Lemon, Honey and Sesame Chicken

Lemon Honey and Sesame Chicken - a quick, easy and delicious gluten-free dinner
Chinese means Valentines Day to us. There have only been a couple of times where we have bothered booking somewhere smart and fancy, but really set menus and other couples don’t really signify romance to me. On Valentines Day you will either find us holed up in Chinatown where you can always get a table, a huge dinner and unobtrusive service or at home cooking a banquet together where the emphasis is not on the end result but the act of cooking as a couple.

In fact one of my most memorable Valentines nights was when we decided to cook ourselves a night out in Chinatown. We mixed over-the-top cocktails that insisted upon using every alcoholic drink in our cabinet and was tantalisingly aqua marine with umbrellas and glace cherries. We drank these far too quickly whilst pouring over Chinese cookbooks and making a royal mess as well as sesame prawn toasts, char siu pork, egg fried rice and broccoli in oyster sauce. We finished with the requisite deep fried bananas which always ensures a blistered tongue and vanilla ice cream which melted as soon as it hit the bananas.

Spending hours in the kitchen isn’t as fun as it normally is at the moment with my increasing bump getting in the way of the kitchen counter, my lower back threatening to give out at any minute and bending down to get my bottom kitchen cabinets requiring about five minutes of recuperation time. So, we need to make haste with our Valentines preparations and there is no quicker and more delicious Chinese dish to make at home than this Lemon, Honey and Sesame Chicken. It’s a meal that I can happily make for the two of us, or if Luke is away then just me on my lonesome, it really is that little bother. Not to mention it tastes a million times better than the bland and greasy MSG filled takeaway at the end of the phone.

Lemon Honey and Sesame Chicken  - a quick, easy and delicious gluten-free dinner

Lemon, Honey and Sesame Chicken

Serves 4 (or 2 with plenty of yummy leftovers so you can have cold Chinese the next morning)

4 boneless chicken thighs with skin, diced
1 lemon
3 tablespoons cornflour
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce (or tamari or coconut aminos)
3 tablespoons sesame seeds

  1. Place the cornflour, five-spice, garlic powder, zest of the lemon and salt in a bowl and whisk together until evenly mixed.
  2. Toss the diced chicken into the cornflour mixture until thoroughly coated.
  3. Heat up the coconut oil in a large wide bottomed saucepan or wok until hot then add the chicken, cooking on a medium to hot temperature until crispy and cooked through.
  4. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
  5. Whisk the honey, soy sauce and juice from half of the lemon together until combined then pour into the pan. Bubble up for a minute then add the chicken back in along with the sesame seeds and cook for a further minute until piping hot.
  6. Serve with rice stir-fried with beansprouts, spring onions and soy sauce.

Easy Peasy Pork Bolognaise

Easy Peasy Pork Bolognaise
When I began this blog I wanted to note down the recipes I make on an every day basis. I love to re-create restaurant dishes at home, experiment with Mexican, Vietnamese and Korean food. However, sometimes I can’t be bothered with any of that and need food to bring me back down to earth. Like this week, the house is a shambles which I just can’t seem to get on top of, the washing basket is overflowing, I am exhausted from baking for 10 days straight, the puppy has an eye infection, I have a cold I can’t shake and I am attending Women’s Institute meetings several evenings a week as we are putting together our Stroud Green Winter Fair. Far flung ingredients, complicated methods and long cooking times can be put on hold for the moment. This week I am craving good old fashioned British comfort food that can be slung together in an instant.

This easy peasy pork bolognaise is undoubtedly a British classic. There is certainly not any Italian blood in its ancestral line at all, it was one of the first meals I ever made for myself and what I practically lived on in my student years and in my early twenties. The perfect choice to evoke a bit of supper nostalgia when in need of coddling.

