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Category Archives: Chicken

The Strong Female Lead

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As most people could tell from a quick glance at my Facebook photos, I’m no slave to fashion. In fact I’m probably not even a well looked after and healthily remunerated employee to it, yet there is one thing currently in fashion that I can fully support, and that is The Strong Female Lead. Not just in film and TV, but in real life too. I’m very on board with the Katniss Everdeen’s, Leslie Knope’s, Beatrix Kiddo’s and such of film and TV fame (if they’re not pining for a man throughout the entire story and you know, have actual interests and aspirations aside from having the most amazing wedding of all time, like actual real women then I’m all for it) but strong women who haven’t been dreamed up by writers in Hollywood are far more intriguing and inspiring to me. Let’s get the sob story out of the way quick – I’m not a fan of self-pity and I don’t like to dwell on the past, but without the sob story my fascination with strong women makes no sense. My mum passed away when I was young, so when a couple of years on from this I was bought a Janet Jackson CD it was like a light had been switched on. I had my female relatives there for me who were and are brilliant still, but for everyday female inspiration, I had pop stars to rely on. Janet Jackson sang about feminism! Racism! Inequality! SEX! Of course, 10 year old me wasn’t really aware of any of these issues and couldn’t really get her head around what any of it really meant, but here was a woman totally not afraid about speaking her mind, sounding completely bad ass and starting to teach me valuable life lessons that (and this is very important) I could make up awesome dance routines to in my bedroom. I just wanted to be the girl sassy enough to be able to throw out the line “no my first name ain’t baby, it’s Janet, Miss Jackson if you’re nasty” to any boy foolish enough to mess with me. It’s not happened yet, my name isn’t Janet Jackson, I’m betrothed to be wed and mum to a demanding one year old, so the likelihood of me ever saying it grows slimmer by the day but you never know… The Design of a Decade album was a crash course in being a woman, what to believe in and stand for, and my tiny little mind soaked it all up so that I would be ready for when I would be old enough to get my head around it all.

 

Fast forward twenty years or so and my favourite Real Life Strong Female Lead is of course, Nigella Lawson (and Beyoncé. Always Beyoncé.) If you’re ever feeling like crap and you just can’t face something, google the footage of Nigella arriving in court for the trial of her former assistants. The press were tearing her apart, incredibly private and mortifying details about her home life and marriage were being discussed in court and splashed all over the tabloids, and she was going through a divorce from a man who had publicly humiliated her. Does she look even remotely bothered? No, she looks incredible, confident and her IDGAF face is on point. If that doesn’t inspire you to attend that job interview/go to a terrifying meeting/meet that blind date then there’s no helping you. Team Nigella all the way in my house. Obviously then, I snaffled up her new cookbook Simply Nigella, which I have been cooking recipes from over the past few weeks. It’s a bit of a departure from her usual style in that alongside the heavenly looking baking recipes and savoury comfort food that she’s famous for, she also includes quite a lot of healthy and ‘free from’ recipes. I’ve no beef with that, you can’t constantly eat butter and cream filled foods unless your goal in life is to keel over from a heart attack at 30, and it’s good to have a healthy balance in your kitchen. So far I’ve cooked the chicken shawarma (juicy, spicy chicken that received a rave review from The Boyfriend, so a complete success), Thai cinnamon prawn noodles (warm, savoury and tongue tingling-ly yummy), coconut spiced cod (not bad but not amazing) and split pea soup with ginger, chilli and lime (I wasn’t very enthused about this one, it just didn’t do it for me). A mixed bag so far, although there are loads of recipes I can’t wait to find the time to try, such as Indian spiced shepherd’s pie, chai muffins, sweet potato macaroni cheese, ramen, salted chocolate tart, Asian short ribs and chocolate chip cookie dough pots. There are lots more I’m itching to try but the latter are high up on the ‘to cook’ list. I’m hoping Simply Nigella will be just as trusty a steed as her Express, Kitchen, Bites and Christmas books have ended up being for me.

