Roast Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

Almost everything I cook (which is savoury) starts with the same two ingredients: onion and garlic. Garlic is everywhere. Its pungent smell and flavour make it a popular seasoning for food as comparatively little is needed to impact the overall flavour. What I find a shame, however, is how rare it is for garlic to get the opportunity to act as the main flavour of a dish. When I was an undergraduate, my housemate introduced me to a dish called garlic pasta. Now, I have always added a small amount of garlic to my pasta dishes but the idea of frying a large quantity of garlic in oil and using that as the pasta sauce (along with some cherry tomatoes/onion) was a bit foreign to me. This is an ultimate comfort food – right up there with tomato soup. That dish, along with Yotam Ottolenghi’s caramelised garlic tart and the recipe I am giving today, brings the total of garlic-centric dishes I know up to three so if you have any ideas, I would love to hear them!

Garlic is an allium – that is to say that it is in the same genus (family) as the onion, the leek, shallots and chives. It is used more as a flavouring than the base for a dish unlike the other members of its family (excluding chives as they are a herb). Smoked bulbs of garlic are an often used ingredient and black garlic has been increasing in popularity for a long time. Black garlic is created by heating normal bulbs to between 60 and 77°C for two to three months. This temperature allows our old friend the Malliard reacton to occur throughout the entirety of the bulb, not just on the surface. For those of you have not come across the Malliard reaction before, this is what causes food to brown when you cook it. It is a non-enzymatic reaction between reducing sugars and amino acids on the surface of the food. The conditions in which black garlic is created allow for this reaction to be more than surface deep.

As well as its culinary uses garlic has been used as a medicine for millennia (Sanskrit records date its use back 5000 years. In ancient Egypt, garlic was used as a form of currency; in Auryvedic medicine garlic is used as an aphrodisiac; in the bible, the Jews wandering in the desert complained to Moses about the foods they missed since leaving Egypt, one of which included garlic; and of course, one cannot talk about the appearances of garlic throughout history and folklore without mentioning one of the most famous of them all: the vampire. Garlic was believed to ward off demons, werewolves and vampires – a wreath of garlic flowers or even bulbs around the neck along with the rubbing of cut cloves of garlic around windows, doors and chimneys was meant to protect the inhabitants of the house form harm.

If there are medical benefits to eating copious quantities of garlic, then this recipe is the one for you. Much as I try to give a vegetarian alternative to my recipes, I am not sure how if I could do anything to make this less meaty so unfortunately, I’ll have to give that a miss this week. If you are a fan of chicken, I hope you like the recipe and if you aren’t, why not try it with a different roast meat? Enjoy, and I’ll see you next week with a dish that’s a little bit more vegetarian friendly.

Roast Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes per kilogram + 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 large chicken

2 heads of garlic

100ml olive oil

1 tsp salt

2 large onions

125ml white wine/vermouth

3 bay leaves (optional)

½ lemon (optional)

Separate and peel the cloves from one head of garlic.

Blend the garlic cloves with the olive oil and salt until smooth.

Optional: joint the chicken – removing the bottom, scaly parts of the legs from the base of the drumsticks and remove the wings. We use these for making stock at home but you can leave them on if you wish.

Cut out the oil glands at the base of the Parson’s nose and discard them.

Place the chicken into a roasting dish.

If possible – this will often require an extra pair of hands as one pair isn’t quite enough – try and pour half of the garlic oil underneath the skin. This will help the flavour infuse into the meat of the chicken.

Rub the rest of the garlic oil all over the outside of the chicken pouring any excess inside the body cavity.

Stuff half a lemon into the body cavity.

Cut the onions into eigths and spread the piece out around the chicken.

Pour over the wine/vermouth and add the bay leaves.

Separate the cloves of garlic from the second bulb but do not peel them! Just sprinkle them liberally around the chicken. The garlic will go soft and sweeten up in the oven.

Cover and leave until you wish to put the chicken in the oven.

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To cook the chicken, preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200°C).

Cook the chicken for 20 minutes plus 45 minutes per kilogram (eg, a 1.5kg chicken would cook for just a touch under an hour and a half).

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For ultra-crispy skin, uncover the chicken for the last ten minutes of baking but be careful not to burn it.

This roast chicken is absolutely delicious and like any roast meat, goes perfectly well with super crispy roast potatoes – I like to cook mine for at least 75 minutes to get them so hard you need a small industrial jackhammer to cut them.

If you want to try roasting a chicken but don’t want to do something that prevents you from human interaction after eating the way this quantity of garlic will, leave out the garlic and oil and just replace the wine with cooking sherry for a more basic but still delicious roast dinner.

