Sunday, 24 June 2012

Recipe LXII - Stoved Chicken

Last weekend, I was in Belgium and whilst perusing the shops of Leuven's historic centre, I came across a bookshop where, in the window, was the last thing any Belgian would ever expect to find in pride of place: "Good Housekeeping: Book of British Food". Billowing with nostalgic pride, I immediately opened it, and found everything in it you could ever wish for in a book: advice on choosing various meat; when fruits and vegetables are in season; where the best places in each British region are to buy various items; local gastronomic events, and the main wine producers in the UK. It was a small fortune, but I bought it and took it to work to show my classes. They were pretty fascinated, and not one made a sarcastic remark. Ladies and gentlemen, British food is being taken seriously - get used to it!
Today, I am sampling a recipe from that very book, which took the fancy of some of my French, Spanish and Italian students. As with a lot of British recipes, they are mere guidelines, and not Gospel, so I have adapted it to suit my requirements and tastes.

500g chicken breasts, halved or 4 chicken quarters
2 thick slices of back bacon, the skin removed and cut into strips
6-8 large potatoes (floury ones like King Edwards), peeled and cut into slices
2 small onions and 2 shallots
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
7 teaspoon-sized knobs of butter
600ml chicken stock
Salt & plenty of ground black pepper
Fresh chives for garnishing

Instructions (there are three layers: potatoes, meat, potatoes):
Preheat the oven to 150°C. Fry the chicken, shallots and the bacon for about five minutes to seal, until they are lightly browned. Leave to one side.

Start layering half the amount of onions and potatoes in a casserole. This will be the bottom layer of the three. Do not forget to season it well - I sprinkled ground black pepper between them. Put half of your knobs of butter in strategic places.

Now put the bacon, chicken and shallots on top. This will be the middle layer of your dish. Sprinkle the thyme into it.

And now for the top layer. Repeat the bottom one, not forgetting the butter. Pour over the chicken stock so it barely covers the ingredients. Put the whole thing into the oven, and wait for about 2 and a half hours.

Sprinkle the chives on top just before serving.

The recipe was in every way spot-on in terms of measurements, cooking times and flavour balance. However, I would say carrots, garlic and some white wine would go extremely well with this recipe.

I wholeheartedly recommend the Book of British Food, and believe that the bookshelf of every true lover of cooking would only be enhanced by it.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Recipe LXI - English Peppered Venison Stew

Midsummer is the festival of virility and fertility, when we men are supposed to show off our hunting skills and prove our eligibility. So I hunted down a stag. Well no, I pulled a pack of venison meat out of the freezer at the supermarket, and spent yesterday evening making this, a midsummer-themed, truly English dish, which smells glorious in the oven and tastes sumptuously divine. It is therefore a paradox, that at midsummer, I am making a stew from it, but such has been the adversity of the weather, that putting it on the barbecue would seem reckless, especially as I am typing this in the middle of yet another shower of rain as a clap of thunder echoes outside in the valley.

500g-800g diced venison
5 to 10 shallots, whole
5 carrots, sliced
1 large onion, finely diced
5 potatoes, sliced or quartered
Other root vegetables are acceptable, like parsnips, turnips or celeriac
Most of a bottle of red wine
1 cup of red wine vinegar
5 cloves of garlic
1 small can of tomato purée
2 tbsp redcurrant jelly
3 or 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
3 cloves
3 bay leaves
15 peppercorns, crushed
3 tbsp cinnamon
4 tbsp plain flour

Take the plain flour and mix with some crushed peppercorns and some salt. TIP: use a plastic bag for this, tossing the contents to make everything stick well. Heat the oven to 180°C.
Put some butter and oil into your casserole dish and fry the meat until all sides are browned and sealed. Remove the meat to a side plate for a while, keeping the oil going (add more if necessary), and put the shallots in it to brown. Once they have softened (4-5 minutes), add the onions and garlic. Then put the tomato purée in, and cook for a couple of minutes. Then add the red wine vinegar and wine itself. Allow it to boil before you add the redcurrant jelly, thyme, the rest of the pepper and the bay leaves, and reintroduce the meat. You should make sure that the liquid covers all the ingredients. If not, add some beef stock or more wine, depending on your taste.