 

As for me, I’m certainly no Janet Jackson, Beyonce or Nigella, but I’d like to consider myself a Strong Female Lead in my own life. Maybe not physically (although carrying around a baby for the last year has certainly done my arms a few favours) but in other ways, definitely. I like to think of myself as a cotton ball with a hidden rod of metal running through it. I’ll cry at the series finale of New Girl, sure, and watching the news is risky business these days for my mascara, plus don’t get me started on how mushy I can get when my baby boy breaks out into laughter, but when push comes to shove I am made of tougher stuff. When my son was much smaller and my significant other wasn’t working away, I didn’t think I would be able to manage at all with looking after a baby once my other half went back to working away for weeks at a time, and yet I’ve managed to do it without losing my mind. Plus I’ve managed to work full time whilst doing so. I know, single parents do it all the time and I have nothing but respect for them, but for me, Miss Anxiety, Miss I Have An Itinerary For Everything And I Don’t Know How To Fit All Of This Into One, it’s a big deal. I managed to live in a house that was practically a building site for two years and didn’t have a stroke – badass. I got made redundant while on maternity leave, and after 10 months of spending my days singing nursery rhymes and turning pears into mush, I somehow managed to get through my first job interview in five years and miraculously got the job. That’s a straight to video film (showing my age there) in then making right there! I’ve already said I’m not good with self-pity, and I’m really not good at bigging myself up so this blog entry has been excruciating for me to write (thank God for self-deprecation) but it’s definitely time for women to embrace their inner Strong Female Lead, so I’m starting with myself. Nigella has taught me how to cook over the years, but recently she’s also inspired me to keep my head up, pull my shoulders back and just get on with it. She’s also bloody good with a Middle Eastern marinated chicken recipe. The girl’s alright with me.

 

 

 

Reinventing The Roast

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Roast dinner is easily the most iconic of all the British foods. You could argue that a bacon sandwich or the full English should take the title, or that nothing is more British than a cup of tea accompanied by the perfect dunking biscuit (chocolate digestives, always), but for me, nothing says home like a big plate of roast dinner. It’s what the vast majority of us grew up on, its the one dish that I absolutely cannot wait to have if I’ve been somewhere abroad for a couple of weeks, and to sit down at the table with a roast dinner equals sitting round a table with some of your favourite people, whether that be your parents, relatives, best friends or significant other. Let’s face it, you don’t cook a roast for someone you aren’t fond of. I’m not spending my precious Sunday with someone I can’t wait to say goodbye to, end of.

The Boyfriend (I’ve gone back to boyfriend in writing only, I can’t stand the word fiancé, it sounds too pretentious, so until he’s The Hubby it’s back to informalities. Plus, I can only take the word fiancé seriously if I say it in the same tone Jay Z says “Beyonceeeeeeeeee” in his raps, which is not seriously at all. We are still very much engaged) is a big fan of the roast dinner and no doubt would be appalled at what I cooked for myself last night. Good thing then that he is thousands of miles away. Even as I was telling him what I was having for my dinner I evaded the truth by stating ‘oh just some chicken thing with potatoes’ because I knew to tell him the that I was making One Pan Sunday Lunch from a Nigel Slater cookbook would bring scorn down upon me! He is not a fan of Nigel Slater for some reason which I can’t quite fathom, and likes roast dinner just the way it’s been for decades, thank you very much. Admittedly, I find watching Nigel on TV a little cringe worthy but I can’t put my finger on why that is, considering that I love his writing and his recipes are pretty much always spot on. It’s not him, it’s definitely me, and I apologise Nigel because I think you’re brilliant.

