Drunken chicken 2 – noodle soup

Chinese booze-themed sequels have an excellent pedigree, so in response to a request by Elly, I’m following up my my post on drunken chicken with a very simple recipe for noodle soup, using the heavily flavoured cooking liquid from the first recipe as broth.

This is one of my basic go-to noodle soup recipes rather than a report about a specific meal so I don’t have accompanying images of tasty soup. So here’s a kid doing the chicken noodle soup dance to make up for it.

Ingredients for 4 people (amounts below are approximate)
– 1.2 litres of drunken chicken cooking liquid (if you can’t be bothered to make the drunken chicken, simmer chicken stock with ginger, garlic, spring onion and 2 tblsp each of chinese rice wine, mirin and soy for 30 minutes, then strain)
– 3 star anise
– 5-6 baby pak choy, leaves separated
– leftover drunken chicken or leftover roast chicken/pork/duck, chopped up
– a handful of coriander leaves
– 2-3 thinly sliced spring onions, green and white parts
– 300g dried noodles of your choice, but I encourage you to get them from your local Chinese supermarket (fresh noodles such as udon would also be good)

Optional:
– a handful of bean sprouts
– sliced up silken tofu
– sliced chilli

How
Put a pan of water on to boil for the noodles, and in a separate pan bring the drunken chicken broth to the boil, throw in the star anise and simmer for 5 minutes. Put the noodles in the water to cook (usually 4-5 minutes), and put the pak choy, coriander leaves, spring onions and the chopped meat you are using into the chicken broth to simmer for 5 minutes. Drain the noodles and divide between big bowls, then ladle the broth and everything in it over the noodles, and lastly stir through any optional ingredients you’re using. Remove the star anise – they’re a bit overpowering if you chew down on them.

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Drunken chicken

This is a short post to describe a (relatively) recent go I had at this classic Chinese way of poaching a whole chicken. I could go into huge detail for my enthusiasm for Chinese food, from hand made noodles to steamed buns, dumplings, all sorts of dim sum, bitter kai lin in oyster sauce, pickled dace with black beans, Szechuan anything, etc etc, but instead I’ll just layout this simple way of subtly flavouring a chicken and keeping it really moist. You basically fill a big pot with Chinese and Japanese booze (hence the name), flavour it with ginger and spring onions and then simmer a chicken in it for an hour. It’s juicy and tender and makes amazing sweet chicken stock that you can use for noodle soup afterwards.

What?
1 whole chicken
1 litre shaoxing rice wine
500ml mirin
extra water
60g palm (or brown) sugar
2-3 tblsp of light soy sauce to season
4-6cm ginger, thickly sliced
6 roughly chopped spring onions
3 finely sliced spring onions for garnish

How?

       

Put the liquid ingredients, ginger, roughly chopped spring onions and chicken in a pot, add enough extra water to just cover the chicken and bring it to the boil, before reducing the heat to a simmer. Taste the broth to check the seasoning – if it’s not salty enough, add some more soy. Then let it simmer for an hour.

Take the chicken out of the liquid and strip the meat off the steaming carcass. Chop it roughly and put it on a platter/shallow bowl with the sliced spring onions to decorate and some of the broth spooned over, alongside chinese greens (choi sum, pak choi, kai lan etc) fried with a bit of ginger, garlic and seasoned with soy sauce, and plenty of rice. Don’t forget to save the strained broth for making noodle soup – it’s very, very good.

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Black forest sponge

I really, really like black forest gateaux. My better half, however, doesn’t – which is probably why I’ve never attempted to make it (that, and the fact that I also have a three-year-old to look after, as well as a day job – and there’s only so many hours in the day, y’know).

Anyway, the no-time-for-fiddly-arsed-cakes rule came to an end the other week, when a slice of Black Forest from Oxford’s Patisserie Valerie proved to be – to put it mildly – a great disappointment. It looked very nice in the window, of course, which is what tempted me in the first place. But when it came to eating it? The sponge was stale, the cream was over-whipped, the chocolate wasn’t great… At a three quid a pop, it was also bloody great rip-off – and I was left feeling (a) slightly affronted that I’d forked out good money for something so crap, and (b) hungry for something which tasted as good as the cake I’d been looking forward to while I was queuing up for it.

