Claypot Chicken Rice

Claypot chicken rice

When you live in the UK and have a hankering for authentic Malaysian food, there isn’t unfortunately an option of popping to the nearest restaurant for a meal. The next best thing would be to try and replicate it yourself. Malaysian food here is still such an untapped resource of richness compared to Thai or Vietnamese food so here’s a tip to any budding restaurateurs out there – you have a ready made customer base who would welcome the chance of having a homey Malaysian meal anytime!

Claypot chicken rice at home is as the label says, cooked in a claypot over a fire stove which gives it a smokey flavour that enhances the dish. I own neither a claypot or a gas stove, so concessions had to be made but the end product was still just as tasty.

This recipe is from The Meatmen, with some little modifications of my own. I left out the fried salted fish which didn’t harm the flavour at all and stir-fried my greens (pak choi, choi sum or any leafy greens will do) separately.

Claypot Chicken Rice

Serves 4

Chicken marinade
500g boneless chicken thigh
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp cornflour
1/4 cup water

1 cured chinese sausage (lap cheong)
4 cloves chopped garlic
2 inches chopped ginger
3 cups rice, washed
3 cups chicken stock
2 spring onions, chopped
Fried shallots

Sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp white pepper powder
1 tsp sesame oil

  1. Cut the chicken into 2 inch cubed chunks. Mix in the marinade ingredients and marinate the chicken for at least 2 hours.
  2. Slice the chinese sausage into diagonal slices. Heat a pot up on medium heat and dry fry the sausage slices until they crisp up. Remove from the pot and drain on a kitchen towel.
  3. Use the oil released from frying the sausage slices and heat the pot up to medium high heat.
  4. Fry the garlic and ginger for a few minutes until fragrant.
  5. Add the rice and stir-fry for a few more minutes. Reduce the heat to medium.
  6. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Once it boils, cover and reduce to low heat.
  7. Once the stock has evaporated from the top, add the fried sausage slices and stir the rice.
  8. Place the marinated chicken pieces in one layer on top of the rice. Cover and cook for another 15 minutes.
  9. Turn off the heat and remove the pot from the heat to let it steam for another 10 minutes (this step is essential so the rice comes together and doesn’t stick to the sides and bottom of the pot).
  10. Mix the sauce ingredients together and add to your taste. You may not need all of the sauce.
  11. Top with chopped spring onions and fried shallots.
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Flourless Chocolate Brownies

Flourless brownies 1

I had this great hankering for brownies that I tried ignoring for a while as I am currently supposedly on a diet. Hah. The call of the brownie was too strong though, so I came up with this compromise – flourless brownies! Carb-free but my oh my does it more than make up for it in sugar and fat content. Never mind, make a whole tray, save a few for treats and bring the rest in to work. Or do like me and give them to your neighbour. You will then get repaid with a note like this:

IMG_0809.jpg

Fact.

These are from Nigella’s website. I cut the sugar content down a little. It could even do with cutting it down a little more if you’re not a sugar fiend. And I also cut them into 20 squares as 16 may have been a portion size too large seeing as they are pretty rich.

I didn’t have a square baking tray so I improvised. I shaped some aluminium foil into a vaguely square-shaped thing, placed it to the side in a normal baking tray and squished up more foil on the other side to support it so the brownie mixture wouldn’t splodge out into one big mess. Then lined the square foil tray with baking parchment.

These are so fudgey and decadent, it is so very difficult to stop at one. They are probably one of the best brownies I’ve ever made, or dare I even say, the best (reference note above).

Flourless Chocolate Brownies

Ingredients
225 g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids), break into rough pieces
225 g salted butter, cut into large chunks
2 tsp vanilla extract
150 g caster sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
150 g ground almonds
100 g pecans, chopped

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius/150 degrees Celsius fan.
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate in a saucepan over gentle heat. Keep stirring so the bottom of the mixture doesn’t catch.
  3. Take the pan off the stove, mix in the sugar and vanilla extract and let cool a little (so you don’t get scrambled eggs in the next step!).
  4. Stir the eggs, ground almonds and pecans into the chocolate mixture.
  5. Transfer to a 24cm/9 inch square foil tin (or use my improvised version) and bake for 25-30 minutes. The top will have set but the mixture underneath will still be squidgy. Let cool in the tray and when set, take it out carefully and cut into 20 squares of heavenly delight.