If you haven’t discovered Nigel Slater yet then I really urge you to do so. I first stumbled upon his books when I checked out his cookbook Real Food from the library years ago when I didn’t want to spend all of my money on cookbooks. It’s an absolute classic and is filled with food you immediately want to eat. The chapters of the book are defined by his favourite ingredients, so you have one chapter dedicated to cheese, another to garlic, to sausage, to ice cream. This is a man whose books I can totally get on with. He also writes like an absolute dream about food and is a genius at conveying flavours, textures and smells as well as understanding just how significant food is in our day to day lives. Him and Nigella are my favourite food writers and both know that what people really want to eat at home is unpretentious, tasty and easy. So many food writers fail to recognise this. Considering how much I love him then, it’s surprising that I never actually owned one of his books until six months ago. I have the library to thank for saving my pennies for so long whilst continually checking out ‘Real Food’ every time I needed a fix. I bought his latest book Eat last year, flicked through it going ‘yum’ or ‘mmmmm’ every other page and then completely forgot about it. Until now! I’ve resurrected Eat from under the bed and after flicking through it again I’m in love.

Needing something soothing and filling I eventually plumped for the One Pan Sunday Lunch. It helped in my decision making that I’d just bought a cast iron shallow casserole dish that I’d been wanting for ages (not Le Creuset sadly, but a much more affordable alternative in the same volcanic orange shade) and was itching to use it. The dish is seriously simple, it takes the three best parts of a roast chicken dinner and you only need one pan. Basically, you brown some chicken thighs and potatoes, pour in a stock, cook for 20 minutes, then once you’ve removed the chicken and potatoes, add cream, milk, breadcrumbs and herbs to the stock to make a ridiculously gorgeous bread sauce. I LOVE bread sauce. I haven’t had a lot of it in the past, I’m an adult convert to the stuff, but when you get proper homemade bread sauce, it’s up there with sliced bread. This bread sauce in particular was perfect. Because it had soaked up all the chicken juices and the stock (I used a concentrated chicken bouillon that you can find amongst the Oxo cubes) the sauce was immensely savoury with a deep, meaty flavour as well as being smooth and creamy. Much as I am a fan of sweet foods I’m finding myself more and more compelled to the far more savoury foods and this dish is nirvana for savoury lovers. The potatoes had crispy edges but were soft and fluffy too from being cooked in the stock and the chicken was perfectly cooked, albeit with less than perfect skin. The skin had started out crispy but once I’d poured in the stock and let the chicken cook, all crispiness went out the window. The only downside to the dish. If you want an immensely chicken-y dinner without the time and work of a full on roast, then this my friends is the dish for you. I gave myself a little more washing up to do by cooking some broccoli to go alongside it and by all means you can pick and choose what vegetable you’d like to go with it if you’re a 7 a day minded sort. I only hope I can convey to you through words how delicious this meal was, and that although the photo makes it look quite bland, brown and boring you should never judge a book by its cover. I certainly can’t wait to try more of Nigel’s recipes.

 
 

Well, I’m Going To Texas

The trouble with being so in awe of such an enormous country is that you know you’ll never have the time, money nor inclination to get to grips with the entire place. I don’t think there’s one single state in the US that I wouldn’t deem worthy of a trip to, but with 50 states spread over thousands of miles and some states being worthy of multiple visits, it’s not going to happen without a pretty big lottery win. I’d like to believe that one day I really will win the lottery, but considering I always forget to buy a ticket each week the odds are pretty slim. This fascination with America then and my lack of millions goes some way to explaining the many cookbooks focusing on the country that adorn my bookshelf. To make the most of these books and get more mileage out of them, the theme running through my blogs for the next few weeks will be focusing on the Deep South of the States and the food originating from the region. Or until I get bored and move on, don’t be too shocked if the next blog is all about pasta. I’m fickle like that.

