Friday, 28 August 2009

FIVE A DAY FRUIT AND VEG.....CAKE

Well yes, I know I have been absent lately. Like all of us I am busy busy...so busy i could not even take a picture of my lovely carrots i pick up at Hackney city farm each week...still dirty, still tasting of the earth, still in need of lots of cleaning... So yes you got a "stock photo" But with the carrots I get...so fresh, so flavourful, it would be a shame to just make veg or chicken stock out of them...no not these carrots...with these I have been working on a fab gluten free, low fat recipe for carrot cake!!!

I know, its summer, we all try to get outside, do all sorts of activities and pack everything in before the suns goes away till next May...so why bake cakes inside when i could just eat fresh fruit and make trifles and stay in the sun...Not sure!!! I love fresh fruit, and please buy and eat as much as you can while its ripe, local and cheap...but i must say...I felt inspired to make a cake for the courses I teach...I need to do a bit of baking that not only is fresh and healthy but portionable, packable, and very kid friendly!!! So before i have my last lil bit of summer with a trip to southwest France with friends, I wanted to pass on this great, simple, and healthy carrot cake recipe that I have been working on for some of the communities I cook with/for. And how do you know its good...its been eaten too fast to take pictures!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


PREP
400g ( 3 cups) flour ( we use gluten free) SIFTED PLEASE
1.5 t baking soda ( bicarbonate of soda)
2 t baking powder
1 t salt
2 t mixed spice powder
250 g (1.5 cup) sugar
4 eggs, beaten
100 ml( 1/3 cup) vegetable oil
250 ml(1 1/3 cups) applesauce
300g ( 3 cups) carrots , peeled and grated
250g ( 1 cup) pineapple chunks, fresh
75g ( 1/2 cup) chopped nuts ( pecans or walnuts will do)

150 g ( 8oz) low fat cream cheese
150g (1/2 cup) powdered sugar
low fat yogurt

WHAT TO DO
  1. Preheat oven to 190 C ( 375 F)
  2. Grease two round ( or one large rectangle) baking tins.
  3. Sift dry ingredients ( flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and mixed spice) in a bowl with sugar.
  4. Mix eggs with applesauce, oil, pineapple, carrot and walnuts in a large bowl.
  5. Add dry ingredients to wet and fold gently. Do not over mix
  6. Pour cake batter into baking tin and bake for 40 minutes in center of oven.
  7. Check if cake is done by putting a thin wooden skewer into cake and observe if batter sticks to skewer, if so the cake is not done. If skewer comes out dry then you and the cake are golden!!
  8. Remove cake from oven and let cool in tin.
  9. Combine cream cheese and sugar into your icing and you may sub in some low fat yogurt for some cream cheese to this if you want a thinner and even lower fat icing that will be looser less hard.
  10. If you want to layer the icing between the cakes, let cake cool completely, make sure icing is quite stiff ( refrigerate for an hour) and then spread thoroughly, refrigerate again and then enjoy!!!
MORE DISHES TO WASH

Need a quick dessert while having a bbq...grill some peaches and then serve with honey and mint tossed yogurt.

Or as we did in our Dad BBQ cookery that I teach...slice a banana down the middle (in the skin) toss in some chunks of dark chocolate and put it on your still smoldering bbq/grill and cook till soft and gooey on inside and charred black on the skin ( I got this recipe from a friend I must confess,...but its too easy and good to not pass on!!!)...

Simple...fresh fruit and veg my friends...tis the season...eat them while you can...and can them for when you cant!!!

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Old School Comfort Food ...MALI STYLE

TIGA DIGA NA...,Most of you out there are already confused, but let me enlighten you on another joy of the peanut. It is a survival food for many folks in West Africa, that which is eaten raw, roasted, made into oil, and after having spent a couple years living in Western Mali, I at times besides yearning to be back there living... simply crave my staple food...Tiga Diga Na...which translates to Peanut butter sauce. Its what I often ate twice a day, and sometimes in the village of Manantali where I lived, during Ramadan (which is what spurred this memory food) we would even have it for a quick pre sunrise breakfast.

This is a very simple protein rich meal that can be served over rice or creamy polenta( a western version of a corn meal mash called Kaba toh), but mostly I ate it every day over millet, not the wonderfully light couscous like millet we all should be eating each and every day/week since its a grain that also gives you super amounts of protein, but whole millet, unhusked and cooked down to a thick porridge consistency. Please try this recipe and serve it with whatever whole grain you have. And unlike most people eating this in rural West Africa, try to serve it with some extra veggies!!! Because unlike the folks living there, you have access to all the vegetables you NEED, and simply most of us don't WANT to eat them.

