my paste.  For this I needed 5cm of fresh ginger, 3 shallots, 1 clove of garlic, 3 macadamia nuts, 1 red chilli, half a bunch of coriander and ¼ teaspoon of turmeric (as usual this is for 2).  All this went into my mini chopper with a little water and was blitzed to form a paste.  My mini chopper isn’t the best in the world and although everything came out very small, it wasn’t really paste like.  I decided to try and fix this by pounding it in my pestle and mortar but this didn’t really make much of a different either.

Making the Paste

With the paste as ready as it was ever going to be, I got on with preparing the rest of my ingredients.  I defrosted my prawns and took the meat off two chicken thighs.  The skin, bones and other assorted bit’s of the chicken were browned in a pan and then covered with 200ml of water to form a stock that would later go in my sauce.  I then sliced up two (rather large) spring onions, fished 50g of beansprouts out of the jar (I couldn’t get fresh) and I was ready to cook.

Preparing the chicken and making stock

The first thing to do was to cook my paste.  It went into a thick bottomed pan with some groundnut oil and cooked gently for 10 minutes.  I then drained my chicken stock and added this to the pan to create the beginnings of the sauce/soup.  This was allowed to simmer for another 7-8 minutes before I added the final bit of the sauce – 200ml of coconut milk.  The soup/sauce was then left on a gentle heat while I cooked everything else.

Making the sauce/soup

I started cooking the chicken in a pan and after a couple of minutes added the spring onions.  Two more minutes and it was time for the beansprouts to go in as well.  Finally, with everything else nearly done I added the prawn.  While the meat and veg were cooking I also cooked my noodles.  I had been unable to find rice noodles as suggested by the recipes I had found and had to settle for soya noodles, something I hadn’t used before.  These cooked in a couple of minutes and looked quite gelatinous!Cooking the other bits!

With everything cooked I assembled my dish.  In two bowls I placed some of the noodles and then topped them with the meat and veg.  The sauce/soup was then ladled on top and everything was ready.

Assembling the dish

I haven’t ever eaten Laksa so I have no idea how authentic mine tasted, however I really enjoyed it.  There as a nice warm hit of chilli that was strong without being overpowering.  The whole dish was fragrant and very light.  The coconut made it rich and creamy and took away any harshness that could have come from the chilli or the ginger.  I had my reservations about the noodles I used when I saw them cooked, but with the sauce they were delicious.  This is defiantly something I would make again; I think I might try it when I have guests sometime as a lot of it can be prepared ahead and you can pull the dish together in about 5 minutes when people are ready to eat.

As for the race, well, the result was never in doubt. A shining blue and red car owned by a certain energy drinks company had blitzed the field in qualifying, and the rapidly maturing Vettel barely saw the rest of the race as he took a unchallengeable lights to flag victory. Mathematically the German  had the chance of wrapping up his championship for the second year in a row at this race. But it wasn’t to be as the rest of the field conspired to make sure the contest was dragged out to at least the race in Japan.

However, like any race with twenty four high speed participants, there was plenty to keep the audience attention. Michael Schumacher, decided that he obviously preferred flying to driving that day, attempted to launch his appropriately named silver arrow off the back of the unwilling Sergie Perez  in an effort, moth like, to reach the lights surrounding the track of this night race. Failing this, he merely smashed the car against the barriers. Not an overtake the old master will ever be proud off.

Lewis Hamilton, seeing red in the form of Felipe Massa’s scarlet Ferrari, then smashed off his front wing against the rear right hand tyre of the other car. Having returned to the pits to have a new nose fitted by his mechanics, he then returned once more to serve a penalty metted out by the stewards. His Maclaren, having started the day 4th, ended up in 15th and was only helped by the safety car being deployed for Schumacher’s crash landing. He recovered, slicing his way through the field, to a respectable fifth, one place down from where he started.

Jenson Button, finding the Maclaren the second quickest car in the field, drove a lonely race against Vettel whom he only saw vanishing around corners ahead of him. After holding his position at the start, tyre choice allowed him to maintain this and his consistent lap times led him to a well deserved second place, his second of two races. The pressure is now one at Maclaren for Hamilton to prove he is still their best driver.

