The flexibility of a chicken

Roast chickenSometimes you’re walking past the last day shelf in Tesco and a chicken for £2.50 just leaps out at you, you just can’t avoid it!

You think “I can get at least four meals out of it for the two of us!” And you do! As an example meal plan:

  1. A proper Sunday roast. Beautiful crispy roast potatoes, some fresh seasonal vegetables or two. I still haven’t cracked the secret to lovely crunchy potatoes here, but given a variety like King Edwards, they will still be tasty. It’s summer so we just picked up some broad beans from the farmer’s market. Don’t forget the gravy! I should pontificate at length on gravy at another point.Leftover chicken
  2. Then do something with the leftovers. In this case a chicken pie but I was too lazy to make the lid ? This one had some frozen peas, and chopped red pepper in. And obviously, that thing that makes everything better, sweetcorn. You can put in pretty much anything you like. Chop up a leek or throw in left over vegetables. Swede on the side is a nice touch, and fry up left over roast potatoes. Obviously, with the bones, you’ll get between a pint and a litre of stock. You can either just boil the bones or throw in some garlic, chopped onion, carrots, celery, herbs and so on.
  3. Then, with that stock, make soup! Possibly with some leftover gravy added for extra flavour. This soup has noodles, an egg mixed in, some veggies and a soft boiled egg. We get through the eggs in this house! Cantonese chicken and sweetcorn has been perpetrated in this house and that’s good too,
  4. Last but not least, you’ll probably have a chicken breast left over. That’s easy to dispose of: a chicken sandwich. Me, I like nice fresh bread and mango chutney. That’s the right combination of solid and savoury. The other option is to load it up with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber and mayonnaise. Either way.On the bread note, we mostly make our own. Either from the components or supermarket mix, and throw it in the bread maker. Good fresh bread for half the price.

And that’s how you get four meals out of some discounted chicken!

Some good links out there:

There’s plenty you can do with a chicken: lemons, put vegetables in the roasting tin. Me, I put smoked paprika and garlic salt on the skin before rubbing with olive oil. The skin is the best bit. Or just buy the thighs and roast them!

Lo Bak Gao – Turnip Cake

This was always a staple of mine when having Dim Sum in London, with hordes of other developers. First time I had it was at Dynasty in Bristol, a stones throw from my office, although we mis-heard what it was called 🙂

Dipped in a soy/rice vinegar or chilli dip, it’s just the taste of Hong Kong, with little bits of dried prawn, shitake mushroom, chinese sausage or lardons and spring onion.

There are plenty of recipes on the internet, and you could certainly do an average of them. For example:

 
Even Jamie Oliver:

  • http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/vegetables-recipes/crispy-turnip-cake-with-chilli-sauce/

I can’t wait until it’s finished steaming!

Kitchen utensils – the essentials

Kitchen utensils

Kitchen utensilsIntroduction

Having the right kitchen utensils is really important. I don’t mean some fancy motorised gizmo costing £400, I mean the basics, the simple things we use every day that make our cooking slick, fast and easy, so we don’t even have to think about what we’re doing. So here is a list of tools I cook with nearly every day that make my life happy.

The essential utensils

Garlic press. Favourite utensil.

Ever since British cooking came out of the post-war dark ages in the eighties (thanks Delia!), garlic has been a staple of our cooking. This is probably a function of the Italian cooking which we love so much, starting with pizza, progressing through pastas and into the more exotic. A garlic press is something I use most nights either for crushing garlic into a Chinese dip or a simmering, gentle tomato sauce. The one I have is heavy-duty like this one though I daresay IKEA will provide you with one somewhat simpler and lighter. I just like the heft of it.

 

Knives.

Knives are really important. So important, Amazon won’t let me build a link to them. Bizarre.

Try this link instead.

A good sharp knife is really important. I tend to use maybe three regularly: A nice large cook’s knife, around 9″ in length. The one I have replaced the one in the set which died. A small paring knife used for smaller, fiddlier jobs like boning meat or removing the seeds from chillies. lastly, a serrated bread knife. In the olden days I had a small serrated knife for things like tomatoes, but if your main knife is sharp enough, you don’t need it. I also have a meat cleaver I almost never use but have for Asian cooking completeness. Of course, being a foodie, you buy nice artisan bread so a bread knife is essential but being serrated and bread being relatively soft, sharpness isn’t really an issue.

Saucepans and Frying Pans

These are pretty important, but I would say, don’t go over the top. I’ve had IKEA’s basics, rubbish left by landlords in rented flats and decent ones. For saucepans we have a second or third above cheapest set of stainless steel saucepans with lids. For frying pans, a small and large pair of non-stick. I’ve just been told to use a heavy steel frying pan. I remain to be convinced. Woks, we have two, both just basic ones from the Chinese supermarket. As long as you can get them hot enough, you’ll be fine.

