Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Double Ska Jamaican Chicken burgers with pineapple salsa

While looking for ideas for recipes to try, I chanced upon one for Reggae Reggae burgers. The Reggae Reggae brand originated on Dragon's Den in the UK when Levi Roots strummed a guitar in his pitch and got some rich fucker to buy his sauce (ooer, sounds a bit rude). The brand is now a corporate behemoth incorporating not just the original sauce, but various other table sauces, spice mixes and other products up to and including pasties and even soft drinks. I'm sure Levi Roots did start off with family recipes, but sold out faster than a Tory MP with a... Actually, no need to qualify that, he sold out faster than a Tory MP because that's what they fucking do. Then again, Dragon's Den is, by its very nature, all about selling out, so good on him.

He used the unique selling point, or USP, of his Jamaican culinary heritage and home-cooked, family recipes to create his brand. It's not as if he's an American who's voice is the auditory equivalent of having your head pushed into a bucket of wallpaper paste, nor is he some wanky, angry TV chef who's face is plastered across a range ready-made sauces which they wouldn't actually touch with a bargepole topped with a Michelin star. Of course, not all USPs are created equal. Take mine for example. I'd probably go on Dragon's Den, force-feed the dragons a bowlful of chilli that would have them shitting napalm for the next week and I'd probably end up going home empty handed having subsequently called them a bunch of twats.

I've done a recipe for burgers previously, of the beef variety, which is the origin of the hamburger. You can get chicken burgers at your local corporate fastfood joint, but they do tend to be breadcrumbed and deep-fried so, in my humble but profane fucking opinion, aren't actually "burgers". Burgers, for me, should be made of minced or ground meat. Flavour them how you like, but they need to be, for all intents and purposes, a reconstituted steak 

So, I wanted to do something that had a Caribbean feel, I love burgers (as I've made clear before) and thought chicken burgers just don't get enough coverage. Now, chicken is basically pretty bland on its own so you need to give it lots of flavour. A bit of ginger, lime juice and chilli add just enough tropical character to justify me ripping off Levi Roots' Reggae Reggae brand to call mine Double Ska. And because of that, why not have a bit of ska before we start (like you need a reason to play a great bit of Prince Buster)?

One step beyond.
RIP Prince Buster
Preparation: 60 minutes (including roasting the pepper and leaving it to cool)
Cooking time: 15 minutes

Pineapple salsa
1 small yellow pepper
Half a small, fresh pineapple, cored, peeled and the flesh diced
3 or 4 spring onions, trimmed, cleaned and finely sliced
Juice of  ½ a lime
1 tbsp rum
½ tsp ground allspice

Half a medium red onion, finely chopped
1 medium to large garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp vegetable oil
500g skinless chicken thighs, boned (or bought boneless)
half a thumb's size of fresh root ginger, finely chopped
Juice of ½ a lime
pinch of dried thyme
1 chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 egg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve
Basic green salad or a few washed lettuce leaves, shredded.
Bread buns

For the salsa
Wash the pepper and place in an oven at 200°C for 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and place in a plastic bag and seal until cool.

Remove the pepper and peel off the skin.

Core and dice the pepper.

Mix the chopped pepper with the pineapple and spring onion in a bowl.

Add the allspice, rum, and lime juice.

Mix well and chill until you need it.

Pineapple salsa

For the burgers
Heat the oil in a pan and gently sauté the onion and garlic for 5-10 minutes, until the onion is soft and near-transparent.

Add the ginger and carry on gently frying for another 5 minutes.

Allow to cool.

Trim any stringy, white bits from the chicken and cut it into smallish chunks.

Throw the chicken, the cooled onion, garlic and ginger, plus the other ingredients into a food processor and blend for a minute or so, occasionally stopping to scrape any larger pieces of the mixture back into the bowl.

Form the chicken mix into patties. This amount of mixture will make around 4 and (as I stated in my post for hamburgers earlier) I use a burger press to make evenly sized patties, but I'm one of those people.

Cook in a little oil in a frying pan of griddle pan. They take around 5-7 minutes per side. Ensure they are cooked through.

 Urban griller
Chicken burgers. They are difficult to keep in shape

Serve in a toasted bun with salad and a dollop of the salsa and a side order of chips/wedges (sweet potato wedges work especially well).

I do call these Double Ska burgers and I realise that I've only posted one ska track, so here's the second one, a little more recent. Listen to this as you read the rest of this post.

Skank while you cookPrince Buster and Suggs on Jools Holland doing Madness and Enjoy Yourself

The burgers can be quite soft and break up easily so it's worth putting them between sheets of clingfilm or grease-proof paper and leaving them in the fridge for an hour or more to help them keep their shape when cooking.

I de-seeded the chilli in the burgers because you want the burgers to have only a mild kick. On the other hand, you could leave the chilli out if you're effetely inclined.

I didn't put chilli in the salsa, but you could if you wanted a bit more heat. I appreciate that this salsa is similar to the pineapple sambal I posted previously, but the flavours are very different in flavour and definitely characteristic of the respective cuisines they come from.