Chicken Legs in Cider

February 5, 2011

I’ve always been something of a hoarder. As a result my cupboards are constantly overflowing with tins and my freezer is always full.  Recently I’ve been trying to hoard slightly less and have been making an effort to eat down my freezer a little. Recently, while rummaging in the back I came across some chicken legs which had come from the pack used to cook my less than successful confit chicken.

They’d been sat there a while, but I couldn’t really face using them since the trauma of the confit-ing disaster.  But eventually I decided that I would try to exorcise the painful memory by cooking something much nicer with these two remaining chicken legs instead.

Having a quick browse around the web I settled on a dish from the Good Food website which involved cooking the legs in cider.  The first thing I did was to get my partner to remove the spine of the chicken which was still attached to the top of the legs.    I know as a foodie I shouldn’t be squeamish about such things, but for some reason I find spines off-putting.  Anyway, my partner had never used his cleaver before and couldn’t wait to have a go; he found the whole thing great fun!

To actually start the cooking I heated some oil in a thick bottomed pan and added my chicken to brown.  I cooked them for a few minutes each side until there was plenty of golden colour on the skin.  Then I removed the legs from the pan and added roughly chopped onion (1 onion), mushrooms (4 large ones) and bacon (2 rashers of back).

Browning the chicken and the other bits

When these had also coloured it was time for a half tablespoon of plain flour followed by 225ml of dry cider.  The remainder of the bottle went in the fridge to be enjoyed with the meal!

Adding the cider to make the sauce and putting the chicken legs back in

All I needed to do then was stir in a good dollop of Dijon mustard and then return the chicken legs to the pan.  I put a lid on my pot and placed it in the oven to bubble away for 40 minutes at 190°C.  The smell of the chicken cooking was delicious and infused my flat, making the 40 minutes feel a very long time!  When it was finally time to eat I lifted the lid and was not disappointed. It looked and smelled great.

Out of the oven and all served up

I served this up with some roast potatoes, boiled petit pois and broad beans which added a lovely brightness to the plate.  The chicken was delicious and everything I had hoped for in the previous confiting.  The meat flaked easily from the bone, but remained moist and full of flavour.  The skin may have been soft but it was too tasty to worry about such things.

The sauce itself was deep and mellow.  Despite the addition of the flour it had not thickened much and so spread about the plate coating everything.  This delicious tasting meal was quick and easy to make.  It’s come from a cheap eats sections, I would debate that classification – I don’t find cider or bacon to be overly cheap ingredients – but I wouldn’t hold that against it.  The spectre of the confit chicken legs had most definitely been exorcised.

Miniature Food – My secret love

December 31, 2010

I adore miniature versions of normal food and the run up to Christmas holiday is the perfect time to indulge my adoration.  There is something about the cute nature of miniature food that means I’m willing to accept a lower quality in return for a scaled down version of a traditional meal.  I can’t resist a tiny meal that looks like it’s been shrunk as I love that Alice in Wonderland feeling.  It must be pretty popular with other people as well because there is plenty available in the shops this year.  Surprisingly, some of what I’ve eaten was pretty good!

Rather than just saving miniature food for buffets at parties, I think it can also make a great (if not overly varied) meal for one!  Throughout December I took advantage of the plethora of party food in the shops and have eaten this way several times.  I’ve now decided to share my strange obsession and my views on what I’ve consumed.

Mini Burgers

The first option to tempt me was the mini cheeseburgers from Morrisons. These were found in the fresh section with packs of eight burgers costing £3 and two packs for £5.

Mini burgers!

These were cooked by heating four burgers at a time in the microwave for just over a minute, making them very easy to prepare.  After this minute the cheese had melted and the burger was scalding.  The burgers themselves were great, they actually tasted of meat and the gouda and ketchup finished them perfectly.  I just about managed to eat all eight burgers in my pack and was bursting when I was done.  These were a great alternative to a traditional burger and fries and I would get them again.  Good for the young at heart as well as the young!

