Chilli Chicken Tacos

I haven’t been cooking a great deal lately. Despite my best efforts, a lack of time and energy have got the better of me and I have been living off cartons of soup and supermarket pizzas for the most part. Moving to a full time job and studying for professional exams all in one swoop doesn’t seem like quite such a clever idea after all now. Inspiration has been in hiding and evades me as I shop, and I decided that I can easily sacrifice interesting dinners for convenience. I had better watch it, or I will be eating ready meals every night at this rate.

Anyway, I decided it was time to make at least a little effort and I produced this. I couldn’t find any other way to buy the tacos than buy them in a sort of all-in-one taco kit but the idea of salsa in a packet and the taco seasoning didn’t really appeal to me so I slung them. Wasteful and not cost effective, I know, so by all means, use them if you wish. I have a real hatred (strong term, but true) for avocado, so decided to make a fruity salsa rather than a guacamole with this.  Recipe serves 4.

For the Chicken:

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, or breasts if you prefer, but maybe only 3. Free range please. Diced.
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed,
  • 1 or 2 chillies, finely chopped.
  • 1 red pepper, finely diced
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes,
  • heaped tsp Cumin
  • tbsp chopped coriander
  • 1 tbsp groundnut oil
  • salt & pepper

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add your onions, garlic, chilli and cumin and salt & pepper. Cook over a medium-low heat for 10 minutes or so until the onion has softened and then add your pepper and then the chicken, and fry until the meat is no longer pink. Pour in your can of tomatoes and cook over a low heat for at least 20 minutes. Meanwhile…

For the Salsa

  • 1 small mango, peeled and diced
  • 1 yellow or red pepper, diced the same size as the mango
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1 spring onion, very finely chopped
  • ½ chilli, finely chopped
  • heaped tbsp chopped coriander
  • juice of 1 lime

Put all the ingredients into a bowl and stir. It might be nicer if you can do this bit a little ahead of time to give the flavours plenty of time to mingle, but if like me you can’t, you can’t.

When you’re ready to eat, cook the tacos in the oven as per the packet instructions and stir in the coriander with your chicken. Serve with grated cheese, soured cream and maybe some pickled jalapeños (my new addiction). Scoff.

Stir-fried Curly Kale

For a while now, I have been following the exploits of Vegboxboy and his efforts to rid himself of make wonderful meals of all the vegetables he gets in his vegetable box delivery. Now try as I might, I’ve never loved veg, and I get what I have to get in the supermarket at the weekend but for a little while now I’ve been tempted to buy my own box (on a strictly trial one off basis) and seee what I got. So from the lovely people at Bristol’s Better Food Company, I bought a box. For £12 I got: A big bag of kale, a yellow pepper, some carrots and potatoes, two beetroot, some satsumas, russet apples, a couple of chillis, a lettuce, some broccoli and some onions. And a bunch of bananas. The veg that I buy on an everyday basis doesn’t usually have to be organic, so I found this to be more expensive than my actual grocery shop for vegetables. So, thats pretty standard veg shop for us I guess in terms of variety. But until last night, I was a kale virgin. I had a quick scan around the net for ideas and I sort of came up with this. Very delicious it was too.. but I didn’t know the stalks would be so hard, so I would cut them out next time.

kale

  • bag of kale (don’t know what weight, just filled my wok), chopped up
  • 2 spring onions, trimmed and then chopped into sort of pasta quill length
  • 1 red chilli, sliced horizontally
  • 2 cloves of garlic , roughly chopped
  • 3 tspb soy sauce
  • 50 ml water
  • 1 tbsp ground nut oil

Heat your wok until it is smoking and then add your oil, and then your water. Add the kale straight away and stirfry until starting to wilt in the pan slightly, add the spring onions and continue to fry for a minute or so and then add your chilli and garlic. Stirfry until the chilli and garlic are cooked through and then add they soy souce. Cook until the kale is fully wilted. I had mine with sweet and sour spare ribs – I think it would go really nicely with any plain grilled protein too.

For more cheap and tasty ideas, vist Cheapskate.com, where there are more hints, tips and resources to help you save money.

Madras Fishcakes

Hardly fine dining, but for a healthy midweek dinner for this tired but greedy, it was perfect. Due to the potato in the fishcakes, I attempted to avoid carb overload by just serving with veg, but I am imagine these would go brilliantly with chips… mmmhh.. chips. Anyway, what was nice was a serving of lime pickle to go with them. Mango chutney would have been great also. Serves 2.

curried fishcakes

  • 300-350g skinless fish – I had a packet of mixed fish suitable for fish pie, but salmon, mackerel, cod, coley, trout will be fine too
  • half a pint of milk
  • 300g mashed potato, mashed without butter or milk
  • 2 tbsp madras curry paste
  • enough vegetable oil to grease a baking tray

Put the fish in the cold milk in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn off the heat and leave to cool. Drain of milk and flake roughly. Allow the mashed potato to cool down and then, in a large bowl, stir together the fish, potato and curry paste. Preheat the oven to gas 6. Shape the fish and potato mixture  into 4 large cakes and place onto an oiled baking tray. Put into a hot oven and cook for 20 minutes. Et voila. Scoff.

