Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Basque Chicken

With some chicken in the fridge and perusing the net I got inspired by by the "Basque" country of France and Spain and decided to put together my own one-pot version of Basque Chicken.

The Basque Country is the name given to the home of the Basque people in the western Pyrenees that spans the border between France and Spain on the Atlantic coast. Consequently some versions of Basque chicken have a French influence, while others have the Spanish influence. I think mine has more of a Spanish bent due to my inclusion of chorizo and two types of paprika: smoked and hot.

Basque Chicken
Serves 2

1 tbsp olive oil
4 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin removed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
small tin chopped tomatoes
4 roasted red peppers in oil from a jar, roughly chopped
35g black olives, pitted and halved
1 small glass white wine
2 tsp tomato puree
½ teaspoon sugar
2 bay leaves
20g sun dried tomatoes
75g cooking chorizo
125g brown basmati
200mls chicken stock
¼ tsp hot paprika
¼ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp picked and chopped fresh thyme leaves
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Season the chicken thighs then brown them in the oil in a heavy based casserole dish.

Remove and set aside and then in the same dish add the onions and fry over a lowish heat. When they are softened and slightly charred at the edges, add the garlic and chorizo. Cook for a few more minutes until the chorizo starts to colour then add the peppers, sundried tomatoes and olives. Cook for a few minutes more before adding the rice, stirring to ensure all the grains are coated in oil.

Turn the heat up high and add the wine. As that starts to reduce stir in the tinned tomatoes, stock, paprikas and thyme. Season to taste and add the sugar then return the chicken to the pan.
Cover and cook in the oven for about an hour. Check after 30 minutes to ensure there is enough liquid to cook the rice adding more if necessary.

After a further 20-30 minutes, the lid of the casserole can be removed. Leave for 10 minutes to reduce the contents slightly.

Serve, perhaps with a bitter leaves green salad.

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Sunday, 21 August 2011

Hunanese Chopped Salted Chillies

I’ve cooked a lot from Fuchsia Dunlop’s Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook but I’ve always been missing a vital ingredient: salted chopped chillies. Instead I’ve generally substituted dried chilli flake and /or fresh chilli.  As it is one of my favourite cookbooks I decided enough is enough - the recipe to make homemade salted chopped chillies couldn’t seem any simpler so hey! time to go to it.

This really is simple, all that is needed is some salt, lots of chillies and lot’s of chopping - it will be about two weeks apparently before the chillies are “done” at which point, once opened they will keep in the fridge for months . I already can’t wait for the two weeks to be done...

Hunanese Chopped Salted Chillies
Will fill approx one 0.5l Kilner jar

330g fresh red chillies
60g salt

Thoroughly sterilise a kilner jar - I do this by washing the jar in boiling hot water then pop it (minus the rubber seal) in the oven at 120C for 10 minutes - remove and cool while preparing the chillies.

Cut off the stems of the chillies then chop coarsely. It’s a good idea to use rubber gloves - even if you think you wash your hands well afterwards, handling this amount of chilli will almost certainly cause you to have at least one part of your body stingily on fire at some later point in the evening if you don’t. If it’s your eyes or other elsewhere with a mucous membrane it’s really unpleasant ;)

Add 50g of salt to the chillies (and seeds) in a bowl and mix thoroughly. 

Then put the mixture in a glass jar and cover with the remaining 10g of salt. Seal and leave in a cool place for a couple of weeks. Once opened, store in the fridge.

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Saturday, 20 August 2011

Rendang Daging (Beef Rendang)

Rendang is a dish that originated in Indonesia but is also very popular in Singapore and particularly Malaysia. Generally made from beef (rendang daging) but also occasionally chicken, mutton or duck, the meat is slowly cooked in coconut milk and spices, including lemongrass, galangal, chillies and ginger, for several hours until almost all the liquid is gone allowing the meat to absorb the spicy condiments. Sometimes kerisik (toasted coconut paste) is added towards the end of cooking.

Rendang isn’t something that can be whipped together after work as it really does need long & slow cooking. Further the kerisik does take some extra effort: a good 10 minutes of pounding with a pestle in a mortar can kind of take it out of you. The kerisik I should point out isn’t compulsory but definitely worth giving a go for the added depth of flavour it gives.

The ultimate reward to all this patient effort is a rich, aromatic and tender coconut beef stew which is very flavourful. And if you can bear to leave it to eat the next day so much the better.

Rendang Daging
Serves 2

500g stewing steak cut into ¾ inch cubes
400ml coconut milk
600ml water
1cm piece dried galangal
2 kaffir lime leaves
½ tsp salt
½ stalk lemongrass, cut across in half
½ tsp tamarind paste
1 tsp palm sugar
1 dried chile de árbol
2 tbsp kerisik (optional) *
Spice Paste
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
3 large red chillies, deseeded and chopped
½ stalk lemongrass, white part only, chopped
3 shallots or 1 onion finely chopped
½ tbsp chopped fresh ginger
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
½ star anise
2 cloves
½  tsp ground cinnamon

* to make the kerisik
Heat a frying pan and once hot add 40g grated coconut.