One thing to remember, I’m looking at you shakshuka, is that if you ever plan on putting a frying pan in the oven, make sure the handle is metal or else the handle can take up to a 200C temperature.

Vegetable peeler.

A device I use pretty much every evening and pretty much essential for dealing with things like, say, potatoes. They’re cheap and since they’re impossible to sharpen, I’d regard them as disposable to be renewed every year or two. Treat yourself. A nice sharp one is a delight. It glides across surfaces!

 

Baking tray.

These are essentials you don’t really think about. Perfect for popping shop-bought pizzas, quiches, or fish cakes in the oven, or most things that aren’t cooked in a depth of oil. I’ve several in my cupboard from really cheap, battered, tinny (and ones to more recently acquired Teflon(tm) covered ones.

 

Roasting dish.

Aside from the obligatory non-stick metal roasting dishes, I’d heartily recommend a good, heavy ceramic dish. I was given a lovely square Kuhne Rikon one which makes sublime roast potatoes. This will also double as a lasagne dish. There’s only two of us most of the time, so I’ve got a half-sized one as well as one half that size that’s just about right for a rhubarb crumble for the two of us.

 

Box grater.

Yes you can get little flat mandolin things, but the box grater gets the use in my house. The coarse side works for cheese and vegetables. I especially like it for grating carrots for carrot salad. The fine grater gets used for zesting citrus, usually lemon or lime but occasionally orange or grating parmesan. The slicer gets used for slicing, for example cucumber as a prelude to salad or pickling. The fourth side I have no idea. Suggestions welcome!

We have a food processor which almost never gets used. The last time was months ago, probably for prepping loads of root vegetables for a soup. Good job I didn’t spend much on it! Yay Morrisons!

 

Knife sharpener.

This is a contentious one. In a previous life I’ve had a long thin sharpening steel, but that went the way of my first marriage. I then acquired a gizmo which with a few swipes will render a knife sharp enough long enough to glide through the skin and soft flesh of a tomato. Then, somewhere along the line we acquired a whetstone. Maybe it was even an heirloom. I’m not allowed to use this. My wife was a sculptor and has very strong opinions who such a thing should be used. All I know is that afterwards a blade is sharper for longer. So I would say, well worth learning to use. 15 degrees apparently is the secret.

 

Sieve and colander.

These things gets a lot of use. The sieve gets used in baking, obviously, to sieve flour. Then they get used at both ends of the cooking process. At the preparation end, for holding things while they’re rinsed under the tap, then at the finish for draining and possible short-term storage.

 

Chopping Boards.

Unless you want to wreck the surfaces in your kitchen, you’ll want a chopping board. I’ve seen people get quite heated as to what kind of chopping board to get. Plastic ones are easier to get spotlessly clean, but wooden ones allegedly have natural compounds that keep bacteria under control. Then, if you get wood, what kind of wood should you get? And if you get wood, how thick should it be? I’ve got a couple of boards, the larger is bamboo. If you’re planning on serving charcuterie and sliced baguette on a board then go for the larger. That’s about it unless anyone has a better idea!

 

Scales.

In following a recipe, measurement is pretty important and therefore it’ss essential to have a good set of scales . Retro folks might like mechanical scales but in the 21st century there’s no excuse for not being digital. I tend to use mine for measuring flour, sugar or butter and not just for cakes!

 

The rest.

The rest you’ll probably pick up in your local supermarket: cake tins, loaf tins, muffin tins, sweetcorn holders, skewers, egg coddlers and such. You can get these cheaply and easily in your local supermarket.

We mustn’t forget blenders. I have a small countertop one, but the hand blender gets more use. It just saves transferring the soup to something and back.

An electric kettle is a bonus. I’ve found the absolutely cheapest sometimes taint the water with a plastic taste so maybe get a slightly more expensive one.

If I’ve missed anything, please let me know!

HelloFresh recipe box – review, tasty

Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 21.14.54There was a half price bargain to be had, so we took the plunge and got a couple of HelloFresh boxes at half price. Tuesday morning they arrived by truck incredibly well packed. The refrigerables packeded in insulated bags and all the other ingredients portioned into little boxes of a size appropriate to the recipes, or in some case more.

Over two boxes, the recipes we got were:

  • Paprikás Csirke – a Hungarian paprika chicken dish. A dash of honey and soy sauce at the end, lifted the dish somewhat.
  • Beef Enchiladas – There were enough tortillas left over, we had this again for lunch again the following day. Probably my favourite.
  • Pan Fried Chicken with tarragon sauce – a simple sauce of tarragon simmered in crème fraîche.
  • Honey mustard sausages with read onion gravy – the sausages were tiny and the gravy a cheaty version of the one I do, but the real revelation here was cabbage that was quartered, fried lightly then baked in the oven in stock. This I will cook again!
  • Jamie’s grilled chicken with green bean salad – fairly classic, lemony Jamie.
  • Salmon baked on a bed of walnut-herby mushrooms with cerleriac fries. Sorry, there’s nothing to commend celeriac, it’s a vegetable of winter desperation. The mushrooms however, were awesome.  The texture of the nuts and the flavour of lots of fresh herbs. Amazing.

