Chicken and Brown Rice Warm Salad with Mint, Yoghurt and Honey

Chicken Brown Rice Yoghurt Mint Honey

A couple of things people often say to me when they find out about my alter-ego as a dinner snapping food enthusiast is that they would love to cook but ‘don’t have time’ or that it’s too expensive to buy all the ingredients these days.

I try and smile in agreement, but inside I’m wrestling with the urge to reply “bullshit”. I don’t of course, it would be rude, but the point stands that preparing decent food doesn’t have to be expensive, nor time consuming.

I swear other than a little bit of marinading, this took no more than 25 minutes (with a little attention) and cost no more than a fiver. We got two dinners and lunch out of it so that’s £1.66 per head. Now if people say they can’t be bothered, then fine, I respect that it isn’t for everyone, but this is very doable.

This warm salad, much like the Monarchy has a distinct Greek accent with yoghurt, lemon, oregano, tomato and olive oil but I’m not sure it features in any Taverna. I worry about these issues too much though as I was actually quite pleased with the outcome and think the balance of flavours was just about right. Healthy too if you go steady with the salt.

The superb honey I used was a gift to Helen by her colleague James, whose folks keep bees, so a gratuitous plug is due:

Yorkshire Honey

The rice, with a bit of kettle boiling, takes the longest to prepare. I will stick my neck out though and recommend that if time is tight, you could always use one of those pre-cooked packets. Before you start pelting me with cries of “hypocrite!”, the plain varieties are mercifully just rice, oil and salt….

A little yoghurt and mint dressing and some of the warmed honey drizzled over the top finished it off nicely.

Serve 2-3

  • 2 chicken breasts, sliced thinly
  • 100g brown rice
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1 medium green pepper, diced
  • 1 medium red pepper, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • A couple of handfuls of broccoli
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • Dried oregano
  • Thyme (dried or fresh)
  • 3 or 4 tomatoes, diced
  • About 100g feta cheese, finely diced
  • 1 lemon
  • 3-4 heaped tbsp yoghurt
  • 1-2 tsp mint sauce
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • Oil for frying
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt

Marinade the chicken in the juice of half of the lemon, a little olive oil, the garlic (sliced thinly), salt, and about 1 tsp each of oregano and thyme. 20 minutes should do as a minimum.

Chicken marinading

Meanwhile cook the rice in salted water.

Prepare the vegetables, and the mint dressing (just mix the yoghurt and mint sauce with a little salt). Set aside.

Diced vegetables

Precook the broccoli a little by steaming a pool of shallow water until softened (but still firm). Leave to cool. Drain the rice and rinse under the cold tap

In a large pan or wok, fry the chicken/marinade ingredients in hot oil until coloured. Add the vegetables and season. Cook until the chicken is just done. Add the broccoli and rice to heat through. Taste and season some more if needed.

When just done, add the tomato, and other half of the lemon juice.

Mix well and plate up. Sprinkle over the feta and drizzle with the yoghurt. Heat the honey in a small milk pan and spoon a little over too (not too much or it will be too sweet). A final dusting of oregano and a little decent olive oil finishes it off.

See, not too bad?

Chicken Brown Rice Yoghurt Mint Honey

Bratwurst, Green Slaw and Mushroom Hash

Bratwurst, green slaw and mushroom hash

Driving home in the sun this evening, I started to feel that spring has really sprung. Once I got in I opened the back doors and the birds were singing. The frog spawn in the pond was incubating its inky black spots and the tree blossom was being carried in the breeze. I just knew it was time to uncover the BBQ for the first time in 4 months.

Right.

…So anyway, whilst that’s being steeped in bleach, I thought I’d use the griddle pan in the kitchen for this dish.

This is pretty simple but something I’ve been meaning to do for a while now. The Bratwurst sausages are great with the green slaw, which is inspired by a version found in the Pitt Cue Co’s book. A good book by the way. The sweet and sour dressing was all mine though and I added some tahini for a little bitter richness.

The mushroom hash was actually more a kind of warm potato salad, but worked well.

