Tag Archives: chicken

Heston in da house! [chicken and butternut squash curry]

If you have ever watched Heston Blumenthal (of Fat Duck fame)’s programme ‘In Search of Perfection’ you will be aware of the frankly ridiculous lengths he goes to in order to find the perfect dish of chilli con carne, peking duck, or whatever –

To achieve the perfect roast chicken, you must first take a bath, wearing the chicken as a shower cap – this really helps to keep the bird moist, as well as giving it that faint ‘Head and Shoulders’ whiff that really adds so much to a roast lunch. Next season the chicken by standing at the bottom of a stairwell and getting a mate whose name is either Bruno or Malcolm (other names don’t work as well) to sprinkle freshly ground black pepper and salt (that you have crystallised from the waters of the Aegean sea that morning) from at least three floors up. Next turn the oven on by getting on your knees and doing it with your teeth (no one wants suds on the oven knob), before stuffing an onion that you have peeled and played cricket with and a lemon that is exactly 8.9cm in diameter up the chicken’s rear end. Now you can start preparing the chicken….

That sort of thing.

But seriously, Heston, of whom I’m a huge fan, really drills home the idea that however good a recipe is, it can always be refined. As a home cook I just think you need to draw the line at where cooking stops being enjoyable, and starts being a complete nightmare.

Take chicken curry. I probably make this, in one shape or other (though usually just the one) about once a month. Standard, peaceful procedure. Grind a random combination of cumin, coriander, cardamom, clove, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, garlic and chilli powder. Add it to sweating onions, add some coconut milk, tin tomatoes, chopped chillies and reduce. Liquidize if you can be arsed. Add chicken, cook, serve with rice. And I love it. It’s really pretty good. But it could be so much better. I usually find that, while the sauce is the right consistency at first, the liquid leaking from the chicken waters it down, so I need to fart around taking out the meat with a slotted spoon and reducing it further. Until last night, that is…

Perfect chicken, lentil and butternut squash korma

This is a little hotter than your average korma. Deseed the chillies if you want it milder, but don’t then rub your eyes. Or your balls.

Serves 6

5 large chicken breasts
20g fresh coriander
2 fresh red chillies
1 plump clove of garlic, peeled
Half a teaspoon ground cumin
Juice of half a lemon
A good slug of olive oil
A large onion, peeled and sliced
10 cardamom pods
2 cloves
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seed
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon hot chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tin coconut milk
2 tablespoons tomato puree
300 ml chicken stock
100g lentils
A small butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and chopped into chunks

Chop the chicken into large chunks and place in a bowl. Put the coriander, chillies, garlic, lemon juice, cumin, olive oil and a little salt in a food processor. Blend thoroughly. Add to the chicken, stir well to coat the meat, cover and leave in a fridge for a couple of hours, or preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 210C.

In olive oil, sweat the onion in a large pan. Meanwhile remove the seeds from the cardamom and discard the pods, or save to boil with the rice. Grind with the cloves, coriander and cumin seeds, and add the turmeric, chilli powder, ginger and cinnamon. Increase the heat in the saucepan, stir the onions for 2 minutes then add the spices. Stir for a further minute then add the coconut milk, tomato puree and stock. Bring to the boil and stir in the lentils and squash. Season with salt and pepper, cover and simmer over a low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

After 20 minutes, tip the chicken and marinade into an oven proof dish and bake for 25 minutes. Check the consitency of the squash and lentil component and simmer uncovered until reduced, if necessary. Add the chicken, stir through and serve with basmati rice and a glass of cold beer or a punchy red wine (Shiraz would be good).

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Sam’s Marquess Chicken

I have never been a massive fan of sweet chilli sauce, finding it too much ‘sweet’ and not enough ‘chilli’. It seemed to be the sort of sauce that people used to pretend they could make things taste good when in fact they were just shaking a bottle full of E numbers over a piece of meat and calling it ‘authentic Thai cookery’. Until my flatmate Sam produced a bottle of Lingham’s Sweet Chilli Sauce and cooked this delicious recipe of his Dad’s last week, and my opinion was changed forever. Stirred into some homemade mayonnaise to go with chips or chicken wings, added to a curry paste or used in a marinade, Linghams is a far superior sauce to its Blue Dragon counterpart.

Serves 2

Two chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
Olive oil
Linghams sweet chilli sauce
Garlic, crushed
Soy sauce
Fresh coriander, chopped
Lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Slice the chicken breasts into diagonal strips and place in a bowl. Pour over a generous slug of olive oil and add the remaining ingredients to taste. Stir well together, cover and marinade in the fridge for a couple of hours. Get a non stick frying pan nice and hot and add the chicken and a hefty measure of the marinade. Fry until the chicken is cooked (5-7 minutes) and the marinade has reduced and is lovely and sticky. Serve with buttered broccoli and some boiled rice (or rice with sweetcorn, as pictured).