So there we have it. Would I do it again? Probably not. The recipes were easy enough but nothing you couldn’t do with a recipe book and a supermarket. I think my expectations were for more umami and more exotic flavours. Good enough though and if I were a busy executive with a career, wife and mistress, it might be tempting. 3/5.

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Sea bass, seafood and fennel from Relish Wales cookbook

Sea bass on seafood

Sea bass on seafoodThis was my first effort from the Welsh restaurant cookbook and it was a pretty easy one:

  • Sea bass (or red mullet or similar fillet with the skin on), pan fried until the skin is crispy.
  • Fennel finely sliced, softened in butter then braised in the oven in fish stock.
  • An assortment of seafood cooked in fish stock and white wine.
  • Runner beans I happened to have from hte farmers market.

We dressed for dinner and ate at the table. It was good!

Relish Wales – Second Helping, Cookbook

Relish Wales, Second Helping

Relish Wales, Second HelpingMy second major win of the bank holiday weekend was this book spotted for half price in the Beaufort Arms (nice lunch!) in Raglan. It’s a survey of the finest restaurants in Wales and their recipes, featuring much local meat, veg, fish and seafood.

The recipes are possibly a little too complicated for home, and certainly for my level of cooking, but simplified versions are certainly doable.

Confit duck, welsh lamb in multiple forms, local beef? Local lobster, sea bass, crab? Assorted cheesecakes, panna cotta and soufflés? All of that.

This will be my bedside cookbook for a while!

Buy this lovely book from Amazon.

Salade Nicoise. Ish.

IMG_0403 (1)The definition of Salade Nicoise seems pretty flexible, so here is a flexed version containing:

  • Pembrokeshire Early new potatoes
  • Red onion
  • Cucumber, cored, from the farmer’s market
  • Cherry tomatoes, from the supermarket, sadly
  • Not-quite hard-boiled egg
  • Anchovies
  • Lettuce from the garden
  • Normal vinaigrette, 1tsp mustard powder, 2tbsp olive oil, 1tbsp white wine vinegar

No olives this time.

And that’s about it. A nice, hearty, salady supper.

The quest for BBQ spare ribs

BBC Barbecue spare ribsSaturday was a win again at the farmer’s market. As well as scoring some excellent broad beans and lovely Crafty Devil beer, Charcutier Ltd again had an offer on their spare ribs so the quest was on to cook them even better! This time, I went for this recipe from the BBC:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/sweetstickyspicyribs_85067

I’m now a big fan of poaching ribs before cooking. It makes the meat so tender!

The sauce in the recipe was fine, ketchup and soy sauce being the base of most of this kind of sauce, however, I spruced it up with:

  • 1-2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon ginger powder

And probably some other bits (cumin?) that I forget. The result was a sauce with a slightly more complex flavour and more depth.

Will definitely use this recipe as a base again!

 

 

 

BBC Barbecued Spare Ribs

Marinading Spare Ribs
http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/sweetandstickyribs_75147

We were at the @RCMAmarkets today stocking up on essentials like fresh broad beans, eggs and so on, when, getting my bacon roll from Charcutier I happened to spy that he had half price spare ribs.

Thinking that’s tonight’s barbecue sorted (it’s not raining in Cardiff today, oddly), my next task was a recipe. Eschewing American cuisine and web sites, the BBC came up with this by Antony Worrall Thompson:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/sweetandstickyribs_75147

Nothing particularly mystical about this recipe, it’s the usual ketchup, soy, honey and other bits, but as it’s sitting there marinading right now, the smells are just right. The recipe also says to boil for an hour or so in the marinade and water so I’m hopeful that the meat will be tender. Fingers crossed!

Heritage Radishes

Heritage RadishesThe patio allotment is beginning to get into full swing.

These were, however, a surprise to me. They are heritage radishes. Less watery than the supermarket variety, but BOY where they spicy; a wasabi level of heat.

Yummy.

Tomato Soup

Tomato SoupA neighbour is going on holiday and gave us some tomatoes.

So I made soup.

Gently fry an onion and a medium carrot in olive oil for ten minutes, add 1lb of chopped tomatoes and a pint of stock (boullion in my case), a squirt of tomato puree and a small handful of basil leaves. Simmer for ten minutes then blend. Salt and a small amount of sugar to taste. I topped it off with freshly made garlic-y croutons, more basil and a quick grate of parmesan for umami.

It was good!