Serves 2:

4 Bratwurst sausages if you’re hungry. Two if not.

For the green slaw:

  • 3 savoy cabbage leaves
  • About a quarter to a third of a white cabbage
  • 1/2 a white onion
  • Half a green pepper
  • Half a celery stick
  • Handful of hazelnuts

Green slaw ingredients

For the dressing:

  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp raspberry and chilli vinegar (very much optional)
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/s tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp chilli oil
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 good pinches of sea salt
  • 1 tsp tahini

IMG_6208-imp

For the mushroom hash:

  • 2 large flat mushrooms sliced.
  • About 12 baby potatoes, halved
  • Dried thyme
  • Rapeseed oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, left in their skins
  • 1/2 a white onion, sliced thinly
  • Salt

Preheat the oven to moderate-high.

Start with the potatoes. Par boil them for about 10 minutes. Drain and lay on a deep baking tray with the mushrooms, onions and garlic. Season with salt and sprinkle over thyme and olive oil.

Roast until the potatoes are browned.

Mushroom Hash

Meanwhile, make the slaw by very finely shredding the two types of cabbage, onion, celery and green pepper. Mix well in  bowl. Roughly crush the hazelnuts in a pestle and mortar (or with a rolling pin) and add them in.

Hazelnuts

Make the slaw dressing by mixing the ingredients in a bottle (I used a squeezy serving bottle) and shake well to mix. Taste and adjust it as you see fit.

Griddle the sausages until marked well then transfer to the oven to heat through.

Bratwurst

Serve the sausages on the hash with the dressed slaw on top and your choice of sauce – I had some good Dijon mustard, and a nice cold continental beer.

Bratwurst, green slaw and mushroom hash

Mango with Yoghurt and Cinnamon Crumble.

Mango yoghurt Crumble

I don’t have much of a sweet tooth and you can probably tell that by the dearth of dessert recipes on here. I do appreciate a good pud though and when I have them, it tends to be something like this.

To be fair, I guess you could eat this for breakfast too, but as I mentioned previously, mornings are not my natural environment and the likelihood of knocking this out on a weekday morning is about the same as Miley Cyrus turning out to be a Mormon.

I liked this though – it’s a nice balance of smooth tangy yoghurt and mango, super-sweet maple syrup, and crunchy oat crumble.

It was only after putting it all together, in a nice pot, that I realised what I’d done. It’s a bloody Muller® Crumble Corner.

So, 0/10 for originality, but this is hand-made and uses fresh fruit so take that Muller.

Mango yoghurt crumble ingredients

Makes 2

  • 1 Mango, peeled, stoned  and cubed.
  • About 6 heaped tbsp of plain yoghurt (3 in each)
  • Maple syrup

For the crumble:

  • 20g Rolled oats
  • 50g Plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 20g Sugar (or to taste)
  • 40g Butter

Mix all the dry crumble ingredients into a bowl and then rub in the butter to make a crumble.

mixing crumble

Lay it out on a baking tray. Bake on a high heat in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, but being careful not to burn it.

Crumble on baking tray

Set aside to cool

Add the mango pieces and yoghurt to a pot, and swirl in some maple syrup.

Sprinkle over the crumble topping and tuck in.

 

Teriyaki Chicken and Vegetables.

chicken teriyaki

Japanese food remains a bit of an enigma to me. I love it, don’t get me wrong but having had limited exposure to Japanese restaurants, other than the few westernised versions scatted here and there around the North East, I don’t understand it.

I Google/Binged it of course and there are a number of helpful websites out there demonstrating how Japanese ordinarily eat meals, nicely preceded by a simple and typically efficient “itadakimasu”. The trouble is I have to try and translate this to the local restaurants. There’s a good one I like in Newcastle called Osaka: friendly service, informal atmosphere, plenty of Japanese diners (my favourite yardstick for ethnic restaurants). The menu however, is a bit of a dichotomy; on the one hand I love the variety, but on another, it confuses the life out of me.