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Chicken noodle soup

Yes yes, I know – more bloody chicken (and ‘where’s a pudding recipe?’ I hear you scream), but come on, roast chicken is something we all encounter a couple of times a month, so it’s good to have some top notch leftover recipes up your sleeve. I am still down in Sussex at a friend’s house (hence the lack of recent entries) endeavouring to write some music, where we have been fed incredibly well by his Mum. Her roast chicken is sensational, with slippery and caramelised roast onions. We are left to our own devices the following day however, and seeing as there is a lot of roast chicken left and the weather has turned cold a zingy soup is clamoured for. We reckon we’re the most gourmet band in the world.

If you don’t have any leftover roast chicken (and why should you?) do this with 4 sliced chicken breasts simmered in the broth for 7-8 minutes. I do actually think roast chicken is much better for this, though, with a better texture and flavour. This is also excellent with prawns. Simmer in the broth until pink and firm.

Serves 4-6 easily

For the stock

Leftover chicken carcasses, with plenty of meat on them if possible
2 litres water
a splash of white wine
an onion, peeled and sliced
a stick of celery, sliced
a carrot, chopped into chunks
a few peppercorns

For the rest

2 red onions, peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
4 birds eye chillies, sliced (seeds left in)
a thumb of ginger peeled and thinly sliced
a stick of lemongrass, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
a big handful of beansprouts
a packet of udon noodles
a good handful roughly chopped coriander

To make the stock, strip all the meat from the carcass and keep for the soup. With your hands, break up the bones into smaller bits. Put your roasting tray on a high heat and add the onion, celery and carrot. Stir for a couple of minutes, adding oil if necessary (the fat from the roasting should perform this task, however). Add the bones and continue to colour over a high heat for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a good splash of white wine and scrape up the juices. Transfer the contents to a saucepan, cover with water and add the peppercorns. Bring to a boil and simmer, with the lid off, for 2-3 hours. Pass through a fine sieve and set the stock aside.

Heat a little oil over a low heat in a large saucepan. Add the onions and garlic and stir for a couple of minutes until softened. Add the chillies, ginger and lemon grass, increase the heat and stir for a further two minutes. Pour in the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the soy, beansprouts, noodles and your leftover chicken and simmer for 3 minutes or so. Add the chopped coriander and taste for seasoning. Serve in warm bowls.

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Hot chicken curry for a mild(ish) evening

Once again there is a chicken from the farm defrosting for supper. Large (almost a small turkey), and organically raised, the skin is a light yellowish hue, and the legs are big enough to knock someone out, or at least chew on and pretend that you are a hobbit eating a partridge leg. And the flavour is phenomenal. I don’t have to tell you that a bird that has been raised scratching around in the outdoors, eating grass, grain and vegetable scraps and living for 3 months before being killed and hung for 2 weeks is going to taste a hell of a lot better than birds that are intensively reared, given growth promoters and killed after 6 weeks before being stuffed in polythene and shipped off to a shelf. It really is worth spending an extra few quid on a decent chicken, both in terms of promoting animal welfare and eating meat that isn’t full of antibiotics (and actually tastes of something).

I am tempted to roast the chicken, but as eagle-eyed readers will know I roasted a chicken a couple of weeks ago. So I joint the bird, keeping the carcass and wings for stock, and the legs for lunch, and cut the breasts and thigh meat into chunks. The likelihood is that you will, as I usually do, just buy the meat ready-jointed so we’ll work on that premise…

Chicken madras

Serves 4

1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
10 cardamom pods
2 cloves
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 medium red onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 green chillies, sliced (seeds removed if you prefer it less spicy!)
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tin coconut milk
8 boneless and skinless chicken thighs, cut into chunks

To remove the seeds from the cardamom, crush the green pods under the back of a spoon and pull out the little black seeds. Save the pods to simmer with your rice, and crush the coriander and cumin seeds with the cardamom and cloves. Sweat the onion and garlic over a low heat in a little olive oil or butter, increase the heat and add the crushed spices plus the turmeric, cinnamon and chillies. Stir for a couple of minutes and add the tomatoes. Season with salt and a little sugar. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5-7 minutes. Pour the sauce into a magimix and blend thoroughly, then return to the pan (via a sieve if you can be arsed). Stir in the coconut milk, bring to a gentle simmer and add the chicken. Simmer for 8-10 minutes till the chicken is cooked*. Garnish with chopped coriander and serve with basmati rice.

*You may well find at this point that the sauce is thinner than you prefer. If so, remove the chicken with a slotted spoon, increase the heat, and simmer till reduced to desired consistency.