I blame it on my mum who was talking over the phone about the spaghetti bolognaise she was having at the weekend before she drifted off into a reverie of a meal I had made about seven years ago. A couple of nights before we moved out of our rented flat and into our first owned flat I made a vast quantity of bolognaise which I then packed into Tupperware and took it with us on moving day. That evening in our new kitchen, I re-heated the bolognaise, boiled up some fresh pasta and fed all our hungry helpers, sitting in an empty room on cushions, spent after a day of hauling boxes. My mum says that was the best spaghetti bolognaise she has ever had and I have to agree. I can’t re-create that perfect moment of family on tap, but I can always conjure up that moment of comfort, of coming home and belonging and that is exactly what I needed this week when everything feels in disarray.

I‘ve simplified my bolognaise sauce recently, leaning more on larder essentials and often foregoing the fresh tomatoes or the tinned tomatoes which seem a faff. These days I am looking for the meat and not the sauce to be the main event, so I just rely on garlic, seasoning, herbs and tomato puree to enrobe the mince. Of course, if you are buying excellent quality mince then you really don’t need all the mumbo jumbo that goes with it. Simple ingredients which cook quickly are what I look for in today’s spag bol.

Easy Peasy Pork Bolognaise

As I said, my spaghetti bolognaise has a rich history in the depths of student digs, it was our cheap dinner party staple and usually involved a bottle of Lloyd Grossman to pave the way. There is something which has never changed and that is my unwavering inclusion of carrots. I have never been shy when adding carrots into any work-a-day meal and my bolognaise is no exception, I have to restrain myself into adding any more than two, as I realise not everyone is as carrot inclined as myself. Another ingredient I added this time round which harkens back to my student days of yore was the pork mince. Back when I was at university I didn’t eat beef so my bolognaises were always with pork mince. Something in that memory appealed this time round. The pork mince isn’t as fatty as beef, it has more of a structure and certainly feels like a lighter choice.

Now, there is only really one topping the bolognaise needs and that is lashings of grated cheddar cheese. None of this authentic parmeggiano reggiano for my comfort food. I need the cheese to be thick and heavy handed. And although the smattering of parsley is certainly not essential it does lend a bite of freshness to this most storecupboard of meals.

The only other thing I want to mention is that since I don’t really eat gluten on an everyday basis anymore the pasta you see in the pictures is gluten-free. I have never had gluten-free pasta before and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. I have been serving my bolognaise spooned over roasted sweet potato wedges recently, so it’s nice to know I can lean back on the old classics when I absolutely need to

Easy Peasy Pork Bolognaise
Serves 4-6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1 kg pork mince
2 garlic cloves, crushed
½ red pepper, diced
2 tablespoons tomato puree
½ teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
A hefty splash of Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
2 fresh bay leaves

  1. Heat the olive oil in a wide flat bottomed saucepan. Add the onions, celery and carrots and cook on a gentle heat for about 10 minutes just to let the vegetables soften.
  2. Add the pork mince, the garlic and some seasoning and break up the mince, mixing it in with the vegetables.
  3. Continue cooking on a low to medium heat until the mince has browned.
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients, stirring up well. Place the lid on the saucepan and cook for about half an hour.
  5. Meanwhile, roast up some sweet potato, get the pasta on or slice a floury white bread roll in half.
  6. Serve your bolognaise up whatever way you fancy but don’t forget a hearty grating of cheddar on top.

Sticky Smoky Bourbon Chicken

Sticky and Smoky Bourbon Chicken

If a recipe has bourbon in the title then you’ve lost me – I’m already in the kitchen snapping open the lid of my Makers Mark drowning my other ingredients with it whilst also sneaking myself a wee dram. If every recipe could have bourbon in it then I’m sure the world would be a much calmer, more relaxed and happy place. Just like me, after my second wee dram.

I’ve been really enjoying reading other people’s blogs lately, I’ve shrugged off my inferiority complex which has been green with envy at the rapier wit of their child’s first day back to school or the renovations they are doing to their vast farmhouse kitchen somewhere in North Dakota. I’m also now appreciating their stunning photography which plays with light and shade as a chocolate cake peeks beautifully out of the shadows, scattered with delicate flowers, without glaring pointedly at my own Canon, cross that it never does that sort of thing for me. So, yah, I’m like super over this pesky jealousy.