Now I must point out at this stage, that this is far from the biggest problem life can throw at a person, but then this is a food blog. ‘Order-panic’, when the waitress comes over for the second time, is up there with wanting to use the salt and noticing someone seated  after  you had their order taken first. Major dining issues.

I’m going to try and learn more about Japanese food though. Fortunately these days Japanese ingredients are getting easier and easier to find – another benefit of international  students coming to study in my local cities

This is something I made a little while back with moderately tangible Japanese origins. It’s healthy though (or so I believe this week – see my last piece) and tasty. Chicken thigh would have been better as I find no matter how long I marinate chicken breast, it struggles to take on flavour, but the glaze is intensely flavoured.

I use a plastic food bag as you can push most the air out and well cover the chicken, rather than have the marinade pooling in the bottom of a container. You can get away with making much less marinade too that way.

I cooked the vegetables on a stupidly high heat for only a minute with a small amount of soy and  sesame oil and were nicely smoked as a result.

And, yes I’m aware the chicken is not getting eaten with those chopsticks.

Serves 2:

  • 2 Chicken supremes, skin on or off, I removed it later anyway.
  • Teriyaki marinade:
    • 3 tbsp soy sauce
    • 3 tbsp honey
    • 2 tbsp mirin
    • 2 tbsp sake or Chinese rice wine
  • Sesame seeds to finish.
  • 100g rice.
  •  1 tbsp ground nut oil
  • Mixed vegetables, I used: thinly sliced spring onion, sugar snap/snow peas, baby corn, red chilli, garlic and small broccoli heads.

A little soy and  a few drops of sesame oil to flavour.

Marinate the chicken in the teriyaki marinade for a day, or two (preferably two as I did here).

chicken in a teriyaki marinade

Heat then oven to a high setting – 200 to 220°C or 390-430°F

Boil the pain rice for about 15 minutes, using the absorption method.

Remove any skin, as it will just shrivel up, and roast in the oven on a wire rack/tray. Brush with the marinade frequently to get a nice glaze. The chicken will be done once at 60-65°C/140-150°F in the centre. Check using a thermometer probe, but it will be about 15-20 minutes depending on the size of the chicken.

Sprinkle the seeds over the chicken and leave to rest.

Make the vegetables: stir fry them in smoking hot oil for just a minute or two, flavouring with the soy and sesame oil at the end.

Serve it all up. Itadakimasu.

chicken teriyaki

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lamb Kleftiko Flatbread Wraps.

Lamb kleftiko wrap

In my recent absence, I’ve seen a lot of articles on food and now I’m really confused.

I thought I had the food and nutrition thing sorted. Alcohol is bad. Or not, if you don’t drink too much. A little is good for you though, but don’t drink it everyday. But they say a little red wine each day is good for you – ask the French or the Italians. It continues…

But come on now, everyone knows that saturated fats are bad and to be eliminated from your diet it you want to dodge coronary heart disease. Right? A report in the Telegraph says otherwise……

Carbohydrates are good for performance if you’re an athlete but unhelpful in maintaining the waistline if not. In sugar form? Don’t even think about it, that’s now the devil incarnate according to the media and is the current bad boy of processed food, being used to replace the flavour lost in our quest for ever ‘lower fat’.

The upshot is – I’ve stopped worrying about it all honesty.  Proper butter is high in calories and cholesterol, I know that, so we use less of it. Mayo? I normally make my own and bear witness to the amount of oil going into it so the same goes. Fresh bread is delicious, just don’t go mad.

It’s all about balance isn’t it? So, if you make from scratch wherever you can (or buy non processed ingredients at least) I don’t think you can go far wrong.

So that said, here’s a dish which includes salt, sugar, saturated fats, carbs and dairy. All in moderation, of course, and a glass of decent wine to wash it down.

I make lamb kleftiko a lot as it’s one of those dead-easy one pot Sunday specials you can leave in the oven whilst you get on with the rest of the day. I was actually going to post it before, but never got round to it.

Here's one I made earlier...

Here’s one I made earlier…

This is a slightly different take on it – a sort of Gyro with tzatziki, fresh tomato sauce and grilled aubergine. It may invoke distant memories of dodgy kebabs eaten in post-pub youth, but this is a world away from those spinning mystery meats. Considerably better for you too.