The Deep South apparently consists of the states Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee. I thought it also included Texas and did so up until writing that last sentence, so for the purpose of this blog and to save my blushes, Texas is now part of the Deep South. In my defence it is right next to Louisiana. I’m not one to let facts get in the way of a good recipe. Today I cooked from The Homesick Texan by Lisa Fain and is a collection of the foods she grew up with in Texas before moving to New York. The book is filled with classic photos depicting the Lone Star state – think cowboy boots, vast stretches of road and no mans land, cattle and great big slabs of meat- as well as recipes a true Texan would know and love. You’ll be unsurprised to hear that Texas is up there as one of the states I’d really, really like to visit compared to just really wanting to visit (it still has to contend with California, Maine, Louisiana, Georgia and the Carolina’s – stiff competition). I can’t even tell you why I want to visit it, it’s just so iconic and I think of it as the essence of America, if that makes any sense. When I think of America, two images come immediately to mind, one of which is the New York skyline and the other the cattle horns and cowboy boots of Texas. Get me on that plane to Dallas, please.

Fancy-pants king ranch chicken casserole is the dish I cooked, and yes, that is the title given to it in the book. Most magnificent a name. It’s certainly unique. Lisa tells me that this casserole is one of the most popular ones that Texans make but does not go into the provenance of the name. Even though there are a lot of ingredients for this, if you have a well stocked spice cupboard and vegetable drawer you’ll probably have no problem throwing this together. The chicken breasts are fried in a marinade of ancho chilli powder, lime juice and salt, then shredded and added into a homemade enchilada sauce which is then layered in a baking dish with corn tortillas and lots of cheese. To call it a casserole is pretty misleading as after cooking I would describe it more as an enchilada lasagna (lasagna like in structure alone, with the tortillas replacing lasagna sheets) and a really delicious one at that. It’s subtly spicy, creamy and very cheesy and the perfect antidote to the cold weather, the return to work and the endless diet adverts. Despite all the peppers and tomatoes in the casserole it’s not particularly healthy with all the butter and cheese but mentally it’s the equivalent of sitting in front of the fire with a cosy blanket and a good book – pure comfort. It got the thumbs up from The Fiancé too, which is a rarity when it comes to me experimenting with lesser used cookbooks. If you want to give this recipe a try have a gander at her website The Homesick Texan where you’ll find this very recipe.

It’s safe to say that this recipe has done nothing to dissuade me from wanting to check out Texas, in fact it’s just made me keener to visit. Better start buying those lottery tickets.

 
 

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Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner

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The countdown to New York has well and truly begun. Not content with obsessively combing through my brand new yet already dog eared Lonely Planet guidebook, googling where to eat and watching any film that is set in the city (last night was the Woody Allen classic Annie Hall, most enjoyable), I’m also using it as an excuse to cook some classic American foods. Well, you might call it an excuse, I call it Very Important Research. Amongst iconic foods hailing from the US such as burgers, hot dogs and apple pie, buffalo chicken wings fit right in and absolutely deserve their place in this esteemed line up. So this is what I made, using a recipe from the February 2013 Delicious magazine issue, alongside Cajun spiced wedges and blue cheese dip, all from the same magazine.

Buffalo chicken wings hold a special place in my heart as it is, because they remind me of our last holiday in America, where after a long day out at the theme parks, we’d go back to our friends house far away from the Disney-fied Orlando and we’d all share a bucket of wings at the sports bar across the road. You don’t need fancy food to make happy foodie memories, sometimes all you need are chicken wings. Buffalo wings originate from Buffalo in New York state which made them even more perfect to cook in the build up. There are many different ways to make these wings apparently; for this version they were coated in oil, flour and cayenne, baked for 15 minutes then covered in a marinade and baked for another half hour. I burnt the 1st marinade horrendously after taking my eye off the ball (you cook it over the hob before covering the wings in it) so had to make it again from scratch, but apart from this oversight the recipe went without a hitch. The wedges are coated in a spicy, sweet mix and tumbled into a tray of hot oil, whilst the blue cheese dip is simply sour cream, Stilton, garlic and lemon juice mashed together.

