And The Real Winner Is: Sesame and chilli beef stir fry with broccoli and green pepper

Apologies for the self congratulatory title of this post, but it’s concerning the meal I made to accompany watching the England v Algeria game on the World Cup (soccer for you Americans).

The game itself was a terrible washout of a goalless draw… pretty much guaranteed to make a part time, fair weather football fan like me even more part time, and downright tropical climate requiring.

Anyhow, more importantly here’s what I did:

First I acquired a really nice bit of sirloin, weighing just over 1lb

Nice sirloin steak

I then trimmed off some of the fat and sliced the meat thinly against the grain:

Trimmed and sliced

I assembled my marinade ingredients:

Marinade: Soy sauce, blackbean sauce, chinese cooking wine, sesame oil, garlic

I then marinaded the beef for 1 hour in 2 tblsp’s soy sauce, 1 tblsp blackbean sauce, 2 tblsp’s chinese cooking wine, 1 tblsp sesame oil, 2 crushed and chopped cloves of garlic.

Beef in marinade

While the beef was marinading I assembled the rest of the ingredients for the stirfry: 1 tsp sesame seeds, a small head of brocolli, 3 spring onions, 1 green pepper, 2 large red chillies, 4 green birdseye chillies, 3 more cloves of garlic.

Ingredients for the stirfry

Chopped everything up suitably:

Chopped

Then heat some groundnut oil in a wok, and throw in the sesame seeds. Fry for about 10-20 secs until they start to colour…

Fry the sesame seeds

Add the spring onions and green chillies and fry for about 1 min

Add the spring onions and green chillies

Add the beef. Fry for a few mins until nicely coloured.

Add the beef

When the beef has coloured nicely, add a good teaspoon of brown sugar.

Add a teaspoon of brown sugar

After stirring the sugar in, add the broccoli, green pepper and red chilli…

Add broccoli, green pepper and red chilli

Stir fry for 5-8 mins until broccoli is nicely al dente, or cooked to taste..

Stir fry until broccoli is nicely al dente

While I was doing this, I also made some fried rice according to a method given to me by friend and colleague Kevan Frost.
To make the rice, first boil your rice till done and drain. Set aside.
Then, when ready, heat some groundnut oil in another wok. When hot put one egg into the pan and scramble round with a wooden spoon. Then add the rice, fry for a few mins, add chopped spring onion, sweetcorn, and peas (which I had steamed previously). I also gave it a splash of soy sauce as well.
Finally, stir in a good tblsp of sesame oil.

Fried rice and stirfry

Serve out immediately with a glass of cold beer. Then watch a rubbish football match……

Serve out and watch bad football

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Barbecued chicken breasts in a rosemary and garlic marinade…

Barbecued chicken breasts in a rosemary and garlic marinade, served with potato salad and steamed veg tossed in sage butter

Finally a chance to get the barbecue out. It was pretty much nice and cloudless all day, but predictably enough, when I actually pulled the contraption out of the shed a few clouds started to hover over head. However, after a few minutes of staring menacingly into the sky, I managed to persuade them to disperse (I’m not claiming credit for this, it’s merely the way I choose to remember it….)

Luckily though since I’d done all the preparation beforehand, I was able to concentrate all my attention into the tasks of cloud dispersal, and more importantly, firelighting –  and I definitely needed to concentrate on the latter.
I’m no Ray Mears, in fact any prolonged period in the wild would probably see me losing a substantial amount of weight before getting a serviceable fire going, even armed with a box of matches and a pile of tinder.

Anyhow, the first thing I did this afternoon was pop down to the butchers and get a couple of chicken breasts.
I’d decided to butterfly them so as to facilitate more even cooking on the barby, and to marinade them in something non acidic, since anytime I’ve used lemon juice, wine or vinegar for a marinade, it’s tended to dry the meat out more than anything….

So I decided to use rosemary (which we have an abundance of in the garden) and garlic.