Anyway, when I got home a few days later, I decided to sate my unsatisfied hankering, and also try my hand at something that even my boyfriend would like. My idea was that if you made dark, chocolately sponge and then simply sandwiched it with some great dollops of jersey cream and black cherry jam – then you’d get all of the taste of the traditional gateaux, with none of the kitsch or hassle (not, I have to say, that kitsch bothers me all that much – or even at all, in fact).

The result, anyway… was delicious. So delicious, that even Sam and my fussy toddler loved it – and deemed it worthy of a post, here.

For the cake:

175g butter, good and soft
3 eggs
175g caster sugar
175g self-raising flour
50g cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 x 20cm sandwich tins, greased

For the filling:

Half a jar of a decent quality jam (mixed up with a couple of tablespoons of kirsch, if you fancy something more boozy)
125 ml (or more) of Jersey cream

First, pre-heat your oven to 170C. Then, for the cake, cream your sugar and butter until they’re light and fluffy. After this, add the three eggs, one at a time, whisking further until the mixture leaves a nice trail when you raise your whisk (this should take around five minutes or so, with an electric whisk). Fold the flour into the mixture, followed by the cocoa and baking powder. Finally, stir in the vanilla extract, and divide the mixture between the two tins. Bake in the oven for around thirty minutes, or until a skewer or knife comes out clean. When your cakes are done remove from the oven and place on wire racks to cool.

While your cakes are cooling, whip the Jersey cream until it’s nice and thick. When they’re still lukewarm (but not hot; this way you get something delicious and oozing, rather than something that dribbles incontinently), sandwich the two halves together with the jam and cream.

Eat.

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A recipe in focaccia

I love this bread. Everyone I know loves this bread. This bread doesn’t keep, but that doesn’t matter as there won’t be any left after half an hour. I’m being serious. There is nothing so good as its salty, yeasty, rosemaryey, soft, warm dough and I defy anyone not to stuff your face with it. It also goes really well with my carrot dip.

This is an American recipe therefore the use of cups as measures. I am completely fine with using cups, but I know some of my fellow contributors hate them and think they’re inaccurate – how can you measure a flour and a liquid using the same system? Most recipes allow for this and there are some really good converter tables on the net if you insist on weighing things out, but I like the cup method. It’s simple and quick and there’s no faffing around. Also, with things like flour they can be so different depending on what type it is (organic, unbleached, etc etc) that you may have to slightly adjust how much liquid goes in anyway. But please do let me know if you disagree (and why!).

Kneading is always an issue when you start making bread – how do you know when to stop? I used to give up too soon and end up with quite dense bread. Just keep kneading until the dough seems totally combined, it doesn’t stick to the work top and you can stretch it and mould it with ease. If it’s still tacky and sticking to the work top or you, put more flour down on your surface and keep going. It should have a smooth skin and be really elastic. I will post that no need to knead bread recipe at some point, but until then you’re going to have to exercise those arm muscles. Here’s a video which is OK at showing you what to do, I don’t stretch the dough that much or gouge it like she does with my nails, I tend to only use the heel of my hand. I often cover the heel of my hand in flour to help with this. Here’s the recipe:

1 sachet fast acting yeast
4 cups of white flour
1½ cups lukewarm water
1 tbsp sugar
½ cup finely chopped onions
2 tsps salt
Rosemary
Olive oil
Coarse salt as needed

1. Add sugar, salt and onions to flour. Add dried yeast, stir until combined.
2. Add water, knead until smooth.
3. Place dough in an oiled bowl and roll it around until all the dough is covered. Let it rise until twice the size.
4. Punch dough down. Flatten dough onto an oiled baking tray (1in thick, I usually use a rolling pin at this point to make it a vaguely regular shape.)
5. Spread oil on top. Let it rise until double in size.
6. Stick in a finger in rows and sprinkle with the coarse salt and rosemary.
7. Bake at 170°C for 20/25 mins.

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Gizzards with Simian Mobile Disco

Jas enjoying his gizzards. Honestly.

