Poached chicken salad

Personally, I’d rather chew my own arm off than eat chicken breasts that other people have cooked. It is almost never the appropriate cut of chicken to use, tasteless with a bad texture.

But. IF you cook it properly. Maybe…

So, you must poach the chicken extremely lightly, to just undercooked…it will finish cooking as it cools. Something like a little water – maybe an inch, no more – in the pan with a dash of soy and sesame oil and a slice of ginger. Bring to a gentle simmer, add the breasts, cover pan and simmer for maybe a couple of minutes before turning so that the top is now in the liquid. Another couple of minutes and let it sit and cool in this liquid.

Slice.

Destem baby leaf spinach.

Mix the chicken and spinach with this divine dressing:

Plain yoghurt
Some sort of jam – peach, maybe apricot. It can be that crappy French jam which proudly announces it has no sugar in it. I mean honestly. Jam is ALL sugar. You bought this accidentally, or someone ignorant gave it to you…it’s dreadful stuff on its own, but perfectly useful in this dish.
Good quality white wine vinegar
Green tomato chutney – this I make myself and I will post the recipe.

Fresh bread on the side.

A perfect summer lunch.

Claudia Roden’s Spanish spinach and chickpea soup

I first discovered this dish on a blog called One Dish Closer, well worth taking a look at. It made me buy the book. I haven’t tried a lot from it yet, but this recipe alone gives it a place on my kitchen bookshelf.

Spanish spinach and chickpea soup
Spanish spinach and chickpea soup

Ingredients

3 medium potatoes (500g) peeled and cut into quarters
2 x 400g tins chickpeas, drained
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock, stock cube if you like
500g spinach leaves, fresh or frozen and defrosted, chopped
1 tablespoon red or white vinegar
Salt
4 tablespoons olive oil
4-5 garlic cloves, peeled
2 slices of bread (about 75g), crusts removed
1 teaspoon pimentón dulce or sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
A pinch of ground chilli pepper or cayenne (optional)
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled, yolks reserved and whites chopped

Method

In a large saucepan bring the potatoes, chickpeans and 750ml of the stock to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes or so. Add the chopped spinach, stir in as it collapses. Add vinegar and simmer another 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan, add the garlic and bread, and stir until brown: don’t burn the garlic! Put in a mixer/blender with the spices and egg yolks and puree. Add the remainder of the stock and blend again. Mix into the soup, simmer another 10 minutes, stir in the chopped egg whites. You can add a little water if you think necessary before serving, but this is supposed to be chunky, maybe a stew as much as a soup.

This is really a wonderful soup. Half asleep a couple of days ago I pureed the whole soup and this turned out to be okay as well. In fact there may be times you might prefer it, for example, as a small start to a meal.

Serve with bread or toast.

Pilau rice, a variation.

Hands down, Indians do the best things to rice. If the rice is good, I’d happily stand at the pot eating it and not bother with the rest of the meal at all.

You can serve this on the side of meat/vegetarian dishes, or you can toss meat through it. Occasionally I’ve added marinated BBQed kebab chunks left over from another meal.

Pilau rice

Ingredients

Basmati rice measured to 450 ml
600 ml chicken stock or salted water
60g ghee
1 large onion, finely sliced
2-4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
8 whole cloves
8 cardamoms, the top of each split open
2 cinnamon sticks, each c. 2” long, broken nup
8 whole pepper corns
1 teasp turmeric
15g butter
30g dried sultanas
30g flaked almonds

Method

Wash the rice under running water until it runs clear, then soak in water for 30 minutes and then drain for 30 minutes.

Melt the ghee in a saucepan over a medium heat and fry the onion until soft, but not yet browning. Add the garlic and spices less the turmeric, and stir until onions are golden brown. Add the rice and turmeric. The idea now is to make sure the rice grains are coated in the ghee, this takes a couple of minutes, stirring vigilantly. Add the stock, bring to the boil and then simmer on as low heat as possible for about 12 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit for another 10 minutes or so. This is such a nice thing to be able to do to the rice as it frees up hotplates to do other things with while it happily sits. It will stay warm and happy off the heat for half an hour if you need that much time.

Melt the butter over a low heat and fry the sultanas until they change colour and swell. Put on a plate and then fry the almonds until a little browned. Remove. Mix the sultanas and almonds into the rice. For looks you pile all this onto a warmed serving plate, leaving a few of the almonds and sultanas to sprinkle on top as a garnish. I quite like to leave it all in the saucepan, serve the rice from there and then I can put the lid back on and keep it warm until people ask for more…which will be very, very soon.

Everyday Chicken in a Fried Onion Sauce: a Madhur Jaffrey recipe

Aren’t everybody’s favourite foods the ones you can eat every day? I love this one, one of the first I ever tried from Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking.