Here’s what I did:

The chicken breasts needed to be butterflied. Here they are before:

Unbutterflied chicken breasts

To butterfly them, insert a sharp knife into the thick end, and cut lengthways stopping about 1cm from the edge. Then open them like a book. I decided to also bash them with a tenderizing hammer to even them out more and assure they took on as much marinade as possible.
Here they are butterflied but not bashed yet (hammer at the ready though)…

Butterflied but before bashing

And after being given a jolly good bashing:

After being bashed

Next it was time to prepare the marinade. The plan was to use lots of fresh rosemary and juicy chunky garlic:

Rosemary and garlic

I removed the stalks from the rosemary, and skinned and bashed (with the side of the knife this time) a few cloves of garlic.
Then chopped it all up roughly:

Garlic and rosemary chopped up roughly

Next I placed all the garlic and rosemary into my pestle and mortar, ready to apply some elbow grease:

Put the rosemary into pestle and mortar and apply elbow grease

Apply some more elbow grease….

Apply more elbow grease

Then add a generous few glugs of olive oil into the marinade and apply yet more elbow grease…

Add a generous few glugs of olive oil into the marinade and apply yet more elbow grease...

When the rosemary and garlic has been well ground into the olive oil, apply the marinade generously over both sided of the chicken breasts:

Apply the marinade to the chicken breasts

I then wrapped the breasts up in clingfilm and kept refrigerated for about 4 hours (longer is better if you can):

Wrap chicken breasts in clingfilm and refrigerate

So the chicken breasts were marinading in the fridge.

I then prepared my veg for steaming (just chopped up courgette and broccoli) and made some sage butter (by mashing chopped fresh sage into softened butter) in which to toss the veg before serving, and also prepared some potato salad by just boiling up some Jersey Royals, letting them cool and then mixing them up with some mayonnaise (Hellman’s I’m afraid not home made) and some fresh chopped chives.

Finally it was time to tackle the firelighting task.

As usual, I did my accustomed faffing around with newspaper, matches and firelighters unsuccessfully for about 1 and 1/2 hours before I managed to remember the technique of lighting a successful fire (ie. starting with smaller charcoals, arranging them tactically and tending it constantly), rather than my initial effort of just leaving it to get going of its own accord while I sipped beer. (In my experience thats a romanticized image of a barbecue anyhow…..or maybe I just lack the necessary alpha male skills required… who knows? but I suspect the latter somehow..).

Anyway, finally the barbecue was ready and I unwrapped the chicken, sprinkled each side with salt and placed over the coals.

Place the chicken breasts over the coals (note the rosemary bush in the background)

I kept the chicken on the barby for about 10 mins, turning frequently. I even added a few twigs of rosemary onto the fire so as to add some woody herby smoke flavour…

Cook the chicken for about 10 mins, turning frequently (don't get to close with that iphone camera though..)

Finally, when the chicken was cooked, I squeezed a generous amount of  fresh lemon juice  over both sides, and served, with the potato salad and the veg which had been steamed and tossed briefly in the sage butter…

Serve out with potato salad, and veg tossed in sage butter...

Tom yum soup.

Tom yum soup

So i got home yesterday (same studio, same session as day before) at the earlier time of 4.30pm. For me this is a funny time to get home. It’s to early to start relaxing for the evening, but a bit to late to start doing any work of any kind. (besides, my brain was a bit fried again from piano keyboard/computer screen staring).
The weather also added to the confusion. It appeared warm, pleasant and sunny, but was actually to chilly to go and sit outside and enjoy the sunshine, and to windy to consider a barbeque.

I could, of course have watched the World Cup, but unfortunately I’d been listening to the radio in the car and heard the tournament’s most tedious game yet (Ivory Coast v Portugal) grind to a start, so didn’t really fancy that.

So I sat at the computer for a bit and perused some food blogs.
I’d more or less decided that our dinner for the evening was going to be Italian of some kind, when I took a glance at the fantastic Tamarind and Thyme blog, and was immediately craving Asian food of the noodle soup variety.

A quick visit to the supermarket ensued and this is what I threw together:

Ingredients:

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 10 raw king prawns (shell on but head removed)
  • 2 portions dried egg noodles
  • 2 pints of chicken stock
  • 4 chestnut mushrooms
  • a few florets of broccoli
  • 1 carrot
  • 4 birdseye chillis (or to taste)
  • 2 stalks lemon grass
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp tamarind paste
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves
  • Juice of 1 fresh lime
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tblsp Thai fish sauce
  • 3 tsps tom yum paste
  • 2 handfuls beansprouts
  • 2 spring onions and some fresh coriander to garnish

Method:

Slice the chicken thighs thinly and place into the pan of simmering stock.