If you like chicken, you should most definitely check out Jo Bellerina’s sticky mango chicken, it is stunning!

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe for a swiss roll with a twist…

H

Mushroom Carbonara

I feel that for my own health and safety, in what is quite possibly a vain attempt not to be taken out by the carbonara mafia, I should start this post by saying that THIS IS NOT A TRADITIONAL CARBONARA. I will explain how to make the classic version of this dish but, for those of you who have not come across it before, this is very much a vegetarian alternative. Also, I would like to make it clear now that I do eat meat and this post is in no way passing judgement on anyone for their food choices: meat, fish, vegetarian, vegan or otherwise.

The main aim of this recipe is to show that you do not need to use a meat substitute to make a delicious vegetarian version of a classically meaty dish. A lot of the time vegetarian food can come off as a poor imitation of meat-based foods but if you just do away with the pretence and accept that dish is going to be different from the meaty version then a lot of problems can be solved. By all means take inspiration from a meat-based dish as a lot of cuisines have iconic meat and fish dishes woven into their culture and it would be a shame to completely ignore these if you choose to go vegetarian (or vegan). However instead of trying to find something like chicken flavoured Quorn steaks or beef style soya mince to replace the meat, why not use something that can be proud of what it is instead of pretending to be something that it isn’t?

The most common complaints that I have heard from meat eaters about vegetarian food is that it lacks flavour or body – body as in substance, not as in the dead body of an animal. Items of food such as tofu are particularly good at getting around this problem by having texture (if it is pressed and cooked well) and can also absorb lots of flavour from whatever they sauce they are in. For this recipe, the mushroom is the star. The mushrooms are seared until all of the liquid has come out and they start to brown. This browning occurs as a result of the Maillard reaction when sugars and amino acids in the mushrooms react with each other. The result is a wonderful depth of flavour which makes the dish far tastier. Mushrooms have a very distinct texture (one which not everyone likes) but it is a texture none the less. By searing them, the mushrooms do not end up boiling in their own juices which would lead to them going soggy so they give a lot of body to the dish.

At the start I said that I would explain why this is not a traditional carbonara – and I’m not just talking about the mushrooms. A true carbonara sauce does not have onion in it but more shocking is the fact that there is no garlic. For anyone who knows me or has followed this blog for some time, you may have noticed that almost every savoury recipe I have starts with garlic – in fact, I will be providing you in a few weeks with a recipe which has two whole bulbs of garlic in it.

Back to classic carbonara, the only things in the sauce are olive oil, guanciale (pork cheek), egg, pecorino cheese and pepper (and maybe some salt – that depends on you). To make this, you first cut the pork into small cubes and fry it in the olive oil until all the fat has rendered out. You then whisk together the egg, cheese, salt and pepper. The still hot, cooked pasta is added into the pan with the pork followed by the egg mixture and everything is then stirred until the egg has thickened from the latent heat in the pasta and the pan. You can then serve the dish and garnish with more cheese, pepper and sometimes fresh herbs.

The recipe below is a great way to enjoy carbonara without the meat – great for vegetarians or people who don’t eat pork. There is an alternative to the classic carbonara, created by Roman Jews where the pork is replaced with carne secca, a cured, salted beef. Alternatively, you could just have the pasta with the egg and cheese sauce and forgo any sort of meat or veg if you do not want to meddle with the tradition too much.

I hope you enjoy the recipe as much as I did when I was making it. I discovered that a little goats cheese instead of some of the parmesan works wonderfully well with the mushrooms so why not give that a go too if you like this?

 

Mushroom Carbonara

Serves 2

Time: 20 minutes

Cost per portion: around £1.25

 

150-200g pasta

200g mushrooms

3 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion

4 cloves garlic

1 whole egg

2 egg yolks

80g pecorino romano or parmesan cheese (I prefer parmesan myself)

1½ tsp salt

5-10 grinds of black pepper

1 tbsp chopped parsley (optional)

 

Place a pan of water onto the stove to heat. Add 1tsp salt.

Destalk the mushrooms before chopping them into quarters. Chop the stalks in half lengthwise

Heat a large empty pan for about a minute.

Add the oil to the pan. It should begin to shimmer immediately and coat the base of the pan.

Tip in the mushrooms and gently toss to coat with the oil.

Leave the mushrooms for around five minutes until they begin to brown. They will release liquid in this time which will boil off immediately. At this point, you should begin to cook the pasta in the water you heated earlier.