Sticky and Smoky Bourbon Chicken | Stroud Green Larder

This week I have been enjoying catching up with Pinch of Yum, whom I discovered via Pinterest. I noticed recently just how many of their photos I have been pinning to my boards so I thought I would go and look at their website for realsies. Now, I have to confess, I only looked at one recipe, which I was enjoying immensely, before I was struck by the Bourbon Effect (totally a thing) on the second recipe and I had barely finished reading the other ingredients before I remembered I had some chicken in the fridge. Well my friend, I had cannonballed myself into the kitchen, snatched the chicken out of the fridge and doused it liberally with Makers Mark before you could say SoberTober. It was pretty lucky then that I also managed to locate the rest of the ingredients in my larder which took less than 5 minutes to measure out and add to the mix. Between my first glance at the recipe and getting my version in the oven it couldn’t have taken longer than 10 minutes, but I might have made some slight alterations here and there to suit exactly what I was after.

Now, the original recipe asked me to marinate my chicken overnight but there was no time for that, this was a bourbon emergency and not a moment could be wasted. I have no idea therefore how much was lost in translation but honestly it couldn’t have been much as boy did this dinner deliver.

Sticky and Smoky Bourbon Chicken | Stroud Green Larder

I also swapped out the sugar that was called for with honey, because I am turning into a bumblebee (yeah, I know they make it they don’t eat it, and also that it’s not bumble bees it’s honey bees – what are you the bee police? I want to be a bumblebee and a bumblebee I shall be kind sir). I also added some chipotle to add a bit of smoky heat to the proceedings, and then a pinch of instant coffee for a bit of dark background noise.

I served my version with a giant mound of garlic broccoli and sugar snap peas because after all that bourbon and honey I had to do a cursory nod towards this diet I’m supposed to be on (argh, when will it start – damn you Bourbon Effect).

Now, I might go and read some more of their recipes, I am also prone to the Cinnamon Effect of late so we shall see how far I get.

Sticky and Smoky Bourbon Chicken | Stroud Green Larder

Sticky and Smoky Bourbon Chicken
Adapted from Pinch of Yum http://pinchofyum.com/sticky-bourbon-chicken-rice
Serves 4

4 chicken legs (I always ask for mine boned with skin intact)
1 large onion, sliced thinly
120ml soy sauce or tamari or coconut aminos
60ml very light olive oil
60ml vinegar (rice or cider or white wine)
60ml bourbon
60g honey
1 teaspoon smoked garlic powder
½ teaspoon chipotle powder
A pinch of instant coffee

  1. Mix all the ingredients together and place in a large casserole dish, with the chicken skin side up and poking out of the sauce.
  2. Leave to marinate for a couple of hours, if you have time.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C, then place the casserole dish, uncovered, in the oven for 45 minutes.
  4. Serve with rice, like the original recipe, or green veg like me.

Chipotle Salmon with Black Kale Rice

What’s green, has a fantastic bite and currently taking over my kitchen at an alarming rate.  No, not Audrey II, although a lot of the time this house does feel like a scene from Little Shop of Horrors but perhaps that’s because I like to sing a wonky version of Suddenly Seymour whilst making my dinner.

No, the answer I was looking for was kale, which you would so know the answer to if you had been reading an earlier post.  Perhaps if I resisted from buying it every time I go to the grocer then it wouldn’t be springing up at every other mealtime but it’s perfectly in season and darn it it’s so hot right now.  Did you know you can even get kale crisps, they are super delicious and healthy so do seek them out.