Add the garlic, chillis, tamarind paste, tom yum paste, lemon grass (bruised), Kaffir lime leaves, sugar and fish sauce.

Leave to simmer for 10-15 mins. Meanwhile chop the mushrooms, carrots and broccoli to the desired size.

Add them to the soup. Simmer for another 5 mins.

Boil the noodles in water for 4-5 mins (or according to instructions) and drain.

Add the prawns and lime juice to the soup, and wait till the prawns turn pink.

Arrange the noodles in the soup bowls, with the beansprouts, then ladle on the hot soup.

Serve, garnished with chopped spring onion and fresh coriander.

Served out


A quick salmon and vegetable pullao after a day in the studio…

Salmon and vegetable pullao

Was feeling rather drained when I got in last night after a whole day in a recording studio staring at a keyboard and a computer screen.
It was one of those “shall I or shan’t I” moments when the call of the chinese takeaway round the corner seems to sound magnified…

However, having just got home from a gig in Moscow the day before, I’d missed the start of the World Cup (soccer for you Americans). I must admit, I’m one of those occasional football (soccer) spectators who only really gets interested when the World Cup is on, so when I switched on the radio and heard Paraguay score against the defending champions Italy, I decided to crack open a cold beer and cook whatever the fridge presented me with while listening to the match.

I’m glad I did… here’s what I did:

Ingredients:

  • 2 boneless, skinless salmon fillets
  • 1 small tin of anchovies
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1-inch piece of ginger
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tblsp natural yoghurt
  • 3-4 chestnut mushrooms
  • 1 carrot
  • 1/2 small tin of sweetcorn
  • 1/2 courgette (zucchini)
  • 1/2 dessert spoon cider vinegar
  • Basmati rice enough for 2 people
  • boiling water (twice in volume to the rice)
  • 1 knob of butter
  • spring onion to garnish

Method:

Chop the onions, ginger, garlic and chilli and have them ready.

Heat some oil in the pan and gently mash the anchovies in there.

When they’ve dissolved (but not fried up) add the onions, ginger, garlic and chilli and fry till soft.

Add the tumeric, mustard powder, garam masala and black pepper and fry for a couple of minutes.

Chop and add the carrot, mushrooms, and courgette, and throw in the sweetcorn… fry down for a few minutes to soften.

Stir in the yogurt.

Stir in the rice.

Add the vinegar.

Add the salmon, chopped into chunks.

Add the boiling water, cover and simmer for 10 mins until the rice is done and the water absorbed.

Remove from the heat, chop and add the knob of butter. Cover for a couple of mins to let the butter melt in.

Serve, garnished with the chopped spring onion.

Slow cooked lamb with aubergine (egg plant) and bay….

Slow cooked lamb with aubergine and bay

Well I was planning to do a barbeque today, but somewhat unsurprisingly  was thwarted by the weather. Mind you, I don’t know why I’m complaining, we already had our allocated 3 days of British summer last week. Who am I to argue with the climate? Although, with Wimbledon coming up I would have thought at least most of the rain would be saved up for that fortnight..? Who knows eh?

Anyhow, in an effort to combat disappointment, I decided to make a simple but effective slow cooked lamb dish, one of those where it’s practically impossible to go wrong, and which would leave me plenty of time to stare out of the window at the awful weather.

It’s inspired in part by a Kleftico recipe given to me by friend/colleague/Greek gastronome extraordinaire John Themis, the main point of which is simplicity to really let the flavour of lamb and bay come through.

In this case, however, I was remembering a flavour I used to taste in my mother’s homemade meat and potato pies as a boy…which turned out to be nothing more (or less) than worcester sauce.
The idea with the aubergine is to let it cook down slowly, eventually reducing, together with the onions and garlic, into a delicious thick clinging sauce, similar to a fricassee – and I’m a big fan of browning the meat at the end, open in the oven, until it is unashamedly blackened and caramelized…… I make no apologies here for the “burnt bits” (normally my privilege to scrape them off the sides of the pan with a teaspoon at the end…)
Also, instead of using salt or stock for the sauce, I decided to let the tried and tested marriage of lamb and anchovies (as on my last post) have another well deserved outing…

Here’s what you need:

What you'll need

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lb lamb shoulder on the bone, cut into chunks by the butcher
  • 2 medium onions
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 aubergine
  • 10-15 peppercorns
  • 5 bayleaves
  • 1 tin anchovies
  • 1 tablespoon worcester sauce
  • Boiling water
  • a sprinkling of course grained rock or sea salt

First switch the oven on medium high (I used 190C fan)
Slice the onions and the garlic.
Next, gently heat up some olive oil in the pot, and decant the tin of anchovies into it. Don’t let the oil get to hot or the anchovies will burn.
Start to mash the anchovies up with the back of a wooden spoon. This will get easier as they warm up.

