Chicken and Beetroot Pullao with Rainbow Chard and Radish

Pullao chicken and radish

A thrifty pulloa thrown together from leftover chicken and beetroot curry (see below), with added rainbow chard and radish. Used an extra shallot, 1/2 tsp each of garam masala and tumeric, couple of dessert spoons of yoghurt and a bit more chicken stock. Also some fresh coriander and mint and a squeeze of lime at the end.
Not really poss to write a proper recipe because of the thrift leftover nature of the dish..
The basic rule is always to have about 2:1 liquid to rice though.
Served with chilli poppadums.

You Can’t Fake The Hake: A Sri Lankan Style Fish Curry…

Sri Lankan style Hake curry

Hake has to be my favourite fish of all. I think this has something to do with having been on tour so much in Spain, and eating various Catalan Hake dishes outdoors with the heat of the sun offset by an enormous flower pot size jug of ice cold beer, while mopping up the savoury fish juices with the garlicky tomato bread that they serve in that part of the world.
The fish, to me, always has the perfect balance between subtlety of  flavour and firmness of texture, which places it just outside the “delicate white fish” category in my estimation.

So when I saw some nice, firm, fresh looking hake steaks in my local supermarket (a rare event, let me assure you) I snapped it up. As I’d already decided on cooking some sort of Sri Lankan curry that evening, the Hake fitted perfectly into my plans.

Here’s the lowdown:

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 4 Hake steaks
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3/4 inch pce of ginger
  • 1 stick of lemon grass
  • 2 greeen chillies
  • 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 10 curry leaves
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1 tblsp fish sauce
  • 1 tin of coconut milk
  • 1 small bunch fresh coriander
  • 3 -4 cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 fresh lemon

Method:

Assemble the onion, ginger, garlic, chilli, lemon grass, mustard seeds and spices. Chop as required:

Assemble the ingredients

Heat some oil in a wok. When hot, toss in the mustard seeds. They should spit and splutter.

Toss in the mustard seeds

Next add the curry leaves and lemon grass (which has been bashed and cut in 2 to help release the juices)

Add the curry leaves and lemon grass

Next, add the onions, ginger, garlic and green chillies and stir fry vigorously for a couple of minutes.

Add the onions, ginger, garlic and green chillies

When the onions etc are softened, throw in the powdered spices, fry for 30 secs approx, then add the fish sauce:

Add the spices and fish sauce

When the fish sauce has sizzled for a few seconds, add the coconut milk and bring to a gently simmer:

Add the coconut milk

At this stage it would be good to put the rice on:

Put the rice on

Also at this stage, chop the fresh coriander, tomatoes and ready the lemon. Have your fish prepared as well:

Chop tomatoes, coriander, lemon

Fish at the ready

Place the fish gently into the sauce:

Place the fish into the sauce

Simmer gently for about 10-15 mins until fish is cooked:

Simmer until fish is cooked

At this point add the garnish: Tomatoes, fresh coriander and squeeze in the lemon:

Add the garnish

Now the curry should be ready to serve, with the fish cooked, but still firm:

Fish should be cooked but still firm

Serve with the previously prepared steamed rice:

Serve

Hainanese Rabbit Rice

Recently I discovered half a rabbit in my freezer that I’d forgotten about. (This happens quite frequently with me, as I tend not to label things in an involuntary display of textbook un-organization). The other half had been used for a curry – which is another great thing to do with rabbit – with apples in as I found out while making a video about such a thing (different rabbit though).

For some time I had been wanting to try the classic Singaporean dish Hainanese Chicken Rice.

The basic premise of this dish is to make a flavoursome stock using the chicken on the bone, then  remove (and debone) the meat and utilize the stock to prepare a tasty rice and an aromatic soup. The dish is then served with a bowl of the soup, a dipping sauce and a salad garnish (usually cucumber and lettuce).