The resulting dinner following this recipe was complete heaven. Delicious magazine totally nailed it yet again, reminding me why it is I have a big pile of them stacked in my bookcase. Their recipes deliver, time after time. The wedges were crispy with a crunch from the spicy coating, the skin on the wings had no trace of floppy sogginess to them and were crispy like the chips, and tasted marvellous. The blue cheese dip delivered with its intense cheesiness to counteract the spice in the wings, and the corn on the cob did a wonderful job of assuaging the guilt associated with eating wings covered in a marinade which consists largely of melted butter. Sticking with the American theme, I served this with glasses of cream soda and finished the meal off with slices of New York cheesecake (which I couldn’t be bothered to make myself). A real American experience and perfect wings to keep us going until we get the real deal. After all, ain’t no thing like a chicken wing.

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2013 in American, Books, Chicken, Cooking, Food

 

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Skinny Saturday

Every time The Boyfriend goes away I make a decision that at the time feels like a brilliant idea but in the end turns out to be a completely idiotic one. And the decision is always the same one, every time he goes. I know, I’m an idiot. You’d think I would have learnt by now, after all The Boyfriend is regularly working away and has been for two years now. Yet still I think that by spending my first weekend sans Boyfriend all by myself doing solely what I want to do and being completely selfish is the best idea since sliced bread. It isn’t. Oh, it’s all good up until about 7pm on the Saturday, when a quick glance at Facebook reminds me of all the happy couples spending their evening together, or groups of friends getting ready for a night out and makes me go “huh, I probably should have made plans for this weekend”. Obviously, being apart from the person you’re crazy about isn’t tough in the way that cancer is tough, or your house being burnt down is tough, but it still has its challenges that at times make me feel pretty sorry for myself despite the fact that one of the things I dislike most on this Earth are people who feel sorry for themselves. If he’s only back for three weeks like he was very recently, we have an absolute whale of a time. We cram in trips to the cinema, meals out, our favourite foods, catch up with all the friends and family he hasn’t seen for months, have a ridiculous row that we always laugh at a few hours later (the last one of these was fuelled by me drinking a tad too much gin and turning into a huge drama queen), work on the house, plan holidays and spend a lot of time in fits of giggles. In short, it’s awesome. So obviously when he goes away its a pretty spectacular comedown and I think my reasoning behind spending time by myself is that while he’s home I haven’t had any time at all to bake, read, blog, watch Disney films or Sex and the City and I crave some downtime. Maybe next time I’ll just give myself a day of no plans.

My self inflicted misery however has done wonders for this blog though. Every cloud! Not content with just one recipe to try out yesterday, I decided to really test Gizzi’s Skinny Weeks and try three of them: breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’m aware I should be using more neglected cookbooks and believe me this week I will be using them, but I wanted to have a virtuous Saturday without denying myself that vital component, flavour, and I knew that Gizzi could deliver. Breakfast consisted of what Gizzi likes to call Elvis toasts, which is a far more heart friendly version of The Kings 2000 calorie mammoth fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Gizzi’s come in at a much more reasonable 284 calories, although as it was Saturday I used normal white sliced bread instead of sourdough rye, and a whole banana instead of half so that must bump up the calories a little. Still, for a healthy breakfast it’s scrumptious and comes with the added bonus of half a square of dark chocolate grated over the banana. Half a square may not seem like a lot but it really does go a long way. Who can argue with a chocolate fix at 9am?

Lunch, which came along pretty late after a Primarni binge, was pancetta, farro and bean soup and like most recipes in this book, was completely delicious. I couldn’t find farro in Sainsburys so had to substitute it with farfalline, which are tiny pasta shapes designed to be added to soups. You might look at the pancetta and think this soup shouldn’t be billed as healthy, but in addition to the pancetta the soup also contains onion, carrot, celery, garlic, tomatoes and cannellini beans so you’re getting a considerate amount of goodness from the hefty amount of veg and beans. I didn’t add quite enough stock so my version turned out more like a stew than a soup but tasted no less divine for it. Pancetta is the star flavour shining through, but you also get the sweetness of the tomatoes and plenty of crunch from the mirepoix. To make this soup even better, you’re allowed to sprinkle a small amount of Parmesan over your bowl of soup and you don’t need me to tell you that this takes the soup to diet perfection. I’m very please that I have three portions to take to work with me for lunch this week.