WHAT YOU NEED
1 T vegetable oil
1 onion, sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 inch fresh ginger, smashed
1 T Tomato paste ( puree in the UK)
1 tomato chopped
1/4 of a small cabbage, sliced
1 cup peanut butter ( all natural, no added sugar or anything...just smooth nuts friends!!!)
3 cups vegetable stock ( depending on consistency desired)( can use bouillon cube with water for ease of use and its actually what everyone does in the village!)
1 Habenero chile pepper ( whole, uncut)
1 dried fish ( I actually used a smoked herring) but you could use any fish or try 1-2 cups stewing beef, lamb or chicken
Fresh lime
s,p

WHAT TO DO
In hot pan over medium heat add oil and then sweat down onion, garlic, ginger for 10 minutes till translucent ( add water if necessary to prevent burning...50 ml at a time)
Once very soft, add tomato past and cook this down for 3 more minutes.
Add tomatoes and cabbage and cook 5 minutes till softened ( again, add a bit of water as necessary)
Add dried fish to pan and coat with flavours.
Add warm vegetable stock to pan and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes.
Add peanut butter to pan and use spoon or large whisk to dissolve it into the liquid.
Bring to simmer, add Habenero and cook over low heat for 30 minutes or until oils from your peanut butter start to separate onto the top of your sauce...
Taste sauce and finish with salt, pepper, a squeeze of lime and a dash of chili powder if you like.
Serve individually or as the photo above shows, communally with cleaned fingers ready for steaming hot goodness!!!


MORE DISHES TO WASH
Serve this dish over your whole grain and use the habenero like a sponge in reverse ( squeeze it into your area of food and push the heat onto the grain)

Often people serve with greens ...like fengruk, but you could try shredded kale or chard added in before adding the peanut butter and letting it simmer till really really soft.

One could add a small portion of dried or smoked fish to the sauce and then serve sauce with a grilled/bbq fish as well.

IF you want to use unhusked millet, soak it over night, then drain, toast the kernels and simmer one part millet to 3 parts water, until cooked and softened to your liking (you can always drain it if you don't want it too creamy and desire it more like a fluffy rice texture).

If desirous of using meat, I would add the meat (seasoned with salt, pepper, paprika, and chili powder) first to the pan, get it nice and browned and then continue with the recipe. The smaller the cuts of meat, the faster it will cook, the larger, the longer it will take ( this may necessitate a bit more water in your sauce to keep from burning). The key is to allow the meats to cook till fork tender, so slow and low is the tempo!!!

Na Duminike!!!!

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Millet stuffed portabellas

I love millet. There I said it. Not many people love this amazing grain; and me, i am damn proud of my love. I guess a couple years living in a small village in western Mali eating it every day converted me. So honestly, I really love my millet...big millet with the husk on it cooked forever until its sticky like risotto, small lil millet that cooks like rice, fonio ( the lil -lil guys i can only find in Mali), etc.....so the other day i was searching for big old millet and no one had it ( i should have checked at a shop selling bird food a friend said!!!), except for an Indian grocer who said they sold this type to grind into flour for a type of chapati...well well...millet chapatis...soon enough soon enough...but for now let me make an new foray into millet for the non lovers of this amazing, super protein dense whole grains!!!!

PREP
1 cup pearl millet ( large grains with husk/shell still on) soaked over night in water. (or use any other leftover cooked grain such as rice, quinoa, millet, barley, and skip the grain cooking steps!!!!)
4 portabella, stems removed ( save for stuffing)
1 small head fennel, fine dice
1 red pepper fine dice
portabella stems, small dice
1 zucchini, fine dice
2 cloves garlic
2 T tomato paste
4 T Grana Padana, or any other hard cheese, grated
EVOO
s,p
1 T toasted fennel seeds, ground
1/2 t toasted chili flakes, ground

WHAT TO DO
  1. Preheat oven to 375 ( 190 c)
  2. Drain your soaked millet and put in a medium sauce pan over high heat.
  3. Heat 4 times the amount of water as you have millet and pour over millet( let millet get a light toast on it before adding water) cover, simmer over medium heat, and cook till water has evaporated
  4. In hot saute pan add oil then sweat down the red pepper, fennel and mushroom stems.
  5. After vegetables have softened, add courgette ( zucchini) and garlic and cook a further five minutes.
  6. Add dried spices and toss to coat.
  7. Add tomato paste and cook a further 2 minutes .
  8. Check the millet, are the kernels fully cooked through ( is there still water, then drain, not enough water then add a bit more...its that easy)
  9. Toss vegetables with millet. Then add in cheese and season with salt and pepper and a splash of extra virgin olive oil ( EVOO).
  10. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes ( more if using unheated leftover grains) until warmed through and a bit toasty on top.
MORE DISHES TO WASH
I served this with a roast cauliflower puree (recipes on the blog, 28 June 2009) that was a combination of the recipe for roasting the cauliflower, then pureeing!!! That and a nice green salad will give you a healthy vegetarian summer meal with more protein than you could have believed ( millet truly is a super grain).

