chicken noodle broth

After a year long hiatus, Cibus Amare returns.

IMG_0961

Ingredients

  • Chicken breast, or two chicken thighs with bones removed
  • One carrot, peeled and cut into thin batons
  • 5-10 Savoy cabbage leaves, halved lengthways
  • One fresh red chili, deseeded and sliced into thin strips
  • 2cm piece of ginger, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • Boiling water
  • Dark soy sauce, around 1 tbsp
  • Chinese 5 spice
  • One nest of thin, quick-cook noodles (available at Morrisons and Sainsburys)

Method

  1. Cover the chicken with clingfilm, and then flatten using a rolling pin. Remove the chicken from the clingfilm, and sprinkle over with Chinese 5 spice seasoning. Leave to marinade for 15 minutes.
  2. Heat a little oil in a small frying pan, and seal the chicken on both sides. Aim to colour the chicken breast – it should not be cooked through, but browned on the outside. Achieve this by having a high heat, and pressing the chicken down into the pan with a fish slice.
  3. Heat the grill to high. Transfer the chicken to an ovenproof dish, and place under the grill. Grill for 10 minutes whilst you prepare the noodle broth.
  4. In a wok, heat a little oil. When hot, add the ginger and the sliced carrot. Fry for 5 minutes over a medium heat until slightly softened, then add the garlic and chili.
  5. Continue to fry until the garlic begins to smell aromatic. Crumble the vegetable stock cube over the frying ingredients, and then pour over boiling water. Add the quick-cook noodles and cabbage; the water should cover the noodles, to make a small soup.
  6. Bring to the boil, and then turn down to a low heat. Add the soy sauce, and simmer until the noodles are cooked through. Remove from the heat, and serve in a bowl.
  7. Remove the chicken from the grill, and thinly slice. Place over the broth, and scatter with red chili if desired for extra spice.

 

 

moroccan tagine

If you’ve ever seen the Gavin and Stacey Christmas special where Mick worries about debuting a new turkey recipe for the family dinner, then you’ll understand what I mean when I say that I felt a similar anxiety placing this dish in the oven. Much like Mick, once the tagine had begun to cook, I found that a lot of people had had difficulties with the recipe, particularly regarding the quantities of ingredients for the paste that not only flavours the vegetables, but gives the dish its sauce.

Chemoula paste varies from recipe to recipe – whilst the ingredients used and ratios of such ingredients are only subtly different, the effect of these changes shape the dish in entirely different ways. The problem noted with this recipe was the quantity of lemon juice – lots of people said it was overpowering in the dish, and gave it an unpleasantly bitter, acidic taste. In this particular recipe, the lemon juice seemed to be a counter to the honey, each used to offset the sweetness and acidity of the other, to create a balanced taste. Luckily, fate had taken this into account, and I was forced to reduce the quantity of lemon juice as I only had a tiny amount left in the cupboard – I did not find my chermoula paste to have a strong acidity, but equally it was not so minimal an amount that it became too sweet with the quantity of honey.

Further, there were many comments regarding the overall flavour of the dish – people complained that despite the wide variety of spices and vegetables, the dish as a whole was tasteless and bland. This can occur because although there is an array of individual flavours, each has not had sufficient time to blend together and create a wholesome taste. This is easily solved by making the dish in advance. Much like spaghetti bolognese, or chili con carne, when people clamour “it’s much better the next day!”, it’s because the flavours have had time to cook twice – in cooking originally, cooling down, then having another chance to blend when reheated the next day. Using this philosophy, making the chermoula paste a day in advance, or even making the whole dish a day in advance and reheating would increase the overall taste. However, be cautious with making the whole dish and reheating, as the vegetables could become mushy during a second cooking process, or equally possible, the sauce could evapourate leaving the dish dry! I would advise making the chermoula paste a day in advance, and leaving it to marinate the vegetables overnight before cooking for the most intense flavour.

Ingredients

  • 2 red onion, thickly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
  • ½ tbsp. honey
  • ½ tbsp. turmeric
  • ½ tbsp. paprika
  • 30ml lemon juice
  • 50ml olive oil
  • 1 tsp. dried chili flakes
  • 2 tsps. dried ginger
  • 2 carrots, cut into 2cm chunks
  • 1 parsnip, chopped into thick chunks
  • 2 leeks, sliced thickly
  • 1 large potato, cut roughly
  • Dried mint
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil, to drizzle

Method

  1. Begin by making the paste that the vegetables will absorb during the cooking process. Using a blender, blitz one of the onions, the garlic cloves, honey, lemon juice and oil alongside the turmeric, paprika and chili flakes.
  2. Blend until it is largely smooth, and then decant into a small bowl. Set aside this paste for later. In a heat-proof casserole dish or large frying pan, warm a drizzle of olive oil over a medium heat.
  3. Heat the oven to 180 degrees.
  4. Add the potatoes, parsnips and carrots, sprinkle with the ground ginger, and fry until lightly browned, stirring to prevent them burning.
  5. Once these have browned, transfer them into a tagine or a large casserole dish. Then fry the leeks and remaining onion with a dusting of ginger in the heat-proof casserole dish until also lightly browned, then place in the casserole dish/tagine alongside the potato mix.
  6. Pour the paste over the lightly browned vegetables, and then add 500ml of warm water. Put a lid on top of the casserole dish/tagine, and place in the oven for 30 minutes.
  7. After 30 minutes, turn the oven down to 160 degrees, and remove the casserole dish/tagine from the oven. Season, and replace in the oven without the lid for a further 30 minutes.
  8. Remove the tagine from the oven, top with mint and serve with either cous-cous or rice.

best for a picnic pt.2

CHICKEN SATAY SKEWERS

Again, using Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals cookbook, chicken satay skewers are perfect picnic food. Attempting to eat a meal outdoors with knives, forks and plates would certainly prove impractical; the use of the skewer stick here provides happy munching, widely avoiding the removal of grass and insects from your plate!