Everybody’s oven is different, and I know my oven is only 10 degrees lower for the equivalent temperature in a non-fan oven. So I used 160 degrees and cooked the mixture for 30 minutes.

Flourless brownies 2

 

Griddled Thai Prawns

I ventured into The Works several weeks ago after a long hiatus. With some luck and random browsing, you could get lucky with a particularly enticing novel or cookbook. Just don’t enter with preconceived intentions and you won’t get disappointed. Like checking out TK Maxx. Or Home Sense. I’m showing my bargain-hunting tendencies here.

I happened on ‘Chef on a Diet’ by Sophie Michell just lying on top of a higgledy piggledy pile. There are so many delicious, accessible recipes with interesting flavours in it, and a whole lot of carb-free ones too. This is one I think I’ll be using a lot.

The inspiration from this dish came from the Thai marinade towards the back of the book. It would also work well on chicken, fish or even griddled meat skewers or vegetables. I decided to go with prawns and had them with this mango salad. Have it with boiled white rice as well for a more substantial meal.

Thai Griddled Prawns

Ingredients
1kg raw king prawns, shell on
Coriander to garnish

Marinade
2 whole red chillies
1 lemongrass stalk
Zest of 1 lime
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
4 garlic cloves
3 banana shallots or 6 regular shallots
50ml coconut cream
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp fish sauce

  1. First, prepare the prawns. Use a pair of kitchen scissors. Snip off all the legs, the antenna and the sharp poky bits above the tail, and above and either side of the head. Be careful as these bits are rather sharp.
  2. Lay the prawn flat on a board and with a sharp knife slice down the length of its back about 1/2cm deep. Remove the intestinal tract. The cut also allows the marinade to flavour the prawns further.
  3. Coarsely chop the red chillies, lemongrass, garlic and shallots and place all of the marinade ingredients into a blender and blend until fine. Taste and adjust seasoning as required.
  4. Marinate the prawns for about 15 minutes.
  5. Heat a griddle pan to medium high heat. Spray with cooking oil spray.
  6. Scrape off any excess marinade from the prawns. Cook the prawns for about 2-3 minutes on each side, then turn over and cook for about 2 minutes again. As soon as the prawns turn opaque on each side, they are done.
  7. Pour the excess marinade into a little saucepan and bring to boil for a few minutes.
  8. Serve garnished with coriander, some rice and a tangy mango or papaya salad. Use the cooked marinade as a dip for the prawns.

 

Speedy seared tuna with corn salsa

I had some tuna left over after making my tuna tartare yesterday, so to switch it up I decided to cook the tuna a little bit and liven it up with a zingy corn salsa. The citrusy, smoky crust contrasted well with the peppy corn salsa. It takes no more than 30 minutes to cook from start to finish, making it another perfect meal for those short on time but still wanting something delicious to tuck into. I reckon it would work well with salmon fillets as well, if tuna’s not your thing. Give it a go and see what you think!

Seared tuna with corn salsa

Serves 2
A:
2 tuna steaks
2 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp sea salt
Zest of 2 limes
1 tbsp vegetable oil

B:
300g tinned sweetcorn (280g net drained)
1 avocado, chopped coarsely
Handful of cherry tomatoes, chopped coarsely
1/2 red chilli, deseeded and chopped finely
1 spring onion, sliced finely
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
Juice from 2 limes
Salt

  1. Roughly grind the coriander seeds and peppercorns with a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder. Mix in the sea salt and lime zest. Spread on a plate.
  2. Press the tuna steaks onto the spice mixture on all sides to form an even crust all around.
  3. Next, make the salsa. Mix all of the ingredients from B and season to taste with lime juice and salt.
  4. Heat the oil in a frying pan on medium high heat. Sear the tuna steaks for 1 minute on each side to give a rare steak. Sear it for another minute or two if you prefer your tuna more well done.
  5. Slice the tuna in half to reveal the pink centre, pile decoratively on a plate and top with the corn salsa.

Crab bolognese

A friend of mine, GW, invited us over for dinner one night and served us this delicious crab bolognese for dinner. Needless to say, I had to recreate it for myself. And as I was on Joe Wicks’ diet and exercise plan at the time, I substituted spaghetti with courgetti. Sadly, I am now off the Wicks bandwagon but there are hopes to go back on it soon!

