Thursday, 27 November 2008

Chicken Nuggets Mexican

NAME: _Chicken Nuggets Mexican

(Approximate for one person, scale to suit size of party.)
chicken meat (you may use dark or white, about one breast's worth per person.)
1/2 carrot
1/2 green capsicum
1/2 jalapeno pepper
1/2 medium onion
1/2 tsp dried crushed chilli
1 clove garlic
1/2 a ripe to overripe tomato
1tsp tomato paste
1 tsp lime juice
1/2 tsp anatto seeds (or turmeric, it's for colour)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup white corn meal (see notes)
1 tbsp cornflour
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 - 2 tbsp EVOO
rice, around 1/2 cup (dry) per person

Prepare your dusting meal - in a rocket blender or similar, place the dried chilli, the anatto seeds (or turmeric) and about half the salt, whiz to powder. Add the corn meal and blend together. This gets used for several things so set it aside now.

Chop the chicken into approximately 2cm (1") cubes, place in a plastic bag.  Start the rice cooking - add about one cup of water per half cup of rice, a pinch of salt, and once it boils, reduce the heat to a simmer, then later when almost all the water is absorbed, switch off the heat, cover with a lid and let stand while other things are being prepared.

Cut the carrot and capsicum and jalapeno pepper into 5cm (2") strips a bit larger than julienne.  Cut the onion lengthways to same width, and cut the garlic into fine straws, as fine as possible.

Quarter the tomato, place it, the lime juice, the tomato paste, the remaining salt, and the chicken stock into the blender and blend all to liquid, seeds skin and all.

Start about half the olive oil in a good heavy frypan, while it is heating put about 1/2 the dusting meal in the plastic bag with the chicken and shake to coat the pieces.  You may add a bit more dusting meal if needed, but you need about 1/4 of the mixture for the veges.  Place the chicken pieces in the hot oil and let sit for about five minutes on medium high, then toss to turn over all pieces.  Leave for another five minutes.  The nuggets should all be golden and lightly browned.  Scoop them out and place on paper towel to drain.

Add some of the leftover dusting meal (it should be around 1/4 of the initial amount) to the cornflour and mix together well.  (Or blend together.)

Add the strips of vegetables and enough oil to ensure the vegetables are all coated in oil.  Toss a few times, until things are sizzling, then dust some of the cornflour mixture over the vegetables and toss, keep adding dusting mix and tossing until all vegetables are well coated and a bit of flour is loose in the pan.  Keep frying and tossing the vegetables until the cornmeal and cornflour start to smell like tortilla chips, then slowly add the tomato mixture until the cornflour and corn meal start to thicken.  The idea here is to almost embed the vegetables in a corn fritter, not make a liquid sauce, and get the vegetables with "just-cooked" texture, i.e. not too soft.

Serve rice to one side, vegetables to other side, chicken nuggets between, maybe with a few pickled jalapeno peppers.  Best served immediately so the nuggets and vegetables aren't soggy.

I haven't tried this with fine polenta, it may work or it may not.  White corn meal is like a rough grade of wheat flour, and the flavour is just right, polenta might be a bit overpowering.

As far as I know this isn't any official Mexican recipe, I just wanted something that looked and tasted the part.  beware of over-salting this - it's easy to do as there's some salt in the dusting flour and then a bit more in the sauce and (usually) more in the chicken stock.  You may be able to serve this over corn chips a la nachos style, I just wanted rice in the meal too.  If doing nachos style forget the avocado but some sour cream would go nicely.  Don't microwave it over the chips though cos that will make the nuggets and vegetables soggy.

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Saturday, 8 November 2008

Some Things I Take For Granted, That You May Not.

Some things I take for granted, that you may not take for granted or know about:

To me, "rice" means basmati, arborio, or very occasionally, jasmine rice.  Basmati is one of the breeds of rice that is better for nutrition, and I tend to use it for most things except some fine flavoured Asian dishes, where jasmine rice is just a smidgen nicer.  And arborio is great for rice/meat stuffings, and of course desserts.  Brown rice is also nice but takes ages to boil, and sometimes, barley is nice to use instead of rice in some dishes, but also takes ages to prepare.