Over a medium heat stir and toss frequently until golden brown.

Remove from the pan and grind using a pestle and mortar until it becomes an oily paste - this takes about 10 minutes.

To make the spice paste, dry fry the dry spices for a couple of minutes over a medium heat.  Grind to a powder and set aside. Blend the rest of the ingredients until smooth and then add the spices and combine.

Put 1 tbsp of oil in a large saucepan, heat over a medium flame and when hot  fry the paste for a couple of minutes until fragrant.  Stir in the beef and sauté for a few minutes more then add the coconut milk, water, galangal, limes leaves, salt, lemongrass, sugar and tamarind paste. 

Bring to boil on a medium heat. Add the Chile de árbol then stir once then leave to simmer gently for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally. Taste and add more salt if necessary.

When the liquid has mainly evaporated and the mixture is thick, continue cooking slowly stirring constantly and add the kerisik. By now the meat will be getting very brown and tender. Continue stirring for about 20 more minutes.

Remove the galangal, lemongrass and leaves and serve with steamed rice.

Note: I actually leave a little more liquid in my rendang than is strictly authentic but I prefer it that way.

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Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Pan-fried Salmon with Sorrel Sauce

My veg patch is looking a bit sorry for itself at the moment: the peas and broad beans have all been picked, the chilli plants looking a bit sparse due to the lack of actual summer and the beetroot has bolted quite spectacularly (“boltardy” indeed). The sorrel on the other hand is looking incredibly healthy and clearly ripe for a bit of harvesting.

Dark green with leaves resembling a cross between a dock leaf and spinach, it is a perennial herb with a lemony tanginess which comes from a high oxalic acid content. This acidity makes it an excellent companion to oily fish.

The following recipe is adapted from one found in Raymond Blanc’s
online recipe archive.

Salmon with creamy sorrel sauce
Serves 2

10g unsalted butter
2 salmon fillets (try and get wild or organic sustainable salmon such as these), about 130g each
1 pinch salt
1 pinch freshly ground pepper
¼ lemon
Sorrel sauce
5 spring onions, finely chopped
50ml dry white wine
75g sorrel, stalks discarded and leaves roughly torn
50ml creme fraiche
¼ lemon
3 small tomatoes, deseeded and finely diced
pinch salt
pinch freshly ground white pepper
On a high heat, cook down the spring onions with the white wine for about 1 minute.

Add the sorrel, creme fraiche, seasoning and the juice from the quarter lemon. Bring to the boil, stirring and cook for a further minute or so until the sauce has thickened a little. The sorrel will probably turn from a rich green to a sludgy brown green but this is normal.

Add the diced tomatoes then set the sauce aside while you cook the salmon.

Season the salmon fillets on both sides with salt and pepper. On medium heat melt the butter until it is foaming then add the salmon fillets, skinside first and pan fry for 3 minutes before turning and cooking for a further 3 minutes. The cooking time will of course depend on the thickness of the fillets.

Turn off the heat and squeeze a little lemon juice over each fillet.

Reheat the sorrel sauce then divide between each plate, atop a mound of mash with the salmon arranged on top.

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Sunday, 14 August 2011

Braised Veal Chops with Creamy Cabbage

This is adapted from a recipe
for braised pork chops with cabbage that I'd read about on the web from someone called Molly Stevens' book All About Braising. I’d not actually heard about her before but found a lot of people on US sites (chowhound and the like - and the book gets 5 stars on amazon.com) were banging on about this particular recipe.. a couple of google searches later, behold I found it.  The original recipe actually calls for a pork chop but courtesy of my wonderful local (to work) butcher McKanna’s I opted for veal.  Either would work - it may not look particularly pretty but it is super-tasty.

Braised Veal Chops and Cabbage
Serves 2

2 thick bone-in veal chops
Salt and pepper
Flour, for dredging
1 tbsp olive oil
15g  butter
1 tsp celery seeds (if you can’t find, use celery salt or even some very finely chopped celery leaves, sautéed)
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 shallot, finely sliced
½  head of cabbage, sliced into thin strips or shredded
120ml vermouth
150ml chicken stock
1 tbsp cider vinegar
4 tbsp creme fraiche
(low or full fat)

Season the veal chops with salt and pepper then dredge both sides with flour.

Heat the olive oil in a deep sauté pan over medium to high heat the add the chops and cook until nicely browned on both sides - probably about four minutes per side.  Set the chops aside on a plate.

Melt the butter in the same pan over a medium heat and when lightly foaming add the mustard and celery seeds and fry until they begin to pop (about one minute).

Add the shallots and cook for a couple of minutes until soft before adding the cabbage. Season with salt and pepper.

Reduce the heat and cook for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the cabbage wilts.

Add the vermouth and let it simmer down for a couple of minutes before adding the stock and vinegar. Bring back to a simmer.

Add the chops, pushing some cabbage and shallot mixture up against them then cover and cook for about 20 minutes or until veal is cooked through, turning once.