My day job involves managing the musical careers of professional synth-twiddlers James Ford & Jas Shaw, otherwise known as Simian Mobile Disco. Last year they started a record label, called Delicacies, to release their own more techno orientated productions, where each track was named after an esoteric (and often unpleasant sounding) food delicacy.

For ages we’d been talking about actually trying to cook some thing from the catalogue, but many of the tracks presented some non-trivial problems – ortolan is illegal & casu marzu I think is currently illegal to export from Sardinia (quite apart from the fact that non of us have a particularly burning desire to eat a cheese full of live maggots). Sweetbreads are the only thing on that list that I’d actually enjoy cooking & eating, but I’ve never got around to acquiring any from the local butcher. A few weeks ago however, they released a new single entitled “Gizzard” and around the same time I spotted that a local deli was selling confit duck gizzards. Coincimental!

So, I suggested that I would cook them up an example of said organs, and make them eat them. James in particular is actually rather squeamish about offal, being a lapsed vegetarian and was slightly suspect about the whole thing, but I promised them it would be delicious.

A bit of research turned up that gizzards, which are the additional stomachs found in birds (as well as insects, reptiles and fish) for grinding up tough fibrous plant matter, are eaten all over the world in a variety of different ways. Often deep fried and served with a dipping sauce, or in soups and stir fries. The dish that really caught my eye however was a traditional French rustic meal of confit gizzards with a warm lentil salad. I found this recipe from The Cooking of Southwest France by Paul Wolfet, and was for a while available on chow.com, but seems to have been taken down now. You can still see it in Google’s cache here – I didn’t follow it precisely, and my slighty adapted version is below.

Ingredients (serves 4)

300g puy or green lentils
300g confit duck gizzards
half an onion, with a clove stuck into it
bay leaf
1 sprig of thyme
2 tablespoons brandy
3 small shallots, finely chopped
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
100ml oil (the original recipe calls for walnut oil, of which I had a little – I used 80/20 olive/walnut)
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
150g rocket
salt & pepper

Gizzards, ready to chop

Rinse and drain the lentils, and put in a pan. Cover with water, place in the onion half with clove, bay leaf and thyme and bring to the boil, skimming if necessary. Simmer for 20 minutes, then add the brandy. Cook for a further 5-10 minutes, until the lentils are done but still al dente.

Meanwhile, prepare the dressing – put the chopped shallots into a large mixing bowl bowl, and pour over the red wine vinegar, leave to soak for 10 minutes. Then add the mustard and walnut or olive oil, and whisk together. Season with salt and pepper, then take out 1/3 of the vinaigrette and set aside.

When the lentils are done, drain them and pick out the onion, bay leaf and thyme. Pour the lentils into the mixing bowl, and stir to coat them with the vinaigrette. Leave for an hour or more – the longer the better, this can be done earlier in the day if you like.

Gizzard and lentil salad with rocket and tomatoes

When you’re ready to eat, heat a large frying pan to medium, and thinly slick the duck gizzards. There should be plenty of fat with them from the confit – stick a couple of teaspoons of the duck fat in the pan, add the gizzards and fry gently for 3 minutes. Then add the lentils to the pan, and stir for a minute or two, until they are just warmed through. Stir in the parsley and season to taste, adding a little more vinegar if necessary. Use the reserved vinaigrette to dress the rocket, divide it onto four plates and serve the lentils immediately. Crusty bread and some sliced heirloom tomatoes make a good accompaniment. We eat these with a bottle of Macon-Charnay white burgandy…

This turned out absolutely delicious – even James wolfed his down with a degree of surprise. The gizzards have a curious texture, a little like kidneys, but totally different flavour very rich and gamey, slightly reminiscent of liver. They were firm with a good bite, and the flesh was homogeneous without structure (unlike kidneys). The vinegar and shallots cut through the rich meatiness of the gizzards beautifully.

James wolfing down his gizzards

The lentils were fantastic – I tasted them before the gizzards were added, and they would make a great salad dish on their own, for those of you not so into offal.