Use regular millet as you would rice. I simply heat a pan, add 1 part millet( of the yellow variety more common to your supermarkets) and once toasted, pour over just under two parts boiling water, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes. Then fluff the grain with a fork and you have a substitute for couscous that actually is a whole grain ( couscous is merely a very small form of pasta) and so tasty.



Monday, 3 August 2009

Get your five a day...in your pancakes!!!

I have been trying so hard to get my five fruit and vegetables each and every day...and most days its not so bad...fruit with cereal for breakfast, some veg at lunch, fruit for a snack...and a couple bits for dinner...but sometimes you find a nice way to get a bunch a 'dem veggies in a way you are not expecting...in some crispy, spiced pancakes!!! Oh, so easy, so tasty...zucchini, carrot and corn pancakes...



PREP
400 grams ( 3 cups) shredded courgettes ( zucchini)
300 g ( 2 cups ) shredded carrot
200 g ( 1 cup) grilled corn kernels ( char the whole ears either by grill under your broiler, or on bbq and then slice em off...)
1 red onion shredded
1 bunch green onion, fine diced
8 T flour
1 t baking powder
3 eggs
1 T fennel seeds, toasted and crushed
1/2 t chili flakes, toasted and crushed
s,p
2 T vegetable oil


WHAT TO DO
  1. Combine zucchini, carrot, and red onion and leave in a colander with a weight over it (plates with a can of beans, anything to help press out liquid) until the vegetables release some water (30 minutes is fine, 2 hours is fantastic)
  2. In a large mixing bowl combine flour, spices, baking powder, and eggs. Mix to a smooth paste.
  3. Add in all the corn, green onion and other vegetables and mix to coat.
  4. Heat a large fry pan over medium high heat and then add enough oil to lightly cover the bottom of pan.
  5. Fry vegetable pancakes (you can make very small ones, or one super size pancake...but eight average size cakes can be made from this recipe) 2 minutes on both sides till well browned.
  6. Remove browned pancakes from pan and place on a baking sheet.
  7. Finish cooking in a warm oven at 375 F ( 190C) or let cool, freeze and finish cooking in oven next time you are in need of a helping hand toward your five a day!!!


MORE DISHES TO WASH
Of course any vegetable that shreds can be used in these pancakes...beets would be colorful and well served to serve with a saute of beet greens...spinach can be fine chopped and tossed in and be a tasty addition to any meal...wow, you could even go back to basics and throw some potato in 'em!!!

I say, Load up the veg and serve these pancakes with a quick stew of chickpeas and Swiss chard or under a seasonal ratatouille!!!As well no one would complain if you made some roasted red pepper and chive flecked sour cream to dollop on top.

Or have them with what we had sunday night...fennel and chili crusted lamb chops on the bbq, asparagus, and a roasted pepper, corn and pickled fennel salsa. And with that you would be as happy as we were Sunday night sitting out overlooking the streets of East London and savoring our sunday pancakes for dinner!!!



Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Sunday chicken and a citrus jus...Part II

Now that we have made the braising liquid ( see blog post part 1 of Sunday chicken and a citrus jus) its time to cook our chicken two ways, from Sunday.

We will be using two simple techniques: braising (cooking of a product in a flavoured liquid) of the chicken legs and pan roasting (searing a product in a pan and then transferring it to the oven to cook by the dry heat of the oven) of the breasts.

The two techniques work wonderfully. Braising is one of my favorite things to do. With braising one puts a tougher cut of meat or veg: lamb shanks, pork shoulder, endive, fennel, bone in fish steaks such as salmon, med sea bass, etc...in a liquid and when it finishes its tender as can be. With pan roasting one gets a nice sear ( you can also simply put your oven really high at first and then lower it after the item is browned, but i like the control of browning the product in a pan) on the fillet of snapper, pork chop, lamb tenderloin, NY strip steak, etc...and then finish it in the oven for a perfectly cooked piece of meat to your exact temperature desires!!!!

But lets get the bird in the oven!!!!