I looked high and low for fresh fennel and found some sorry specimens that I had to settle with in Asda. It may have been the depths of winter that made it difficult, as there is fennel galore in the shops now. Also, I made do with tinned crab meat as I didn’t have the foresight to go to the fishmonger’s for fresh crab meat but it still tasted good. The dish is light and savoury and perfect for a warm summer’s evening.

Crab Bolognese

Serves 4

1 red chilli
1 carrot
2 spring onions
1 bulb of fennel
1/2 a bunch of fresh basil, stalks and leaves separated
1 tsp fennel seeds
4 cloves of garlic
2 anchovy fillets
1 lemon, zested
300g crabmeat (brown & white)
White wine
700g passata
Spaghetti for four, or 3 courgettes, spiralized
2 tbsp vegetable oil
Salt and pepper

  1. Place the chilli, carrot, spring onions, fennel, basil stalks and fennel seeds into a food processor with the fennel seeds and grind until finely chopped. Chop the garlic separately.
  2. Heat a pan on moderate high heat. Add the oil and fry the garlic and anchovy fillets until fragrant.
  3. Add the chopped vegetables and stir. Add the lemon zest.
  4. Meanwhile, if you’re using pasta, put it on the boil.
  5. Add the passata, a splash of white wine and brown crab meat, stir and simmer for 5 minutes.
  6. Stir in the white crab meat to warm it up. Squeeze in some lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. If using courgetti, warm it in the microwave for 2 minutes.
  8. Top piles of spaghetti or courgetti with the crab bolognese and garnish with chopped basil leaves. Enjoy!

 

Tuna tartare take 2

How about settling down to a fresh, light meal on these it’s-so-warm-I-could-pinch-myself days? This is from the same recipe I posted a while ago, only this time I served it on top of crisp multiseed flatbreads to make a more substantial meal for dinner.

It wouldn’t be an overstatement that I felt particularly virtuous chomping this down. Healthy fats from avo, tick. Oily fish brilliant for complexion, tick. Seeds for fibre, tick. Let’s pretend I didn’t have pulled pork in a brioche bun and ribs for lunch shall we?

Chicken rice, chilli sauce & ginger sauce

This is a follow-up post to my roast pork belly recipe which explains how I made the chicken rice and sauces I had with the meat (usually eaten with chicken, but great with pork as well). The recipe for the chilli sauce makes plenty leftover to use on top of other meats, or can be mixed in with stir fries as well. The sauces recipes come from this website, and the rice from this website, with some adjustments.

Chicken rice

2 cups basmati rice, washed
2 1/4 cups chicken broth (or 1/2 cube chicken stock dissolved in water)
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 inch ginger, sliced
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp salt (leave out if chicken broth is salted)

  1. Heat the oil and butter in a pot on medium high heat.
  2. When hot, fry the garlic and ginger until aromatic. Add in sesame oil.
  3. Add in the rice and stir to coat the rice in the fragrant oil, then add the chicken broth and salt if using.
  4. Put the lid on and bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and cook for 10-15 minutes. To check if the rice is cooked through, take a spoonful of rice out right to the bottom of the pan and check for consistency and moistness. Cook for a further few minutes to dry it out if required.
  5. Take the pot off the heat and let cool with lid on for 5-10 minutes. This brings the rice grains together and off the bottom of the pan, ensuring none of it sticks to the bottom when you scoop it out.

 

Chilli sauce

70g fresh red chillies
2 to 3 bird’s eye chillies
40g ginger
15g garlic
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
20ml fresh lime juice
Chicken stock (leftover from the chicken rice)

  1. Grind the chillies, ginger and garlic in a food processor until fine.
  2. Mix in the sesame oil, salt, sugar and lime juice to taste. Add more sugar or lime juice depending on how piquant you like it.
  3. Mix in some chicken stock a tablespoon at a time until you reach your desired consistency.
  4. Chilli sauce will keep for a week in the fridge.

 

Garlic sauce

50g ginger, grated
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2-3 cloves garlic, smashed
10-15ml chicken stock

  1. Heat the oil in a pan and fry the garlic in it until fragrant. Discard the garlic.
  2. Mix the ginger, garlic oil and salt together.
  3. Add in chicken stock until you reach your desired consistency.
  4. Keeps for several days in the fridge.

 

Chicken with prunes and pomegranate molasses

It’s a sign of getting older when wandering around supermarket aisles aimlessly gives your heart joy. Little things, I suppose. The aisles of Waitrose yielded exotic pomegranate molasses and yuzu, and determined not to let them languish in the cupboard, I looked up ways to use them in dishes. Of all store cupboard ingredients, five spice is apparently the most underused in our kitchens. There’s a famous skit by Michael McIntyre about this which had me in stitches the first time I watched it.

