Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Chettinad Chicken

New favourite chicken curry alert! Well it was at the time of cooking and eating it anyway, but honestly that was so long ago now it may well have changed a few times.

I’d not used Olive magazine as a source for recipes for some time, although I’m not sure why. There were a few in the most reason issue (at time of cooking - I’ve now actually cancelled my subscription as nothing seemed to be particularly interesting or challenging to me anymore) that took my eye though and this is one of those.

Chettinad cuisine is the cuisine of the Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu state in South India. The Chettiar community, who are a majority in this region, are a very successful trading community.

The dishes are famous for their use of a variety of spices used in preparing mainly non-vegetarian (but generally no beef or pork) food. The dishes are hot and pungent with fresh ground masalas that often contain fennel seeds, star anise, cinnamon and whole red chillies. As such Chettinad cuisine is apparently one of the spiciest and the most aromatic in India and the Chettinads (the word "Chettinad" means a social caste specialising in the preparation of food) are considered master chefs.

Chettinad Chicken is a fiery curry but I see no reason why you can't reduce the chillies to suit your own taste - which I did to a certain extent. I also did a bit of research into Chettinad Chicken and decided that the recipe needed a little tampering - poppy seeds for instance are mentioned in pretty much every recipe I looked at bar the Olive one. With this in mind I wrote them into my curry only to realise that on this front the spice store cupboard was bare. Boo.

I did add a tomato, red chilli powder, a clove and some lemon juice but the next time I cook this, and there will be a next time, I’ll definitely add a teaspoon of poppy seeds to the spice mix.

Chettinad Chicken
serves 2

1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp garlic paste
250g skinless chicken thigh fillets, quartered
¼ tsp turmeric
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 small/medium onion, thinly sliced
1 red chilli, seeded and sliced
1 plum tomato, roughly chopped
1 tsp tomato purée
1 tbsp unsweetened dessicated coconut, toasted
½ cinnamon stick
½ tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
150ml chicken (or vegetable) stock
1 tbsp lemon juice
For the dry spice mix
½ tsp each of fennel seeds, cumin seeds & coriander seeds
1 clove
1 cardamom pod
½ dried long red chilli
½ star anise

Mix the ginger and garlic pastes with the turmeric and a splash of water in a bowl. Add the chicken and stir well to coat then set aside for at least 30 minutes.

Toast the spice mix in a dry frying pan then grind in a spice grinder or using a pestle & mortar and set aside.

Heat the oil in a sauté or frying pan and add the onion and sliced red chilli. Season with salt and cook over a medium heat for about 10 minutes until softened and starting to brown.

Add the chicken and marinade, spice mix & chilli powder, tomato and purée, coconut and cinnamon stick and fry for 5-10 minutes.

Pour in the stock and simmer gently for 30 minutes.

Stir through the lemon juice and serve immediately over rice, or with a naan bread if that’s your thing.

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Monday, 30 May 2016

Monkfish Cheek Coconut Curry Stew with Carrot and Fennel

To be honest the name Padma Lakshmi to me was just someone who had been married to Salman Rushdie and who had had a modeling career but in fact it seems she’s published a couple of food related books as well as presenting some cookery shows.

I stumbled across a recipe of hers for mahi mahi which was the inspiration for this monkfish curry as that was what I fancied cooking for some reason.

I made a trip to Borough Market, and specifically Sussex Fish asking the very nice guy on the stall for some monkfish - he persuaded me to get monkfish cheeks instead as they’re half the price, there’s no bone to bugger about with and he assured me they’d be just as good in my curried stew. Sold!

If you are in the area and need some fish I’d definitely get to Sussex Fish, in the Green Market, for some excellent and helpful advice for your fish shopping: a great range there too and good prices.

This is very subtly and interestingly flavoured as it stands but you could certainly ramp up the spicing if you wanted something a little bolder.