PREP
1 Chicken, quartered (see previous blog posts on how to perform this)
Chicken stock, heated and prepared from chicken trimmings (see previous post)
1/4 of an onion, medium dice
1/4 of a carrot, medium dice
couple celery tops, large dice (as you can see we need scrap bits, so use what you got)
1 T tomato paste
1 t whole spices, you choose your mix, fennel , peppercorns, cumin, etc...
1 clove garlic, smashed
1/2 inch ginger, sliced
Splash of wine or water
1 piece of citrus sliced up thinly
Fresh herb stems(parsley, coriander, thyme, rosemary...whatever flavour you want to impart, and that's in your fridge)

WHAT TO DO
  1. Turn oven on to 375F ( 190C) and heat up a large frying pan (oven safe if possible) over high heat.
  2. Season your chicken pieces with salt and pepper and add 2 T oil to the pan.
  3. Sear chicken pieces on all sides (as in picture above) to golden brown.
  4. Remove chicken pieces from pan and add in the carrot, celery, onion, garlic, and ginger. Cook for two minutes to start browning.
  5. Add dry spices and toast for 30 seconds and then add tomato paste and 1/2 the citrus slices and stir to coat all ingredients.
  6. Cook for one more minute, browning, not burning (if need be turn down stove top) and then add a splash of liquid (leftover wine, beer, water) to help scrape up any of the wonderful flavours in the pan.
  7. Add this all to the bottom of a small casserole dish and place the chicken legs on top of them ( see the photo above showing a nice small casserole that is a perfect fit for the amount of product to be cooked) and pour over enough stock to almost cover the chicken legs.
  8. Cover the casserole with tin foil and put in oven for roughly one hour ( this depends on size of legs, amount of stock to chicken, size of casserole,etc...so the key is to check after a half hour or so and keep cooking till the legs are fork tender. We want a leg that almost, just almost falls off the bone it is so tender, but stays together for appearance sake!!!!)
  9. After 1/2 hour in the oven add slices of citrus to your original pan ( or any oven safe sheet tray) and place your two chicken breasts on top ( place them on top of the citrus slices or any random bits of fennel, onion, or other flavour enhancer you want out of your refrigerator).
  10. Cook the breasts till the juices run clear which should be about 15 minutes ( depending again on size of breasts but also how long you seared them for...the longer you cooked them on the stove top, the shorter time in the oven)
  11. Hopefully if its a perfect world, your chicken breasts will finish cooking and then be allowed to rest for 5-10 minutes ( redistributes juices) before you pull out the legs. And thus you will have a perfectly timed full chicken.
  12. The big final step is to strain the now uber flavourful chicken braising liquid into a fry pan and reduce it by half to help thicken the jus ( no need for flours, starches,etc) and concentrate the flavour. Taste the sauce, does it need a pick me up ( add a squeeze of citrus juice), a touch of salt, a grind of pepper?
  13. Now cut your chicken up into smaller pieces ( separate drumstick from thigh along the joint, and also cut the breast in half as well) and serve.
You now have a wonderfully whole chicken to feed your family and friends with a tasty jus made from all the scraps!!! So toss a bird in the oven and enjoy the simple and economical pleasure of cooking from scratch!!!

MORE DISHES TO WASH
Many people remove the bone from the breast plate after cooking so the lower half has no bones and the upper does. The same goes for removing the thigh bone. This is the way some restaurants then serve the chicken..each person receiving a portion of light meat and dark meat and one having bone and one without...ah screw it...bone in flavour is where its at!!!

Another quick tip is to make this meal ahead of time, but stop at the part of putting the chicken breasts in the oven. Simply sear the breasts and cook the legs as directed above. Then strain the finished jus, cool the cooked legs and refrigerate till needed. When guests or family are ready for dinner simply pour your finished warm jus over the chicken legs and put them in the oven for 15 minutes and return as well the seared breasts to the oven. This is how to have friends over for a roast dinner and not be sitting in the kitchen all night fussing and cleaning!!! Put your roast veg in the oven as well and all that you should need to do is toss a salad and maybe saute some fresh veg!!! Simple, easy, and time saving...that's what cooking should be...oh yes i almost forgot...TASTY!!!!!

Sunday chicken and a citrus jus

So you want to make a really nice, simple roast chicken dinner for Sunday, but with a little twist...I say...make one chicken two ways, but....

FIRST

THE JUS






So simple but so often neglected!!!
Before we can braise the chicken legs, we need a nice liquid to braise them in and serve them bathing in!!!

We must hearken back to the previous blog session and now use our scrap pieces of chicken( the back, wings, etc...not the fat), along with the following...