Now I just have to see what else I can cook & convince them to eat from their label…

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last night’s dinner: farinata

The posts had dried up a bit until recently, when Luke single handedly brough some action back to this blog. In a bid to prove it’s not a one-man operation, here’s a quick post from me about yesterday’s dinner. I made ‘farinata’, a very simple dish from Liguria in Italy (nod to my ironman/chef friend who first cooked it for me). It’s essentially a baked pancake made with chickpea flour and it gets its deliciousness from being cooked at high temperature in plenty of oil to make it good and crispy. The basic version is just chickpea flour, water and olive oil, but to make it more of a meal, you can toss in any additional ingredients you want – I strongly recommend any or all of the ones below.

You’ll need:
300ml chickpea flour (AKA gram flour or besan)
350ml water
3tbsp olive oil, plus more for the baking tray
salt and lots of pepper

Optional, but recommended, ingredients:
a sliced onion
1-2 tbsp of fresh rosemary leaves
1-2 tbsp fennel seeds
the meat of 1-2 sausages (without skins) in lumps

What do you do?
Sieve the chickpea flour into the water and oil, season with salt and lots of black pepper, and whisk together to make a smooth batter with the consistency of single cream. Leave it to rest for at least half an hour and preheat your oven to 220°C.

Heat up a baking tray (preferably a heavy, non-stick one) with plenty of olive oil – you want a thin coating across the whole pan. Then pour the batter into it, making sure it spreads out in the pan. Sprinkle on any or all of the extra ingredients, then bake it for 25 minutes (depending on the size of your baking tray and thus the thickness of the farinata), until it’s firm and everything is nicely browned. Take it out, slice up and serve it with salad – perfect for feeding two.

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A summer supper – celery ratatouille, seared broccoli and fried & roasted potatoes

Summer garden supper

No weird ingredients, no offal, even no meat – for a change! I made this a few weeks ago, on one of the few fine weekends we’ve had. I’ve been enjoying celery a lot recently, and one of my favourite ways to eat it is in a simple tomato sauce – my mum used to serve celery & courgette like this all the time, and always referred to it as ratatouille – which I realise now is something of a misnomer – but what the hell, it’s still delicious.

Serves three (unconventional I know –  this is just the number I cook for most of the time..)

 

 

Fried & Roasted Potatoes

3 large potatoes, chopped into half cm slices
1  onion, chopped
half a sweet red pepper , diced
1 teaspoon paprika
salt & pepper
olive oil

Celery “ratatouille”

4 celery stalks, cut into 1cm chunks
1 courgette, thickly sliced
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tin tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon dried herbs (optional – herbes de Provence or a mixture of basil and marjoram)
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
salt and pepper
olive oil

Broccoli

1 head of broccoli, cut into long florets, keeping most of the stalk
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
olive oil

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 / 200° C.

Boil a kettle while you chop the potatoes, onion and sweet pepper. Pour the water into a large sauce pan, and the potatoes and bring to the boil for just a few minutes, to start the cooking. Drain the potatoes in a colander and let them stand to dry. Heat a large frying pan, on medium, pour in a good glug of oil, then add the onion. Add the potatoes and then the chopped pepper. Saute for 10-15 minute, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes have started to get a golden and crisp round the edges. Add another glug of olive oil, the paprika, and a good grind of salt and pepper and mix well. If you are using an oven proof frying pan, you can then stick this straight in the oven. If not, transfer to baking tray or oven proof dish and put in the oven.

While the potatoes are frying, you can start the “ratatouille” – heat some oil in a saucepan, and fry the onion on a low heat until it’s translucent. Add the garlic and the celery, and fry for a further 5 minutes. Add the dried herbs at this point, if using them, then the tin of tomatoes, the sugar and salt and pepper. Stir, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and cover with a lid.

Leave everything for about 20 minutes or so, stirring the sauce occasionally.

The potatoes should be starting to look nicely done now. Take the lid of the ratatouille; the tomatoes will have cooked down by now. Leave the lid off, and add the courgettes to the pan and let them cook until they’re just a little soft, and the tomato sauce reduced some.

Meanwhile, chop the broccoli, and heat some oil in frying pan on high. Once the pan is really hot, sear the broccoli, turning occasionally. Once you’ve got the broccoli nicely charred, transfer it to a warmed serving dish. Add the pepper flakes and the lemon juice.

Serve with lemon mayonnaise or crème fraîche.

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