Tag Archives: chicken

Pressure/Slow cooker

Earlier this year, just as we were emerging from the shuck of winter and blinking in the spring sunshine, with thoughts turning to light, easy lunches involving salads and grilled things, I decided to I needed to buy a slow cooker to cook stews in.

A slow cooker is actually a very good idea for someone like me, because I am a natural early riser and I am at my best, my most industrious, early in the morning. It’s all down hill from there. I am often too tired of an evening to cook, or think about cooking. In Italy, at least in my family, it is customary to largely prepare the main meal of the day (whether that be taken at mezzogiorno or a cena) in the morning. This is when people visit and the cook can chat, catch up with the latest gossip and prep a substantial meal. I would watch many such occasions as a child and marvel at how organised and easy it seemed.

(I would also marvel at just how much bitching would go on.)

But, I never managed this level of organisation and I thought the slow cooker would help. As these things go, I started looking at entry level slow cookers and before I knew what I was doing, I had ordered a top of the range slow cooker and pressure cooker combined – a huge hulk of a stainless steel beast, the Fast Slow Pro by Heston for Sage (before anyone thinks I am on a salary from them, I am not, this is literally only one of two Sage appliances I own, the other one being an insanely priced waffle maker which is brilliant but I don’t recommend anyone buy because no-one can like waffles that much.)

It is an electric model, so you can use it anywhere there is a plug (no need for a stove top).

Of course, the purchase of lots of books on slow cooking and pressure cooking followed and I realised that most people were either evangelical about one type of cooking, or another. But you can be a fan of both and this lets you be.

Slow cooking, in case you don’t know, is just like cooking something on a stove top or in an oven at a very low temperature for a very long time. The difference is, because the slow cooker is sealed, no moisture gets out so things stay very moist. I have done the best ‘roast’ chicken in this ever, you then reduce down the gravy, in the same slow cooker pot, using the reduce function which is the equivalent of a pan on the hob simmering away.

Moist is not a bad word.

Pressure cooking cooks things under, er, very high pressure so it cooks things very very fast. It is particularly good for cooking dried pulses etc.

The beauty with either is that you just put it in the pot, turn the lid and leave it. I can’t comment on other appliances but mine is all digital and you set a timer and it does it all for you.

I mostly use mine for making stock and bolognese, which is brilliant cos I chuck everything in and do it on a slow cooker 12 hour timer overnight. I use the pressure cooker for things like ribs (does them in an hour * they are literally falling off the bone when they come out which may not be to everyone’s liking) and pulses.  But you can cook loads and loads of things in it, I am only just starting.

*The pressure cooker takes time to come up to pressure and also to release the pressure so if it says it does it in an hour remember to factor in these things.

It’s also brilliant at reducing (you leave the lid up) as you can reduce, say, a stock on a timer and leave it whilst you do other stuff. Obvs you can do this with an ordinary sauce pan, on the hob, but you don’t have to worry about going back and switching it off.

It has a ‘keep warm’ function so once it has finished its main cooking, it will keep things warm for two hours. Great if you are a bit nebulous about a coming home time.

In short this is a brilliant bit of kit – huge so think about where you’re going to put it – and I’ve had it for several months now and I really rate it.

Post script, summer 2017. I have had this for about 18 months now and it is easily one of the best bits of kitchen kit I’ve ever bought. I use it loads and it is a marvel. Buy it.

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Posh “Pot Noodle”

This isn’t of course, anything like pot noodle. I’m not even sure why I call it that other than, when there are left overs, I put it in a glass Weck jar/pot and it’s so easy to reheat and before you know it you have something ludicrously tasty and nutritious to eat.

My children love this. The original recipe calls for chilli (1 red, sliced), salad onions and pak choi. You can still add the former at the same time you add the star anise, if you wish, and the latter when I add the ‘veg’.

It’s wonderfully fragrant, really amazing smelling, the kind of soupy meal that feels like it’s doing good just by raising a bowl of it to your nose and sniffing it in. If you’re going out for a family day out/walk (or even, you know, by yourself) it’s great to make in advance, stick in the fridge, and within minutes of coming home you can have something to eat.

Its original name is Fragrant Chicken Hot Pot and it’s adapted from a Waitrose magazine recipe from last year.

Serves 4

2 teaspoons of vegetable oil

4-6 free range chicken thigh fillets (or still on the bone see note later) cut into chunks

2 garlic cloves, chopped

4 star anise

1 tablespoon of light brown muscovado sugar

500ml chicken stock

1 tablespoon of fish sauce

Some green veg: spinach or French beans, whatever you like: a big handful.

Two nests of Vermicelli or other noodles (or more than that if you want a more noodley experience)

This is what you do:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, then fry the chicken for about 10 minutes until browned.

If using whole thighs on the bone (see my note later) do this for the same amount of time but to make sure the chicken is cooked simmer the actual soup for longer than the ten minutes recommended below.