I settled on reliable Ottolenghi with this cosy, comforting dish of oven-baked chicken coated with rich sauce and sweet onions. I fully vouch for its tastiness and ease of making. The original recipe calls for Charlotte potatoes as well but I left them out to go carb-free. For the life of me I couldn’t find fresh oregano anywhere except a whole plant in a pot which would have gone to waste so I resorted to dried oregano instead. I also halved the recipe to make the portions more manageable. It makes a lovely main course for a family dinner and also a great lunch for work. I put in a large handful of spinach (or any greens) at the bottom of my lunch container and whizz it in the microwave for a few minutes for a delicious midday break.

Chicken with prunes and pomegranate molasses

4 chicken drumsticks and 4 thighs, skinned (about 1kg in total)
2 large onions, peeled and quartered or a handful of shallots left whole
60g pitted prunes
15g grated fresh ginger
40ml soy sauce
45ml pomegranate molasses
1/2 tbsp maple syrup
60g sweet mango chutney
½ tsp whole black peppercorns
10g oregano sprigs or 2 tsps dried oregano

Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas mark 6. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, then tip into a large casserole dish. Cover with a lid (or thick foil), and bake for 10 minutes. Lower the heat to 180C/350F/gas mark 4, and cook for two hours longer. Every now and then baste the chicken with the juices and turn them over to get an even brown colour.

When the time is up, remove the dish from the oven, baste the chicken again, cover and set aside to rest and allow the flavours to mingle.

Serve with couscous and a fresh crisp salad to balance the richness of the sauce. Or, with wilted greens for a lighter meal.

 

Cornwall: Eden Project

Eden Project is one of the most famous destinations in Cornwall. Formerly a clay pit mine, it was transformed by Tim Smit and his amazing team into a wonderful world of ecological delight. Talk about large scale recycling. There is plenty to explore, included the two covered Biomes, making it a great day out for those rainy days that can literally be a washout on a seaside holiday. The pricey entry ticket also acts as an annual pass allowing unlimited entries for a year – great if you’re a local, not so much if you’re visiting from afar, but the blow is softened somewhat by the 10% discount you get from buying in advance online.

You start off your tour walking through a timeline explaining how plants have evolved through the millennia, with examples of ancient plants still surviving dotted all along the pathway. This leads to the open gardens section – amongst them flowering bushes galore, a massive allotment garden showcasing vegetables from around the world, a herb walk (one of my favourite bits) and a memory garden with an ornamental pool.

But of course the Biomes are the dominant features and main attractions of the site. To be honest they reminded me of frog spawn but hey, to each their own. The Mediterranean biome is filled with plants from the Mediterranean, South Africa and California and is a bright, cheery place to roam about in. The tomatoes, chillies, olives trees and grape vines are enough to transport you to a hillside town somewhere in Italy. There is even a Bacchanalian party playing out amongst the shrubs.

I love chamomile tea and had no idea the plant looked like this.

This olive tree reminded me of how J and I got lost in an olive grove on Corfu once. It was a bit of a laugh, I got a blister from wearing terribly inappropriate footwear and we used an olive leaf to wrap around my toe to help cushion the skin. It didn’t help.

We took a well-earned rest for lunch in the cafeteria area that connects the two Biomes. We brought out own sandwiches but the cafe did look quite enticing with an interesting array of food. There were several aerial bee sculptures that rotated with any slight breeze which fascinated us for a while, trying to figure out their mechanism.

Onward to the Rainforest Biome! This was G’s favourite, a totally novel experience to him, and an introduction to what he could expect on his inaugural trip to Malaysia later on. It reminded me so much of home, especially when we came upon the traditional Malaysian village house. It was so stereotypical, exactly what we would have drawn as schoolchildren.

The air was hot and heavy with humidity, just what it would be like in a rainforest in the tropics. A little air-conditioned cubicle provides respite for visitors not used to the humidity, I suspect they would have installed it after a few fainting episodes occurred.

Beauty and the Beast: Venus fly traps sharing a pot with orchids.

Again, love figs, didn’t know they grew on trees like this.

Roul-roul partridges would dart in an out of the vegetation, some with little chicks scurrying behind their parents. They were adorable, and would come out at the most unexpected times.

