Lemon Poached Chicken with Gingery Rice

Lemon Poached Chicken with Gingery Rice

Since the New Year I have been laid low by a horrible bug.  Sickness is no fun when you enjoy guzzling yourself silly three or more times a day, especially when you are used to food being the comforter and not the antagonist.

lemon chicken with ginger rice3A recipe was called for to nurse myself back to health and there was no other ingredient to turn to than ginger.  Although scientific research is on the fence over the actually proven combative results of ginger, I am a sworn believer that a few matchsticks of fresh ginger can settle the stomach and promote general well being in the face of any adversity, especially poorliness.

The refreshing zing required a soothing background of tender lemon chicken and rice.  The vegetables needed to be cut small so they practically melted into the rice and the patient doesn’t pick out their nutrients.

Poached chicken
The chicken breast poached in stock and a dash of lemon juice adds a light protein to the dish, perfect for rebuilding energy.  I have specified below that using bouillon in this instance is fine but typically I didn’t have any so I poached my chicken with some ends of veg and herbs to impart a bit of flavour.  A stock on the go if you will.

lemon chicken with ginger rice2Lemon Poached Chicken with Gingery Rice

Serves 2

1 chicken breast
Stock for poaching, bouillon is fine to use
Juice of ½ lemon
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs of thyme
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
½ courgette, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
30g root ginger
½ chilli, seeds removed, finely diced
1 garlic clove, finely diced
300g cooked basmati rice
1 tsp sesame salt

  1. Place the chicken breast with the lemon juice, bay leaf and sprig of thyme in a small saucepan and enough hot stock to cover. Bring to a simmer then put the lid on. The chicken should take about 10 mins depending on the size of the chicken breast.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil with the onions for 5 mins until soft.
  3. Add the courgette and carrot and stir-fry on a medium-high heat.
  4. Peel then grate in almost all the ginger, leaving some to cut into small matchsticks for later.
  5. Add the chilli and garlic and stir for 3-4 mins until the veg is starting to brown.
  6. Add the rice and sesame salt and stir until the rice is piping hot. You might need to add a dash more olive oil if the rice is sticking.
  7. Take off the heat and serve with the poached chicken, lemon slices and the ginger matchsticks.
Puppy and Tiger

Even though puppy and my little tiger make excellent companions sleeping on my sick bed none of them have yet learnt how to whip up a chicken soup.

Goi Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Salad)

Goi Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Salad)

There are some days when nothing goes right. More often than not these days are one off instances where you can wake up the next day, brush yourself off and start anew. This week that did not happen. I am having an unprecedented run of bad luck days. Recipes haven’t worked, food has been burnt and binned and photos have looked plain bad. Never mind the time that I turned my back for one minute and my darling cat jumped on the table, upending a huge bowl of salad and garlicky dressing all over the carpet. Bless.

Food and I are in a funk. This isn’t particularly helpful if you trying to document your kitchen adventures. Here everybody, here’s a picture of my bin overflowing with half baked quinoa gluten-free biscuits soldered onto greaseproof paper. (Don’t worry, that recipe will come good one day, quinoa and I just need a time out at the moment).

There really was only one way to lift me out of the doldrums and put me back on top, by treating myself to a tried and tested recipe. A salad which I know will set me on the right course again.

This salad has known many incarnations in my life. It reminds me of our trip to Vietnam a couple of years ago where every restaurant had their own version, we even spent a brilliant day in Hoi An learning exactly how it’s supposed to be made at the Redbridge Cookery School which I cannot recommend enough the next time you are popping by Hoi An. Regularly I’m sure.

The salad also reminds me of the time I was suffering from a broken foot, I was woefully unable to stand or place any weight on the severely bandaged appendage and a wonderful friend schlepped up from Clapham laden with the ingredients to make her own version of it for me.

It has also been the feature of recent hazy nights out on the Kingsland Road, dropping into one of the Vietnamese cafés for a cheap plate of zingy salad and a bowl of rice noodles to soak up the alcohol.

Safe to say, this salad holds a special place in my heart. It also doesn’t mind if you muck around with some of the ingredients as you can substitute in whatever you have to hand, a bit of pak choi, some sugar snap peas or red peppers. You can swap the chicken for duck or beef or just plain leave it out. I would normally add a few dry roasted peanuts crushed up on top but I didn’t have any on stand by today, but do add some in if you like.

Now, I’m not really one for kitchen gadgets but there is one that I picked up from Lakeland which has slowly become invaluable and makes a bit of an appearance today. A julienne vegetable peeler. Sounds a bit fancy but it is whipped out if I want to make a quick coleslaw or grate some carrots or courgettes. If I use a normal grater I often find the vegetables turn to pulp. This is quick to use, quick to wash and only about £3. So I use it here to juilienne the carrots and the mooli but if you can’t get hold of one then you can just grate them.