Put it in the oven for up to 3 hours, but check after one and a half, as the heat may cause the liquid to dry up. Serve with cauliflower cheese or green beans.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Recipe LX - Pork in Southern Sauce

That's southern India, not the USA. As you have understood by now, I am absolutely crazy about spices and I love being adventurous with their various combinations. This dish is one of those that makes the cooking just as enjoyable as the eating itself.

500g pork
2 medium onions
1 green pepper
5 cloves of garlic
100ml-150ml white wine vinegar
500ml coconut milk
150ml tap water
1-2 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
10 cardamom seeds
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp Garam Masala
1 tsp chili powder
4 fingers full of green coriander
Green beans (2 cm chopped)
200g Basmati rice

Put the cumin, coriander seeds, cardamom seeds, turmeric, chili powder and Garam Masala into a blender or spice grinder and turn it all into a powder. The seeds may remain a little less pulverised, but that is no problem. Put them on the side.

Take the meat, salt it, and fry it in oil and butter until all sides are sealed and some of the jiuces have run into the pan. Remove the meat, but keep the oily mix, and put in a little over half of the onions. Soften them, then add the garlic, and a minute later, the ground spices.

The spices should very quickly release their aromas, so then add the meat.

Follow this by adding the coconut milk, water and vinegar.

Cook on a low heat for a minimum of 40 minutes. Once ready, add the green coriander and serve immediately.
Serve with Basmati rice and green beans.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Recipe LIX - Coronation Chicken

It's the 60th Jubilee of the accession to the throne of Her Majesty the Queen and I wanted to do something extra special today to play my part in this historic occasion, the likes of which I will never see again. Coronation chicken was the brainchild of two ladies: a florist and a chef, for the coronation in 1953. The combination of ingredients is quite startling as you will see, but the final result is simply delicious, a stroke of genius.

For the chicken part:
6 spring onions
8 cloves of garlic
900g chicken breasts
Fresh ground pepper
Salt to taste

For the sauce:
1 chopped onion
1 tbsp curry powder
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp tomato purée
juice of half of a lemon
85ml/3fl oz red wine
150ml tap water
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp sugar
425ml/15fl oz mayonnaise
2-3 tbsp apricot jam (YES, YOU READ THIS CORRECTLY)
2-3 tbsp whipped cream
1 tbsp chopped green coriander

Put some water into a deep, rounded pan and add the spring onions, salt, pepper and chopped garlic. Once steaming, add the chicken and simmer for a good half an hour until the meat is cooked through. Then set it aside with a lid on to cool and for the flavours to work in.

While this is taking place, cut up your onion, put it into a saucepan and fry in olive or vegetable oil for a few minutes until soft. Then add the curry powder and let it mix in. Add the bay leaves, wine, tomato purée and the water, and let it gently come to a boil. Add the sugar, lemon juice and freshly ground black pepper and turn down the heat. Allow it to simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, thickening slightly.

Strain the larger bits from the sauce, and leave it to cool next to the chicken. Spend this time cutting up the chicken into bitesize pieces and whipping some cream..

Now comes the weird bit.
Spoon your mayonnaise and apricot jam into a large bowl. Pour in the liquid part of the sauce, and thoroughly fold it in. Add the whipped cream and with the aid of a blender on very slow, turn it into a full consistency.

Serve as a side dish, starter or as a feature in a buffet.

The leftover spring onions in water and the larger parts of the sauce make an ideal soup.
This dish is probably the most satisfying thing I have made in my kitchen. For although it contains some wacky combinations, it was simple, fast and utterly rewarding.
Long Live Her Majesty The Queen!