PREP
Scrap bits from one chicken, cut up in large chunks
1 onion, medium dice ( reserve 1/4 for later)
1 carrot, medium dice (reserve 1/4 for later)
1 celery rib, medium dice ( reserve tops for later)
1 piece of citrus sliced thinly ( reserve 1/4 for later)
1 T tomato paste
1 t dried whole spices, you choose your mix...fennel, peppercorns, cumin, etc...
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 inch chunk ginger, sliced ( reserve 1/2 for later)
1 cup leftover wine or vegetable stock
water

WHAT TO DO
  1. In a heavy bottom pan, add a splash of oil and then sear your scraps of chicken over high heat.
  2. When nicely browned, add the celery, carrot, onion, ginger and garlic and continue cooking over high heat to brown( not burn) your veggies.
  3. After 3-5 minutes, add your tomato paste and cook a further 2 minutes.
  4. Add the wine to the pan, and using a wooden spatula, scrap up all the lovely brown bits in the pan.
  5. Add cold water to just about cover the chicken, then add your spices and bring to a simmer.
  6. Let simmer for one hour, skimming any foam or fat that appears on the top.
  7. Strain the solids away so you are left with a beautiful chicken stock that we will now cook our chicken legs in and in so doing produce a lovely Sunday jus.


So the easiest way to do this is to make the chicken stock the day before or the morning before you want to make your chicken. And then you will be an hour away from heaven...and what is heaven...

Ah the legs, I must truly admit it, i am as they say, a leg man...i mean when the choice is between a succulent piece of braised chicken leg that is fork tender, rich and juicy and a big ole breast, I gotta speak the truth...I don't care that it has a little more fat, 'dem legs have got mo' flava, and that is why I am braising in tomorrows blog...to pull out more flavour that will taste amazing on its own, but even more so the legs will be a compliment to the roasted breasts of the chicken...so have it your way...both ways, leg and breast, roast and braised...check it out tomorrow...

MORE DISHES TO WASH
OKAY I know...some of us have issues with simply roasting a whole chicken...for this i have a simpler recipe that goes a little something like this...
  1. Buy the chicken whole and turn your oven on to 375 F or 190 C.
  2. Wash the Chicken inside and out, pat it dry, and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Cut up an onion, carrot, celery rib, couple two three cloves garlic, citrus or apple and put 2/3 on a baking dish or any oven ready pan. Place the other 1/3 s of veggies/fruit inside the chicken and place the chicken on top of the veggies.
  4. Drizzle a lil olive oil on top, some of your own special spices, and stuff a little bit of fresh or dried herbs inside.
  5. Pour a cup of leftover wine or beer in bottom of pan and toss the whole thing in the oven.
  6. Roast till internal temperature of bird ( fleshy bit) is 185 F (85 C) or juices run clear.
  7. Let rest, covered with a bit of aluminum foil for 10 minutes and then cut up.
Of course there are a myriad of ways to make a roast chicken more complex and difficult, and you can take your chances on cooking temperatures, etc...but nothing is simpler and tastier than a roast chicken... served up with the pan juices and some locally sourced roast root veg and a peppery green salad...so if you never have, try this, even just once and then move on to the recipe at the top and that follows soon in the next blog entry.


Sunday, 26 July 2009

Chop up that chicken!!!


As promised, its chicken time. First things first, how to save lots of money and learn to love your chicken at the same time. Buy it whole and learn to cut it up!!! Cutting up a chicken may take you a bit of time at first, but once you get the hang of it, it truly is less than a five minute job, so practice on a few birds and get ready to enjoy...But a few things to discuss before butchering the butchery of your chicken.

Firstly, make sure you have some time to do this. This is a job that should be done before you start your other cooking for the upcoming meal. The main reason you need the time? So that you can cut up the chicken, and then clean the knife, the counter, the cutting board, etc. before you move on to salads and veggies.
Secondly, make sure you have purchased your chicken from a reputable source. I try to meet my butcher so we are on a first name basis and usually they become even more helpful. If you are simply heading to the supermarket, well then, by all means, check the use by dates. I am not here to give the full lecture on the importance of how your chicken lives and what this means to what you will be eating and tasting...simply put, you are what you eat...caged or free...you decide!!!!
Now, lets get set up. You will need a good sharp knife. I use a "boning knife" as shown below, but any sharp, sturdy, not flexible blade will do. You should clear off a section of your counter where you can place a damp cloth or damp paper towel (this keeps your cutting board from moving around on you), a cutting board on top of this, and also have a few small and one large bowl ( the small bowls are for garbage and usable scrap, the large bowl for your cut up chicken pieces)
Last step before beginning is to make sure your sink is clear so when you are washing up the knife, cutting board, etc from this butchery you don't get it all over other clean or even dirty dishes. Better safe then sorry with raw meats!!!