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Gently stir the mushrooms to turn them over so they begin to brown all around.

 

While the mushrooms are cooking, finely dice the onion and slice the garlic thinly.

In a bowl, whisk the eggs and yolks before grating in the cheese and whisking again.

Add ½ tsp salt and the pepper to the egg mix and whisk again.

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Once the mushrooms have browned, add the garlic and onion.

Stir while they are cooking to avoid the garlic burning. You don’t really want to brown, just cook them through.

Drain the pasta just before it is fully cooked as it will finish cooking with the mushrooms. Make sure to reserve a cup of water from the pasta before you drain it.

Add a quarter of this reserved water to the mushrooms. The water will boil immediately and deglaze the pan, lifting up all of the mushroom flavour that is stuck to it.

Tip the pasta into the pan with the mushrooms and continue to cook until all of the water is gone. Turn off the heat and leave for two minutes to cool a little.

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Whisk one third of the remaining water (60ml) into the egg mix. This will temper the eggs so they do not scramble when they hit the hot pasta.

Tip the egg mix into the pasta and stir continuously for a few minutes until the liquid has thickened into a creamy sauce as the egg cooks. Make sure to stir across the whole base of the pan to ensure the egg doesn’t cook unevenly. If the sauce gets too thick, add a little bit of the reserved pasta water.

Stir in the parsley and serve.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you are a fan of mushrooms and pasta, why not check out my mushroom pasta bake – it is one of the first things I posted on this blog; if you are vegetarian just ignore the chicken in it as the dinner works perfectly well without it. If you are looking for something a little bit more on the sweet side, why not make yourself some miniature almond cakes? They are divine.

 

Have a good one and I will be back next weeks with a deliciously flaky baked dish.

H

Fishcakes

When I was younger, and to an extent still today, I would always choose fishcakes over battered fish. My main issue with deep fried fish was that the skin was incredibly slimy – which is gross. Why would I choose to have slimy fish when I could have delicious fishcakes? The main problem with commercial fish cakes is that they are basically all potato. It’s cheap to add to the mix and when it’s combined with flavour enhancers it is very difficult to know how much actual fish there is in the cake. When you make them for yourself, you know – in this case the fishcakes are about 30% fish and 70% potato, egg, onion and bread.

The history of fishcakes dates back 4000 years. A Chinese folk tale tells of a fisherman who fed his homemade fishcakes to Emperor Shun’s wives which cheered them up and returned their waning appetites to normal. According to the story, Shun was so pleased by this that he requested the fisherman teach others how to make the fishcakes and thus the fishcake became a popular dish in China. In both China and Japan surimi (a paste made from fish or meat) was used to make fishcakes and fish balls. It was often made using the fish that couldn’t be sold either whole or as fillets and so would have gone to waste otherwise.

Fishcakes are an excellent way of using up left over mashed potato. You might even go as far as to make a double portion of mash for your shepherd’s pie and use the excess the next day for a fishcake dinner. If you choose to use tinned fish (I would avoid tuna but tinned salmon is absolutely fine) this dish becomes ultra-fast to make. Just drain the fish, mix it into the potato with onion, seasoning and an egg and you are good to go. There is no rule saying you have to spend time coating the fishcakes in breadcrumbs – it’s mainly convention – but it is the best way to get a crunchy exterior.

The recipe below is a very basic one. Like with all food, there are hundreds of recipes giving tips and tricks for how to make the same dish but sometimes it is nice to have a good base case from which you can work upwards. As you will notice, I do not season the mashed potato. Some people will add milk and butter – if you are using left over mash from a previous meal, this is likely to be in there – and that is fine. The fishcakes will be a little bit softer but they will still work just as well. I used cod for these but any white fish will do – including smoked fish (though probably not kippers). You could even use salmon if you fancy being decadent. Additional ingredients like chives and leeks are common in fishcakes too and I have even seen Asian spiced ones which included ginger, chilli, turmeric and coriander. These really are perfect to use for experimenting with flavours.

For this recipe, I have assumed that you are starting with nothing prepared or precooked however if you are starting with premade mash or using tinned fish, the prep time will be drastically decreased. Enjoy the recipe and I hope you will discover just how simple these can be.

 

 

Fishcakes

Serves: 5

Time: 2 hours

Cost per portion: around £1.30

 

300g fish (I would use cod or haddock, perhaps even salmon if I was feeling decadent)

600g potato

1 medium onion/ 6 spring onions

2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1 egg

1 clove garlic (minced)

¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Salt and pepper

 

To coat:

Flour

1 egg

Panko breadcrumbs/medium matzah meal

Oil for frying

 

 

Cut the potatoes into small pieces and place in a pan of cold water on the stove. Add about a teaspoon of salt to the pan

Heat until the water starts to boil and let simmer for ten minutes until the potato is cooked – you should be able to insert a skewer into the pieces with very little resistance.