Rice is generally easiest cooked in a pot (or a microwave rice cooker) at the ratio of one cup uncooked rice to two cups of water, plus a sparing teaspooon of salt if cookign for a savoury dish.  Wash the rice first (I use a strainer) and then put the rice and water and salt in a pot and start it boiling, as soon as boiling starts reduce the heat to a fast simmer, then slowly reduce the heat as the water is absorbed.  It's gonna take 15 minutes, get used to it.

"Oil," to me, means extra virgin olive oil. Often, I use a mixture of 1/2 EVOO and 1/2 grapeseed oil.  As a good rule of thumb, anywhere I am asked to use ( for example) beef dripping or other form of fat, I use 2/3 olive oil and 1/3 required fat.  Keeps the flavour but makes it a lot healthier.  Also, if there's a recipe which has good antioxidant ingredients or vitamins (anything with tomato paste, or the livers in the previous recipe) I use 1/2 and 1/2 because grapeseed oil is a good source of oily vitamin E, and that assists the body to absorb the antioxidants and vitamins much more effectively.

When I say "vinegar," I do NOT - ever! - mean plain old white vinegar.  White vinegar is made from fermented wood pulp, not grapes.  Sorry, white vinegar industry - but screw that.  My body deserves something other than rotten wood.  Use white vinegar for cleaning, or to add a bite to pickles made with other, more nutritious vinegars.  Good vinegars to have in your arsenal are rice vinegar, palm or date vinegar, malt vinegar, red and white wine vinegars, and the old standby, balsamic.  Take a good look at what your vinegar is made of, because nowadays the name is no guarantee.  Vinegar manufacturers are labelling it white wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar or whatever - but if you read "acetic acid" as one of the major ingredients they are flavouring and colouring woodpulp vinegar.

I also heartily recommend using red wine, white wine, honey mead, apple cider (same thing - check that it really IS apple cider, honey mead, etc) and good beers in cooking.  By good beers I mean a beer that came from a brewery that doesn't use preservatives or chemicals, or which at least uses very little of them.

When a recipe calls for flour and is not a baking/pasta recipe, I look for ways to get buckwheat flour, or spelt flour, (or anything other than white overprocessed flour,) into the recipe.  Also, think about adding a touch of  psyllum husk - a half teaspoon can make a gravy glossy smooth and beautiful.  Plain white flour is bleached to within an inch of its life and is not very good for you.

On that subject - ANYTHING is better than white sugar in recipes! White sugar also is bleached, and a good friend's doctor father made the observation, almost a century ago now, that wherever he went in Africa and India, there was no major incidence of cancer until a few years after white sugar and white flour arrived.

To anyone that says that's bullshit, I urge you to go to the supermarket and get a bottle of bleach, pour some into a cup, and ask yourself if you'd really drink that.  Because why shouldn't you, it's just white sugar with the sugar taken out... (By the way - DO NOT DO THIS, IT WILL KILL YOU!  I am making an extreme example here, not to be taken as a literal invitation.)  But you do see my point - anything that is bleached is no longer alive or conducive to life.

So those are simple rules of the kitchen that I live by and encourage - and I encourage you to do the same, it may be the difference between a long healthy life and a life with diabetes, cancers, and digestive illnesses and cancers.  And it certainly won't hurt to think about healthier choices.

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Vaguely Middle Eastern Chicken Livers

NAME: _Vaguely Middle Eastern Chicken Livers

300g - 500g chicken livers, fresh as possible
2 -3 tbsp olive oil and grapeseed oil mix
1 cup uncooked basmati rice
2 cups water
1 tsp salt
sml handful stringless beans
3 - 4 brussel sprouts
1 - 2 small pickling onions
1 tsp palm or date vinegar
1 cup chicken stock
1 tsp buckwheat flour (See Notes)
Dusting mix:
2 tbsp buckwheat flour (See Notes)
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp mild curry powder
1 tbsp dried ground coriander seed
1 tsp celery seeds (optional)
1 tbsp dried thyme or za'tar
2 tbsp dried onion flakes

Place everything under the "Dusting Mix" section in a blender and blend to dust.  Set aside.