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Leftover chicken [chicken and pearl barley broth]

Yes indeed, leftovers are quite the hip thing nowadays. Our Prime Minister has given us a ruddy good wrist-slapping (and rightly so) about the appalling amount of food wasted each year by us Brits, and so it’s about time we thought twice before a) buying something or b) throwing it away.

There are 101 things you can do with a leftover chicken – stick it in a sandwich with some baby gem lettuce, tomatoes and mayonnaise; toss it through some pasta with broccoli, lemon juice and olive oil; add it to a risotto with mushrooms, or have it in a salad with some croutons, caesar dressing and shaved parmesan – yum!

But it’s still raining, and all I want for lunch is hot soup. It’s worth having proper stock for soup – there’s nothing wrong with cubed, but a homemade stock is pretty irreplaceable. Making a stock is easy and an excellent way to use every last bit of the bird. Strip the remaining meat from the carcass (this will go in your soup) and put the carcass in a medium saucepan. Cover with water. Add half an onion, a carrot, a stick of celery, a couple of bay leaves, a few peppercorns and, if you have any left, gravy (a lot of people use a clove or two as well – I find their flavour a little bossy). Bring to a boil and simmer for 2 hours. Drain through a sieve and either freeze or use for a risotto or soup, like this one.

If smooth, rich chicken soup is your thing then this ain’t it – but it might convert you. This is very simple, rustic broth. Pearl barley is a really lovely grain, and also makes an excellent risotto-style dish. You can find it in most supermarkets these days, and certainly in health food shops.

Chicken and pearl barley broth

Serves 6

1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 stick celery, trimmed and finely chopped
200g pearl barley
2 litres hot chicken stock
As much leftover chicken as you have, shredded

Heat a little oil over a low heat in a large saucepan and stir in the onion and celery. Season, cover and soften for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Increase the heat and stir in the pearl barley, then add the stock. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer gently for an hour or so, until the barley is soft. Add the chicken and simmer for a further 5 minutes before serving. This soup is excellent done in advance and reheated.

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Chickening out [roast chicken]

I’m surprised more songs haven’t been written about roast chicken. Plenty of good songs about whiskey (Doors ‘Alabama Song’, Van Morrison ‘Moonshine Whiskey’); good songs about bakery (Rolling Stones ‘Brown Sugar’, The Beatles ‘Honey Pie’ (not one of their best)) and, of course, Kings of Leon stunning ode to the dairy cow, ‘Milk’; but dammit, I can’t find a single song about roast chicken. What the hell is going on? Arguably the most perfect, beautiful, and, dare I say, sexy thing to put in front of someone and no one has bothered to strum two notes about it.

Because is there anything more perfect than a well roasted chicken? A juicy steak, charred on the edges, bloody in the middle, might be challenging for a bronze, and sure, a leg of lamb roasted medium rare, on the right day will take the silver no problem (I really hope you’re enjoying my Olympic metaphor here), but nothing can put a smile on my face quite as consistently as a chicken fresh from the oven – the earthy undertones of herbs, the pungency of the lemon you have stuffed up its bottom, and the pop and crackle of the skin make it the ultimate crowd pleaser – the ‘Brown Sugar’ of the meat world?

In terms of bells and whistles I think a chicken responds extremely well to most seasoning, within reason – by this I mean a variety of herbs, garlic, shallots or onions etc etc…I do not mean pineapple or apricots. What I happen to do on this occasion is largely due to what I have at hand – although the unpeeled shallots are a Nigella Lawson touch, and an excellent one.

Roast chicken

Serves 4

A medium sized free range organic chicken
15 shallots
2 heads garlic
a handful of rosemary, thyme and tarragon
half a lemon
Olive oil
100ml vermouth or white wine
100ml water

Preheat the oven to 200C (fan 190C).

Make sure you take the bird out of the fridge an hour before cooking. Putting a cold bit of meat in a hot oven only lengthens the cooking time (quite considerably if it is a large bird). Season the bird inside and out with salt and pepper and stuff the herbs and lemon up its backside. Place it in a roasting dish and throw the (unpeeled) shallots around it. Cut the garlic heads in half horizontally and add to the tin. Drizzle liberally with olive oil, both the shallots, garlic and the chicken, and place in the oven for an hour.

Pierce the thigh, if the juices run clear you have a cooked chicken. Remove it, the shallots and the garlic to a warm plate to rest, and place the roasting tin over a medium heat. Add the vermouth and scrape up all the lovely juices from the chicken. Add the water and simmer for 5 minutes till desired consistency. (If you like a thicker gravy, whisk in a tablespoon flour).

Carve the bird and serve with the gravy and a couple of shallots, and whatever vegetables you are having.

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