As usual, my adherence to strict epicurean traditions was dictated by what I could find in my store cupboard at the time of cooking. In this case it wasn’t possible to prepare a completely authentic Hainanese Chicken Rice (the use of rabbit obviously representing a major obstacle, to begin with), but being used to improvising (considering what I do for a living), the dish turned out to be a tasty, flavourful and, I’m pretty sure, healthy meal.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients:

For the Stock:

  • 1/2 a rabbit – jointed
  • 1 Carrot
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 4 spring onions (scallions)
  • a piece of ginger (about 1 inch)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tblsp sesame oil
  • Salt

For the Rice:

  • 1 cup of rice
  • 2 spring onions
  • small piece of ginger
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Stock
  • Chopped coriander

For the Salad Garnish:

  • Orange pepper
  • Cherry tomatoes

For the Dipping Sauce:

  • 1 tsp Chinese chilli oil
  • 1 tblsp Soy sauce
  • juice of 1 lime
  • small piece of ginger grated
  • 1 clove garlic crushed
  • finely chopped coriander
  • some sesame oil

For the Soup:

  • The stock
  • Chopped coriander

Method:

The first thing I did was to prepare the stock. As the stock vegetables were also going to be used for the soup, I thought it necessary to julienne them rather than just roughly chopping them as I would for a normal stock.

Then the rabbit went in the pan. Obviously it’s sensible to choose a sizable vessel here, as you want a fair quantity of stock.

Added the vegetables:

Then added water, salt and brought to a simmer. At this point I added the sesame oil quite liberally (although I specify a tablespoon, I tend to enjoy free-styling these things.)

While the rabbit stock was simmering, prepared the ingredients for the rice:

And the salad garnish:

I also prepared the dipping sauce at this point.

The plan was to let the stock simmer for about 1 hour, so after 50 mins I sauteed the spring onion, garlic and ginger for the rice in a little oil (I used sunflower, but you could use olive oil, vegetable oil or groundnut oil – it’s not a deal breaker),  and then sauteed the raw rice (which I’d soaked in water for 1/2 hour then drained incidentally) in with the ingredients. The purpose of this (as with risotto or paella) is that the heat of the pan cracks the outer surface of the rice, thereby enabling the flavoursome stock to better penetrate the grain.

I then ladled some stock (about twice the quantity to the rice) into the rice pan, covered, and let simmer till the rice was cooked – adding chopped coriander at the end.

After I added the stock to the rice, it was time to remove and debone the rabbit – roughly chopping the meat and placing on a warmed plate:

All was then ready (when the rice was cooked) for the 2nd most fun bit – assembling the dish (no prizes for guessing the most fun bit).

To do this, I used the old rice-bowl-bowl-rice trick. Place the rice into a bowl and pat down until firmly filled. Then place your serving plate over the bowl, hold both with a firm grip and upend and…. Hey Presto! you should have a neat dome of rice on your serving plate (hopefully).
The rabbit was then placed on and garnished with chopped coriander, with a bowl of the delicious soup (stock). On a separate plate I served the salad and the dipping sauce.

All in all, was a very tasty way to serve rabbit and fun to eat: a forkful of rice  and crispy salad, followed by a slice of rabbit dipped in the spicy sauce, followed by a spoonful of smooth, warming broth followed by a large glug of red wine (optional).

 

A Controversial Kleftico (and it’s illegitimate offspring)

Controversial Kleftico, cooked with Oxtail...

It was a cold and stormy Winter’s night..… OK, it wasn’t. It was actually  an annoyingly rainy and depressingly premature Autumn morning. I was going out to a gig for pretty much the whole day. Luckily though, I’d cunningly foreseen the situation of getting home hungry, wet and weary that evening, so I’d taken the Oxtail that I had in the freezer out to thaw, the night before. My initial intent was to make a curry in the slow cooker, leaving it to cook all day while I was out. However, while flicking through some food photos from my Facebook food group “Foodbook Photos” I came across the Kleftico I made a while ago from a very simple authentic family recipe given to me by a Greek friend. Since it involved rather less preparation than the curry, I settled on the idea of trying to make the Kleftico with the oxtail.

Now I’m aware that proper Kleftico is a lamb dish, and also that there are many variation’s on the recipe, so maybe what I was about to make couldn’t really be called Kleftico (indeed, I had a couple of people on Twitter saying as much), and also that it is made in a conventional oven rather than a slow cooker.
So what I should really call my dish maybe is Greek style oxtail casserole…..? Whatever…!! But it was very nice.