Drain the potato into a colander and leave to cool for five minutes. Do not remove the potato from the colander as more water will leave the potatoes as steam which will help prevent the fishcakes being soggy.

Mash the potatoes. If you have a Mouli or a potato ricer, this will give you the best result but a hand masher will work too.55437930_549514922123949_8495275106229026816_n

Leave the potatoes to cool. I like to do this in a large bowl and spread the mash up the sides as this increases the surface area so the mash will cool much faster.

 

While the potatoes are cooking, place the fish into a frying pan and fill with water until it just covers the fish You could also add herbs (bay leaves for example) to the water to give a bit of extra flavour.

Cover the frying pan and bring the water to a simmer. Leave for about five minutes until the fish is cooked (there should be no translucent areas).

Remove the fish from the water and leave to cool for twenty minutes or so.

Finely chop the onions and place them in a large bowl.

Add the cooled mash, nutmeg, garlic, salt, at least five grinds of pepper and the egg.

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Use your hands or a fork to gently flake the cooked fish. It should come off the skin when you do this. If you find any small bones, just remove them now.

Add the fish to the other ingredients and gently mix together. I prefer to do this by hand – it’s a little bit messy but it prevents the fish getting pulverised so there will still be small flakes in the finished product.

 

Pour around 50g plain flour into a wide bowl for coating the fishcakes.

Divide the batter into ten portions and shape them (by hand) into patties.

After shaping each one, place it in the flour and make sure it is evenly coated before placing it onto a board.

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Once all ten have been shaped and floured, place them in the fridge for 20 minutes to firm up.

 

In a bowl, crack and beat an egg with a fork until it is no longer gelatinous. In a separate, wide bowl, measure out about 100g breadcrumbs/matzah meal. You can add seasonings to this coating too but be careful, spices are likely to burn in the oil if you add them here so it is safest to stick to a little salt and pepper.

Keeping one hand wet and one hand dry, take the fishcakes one at a time and lightly coat in the egg and then the breadcrumbs.

Place them back on the board after each coating. If any little bits of fishcake fall off, keep these for testing that the oil is the right temperature.

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Add vegetable oil to a frying pan until it around 1cm deep.

Heat this until a small piece of fishcake dropped in starts to bubble.

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Fry the fishcakes a few at a time until the base is golden, flip them and repeat with the other side. Keep flipping until the fishcakes are a deep brown colour (but not burnt).

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Serve hot.

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The fishcakes can be frozen both pre and post cooking, if you want to do it before you cook them, shape and flour the fishcakes before placing them in the freezer on the board. After they have gone solid, you can place them all into a bag together but if you do that too early, they fishcakes will deform and stick together.

 

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you love fish, why not check out my salmon kedgeree or ever my pan-fried salmon with crispy skin, it is delicious.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe for miniature cakes, perfect for afternoon tea.

Salmon en Croute

For some reason, wrapping food in puff pastry has become a sign of classy, luxurious, up-market dining. Whilst anything wrapped in puff pastry is clearly luxurious and decadent, I would not go as far as saying it makes a dish classy. There is a bizarre mystique surrounding this pastry, most likely because it is such a nightmare to make, but in a society where we can walk into almost any supermarket and buy it premade (who actually has time to make puff pastry from scratch…) the grand dinners you see at restaurants can easily be recreated at home.

 

The term “en croute” means in pastry and as such, can really be applied to any food that is cooked in a pastry shell. Boeuf en croute – otherwise known as Beef Wellington – another classic ‘posh’ dish that is incredibly simple to make. Originally, hot water crust or shortcrust pastry would have been used to wrap up meats for cooking as it helps keep in moisture and flavour. The pastry could be burnt but then discarded after cooking leaving a delicious meal. This style of cooking has been around for as long as pastry has, with recipes for meat and fish wrapped in pastry dating back to the time of the Tudors.

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Beef Wellington is something everyone should try!

 

Different meats and fish lend themselves well to different pastries as you can only cook the food in the oven for as long as it takes the pastry to go golden brown. Fillet steak and salmon lend themselves well to puff pastry as they are cooked in a short time – you will still need to rest any meat that gets cooked this way to ensure that it isn’t dry. Larger pieces of meat have to be seared for longer in a pan to precook them as, if it takes 40 minutes in the oven to cook the meat well, you will end up with your meal en carbone.

