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.

Peach Pretzel Cheesecake

Peach Pretzel Cheesecake
Conversation this week in our house turned towards Christmas. Yes I know it’s miles away but I’m never far from thinking about Christmas, especially when Pinterest makes me think it’s only round the corner from all the festive images that have been cropping up on my homepage this week.

I don’t want any presents this year I declared magnanimously when I wasn’t even asked. There is nothing I want. My husband looked at me in disbelief, so I felt a bit of clarification was needed. All I really want for Christmas is a mound of pretzels, bags of onion rings and some peanut butter Lindt Lindor.

That’s right, Christmas is when my favourite junkiest foods come into play, which might be something to do with why it’s my favourite time of year. I have learnt to forgo crisps and snacking foods all year round, but those that I have an uncontrollable weakness for, mainly the afore mentioned three, are deemed acceptable on December 25th. From January to November, they are banned from the house. If they are within sniffing range then I shall devour them like a hungry lion, ripping apart the defenseless packet with my teeth whilst omitting guttural growls from the most primal part of me.

Peach Pretzel Cheesecake  |  Stroud Green Larder

So the moment when I decided to use pretzels as the base for this creamy peach pie was the first signal of an imminent downfall. The second signal was when the recipe called for 200g of pretzels and Tesco’s only stocked 175g bags. A saner woman would have judiciously decided to scale down the crust recipe to suit this turn of events, but by this time I had become a lion stalking its prey and I deemed the recipe be altered upon pain of death, so I had to buy 2 x 175g bags. What will you do with the rest of the pretzels my husband nervously inquired. I shrugged non-committedly. The way a double crossing CTU agent has learnt to fool even its most seasoned colleagues. I may also have been on a 24 binge this week.

It has taken me all my adult life to try a pretzel-based pie crust. I know cooks have been churning them out of their kitchens for years, pleased to have alternatives to the digestive biscuit. But it has been something I always admired from afar. However this was the next recipe to try on the baking to-do list which I am currently working my way through.

Turns out that little list of mine is throwing out some absolute corkers. The use of pretzels really has raised the bar for all other crusts. Sweetly savoury with a satisfying crunch, it provides the perfect nest for the pillowy bourbon spiked mascarpone cream and the silky buttery peaches.

Thank goodness we’re still in the last vestiges of summer fruit so this insanely amazing combination was made possible; it was definitely the best reason to crack open my Christmas snacks early doors.

Peach Pretzel Cheesecake  |  Stroud Green LarderAnd those excess pretzels? They didn’t even make it to the end of Stroud Green Road as I carried my shopping home.

Peach Pretzel Cheesecake

200g salted pretzels (you can use gluten-free)
2 tablespoons caster sugar
175g unsalted butter, melted
3 peaches, peeled, stone removed and sliced
40g unsalted butter
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon bourbon
250g cream cheese
250g mascarpone
75g icing sugar
2 tablespoon bourbon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and grease and line a 20cm springform tin.
  2. Place the pretzels in a food processor and whizz up to breadcrumbs.
  3. Add the sugar and melted butter and pulse to combine.
  4. Press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared tin, bringing the crust slightly up the sides and pressing tightly into place.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes then remove from oven and leave to cool.
  6. Next, prepare the peaches by melting the 40g of unsalted butter, then add the peaches. Cook for 10 minutes until the peaches are starting to caramelise at the edges then add the bourbon which will sizzle. Once the bourbon has reduced slightly then remove the peaches from the pan and leave to cool.
  7. To make the bourbon mascarpone cream, pour the cream cheese, mascarpone and icing sugar into a food mixer and whip on high until the cheeses are light and fluffy.
  8. Slowly pour in the bourbon and icing sugar until fully incorporated.
  9. Spooning the bourbon mascarpone cream into the pretzel crust and spread the top evenly.
  10. Place the cheesecake in the fridge overnight to settle.
  11. The next day, when you are ready to eat, arrange the peaches on top, then serve.

Bourbon Sea Salt Caramels

Bourbon Sea Salt Caramels
Making your own chocolates from scratch is not a fly by night past time. It requires patience, a lovely long Sunday all to yourself, and plenty of practice. When you get it right it is so rewarding and sometimes when I look at the dinky little glossy parcels I impress myself that I managed to produce something so refined and expensive tasting in my own kitchen.