Mash the anchovies

Continue this until the anchovies have disintegrated completely as shown below:

Anchovies dissolved

Next add the onions and garlic and soften for a few minutes:

Add the onions and garlic

Meanwhile, chop the aubergine into chunks:

Chop the aubergine

When the onions and garlic have softened a little, arrange the lamb in the pot, and insert the bay leaves in between the lamb pieces.
Crush the black peppercorns in a pestle and mortar and sprinkle over the lamb and bay:

Arrange the lamb

Then, add a tablespoon of Worcester sauce. (Remember to shake the bottle first):

Add the aubergine cubes and enough boiling water to just about cover the lamb.

Add aubergine and freshly boiled water

Cover tightly with foil and the lid, and place in the oven.
Leave on the high setting for 1 hour, then turn down to a medium low setting (150C fan).

Cover with foil and lid and place in the oven

After about two and a half hours I checked on the lamb. It had dried up quite  a lot, so I added a bit more boiling water. The aubergines had disintegrated as planned though, so I could mush them up into a creamy sauce.

Mash the aubergines

I replaced the lid for a further 1/2 hour, then removed it, sprinkled with the salt, and put it back in the oven to brown for 15 mins.

It was then ready to serve:

Browned and ready to serve

To accompany, I served it with steamed quinoa and wilted spring greens (oh, and a glass of red wine..)

Prudence Pullao (and dhal)

Prudence Pullao

Yesterday I arrived home from Denmark after playing a Boy George gig at the Esbjerg Rock Festival.
As usual, after a full days travel, which commenced with a (reasonably) early start, following on from the previous days travel – soundcheck – gig – and a couple (ahem) of drinks at the bar  after the show, I was pretty tired and in two minds about whether to cook, or just plump for the takeaway option.

However, a look inside the fridge quickly persuaded me that cooking would be the far more prudent path to take on this occasion, given the fact that I had so much stuff to use up, not least of which was a few pieces of lamb kebab left over from a barbeque a couple of days before. There was also 1/2 a bunch of asparagus and a single carrot. I quickly hatched a plan. Here’s what commenced:

Ingredients:

  • about 6 pieces of leftover barbequed lamb,
  • 1 small tin of anchovies,
  • 1 small onion,
  • 1/2 inch pce of ginger,
  • 3 cloves of garlic,
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric,
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala,
  • 1/2 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 carrot,
  • 4 sticks of asparagus,
  • 1 red chilli,
  • 1 tblsp natural yogurt,
  • 1/2 tblsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp dried mint
  • 1 cup basmati rice (soaked and drained)
  • 2 cups of boiling water

Method:

  • Heat some oil in a pan, and mash the anchovies into it until they’re dissolved.
  • Chop and fry the onion, ginger, and garlic.
  • Add the tumeric, garam masala, mustard powder and black pepper, and fry briefly.
  • Add the lamb (sliced thinly) and fry in the spices.
  • Add the chopped carrot, asparagus and chilli, and fry round some more
  • Add the rice and fry for a few moments.
  • Add the yohurt and tomato puree and stir through.
  • Add the boiling water and mint and bring to a simmer.
  • Cook until the rice is done, adding more water if necessary or drying off in a medium oven for 10 mins if needs be.

And that was that. You may notice I used anchovies instead of salt or stock. I tend to do this a lot with lamb, since it’s such a strong flavour, I think chicken stock confuses the issue. But anchovies go very well with it and don’t taste at all fishy in the mix….

Finally, I found a portion of dhal in the freezer, which I’d made some weeks earlier, so just thawed it out slowly in a warm pan.
To serve, I moulded the pullao into a small bowl, and simply upended it into the serving bowl – (hey presto !) and surrounded it with dhal as you can see above.

All in all, preferable to a takeaway, and very welcome after planes, trains and automobiles……