Once the veal is cooked, transfer to plate.  Add the creme fraiche to the pan and simmer for about 5 minutes until the cabbage is creamy.

Spoon the cabbage on and around the chops and serve.

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Sunday, 7 August 2011

Hunan Feast

Last weekend, as a thank-you for generally being lovely but for also feeding and medicating the little monsters during my recent Italy trips, I had my friends Steve & Linda over for dinner.  The last time I cooked for them it was back in February for Chinese New Year.  They seemed to enjoy the Sichuan dishes I served up that night so this time I thought I would give them a taste of Hunan.

Similar to Sichuan, Hunan cooking is known for its liberal use of chillies.  However it tends to be more "purely hot" rather than málà (hot and numbing) that distinctive taste that Sichuan cuisine is known for. 

As usual when I am cooking either Sichuan or Hunan food I turned to the excellent Fuchsia Dunlop and on this occasion The Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook.

It should be noted that all recipes below serve four with three or four other dishes, plus rice (or two people with just one or two other dishes).  There were three of us so this was more than plenty. We had: General Tso's chicken, farmhouse stir-fried pork with green peppers (which I have actually cooked before and can be found here), fisherman's prawns with Chinese chives and stir-fried broad beans with Chinese chives plus steamed rice.

General Tso's Chicken - zuo zong tang ji
This is chef Peng Chang-kuei's General Tso's Chicken, invented in Taipei, Taiwan. This version is hot and sour, more so than the Changsha (capital of Hunan) version which is closer in flavour to the sweeter Americanised dish.

4 boned, skinless chicken thighs
groundnut oil, for deep-frying
2 tsp sesame oil
For the marinade
2 tsp light soy sauce
½ tsp dark soy sauce
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp potato flour
2 tsp groundnut oil
For the sauce
1 tbsp tomato purée
½ tsp potato flour
½ tsp dark soy sauce
1½ tsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp clear rice vinegar
3 tbsp stock
8 dried red chillies
2 tsp finely chopped ginger
2 tsp finely chopped garlic

Combine all the marinade ingredients in a small bowl and set aside

Unfold the chicken thighs and lay them what would have been skin-side down, on a chopping board. If some parts are very thick slice them in half horizontally, parallel to the board.

Using a sharp knife make a few shallow criss-cross cuts into the meat to help the flavours penetrate then cut into bit sized pieces about 5cm or so in thickness

Put the chicken pieces into a bowl, pour over the marinade and toss until well coated.

In a large pan or wok, heat enough groundnut oil for deep-frying (it doesn't have to be too deep as you can easily do this in batches) to 180-200C. Add the chicken and fry until golden - remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Mix the tomato purée and 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl, then add the potato flour, soy sauces, rice vinegar and set aside.

Use a pair of scissors to snip the dried chillies into 2cm pieces.

Heat a wok with 2-3 tablespoons of groundnut oil. Add the dried chillies and stir-fry briefly until they are fragrant and just changing colour (they will turn dark but don't let them burn). Add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry for a few seconds longer, until fragrant.

Pour in the combined sauce ingredients and stir until the sauce thickens. Return the chicken to the wok and stir well to coat the pieces in sauce. 

Remove the wok from the heat and stir in the sesame oil. Serve with steamed rice and other dishes.

Fisherman's Prawns with Chinese Chives - yu jia chao xia qiu

500g prepared raw large prawns (you can use frozen but thaw first)
100g Chinese chives, trimmed and cut into 1¼ inch pieces
2 tsp garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp dried chilli flakes (or if you have them 1 tbsp chopped salted chillies)
1 tsp Chinkiang vinegar
1 fresh red chilli, seeded and thinly sliced
1 tsp sesame oil
200ml groundnut oil for cooking
For marinade
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp potato flour
1 small egg white

Put the prawns in a bowl with the marinade ingredients, mix well and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large pan or wok over a high flame until it reaches 150C (about 300 F). Drain off excess egg white from the prawns in a colander or sieve then add them to the wok and fry briefly until pinkish but not fully cooked. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Drain off all but 3 tbsp of the oil.  Add garlic and chilli flakes and stir-fry briefly until fragrant.  Add the prawns, stirring well, followed by the vinegar.  

Add the chives and fresh chilli and stir-fry unil they are barely cooked.  Season with salt to taste, remove from the heat, stir in sesame oil and serve.

Stir-fried Broad Beans with Chinese Chives - jiu cai can dou

100g fresh Chinese chives, washed trimmed and cut into 1¼ inch lengths
200g shelled broad beans (about 800g in the pod)
2tsp finely chopped fresh red chilli (or chopped salted chillies, again if you have them)
2tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
2 tbsp groundnut oil

Blanch the beans in boiling water for about 1 minute so barely cooked, drain and set aside.

Heat a wok over a high flame until smoke rises then add the oil and swirl around.

Add the chillies and ginger and stir-fry briefly until fragrant before adding the beans and stir-fry until hot & sizzling. Add salt to taste.

Throw in the chives and stir-fry a little longer until just tender and serve immediately.

And just as a reminder, here's what the farmhouse pork looks like:

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