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.

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.

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.

Baba Ghanouj

We took a picnic lunch on a boat cruise recently, including various carefully-made-by-my-own-hands dishes. The Baba Ghanouj, however, was not one of them. The difference between making it yourself and not, really is worth the trouble. This is my preferred method.

Ingredients from Greg Malouf, part of the incredible dynasty in Melbourne that has taken Lebanese cuisine to fanciful heights while never forgetting its roots.

2 large eggplants
1/2 clove garlic
Salt
3 tbsp tahini
Juice of 1 lemon – to taste, at any rate
200g yoghurt

I try to pick eggplants that aren’t too fat as you want to cook them right through. There is no point even thinking about making this dish unless you have gas hotplates – and gas hotplates you are willing to ruin. You may wish to try putting alfoil around the rings. I’ve never found that helps. A charcoal or wood bbq would also do. NOT one of those oven-outdoors-bbqs.

Get a long metal kebab skewer, one for each eggplant and, well, skewer the buggers. Adjust heat on the gas hotplates so that the flames are the right size for the eggplants. You are going to stand and guard these…turn and turn and turn. You want the flesh to collapse, so that the eggplants are all but falling off the skewers, the skin will be blistered and burnt.

Remove, put on a cake cooling wire and then in a plastic bag. You want to collect juices as it sweats which you will discard.

Take the eggplant out of the bag and take off the skin with a knife or fingers. A recipe might urge you that the least bit of charred skin will ruin the end dish, but I don’t think that is true.

Chop the eggplant rather than puree it, you want it to be a little ‘chunky’, not machine made smooth.

Now you can do one of two things:

(1) Add the other ingredients. Put in fridge until you are eating…

(2) Divide into portions. I like to use some of the eggplant for b.g. and use some for other things. Eg kheema – a fantastic way to flavour kheema. And I make it part of a spaghetti sauce. I imagine there are innumerable great things you could do with it.

On flavouring with garlic and lemon. The usual holds: you can add these things but you can’t subtract, so do it slowly, tasting along the way. You know that thing computer scientists do? They look like they are just having fun but they have their excuse all ready ‘compiling’. Well, you get to do that in the kitchen? Eating? Pigging out? No way. Just testing. I noticed a really lovely way of describing what garlic and lemon are to this dish at The Food Blog… as part of the ‘perfect’ baba ghanouj recipe, different from this one, by the way.

And the juice of half a lemon to give some fire
But remember that lemon juice is only there
To compliment the creaminess of the tahini affair
The taste of lemon juice should not be intrusive
Its existence must remain elusive
Crush a bit of garlic with a teaspoon of salt
Before you use too much, you really must halt
In the same way the lemon’s used discretely
The garlic’s existence should almost completely
Be hidden, it’s there just to balance the fruit
A heavy hand and garlic turns into a brute

Crumbed asparagus

I can’t think of much I wouldn’t eat crumbed.

Crumbed asparagus

Use a potato peeler to scrap the tough skin off the bottom of the stems, or snap. You will find that snapping the stems naturally breaks it at a point where the part that breaks off is on the woody side.

Steam until…al dente? To taste, at any rate. Don’t forget they are going to cook a little more. Cool.

Mix dry breadcrumbs with some grated parmesan cheese and a little salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Set out 3 plates:

one has some plain flour on it

one has bread crumbs in it

one has beaten egg

Take each asparagus spear, roll it in the flour, then in the egg and then the breadcrumbs. I like to repeat the egg and breadcrumb process…it depends if you think that is too heavy on the crumbs.

Heat olive oil in a pan and fry until golden brown. They will be warm inside by then.

Serve straight away or at table temperature if you prefer.

Avocado with cocktail sauce

Moving on from the last post, something for the teetotallers and the vegetarians.

The sauce:

tomato sauce (ie Rosella or some inferior brand)
yoghurt
tabasco
vinegar
Worcestershire sauce
Freshly ground pepper

Mess around with the proportions, maybe 2 tblsp of tomato sauce to one of yoghurt?

And I never seem to make enough of it, so make more than you will need.

Now the hard part. Slice open the avocado, take out the seed. You may be the sort of person who has a special bowl for serving avocados so they don’t slip. I think you simply slice just a tiny bit from the bottom of the round part. Put it on a plate and generously fill the hollow with the cocktail sauce

I guess adding prawns to this would make it posh, but it is yummy without.

Prawns with cocktail sauce

One of the things I’ve been doing in excess while in Australia is the devouring of South Australian king prawns. This is a favourite way.

Rick Stein’s cocktail sauce it is the only way I drink whiskey and I really do mean drink. I can stand at the fridge, door open, shovelling this into my mouth. If you happen to have prawns about, so much the better.

Ingredients for sauce:

* 4 tbsp mayonnaise
* 4 tbsp tomato ketchup
* 2 tbsp single malt whiskey
* 4 tbsp natural, unsweetened yoghurt

Mix the above and serve with prawns.

I buy green king prawns and cook them myself: a large pan of water to a good rolling boil, toss in the prawns, they will rise to the top and be pink after a couple of minutes or so. Quickly plunge into cold iced water and then chill until needed.

If you are serving this formally in glass bowls with salad leaves underneath and prawns mixed into the sauce, then I guess you shell them. If you are simply serving the prawns as a free for all fight, maybe best not to shell them, this is probably supposed to be part of the fun of the dish.

One of my favourite Christmas Day dishes for when I’m in the climate God surely intended for that occasion.