Tv Dinners: Masterchef – The Professionals.

masterchef_02At the start of every series of Masterchef, I begin with the intentions of watching all the way through, I might learn something, I reason and if nothing else there is always the opportunity to cackle at the poor efforts of the misguided and talentless. Misanthropy, your name is surely moi. Although I am not mad keen on Gr-Egg Wallace, although I find the camerawork, editing, voice over work, and some of the ‘challenges’ irritating at best, there must clearly be something in it that draws me back. I suspect it is often a dearth of competition for my attentions from another source. But this series of Professional Mastershite shout chef has just turned me off completely. So far there have been 20 episodes of heats and quarter finals. 20 epsidodes of the opportunity of watching unattractive young men (for the most part, monobrowed, poorly shaven and flabby) fail to bone/cook through/construct or make something basic. 20 episodes of some hammy, stroppy sous chef claiming she would only put ‘the best’ through to cook for Michael, and then putting through abject failures simply because well, she had to. 20 episodes of watching the same dishes presented the same way – the only difference being the main ingredients. Classic recipe tests where the young chefs had never heard of the dishes, much less cooked or eaten them and 20 episodes of having to watch Gregg shovelling food into his mouth. Not pretty.

But you know, tonight, the first of the semi finals. One assumes, before watching, that these guys will know how to cook and cook well. They will, for an instance, be able to cook vegetables, manage a crepe or some lemon curd. Phrases like ‘expecting perfection’ , ‘skill and commitment’ and ‘great chefs’ are bandied about by the narrator. Lets hope we’re not disappointed.

In this semi-final, the chefs begin their day at a central London restaurant, Roussillon. I quite like these bits – they are not, as is the case with sleb masterchef, somewhere crummy, they are at a proper establishment. I love a nose inside a professional kitchen, as all my readers know, I particularly love to watch what happens in a michelin starred restaurant kitchen. The chef is French (so much the better).There is  Lady Chef and  Boy Chef. We want the girl to do better(natch). They are in charge  of making a cheffy dish each. Girl chef messes up a touch (cue sonorous music and narration of ‘Marianne needs to focus’). Switch to Boy Chef, narrator reliably informs us that Boy Chef  ‘needs to cook his egg perfectly’ – thanks for stating the bleeding obvious for us there, eh? Anyway, Boy chef overcooks his egg. Quelle horreur! More confusing editing. More moments of tension. Onto the money shot – quite posh patrons in the dining room. Unlike with Gregg we don’t have to watch them shovel it in. The customers liked it. Hurrah. Onto post mortem. It was stressful. No, really? To cut a long story shorter, the boy won. Boy Chef and Lady Chef then go head to head to cook a truffle risotto. The Girl chef won that one. So what have we learnt? Well, you know.

Back to the studio, where they have an hour to cook a suitably cheffy meal for Gr-Egg and Michel. Oh no! Michel wants to see their hearts on the plate! Michel is expecting the best.. ohh.. lets hope Boy Chef doesn’t make him a risotto then.. Gr-Egg asks Lady Chef how much effort she is putting into this competition. I am not sure I understand the question. Anyone want to respond by yawning, stretching and mumbling ‘mmh…20%’ and turning their back on him? I have to go and put the kettle on now. I can’t stand any more of this inanity.

They love the way Lady Chef’s food tastes. But it’s too simple. Boy Chef hasn’t cooked his beans, and his starter lacks flavour (Michel was expecting the best, remember) His main course tastes good but it’s not right. Surely, surely this means Lady Chef goes through? There is some meaningless ‘conversation’ (the judging conversation is often so disjointed and strangely edited its impossible to tell they’re in the same room) and it doesn’t matter what Gr-Egg says anyway, does it. Whether it’s shouty chef John or chef Michel, they make the call. After all, what is he? A green grocer. After a long, X-factor stylee pause, Lady Chef goes through. Bon. Gr-Egg says, ‘Everything she touches, tastes like its been cooked by an angel’. I nearly choke on my lemsip. Fade to black.

Aromatic Fried Chicken

This isn’t fried chicken like your standard unlucky-fried-kitten. Theres no batter, for one, and its not deep fried. In fact, I finished it off in the oven because despite following the recipe, my chicken wasn’t cooked through after the time given. Still, apart from that little hiccup it was easy. And it tasted divine. I thought given the ingredients it might be a bit spicy, but it was very mellow. From my point of view anyway. Serves 2/3. I cooked mine for two and had enough for leftovers – its perfect picnic or packed lunch food, or indeed for breakfast (shhhh). This vietnamese dish was adapted from Ken Hom’s Hot Wok. Which is a book I intend to cook from far more often. This has got a fair bit of salt in it, so if you’re watching your salt levels, cut it down a bit.

aromatic fried chicken

  • Mixed pack of free range chicken drumstick and thigh portions
  • 3 tbsp ground nut oil

for the marinade:

  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 garic cloves, crushed
  • 75ml thai fish sauce
  • 75ml white rice wine vinegar (or cider vinegar)
  • 2 red or green chillis,  seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • half an onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp shaoxing rice wine
  • flour for dusting

Stick all the marinade ingredients except the flour into a blender and whizz until smooth. Pour into a large bowl and put in the chicken portions, rubbing the marinade in well. Leave the chicken to sit in its little spicy bath for at least an hour at room temperature.

Preheat the oven to gas 7. Drain the chicken of any excess marinade and toss in the flour, shaking off any excess. Heat a wok or a frying pan over a high heat., and when hot, pour in the oil. Keep heating until the oil is slightly smoking and then turn down to low. Put the chicken in skin side down  and slowly brown over a medium low heat for 10 minutes. Turn over and cook on the other side for ten minutes. If the joints are not done yet, like mine, finish in a hot oven for another 10-15 minutes. Drain on kitchen paper and serve immediately with some rice.