Here’s what I did:

Firstly I set out my oxtail in preparation. It was already chopped into handy chunks:

 

The Oxtail

 

I then sliced up a couple of large onions:

 

Slice the onions

 

And halved some sweet vine ripened tomatoes:

 

Tomatoes

 

I then browned the oxtail off in a frying pan, since it would be going into the slow cooker instead of an oven:

 

Brown the oxtail

 

Next I selected a handful of choice bay leaves:

 

Bay leaves

 

I then layered the onions and the oxtail in the slowcooker:

 

Layer the onions in the pot, and put the oxtail on top

 

To make the cooking liquid I dissolved a tablespoon of tomato puree and some salt in some hot water:

 

Cooking liquid

 

Then arranged the bayleaves and tomatoes in with the oxtail, and poured the liquid into the pot:

 

Arrange everything in the pot

 

Lid went on and I went out for the day:

 

Lid on, me out

 

When I came back, approximately 8 hours later everything seemed to have cooked down nicely:

 

After 8 hours

 

I then gently stirred it, being careful not to break up the oxtail, but making sure to mix the onions up from the bottom:

 

Stirring gently

 

Lid then went back on for another hour or so, then it would be ready for serving.
Before serving it however, I carefully spooned some of the loose fat away that had settled on the top, so it wouldn’t be so rich:

 

Skim off some fat

 

I then squeezed in plenty of lemon juice:

 

Squeeze in plenty of lemon

 

..and served out simply with some mash potato:

 

Serve with mash

 

The flavour was rich, beefy and warming, with that very particular piquancy that you get when mixing tomatoes with lemon (which I also think you get in Madras curries).

Now for the offspring: I had a lot of the stocky cooking liquid left and also quite a lot of meat. So the next day I separated the meat from the bones, and made an oxtail and beetroot curry, simmered in a little of the stock, and served it with with a dhal and vegetable sambar curry and a peas and mushroom saffron pullao.
The leftover meat was rich and gelatinous and was fairly fantastic with the beetroot:

 

Beef and beetroot curry, with a dhal and vegetable sambar curry and a peas and mushroom saffron pullao.

 

…and finally, the next day, I still had quite a lot of stock leftover, so I used it to make a Chilli Con Carne made with smoked chipotle paste, dried homegrown red chillies and Tabasco and served it with corn tortillas. It was quite spectacular, and was easily the best Chilli I’ve ever made…. all down to the rich stock I’m convinced.

 

Chilli made with the last of the oxtail stock, smoked chipotle paste, dried homegrown red chillies and tobasco. Served with corn tortillas.

 

…and the moral of this story is, always buy oxtail, and never listen to pedants 🙂

A Tale Of Two Risottos

Mushroom risotto and risotto with chorizo, paprika picante, peas, courgettes and sage

It’s true what they say. It really is all in the stock.
Well, I’m not sure whether they do say that, or indeed who “they” are meant to be be, but I recently made two risottos that turned out to be the finest I’ve ever cooked by a long way (indeed, it was some of the most flavoursome food I’ve ever cooked, of any variety), and I’m pretty convinced it was largely down to the quality and depth of the stock.
Obviously, every time I  roast a chicken, I endeavour to make stock the next day. But the last time, I think I was going to away for a few days following, so I froze the carcass instead.
Then, there were a couple of barbecues where I grilled a generous quantity of chicken wings over charcoal, and I elected to save and freeze the bones from these also.
I also had a few uncooked chicken wings in the freezer.
So the other week, after a visit to the Farmer’s Market the previous Sunday, and picking up a collection of delicious mushrooms, I decided to make the stock and a nice risotto.
First thing was to make the stock, using the above mentioned chicken lefovers, 2 onions, 2 carrots, 2 sticks of celery, a few bay leaves and a handful of peppercorns.

Stock ingredients, assembled and ready for a good gentle simmer.

I brought this up to the gentlest of simmers, and then vacated the kitchen for about 7 hours. (I went out to a rehearsal actually, and forgot I had some stock on. This turned out to be a fortuitous mistake).
When I returned, I remembered I had left the stock on, so strained it and was left with this delicious and concentrated golden chickeny nectar:

The stock ready for use.

I then assembled the main ingredients for the risotto, namely mushrooms, parmesan cheese, onion and garlic.

Parmesan cheese, onion, garlic and mushrooms

Now, I didn’t bother to look up the various types of mushrooms, I’m vaguely aware of what some of them are, but if anyone would like to identify them for me on the comments, that would be appreciated.

I roughly chopped up most of the mushrooms, but reserved the darker slender bunch for garnish at the end.

Chopped mushrooms

The next step, before the cooking of the risotto proper was to saute the mushrooms in a little butter and olive oil (in a separate pan), and set them aside. The key here is to saute them just enough that they are cooked, but not so they start losing their water and juice content.