Up the path to the canopy walkway which gives a bird’s eye view of the rainforest from above. When we were there they were building an extension called the Weather Maker which could recreate clouds and rain.

And then it was out to the welcoming cool of the outdoors again. The WEEE man (waste electrical and electronic equipment) is a stark reminder of how much household equipment we throw away instead of recycle. The average British person throws away 3 tonnes of equipment in their lifetime.

And last but not least, a rather moving sculpture showcasing our attitudes towards climate change – the older figures markedly ambivalent and the children optimistically looking forward to positive changes in the future. The sculpture was initially installed in the Thames, where the rise and fall of the tide reflected rising sea levels.

Photo from edenproject.com

We didn’t have time to explore The Core and some of the outdoor gardens, but that’s just more excuse to make a return trip. After a little wander through their excellent gift shop, we made a mad dash in the oncoming shower to our car and went back to our B&B to chill out for a bit before heading out for dinner at The Stable on Fistral Beach. It’s located just above Rick Stein’s takeaway and serves much better food. We had the excellent deal of pizza, salad and drink for £10. They were flexible enough to allow us to order pizzas off the set menu with a little surcharge. I had the King Crabber, a most delicious pizza redolent with the briny aromas of white and brown crab meat mingled with chilli, crab and lemon topped with creme fraiche. I can’t remember what G had but it was rich and meaty and spicy and he liked it.

And that ends an epic day out and post. More Cornish posts to come!

 

 

 

 

 

Siew Yoke (Roast Pork Belly)

G tried chicken rice for his first trip to Malaysia recently but didn’t get the chance to try roast pork belly that’s also served with the rice. And he loves pork belly. So I thought I’d combine this with the chicken rice to fill that little pork belly-hole in his tummy.

This recipe’s modified from this website, and it was the simplicity that appealed to me. My slab of meat was about 700g in weight so I didn’t use all the dry rub. Do try and get a slab rather than strips as the latter can toughen quite easily in the oven. Drying out the meat prior to cooking and resting the meat after will ensure optimum flavour. White distilled vinegar is not distilled malt vinegar as I discovered. White vinegar can be found in Asian supermarkets and is quite literally diluted acetic acid (5% to 8% acetic acid in water). This step is essential in obtaining a crisp rather than chewy crackling.

The siew yoke turned out absolutely delicious. Crispy crunchy crackling with soft moist meat interspersed with fat that melted in your mouth. Utterly moreish. And so simple to make even my mum was tempted to have a go!

Siew Yoke

Serves 4 (more if serving with other dishes)

Ingredients
900g slab of pork belly with skin
2 tsp table salt
1 tsp five-spice powder
½ tsp ground white pepper
1 tbsp white distilled vinegar
1 tbsp fine sea salt

  1. Dry the skin with kitchen towels if it’s damp. Pierce the skin all over with a fork or a sharp knife. Take care not to pierce through to the meat.
  2. Flip the pork belly over. Using a knife make cuts along the length of the meat, about 1/4 inch deep and 1 inch apart.
  3. Mix the table salt, five-spice powder and white pepper together. Pat the dry rub on the meat and sides, avoiding the skin.
  4. Line a baking tray with aluminium foil. Turn the pork belly over skin side up and place on a wire rack over the baking tray. Refrigerate uncovered overnight.
  5. Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celcius.
  6. When ready to roast, brush white vinegar over the skin and sprinkle liberally with fine sea salt.
  7. Pour water into the tray until it comes up to a couple of inches high, without wetting the bottom of the pork belly. Roast for 50 minutes.
  8. To crisp the skin, change your oven setting to grill (medium to medium high heat) and move the tray to the uppermost shelf of the oven. Alternatively, I used my separate grill to do this step. Leave the oven door slightly ajar. This step will take between 20 to 30 minutes. Watch it like a hawk. The skin will start blistering and browning quicker on the sides and corners so a nifty trick is to tear off bits of aluminium foil and cover the bits that are browning quicker. Turn your tray and move it around under the grill to get the best coverage.
  9. Once cooked, remove from the oven and rest for 10 minutes (the meat, not you!).
  10. Turn it over skin side down and slice in bite-sized chunks with a large sharp knife.

We had the pork with some chicken rice, tofu, stir-fried choy sum, sliced cucumber, chilli sauce and ginger sauce. I’ll do another post for the rice and sauces soon!