Take the stringy veins out of the livers, i.e. cut the livers either side of that bit.  Give the cat the stringy bits it will love you for it...  Cut larger lobes in half.  Place the livers in a plastic bag or a bowl with the dusting mix and coat well, turn out onto a cutting board or plate while doing the vegetables.

Prepare the vegetables - make crescents of the onion by cutting lengthways, cut stems from brussels and remove unsightly outer leaves, and quarter them lengthways.  Cut beans to approximately same length as brussels.

Preheat the oil mix in a good frypan, place as many livers in the pan as will fit single layer and allow to brown on one side. (Takes 3 - 5 minutes, longer if you'd like to have more crispiness.)  Turn over and do the other side.

Start the rice in the water and salt, and when it starts to boil, allow to simmer fast until all water is absorbed, turning down the heat towards the very end. This will take about as long as processing all those livers.  (Allow rice to stand after all water is absorbed, for a fluffier lighter rice.  Trust me, this works without sticking to the pot or going gluggy provided you make sure you keep the temperature to a low simmer and watch for the water to almost all steam away before turning off the heat.)

Once all livers have been cooked and set aside, put the prepared vegetables in the same pan, toss for about three to five minutes in a hot pan.  Add  the teaspoon of flour, stir into vegetables, and then add about a third of the chicken stock, slowly so it steams the vegetables.  Add the palm vinegar, and the rest of the stock, allow to simmer for up to five minutes, until brussels are tender.


Lay rice on plate, pile livers on top.  Add vegetables to the side, along with some of the stock.  Serve with side dishes as noted in the next section.  Should serve two very well.

Buckwheat flour tastes nice in this but you can use ordinary white flour or wholemeal in a pinch.  The less processed the flour, the better the flavour and the better for you.

Things to add to this dish are things like green olives simply processed in brine, a few wedges of tomato, some crescents of pickled onion, flat bread like khobs or lebanese bread.

Liver is inordinately nutritious and good for you, and this recipe makes it a super-tasty meal.  Even naughty big kids have been known to eat liver this way...

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Saturday, 1 November 2008

Medieval Mushroom Soup

NAME: _Medieval Mushroom Soup

1kg field or portobello mushrooms.  I find a large fieldie is better flavour than 30 shirtbuttons
250g white bread.  (See Notes - normal white bread is NOT good)
2tsp caraway seeds
2tsp salt
2 cups water (alternatively, 1cup water 1cup milk or beer - See Notes)
50g butter

Clean any growing medium (soil or straw etc) from the mushrooms, clean any spots that don't look nice.  Slice the mushrooms, turn, slice into straws, turn again and dice.  1/4" (5mm) cubes is fine enough.  Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the caraway seeds and salt, fry lightly for a few minutes then add the mushrooms.  Frying the caraway seeds brings out the oils in them, and the flavour.

Fry the mushrooms until they have gone slightly soft, then add the liquid you're using.  Bring to boil, simmer for about an hour with the lid on.  Stir from time to time to stop it catching.

Cut the crusts from the bread (or dice your potatoes, See Notes) and add to the soup.  Bring to the boil again and simmer for another hour or so, again covered.  Check often to prevent catching. (Sticking to the bottom.)

You can blend this soup for a finer texture or for freezing, I generally leave it as is and there's never enough left to freeze...

Serve as is or with the same type bread you used to thicken, and butter.  Serves two people, be warned, they will come back for seconds!  

Normal supermarket white bread is no good for this, due to the plasticisers and stuff making the dough too clingy to make good thickening for the soup.  I use sourdough natural types of bread, and if I can't get those, arab or lebanese bread.  The amount of bread varies, I generally do three slices worth and then wait and see, adding more if it isn't thickened nicely.  

You can also add one or two medium potatoes, peeled and diced very small, this will thicken the soup without using wheat gluten, albeit not as much.  Potatoes can be pre-boiled or the inside of leftover roasted potatoes, as long as it's very fine and going to boil to thicken the soup.

Aside from trying water and milk, you can also try water and a good beer.  You'd be surprised how well that turns out... 

The reason it's "Medieval" is that it's made and thickened the old way, no additives no preservatives, and this recipe is mentioned in several medieval cooking books.

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