Vietnamese chicken salad

 

Goi Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Salad)

4 chicken thighs with skins
2 tsp 5-spice powder
2 tsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced
½ small mooli, julienned
2 carrots, peeled and julienned
3 leaves of chinese leaf, cut into very fine strips
2 handfuls of beansprouts
2 tbsp coriander leaves, roughly chopped
2 tbsp mint leaves, roughly chopped
1 tbsp chopped dry roasted peanuts

for the dressing
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp fish sauce
½ red chilli, seeds removed and diced

  1. Coat the chicken thighs with the 5-spice powder and the olive oil and roast on a roasting tray in a pre-heated oven at 180°C.
  2. Put the onion in a small saucepan and cook on a low heat for 15 mins until crispy and caramelized, set aside.
  3. Mix together the mooli, carrots, chinese leaf, beansprouts and herbs in a large bowl and set aside.
  4. When ready, remove the chicken from the oven and leave for about 5 minutes until cool enough to handle.
  5. Meanwhile you can make the dressing. Just add all the ingredients together and give a good stir. Set aside whilst you finish off the salad.
  6. Tear the meat and the skin off the chicken into chunks and tip into a bowl, pour over the sticky bits from the roasting tray and mix it all up which will add a bit of juiciness to the salad. Then mix all the chicken into the salad ingredients until the meat is evenly dispersed and pour over the dressing. Serve with the crispy onion and the peanuts scattered over the top.

Jerk chicken with kohlrabi and fennel remoulade

There are a handful of restaurants, pubs and cafes which I go to frequently. You might even say I was a valued regular if you forget for a moment that we live in London where all you would get if you were recognised by the staff would be a knowing smirk. One of my ‘regular’ places until earlier this year was a Caribbean restaurant in Crouch End called Rhythm. It wasn’t the most happening place it’s fair to say. In fact most of Crouch End steered away in droves and went to the lively restaurant next door. Ha, I thought, more fool them, queuing for hours, eating their free popcorn. I can just turn up here at the drop of a hat, I never have to book and the food is ten times better. I was very smug about the whole thing. Until Rhythm closed as no one went there except me.

Rhythm had a limited but faultless menu. I should know, I tried everything on there, dozens of times. But the one dish that truly had me in their thrall was their jerk chicken. It gave a wonderful amount of heat but it was also packed with a truckload of flavour. The heavy blackened skin was the highlight, hot with sweet aromatic spice. Underneath, the leg meat, so juicy from hours of marinating and slow cooking, would fall off the bone, only for you to gather it up with the thick sauce pooling on your plate ready to knock your socks off again.

When Rhythm closed I was bereft, where would I get my jerk chicken fix now?  I mournfully tried other local places but their jerk marinades were either not spicy enough or too spicy with no flavour coming through.  Then under a beam of heavenly light I remembered something.  I had a kitchen.  And a tonne of cookbooks.  And the internet.  So I toiled mercilessly for days, weeks, months until I had tweaked the recipe into perfection – well, one lazy Sunday- and produced actual jerk chicken myself.  In my own kitchen.  It was a revelation.  I wonder how many other restaurants I don’t need to go to now I know I can cook these things myself.  I may never need to go out again.  Except for tonight.  It’s Friday – treat night!

IMG_2130
IMG_2129
The only way to have jerk chicken is with a bucketful of cooling slaw to temper the firework of spices exploding in your mouth.  I love this kohlrabi and fennel remoulade as it doesn’t try to compete with the jerk, it is just happy to sit back and do backing vocals.  The kohlrabi also gives it a wonderful creamy texture instead of the sometimes too crunchy results that you can get with homemade coleslaw.  Also, kohlrabi is such a gorgeous colour, see it below getting chummy with the purple cauliflower.
Purple Cauliflower and Kohlrabi
Jerk Chicken with Kohlrabi and fennel remoulade

Serves 4

Jerk Chicken

8 chicken thighs
Small handful of parsley, including stalks
Small handful of coriander, including stalks
1 scotch bonnet chilli
1 onion
2 tbsp ground allspice
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp crushed chillies
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tbsp agave nectar/ honey / molasses
2 tbsp muscavado sugar
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp soy sauce
100ml dark rum
Good glug of olive oil

  1. Blitz all ingredients for the jerk marinade in the food processor then rub the marinade all over the chicken thighs.
  2. Place in an ovenproof dish and leave to marinate for at least an hour or overnight in the fridge if you can.
  3. Place the dish in oven preheated to 180°C and cook for 50 mins until chicken is cooked.