 

Most salmon en croute recipes involve layers of salmon, some sort of creamy dairy element and spinach. The recipe below adheres to this idea but includes an extra element: a basic pesto style sauce folded into the cream cheese. This herby flavour gives the dish lightness which is necessary for something surrounded by a large quantity of pastry. As always, you want to avoid a soggy bottom on your pastry. To try and prevent this, the spinach is wrung out to ensure that it contains as little moisture as possible. The cream cheese is thick and spreadable and while it can be exchanged for sour cream or crème fraiche, these have a far higher moisture content so could soak through the pastry. If you have to use either of these, I would advise hanging them in a cheese cloth for an hour before cooking to try and strain out some of the liquid.

 

This recipe is delicious served with leeks or some other vegetable and a small amount of potato. You don’t want to overload the plate with carbs but when the pastry is rolled out thin enough to cover four fillets, there isn’t much per person.

 

Salmon en Croute

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Serves 4

Price per serving: about £2.80

 

4 fillets of salmon

1 packet (500g) puff pastry

8g fresh basil

Olive oil

2 cloves garlic

180g cream cheese

450g fresh spinach

1 medium onion

Oil

1 beaten egg

 

 

Thinly slice the onions and sauté in a pan with a little oil until the onion turn soft (about 5 mins).

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Add the spinach and gently stir until wilted. You may have to do this in a few batches.

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before wilting…
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….and after

Once the spinach is just wilted, place it into a sieve and press down to squeeze out all the liquid in order to prevent the pastry going soggy. Set aside to cool.

 

Skin the salmon. To do this, place the fish skin side down on a cutting board. Use a very sharp knife to cut inwards from a corner between the skin and the flesh about a centimetre. Pin the flap of skin to the board with your non-dominant hand. Slide the knife along the skin at a 45° angle to separate the skin from the fish. (Online videos can really help with this if you are still struggling).

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Turn the oven to gas mark 7 (210°C) to preheat.

 

Place the garlic and basil into a blender and blend until a rough paste is formed. Add the olive oil and blend until it forms a paste. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Fold the pesto into the cream cheese.

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The salmon fillets will be placed next to each other to create one large block of fish – one giant salmon en croute – so roll out the puff pastry to three times the combined length of the salmon and about two inches above and below it.

 

Spread a large spoonful of spinach mix in the centre of the pastry and add the salmon fillets with the original skin side up.

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Smear the cream cheese mixture over the salmon and top with a little more of the spinach.

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Brush the outer wings of pastry with the beaten egg and fold them tightly into the centre.

 

Seal the edges and fold them up.

 

Flip the parcel into a lined baking tray so you have a smooth surface on the top.

 

Bake for 10 minutes and then turn the oven down to gas mark 6 (200°C) and continue to cook for another 30 minutes.

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excess pastry can be used to decorate the parcel

Remove the salmon from the oven and cover with foil. Leave to rest for five to ten minutes before serving.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you love dishes like this, be sure to check out my Beef Wellington recipe or, if you are looking for something a little bit on the sweeter side, why not treat yourself to a delicious tart, you could try chocolate (with or without salted caramel) or even treat yourself to a delicious apple pie.

 

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a Christmassy biscuit recipe.

 

H

 

Curry Laksa

If you have been following this blog for some time, you will have picked up on the fact that I love curry. One thing that I have always wanted to do is create my own curry paste but, unfortunately, I have never had the right equipment. Now things have now changed. This recipe doesn’t require any expensive spice grinders that are only going to be used occasionally, it uses a standard food processor, which is a much more worthwhile investment.

Handmade curry paste is very different from the most available ones you can buy. For starters, it is nowhere near as concentrated. This may seem a bit odd but once you make it, you will realise quite how much water is in the paste which is removed before you purchase it. A curry for two people normally has about 60g of curry paste in it. This recipe feeds four but uses over a cup (250ml) of paste. This excess water must be driven off at the start of the cooking process if you want to extract the best flavours from the spices.

The recipe below is specifically for curry laksa. This differs from asam laksa as it lacks tamarind pulp and includes coconut milk. These differences result in a far creamier, much less sour curry that I am a huge fan of. Laksa is a classic example of fusion cuisine done well. It is believed to have been cooked for Chinese merchants by the women they married as they travelled around the Malay Archipelago (Malaysia, Java and Indonesia). The dish combined the local ingredients, specifically coconut and tamarind, with the noodle dishes that the Chinese merchants bought with them on their travels and from these intermarriages was born the Peranakan culture.