Now stir in the garlic, star anise (and chilli if using). Fry for a couple of minutes, then add the sugar and stir around for a minute or so until melted.

Now add the stock and fish sauce, cover the pan and simmer for ten minutes – fifteen if you’re using chicken thighs on the bone.

Whilst this is simmering, prepare the noodles according to your instructions. The vermicelli nests I use just have to sit in boiling water for five minutes, so are simplicity itself.

Now add any veg you are using and cook for a further 2-3 minutes, depending on what you are using. Taste and add more seasoning if needed (I never need to). Serve! It’s delicious. Any left overs can be stored in the fridge for a day or two and just reheated well making for a really lovely, quick, meal.

A note about the chicken. Ready filleted chicken thighs make this more expensive, but easier. I tend to use thighs on the bone with the skin on. You could either skin and fillet them before cooking or, what I do, is just take the skin off (otherwise it makes the dish way too fatty) and cook the thighs on the bone. I think it also adds to the flavour. Then when cooked, I take the chicken out of the stock (whilst the veg are cooking, say) and take off the meat whilst trying to not scald my fingers. This is also a good way to make sure the chicken is cooked as chicken thighs vary in size and you need to be sensible.

Because I make this to last over two meals, I can get away with just taking off the outer meat to get a meal ‘for now’ and then when the meat has cooled down, I strip it all off the bone, add it to the broth and then store ready to go, like that, in the fridge.

Soy and ginger chicken

This is a fantastic recipe. So easy to put together, so tasty and pretty healthy too. It’s from the excellent Donna Hay magazine. I’m sure you could make it with cheaper chicken cuts too, like thighs or drumsticks. You may need to give it a bit longer if so.

I found that my chicken was done but the sweet potatoes weren’t quite as frazzly as I wanted them, so I took the chicken out and turned the heat up for another five minutes. You could easily prep it when you’re not so busy and put it all together at the last minute. Which means you’ve pretty much got dinner on the table in 25mins. Even if you don’t, the most tiresome thing is the peeling of the sweet potatoes. I served this with wilted spinach. Serves four.

for the marinade

60ml soy sauce

finger’s worth of fresh ginger, peeled and grated or chopped finely

2 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped. I HATE garlic crushers so I chop mine

60ml of vegetable oil

2 teaspoons of caster sugar

the rest of it

4 x chicken breasts with skin on or other chicken pieces

The recipe calls for 600g sweet potatoes, scrubbed clean but unpeeled and thickly sliced. I only used two for us (four of us), peeled them and sliced into thin wedges

1x 400g chickepeas, drained, rinsed

sea salt and black pepper, natch

A cup of chopped mint leaves – save this til last

Green stuff to serve

Preheat oven to 220C if you’re going to cook this straight away. Place the marinade stuff in a jar and mix together.

Place the chicken, sweet potatoes and chickpeas in a large baking tray. Drizzle half the marinade over the top and season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 20mins or the chicken is cooked and the potatoes are as you like them.

Now, add the mint to the rest of the marinade, mix together and pour over just before serving.

Delicious.

Flatbreads, can also be used to make very fine chicken wraps

I LOVE these. I love them just as they are, sprinkled with some olive oil and salt. But you can also make them go really crispy and use them in dips. Or with Indian food (sorry I don’t know how authentic that is). But in our house, they are  mostly used to make wraps.

Wraps are great things. You can buy them ready made in the supermarket but have you ever read the ingredient list? Horrifying. So we make our own. They are easy, so easy my nine year old makes them. Granted the rolling out and cooking them takes a bit of confidence and practice. But not much. Just remember not to muck about with the dough too much at the end because the more rested the dough is the stretchier you can make the wraps. If you’re finding it too hard to roll them out, give them a rest for five minutes and go back to them (careful if you’ve put the frying pan on to warm up!). This shouldn’t happen however, unless you’ve panicked and tormented the dough too much. That said, if you let it relax too much, it’ll be really stretchy and difficult to handle. Now I’m talking too much and you’ll think this is hard. It isn’t.

You need:

250g plain flour – not strong

a teaspoon of sea salt ground up in a pestle and mortar

150ml warm water

1 tablespoon of olive oil (not virgin)

Put the oil in the water and pour over the dry ingredients. Or just mix them all together as we frequently do, use a fork for the last bit. It will make a sticky dough. When it’s all together let it rest for ten minutes.

Then, turn out onto an oiled chopping board or surface. Knead gently for ten seconds. Leave for ten minutes under an upturned bowl. After ten minutes, knead gently for ten seconds again. Leave for ten minutes.

