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Archive for January, 2010

Chicken Detox Style

A Slice of Cherry Pie is a food blog by Julia Parsons who, among others, during my short time of food blogging and Twittering has given me advice and inspiration. This month, I noticed her latest “In the Bag” ingredients and made a comment via Twitter to Julia that she should run the invention test on Masterchef. I mean, what exactly do you do with lemon, garlic & sesame seeds? Then add to that the idea it should be detox themed. You are reading the blog of a guy who, since Christmas, has only had the odd day off from drinking, eaten a lot of chocolate and generally continued to pig out. I am also not well-known for dieting, detox or really anything healthy.

So the gauntlet had been thrown down and I took up this challenge, remembering my New Year resolution to try something new (think I’d get quite a lot of new things in this). I sat back, with beer in hand, thinking lemons, garlic, sesame seeds and detox. I spoke to my Wife about it and as I started to speak, an idea started to come into my head and what follows is the result. Here is my Seed crusted chicken and Bulgar wheat with fennel, shalots, garlic and herbs or, as I like to call it, Chicken Detox Style.

Ingredients (serves 4)

4 Chicken Breast Fillets

1 Small Fennel – chopped

1 Banana Shalot (or 2 small normal) – chopped

200g Bulgar Wheat

50g Mixed seeds (Sesame, Linseed, Pumpkin & Sunflower)

2 Cloves of Garlic – chopped

Juice of 1 Lemon

Sweet Basil – chopped

Taragon – chopped

Grated Ginger – about one teaspoon.

Salt & Pepper

500ml Heated Chicken stock

500ml Boiled Water

1 Egg – beaten

Beat the egg and put in a bowl that you can fit one of your chicken breasts in. Put the seeds in a blender and grind them so the larger seeds break up. Put these in another dish then dip each breast in the egg and then in the seeds to coat. Place in a roasting dish and put in the middle of the oven, gas mark 6 for about 20-30 minutes depending on the size of the chicken breasts. I put a little oil in the base of the dish to stop the chicken sticking and in keeping with the detox theme I use Rice Bran oil.

While the chicken is cooking, sweat off the shalots in a large pan on a low heat and then add the fennel and garlic. Stir occasionally to stop anything burning, again I put some of the Rice Bran oil in the pan first. Ad the hot chicken stock and water then the Bulgar wheat and juice from the lemon. Bring to the boil and then simmer, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes or until all the liquid is soaked into the wheat. Half way through simmering add the chopped herbs and season. Check the chicken and if ready, allow to rest while finishing off the wheat. Season and taste and then serve. I chose to use a shallow dish to serve and reserved some of the chopped basil to sprinkle on top just before serving.

The result was interesting. Chicken was lovely and the toasted sesame seed flavour came through the other seeds. The first hit from the wheat is the fennel with the citrus cutting through followed by the garlic & ginger. It was a pleasant dinner and it felt healthy as you ate it. Would be interested in your comments if you decide to make it yourself and of any changes you make. I think it is a recipe that needs development just to make it a little bit more exciting.

Idea from “In the Bag” feature on http://asliceofcherrypie.blogspot.com

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I love pea & ham soup. Have tried quite a few and have to say some of those have been very pea like. I mean, I can taste pea and not much else. I also really like it when it’s dressed with some crispy bacon or pancetta. Whilst out shopping for food the other day I thought as part of my resolution to try new things this year, I would try to make my own pea and ham soup. You know, make it the way I like it as no one else seems to be able to make it like I actually want it.

I bought the peas and on the deli counter I saw some lovely looking Drury Lane ham. I like to use cooked ham and I do like it when I get big chunks of gammon but I prefer cooked ham. I’m also from the frozen pea school of cooking. Even Jason Atherton has admitted to using these for some of his recipes so they’re good enough for me. Then I thought what to go on top? I love crispy pancetta but couldn’t find any apart from ready cooked which is no good. So I got some San Daniele ham instead.

The basic recipe is: (serves 3-4)

550 grams frozen peas

500 ml chicken stock

1 white onion, sliced.