Like in a lot of Caribbean food, the best chillies to use are Scotch bonnets which have a fantastic and distinctive fruity flavour.

Scotch bonnet
No, I don't see the resemblance either

Finally, given the ska theme, it would be remiss of me not to give a plug to a band called Skaface, a 10 piece ska band from the coastal English town of Blackpool. My pal Colin is their drummer and they are ace, so, if you get a chance, go and see them.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Leftover symphonies 3: Turkey jalfrezi

I've already stated how much I despise cold leftover roast meat. The way in which the delicately tender slices have turned into sheets of greasy polythene really gets on my tits, so any recipe that makes it more palatable is a great thing. If this is a proper hearty, dinner-sized meal, all the better (as opposed to a soup, for example).

In the UK, the granddaddy of roast meat is the pteranodon-sized Christmas offering, the roast turkey. Tradition dictates that you need to buy the biggest fuck-off turkey you can find or the biggest turkey that will actually fit into your oven, whichever is smallest. How this tradition arose I have no idea. I mean, it's not as if it's biblical, is it? The domestic turkey is native to North America and wouldn't be seen east of the Atlantic for 1500 years after the birth of Jesus. Besides which, the gifts mentioned were gold, frankincense and myrrh, not gold, frankincense and a fucking ginormous turkey.

Just your average family turkey for Christmas
You'll get a cracking curry from this

However the tradition started, it means there is enough leftover meat for at least a full week of meals for the average sized family. The cold leftovers themselves become part of the Christmas holiday tradition. There's using it as a sandwich filling for the Boxing Day buffet. Then there are other options that work as recipes. Cold turkey makes a pretty good Chinese-style hot and sour soup (recipe to follow, at some point) or turkey and sweetcorn soup, for example. The turkey curry, however, is another part of post-Christmas rituals and I have had some truly fucking diabolical versions in my youth. The sort of curry I have nightmares about, where the turkey is thrown in with fried onions and a random selection of spices, or worse, generic "curry powder", and fuck all else.

The thing is, reheated roast meat really needs to be prepared properly. Turkey, especially, tends to be pretty dry, so that's something to consider, and then there's the awful, vaguely wet dog aroma that dry, poorly stored cold roast meat develops. It doesn't matter how much garam masala you use if it's still got the all the culinary qualities of licking the arse of a Lhasa Apso (it's a Dougal dog from Magic Roundabout, see picture below) that's just been fetching a stick from Lake Windermere. However, this version of turkey curry does work and does the meat justice, mainly due to the acidic lemon that cuts through the moist canine character of reheated roast meat.

Dougal, the only Lhasa Apso worth mentioning
The scent of Christmas past.

One last thing, this curry should have a decent chilli kick to it. Picture the scene: you've been cooped up in the house for a few days; plied with way too much rich food, chocolate and booze; bored to death by the shit programming on TV. You've still got a mountain of cooked turkey to get through and you need something to really give your guts, your tastebuds, indeed. your very soul, a defibrillating shock to get you back to something like a normal routine again. A pallet-cleansing, tangy, hot curry is just that shock. Just don't forget to shout "CLEAR!" as you use the toilet next day.

Preparation: 5-10 minutes (not counting the time to roast the turkey first time around, obviously)
Cooking: 15-20 minutes


2 tbsp vegetable oil
300g leftover roast turkey meat, shredded
3 small onions, sliced
5 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 red or orange pepper, cut into 2 cm squares
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground tumeric
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 whole bay leaf
4 red or green chillies, finely chopped
4 med/ 6-8 small tomatoes, peeled and quartered
1 tbsp tomato puree
juice of 1 lemon
50 ml water
2 tsp garam masala

Heat the oil in a pan and add the spices to gently fry for a minute or so.

Add the onions and garlic and fry until soft, around 5-10 minutes. Add the pepper and and fry for a further few minutes.

Pour in the water along with the rest of the ingredients, except the turkey. Mix well and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.

Gently stir in the turkey to heat through.

A panful of leftover joy

Finally, pep up the flavour with the garam masala and serve.

Like many curries, this works with plain rice, or something a little more fancy like a pilau like my lemon flavoured version  or this Indian egg fried rice, with or without a South Asian bread, like naan.

One of the other beauties of this recipe is how fucking quick this is to cook. I'll probably go into this a bit further in a subsequent recipe entry, but my worst habit in cooking is how slow I am, mainly as a result of being really anal about how I chop vegetables. I can't help it, I cook like I'm making love (no, not anal): with care and attention to detail. However, even I could bang this out in about half an hour.

This recipe would work pretty well with leftover roast chicken.

It's not the most appealing looking dish as you can see, but what can you expect from leftovers? It tastes fucking great, and that's all that matters.

Jalfrezi is one of my favourite curries in UK curry houses. The local curry house version bears almost no resemblance to this recipe. On the other hand, research tells me this is a more authentic version of jalfrezi since it is supposed to be a really dry curry.

I have a recipe waiting to be written up for roast turkey with various trimmings, but I reckon that may be better posted in the run up to Christmas.

I made it through this whole blog without once taking the piss out of a famous TV chef. I really am slipping.