Mini Smoked Salmon

Not long after the burgers, I decided to try some mini smoked salmon and chive cream cheese bagels from Lidl.  These are part of their “Deluxe” range, costing £1.99 for 10 and are found in the frozen section.

Mini bagels with chive cream cheese and smoked salmon

These needed no cooking, only defrosting and there are only 46 calories in a bagel (I didn’t dare look with the other party food I tried!) so you can eat all ten with a clear conscience.  They looked great on a plate and each bagel had plenty of filling.  I had my concerns about the freezing of cream cheese, but it seemed to have survived this quite well.  The smoked salmon had been rolled into a ballontine before slicing to produce perfect circle slices which tasted delicious.   The bagels were quite substantial due to the amount of bread, but were tasty enough that I didn’t bored eating them.  My only complaint is that each bagel was dusted with quite a lot of flour which got everywhere!

Mini Fish and Chips

My next choice was a meal I had wanted to try for a long time: Mini fish and chip cones!  The ones I choose were from Iceland and cost £2 for 12 (bargain!).

Mini fish and chip cones

These needed to be cooked from frozen and took about 20 minutes.  You then had to make up the cones.  My slight issue was that although there was one easy to do piece of fish per cone, it was hard to judge the amount of chips to put in each.  This slight delay meant that the chips had cooled a bit by the time I ate them (the fish stayed piping hot). The chips were also a little dry so I had to grab some sauce to put upon them. All 12 cones were far too much for one sitting and I could only manage 6, so my partner helped out.

Although not the greatest fish and chips, and definitely no replacement for a proper cone of chips, these were great fun and good value.  The paper cones could easily be reused.

Mini Chicken and Mushroom Wellingtons

As a final adventure, I decided to delve into the slightly more upmarket options. I went for the mini chicken and mushroom wellingtons from Morrisons “The Best” range.

Mini chicken and mushroon wellingtons

These cost £4 for 12 (or two pack for £7) and were once again found in the fresh section.  They took fifteen minutes to cook in the oven and needed to be placed on greaseproof paper.  Unlike many of the previous option there were not pre-cooked.  As soon as I took these out of the pack I could smell tarragon and as they were cooking the scents of the chicken and mushroom poured out the oven.  With all the delicious scents I was starving by the time these were cooked.  They had risen beautifully and cutting them open released even more delicious smells

The Wellingtons were a little pastry heavy, but that is hard to avoid on such small things.  The pastry tasted great though and the filling was delicious.  These were a real naughty mouthful of flavour!

Mini Steak and Ale Pies

The companions for the Wellingtons were also from the posh Morrisons range. These were mini steak and ales pies, costing£4 for 12.  These took slightly longer in the oven, about 20 minutes and they came partially cooked.

Mini steak and ale pie

The pastry on the pies was delicious, very buttery and crumbly.  There was plenty of deep tasting gravy and tiny chunks of meat.  Far too big or one bite, these were not the easiest things to eat as the filling would try to escape once the pastry was breached.  A knife and fork would be best but this rather defeats the idea of party food!

Overall I think that, despite the dusty fingerprints left throughout my house, the mini bagels were my favourite option.  They were very tasty and good value for money.  In a wide world of miniature food they were also something a little different and new.

After that the burgers were great for pyjama evenings and the mini Wellingtons for a slightly classier occasion.  Unfortunately all these party ranges are not available all year round so I’ll have to gorge now while I can! I look forward to next December so I can hunt out even more miniature options!

Chicken Tikka Wraps

December 6, 2010

For tea last week I decided to cook some chicken tikka wraps.  I’ve made a few Indian marinades before, but I usual cheat a little and use a pre-made paste of spice mix.  After a little bit of research around the web I found that I had most of the common ingredients for chicken tikka in my cupboard. So I thought I’d have a go at making the sauce from scratch.

The ingredients for the chicken tikka marinade

Most of the recipes I saw recommended marinating the chicken for a couple of hours.  However being in work during the day, and figuring it couldn’t hurt, I started the day before giving the meat plenty of time to marinate.