Below will be a somewhat detailed/exhaustive series of photographs i took the other day as I was cutting up a chicken. I suggest you get a couple friends and a few chickens and do this task together, and then have a big ole bbq. This way you can all learn from one another and share in the tasty rewards!!!
Set your chicken ( rinse inside and out and then pat dry) on the cutting board and take a good look at it. Observe the legs, wings, breasts, etc...

Introductions are always nice, so shake hands with your chicken and at the same time check out its wing, and where the joints are.

Cut through the joint with minimal pressure, as you are finding the space between two bones, not needing to actually cut through any bone. This takes practice, but just let your knife feel around the area for the spot where it can easily cut through the wing joint.

Now that both wings tips are cut off and saved in a bowl for "good scraps" , we can cut off the fatty "butt" bit of the chicken and throw that in a garbage bowl


Now is the slightly tricky part of separating the wish bone. You need to turn your chicken around, and looking through neck cavity, pull up the skin slightly and feel around for the wish bone ( you know the shape "y") and using a small paring knife, try to trace an outline around it to loosen it ( but be careful to not cut too much into the breast meat).
Now you should be able to reach up further to the apex of the wish bone and pull it out . We pull the wish bone out in order to make cutting the breast pieces off easier at a later point in the process.

Now is the time to give a nice massaging pull to those lil chicken legs. A few gentle pulls, back and forth, and again. We pull on them to loosen them from the skin a bit and gain a better view of where we will be cutting next.

As you stretch the leg out from the body, cut through the skin, and as the flesh gives way, you will see the "seam" that you are to follow ( you can actually do this part without a knife, the object is to simply dislocate the hip bone)



Continue to cut/pull the leg away from the body. The cutting action should be very light and delicate, there is no need for force, unless you want to not use a knife and simply yank the leg away from the body.


Make sure to cut the sinew holding the leg onto the body.


Keep pulling/gently cutting along the muscle "seams" making sure not to cut into the meat, but simply follow the lines.
Voila, Nice leg!!


Cut any excess fat away, and repeat on other leg.

Observe you now have two legs, two wings, and its time to take of the breasts. First,smooth the breast skin over the breasts to make sure it stay s in place.

Stand the chicken on. its headless head..

Using a stiff/strong knife, make a cut to separate the top ( breasts) from the bottom( back) sections of the bird.

Once the cut is started, you will cut through the ribs and you will be able to open the two sections of the bird up, like crocodile jaws!!!!

Now once fully opened up, cut the back away from the breast plate.

Save the back for use in chicken stock ( remove the fat).


Again smooth the skin over the breasts so when you later trim it you have the correct amount of skin to roast nicely.

With the breasts skin side down, press your knife into the white sternam area until you push into it a couple millimeters.

Put your knife down and using the palms of your hands, push the two sides of the breasts down and away from each other and the breasts should easily separate. And then use your finger to slide the flesh away from the bone

Use your finger to slide down the middle portion of the breasts bone to separate the breasts from the bone.

Two bone in/skin on breasts!!!


Our chicken...ready for cookin!!!!!!!


Next blog post i will give some easy recipes for cookin this chicken, but before then, make sure when you are finished cutting and before you start cooking that you bleach/sanitize your knives, cutting board, work space, and anything else used during the butchery of the chicken. And remember to save the backs, and any other bones for making a nice stock that is always wonderful for a base for soups, risottos, braising chicken,etc...





Sunday, 19 July 2009

KFC, PFC, RFC,FFC


Ah yes, chicken,  here in London as you can see from the sign outside my terrace it is readily available in so many forms, KFC (from our grocer Kivre Food centre), PFC next door( Perfect fried chicken), FFC (I guess thats Fried fried chicken), RFC ( Real fried chicken) and so many other places where you can get unfresh and tasteless chicken. Or maybe you simply want to wander the supermarket aisles to find  "fresh" "healthy" breaded, stir fried, marinated, shredded,  or ground chicken versions of the overly processed un healthy lil buggers.  I walk through aisles at the grocery store and realize one thing, and one thing only.  The only way to buy a chicken is WHOLE, uncooked, frozen or fresh, but whole.  Buy the whole damn thing, its just a lil chicken.  Whether you are simply feeding yourself or your whole family...buy it whole, buy it free range (its a flavour and environmental must), buy it locally ( if you can find them), buy it organically ( if you can afford), but just buy it whole.  

What could be easier than sticking a bird in a pan in your oven with a little salt and pepper...  What could be tastier than slow cooked chili smacked chicken legs for your next plate of tacos to compliment home made tortillas and salsa.  What is more satisfying than making a stock/broth from the leftover bones and then using that for risotto on a rainy evening.