Dinner last night was my organic black kale’s last hurrah and boy did she go out with a bang.  Her robust earthy leaves teamed heroically with the tender flakes of salmon, their full flavours allowing me to add a gentle kick of chipotle to the proceedings.  If you don’t have chipotle powder then it’s not the end of the world, it does have more of a distinctive flavor than generic chili powder, but please work with what you have.  I didn’t want this to be a risotto as I wanted the grains of rice to stand on their own so I used basmati which also meant I didn’t have to stand around stirring it the whole time and I could really give Suddenly Seymour my full attention.

Chipotle Salmon with Black Kale Rice

Serves 2

1 tbsp olive oil
1 leek, cut into fine rings
100g black kale, or any kale, shredded
180g rice
250ml good chicken stock
2 x salmon fillets
1 tsp chipotle or any chili powder
1 knob butter

  1. Heat the olive oil over a medium heat in a wide bottomed pan then add the leeks.  Stir for 5 mins until they are just starting to soften.
  2. Add the rice and stir to coat it in the oil and mix in with the leek.  Season well with salt and pepper.
  3. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil.  Add the kale.  Give everything a good mix then put the lid on, stirring occasionally.
  4. Rub the flesh side of each salmon filet with ½ tsp each of chili powder then place skin side down under a preheated grill.  The salmon is ready when the flesh starts to turn golden which should take about 10 mins.
  5. By this time the rice should have absorbed all of the stock but retained a slight bite.  If not, give it a few more minutes.
  6. Stir in a small knob of butter to the rice and kale and serve with the salmon.

This may have been the black kale’s last stand but there are plenty more varieties jostling for space in my veg basket so kale world domination is not over yet.

Lemon and Fennel Pork Chop with Buttered Leeks

A pork chop is a glorious thing.  The mainstay of the weekday dinner and champion of my heart.  I do not apologise for proclaiming this humble ingredient as one of my top ten ever ever ever.  It really doesn’t get enough credit for being quite so reliable.  Perhaps sometimes it has the unfortunate reputation of being a little dry but like most things that just means it isn’t being cooked right.  It doesn’t matter what menu it appears on I will order it.  In one wonderful restaurant in Andalucía I ordered pork chop and they gave me three.  It was a blessed day.
Pork chops are best cooked under the grill hard and fast so that the rind crisps quickly under the hot glare.  The meat remains juicy and giving with the pink only having just departed.  The best way to achieve this is to heat the grill up first to its highest setting, blast the chop on one side just before the rind starts to blacken then turn over and wait for the same indicator.  The chop should take around 12 minutes maximum, if it’s overcooked that’s when it dries out.
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This weekday treat works wonderfully with buttery caramelized leeks.  The sweet soft flesh complimenting the thick salty meat.  I like to prepare my leeks cut in half then halved lengthways again.  This makes it easy for cleaning out all the residual soil and means the leeks keep a firm but melted body when cooked.

The recipe for the lemon and fennel marinade for the pork has been knocking around my kitchen for an age.  I use it for either chicken or pork and I credit it to Jamie Oliver’s The Return of the Naked Chef and my husband for buying me the cookbook on our first Christmas together.

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Lemon and Fennel Pork Chops with Buttered Leeks

Serves 2 (obv as there are 2 pork chops.  Ahh, Andalucía you seem so long ago)

For the chops
2 Pork Chops
1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed in a pestle and mortar
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp thyme leaves
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp olive oil

For the leeks
3 leeks, halved then halved lengthways
30g butter

  1. Take the pork chops and pat dry with a kitchen towel, then score the rind with a very sharp knife, being careful not to cut into the meat itself.
  2. Mix together all the marinade ingredients with plenty of salt and pepper then rub all over the meat.  Leave to marinate whilst you begin preparing the leeks.
  3. Melt the butter in a wide bottomed saucepan over a medium heat.  Add the leeks, generously seasoning with salt and pepper.  Stir it all up then put a lid on.  The leeks should take around 15-20 mins to soften and caramelise but do keep stirring every so often.
  4. Meanwhile transfer the chops to your very hot grill, the first side should take around 8-10 mins then the second side should only take about 3-4 mins.  Serve with plenty of the leeks.