Monkfish, Carrot & Fennel Coconut Curry
serves 2

300g monkfish cheeks
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
sea salt
2 tbsp coconut (or sunflower) oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
½ large or 1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
2 dried red chiles
6 fresh curry leaves
1 ½ tsp fresh ginger, minced
2 kaffir lime leaves
½ fennel bulb , cored and cut into 1-inch long batons
1 carrot, peeled cut into 1-inch long batons
1 tsp Madras curry powder
225 ml coconut milk
½ tsp fish sauce
small handful coriander leaves, to serve

Put the monkfish in a shallow dish, season lightly with salt and pour over the lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

In a large heavy based sauté pan heat the oil and then add the shallots and cook over a moderate heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and for a couple of minutes more.

Add the chillies and curry leaves and cook for 2 minutes before adding the ginger and lime leaves and cooking for a further 2 minutes.

Add the fennel, carrots and curry powder and season lightly with salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the coconut milk and fish sauce and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring a few times, until the carrots are tender, about 10 minutes longer.

Add the monkfish and any accumulated juices to the casserole give a good stir then cover and gently simmer over low heat until it is just cooked, 3-5 minutes.

Serve with plain rice and garnish with coriander leaves.

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Sunday, 29 May 2016

Slow Cooker Picadillo

Picadillo, a traditional dish in Spain (the name comes from the Spanish word "picar," which means "to mince" or "to chop") and many Latin American countries as well as the Philippines is something that I’d been wanting to cook for ages and when I saw this recipe on Skinny Taste I thought “yay! 2 birds, 1 stone!”

Picadillo is made with minced beef, tomatoes and other ingredients that vary by region and is generally also supposed to have alcaparrado which is a special mix of manzanilla olives, pimientos and capers. Unfortunately I couldn’t source any so just used olive stuffed with pimento and separately capers which I think worked fine. Also, I think a green pepper should be used but we only had a yellow one left so that went in instead!

Other frequent additions include diced potatoes and raisins. I didn’t want to double carb as I would be serving over rice and I’d been bloating a lot at the time (pregnancy hormones!), although I have to say that versions I’ve seen with potatoes look delicious. But of course I do not like raisin / sultanas in savoury food (or anything cooked actually) so that’s never going to be a goer with me.

I’d be interested in getting hold of some alcaparrado and making this again to see if it makes a big difference but somehow I doubt it.

This can be served over rice as we have or for example as a filling for empanadas (maybe I should have done that with the leftovers actually).

Slow Cooker Picadillo
serves 4

1 tbsp light olive oil
500g beef mince
1 banana shallot, finely chopped
½ yellow pepper, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
small tin chopped tomatoes
75ml dry white wine
100ml pasatta
½ cup (4-6 tbsp) pimiento stuffed green olives
1 ½ tbsp capers
¾ tsp dried Mexican oregano
½ tsp ground cumin
⅛ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
⅛ tsp cayenne
1 or 2 bay leaves
sea salt, to taste
a little chopped coriander, to serve

Brown the meat in a large deep skillet on medium-high heat; season with generously with salt and black pepper. Use a wooden spoon to break the meat up into small pieces and when the beef is no longer pink, drain all the liquid from pan.

Add the shallot, garlic and yellow peppers to the meat and cook for 3-4 minutes more.

Turn the heat up a little, add the wine and allow to simmer for a couple of minutes.

Transfer the meat and veg to the slow cooker, then add the chopped tomatoes and passata, spices and herbs, stuffed olives, capers and 150ml water.

Set the slow cooker to high for 3 to 4 hours or low for 6 to 8 (I actually cooked it on high for about 2 ½ hours and then low for a further hour). Before serving taste carefully for seasoning and adjust as needed.

Discard the bay leaves and serve over rice.

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Friday, 27 May 2016

Smoky Chicken Pasta

This is a something I had pinned to my pasta board and had wanted to cook for absolute ages as it just looked so damn good (sadly this is not the case with my photos). I wasn’t able to get the marinade specified though (and I now presume that this is probably available only in the US anyway) so kept putting it off.

In the end I decided to try it anyway using any smoky BBQ marinade that I could get my hands on (as it turned out, Nando’s) mixed with a little liquid smoke and lime juice.

I also employed the slow cooker for the chicken as from my experience thus far I knew this would be a good way of marinating and getting a pulled chicken effect in one.

