Food post - 27 November 2017

by Janine  

It's been a while since my last food post. This is partly due to me travelling more than normal and cooking less, and partly due to the fact that I've been sitting on these photos for at least a fortnight.

But now I'm all present and correct and ready to share. Let's do this.

American fried chicken (recipe from "Chicken Leg" by Hoe Yee)
I was very interested to see what a Singaporean/Malaysian cookbook deemed to be American-style fried chicken. (Because I'm fairly sure that the stuff they make in the US doesn't contain oyster sauce, Shaoxing wine or ginger - I left out the Shaoxing wine fwiw.) When I read the recipe, my heart sank a little: the first step included putting ginger, shallots (red shallots - what even are those? I used bog-standard normal shallots) and garlic into a blender, then squeezing the resulting paste to get juice. NOOOO! MORE JUICING!!! WHY MUST I DO JUICING!!!!? The last time I had to juice ginger and shallots, I did not have a fun time. Still, using a blender sounds easier than my attempt with a cheese grater (if there even is juice in garlic, that is.) Personally, I'm not sure I'm sold on the blender method. Mostly because I don't have a blender and so had to put it through a food processor; this left my paste a little chunky, so it wasn't that easy to get the juice out of it USING A TEA STRAINER AND A SPOON WHAT AM I DOING. You will be glad to hear that I eventually ended up with some usable juice and could move on with the rest of the recipe. Once the chicken had marinated, it was due to be floured with a mixture of plain flour, tapioca flour and wheat starch. I couldn't find those last two flours at all in my, sadly, British supermarket, so I substituted them both for cornflour. If the batter on this chicken leg looks kinda weird, that's why. Or maybe not; maybe the batter looks weird because I am a wimp who refuses to deep-fry things, so I shallow-fried it then shoved it in the oven instead. (I definitely think I shallow-fried it for too long, because the batter was going a bit black.) So, once the ordeal of cooking was over, I could finally taste it. The verdict? It's actually difficult to remember (I cooked this nearly three months ago!) I am certain that it didn't taste like American fried chicken though; or what is purportedly American fried chicken but sold in Britain. The taste was nice, but clearly didn't leave a lasting impression on me. To be honest, I think other recipes from this book, full of spices and salt, taste more like American fried chicken than this one.

Claire Peasnall's West Indian marmalade (recipe from "The London Cookbook" by Jenny Linford)
Well, that last recipe was long and difficult, let's follow it up by with something eas-- MARMALADE. LET'S TRY MARMALADE. This is the first recipe I've tried from this cookbook, which was a birthday present from my parents. I was both excited and nervous when setting out. Not only did I have to go buy jars and muslin for all these new processes (sterilisation? oh man), but it also meant that I could finally try my hand at the mysterious world of preserves. My goodness, if I mastered this then I could finally level-up from amateur-home-cooking-girl to wise-and-skilled-old-lady, and would then be fully ready to move into the remote-yet-cosy Cath Kidston-filled cottage of my dreams. Having now made the marmalade, I can tell you that I did not level-up. It wasn't a total disaster, but was instead a fairly-decent result that merely had the wrong texture and tasted bad. Thank goodness I choose to decrease the recipe so I only ended up with one and a half jars, rather than seven (seven! Can you imagine?) The recipe was also talking about waxed paper discs, but after some quick Googling, I decided to forego those because my jars came with lids. The only other change I made was in not using Seville oranges (I couldn't find them because it was the wrong time of year) and using normal oranges instead. AND THEREIN LIES THE RUB. It turns out that you need to use Seville oranges because they are much more tart than normal oranges. Add all that sugar and (in this recipe) treacle to normal orange juice and you end up with something far too sweet. It tasted like golden syrup but in a horrible treacley way (I'm not a fan of treacle anyway; let's not ask why I decided to try this recipe). I could barely finish the two slices of toast in the picture; I felt rather sick. And then the texture, while almost marmalade, was just too runny. Even though it passed the wrinkle test when cooking (more Googling) I think it needed more boiling to get thicker. Part of the problem was that my amounts were so low that I kept having to add water to stop it from boiling dry in the first stages, and then used a too-small pan in the final "boil it like crazy and whoops, make sure it doesn't boil all over the stove" stage. In summary, this was a) horrible and b) not marmalade, but I did discover that it was c) edible when stirred into plain yoghurt.

Liam's 'simple' salmon supper
Are you crying by this point? Because I sure am. Why does the 'simple' in this recipe title have quotation marks around it? What do I need to know??? Turns out this recipe wasn't that simple. Anything that involves making a sauce in a separate pan isn't simple in my book. That said, it was really tasty, and I didn't feel like the world was ending during any part of it! Alas, I bought unsmoked bacon lardons because I am an idiot who can't read an ingredients list properly. I also used dried dill rather than fresh because the supermarket refused to have any in stock (and I was too lazy to try the shop next door). But who cares? The taste was really good. I'm not a great fan of peas, and I sometimes find salmon a little greasy, but I had no such problems here. The tartness of the sauce really helped to tie everything together and yum yum yum. I'd recommend this recipe to everyone. In fact, I already have.

Tuscan fries (recipe from "Nigellissima: Instant Italian Inspiration" by Nigella Lawson)
It took me a long time to feel brave enough to tackle this recipe. Because guess who hates deep-frying things? I didn't deep-fry these, in fact. I shallow-fried them for 15 minutes, then shoved them in the oven for the rest of the time. They weren't super brown, but came out crunchy enough. For all that, though, they tasted bland and rather uninspiring. I could taste the oil used to fry them, but got only a hint of the herbs and the garlic. And they were on the dry side too. Is it because I didn't deep-fry them? idk, man. I wouldn't bother making them again.

Sticky sausage and bean stew
I don't know what to say. It seems that in this round of cooking I have finally discovered a recipe that was both easy and tasty. The hardest part was chopping up the butternut squash, but if you buy ready-prepared like the recipe suggests, you don't even have to do that. It's pretty much "throw everything into an oven dish and leave it there". The taste was sweet and sausagey. Very good. Would make again (if I was already committed to chopping up another butternut squash, that is).

Five spices fried chicken leg (recipe from "Chicken Leg" by Hoe Yee)
And finally, let's end this post the way it started. By juicing more bloody shallots and ginger. (Why do I do this to myself? I don't know! Perhaps I like the endurance. Is this why people run marathons?) This recipe called for ginger juice and red shallot juice (I still don't know what those are, so used normal shallots), but didn't tell me how I was supposed to make said juices. So instead of using the food processor, I went back to the trusty cheese grater. And do you know what? While it wasn't easy in the slightest, I think I am getting better at juicing shallots. I must have upped my grating technique, because not only could I get the required amount of juice from only half a bag of shallots (instead of a full one), but I also only accidentally caught my knuckles on the cheese grater once! Yay! As before, this recipe called for Shaoxing wine and tapioca flour, so I left out the first and substituted the second for cornflour. And again, as before, I refused to deep-fry this, so I shallow-fried it (for slightly too long, hence the black bits) and then put it in the oven (also for slightly too long). But. BUT. Once all the cooking was done (and it's funny how a recipe with two steps can take FIVE HOURS), I discovered that the taste of this dish was amazing! There's something about the marinade that gave the flavours real punch. It was so good that I was disappointed when dinner was over. In between the Chinese five spice, the ginger, the shallots and the oyster sauce, it tastes like every good thing that you could ever want from Chinese food. Don't get me wrong, it was hell to make, so I probably won't do it again, but part of me is severely tempted.

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