Lamb

Lamb kleftiko wraps for 4 (or fewer hungrier people 🙂

Lamb:

  • 1.5kg leg or shoulder
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • About 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 sprig each of thyme & rosemary.
  • Salt and pepper

Tzatziki:

  • 1 small tub greek yoghurt.
  • 1/3 cucumber, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced chopped
  • Lemon juice and salt, to taste.

Tomato sauce:

  • About 300g good tomatoes
  • 3 garlic cloves and the onions from the lamb pot
  • A good pinch of sugar (not essential of course but balances it up)
  • Salt to taste

Aubergine:

  • 1 Aubergine
  • Oil to drizzle
  • Pinch of salt

Flatbread (makes plenty):

  • 500g strong four
  • 300g water
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 sachet (or 5g) yeast
  • 10g salt.

Olive oil and oregano to serve.

In a lidded pot, heat the oil and brown the lamb. Add the rest of the ingredients, cover tightly with baking parchment and the lid. Place in a low oven at 130°C/260°F for 4 hours. Longer the better.

Lamb kleftiko cooking

For the last hour, start the bread by combining the ingredients and knead. I use the dough hook on a mixer, but knead until smooth and the dough can stretch thinly without tearing – 5 minutes with a mixer or 10 minutes by hand. Cover the dough and leave to prove.

Once done the lamb should be almost falling apart. Pull it apart and place in a tray. Pour over the cooking liquor, but keep the onions and garlic for later. Cover the  tray with foil and keep warm, or just reheat it later.

For the tzatziki, just combine the ingredients and set aside. I prefer to do this a while before to let the garlic ‘mellow’ a bit.

Diced cucumber

For the tomato sauce, blitz the tomatoes, 3 garlic cloves and the onions from the lamb. Heat though in a pot and stir in the sugar and salt to taste, if needed at all.

Slice the aubergine fairly thinly, drizzle with oil and season. Griddle them on a hot pan until charred and tender.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to maximum – use a pizza stone if you have one. Roll out the dough in a circle to the size of oranges for big wraps or the size of golf balls for small ones. Cook on the oven stone, but be careful not to crisp it up too much or it won’t wrap. Which is kind of the point of flatbread wraps….

Flatbread wraps

If you prefer, you can cook the wraps on a hot iron skillet, like tortillas.

Once ready, serve it all up on the flatbread with a little extra virgin olive oil and some more oregano.

Lamb kleftiko tzatziki

A Simple Breakfast and Helen’s Bright Idea

Smoked salmon and egg with tartarte sauce

I must admit, I’m not a morning person and definitely not a ‘breakfast person’. The last thing I need as I drag myself around the house in the morning is a plate, or bowl, of food. Coffee, however, is another matter entirely.

The problem is by mid morning at work I’m famished and with a deficit of cafes around selling anything other than heart-attack-inducing hot sandwiches, I tend to take those God-awful microwave porridges into the office. People of Scotland: please don’t judge me.

So come the weekend, with a little more time and a kitchen at hand, I try and make something properly. Ironically, Saturday tends to comprise the aforementioned heart-attack-inducing sandwich, or even the delicious but deadly “full English”. I see it as a reward for navigating yet another working week without killing anyone (I’m of the opinion that deceased clients are bad for cashflow and expired staff rather less productive).

This breakfast dish is typically something we have on a lazy Sunday. It’s quick, filling and actually inexpensive – a little smoked salmon goes a long way. I actually prefer it with some nice freshly hot-smoked salmon, but this is nearly as good. I made a ‘kind-of’ tartare sauce with home-made mayo, gherkins and finely minced picked onion. It was nice and sharp against the egg and salmon.

It’s not normally something  I’d post about, especially as I wrote about something similar a while back, but there were a number of reasons for doing so today:

  1. We have a new dining table
  2. It’s the first time I tried making Mayo in the mixer therefore NOT getting it everywhere.
  3. This morning, for the first time in living memory, it wasn’t CHUCKING IT DOWN WITH RAIN and therefore had some decent light. Oh, now wait, it’s started chucking it down…..

