Monday, 11 April 2016

Chilli chicken drumsticks with basil

Something that really pisses me off is when you get a recipe and try it out, following it to the letter, then it doesn't work or, worse, turns out to be crap. Often it's a recipe from a book from a really trendy chef, some currently hot restaurant or some newspaper column. You think "that sounds good, I'll give it a go" then you try it and you find the dough has the consistency of mayonnaise or the potatoes have the qualities of marbles or the chicken is still raw in the middle. It's the equivalent of really looking forward to a film and it turning out to be Batman and Robin. It's essentially epicurean premature ejaculation

I don't understand how this can be the case. The recipes must have been tested a few times before writing them up. Is it because the flour wasn't bought in the right pissing souk in Marrakech? Perhaps the aubergines weren't twatting organic enough? Maybe the cow was a fucking Capricorn and needed to be a Gemini. Who knows? Whatever the reason, it gets on my tits not being able to rely on a recipe from a respected and/or trendy source.

This recipe is a good example of this. The original version of this involved stir-frying the chicken drumsticks until cooked. It took ages and you can't tell exactly when the fucking things are cooked. On the plus side, it's a great way to start slimming, since salmonella will make the weight drop off you.

So I added the idea of having the drumsticks in the oven to part-cook them before adding them to the pan. It's a really easy recipe and tastes fantastic, despite having no really fancy ingredients, with the sauce being ready-made dipping chilli sauce.

6-8 chicken drumsticks (depends on the size, enough for two people), skinned,
2-3 tbsp light soy sauce
Black pepper
1 tbsp cooking oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
4 or 5 spring onion diagonally cut into 5cm lengths
2 assorted peppers of any colour (though at least one should be a sweeter re/orange or yellow one), cut into thin strips
1carrot cut into matchsticks
3 tbsp sweet chilli dipping sauce
1 tbsp dry sherry
pinch dried chilli flakes
handful of fresh basil leaves (20 or so)

Make deep slashes diagonal to the bone in the drumsticks

Put them in a bowl and add the light soy and black pepper

Using a basting brush, coat the drumsticks well with the soy and pepper working it into the cuts

Cover, place in the fridge and allow to marinate a couple of hours or so

 To marinate

Heat the oven to 200 and cook the drumsticks for 10minutes.

Heat the oil in a wok and add the part-cooked drumsticks and gently cook them over 20 minutes, constantly keeping them moving.

Cut into one of the drumsticks to ensure it's cooked through.

Add the garlic, spring onions, peppers, chilli flakes and carrot and keep stirring for another 5 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

Add the chilli sauce and sherry and allow to heat until bubbling while coating the ingredients.

Stir in the basil leaves just before serving

Serve with rice, preferably egg-fried.

I don't know what nationality this is supposed to be. Thai? Chinese? Whatever, the basil adds a really different twist to your usual stir fries.

Another deviation I do in this from the original is that demands you deep fry the basil leaves before adding them to the dish at the end. I'm too mean to waste the oil this requires, and it tastes just as good

The marination of chicken in soy sauce and pepper really adds some flavour to what would otherwise be fairly bland chicken. I do this any time I do a Chinese chicken dish, as was the case on my chicken chow mein. It's great for any old bog-standard stir fry.

Chilli sauce in the recipe is something like this:

Monday, 4 April 2016

Butternut squash and ginger soup

Beans are not the only musical fruit
Man Ray will be turning in her grave at this, but at least in this entry I'm not comparing it to a butt plug
Original squash image adapted from

Soup is fucking great. Take any old crap you've got left over in the fridge or larder, chuck it in a pan with some water, blend it up, and there's lunch for the best part of the working week. This wasn't always the case in my life. When I grew up, making soup meant opening a tin. Not that there's anything wrong with tinned soup, generations have been raised on it. It's weening food that graduates to essentially baby food for adults. One day you're suckling at your Mum's breast, the next it's Baxter's Scotch broth complete with lumps of vegetables and no nipple (though it has lamb in it, so I suppose it may have teat, which is almost the same).

Soup is the ultimate in comfort food, so much so that Heinz use this idea to promote their tinned product when the clocks go back every autumn and even Cup-A-Soup promoted themselves as "a hug in a mug" (no it's not a hug in a cup, you marketing twat, it's a sachet of dried of fucking soup). Then there is the legendary recuperative powers of chicken soup. You have the Jewish idea of Mama's chicken soup as a cure all or even bah kut teh, a pork soup from Singapore laced with pick-me-up herbs from traditional Chinese medicine. Now, I know I've nailed my particular colours to that particular mast with a rant on TCM in this blog entry, but if it makes you feel better, especially as a hangover cure, it's not a bad thing. After all, we're not talking about claiming it can cure cancer.

Anyway, as good as tinned soup is, homemade soup is in a different league. You know what's in it, you can put as much or as little salt in it as you like and tweak the flavour any way you want. Best of all it just tastes so much more fucking fresh.

Butternut squash, as I've waxed lyrically about previously, lends itself to lots of dishes, working especially well with the spices of curry. Pairing it with ginger seemed an ideal combination and, as I found out, it was spot on.

1 tbsp olive oil
½ red onion, chopped
½ bulb of garlic, cloves peeled and crushed
A large chunk ginger (about the size of 1-2 thumbs), finely chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
2 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and diced
Half a butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 2 cm cubes
2 chillies, finely chopped
½ tin tomatoes
½ bunch spring onions, chopped
1 litre water
1 vegetable stock cube, crumbled
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp light soy sauce
Juice of half a lemon
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a big, heavy pan and gently fry the red onion, garlic, ginger and celery for 10 minutes.

Add the potatoes and carry on sauteing for another 5 minutes.

Add the squash, chillies, and spring onions for a couple of minutes.

Pour in the water, tomato puree, soy and lemon juice.

Season well with black pepper and bring to the boil.

Cover well and gently simmer for 1-2 hours

Blend the soup until it's smooth

Serve with bread

What I said about blending the soup in my recipe for broccoli and Stilton soup still stands. If you aren't careful you could end up spraying the kitchen and your face with napalm-hot liquid.

I prefer this blended until it's pretty smooth, though if you want lumps in it, be less vigorous with the blender,

You could leave the chillies out if you want. The combined flavour of the butternut squash and ginger is the highlight of the dish but, if you have been a sweary follower, you will know that I think if it don't have chilli, it don't taste of shit. Well, none of the recipes should actually taste of shit. No, they taste nice. That's just me talking street for my younger readers. While this might seem a pitiable thing for a middle-aged man to do, it's still better than most of the shite that Torode and Wallace come out with on Masterchef.