Last but by absolute no means least, for dinner I went with yoghurt chicken curry bowl. Well, it’s just not the weekend in my book (which this sort of is) unless a curry is included somewhere. Looking at the ingredient list it’s impossible to find an ingredient that’s bad for you (normally an ominous sign in a recipe) and yet this curry was one of the best I’ve ever made. You make a paste out of spices, chillies, onion, ginger and garlic, mix it with fat free yoghurt then marinade the chicken in the spicy yoghurt before baking in the oven. Paired with some brown rice and topped with a zingy mango salsa, this was the perfect dish to lift me out of my lonely blues (self inflicted, I must add). The curry on its own packed in lots of flavour and would have been perfectly acceptable without the salsa, but boy is the salsa immense. Don’t make this curry without it! The pairing of sweet yet sharp mango with mint, alongside onion (I should have used red but only had white), tomato and lime juice is phenomenal and made my tongue do a little jig in my mouth. Gorgeous. I want to put it on everything.

The real strength of these recipes is that regardless of trying to lose weight or not, I would cook them all again. And not just for myself either, I see no reason why these dishes couldn’t be served to guests, they are that good. Healthy food has long had a reputation for being dull, uninspiring and bland but Gizzi has completely turned that upside down and filled a cookbook with mouthwatering food that just so happens to be good for you. I’ve barely ventured into the naughty side of the book, and for a woman who likes a good pig out, that’s no small feat.

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And Fried Chicken, Could Be Fricken

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American food holds a special place in my heart. Regular readers are most likely very aware of this and probably sick of me declaring my undying love for the countries gastronomic goodies, but I just can’t help going back for more. Childhood holidays to Florida and more recent, fun filled trips with The Boyfriend to The States have given me very fond memories of the food eaten out there. Plus, it helps that as a greedy cow the portion sizes are right up my street. If I lived out there I’d be super sized in no time so its a blessed relief that I live in England where the food is smaller and the service less than delightful the majority of the time. Anyway, craving some American comfort and wanting to keep The Boyfriend on side, I stuck with a classic recipe that he would welcome with open arms into his heart (somewhat literally upon looking at the butter content of this meal). Fried chicken, biscuits, gravy and corn on the cob. When I’ve mentioned this combination before to friends I tend to be given a disgusted look and asked why I can’t just be content with fries. Us Brits are so used to being served soggy, flaccid fries alongside our chicken and yet we deserve better. Biscuits are the future. We discovered them in KFC after a long flight to Orlando and whilst we must have appeared completely gormless to the staff behind the counter trying to work out why we couldn’t have fries, the discovery of biscuits made looking idiotic worthwhile. If you’ve never had them before they’re similar to scones only more savoury, fluffy and light. They’re perfect, and while your brainwashed-into-liking-fries-mind might recoil at the idea they are amazing smothered in sausage gravy and served with fried chicken. I once thought like you too but I have seen the light and it tastes like biscuits.

I have several recipe books with recipes for proper American biscuits in them but I decided to be safe and stick with one of my favourite authors, Gizzi Erskine, and her book Skinny Weeks and Weekend Feasts. It doesn’t take a genius to work out which side of the book this lot falls on. The whole meal plan is fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits, sausage gravy, corn in honey chilli butter and chard, but wanting to maintain my sanity I chose to only make the biscuits, gravy and corn. I’ve made fried chicken at home before and all it left me with was greasy hair, an oily kitchen, a smell that stubbornly refused to leave the flat and a deep feeling of guilt and shame. I’d happily tolerate all of the above if it tasted as good as or better than the stuff you can buy at that place with the smiling Colonel, but sadly it does not. I realised I could get all of the above results but without the intensive labour that leaves you with spitting oil burns all up your arm by just going out and picking up some chicken from KFC. I’m a dirty cheat but when it tastes as good as it does, who cares? The Colonel provides the chicken. I realise eating KFC goes against all my morals but I can’t help myself, it tastes so good yet makes me feel so dirty.