2 slices of San Daniele ham

100 grams cooked ham of your choice.

Soft goats cheese

Olive oil

Scallops (as many as you like).

Okay so you notice the scallops. I have had pea fritter ham and scallops before and it’s a glorious combination, hence the scallops. I started off by cooking the peas and simmered for about 5 minutes. I drained them and put them in a blender until they became a purée. In a large pan I sweated of the onions and ones slightly coloured I added the stock and heated this up until the onions were soft.  Obviously you’ll need to make some stock up ready for this. You can use cubes if you wish for speed, I would recommend making your own some time and there are many recipes for this on the net.

I put the pea purée into a large mixing bowl and added some strained stock to get a thickness I liked. I like really thick pea soup so if you prefer it more runny I would make a bit more stock. Once the thickness was what I wanted I took half of the onion and bended this into the soup. It’s up to you whether to blend it or leave it sliced. I then added salt and pepper, mixed up, tasted and added more slat and pepper. Repeat this until again it’s to your liking. The soup as such is ready until needed.

Before serving, I heated the soup up and added the chop ham. There was only three of us so I only added about 110 grams. The reason I done this is so the pea soup didn’t take on the flavour of the ham. I almost wanted two flavours. The soup and then when you get some ham, you get that flavour coming through. Whilst the soup was heating I heated a frying pan, put in some oil and fried my scallops with a good pinch of pepper on them. I cook my scallops quick and hot. So a fairly hot pan for about 2 minutes each side so they’re coloured. If you press them down, they should bounce back up.

To do the crispy ham I tore of strips of it and placed it on a baking tray with another tray on top. This stops it curling up. You shouldn’t need oil if you have non stick trays. You could use baking paper to be safe. I had the oven quite hot, gas mark 7 and put them just above the middle fo the oven. They will only take about 2 minutes so timing is crucial here. I actually cooked them before I put the scallops in as they will not stay very warm once out of the oven anyway.

To serve, I whipped up the goats cheese with some olive oil. Try breaking up the cheese, added a few drops of oil, stir and keep adding the oil until you get a creamy but stiff cheese. If you don’t like goat’s cheese you could use crème fraîche. I put a dessert spoon of the cheese in the middle of each dish and then poured a ladle of soup round it so it looks like an island. I then placed the scallops around the cheese and a couple of strips of the crispy San Daniele ham on the cheese.

I actually served this before sunday lunch and to be honest, it was that filling with the scallops you could serve it as a lunch. Well that’s my perfect version of pea & ham soup and I hope you enjoy it too.

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It’s that time of year, well a bit late I guess really, when people look back and make resolutions for the New Year. I rarely do this. As an early 20 something I would always make resolutions that were never kept and it must be at least ten years ago that I decided enough of this. No more resolutions. That was my resolution that year! Well, the last few years have been pretty life changing. Married for three years now, a responsible person as also now a Godparent to my very cute Nephew and had to make a very big career choice at a time of recession.

So this year I actually have looked back and wondered about the future in more detail but there is still that nagging doubt in me that a resolution could be kept so why not choose ones I know I can keep and are not things I have to do for life (like go to the gym – lasted 3 months). As food has become a big part of my life, it is my obvious route to making resolutions I will not only keep, but enjoy keeping them. So here they are:

First one is easy. I am going to have a lesson by a real chef. As I was given vouchers for a cookery school near to me, Braxted Park, this is very easy to keep as I have to use the vouchers. I am going for a one day course in modern British food and the other I’m not sure about yet. My aim from this is more for learning how to present food. Obviously I will get a lot of new ideas and tips but presentation always lets me down. Was never good at art and I do think that the top chefs of the world should be considered artists with  some fo the meals they present, especially pastry chefs.