Making the marinade

My marinade consisted of:

  • 200g Greek yogurt
  • 3 cloves of garlic (diced)
  • 2 tsp ginger paste
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • 1tsp smoked paprika (I didn’t have any of the plain variety!)
  • 2 tsp chopped chilli
  • 1tbsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp lemon juice

This was all mixed together before adding the chicken (around 450/500g) which I had chopped into inch cubes. This was then covered and placed in the fridge

Adding the chicken to the marinade

All nicely covered

When I was ready to cook I got the chicken out of the fridge to take the chill off, then heated the oven to 200C.  Rather than take off the excess marinade I decided to put the dish straight in the oven to ensure that the chicken had a good coating.  In the end I left everything in for 20 minutes and when I checked, the chicken was cooked though and still very moist – perfect!

Chicken tikka just out of the oven

While the chicken had been cooking I prepared some accompaniments.  I chopped up a red onion and two large shallots which were gently fried until translucent and shredded some romaine lettuce.  Looking back I think fresh baby leaf spinach would have been good as well, but I didn’t have any in the flat.

lettuce and onions

With everything ready I fished the tikka pieces out of the excess marinade and put them in a clean dish.  Plenty of the marinade clung to the chunks, which was wonderful!   Grabbing my garlic and coriander wraps from the cupboard I served up everything and got to work on constructing a wrap for myself.

Making a wrap

I was really pleased with how everything turned out in the end as it was a great alternative to fajitas.  The marinade was really fragrant and not too hot.  Although, with all the yogurt, it could easily take more chilli if desired.  I didn’t think it was  bad for a first attempt!  There was a slight bitterness from the garam masala, but the subtle sweetness of the slow cooked onions countered this well.  With everything else being soft the lettuce also added a much needed bit of crunch.

The final chicken pieces looked amazing.  I wasn’t sure about the colour of the marinade when I first made it as it had seemed a bit pale.  However once it was cooked it turned a deep orange which contrasted really well with the pale flesh of the meat.

My chicken pieces were too large to eat as one piece which meant I needed to cut them to go in the wraps. But I think keeping the pieces large helped keep the chicken moist so I will keep them that size when I next make this.  I also make far too much for two (the quantity would easily do 3!), but this was no bad thing.  The tikka pieces kept really well in the fridge and were consumed for lunch a few days later!

Moksh Cardiff bay – An award winning curry

December 3, 2010

As part of the celebrations for getting my new job I went out for a meal with my family to the Moksh restaurant in Cardiff Bay.  I had wanted to visit the place for a while, having heard good things about it and smelt the wonderful fragrances while walking past.  The chef and owner, Stephen Gomez, is from Goa and has was won several awards in recent years including Chef of The Year 06/07 and Best UK Curry, amongst others. He proudly displays these along with articles and reviews in a glass case outside of the restaurant.  Given the all the above I had high hopes for this meal!

The restaurant itself is quite small, maybe 30 covers.  It was fairly loud and busy, with quite a modern funky feel with lots of coloured light.  We were lucky enough to be sat at one end, in a small alcove with a Buddha spray painted on the wall.  As the other tables in there remained untaken, this felt like having our own private room. It was great as we were away from the bustle in the rest of the restaurant.

The funky Buddha

The menu has a huge range of choice, and being a first time visitor I found it a bit overwhelming. If only their website was up and running I could have browsed the menu at my leisure! So not entirely knowing where to start, and with this being a celebration, we all eventually decided to go for the Chefs Taster Menu.

This was a four course feast priced at £28 a head, pretty good value as starters are between £3-5 and mains £12 – 14 plus rice.  The exact content of the taster menu was not written down, and although it was explained to us before we started,  I struggled to remember it all.  Luckily everything was explained again as it was served so we knew what we were eating.

First up was the selection of starters.  There were three: A cheese, onion and spinach samosa, an aloo tikki potato cake and a lamb shammi kebab.  The presentation of these was unlike anything I have seen before. The samosa was upright on its own stand and a spring of lamb’s lettuce was stuck in the top of the shammi kebab.  This was not bad, just unusual!

