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Tag Archives: 100 recipes to stake your life on

Disappointment In The Kitchen

The trouble with celebrity chefs is that you just can’t help but trust them. Food is their livelihood, they’ve studied it, worked with it for years and put in the hours working their way up from the bottom of the kitchen to become head chef and subsequently, a star. Of course you’d believe them when they tell you japchae isn’t hard to find outside of Chinatown, or that cooking a three course meal really can be the work of a mere half hour. What have they got to gain from deceiving you (besides millions of books sold, great ratings on the telly and a three month wait for a table at their exclusive restaurant)? They tell you this information purely out of the goodness of their own heart, to share the knowledge and make you at home a better cook. As you may know from Jamie Oliver and Quail Egg-gate, I take umbrage to chefs embellishing the truth. Jamie has been forgiven for his many lies but it didn’t take long for a new fibber to come to the forefront: step forward Gordon Ramsay.

Gordon and I have a chequered past as it is, what with him once being my weird crush until he was on TV ALL. THE. TIME and I gradually lost interest. There’s only so much shouting at morons I can take before it becomes tedious. I only became interested again (strictly in the cooking sense) when his back to basics cooking show ‘100 Recipes To Stake Your Life On’ started last year and the tasty looking recipes combined with Gordon’s rather inappropriate feelings towards food had me hooked. The few recipes I’ve cooked from the accompanying book I’ve had mixed feelings about. There is nothing wrong with the finished meals, they are simple, tasty and produce a satisfying dinner. They just aren’t anything special. Maybe I have too high standards, perhaps I want too much from Gordon and have ridiculous expectations to be blown away by every recipe. But then when I cook, say, satay chicken from Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals, or massamann curry from Gizzi’s Kitchen Magic, or chicken schnitzel from Nigella Express, I am blown away because they taste so delicious and addictive. I remember them, cook them again and The Boyfriend also likes them. They’re hits and all I’ve done is followed a recipe and put my faith in the authors. So yes, maybe I do have high standards but other chefs meet them. I like recipes that really pack a punch, whether that be spicy, salty, sweet or sour. In middle school I had a teacher who would not tolerate the word ‘nice’. She said it meant nothing and was an insult. I didn’t understand it then but now I completely get it. If you said to me that someone was nice, I’d assume that while perfectly pleasant, that person did not put across anything memorable or interesting about them self which would require a better adjective used to describe them. Nice is forgettable. Nice food does its job but in the end it’s forgotten. Much like how my friends and family are so much more than simply ‘nice’ (they’re kind, funny, witty, sharp, interesting, clever, charming, intelligent, enthusiastic, savvy, sweet, generous.. see how much more complimentary these words are than ‘nice’?) the food I like to cook and eat also needs to be so much more.

So Gordon already had his work cut out to try and please me with his recipes. I chose to make pork neck curry with mango salsa from his book ‘Cookery Course’ which accompanied the ‘100 Recipes’ TV show because he writes in the book that this is his favourite curry of all time. For a chef to make such a statement about a recipe makes me pay attention. He must have eaten and cooked loads of curries so if this is The Best then I am cooking it. Like I said earlier, the trouble with chefs is that you can’t help but trust them. It’s a Thai recipe, so I made a paste and assembled the curry and the house was filled with a delicious spicy aroma. Normally when I make Thai curries I reduce the sauce down a little so the curry is a little thicker and less watery, but this was quite tricky to do, possibly because of Gordon’s insistence on adding loads of stock. The pork itself was super soft after bubbling away in the curry for an hour and the sauce was spicy with plenty of flavour. However, it just didn’t have that wow factor whilst the sauce was too thin. For a mid week meal it would be perfectly acceptable but what with it being a Friday night dinner, I was a little disappointed. It makes me question Gordons judgement on food that he thinks this is the best curry he’s ever eaten. Whilst I don’t think you can ever really recreate authentic Indian curries at home, Thai curries are a little easier to replicate and taste fantastic made in your own kitchen. If you want an amazing home cooked curry, you’d be better off trying Gizzi Erskine’s lamb massamann or her green curry paste. These pack serious flavour and I find myself cooking them again and again. I’ll continue to use Gordon’s book as the recipes are nice and they beat chicken nuggets for dinner, but when it comes to weekend cooking and packing a punch, Gordon’s not the right chef for me.

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Posted by on August 24, 2013 in Books, Cooking, Food, Thai

 