A few years ago when the new wave of chocolatiers were springing up all over London I was convinced that I had found my calling. I went to a number of classes by William Curley and Paul A Young and found the world of chocolate and everything they had to teach fascinating. Both men began their careers as pastry chefs and were lured into their focus by the endless possibilities that chocolate creates. It’s an easy subject to get excited by as it has a wonderfully rich history dating back to the Aztecs which I still remember from my visit to Bourneville from my early school days. It’s funny the history lessons that stick. The cultural impact of chocolate is immense, we almost seem to take it for granted in the current climate but it really is a very sacred ingredient and of course it’s the best food out there. Anyone who disagrees is just wrong.

Bourbon Sea Salt Caramels  |  Stroud Green Larder

I remember a girl at school who was allergic to chocolate which she wore as a badge of honour. We all felt tremendously sorry for her though, especially when it was ice cream and chocolate sauce day, which was the most delicious meal to be produced by our school kitchens. As soon as the chocolate hit the ice cream it hardened, but it wasn’t like the commercialised Magic Shell stuff you can get in America, it was thick, sticky and sweet. Who knows how they made it work, I think it involved lots of golden syrup, but that recipe must be on my blogging to do list.

These particular Bourbon Sea Salt Caramels are filled with boozy treacly caramel. They are simply wonderful, not too intense like some liqueur chocolates can be and not too sweet like some caramel. The salt adds the spark to get your palette going and so they quickly become addictive. Don’t worry though, they take so long to make that you certainly won’t be making them every day. They are a treat, both in terms of creating and eating.

Bourbon Sea Salt Caramels  |  Stroud Green LarderThe moulds I used to produce these chocolates were plastic moulds rather than silicone. They were about £4 and you can pick them up from numerous places online but I do recommend www.cakescookiesandcraftsshop.co.uk as they have such a wide variety. I have silicone moulds too but I find the plastic ones easier to use as there’s a lot of banging and scraping involved at the filling stage which is just a bit tricky with floppy silicone. Although a word to the wise, which should be obvious but is worth repeating if you are from my class of stupid. When I first invested in a lot of chocolate moulds I found them hard to clean – because they are. Do not though, put them in the dishwasher. Mine were not expensive catering moulds and they completely melted and rendered them useless. It put an end to my chocolate making career for a while whilst I saved up to buy new ones. So, like all of your most treasured of kitchen appliances, you will have to wash them up by hand.

Before you get going I would recommend watching one of the copious amounts of YouTube videos on how to fill chocolate moulds. Although I will try below it’s not easy to explain and like all the best techniques it’s much easier to understand if you watch it. Again, like anything, practice definitely makes perfect, I’m certainly no expert but the more times I make my own chocolates the better I am getting and the less chocolate I am wasting.

Bourbon Sea Salt Caramels  |  Stroud Green LarderSo, to fill your moulds you will need some tempered chocolate. You can see my earlier post on how to temper chocolate. Pour your tempered chocolate liberally over the mould until each individual chocolate pocket is full of chocolate and there is plenty of chocolate sitting on the surface of the mould, don’t be stingy, the excess can easily be recycled.

Bang it against the work surface. Then pick up the mould and tap it continually, turning it around and about so the chocolate is encouraged to eek into the corners of the pockets.

Then flip the mould completely upside down so you are holding it over a large bowl, letting all the chocolate drip out, carry on tapping and shaking the mould. When the drips lessen scrape the surface of the mould with a palette knife, with the mould still upside down.

Turn the mould back the right way and place down to let it settle for about 10 seconds. Turn it upside down again over the large bowl and the second wave of chocolate will now start to drip out. It won’t be a downpour like before as the chocolate will be thickening, just carry on tapping and shaking, and then scrape the surface with the palette knife again.

Now place the mould upside down on a sheet of baking parchment so the chocolate can slowly slip down the sides of the mould and there is an even layer of chocolate inside. Leave it for about 3-4 minutes, then lift it up and scrape the surface with a palette knife for the final time. Leave to set for about an hour before filling your chocolates.