I think you know what’s coming up next? Knead for ten seconds, then leave it for 15 minutes or even a bit longer. When you’re ready to go put a large, heavy based frying pan (I use a cast iron skillet) on a hot heat. Cut a bit of the dough off, roll it into a ball and then roll it out onto a lightly oiled surface until it looks like, you know, a wrap shape sort of. If you make it too thin once it’s cooked it will go brittle and break, too thick and it will be a bit doughy but experiment with what works.

Put the wrap into the pan – no oil, nothing – and after about a minute, check underneath. You’re aiming for cooked brown spots as in the picture. Flip over and cook until the other side is like that too. Sometimes they puff up beautifully, other times not. Whilst you cook the others place them under a clean, damp tea towel. Very important or they’ll go cold and brittle.

Use as you wish. I make little bowls of shredded chicken, salad, julienned carrots (get ME) for my children to serve themselves and then roll it all up in the wrap to eat in front of The Simpsons.

This makes about eight wraps.

Variations: you can add half wholemeal and half white (always plain flour, not strong), you will need to add a touch more water. These are still really nice but I find they take a bit longer to cook. You can also just halve everything if you’re cooking for just a couple of you.

Poor man’s roast chicken

This recipe was one of those happy mistakes. Except I don’t, now, remember what I was trying to do that I erred at.

The reason it’s called poor man’s roast chicken originally came about because this isn’t a whole chicken dish, but one made of pieces and I thought that looked like a poor man’s version of a roast chicken dinner. But given that, these days you can often buy fairly cheap whole chickens, even in posh stores like Waitrose, and chicken pieces aren’t as cheap anymore, I’m not sure that still holds true.

However, it also conveniently covers up a slight, controlled fear I have of cooking whole roast chickens. Even though they were one of the first things I learned how to cook, as a child. When my mum was at work, I’d quite often start the dinner off and it was usually either roast chicken or bolognese. I’m also a bit scared of roast chicken because I never really know when it’s done (my mum was always home for that bit). If you overcook it it’s awful and like eating the contents of your shredder, undercook it and everyone dies. Plus I really HATE carving up a cooked chicken or jointing up a raw one.

So I always buy chicken pieces if I can, even though my partner always, always says “but you can buy a whole chicken, it’s better value and I’ll joint it for you”. This is a nice gesture, isn’t it? Utterly lovely. But it makes me feel wretched because I feel at once dependent and useless. Which is a hideously bad combination for me, like smocks and dirndl skirts. So when he is away, I rebel and BUY CHICKEN PIECES.

Thighs are best for this recipe because they are the tastiest meat I think. They are also not mentally expensive. But whatever you use, you do need chicken pieces with bones in. Leave those breasts for something else.

This is what you do. There are no exact measurements, sorry. Today I used six thighs and this is what I did.

Get a roasting tray with sides. The idea is to have just enough room for the meat, so not too big, otherwise you need to use a bucket load of stock. Now, put the meat in and then some lengths of carrot and celery. Over the top, pour about half a litre of stock made using a stock cube. Stock cubes scare me (there does seem a high level of fear in this post doesn’t there?), so I always, always buy organic ones, even though we’ll probably discover, in time, that they contain MDF dust. You want enough stock so that it comes about half way up the chicken pieces, no more. The idea, you see, is to keep the chicken moist. As it cooks, the stock renders down, and the whole thing goes really wonderfully concentrated.

Put it in the oven, uncovered at 200C on FAN. You want the stock to evaporate. The other beauty of this dish is that you really don’t have to be madly accurate about timings and I never am. I probably cook it for about 60 minutes, maybe even longer (don’t tell Heston). You will need to turn the chicken pieces regularly, so set a timer, and each time you do, baste the chicken. Ideally, you cook this until the stock has rendered down to a slick at the bottom of the tray – see pic above – but you may need to use your common sense here. If the chicken is starting to desiccate, you know, stop before this. But this is why you don’t want to put too much stock in.

Now, if you’re serving this up as roast chicken, serve up a piece per person or whatever. If you’re going to use the chicken for sandwiches or wraps, then take the meat off the bone, and throw the discarded bones, skin etc in a pan with whatever’s left in the roasting tin: carrot, celery, the almost not there anymore stock juice. Add about 500ml of water and simmer for about two hours. To give it even more oomph, I put in half a stock cube.

Even if you serve it up as roast chicken, when people have finished eating put all the detritus in a pan to make stock as above. And the stock you get from this is glorious stuff. However, if you serve this up as a roast chicken dish, back up a bit. When you take the chicken out of the roasting tin and you leave behind the cooking juices/carrot/celery, put the roasting tin on the hob, add a bit of water to loosen if up only if you need it, but then swirl everything around, mashing the carrot and celery up as you go. When it’s all bubbly, take off the heat and put through a sieve and serve this as gravy. It’s delicious (put through a fat separator jug if you want, so you take off the fat).

Chicken done like this is so easy and really, really tasty. It probably has posh, kennel name. I don’t know what it is.