Smoky Chicken Pasta
serves 3

225g Farfalle pasta
250ml double cream (I used Elmlea to save on calories)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp dried basil
20g butter
½ tbsp flour
125g bacon, cooked until quite crispy and crumbled / chopped
40g Parmesan cheese, grated
170ml Nandos’ smoky Portuguese BBQ peri peri marinade
juice of ½ lime
¼ tsp Stubbs mesquite liquid smoke
100ml water

Put chicken, marinade, lime juice and liquid smoke plus 100ml of water in a slow cooker. Give it a good stir then put it on low for about 4.5 hours.

Pull the marinated chicken out of the marinade liquid, allow to cool a little bit, then shred and pop back into the marinade in the slow cooker to keep warm.

Cook the pasta according to packet instructions.

While the pasta is cooking melt the butter In a small saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook for a minute or so until the flour starts to colour a little. Add the garlic, stir in and cook for 30 seconds to a minute more.

Add the cream, basil, pepper, parmesan cheese, and crumbled bacon. Stir together on a low heat for 5-10 minutes.

Add the chicken and marinade sauce to the creamy sauce. When the pasta is cooked combine with the sauce.

Serve immediately with a little bit more shredded Parmesan cheese on top.

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Thursday, 26 May 2016

Prawn Gumbo

Another Cajun / Creole inspired meal in a week (by accident rather than design) after the dirty risotto. I think I saw a version of this on Pinterest originally which spurred me to do a little research and then some more when that in turn spurred me on to find out the difference between an etouffee & a gumbo.

For those that are interested, a gumbo is made with a traditional roux, that is then browned and then the ‘holy trinity’ of celery, peppers and onions is added as well as broth and meat/seafood of choice (and okra if you’re into it, which I’m not). Basically a kind of soupy stew served over or alongside rice.

Etouffee means smothered and is usually crayfish or prawns, covered with a light roux (i.e. not browned) in which the holy trinity are then sauteed. The flavor of a blond roux is different, and because it's not cooked much, it has great thickening power, hence why it's called "smothered." The sauce is thicker.

The gumbo recipe I chose to adapt didn’t have pepper so in the interest of keeping to the ‘holy trinity’ I took liberty of adding it plus some tinned jalapenos - partly as I had some to use up but also as I like chillies.

Although I have made a roux before, I’ve never had to prepare one where it is browned and then is used to cook the vegetables - the fragrance as the chopped veg hit that nutty brown roux and sizzle is utterly delicious and really stimulates the appetite.

Ideally we would have had this spooned over brown rice but I didn’t leave myself enough time so basmati it was.

Prawn Gumbo
serves 2

170g raw prawns
1 tbsp groundnut oil
1 tbsp flour
1 onion, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
½ green pepper, finely diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
250ml fish stock
small tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp canned diced green chillies
¼ tsp dried thyme
¼ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp smoked paprika
⅛ tsp cayenne
juice of 
½ lemon
½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp chopped parsley
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Tabasco sauce (to taste)

In a large heavy bottomed saucepan, heat the oil over a medium-low heat.

Sprinkle flour over the oil and stir well until it's completely blended. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the flour-oil mixture browns and is dark caramel-coloured. Be very careful not to let it burn (be warned, this process isn't particularly quick so don't lose concentration through boredom and let it catch!).

Turn the heat down to low and stir in the onions, celery, green pepper, green chillies and garlic and sprinkle over ⅛ tsp salt and a few turns of freshly-ground pepper. Stir well then cover the pan and let the vegetables cook in the roux for 10-15 minutes until softened.

To the pan add the tomatoes, thyme, oregano, paprika, cayenne, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce.

Stir well then add the stock and let simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes.

Stir in the prawns and let simmer in the soup until they are just firm and cooked through, about 3-5 minutes, depending on size. Taste and adjust seasoning to taste.

Stir in the chopped parsley, a couple of drops of Tabasco and serve in wide bowls over rice.

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Tuesday, 24 May 2016

'Dirty' Risotto

Dirty rice is a traditional Cajun dish where the white rice gets a "dirty" colour from being cooked with small pieces of chicken liver or giblets, (bell) pepper, celery, onion (the so-called Cajun Holy Trinity of ingredients and spices. Most common in the Cajun regions of southern Louisiana and Mississippi it can apparently also be found in other areas of the American South.

