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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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Confession Time

I have a confession to make. Despite the love for cookbooks, the passion for cooking and the fact that I have had a very lazy afternoon and evening, sometimes I just can’t be bothered to cook. Yes I’ve got a long list of recipes on the wall and too many cookbooks, but today I just could not bring myself to cook anything from them. Today I really didn’t know what I wanted to eat, everything on the list just looked too time consuming or pointless to cook for one. Tempted with the idea of a takeaway, I nearly caved but possibly for the first time in my life, my willpower came to the rescue. Miracles DO happen! Driving to the supermarket, I had a brainwave and knew exactly what I had to have. Now foodies, brace yourselves because this is a very unfoodie confession and Italians, all I can do in advance is apologise and beg you to forgive me. But when I want comfort and a filling dinner, it has to be spaghetti bolognese, and, gulp, it has to be Dolmio, There, I’ve said it. A whole paragraph to summon the courage to say those words! I can’t help it, the heart wants what the heart wants! Or the stomach anyway. Anyway, I’ve said before, I’m not a food snob and I know that a bottled tomato sauce advertised by creepy puppets that look like David Gest isn’t authentic Italian food. I don’t eat it to get an Italian hit. I eat it because it takes me back to being a little girl watching Gladiators and Generation Game on a Saturday night with the family eating spaghetti bolognese. What you ate with your family as a child definitely plays a big part in what your tastes are as an adult, and it doesn’t matter how sophisticated your eating habits are or how many confits, emulsions or quenelles you’ve had, you will still hanker for food that takes you back to your childhood. Admittedly, the spag bol I had as a child was homemade and tasted marvellous (and randomly had peas in it), but I no longer live at home and today was not a day I wanted to stand around chopping onions and garlic, so Dolmio it was. I ain’t ashamed, and neither should you be of your go-to comfort foods! The boyfriend can’t understand the love for spaghetti bolognese, to him its just a run of the mill meal his mum forced him to eat with big chunks of veg in. I pity him for not having the Gladiators/spag bol experience, he don’t know what he’s missing!

 

If you’ve seen Ratatouille (a Pixar film about a rat who can cook, and is definitely in my top 5 films of all time),  then you’ll probably remember the scene where Anton Ego, the mean food critic, takes a bite of the rats Ratatouille and is instantly transported back to his childhood and his mothers lovingly made ratatouille. Then he is transformed into a lovely lovely man and they all live happily ever after after. True. The power of good comfort food! A certain cheap nasty sausage brand has ripped off this scene for its adverts, and for that they should be thoroughly ashamed!

To make this Saturday night even more comforting, I had some shop bought vanilla ice cream and some toffee sauce. Sounds unexciting doesn’t it? Wrong! Good vanilla ice cream is so overlooked, and while cookie dough, strawberry cheesecake and the like are delicious, vanilla will always be my favourite, its just so good. I’m not talking about cheap fluffy aerated vanilla ice cream, good ice cream should never be fluffy, only smooth, and must have little flecks of vanilla seed contained within. Otherwise don’t bother. Homemade toffee sauce by the way, is amazing and you really should make it. I used to make it for toffee apple crumble, but every time I made it I would sneakily eat several spoonfuls at a time, leaving not a great deal for the crumble. I always had a sneaky feeling it would go great with ice cream, and my instincts have not failed me! There is no nutritional value whatsoever to this sauce (its made up of cream, brown sugar, butter and golden syrup) and will keep your dentist in business for quite some time, but if you make a batch it does keep in the fridge for about a month. I can guarantee though that it will not be around that long. I know that I’ve been pretty bad this week with the food I’ve eaten, but in my defence I am running three miles tomorrow for Sport Relief, and have been to the gym several times. I only exercise so that I don’t have to give up the food I love.

Anyway, to compensate for the lack of cookbook challenges this weekend, here are some of my favourite comfort foods:

  • Cheese and baked beans toastie. Sounds messy, is messy, but is also delicious and my favourite childhood food. Best part is the nearly burnt crispy bits of cheese stuck to the crusts.
  • Dairy Milk. I love ‘grown up’ chocolate, but while they may be tasty and sophisticated, they do not comfort in the way Dairy Milk does. Christmas Day as a child was not complete without a ginormous Dairy Milk present, tucked down the side of the bed and bit by bit devoured by the time we had to go back to school. Unbeatable.
  • Roast chicken. No explanation needed.
  • Steak and dauphinoise potatoes. The fail safe meal the boyfriend cooks for me on a Saturday night in when he’s home. Red meat, carbs, cheese, cream, and the boyfriend back home – perfection.
  • Apple and blackberry crumble and Birds custard. I love homemade custard, but childhood custard was always Birds. Blackberries handpicked with the parents from the fields in the village. Heaven.

What about your comfort foods???

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2012 in Cooking

 

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