A lot of classic laksa recipes contain both dried and brown shrimp in the curry paste and also use prawns instead of chicken. As someone who doesn’t eat seafood this was rather unfortunate for me, but luckily chicken laksa is relatively popular and isn’t too much of a change from the original sentiment behind the dish. The depth of flavour from the spice combination is phenomenal and I hope you get as much pleasure from this dish as I did.

 

 

 

Curry Laksa with Chicken

Time: 30 minutes

Serves: 3/4

Cost per serving: around £2

 

 

For the paste:

3-6 red chilis

5 garlic cloves

2 stalks lemon grass

3cm ginger

2 tbsp ground coriander

1 tsp turmeric

1tbsp brown sugar

2 tsp cashew nut butter (2 tbsp nuts or swap for peanut butter)

1 tbsp fish sauce

Juice of one lime

1 tsp oil

 

Other Ingredients:

1 tbsp oil

2 chicken breasts

400ml low fat coconut milk (this has a slightly milder flavour than the full fat variety)

600ml chicken stock

4 portions noodles

Beansprouts or some other thin, crunchy vegetables (julienne carrots or mangetout both work too)

3 tsp chilli paste (optional)

6 tofu puffs or slices of fried tofu (optional)

Corriander and sliced spring onion to garnish

 

 

Place the ingredients for the paste into a food processor and blend until almost smooth. Laksa should have a slightly gritty texture so the paste should still have a few fibres left in it.

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Heat the oil in a pan and add the laksa paste. Fry this until it starts to dry out.

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Add a quarter of the coconut milk and cook again until the paste starts to dry and the milk begins to crack. (For more information about cracking the milk, see my post on Thai curries).

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Pour in the rest of the coconut milk along with the stock. Stir this together and heat until it begins to boil.

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Once the soup begins to boil, reduce the heat until it is simmering and then add the chicken to poach in the soup for around 15 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking and if you are using tofu puffs, slice them in half along the diagonal and add them to the soup.

Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions. Drain them and rinse with cold water until the noodles are completely cool to stop them from cooking any more.

Once the chicken is ready, blanch the beansprouts and begin to assemble the dish.

Place a portion of noodles in the centre of each bowl and place a couple of pieces of tofu on top.

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Slice the chicken breasts and divvy them up between the bowls laying the chicken down on one side of the noodles

Place the bean sprouts or other vegetables in the centre of the bowl, on the noodles, to give the dish height.

Ladle the soup around the outside of noodles so as not to disturb the vegetables.

Finally, garnish with a small spoon of chilli paste if you like your laksa spicy.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe! The soup is full of flavour and can absolutely be enjoyed without any of the other toppings if you want a light lunch or even just a small starter at the beginning of your meal. The wonderful thing about making your own curry paste is that you can adjust the ingredients to your preferences so the laksa will be perfect every time.

If you like curries, you should definitely check out my recipes for Thai coconut curry and also for my lighter, non-coconut curry too. If, on the other hand, you are looking for something a little sweeter, why not try treating yourself to a beautiful ombre cake? You can even turn it into a unicorn!

Have a good one and I will see you next week with a cake idea that you can prepare for Halloween.

H

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meatballs

I felt that it would be quite poetic to start the second year of this blog’s life with a similar recipe to the start of the first year. The similarity between the ingredients in a bolognaise sauce and meatballs in tomato sauce is remarkable with the main difference in the recipes I use being the addition of carrots to my bolognaise sauce.

There are recipes for meatballs dating back to around 200BC and, realistically, the modern-day recipes haven’t changed tht much since then. There are lots of different variations with different meats, seasonings and bulking agents such as breadcrumbs, but the basic premise is the same. Meat is mixed with flavourings and then compressed into a small ball and cooked.

As you can imagine, there are many ways of cooking meatballs, the most common being frying and baking. Frying the meatballs allows the Maillard reaction to occur all over the surface of the meatball. This is the reaction which causes caramelisation to happen giving a little crunch to the outside of the meatball and helping develop the flavours. The Maillard reaction takes place when amino acids and sugar react on the surface of food between 140 and 165°C. It’s different to standard caramelisation because it does not just depend on the sugars in the food caramelising by themselves and it is also completely non-enzymatic.

Baking in the oven also allows the Maillard reaction to take place but this mostly occurs along the contact point between the meatballs and the baking tin (turning half way though increases the area over which this reaction occurs improving the overall flavour).The hot air in the oven also hardens the outside of the meatballs and it dries them out helping them hold together better when mixed into the tomato sauce.