Sauteing the mushrooms

Now for the fun bit. First of all, put the stock in a pot and bring to a very gentle simmer on the stove. Don’t let it boil, as not only will this impair the flavour, but you want to reserve as much as possible, while keeping it hot and ready to ladle into the rice. When you’ve done this soften some butter and oil in a pan and gently saute the onions and garlic until soft, but be careful not to let them brown to much or burn. Then add the rice and saute for a couple of minutes. This process cracks the surface of the rice grains, and enables them to absorb the flavoursome stock later in the cooking process.

Sauteing the rice

When the rice has been sauteing for a couple of minutes, add a glass of white wine, in this case it was a crisp Pinot Grigio:

Add a glass of white wine.

When the wine has been absorbed by the rice it’s time to start adding the stock, one ladle at a time. The important thing here is to keep the rice moving constantly, so the stock is absorbed evenly, without the rice sticking to the bottom.

Adding the stock

I tend to stir in a rough “figure of eight” type pattern, as you can see from the action shot below. I find this keeps everything moving in a satisfactory manner.

Stirring

When the rice acquires a nice plump appearance, it’s almost done and time to add the mushrooms. If you taste a grain, it should be al dente but not quite done.

Rice almost done

Add the previously sauteed mushrooms at this stage and stir through.

Add the mushrooms

This is now the time to saute the mushrooms reserved for the garnish. I used the pan just vacated by the previously sauteed mushrooms….

Saute the garnish mushrooms

While these are sauteing away happily, add the grated parmesan cheese to the risotto and stir through:

Add the cheese...

Only after adding the cheese did I test and adjust for salt, seeing as the cheese adds so much salt from itself.
By this time the garnish mushrooms should be nicely browned, so take them off the heat.

Garnish mushrooms

All that’s left now is to serve up with a glass of the aforementioned crisp Pinot Grigio.
The risotto was everything you would expect: rich, creamy, unctuous, satisfying, comforting (I’m trying not to sound too much like Nigella or Nigel here)….

Risotto served...

A couple of days later, I still had half of the chicken stock left. It had been in the fridge, so now had taken on a jellified form. I had to exercise a considerable amount of willpower to stop myself from just eating it with a spoon.

Jellified chicken stock

When I had mastered my desire, I decided a suitable course to take to use the stock would be another risotto, but of a completely different nature to the previous one. I settled on chorizo with smoked paprika picante, with fresh peas, courgettes and a fried sage garnish.
You could argue I suppose that a risotto with chorizo and especially paprika in it is more of a Spanish than Italian dish, but I’m afraid I’m no great respecter of tradition where food is concerned. If I can use what’s in my fridge and make it tasty, I’ll make any ingredient from anywhere into any dish of any description.
First thing I did was to place the chorizo sausages in a separate pan for an initial browning, to make them easier to slice up:

Chorizo

Cooked them until they were this brown:

Browned chorizo

The sausages were then chopped and fried in a pan with onion and garlic, and to this I added a teaspoon of the delicious smoked paprika picante.

Fry the sliced chorizo with chopped onion and garlic, and add the smoked paprika picante..

When the paprika was fried for a minute or two, I took the pan off the heat and set my stock on to simmer:
I then prepared my veg. First shelled some nice fresh peas:

Shelled fresh peas

…and chopped some organic courgettes from the Farmer’s Market:

Chopped courgettes

I then put the pan containing the sausages back on the heat and added the rice. When the rice had received it’s initial frying, I again added a nice  glug of Pinot Grigio.

Add the wine

When the wine had been completely absorbed by the rice, I added the peas and courgettes, and started to stir in the stock:

Adding the stock

This time I did take a break of a few seconds while stirring in order to chop some fresh sage.
I chopped most of the leaves and reserved a few to fry for the garnish.

Fresh sage

When the rice was pretty much done, I added in the fresh sage:

Adding the fresh sage...

While the sage was warming through the risotto, I fried the remaining leaves in a little olive oil for a garnish until crisp. This only takes a few seconds:

Frying the sage...

The Risotto was now ready to serve out, garnished with the sage and, again, a glass of the afore mentioned Pinot Grigio.
It was wholly delicious, the chorizo adding an earthy meaty flavour to the already rich chicken stock with the peas and courgettes retaining a freshness and the sage a very agreeable subtle crunch.

The risotto served out....

I can say one thing for sure at the end of all this. It’s worth freezing your chicken bones… 🙂

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

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.