Pour your filling into a piping bag and fill your chocolates carefully. Do not overfill. Then you can finish off your chocolates straightaway if your chocolate is in temper.

Pour a liberal amount of the tempered chocolate over the surface of the chocolate mould, making sure that each chocolate is generously covered. Then take your palette knife and scrape away the excess, it should leave a lovely thin film of chocolate over each individual chocolate. Leave to set for 1 hour before flipping your mould over. Each chocolate should pop out very easily.

Bourbon Sea Salt Caramels  |  Stroud Green Larder

Bourbon Sea Salt Caramels

Makes about 30 chocolates

100g caster sugar
1 tsp dark muscovado sugar
½ tsp fleur de sel
60ml whipping cream
75g cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 tbsp bourbon
300g tempered dark chocolate

  1. In a medium saucepan heat the sugars with the fleur de sel on a gentle heat. Do not stir but shake the pan around occasionally so the sugars melt evenly. Be careful as the sugars can burn quickly.
  2. When just melted and turning a golden brown remove from the heat, then pour in the whipping cream. It will bubble up a lot so be cautious.
  3. Then add the butter and keep on stirring.
  4. Once all the butter has melted stir in the bourbon until it has all mixed together evenly.
  5. Leave to cool for a couple of hours whereupon the bourbon will mellow out and the caramel will thicken slightly.
  6. Meanwhile you can be tempering your chocolate as described here.
  7. Then coat your moulds with chocolate as described above, leave to set for about an hour.
  8. Fill your chocolate moulds with the thickened caramel, making sure not to overfill.
  9. Then you can straightaway pour some more tempered chocolate over the top of the mould, scrape a palette knife over the surface of the mould to remove the excess chocolate then leave to set for about 1 hour.
  10. Turn the moulds upside down and the chocolates should happily drop out.

Vanilla Bourbon Peach Jam

There are several key factors which get me out of bed every morning.  The first is Furry Alarm Clock 1 who cannot wait the extra half hour until my alarm goes off to start pawing me in the face to be fed.  The second is Furry Alarm Clock 2 who struts into the bedroom caterwauling his presence for his own serving of breakfast.  But the third is peach jam.  Particularly of the Vanilla Bourbon variety which not only is a perfect balance of sweetness and depth but also makes it okay to have alcohol first thing in the morning without being carted off to rehab.
The Worlds Best Alarm Clock2
The Worlds Best Alarm Clock
Peach jam has been for me, until this wonderful batch of homemade sunshine bubbled its way into existence, thus creating a special place in my heart and permanent place on a spoon into my mouth, relegated to Mediterranean holidays.  Lazy continental breakfasts on sun dazzled terraces with crusty breads, cheeses, ham and fresh orange juice, plucked from the tree and poured down my throat.  I love to slather peach jam liberally over bread with a hefty hunk of manchego sandwiched on top so the jam oozes from beneath dripping stickily down my chin.  But then, I have always been terribly mucky.
Peaches

The recipe has been adapted from blondiescakesblogspot.com and I encourage you to try it before the bouncing peaches leave your local greengrocer as it will make up for the lack of our Indian summer this year.

Vanilla Bourbon Peach Jam
Makes 8 x 250ml jars

2 kilos peaches (9 large peaches)
675g sugar
75ml lime juice (or juice of 4 limes)
1 vanilla pod, split in half with seeds scraped out
1 tsp almond extract
75ml bourbon
1 x 250ml bottle of Certo liquid pectin

  1. Peel the peaches, remove the stone and cut into smallish chunks.
  2. Put the peaches in a preserving pan with the sugar and lime juice.
  3. Smash the 3 ingredients together with a masher until thick and pulpy.
  4. Add the vanilla seeds and the pod itself.  Put the pan on a medium heat and bring to a rolling boil stirring constantly.  Stir for 3-4 mins then remove from the heat.
  5. Add the almond extract, the bourbon and liquid pectin.  Stir together.
  6. Place back on heat for 2 mins just to meld the flavours together.  The consistency should be nice and thick.
  7. Remove from heat and pour into sterilised jars. Leave to cool then either eat straightaway like me or save for a cold and blustery morning to cheer you up.
Vanilla Peach Bourbon Jam3