I’ve never had Dirty Rice so I don’t know if this recipe, adapted from one by Giada De Laurentiis (an Italian American TV chef whose culinary work is as oft criticised as lauded - as is often the case with ‘celebrity’ chefs it would seem) tastes like it. It appealed to me though: risotto (natch) with lots of meaty and savoury elements. Heart, oozy, and basically very tasty.

‘Dirty’ Risotto
serves 3

750ml chicken stock
15g butter
190g Italian sausage, removed from skin & crumbled
85g pancetta cubes
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
½ orange bell pepper, diced
1-2 tbsps jalapenos (from a tin), de-seeded & finely chopped
75g mushrooms, roughly chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
150g Arborio rice
90ml dry vermouth
25g Parmesan cheese + extra to serve
1-2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

In a small pan, heat chicken stock to a simmer and turn right down to keep warm.

Meanwhile melt the butter in a large saucepan and when it starts to foam brown the sausage meat and pancetta over a medium-high heat, breaking the sausage down so it resembles coarse mince.

When nicely browned and starting to caramelise add the vegetables, turn the heat down and cook over a low heat until the veg has softened.

Turn the heat back up to medium high, stir in the rice and keep stirring for a minute to allow the rice to lightly toast.

Turn the heat up to high and pour in the vermouth: it will bubble up angrily - keep stirring until it has almost absorbed. Turn the heat back down again to medium-low.

Add a ladleful of stock to the rice and stir occasionally until it has absorbed. Repeat, a ladleful at a time, ensuring each is almost absorbed before adding the next.

Once the rice is tender and the texture of the risotto is quite gloopy, turn off heat and stir in the cheese. Cover and leave off the heat for 5 minutes then stir in the parsley.

Serve with a rocket & cherry tomato salad on the side and a little parmesan and parsley scattered over.

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Saturday, 21 May 2016

Slow Cooker Chicken & Black Bean Soup

Back when we got the slow cooker we’d decided to have a slow cooker meal at least once a week if we could and so I had been pinning quite a few slow cooker (or crockpot) recipes onto my Pinterest boards.

This is adapted from one of those, originally seen on skinnytaste.com - I hadn’t used the slow cooker enough myself yet to have the confidence to devise recipes myself. I needed to get used to it a bit more first. This though seemed like an excellent recipe to try out cooking chicken with. I love a hearty soup anyway and with a bit of zing and spice it is right up my alley.

This makes quite a lot of soup so we froze some of it. It is also healthy and good for you plus you can add more veg, such as sweetcorn, to bulk it out a little if you like. We served this with some sliced avocado and a little low fat soured cream but you could also add some broken up tortilla chips if you like for a bit of crunch.

Crock Pot Chicken and Black Bean Soup
serves about 6

2 tins black beans, rinsed and drained
900ml chicken stock
2 tins / cartons chopped tomatoes
1 red pepper, finely chopped
85g tinned diced jalapenos
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried ancho chili
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp onion powder, finely chopped
¼ tsp Mexican oregano
1 tsp chipotle en adobo paste
2 skinless chicken breasts
½ cup chopped coriander, divided
2 spring onions, finely chopped
cut limes, for serving
½ medium Haas avocado, sliced
sour cream, for serving (optional)

Take one can of beans and place in a blender along with 500ml of the chicken stock; blend then add to the slow cooker.

Add the remainder of the beans and chicken stock into the slow cooker along with tomatoes, red pepper, diced jalapenos, cumin, ancho chilli, garlic, onion powder, oregano, chipotle, chicken breast, and half of the coriander.

Cook in the slow cooker on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8.

At the end of the time remove the chicken breasts and shred with 2 forks. Place the shredded chicken back into the slow cooker.

Add most of the chopped spring onion, most of the remaining coriander and adjust the salt and cumin (and maybe add a pinch of cayenne if you want it a little spicier), to taste.

Serve hot sprinkled with the remaining coriander and spring onion plus lime wedges, avocados, and sour cream if you like.

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