Lastly, Helen’s bright idea was a simple and foolproof way of getting leftover mayo into the squeezy bottle – a greaseproof paper cone. Just top it up every now and again and let it drip through. She was very pleased with herself:

May in a bottle

The mixer-mayo was actually brilliant: just beat one egg yolk, one tbsp white wine vinegar, one tsp of dijon mustard on the highest setting with the beater attachment.

making mayonnaise

Gently pour in the oil

Mayo - pour in the oil

A few minutes later, season with a little salt, et voila:

homemade mayo

For the breakfast, I simply added some chopped pickled onion and gherkin (about a tablespoon of each) to a ramekin of the mayo to make the ‘tartare’ sauce.

Scramble some egg with a little butter and season to taste. Keep it soft if you can. Stir in the smoked salmon and allow to warm a little. Serve it on toast or potato cakes if you have them.

Scrambled egg and smoked salmon on toast

Braised Ox Cheek with Celeriac Puree, Oyster Mushrooms and Charred Baby Leek

Braised ox cheek, oyster mushrooms and charred baby leek

It seems every other week in Newcastle, my nearest City, there’s a new restaurant/eatery/bar opening up. “Excellent” I hear you cry and I agree.

One thing most have in common is the stripped back austere look, reinforced by enamelled pie dishes, menus on a clipboard and exposed brickwork. Just a few ‘dig for Britain’ posters and some bunting and it’s the 40’s all over again. I actually like this trend. Whilst I’ve no doubt it is styled to within an inch of its life, it feels unfussy and casual especially when pouring milk into my coffee from something that looks suspiciously like a specimen bottle.

Another curiosity is the proliferation of ‘little plates’ and ‘large plates’, which is a new one for me. I think it generally means ‘starter’ and ‘main’ but it does tend to suggest that you can order what you like. Small plates, if you’re peckish, large plates if your famished. It would have been weird to sit in a bar and order a just a ‘starter’ I guess.

A further common thread though and it’s where I’m going with all this, is the trend back toward the good honest food, starting with slow cooked meats (such as the ubiquitous pulled pork sandwich and oxtails) and robust traditional vegetables and pulses (beetroot salads, barley risottos, that sort of thing).

My cooking is no exception, as you can probably see if you browse my site, but one cut that has been eluding me though is the humble ox-cheek. No doubt it was a hard sale for butchers at one time but with the current clamour for ‘low and slow’ I’m surprised it’s still so tricky to find.

I’ve written about it before but I first tried it in a 3 Michelin star restaurant in Vegas and was hooked. It was cooked in a thai broth, but the flavour was amazing, but then I guess it should be at $250 a head.

I got just over a kilo from a a certain higher end supermarket butchers the other week. It was actually all they had on display and at £7.50/kilo, a bargain. It’s a very hard working muscle so needs plenty of gentle slow cooking, but it is worth the wait. Better still, just half of it made two dinners for Helen and I and 4 lunches. Superb value.

Ox cheek

One was a typical slow cooked dish, braising the ox cheek in red wine with some creamed celeriac, meaty oyster mushrooms and charred baby leek. The other, a very similarly cooked ragu with fresh pasta. The pasta itself was actually better a day or two later as the flavour really developed. I’ll post the ragu dish soon.

 For the Braised Ox cheek with celeriac and charred leek:

 For the ox cheek:

  • 300g ox cheek, cut into two portions
  • 100g bacon lardons
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 large carrot, finely diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 large glasses of fruity red wine – I used Malbec
  • 500ml beef stock
  • 2 star anise
  • 2 baby leeks
  • Tender stem brocoli

Mushrooms:

  • A couple of handfuls of oyster mushrooms (about 100g)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tsp butter

 Creamed celeriac:

  •  Half a celeriac
  • 100ml light/single cream
  • 1 knob of butter
  • Salt to taste

Cut the ox cheek into two portions and brown well in a iron casserole pot with a pinch of salt.