She would be the first to say that in all Indian cooking use meat with bones, it makes all the difference. In this case get a mixture of drumsticks, thighs and wings. Don’t bother skinning the wings, but do skin the rest. I ask the butcher to cut off the wing tips, leaving the meaty other parts.

Everyday Chicken in a Fried Onion Sauce

Serves 4-6
Ingredients:
1 kg chicken pieces, skinned, on pain of death not breasts, anything but.
4 medium onions peeled
1 ½ inch cube fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
6 cloves garlic peeled
7 Tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
1 Tbsp ground coriander seeds
1 Tbsp ground cumin seeds
½ tsp ground turmeric
¼ – ½ tsp cayenne pepper
4 Tbsp plain yogurt
2 ½ cup water
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped (canned tomatoes may be substituted)
2 tsp salt
½ tsp garam masala
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander

  • Coarsely chop 2 onions. Cut remaining onions into halves lengthwise and in very thin slices.

  • Put chopped onions, ginger and garlic in a food processor. Blend until a paste.

  • Heat oil in large pot over medium flame. When hot, put in sliced onions. Stir and fry until they are a deep, reddish brown color. Remove onions with a slotted spoon, squeezing out as much oil as possible to leave in pot. Set onions aside.

  • Remove pot from flame. Put in the blended paste (avert eyes), place back on medium heat, stir and fry until browned (3-4 minutes). Add coriander, cumin, turmeric and cayenne; stir once. Add 1 Tbsp of yogurt. Stir for 30 seconds until incorporated. Add remaining yogurt 1 Tbsp at a time. Add chicken pieces and stir to cover (1 min).

  • Pour in water, tomatoes and salt. Stir to mix and bring to a simmer. Cover, turn to low heat and cook for 20 minutes. Sprinkle in the garam masala and fried onions. Cook uncovered on medium heat for 10 minutes (until sauce reduces and thickens).
  • Scotch Eggs – Two Fat Ladies’ style

    Two Fat Ladies’ Scotch Eggs

    They simply have no idea, these two, how to write a book and it really makes a difference. Just being good cooks is not enough.

    In this case, I find that this recipe does nowhere near 8 normal sized eggs. However, as it happens, I like using quails eggs so that you have something more like finger food.

    Makes 8

    10 large eggs (but be warned, see intro)
    200 grams cooked ham
    6 anchovy fillets
    100 grams fresh breadcrumbs
    1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
    2 tbsp vegetable oil
    2 tbsp butter or bacon fat

    Boil 8 eggs in cold water brought to the boil and simmered for 5 minutes, put immediately into cold water and then peel.

    Beat 2 eggs

    Finely chop ham and anchovies – I’ve done it by hand, but you can use something mechanical. Mix in breadcrumbs, mixed spice, freshly ground pepper and most of the beaten egg.

    Brush each boiled egg with the remaining beaten egg. Mould the ham mix aroung the eggs with your hands.

    Fry in oil and butter on a medium heat until brown all over.

    Spicy Channa Dhal

    Spicy Channa Dhal

    An excellent vegetarian side-dish. There are exquisite dhals to be made; if you are cooking for people who don’t appreciate them, consider getting new dinner guests. It could be worth it.

    Ingredients

    225g channa dhal or yellow split peas
    45g ghee
    1 large onion finely sliced
    2 cinnamon sticks, c. 2” long each, broken up into a few pieces
    6 cardamom pods, the top of each pod split open
    2-4 dried chillies roughly chopped
    half a teasp turmeric
    half a teasp chilli powder
    1 teasp salt
    600ml warm water
    2 bay leaves crushed
    45g dessicated coconut
    2 ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped
    2 tbsps freshly chopped coriander leaves

    Method

    Clean and wash the channa dhal and soak for at least 2 hours (cooking for longer will be sufficient). Drain well. Melt the ghee over medium heat and fry the onion, cinnamon, cardamoms and red chillies until the onnion is lightly browned. Add the dhal, turmeric, chilli powder and salt. Stir-fry for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the water, bay leaves, coconut and tomatoes. Bring to the boil, cover the pan and simmer for about 40 minutes. Stir in the coriander leaves. Serve.

    Duck Salad

    Really just a variant on poached chicken salad….

    I started with left over boned roast duck. Remove the skin/fat, slice into bite-sized strips.

    Walnuts, toasted and chopped, each half into two or three slivers.

    Apple, thinly sliced. I would have used white grapes if I’d had some to hand.

    Spinach, stemmed, washed and chopped.

    Dressing:

    plain yoghurt
    mango/apricot chutney*
    white wine vinegar
    tomato paste*
    salt and pepper

    *I would have preferred to use a jam and a green tomato chutney, but I can’t find anything like the latter here in Geneva and my own home made is a million miles away.

    Mix all these various things together. Serve.