My second resolution is to make a curry from scratch. I admit here and now I am a Jar user (sorry). I usually add a few things in but always use a jar of Pataks or Geeta’s sauces. I did ask for a set of Indian spices for Christmas but no one got me any so I will actually have to make more effort on this. I love Indian food and have a favourite local restaurant, The Sitar in Chelmsford. I’ve actually got more interested in making my own Indian food after seeing Atul Kochar of Benares on TV and having the pleasure of eating at Benares. Anyone out there who can give me advice or tips on this type of food please feel free to contact me. I am an eager student.

Third one is again fairly easy and that is to eat something I have never eaten before. Whether this is at a restaurant or food fair I don’t know. I mean also a vegetable or meat, something like that. Not just a dish I haven’t tried that contains many things I’ve actually eaten in other meals. This shouldn’t be too hard as I not only ate Pheasant for the first time last year, I cooked it as well. I guess I could just add in I’ll cook something I’ve never cooked before which again will be easy as I have some Guinea Fowl to cook. Eaten it twice and loved it, never cooked it myself. Again, any tips, let me know.

Fourth and final resolution is to be more adventurous and experimental. Something very easy as all I need to do is complete the above three and I’m there. Anyone who may think there should be something like, sourcing and producing local produce, I already do this and if you don’t it shuold be your food resolution.

I look forward to a year of emjoying new food, new drink and new company. Happy New Year to you all and may your year be flavoursome.

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Two days before New Year’s Eve I was asked to make a starter for a meal with the family for a New Year celebration. Needed something easy but also spectacular to see the New Year in. I thought I’d go with a duck salad as I remember having something similar before and the tastes fo the dressing, rocket and meat was excellent. I couldn’t find any duck breast though and running out of time I looked at the beef, thinking of a crispy beef salad and then saw the veal. So on an impulse I picked up a fillet of veal, not really knowing what I was going to do.

I get some rocket, spinach, watercress and pea shoots for the salad and a few on the vine cherry tomatoes. I get home and look through the cupboards for an idea for a salad dressing. I decide on something light and grab olive oil, sherry vinegar, salt & pepper. Needs something else which is usually some lemon juice and then I spy the clementines. Just the juice from one goes in a bowl with 4 tablespoons of oil, two of the vinegar and the seasoning. It’s a bit sharp though so I grab some honey from the cupboard and put a spoonful of that in there. Adjust the seasoning and a drop more oil and it’s done. Fruity fresh dressing which I can already imagine with the mustard/peppery taste of the salad leaves.

So the veal. I think just pan frying it doesn’t add enough to the dish although I love veal like that with a bit of ground pepper. I surf the net and find a recipe from America which is herb crusted veal.

• 1 Tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
• 1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
• Sea salt
• Fresh black pepper

(From Jim Iacovino, Bonita Springs, FL, The Colony Golf & Country Club on www.foodreference.com)

I had seen another herby recipe somewhere and for the life of me, can not find it again but remember it had star anise in it. So in a pestle and mortar I grind up some peppercorns, star anise and sea salt. I chop up the thyme and parsley and also add some sage into that as have some left over from the stuffing I made last week. The smell as I grind it up together is amazing with a soft aniseed aroma floating through the herbs. I put the mix in a bowl and coat the veal with a beaten egg then roll it in the herbs. Cover in cling film and leave in the fridge until needed.

So New Year’s eve comes and we drive over to my sister’s. It’s a quick easy meal to cook. I put the veal in a pan with some oil and cook on every side leaving it rare in the middle. While the veal is cooking, I slice up some bread and griddle it with ome of my home flavoured olive oil (chilli, garlic & bay leaf). Rustic style bread to use as large croutons. I Put some aged balsamic on the plates, pile the salad leaves on, having mixed them with the dressing in a bowl, and the croutons then go on with some tomatoes. The veal, nicely brown on the outside and pink and rare in the middle finishes it off.

There you have it a delicious tasty starter, a hint of spice and the oil giving the bread a bite. A Shiraz helps wash it down going great with the spices. I was worried the star anise may overpower the veal but with the other herbs and the fruity zest of the salad dressing it was a great combination. One I will definitely be doing again and think this could go with several other meats.

Happy New Year.

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