Remove and add the onion, lardons, sliced garlic, carrot. Stir until the onion softens – ad a little water if it begins to burn. Deglaze with the wine and return the ox cheeks along with the stock, the star anise and bay leaves. Put the lid on and bring to a simmer.

Either continue then to cook on the hob at the lowest possible heat setting, or a I did, place it in an oven at 120°C/250°F for 5 hours.

When done, remove the ox cheeks carefully, so as not to break them up. Keep warm in an oven at 60°C/140°F

Strain the cooking liquor into a saucepan and gently reduce until thick and viscous (coating the back of a spoon). Taste and season if necessary, but it probably won’t be.

reduced cooking liquor

Meanwhile, chop the celeriac into chunks and boil for about 15 minutes until soft – add the broccoli for the final few minutes to save on pans. Remove the broccoli and keep warm. Blend with the cream and butter until very smooth – season to taste. Keep warm in a lidded pan or covered bowl.

Coat the leeks in oil and a good pinch of salt. Char on a griddle pan until nicely marked and tender throughout (about 10 minutes).

At the same time, fry the mushroom in a little oil and the butter until softened and season slightly.

IMG_5646-imp

Bit of a juggling act at the end but very much worth it when you plate it all up. May as well finish off the Malbec you just opened too 😉

 braised ox cheek

Cod, Cockles, Samphire and Split Peas

IMG_5550-imp

We’re lucky enough to live very near the coast and although we take it for granted nothing beats a walk down the beach on a cold day. OK, maybe a warm day, but relatively speaking, it’s quiet this time of the year, bar the occaisional couple and dog walker.

Sand Haven Beach in December last year. Another storm coming at us in the distance.

Sand Haven Beach in December last year. Another storm coming at us in the distance.

Being on the North East England coast we’ve missed the intensity of most of the storms battering the South at the moment. There was an incident of flooding on the river Tyne in Newcastle last year caused by a combination of storm surge and exceptional high tides but we’ve had it nothing like as bad.

Still, Helen popped into our local fishmongers, Latimers today to get some fish for tonight’s dinner and crab for a colleauge but is seems one of the boats had an accident in the rough weather last week and its in shorter supply than usual. There was no hake either and so we ended up with cod. I must admit, I’m generally not to enamoured by the fish in the cod family, (including hake, haddock, coley etc),  I’d much rather have mackerel, sardines or, when we can afford it (or indeed get it), turbot. But nonetheless I think a thick piece of chunky white fish was needed in this dish. She also picked up some samphire, my favourite fish accompaniment and some huge cockles. ‘Oo-er missus’ indeed.

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This seemed fairly simple but ended up with the inevitable dash to finish it. The split peas were boiled until tender, but not mushy, like you might have them in a dhal. The samphire, nice and salty as it is, was simply steamed above the peas for a few minutes to leave them with some nice ‘bite’. The cockles, cooked in wine, garlic and thyme, gave up a beautiful cooking liquor to blend with some butter for a rich sauce. It was finished with some crisp parma ham and, of course,  some cod crisped in a searing hot pan and finished under the grill.

Ingredients, serves 2:

  • 2 x hake cod fillets
  • Oil for frying
  • Butter to finish
  • 10 large cockles
  • 1 garlic clove, finely diced.
  • A handful of fresh thyme, leaves only.
  • Salt to tasteC1 glass white wine
  • A knob of butter to finish a sauce.
  • 100g split peas
  • Vegetable stock (optional)
  • Samphire
  • 2 parma ham slices

Boil the split peas in vegetable stock or slightly salted water until done, about 40 minutes.

IMG_5504-imp

When nearly done, start the cockles/sauce: fry the garlic in some oil in a pan gently for a couple of minutes. Add the wine, bring to a simmer,  and then add the cockles.

Place a lid on and steam for 3 or 4 minutes until the well opened.

IMG_5507-imp

Chuck away any that don’t open – I didn’t get any this time.