My Starters: Aloo Tikki, Samosa and Lamb Shammi Kebab

Everything tasted great.  The aloo tikki and kebab were fragrant and subtly spiced, the meat in the kebab was extremely finely ground and the samosa was crisp and tasty.  I was really impressed with the flavours.  Also, considering that all three items had most likely been deep fried they were all remarkably light and non greasy.

The next course was our kebabs from the tandoor.  Each of us was presented with a plate with a freestanding skewer containing chicken, beef and a king prawn.

The Kebab

This was visually very impressive; however it was much easier to eat if you shifted the freestanding skewer out of the way once you’d removed the food!  The meat itself was lovely.   Everything was coated in an aromatic paste of spices which, although hot, was tasty and did not overpower the dish.  The chicken was moist, the beef had a deep earthy flavour and the prawn was soft. This well cooked prawn was my favourite of the three kebabs.

After a little breather it was now time for the main course!  This consisted of four pots of curry each with a selection of plain, garlic and keema nann, and plenty of pilau rice.  The curries were Chicken Szechwan, Lamb Navarin Bhuna, Malabar King Prawn Curry and Tarka Dal.

Lots and Lots of Mains!

The chicken Szechwan is an Indian take on the Chinese dish.  This was quite different to the other curries and it certainly packed a punch.  There was less sauce with this as it had chunkier veg and chilli pieces.  The Lamb Navarin Bhuna is another interesting cultural blend, being Moskh’s take on the French classic.  The meat was very tender and rich and although I failed to spot the French influence/flavours it was very tasty and a lovely medium curry.  The Tarka dal proved slightly divisive with the girls enjoying it and the boys not so sure. I think this had more to do with the lentils themselves rather than the way in which they had been cooked.  My favourite of the four dishes was the Malabar King Prawn Curry.  This had a slight sweet fruitiness to it which came from the coconut milk and moderate spicing.

Clockwise from top left: Tarka Dal, Lamb Navarin Bhuna, Malabar King Prawn Curry and Chicken Szechwan

Of the accompaniments, the rice was rice, nothing more, nothing less. There was however a huge amount of the stuff!  The nann breads were lovely, the garlic nann was smothered in garlic butter and delicious.  The keema contained one large piece of (processed) meat rather than the mince I’ve usually seen which was meant you got plenty of meat with every bite.

The service was leisurely which suited the style of meal.  You had plenty of time to consume and digest one course before the next was served.   Despite these long pauses by the time desserts came around I was still very full!  For dessert we had two mini chocolate ginger cakes and two mini cheesecakes which we shared between the four of use.

The desserts

Both desserts were interesting, but very small and not quite up to the standard of the rest of the food. But having already eaten so much I wasn’t too bothered by this.  The final thing to be served just before we left were some Welsh cakes, which struck me as odd in an Indian restaurant, even if it is in Wales!

The Welsh cakes

These were again nice enough, but did leave me with the feeling that perhaps desserts were not this restaurants strong point!

My only real complaint came when the waiters started to mention that their card machine was “not always working”.   When we came to and explained that we needed to use the card they were quite insistent that the machine would not work and that we should visit a cash point nearby without trying the machine.  However when we also insisted and did try the machine it miraculously worked first time!

Although I had really enjoyed the food and the evening, the farce with the card machine did spoil things a little. It would also make me think twice about recommending the restaurant to someone.  However, I’ve never heard similar complaints, so I hope that this was a one off!

Overall I thought the food was great, it was nice to see attempts to create fusion dishes (even if I could not have guessed some without being told!).  I think a lot of the food was innovative, well executed and well presented.  Now, having tried the chef’s selection I fancy trying some of the other dishes on the menu such as the Lamb with Gunpowder and the Goan Fish Curry.

Enjoying the last of summer: Paella

October 8, 2010

My mum was kind enough to bring me back a present of some saffron from her recent holiday, and so last night with the sun making what will probably be its final appearance for this year, I decided to embrace this ending of summer and make Paella.