Kohlrabi remoulade

1 kohlrabi, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
1 fennel bulb, core removed, sliced into matchsticks
1 garlic clove
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp cider vinegar
½ tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
1 egg yolk
75ml olive oil
75ml sunflower oil
Squeeze of fresh lemon

  1. Crush the garlic clove with a large pinch of salt and bash up.
  2. Put the crushed garlic in a bowl with the mustard, vinegar, sugar salt and egg yolk and whisk together.
  3. Mix the oils together in a jug then trickle in a steady steam into the egg mixture, mixing constantly to emulsify.
  4. Once all the oil has been added and the mixture is thick and glossy squeeze in some lemon juice and add more salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Mix in the kohlrabi and the fennel to coat thoroughly.

Roast Chicken with all the Sunday Trimmings

Roast Chicken with all the Sunday TrimmingsI read a very worrying headline in the Daily Mail yesterday, ‘A family dinner? We’d rather eat in front of the telly: How just one in 50 families enjoy once-traditional weekend meal.’ Foregoing my usual scoff at the insular sensationalism typically offered by the Daily Mail, this time I felt a pang of recognition at the topic at hand. Last minute conversations before the working day in our house are often desperately trying to organise how we’ll be able to eat dinner together. Work events, long hours and the occasional quick drink with friends can severely compromise the two of us sitting down at a table at a reasonable hour for dinner. Supper on the sofa happens all too frequently.

The one meal we can always rely upon as a family to both cook together and eat together is our Sunday Lunch. It is absolutely sacrosanct. If we don’t have it at home then we will have it out and we are constantly grading our pubs and nearby eateries with whether they do a decent Sunday Lunch. The conversation always ends the same way though as they might do an okay one, but it is never as good as at home. Roast potatoes can be hard, gravy can be too thin and Yorkshire puddings merely crisp clouds, nice to look at but lacking the necessary pudding.

This Sunday we had something extra special to celebrate as we have a new furry sidekick in our midst. A little bundle of trouble whom after only a few hours of being in our family had already joined in, nestling down between our feet as we ate at the dining table. At least he didn’t jump onto the table and insist on sleeping between the cabbage and potatoes like Willow.

PuppyUnlike the meals we have in the working week, we take pleasure in making lunch on a Sunday centre stage. Today it was the turn of the chicken which I think of as the easiest roast. There are only two things to remember when cooking a chicken; if it’s a small bird it takes 1 hour 15 mins, if it’s a large one it takes 1 hour 30 mins. Any further information is just fancy talk. But I do like to talk fancy. For our classic roast chicken we stuff the cavity with half a lemon, a handful of parsley stalks, a few sprigs of thyme and rosemary and a couple of garlic cloves still in their skins. We rain down salt and pepper like a heavy thunderstorm and finally drench it in olive oil.
Roast ChickenA roast dinner in our house is not complete without carrot and swede mash. I grew up with my grandmother insisting on calling it carrot and turnip probably to annoy my father who was constantly correcting her but I knew what I was getting and now I would never think to let the week end without it. It is one of my top five foods of all time. I give you a few weeks before you discover the rest of that list. It won’t be difficult, the things I like, I tend to have immoderately. Carrot and Swede mash just requires you to peel, then chop the swede into large cubes, chuck it in a large saucepan with the same volume of carrots, peeled and chopped into large circles. The veg is brought to a boil then turned down to a simmer for at least 45 mins. Any less and it just doesn’t mash the same. This is no time for al dente, save that for your baby veg. As soon as a knife can fall through a cube of swede like butter then you can add copious amounts of… butter… and nutmeg and salt and pepper. Jazz it up. The time will come soon when I will beckon you to add crème fraiche but not today, today the butter will be all the dairy you need.
Carrot and SwedeRoast Potatoes! Peel, chop in half, par-boil for 10 mins, drain, bash around in the colander, then throw into a baking tray with hot olive oil, garlic cloves and rosemary and roast in the oven for 45 mins at 180°C. I’m sure you’ve heard it all before.

The gravy, though. Oh, the gravy. Please please tell me you don’t use Bisto? This is the one part that I’m afraid I can’t take any shortcuts on. I think of the gravy for my next roast the moment I am clearing away the one before. The essential ingredient is fresh stock and the sticky bits from today. Since I like all the components of my roast to be ready at the same time, I save the sticky bits from the bottom of the meat, put it in Tupperware and save for the next roast. The same goes for my stock, which is always simmering away on a Sunday night during Downton Abbey whilst we are gorging on pud.  This means today all I had to do was remove my sticky bits from the freezer, heat in a saucepan, add flour, a glug of Marsala, then the stock, a bay leaf and some thyme. If I start cooking this halfway through my chicken time then the gravy is rich and flavoursome by the time the chicken is taken out of the oven. This is never something I regard as a faff because as I said, in my household the Sunday Lunch is absolutely sacrosanct.