I walked through the aisles of a major supermarket this morning as I was purchasing items for a cookery course that I teach, and i would have to be more of a genetically modified misfit than the chicken products I saw to have enough fingers and toes to count the number of ways you can buy chicken things.  Frozen nuggets, marinated breasts, pre-cooked legs, pre-roasted, deli sliced, drumstick shaped pre-baked frozen snack bites, stock, broth, oven ready.  Oven ready,what is that?  A sprig of fresh herbs on top, salt and pepper, a bit of butter, a few slices of carrot, onion and celery inside, wow that's a bargain they are really saving me time and effort, no one could have done that in their own home!!!!

Why not buy a whole chicken?  Do people like paying more for less?  Is the economy that great?  Do people enjoy unflavourful food with lots of additives?  

That is my rant and over the next couple week I will be following it up with some posts with recipes and methods all in regards our lil friend the chicken... and lest i forget how pervasive chicken is in my lives....the photo from my roof terrace says it all...

So let me know if you have any specific chicken questions and I will incorporate them with the blog entries that shall be coming out alongside other, non chicken posts...

Saturday, 18 July 2009

RAINBOW OF FLAVOURS


Tis the season, well not "that" season, but for me its the season of amazing colours in our foods. I am a huge fan of all hearty greens: collards, kale, spinach, bok choy, etc...but i have the softest spot for Swiss chard, especially of the rainbow variety.
I find a simple saute of Swiss chard with garlic and onion is a fantastic side dish with meats, a great filling for a fritatta, or a meal in itself with the help of some white beans and Parmesan cheese.
In the recipe that follows, as in the picture, I have used rainbow Swiss chard, but feel free to use any hearty green from spring cabbage to late season kale to enjoy this easy dish throughout the growing seasons.

WHAT YOU NEED
1 bunch Swiss chard, clean and then separate stalks from leaves
1 T olive oil or rapeseed oil 
1 onion, peeled and sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 dozen mushrooms, washed, and sliced thinly
s,p


WHAT TO DO
  1. Wash the Swiss chard again, it always has lots of dirt, so soak it in a few changes of cold water till no dirt is in the water.
  2. Thinly slice the stems and thickly slice the leaves, keeping them separate.
  3. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat, and add vegetable oil ( or olive oil)
  4. Add onions and garlic and sweat them down till translucent
  5. Add chard stems and cook them till soft ( roughly 3-5 minutes) adding a touch of water or white wine if necessary to prevent sticking.
  6. Turn up heat, add chard leaves and cook over medium high heat till wilted.
  7. Add mushrooms and cook quickly till softened.
  8. Season with salt and pepper 

MORE DISHES TO WASH

Please remember...if you make bigger batches of food you have leftover and if you have leftovers you can have more options such as all the ideas below...

Why not use the cooked chard as a base for a breakfast fritatta, by simply cracking a few eggs, scrambling em up and pouring them over the cooked greens ( use a small pan that just fits the eggs and greens so you have a taller fritatta)  and cook over low heat till bottom is set and then toss it in the oven to finish.

Or toss with some fresh pasta and broad beans for a great mid week meal ( yes another chance to shave some nice Parmesan or manchego over the top!!!)

I also have chopped the finished greens very finely and used them as a vegetarian stuffing for dumplings or raviolis ( with a greater proportion of mushrooms  that i have pureed for added body).

Another idea is to chill the cooked chard and toss with leftover cooked whole grains( millet, quinoa, brown rice) and a bit of vinaigrette for a great lunch salad.

So go out to the grocers, the markets,  your garden and get some chard and make this nice and easy, quick and healthy dish.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

ROAST BEETROOT AND THEIR GREENS

Okay, I know you may say yuck...you hate beetroot...Well I hate canned veggies also!!!  Okay so lets start over...How many of you cook your beets and then have the pleasure of serving them in a multitude of ways???  Well lets start now!!! Lets go to our farmers market and ask for the beets...red ones, candy striped ones, orange ones... wonderfully delicious one and all...

HOW TO COOK BEETROOT:
I like to put my oven at medium heat  and put washed beets( not the beet greens, just the beetroot) in a shallow pan with a few ounces of water, a few shakes of pepper, a  pinch of salt, and a couple bay leafs...cover with foil and toss them  in the oven for an hour( depending on size of beets) and take out when a small knife penetrates into the root easily.

WOW that was easy.  So what to do with our cooked beets, besides first peeling them with either a sharp knife, or a dry towel to rub the peel off ( this towel will be stained, so don't use a fav tea towel!!!)