This satay skewer paste has a wonderful smell: its aroma is released as soon as the blender stops, circulating fresh lime and spice from the chilies, with a sweet nuttiness from the peanut butter. The paste is massaged into the chicken, allowing the flavours to permeate the meat during the cooking period, ensuring the finished product is evenly coated in flavour. However, for the paste stays on the meat, the consistency has to be spot-on. It is important to monitor its viscosity, adding water if the paste seems too thick, or a tiny bit more peanut butter if it is too runny. This means the chicken will wholly soak up the satay paste, and unlike my first attempt, won’t have to resort to having ‘satay crumbs’ served alongside the chicken!

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp. ground coriander seeds
  • 1 red chili, stalk removed
  • ½ glove of garlic, peeled
  • 3 heaped tbsp. of crunchy peanut butter
  • Splash of soy sauce

    avoid the need to serve ‘satay nibbles’ alongside the chicken – monitor the consistency of the paste!
  • 1 tsp. of ground ginger
  • 1 lime, lightly rolled on a flat surface
  • Runny honey for drizzling
  • 4 skewer sticks

Method

  1. Into a food processor, add the ground coriander seeds, ginger, peeled whole garlic, the peanut butter and the soy sauce. Take the lime, and grate the zest into the processor. Slice the zested lime in half, and squeeze in the juice.
  2. Add a small splash of water, and blitz to a spoonable paste. Here, check the consistency of the paste to ensure it will coat the chicken evenly! If it is too thick, add more water; too runny, add more peanut butter.
  3. Line the chicken breasts up on a chopping board, alternating the ends. Carefully push the skewers through the breasts – horizontally, ensuring the skewer goes through each chicken breast as they are laid out vertically.
  4. Slice down in between each skewer so that you have 4 kebabs. Thread any stray pieces of chicken back on the skewers! Score it lightly on both sides, to give a crispy texture after cooking.
  5. Take the satay paste, and scoop it into a roasting tray. Add the chicken skewers to the tray, and massage the paste into the meat to ensure it soaks up the nutty infused flavours of garlic, chili and lime! Drizzle with olive oil, and grill for 8 to 10 minutes each side.
  6. Half way through the cooking process of the chicken (after the first 10 minutes), before turning, drizzle the skewers with runny honey. After the second lot of 10 minutes, drizzle the remaining side of the skewers with honey, and replace in the grill for a final 5 minutes to ensure they are cooked through.
  7. Allow to cool, wrap in foil, and place in the hamper!

000

CRUMBED-MOZZARELLA SALAD

I found this recipe on the ‘Delicious’ food magazine website, and thought it an ideal vegetarian option for a picnic! Although original recipe advocates serving the mozzarella balls with roasted vegetables and a fuller salad, with the intention of being a main meal, adapting this to a simply dressed salad makes it more accessible for outdoor enjoyment.

For the best flavour, I would absolutely recommend using as many fresh ingredients as possible – lemon zest could not be substituted for lemon juice due to the undesired liquid it would bring, but dried thyme and dried chili could easily be used in lieu. Although this would not have negative consequences in terms of taste, it is undeniable that the flavour of fresh chili and fresh thyme cannot be beaten – the smell of the breadcrumbs alone supports this, as zesty aromas fill the kitchen, with a notable fragrance from the thyme. The culminated essence of these ingredients is far stronger, and far more appetising, when fresh ingredients are used over dried.

The biggest tip given that makes this dish, however, is the instruction to double dip the mozzarella balls in the breadcrumbs. This forms a thicker outer coating, which once deep-fried, produces a crispy shell that characterises the dish, protecting the soft and stringy cheese inside. Moreover, in using this for picnic grazing, the extra layer of breadcrumbs will help keep these snacks intact as they are transported from home to outdoors!

Ingredients

  • 100g wholemeal breadcrumbs
  • The zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 red chili, deseeded, and finely sliced
  • Fresh thyme leaves, to taste
  • 50g plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 150g baby mozzarella balls
  • Fresh rocket
  • Fresh pea shoots

Method

  1. In a medium sized bowl, mix the breadcrumbs with the thyme leaves, chili slices and the lemon zest. Season, and stir well to combine. In a smaller bowl, sieve the flour; in a final bowl, whisk the eggs.
  2. Remove the mozzarella balls from their packaging – drain them, and pat them dry. Roll them firstly in the flour, then dip them in the egg, before rolling in the breadcrumbs. To create a thicker layer of flavour, and a crisper shell, dip the breaded mozzarella ball back in the egg, and then again into the breadcrumbs.
  3. Repeat this method for each mozzarella ball, placing each onto a piece of kitchen towel.
  4. In a container, place the peashoots and rocket. Dress immediately before serving the with olive oil and lemon juice – do not do this before you set out for the picnic, as it will cause the salad to go limp!
  5. Fill half a medium saucepan with olive oil, and heat. Keep the heat medium, and using a slotted spoon lower each mozzarella ball into the oil, being careful to ensure the hot oil does not splash or spit.
  6. Deep fry each mozzarella ball until golden brown – this should take around 4 minutes. Remove each breaded mozzarella, and place back on the kitchen towel, allowing the excess fat to run off.
  7. When complete, store the mozzarella balls in a container, and put in the hamper! Once you have arrived at your al fresco destination, place the breaded cheese amongst the dressed salad, and enjoy!