Another method of cooking meatballs is steaming, however unlike frying and baking this gives a very different result as the steam doesn’t cause the meatballs to brown at all. Steaming also allows the fat in the meat to drip off during cooking which I have found removes a little of the flavour. Braising is the final relatively common method of cooking. It is a combination technique which starts by frying the outside of the meatballs to get a crispy, caramelised exterior. Once the outside is cooked, a sauce is poured over the top of the meatballs, they are covered and then left to cook in the sauce. This technique allows the flavours to meld between the meat and the sauce far better than placing the fully cooked meatballs into the sauce when you serve them.

I prefer to eat meatballs with pasta rather than in sandwiches or by themselves. Meatball pasta bake is a particular favourite of mine with a good crispy layer of cheese on the top (it’s the Malliard reaction rearing its beautiful head again) but sometimes I’m just not patient enough to wait for a pasta bake so spaghetti and meatballs it is!

 

 

Meatballs

Makes around 50 meatballs ~ 8 portions

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Cost per portion: around 60p

 

500g beef mince

1 medium onion

1 egg

¼ cup flour

¼ cup breadcrumbs (optional)

4 large cloves of garlic

2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (optional)

2 tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Place the onion, garlic and parsley into a food processor and pulse until they are chopped very finely – drain off any excess liquid produced. If you don’t have a food processor, just chop the onion and garlic as finely as you can.

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Break up the mince with your hands, add the onion, egg and oil and gently stir to combine.

Sprinkle over the flour, salt and pepper along with the breadcrumbs (if you are using them) and gently stir in. The aim is to not turn the meatball mix into a pulp though if it does become mushy, it will still work.

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The mix can now be placed into the fridge for up to 24 hours.

 

When you want to cook the meatballs, turn the oven to 200°C (gas mark 6).

While the oven is heating, line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Use a tablespoon to measure out the mix and with damp hands, compress each tablespoon into a ball and roll it to make it smooth.

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Bake the meatballs for 30 minutes turning them after the first 20.

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Halfway through, you can see that the meatballs have started to harden on top.

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The meatballs can now be frozen, served in a sandwich, on pasta, pizza or even just eaten as is!

 

Basic Tomato Sauce

Serves: 3

Cost per portion: about 50p

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 15 -60 minutes

 

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion – finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic – finely chopped

1 tin chopped tomatoes

¼ cup tomato paste

½ cup water

Salt and pepper to taste

½ tbsp chopped parsley/basil – optional

 

Place the oil and onion into a heavy based pan and fry the onion until it is translucent.

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Add the garlic and fry for another two minutes.

Pour in the tomatoes, tomato paste and water and bring to the boil.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Let simmer for at least fifteen minutes. If you can, place a lid on the pan and let it simmer for an hour. If the sauce becomes too thick, add a couple of tablespoons of water. Alternatively, you can place the fried onion into an ovenproof dish along with the other ingredients. This can then be covered and cooked alongside the meatballs in the oven.

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If you prefer your sauce smooth, use a stick blender to puree the lumps. I like to puree it a little but not too much so the sauce still has a little bit of texture.

Stir in the chopped herbs and simmer for another five minutes before serving.

This sauce freezes magnificently and can be used on both pasta and pizza.

 

Serve the meatballs and sauce with pasta for a delicious, filling dinner.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you liked this, you should definitely check out my bolognaise recipe or if you are looking for something a little bit sweeter, why not make yourself an amazing chocolate and hazelnut tart?

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe for a classic piece of patisserie – the macaron.

H

 

 

Hot Water Crust Chicken Pie

Golden brown; solid; filled with a tasty meat interior; the hot water crust pie is a British classic. Traditionally stuffed with layers of minced meat surrounded by jelly, hot water crust pies are filling, delicious and, above all else, really simple to make.

Hot water crust is a fantastic gateway into baking pastry as you do not need to worry about overworking the dough. Unlike with shortcrust, where too much handling can lead to a rock-hard result, hot water crust pastry requires kneading to build up the gluten and strengthen the final pie. The hot water partially cooks the flour giving the dough a more rubbery and pliable texture.

The most well-known use for hot water crust pastry is the pork pie. These are normally hand raised – baked without a tin – and packed full of minced pork and seasonings. Hand raising the pies gives an irregular finish and the sides buckle during cooking. The resulting pie has bowed edges and a unique shape. The recipe I am using today is quite different. Whilst it also makes use of the hot water crust’s ability to hold heavy fillings, it is both baked in a tin and not primarily meat based. In fact, the filling is made up of lots of vegetables with a little chicken and instead of pouring gelatine enriched stock into the finished pie, the filling is bound together with a gravy thickened with cornflour.