I like to take my beetroot and cook it with their own greens for a tasty accompaniment to the broiled mackerel recipe from the last blog post or in numerous other ways I will describe at the end of this blog...

PREP
4 beetroot, roasted, peeled and large dice
Beetroot greens, washed and separated leaves( large slices) from stalks( diced small)
1 red onion, washed, peeled and thin sliced
2 clove garlic, fine dice
2 T ginger, fine dice
1 T Fennel seed
4 ounces white wine ( or vegetable broth)
1T vegetable oil
s,p
Zest and juice of one lime
EVOO
Fresh coriander ( cilantro)

WHAT TO DO
  1. Heat a large saute pan over medium high heat and then add oil.
  2. Sweat onion, garlic, and ginger till softened and add a splash  of water or white wine if it starts to stick ( This is a way to decrease your oil consumption and lower your fat intake)
  3. Add fennel seed and let brown for 1 minute
  4. Add diced beet root stems ( not leaves) and wine ( or vegetable broth)and cook down for 3-4 minutes
  5. Add diced beet root and let cook for five minutes till liquid is fully evaporated.
  6. Add beet greens and toss till wilted.
  7. Finish dish with zest and juice of lime, salt, fresh ground pepper, a drizzle of EVOO, and fresh herbs.

MORE DISHES TO WASH
As stated earlier, this is a great paring with the Mackerel dish from my previous blog entry.  

One can really make a meal of this by serving this alongside some refried white beans ( as in the picture above), and cumin lime brown rice.

Of course one can always cool the roasted beetroot, and after peeling simply slice them thinly and serve with some nice goat or feta cheese, fresh salad greens and a herb lemon vinaigrette.

Lets not forget borscht...the cold or hot, pureed or not, meaty or vegetarian soup that no soup can compare to in terms of colour and flavour!!!  

Did I mention I love beetroot...the colour, flavour, texture, ability to adapt to all seasons...how they are never forgotten( yes the stains are there as reminders on the wall!!!)...so please, support your local farmer, buy fresh beetroot ( not canned, not cryovacked pre cooked) and enjoy!!!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

BROILED MACKEREL

Ah Mackerel.  Let me count the ways that I love thee...How many fish can be considered not only sustainably sourced, great for your health, and cheap???  Not many that are as tasty, beautiful, easy to prepare and readily available.   Here in the UK from way up Newcastle way to down here in Londons east end I have never had trouble finding fresh caught wonderful mackerel.  

So next time you are thinking of a quick meal, head to your fish counter and pick up a few fresh mackerel.  I find that one small mackerel per person works well and since they cook in  less than ten minutes, you may want to think about putting some rice and saute of  fresh summer veg on right now.  


PREP for 4 people
Oven set to broiler(or grill setting) medium setting.
8 Mackerel fillets/or 4 whole fish( ask your fish monger to fillet them for you, or do it yourself.  Come on and try it, its even cheaper and not that difficult...just ask me!)
Zest and juice of one lime ( or lemon)
2 cloves garlic, mashed to a paste
1 T fresh ginger, mashed to a paste
2t vegetable oil ( I use rapeseed as its cheap, healthy, and locally grown here in the UK)
1T turmeric powder
salt
pepper

WHAT TO DO
  1. Mix citrus zest, citrus juice, garlic, ginger, vegetable oil, turmeric, salt, and pepper in a bowl
  2. Lay mackerel fillets out, skin side down, on a tin foil lined broiling pan( or baking tray).
  3. Drizzle the marinade over the fish and let penetrate fish for 10 minutes.
  4. Place tray of fish in oven under the broiler/grill and let cook for 5-7 minutes until starting to brown and fully cooked through. ( You may want to try starting it skin side up to crisp the skin, but be careful as this is a very delicate fish and could fall apart on you!!)
MORE DISHES TO WASH
Many people love an nice Asian type slaw with this dish such as a couple types of cabbage, red onion, and cucumber, fine sliced and tossed with rice wine vinegar, lime juice, sesame seeds, pinch of sugar, sesame oil and coriander( cilantro).

You can serve this over rice with simple saute of asparagus drizzled in same marinade and save some of the marinade (or make extra) for a sauce.

Baste fish with a bbq sauce ( thinned out with a bit of lime juice if you like) and serve over creamy polenta or with spicy cornbread and ginger garlic kale.

Leftover mackerel...its Kedgeree time...saute some onions and garlic, add leftover rice, and curry powder, then your leftover chunked mackerel and serve with some hard boiled egg and you have your old school Raj era colonial leftover meal!!!

And try it with a ragout of roast beets and their greens...to be described in the blog to follow...