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Chineasy Chicken

The best Chinese chicken I’ve ever had came tucked in a baguette from a sandwich shop just round the corner from the furniture shop I used to work at as a teenager. Every Saturday without fail I’d take all the staffs orders, nip down to the bakery and grab our huge order, and my order would always be Chinese chicken baguette. It was so tasty and the baguettes were always the perfect combination of crunchy crust and soft, doughy interior. Teenage lunch heaven. So you can imagine my grief and heartbreak when they took the Chinese chicken off the menu one sorry, sorry day in the early noughties. Distraught I was! I had to downgrade to a chicken tikka filling which while still being tasty, was not a patch on the Chinese. What does this have to do with today’s blog? Well, nothing really to be honest, except that today’s dinner reminded me of this early experience of grief and betrayal, and I got to use a pun in today’s title from one of my favourite movies ever, Ratatouille (the plot of which can be easily summed up with ‘there’s a rat in me kitchen, what am I gonna do?’. Get it to cook you a Michelin starred meal, that’s what).
Tonight I went with Gordon Ramsays’ newest book Ultimate Cookery Course and made Sichuan chicken. As the title suggests, it’s Chinese and its really easy, all you need to do is marinate the chicken then cook it in the marinade with chilli, garlic and ginger until the chicken is cooked and is covered in the reduced, sticky marinade. The marinade contains one of my favourite ingredients to say, which is Shaoxing rice wine, and really tickles me every time I say it. Don’t ask why because I don’t know, I just like the way it sounds. Try it then maybe you’ll understand. This is definitely a recipe which is better when used with chicken thighs, they don’t dry out in the same way breasts do and have a lot more flavour. Plus, if you’re on a budget they are so much cheaper, although I’d go with them over breasts even if they were more expensive. It can take time to reduce a sauce so you don’t want the meat to dry out and become barely inedible, so if you’ve not done so before, give thighs a go in a curry or casserole to see the difference. I served the chicken with some straight to wok noodles in Singapore flavour (I know what you’re thinking, how mental am I serving Sichaun and Singapore cuisine on the same plate? It’s risk taking like that that’ll get you noticed in culinary circles) which I had to hand and meant less washing up for the other half. The result? The glaze wasn’t as sticky and thick as I’d have liked it, but it had a nice spicy ping to it and coated the chicken really well. It did taste a bit too strongly of sesame oil which Gordon advised me to drizzle over the finished dish so perhaps I was a but heavy handed in the oil department but the flavour of the marinade and chillies fought there way through it. But enough about my opinion, I know you all really want to know what The Boyfriend thought about it, my toughest critic. I think it’s safe to say food critics A.A Gill, Jay Rayner and Kate Spicer can rest easy tonight, as when asked for his review his thoughts on dinner were, word for word, “I liked it, 3 out of 5. A perfectly acceptable midweek meal”. If he were to be paid by the word he’d soon find himself bankrupt, sleeping on the street and offering sexual favours for a sandwich. But I’ll say this, at least he’s concise, no waffly preamble about something completely unrelated to dinner before spending all of 3 sentences on the entire point of the article. Something to comfort him while he’s on the park bench and Gill is in his trendy London home.

So we had a successful dinner tonight, nothing groundbreaking but tasty, filling and involving very little effort and minimal washing up. Plus it was a lot healthier than a takeaway, although nowhere near as satisfying after a long day. You’ll notice that once again my presentation is less than impressive, Monica Galletti would tear me apart were I to present her with such a plate, but I’d rather a hot dinner that looked a little shabby than a good looking dinner that was lukewarm after all the faffing. Saying all that, I do love how she can destroy a chef with just a grimace and a stare on Masterchef, more uncomfortable to watch than a Bush Tucker Trial.

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Posted by on November 21, 2012 in Chicken, Chinese, Cooking, Food

 

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Getting to know Gordon

When you think of famous chef extraordinaire Gordon Ramsay, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Shouting at idiotic chefs? Refusing to cook for vegetarians? Well it turns out you’re wrong, wrong, wrong because despite his fearsome reputation as a shouty, foul mouthed chef he’s actually a bit of a romantic. I once thought the same as you but after watching 100 Recipes To Stake Your Life On a few weeks ago I saw a totally different side to him. When its just him and food on screen he becomes Mr Lover Lover, romancer of romanesco and seducer of sirloins. How I wish I was exaggerating, but watching him manhandle food and talk in husky tones to a bread and butter pudding made me think that all that was missing was a 70’s soundtrack and a broken washing machine needing ‘fixing’. I’m just going to come out and say it, Gordon Ramsay wants to make love to food, and that is a scientific fact! Watch as he makes chocolate doughnuts and says ‘doughnuts get me really excited’, hear how he calls them ‘beautiful’ and put your fingers in your ears as he oooohs and aaaahs about how satisfying they are to eat. Food porn at its filthiest. Don’t let this put you off what was otherwise a great cookery show though, as the food really did look gorgeous and absolutely everything looked delightfully edible. Just know that after watching him knead and massage a focaccia dough, you’ll never look at bread the same way again.

After taking the mick out of Ramsay pretty much everyday in the office, I was thrilled to be given the accompanying cookbook as a birthday present from my work Birthday Buddy last week. It’s a great looking cookbook (called Ultimate Cookery Course) filled with some really yummy looking food, and has a great variety of really interesting looking recipes that you wouldn’t necessarily find in other celeb chefs books. Today I went for the very first recipe that I saw him cook on the show, and that was chilli beef lettuce wraps. As you may know, I had a storming success with meat in lettuce a couple of weeks ago (Cambodian beef) and hoped that Gordon’s Thai alternative would be just as successful. Gordon encourages us to ‘take mince beef further than you’ve ever taken it before’, which while sounding exciting just means crumble it in to a very hot frying pan and get it really crispy so that it adds some crunch to your dinner. I know, talk about misleading! Add some zingy Thai flavours, whip up a sour dressing and spoon into baby gem lettuce leaves for a tasty and speedy post work dinner. In my opinion it was easy to make, tasty but not particularly mind blowing. But don’t just take my word for it, The Boyfriend is back now and his verdict was pretty similar. Although he is one tough customer to please in the kitchen. I’d make it again as it was tasty enough and simple to make, and easily beats a microwave ready meal on pretty much all counts. Not a bad start from the new book, but there are a lot of recipes I’m itching to try from this tome, so do expect to be seeing a lot more from food romancer Ramsay on these pages.
I forgot to take a photo, so desperate was I to eat it, but it definitely looked exactly like the images from the book. Yep, it would be really tricky to tell my version apart from Gordon’s. Ahem.

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Posted by on October 22, 2012 in Books, Cooking, Food, Thai

 

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