I like to take slices of this pie for lunch as it is strong enough to not break whilst it is carried around and it also tastes great cold as well as hot. I hope you enjoy the pie and this introduction to hot water crust inspires you to try other meat pies.

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Hot Water Crust Chicken Pie

 

Cook time: 20 minutes for filling, 1 hour for baking

Prep time: 30 minutes

Serves 8

Cost per portion: around 90p (for the pure chicken pie)

 

For the pastry:

250g butter (or lard if you prefer)

275ml water

600g plain flour

120g strong white flour (bread flour)

1 tsp salt

Optional:

Black pepper

½ tsp cayenne pepper

¼ bunch parsley finely chopped

1 egg

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

 

For the filling:

2 chicken breasts – thinly sliced

500g onion – finely diced

4 large cloves garlic – minced

2 large carrots – cut into ½ cm thick semicircles

300ml chicken stock

¼ cup cornflour mixed with ¼ cup water

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tbsp oil

Optional:

½ tsp smoked paprika

½ tsp cayenne pepper

¼ bunch of parsley finely chopped

125g choritzo/150g bacon

 

To make the filling, heat the oil in a large pan and add the onion.

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Fry until the onion turns translucent and then add both the garlic and the carrots.

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Continue to fry for another five minutes and then push the vegetables to the edge of the pan to create a well in the middle.

Add the chicken into the well and fry, stirring regularly until the outside is white and the chicken is sealed.

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Pour in the stock and stir it through.

Once the stock is boiling, cook for two minutes and then quickly stir through the cornflour mixture. This will immediately turn very viscous as the cornflour cook but the mix will slacken as you mix in the stock in the pan.

Stir in the parsley, remove from the heat and leave the filling to cool.

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Once the filling has mostly cooled (it can still be a little warm), it is time to start the pastry.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200°C). You can keep the pie uncooked for a few hours if you wish to make it ahead of time.

If you wish to add bacon or choritzo to the pie, chop the choritzo into half centimetre thick half moons or slice the bacon to the desired size.

Place one tablespoon of unflavoured oil into a heavy based saucepan and add the meat.

Fry the meat until most of the fat has rendered out and the choritzo/bacon is starting to go crispy.

Remove the meat from the pan (reserving the fat) and stir it into the filling.

Measure how much fat you have got left.

To make the pastry, place the butter and water into a heavy based pan and heat until the water is boiling. If you have used choritzo or bacon, take the volume of fat in ml away from the weight of the butter in grams and use the fat instead of some of the butter. This will help flavour the pastry.

Stir together the dry ingredients in a large bowl, make a well in the centre and pour in the boiling water.

Using a spoon, mix the dough as much as you can and when it becomes too stiff to mix with a spoon, pour it out onto a surface and kneed the dough together. Don’t worry about overworking it, just be careful not to burn yourself if the pastry is still very hot. A good way to work the dough is to roll it out to about one centimetre thick, fold it into three and repeat this three or four times.

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It may look like there is not enough liquid for all of the flour but there will be!
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After a little kneading, the dough will all come together into one homogeneous ball.

Once the dough has come together, place it to one side and lightly grease a 10” springform tin.

Place a third of dough to one side and roll out the rest to about three quarters of a centimetre thickness. Use this to line the tin ensuring some of the dough is hanging over every edge. If you need to squish down some folds to get a flat outer edge, that is absolutely fine!

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No one is going to see the inside so it doesn’t have to be neat. Just make sure to leave enough pastry around the edges to seal the lid with.

Put the filling in the pie and spread it into all the corners. Be careful not to push it through the pastry walls.

Roll out the remaining dough and top the pie with it making sure to seal the edges to the pastry on the sides. Using fingers can give a lovely crimping effect.

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Beat the egg and brush a thin layer over the top of the pie. Use any off-cuts to decorate the top and egg wash those too before you bake the pie.

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Bake the pie for an hour or until the top is golden brown and the base is cooked through.

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Serve with fresh vegetables. You don’t really need potatoes as there should be a decent portion of pie crust in every slice.

 

This pie keeps really well and can be eaten both hot and cold. It also freezes very well which is perfect if you are cooking it for yourself as it makes a lot of portions.

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you fancy a slightly lighter dinner, try treating yourself to some smoked salmon risotto or if you are looking to try out a dessert instead, chequerboard biscuits are an impressive (but surprisingly easy) snack to try.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe for a fruity dessert.

H