This is a fairly simple dish which can be made with many different ingredients, it takes quite a while to cook, but is worth the wait.  I love the fresh flavours and the mix of meat and fish; it’s always really filling and is reasonably low fat as well if you stick to seafood!

My ingredients

First up I got all my ingredients together and prepared everything.  I decided to put chicken thigh, tiger prawns and squid in this dish.  I chopped the thigh into small pieces and coated with corn flour to tenderize (I have no idea why this works but it does!), cleaned the squid and cut it into rings and cooked my prawns before shelling them.  The rest of the ingredients consisted of about 2/3rds of a red pepper cut into 4/5cm thin strips, a onion thinly sliced, a clove of garlic which I diced, 40g of chorizo in chunks, about 50g of frozen peas, half a lemon, 100g of paella rice, 250ml of fish stock and a good pinch of my lovely saffron.

frying the onions and peppers then adding the chicken

I don’t own a proper paella pan, but I do have a lovely cast iron skillet, and when cooking for two this is a great substitute (for any more than two it gets a little crowded).  A paella should be cooked slowly and I started things off by gently frying my onions and peppers in about 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, and once these had softened a little but aren’t fully cooked (they have plenty of cooking left to do!), about 5 minutes or so, I added the chicken and the diced garlic.  After another 5 minutes went by and with the chicken starting to colour I added the chorizo and then the saffron and cooked some more allowing the colour to come out from both.

Adding the chorizo and then the saffron

Next up is the rice.  This went into the pan and was stirred and fried until the grain becomes translucent before pouring in the stock similar to how a risotto is made.  The main difference in cooking a risotto and paella is that you should stir a paella as infrequently as possible until the stock has been absorbed.

Adding the rice and frying until translucent before adding the stock

Once most of the stock has been absorbed the peas and the squid can be added.  A couple of minutes later I also added the zest and juice of half a lemon.

Adding the peas and squid, then the lemon

Finally, when pretty much all the liquid was gone I added the prawns and warmed them through before serving.

adding the pealed prawns

The final dish

This is the first time I had made Paella with saffron and the result was not as yellow as those I had made with turmeric.  It looked a lot of more natural being only slightly coloured and the flavour was great.  A lovely treat!

A new cook book, and a meal goes badly wrong

September 20, 2010

An absolute disaster, so much for the romantic dinner idea.....

Before I begin I would like to apologize for the length of this post, it seems that I had a lot to get off my chest about this meal!  It’s been a cathartic experience writing this!

I have a new cookbook; one which I hoped would allow me to combine my love of posh food with my less than extravagant means.  It’s Jason Atherton’s Gourmet Food for a Fiver and the idea of the book is that you can create a two course gourmet meal from the book for £5 per person (still not that cheap I feel!).

The book itself is great, the pictures of the food look sumptuous, the recipes appear to be clear and direct, there are even tips on how to best present the food for that restaurant look (an area where I can fall down).  There is a good selection of starters mains (they actually appear together as a savoury section split into veg, meat and fish) and lots of desserts so plenty of options to choose from. Jason also provides some seasonal menu suggestions and other themes.  Most recipes are for four people, but can be easily scaled up or down as needed.   My only issue would be that, since the starters and mains run into each other with no division, you end up trying to guess from the portion size which is which.

However, to my dismay, my first attempt at a two course meal from there was a disaster, although without trying some more recipes I don’t know if the problem was me or the book.  For my two courses I had decided to cook the white asparagus, pasta and poached egg for starter and the confit chicken leg with chorizo and bean stew for main.

The problems started with my actual choices as try as I might I could not find any white asparagus, probably due to it’s being out of season. Rather than use the more bitter green variety I decided to abandon that element of the starter which reduced it to just pasta and a poached egg (which just doesn’t sound so “gourmet”).  The rest of the starter went well.  I managed to make the pasta with creamy mushroom sauce (Jason’s alternative to Macaroni cheese according to the book :-p) and poach my eggs (nice soft gooey centre!) then, adding the shavings of parmesan, I served it up. It managed to looked not to dissimilar to the picture in the book (minus some ingredients of course!).