Anyway, I sent The Boyfriend out to pick up some fried chicken and hot wings while I got on with making the biscuits and gravy. I must say, this is the first time a Gizzi recipe has let me down. While the gravy turned out a treat, all thick and unctuous with meaty chunks of sausage, the biscuits were a total let down. I followed the measurements for the ingredients exactly, and yet when it was time to turn the dough out and knead it, instead of having a firm dough I had a liquid batter. It would have been like trying to knead cake mix, impossible. Having never been let down by Gizzi before I blindly gave it a shot, but there was no way the gloopy concoction was going to result in light, fluffy biscuits. I can only assume there must be a typo in the book and that in actual fact it needs at least double the amount of flour stated in the recipe, as this is what I had to add to get it to a knead-able consistency. Despite this, the biscuits emerged from the oven un-risen and distinctly un-fluffy and heavy. Disappointing. Smothered in gravy they weren’t inedible and tasted OK but they were nothing on a true American biscuit. That’ll teach me for ignoring all my American cookbooks by authentic American cooks and being too lazy to convert the American measurements into metric measurements. Lesson learnt. I’ll be having another stab at biscuits in the near future but not from Gizzi’s book. She’s still awesome, but her winning streak with me had to come to an end at some point and sadly it was with biscuits.

Next time you’re in KFC and lamenting the patheticness of their fries (which really are truly awful), think how good the Americans have it and demand more from your local KFC. I mean, us Brits invented the word biscuit surely, so shouldn’t we be reaping the rewards from our friends over the ponds version? Also, feel free to demand better care for the birds that go into their meals, they deserve better too. I’m impatient to get to New York in October now so I can check out some fried chicken restaurants that perhaps have more morals than both myself and KFC. I’ve heard good things about the fried chicken scene in New York, a scene I am more than willing to dive head first into.

 
 

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Gizzi, Gizzi, Gizzi, Can’t You See, Sometimes Your Foods Just Hypnotise Me

Many apologies to the late, great, hip hop legend that is the Notorious B.I.G for the title of today’s blog, but on trying to come up with a title this was all that would come into my head. On repeat. All weekend. I knew the only way to get rid of it was to put it in the title, with the hope that it would annoy everyone else as much as it did me. You’re welcome. It would be downright odd if I’d put that title in and then not actually cooked any of Gizzi Erskine’s recipes, so you’ll be pleased to know that I’ve cooked not just one, but two from her latest book, Skinny Weeks and Weekend Feasts. The book, as the title makes pretty clear, is all about eating sensibly and healthily during the week and then upping the calorie content over the weekend after being good for the majority of the time. It’s absolutely not a diet book, I couldn’t bear one of those in my house, but is about eating sensible, smaller portions and filling yourself up with fruit and veg. I don’t do diets. While I go to the gym regularly, try and eat healthily and don’t want to be overweight, I really abhor the idea of a ‘bikini body’ and of being obsessed with flat stomachs, a certain dress size and calorie content. It’s not for me. I want to be healthy, but I don’t want to spend my life being miserable turning down food for the sake of having a flat stomach. If I happened to get a flat stomach by chance than that would be a happy accident, but I love carbs far too much to worry about what my stomach would look like in a bikini. For starters, the person I tend to go on holiday with is The Boyfriend who knows what my stomach looks like and he’s still with me. It’s not so bad. Strangers on the beach or by the pool are either too busy obsessing about what they look like in a bikini to care about what anyone else looks like, or too immersed in sunbathing/reading/posing to even notice anyone else. I’m not spending 6 months denying myself everything I love to eat so I can still feel self conscious and paranoid on holiday for the 1 day I might decide to spend at the beach. Secondly, when on holiday I eat like a king. At breakfast there is only one correct answer to the question “would you like your egg fried or poached” and that is “both”. I do not hold back. My hypothetical flat stomach would be ruined within minutes of arriving at my destination. Thirdly, we do not tend to take beach holidays. I will be damned if I spend months of my life on what the media love to call a ‘bikini body’ when my stomach is never on show in public. Balls to it. If having a flat stomach is what floats your boat and you’re happy to sacrifice carbs to get it, great, more power to you, you have more willpower than I’ll ever have. But it’s not for me. I’m fairly happy with the size that I am, I’d like to lose a touch more but I’m not going to look sadly at a tray of cupcakes being passed around and say no. Life is just too short. If you need more convincing on the subject, check out Caitlyn Moran’s excellent book How To Be A Woman and her thoughts and musings on women’s bodies and the pressure we are under from the media to look a certain way.

