Firecracker Chicken

This recipe immediately caught my eye on The Kitchn one day. It’s for a chicken dish but as you can see, I served this with egg noodles and sauteed eggplant/aubergine. This was excellent — a dish that I will be adding to my regular repertoire. It has a huge depth of flavour. I have one major gripe with it though: the amount of hot sauce. I’m not at all convinced that it required using up a whole bottle of Frank’s. I think the flavour could be very similarly recreated using other ingredients/homemade hot sauce, which I will experiment with and report back.

 

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Curried Carrot and Coconut Soup

It’s hard to believe that only 2 weeks remain of the academic semester for me. The fall term always goes by so quickly. This has been a bit of a strange term for me as I navigate the post-PhD job market (a nightmare), tie up loose ends of my PhD, and plan my next research projects, all the while trying to make a living in London — difficult at the best of times.

As a lecturer one’s schedule changes each semester, which I personally don’t mind as it means variety and flexibility. However, this term’s schedule has been particularly challenging when it comes to meal planning and cooking, since the only night that I am actually able to get “into” the kitchen at a decent hour is Friday. Every other night I have to plan things carefully because either (a) I get home late (Tues, Weds, Thurs) and/or H. is teaching in our flat (Mon, Weds, Thurs), which means I can’t cook (open plan is a blessing and a curse!).

This means a lot of meal planning and advance prep. I use a number of strategies to ensure we still eat well and at a decent hour. I try to get a head start on Sundays and either pre-make Monday and/or Tuesday’s meal, or do a lot of advance prep so that they don’t require time to throw together.

This brings me onto soup. For the past couple of years I have made soups most weekends from October-April. They usually last for a weekend lunch plus one lunch or evening meal during the week. Since I usually go to the market on Saturday mornings I always have fresh vegetables on hand. This one from the NYT caught my eye recently. I always have lots of carrots and it seemed like a good combination of creamy and spicy. As with most soups, it’s easy to make. Just don’t make the mistake I did: it calls for a cup (roughly ~230mls) of coconut milk. I got a bit lazy and just dumped a whole can (400mls) in. Don’t do that. It was too creamy. Not creamy enough that I couldn’t eat it, but it wasn’t a good idea. Also, the spice in this is subtle. If you like a spicier version I’d recommend upping the cayenne. Otherwise, this gets the full stamp of approval from me.

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Thai-flavoured Chickpea & Millet Cakes with Red Pepper Sauce

Having moved more than 6 times in the past 10 years, I’ve learned not to keep much. I’m not a collector of anything (yet), with one major exception: books and magazines. I find it hard to get rid of these. My rule for books is to give away what I would never want to read again, and I’ve recently devised a magazine rule too: only keep them for a maximum of two years. In a small flat with no storage, even that is pushing it.

So, 3-4 times a year I go through my collection, which is mostly delicious as I have a subscription, and rip out recipes I want to keep (yes, I know… old school). I do it seasonally so that I can better be in the time of year frame (no use sorting summer recipes in the middle of Feb.). I recently went through a bunch of late spring/summer ones and (re)discovered this recipe, which comes from the May 2013 issue of delicious.

This is one of those dishes that really grabs me. I love a cake (this blog is full of them), love millet, and the flavour combinations really seemed to work.

Here’s how to make it:

  1. Put 125g millet in a pan with 300ml water and bring to a boil. Then, reduce and heat and simmer until cooked, ~15-20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile make the red pepper sauce: chop up 1 red pepper and put it in a pan with 1 tbsp maple strip, 1 tbsp cider vinegar, and a pinch of chili flakes. Cover and cook over low heat for 10-15 minutes. The pepper will lose water and become tender.
  3. When the millet is finished, mix it in a bowl with 1 can of drained and rinsed mashed chickpeas, 3 tsp Thai curry paste*, 4 tbsp chopped coriander, and 2 chopped spring onions. Mix together, and then form the mix into 6-8 cakes.**
  4. Heat 1/2 cm of oil in a pan and fry the cakes in batches. Fry until they are golden.
  5. Meanwhile make the dip: mix together 3 tbsp maple syrup and 2 tsp Dijon mistard.
  6. Serve the cakes with the dip, red pepper sauce, and a side salad!

*Use your preferred curry paste, or make your own. It called for red but I’d run out of red so used green.
**Here’s the thing: there was a major flaw with this meal….the cakes did not want to stick together! There is no binding agent in them and even with a lot of pressing it was touch-and-go. The mixture may have needed to be colder.

As you can see from the pic below, at a certain point I sort of gave up. The cakes weren’t sticking together well and so I cooked the second half of the mix on its own. But guess what….the TASTE was spot on! We loved this meal. The sauce, composed of just mustard and maple syrup (3 tbsp), with a pinch of chili flakes, was SO good, and the red pepper sauce worked perfectly. While the cakes may have been a bit of a failure I wouldn’t call the overall meal that at all. Just a good lesson for me to stop being such a perfectionist and concentrate on what matters…delicious food.

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Kinda gave up
Kinda gave up

Lunches part 3

Part 3 in my lunch series has been a long time coming — it’s been almost a year (!) since I posted Part 2 (Part 1 here). To give a quick summary, this series is about lunch items that can be prepared quickly and that take the dullness out of what is often for a lot of people a ‘throwaway’ meal.

7. Leftover vegetarian chili
Yes, it may seem a bit odd to includes leftovers in this feature, but this really makes the best lunch, especially on a winter’s day. You can make the chili the night before or even freeze it in advance (it’s easy to throw together and once assembled you can leave to simmer for as long as you like). The way I make it would perhaps be considered by some as a ‘loose’ version of chili, but I’ll share my method regardless: sautee garlic (and onion, if you wish) in a bit of olive oil. Add 2 (400g) cans of chopped tomatoes, followed by whatever veg you like (I like carrots, peppers, and some tomatoes). Add 2 cans of red kidney beans, + spices (I used a little cumin, ground coriander, garam masala, and my personal favourite to add to a chili, a little cinnamon). Simmer (the longer the better). Best with a bit of grated cheddar, chopped fresh coriander, & a dollop of sour cream on top! This makes enough for 2 meals for 2; adjust as necessary.

8. Cheat’s tomato soup
I’m calling this a cheat’s soup because it’s not made with fresh ingredients which for some reason to me feels like cheating! However I’ve made this loads of times and enjoyed it each and every one. What is imperative for this recipe is the tomatoes — find ones that are good quality. I cannot stress this enough. To make, simply sautee a little garlic and/or onions in some oil, add 2 cans of diced tomatoes along with salt and pepper, and simmer for anywhere between 10-20 minutes. Then puree the soup and add in a dollop of cream or creme fraiche (you do not need a lot to create a bit of a ‘creamy’ feeling). My favourite garnish herb for this soup is dill, but lots of others would work too. Best served with crusty bread!

9. A version of Ottolenghi’s conchiglioni
I am even surprising myself that I’ve included an Ottolenghi dish in this series, however this is a great-tasting pasta and has to be one of the easier dishes in his repertoire! It’s also, in Ottolenghi’s words, comfort food at its finest. The recipe is from Jerusalem. I have made it several times with many substitutions and variations. The basic ingredients you need are pasta, plain Greek yogurt*, feta cheese, basil, chili flakes, and nuts. *When I first told H. that I was making pasta with yogurt he had a confused and disgusted look on his face. I promise that it works though! To make it, simply prepare the pasta as directed, and once cooked combine with a large dollop of yogurt, some basil leaves, chili flakes, feta, and nuts as desired (pine nuts work the best in my experience). You can also mix spinach leaves in which I’ve found to work really well.

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