The ingredients for my starter

The result was tasty but not really something I would have put together. However we were starving by this time (all is revealed later) and so wolfed it down.  I’m not really sure if the missing asparagus would have made the meal feel more coherent, but it would certainly have added to the variety in texture as both the pasta and the egg were a bit soggy.  I also had plenty of pasta spare despite halving the recipe, but this is not a complaint!  I think that maybe a few salad leaves could have improved this starter and the recipe does suggest a couple of watercress sprigs for garnish but I forgot these. It just didn’t occur to me at the time, my mind was full of the trouble with the main course!

The starter in the book (left) versus what I served (right)

Preparation for my main had begun the day before with the dry brining of my chicken legs.  This involved covering the chicken in 2 tablespoons of salt, x leave of sage and 2 stalks of rosemary and leaving it in the fridge for at least 12 hours.  Then, 4 hours before we were due to eat (the recipe involved a lot of cooking and resting!) these legs were submerged in a large quantity of oil into which more salt, sage and rosemary were added.  The book said that to confit the legs would take 2 1/2 hours on 90C and that I should turn the legs half way through cooking. So I dutifully put my pot in the oven and got on with my evening.

After around an hour and a half I returned to the oven to turn my chicken and noticed that it didn’t really seem to be cooking very much! Undeterred, I checked the book again, verified I was doing as it said and put the pot back in the oven to continue as before.  I was starting to get a bit uneasy about it, but knowing that confiting is not a quick method (and having never done it before) I assumed that this was all normal and the final hour would transform my rather raw chicken into soft succulent perfection.

Well I was wrong!  When 3 hours had gone by (I gave it a little extra to be sure) I checked on the chicken again, it did look a bit more cooked, but sticking a knife into one of the legs resulted in rather a lot of blood spewing forth which told another story.  At this point my sense of unease turned into a full blown panic, as with three hours now gone and the meat still only partially cooked, I knew this was never going to be done in time.

In my panic I decided that the best way forward was to apply more heat so whacked the oven up to 180C and stuck the pot in again before warning my partner that the meal may be a little later than initially planned.

At 180C the chicken still took another hour to cook and so it was getting quite late by the time I drained the oil and covered the legs, allowing them to rest while I prepared and ate the starter and got one with accompaniments.

The chicken at differnt stages; top is dry brining, left is after 3 hours at 90C and right is after an additional hour at 180C

The chicken would have two accompaniments: a chorizo and bean stew and some roasted garlic.  The garlic was to be created by wrapping in foil several cloves of garlic n their skin, thyme, sage and lots of olive oil.  This parcel was to bake in the oven for 35/40 mins at 180C.  The bean stew took less time and was prepared by frying chorizo to release the oil before removing the meat and adding stock and cream.  The liquor is then reduced before the meat is returned to the pan along with time butter beans and thyme. Pretty straight forward really but just to add to my many woes I managed to burn my first lot of chorizo and so had to make this twice!

The garlic ready to go in the oven

The ingredients for the bean and chorizo stew

Finally it was time to serve up this main.  You’re supposed to fry off the chicken legs before serving to crisp the skin, however my over enthusiastic application of heat meant that my legs were now quite fragile so this was not possible and I served them straight up (apologies for the photo, my heart just wasn’t in it by this time!) and then it was time to eat.

The main in the book (left) versus what I served (right)

It would be fair to say that this was not a success.  The chicken, though wonderfully tender and falling off the bone tasted only of oil and salt and was inedible (to give him credit my partner tried very hard to eat this having seen how much effort I put it).  The garlic was in the main part just black and solid.  There was the odd soft sweet part but these took much searching to discover.  The bean stew was okay, but that was all.

I have to be honest and say that this was probably the worst meal I have ever cooked. Given how long I had spent trying to cook it I was devastated and gave up eating all together.

I don’t want to blame the book, but I really did stick to the recipe closely, maybe my technique was out. Needless to say I won’t be attempting this again anytime soon.  I will however give the book another try, it may be that one recipe was off, but there are many more to try and who knows, maybe I’ll have more luck with a pud!