If necessary, pick out the cockles and rinse well under the tap to remove any sand. Place in a bowl, cover and heat up/keep warm in an oven (60º/140ºF). Strain the cooking liquor with a very fine sieve and pour the liquid only back into the pan. Whisk in the butter, season and bring to a simmer. Put a lit on and keep warm.

Whilst cooking the cockles, steam the samphire with a steamer insert over the split peas. If not, steam, or blanch separately for a few minutes and keep warm.

Under a hot grill, crisp the pieces of parma ham. Keep warm.

Lastly, heat a pan with a good lug of oil until smoking. Pat dry the fish with kitchen and, being brave, move it around the pan to stop it sticking, pushing the skin down to stop it curling. Use a spatula if it spits too much – please don’t make me do a warning message when cooking with hot oil ;).

This me, being brave.

This me, being brave.

Either flip the fish over to finish or finish under a very hot grill – a temperature probe is useful so as not to over cook it (60-65º/140ºF-150ºF).

Plate it all up, whisking the sauce again if it’s seperated.

Cod Samphire Cockles and Split Peas

Roast 5 Spice Pork Belly With Spicy Kale Stir Fry

hinese pork belly and kale stir fry

So how has dry January been everyone? I have conscientiously abstained this year as I find little more comforting during the British winter than a good pub with good ale. Throw in some warm bar snacks and we have ourselves a key weapon in the fight again the post-Christmas Blues. Also, more exercise, fewer carbs, starting a new hobby and even more exercise, but the point stands.

This time last year however, I was getting to the end of a month spent free from meat, other than the type which comes out the water and to the very day a year ago, starved of inspiration and protein, I caved in and made a dish with oxtails in it. Sigh.

To mark this significant achievement therefore, I made this lovingly for all the carnivorous detoxers out there – a kind of porcine carrot on a stick to see you through the last few days until all the good work is undone with a whacking great burger.

In fairness only a third of this dish has questionable health benefits and wouldn’t you know, it’s the tastiest bit. It borrows heavily from my earlier post about roast pork belly but this time it’s getting the 5 spice treatment. The night before, the pork was rubbed with 5 spice before being braised in a cooking liquor of garlic, ginger, chicken stock and soy sauce for 3 hours covered with some tightly fitting foil. Then, it’s oven off and leave it alone until the morning. As before, you may want to remove the foil and replace with cling film before transferring to the fridge if you intend to have this for dinner, to be on the safe side.

I heartily recommend a layer of baking parchment between the pork and the foil as the salt in the stock can attack the aluminium, discolouring anything it touches.

As ever, finish the stir fry off last and have everything chopped and ready to go or much cursing generally ensues. I used kale here, primarily as I had it in the fridge, but it works well with the chilli. The only other aspect was the plain boiled rice to serve it with.

Lastly, you’ll have to take my word about the sauce being there, I put it under the pork so as not to ruin the carefully crisped skin….

Serves 2

  •  750g/1.6lb pork belly
  • 1 tbsp five spice
  • 500ml/2cups chicken stock
  • Good dash of soy
  • 4 garlic cloves, whole
  • 8 slices of ginger, don’t bother peeling.

To finish the sauce:

  • 1 tbsp hoisin
  • 1 tbsp honey

For the stir fry:

  • 1 garlic clove, sliced
  • Chilli flakes, as much as you like
  • 3 small peppers, cut into thin rings
  • 2 to 3 handfuls of sliced mushroom.
  • 6 handfuls of kale
  • Soy sauce or salt to taste
  • Oil for frying

Boiled rice

Place the pork in a tightly fitting tray and add the garlic, soy, ginger and chicken stock. Cover with a layer of baking parchment, tightly seal with foil and roast in the oven at around 150°C/ 300°F for 3 hours. After this, turn the oven off and go to bed (or go out for the day) – don’t open the oven or remove the foil.

When ready to cook, remove the pork (keep the cooking liquor – see below) and dry with kitchen paper, cut into nice squares and fry it in an oven proof hot frying pan, skin side down, to crisp up. Turn the pork over to colour each side then place it, skin side up in the oven.