Saying all that, Gizzi’s book is filled with flavour packed, interesting recipes that are light on calories but that I would still eat whether trying to lose weight or not. From the two recipes I’ve eaten, you would never know from the taste that they are low on calories because the flavours are pretty full on and you’re allowed to use ingredients that you wouldn’t normally find in a diet book, such as chorizo and coconut milk. If this is what the healthy recipes taste like, I can’t wait to try out the sinful recipes in this book. First up, satay chicken noodle rice bowl. Being a big fan of Asian food, this naturally jumped out at me and I couldn’t resist cooking it first. Somewhere in Ukraine The Boyfriend is rolling his eyes, exasperated at the predictability of me. I don’t care though, it was so good. The recipe asks you to use yellow curry paste which I couldn’t find in the supermarket (although I have seen it there before) so I made do with green curry paste which is always in my fridge. I crisped up the chicken thighs (yes, you’re allowed to keep the skin on them, I love Gizzi), boiled up some brown rice and spooned over a supremely delicious curry sauce which was a combination of Thai curry and Indonesian satay, and if that combination doesn’t make you salivate then you’ve obviously never had either of them. As with any really tasty meal, I finished my plate with a combination of complete satisfaction and sadness that there was none left. You don’t get that with many ‘bikini body’ friendly dinners.

The second meal I cooked was pork and chorizo meatballs with spelt spaghetti. Although yet again the supermarket didn’t have what I was looking for so I stuck with my old faithful, linguine. Pork is leaner than beef, so the inclusion of chorizo doesn’t feel so bad and the sauce is made up of fresh, ripened on the vine tomatoes with mashed up garlic, fennel seeds and chilli so as meatballs and pasta goes, it’s pretty virtuous. The trick is dishing up a much smaller amount of pasta than normal, something I really struggle to do what with my unending love for the stuff. Yet again, Gizzi delivered on her promise. The meatballs had a spicy heat from the chorizo and while there wasn’t a great deal of sauce, the flavours of garlic and fennel shine through and there was enough to keep the pasta from going dry. I don’t like tomatoes when raw and firm, I’m not fond of the taste or texture, but once cooked down into mush like in this sauce I can get along just fine with them.

If you need inspiration for healthy meals and like big, punchy flavours then this is the best non-diet diet book around. Healthy meals that don’t leave you feeling deprived and hungry yet can also aid weight loss don’t come better than this. Remember though,there is no secret to losing weight despite what magazines and the Daily Fail might tell you, its just about eating sensibly, exercising and enjoying yourself. And never forget that being happy in yourself and full of self confidence on a regular basis will do more for you than a flat stomach on show for a few days of the year ever will.

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2013 in Books, Chicken, Cooking, Food, Thai

 

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