A this point I placed the pan at the bottom of the oven and use the grill to crisp the skin properly and warm thoroughly (80°C 175°F should do it). Once done, leave to rest with some more foil over it.

Skin crisped, ready to go.

Skin crisped, ready to go.

Meanwhile, boil some white long grain rice in a pan, I use the absorption method.

In a small pan, pour in about half the cooking liquor and heat to reduce a little (unless you added too much soy, it shouldn’t be too salty). Stir in the hoisin and honey and whisk well. Keep warm.

Finally, chop the vegetables ready to go. Place a little oil into a very hot wok and stir in the mushroom and peppers and chilli flakes for 1 minute, moving it all the time. Add the kale and garlic and stir fry for a couple minutes more. Season with a little more soy, or salt if you prefer.

Spicy kale stir fry

Grilled Chicken, Roast Vegetables and Tahini Dressing.

Grilled chicken tahini dressing

You may remember a daytime quiz show on TV called Supermarket Sweep, or Dale’s Supermarket Sweep as it was known in the UK to acknowledge the camp Quiz Meister himself. Sadly overlooked at the BAFTAs throughout its lifetime it was well loved by the unemployed, those with sick notes and students. It also conveniently fell after ‘This Morning’ and before Countdown. Epic daytime scheduling.

Of course these days I work for myself and as such sick notes are a distant memory, as are my student days but I seem to remember the basic premise was to reach the final where the contestants sprinted around a mock supermarket filling a trolley with as much as possible at some point. Wiki reliably informs me however, this was the ‘Big Sweep’, building to a crescendo with the awe inspiring ‘Super Sweep’.

The reason for my rambling is that this dish was born from a typical mid-week ‘Big Sweep’ shop. No meal planning, no due regard for use-by dates, I just grabbed anything remotely interesting, swiped the club card and got out of there.

And so, after returning home and getting tutted at for forgetting, once again,  to buy anything dessert related, this roast vegetable dish was constructed from the results of my ‘sweep’.

It’s fairly near-East in style so maybe I had a subconscious plan but aside from a little chopping and flattening, it was very easy to do. This also means it’s eminently adjustable if you wish.

The tahini nicely offset the sweet butternut squash and peppers, but then millions of people around the Mediterranean Sea knew that already. I added Chorizo to balance the dish out and it worked nicely too.

Serves 4

  • 4 small or 2 large chicken breasts.
  • Olive oil
  • 2 x 1 tsp chilli flakes (one for the vegetables, one for the chicken)
  • 1 tbsp za’tar
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 large red pepper
  • 1 large red onion
  • 4 inch piece of Chorizo (or similar), diced quite finely
  • Small handful of seeds to finish (I used sunflower seeds)
  • Salt & Pepper

For the dressing:

  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • 2 tbsp good olive oil
  • 1 pinch salt
  • Small squeeze lemon

Preheat the oven to 190°C/380°F.

Start by flattening the chicken into thin escalopes. If using large chicken breasts, halve them through the middle first.

Flattened chicken breast

Season the chicken with salt pepper and 1 tsp of chilli flakes and brush with the some of the oil. Leave aside for now.

Slice the butternut squash into 1 inch/2.5cm cubes and chop the onion and pepper into large chunky pieces. Place the vegetables (leave the garlic whole) with the Chorizo into a tight fitting tray and pour over enough olive oil to coat well. Add the Za’tar and mix once more. Season with salt, pepper and chilli flakes and roast in a fairly hot oven (190°C/380°F) with foil on for about 20 minutes.

Roast vegetables with za'tar

Remove the foil and roast for another 15-20 minutes until the butter nut squash is tender and the veg has some nice crisp edges.

Meanwhile – mix the tahini dressing by combining the ingredients in a small lidded container and shake well.

Lastly, get a griddle pan smoking hot and cook each piece of chicken until nicely barred on each side. They should only take minutes each if thin enough.

Serve the chicken on the vegetables (remove the garlic unless you want it). Drizzle over the tahini dressing and then the seeds.

 Grilled chicken with roast vegetables and tahini dressing