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Archive for September, 2009

Jerk Chicken

Jerk Chicken

The Mayor’s Thames Festival was a few weeks ago and Erika and I spent some time there browsing the stalls and tucking in to some of food and drink that was on offer. We looked out for the amazing jerk chicken stall that we visited a couple of years ago but were unable to find it – eventually we got too hungry and settled for some lukewarm chinese food which was very disappointing.

This restarted the fire in my heart for jerk chicken. We tried it once before and despite the number of ingredients it tasted quite bland. Some surfing online revealed a recipe from Levi Roots (I adored his ‘Caribbean Food Made Easy’ series that was recently on TV). Initially the number of ingredients put me off but I soon realised we had most of them in the cupboard.

I made the marinade and covered the chicken with it. This went into the fridge overnight and the next day cooked it under the grill, regularly basting with more of the spicy marinade. I served the chicken with some corn salsa (sweetcorn, spring onion, chilli, salt and pepper and a dash of olive oil) and roasted sweet potato wedges which I sprinkled with all-purpose seasoning.

Overall it was a huge improvement on last time; still not as good as the jerk stall at the Thames Festival though. I think that is because they smoke the chicken as it is cooked on the barbeque, something which cannot be reproduced under the grill. The wedges were great (except for the use of all purpose seasoning), and although they didn’t crisp up up they were lovely and soft inside, and the corn salsa provided a zingy accompaniment to the dish.

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Chilli Con Carne

Chilli con carne

I like to vary the carbohydrates that I eat during the week, alternating between rice, potatoes, pasta and bread. When we’re thinking of something to have with rice, chilli frequently comes to mind. It’s delicious, simple to make and keeps well in the freezer – although my leftovers are often taken to work for lunch the next day. For some reason there’s no mention of chilli con carne on this blog so I thought I’d change that.

Chilli is similar to bolognese in that everyone has their own recipe and secret ingredients. Sit a few cooks down together and bring up the topic of the ultimate chilli con carne recipe and you’ll have hours of conversation over the best meats (either ground or diced chunks), whether beans should be added or not, the amount of tomato to use… I’m going to give my recipe but don’t take it as gospel. Use more or less beans, diced beef instead of minced beef, more or less chilli – it’s up to you.

This time I used British Cherry Bomb chillis – they’re pendant shaped and can be quite potent. Any other type of fresh chilli, or even dried chilli flakes will do.

Chilli also tastes better when made a few days in advance. Once cooked, leave to cool then put in the fridge and reheat gently before serving.

Chilli Con Carne
Serves 2 to 3 people
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: at least an hour

1 onion, half sliced, the other half diced
1 cherry bomb chilli, diced (include the seeds if you want it hot)
1 large clove garlic, minced
350g lean minced beef
1 beef stock cube
1/2tsp cumin
1 tin good quality chopped tomatoes
1/2 tbsp tomato puree
1tsp chilli powder
1tsp oregano
dash of red wine (optional)
olive oil
salt and pepper

Start by dry fying the mince in a pan until browned, strain then set aside.

Fry the onion, garlic and chilli in a little oil over a low heat until softened – this will take between 5 and 10 minutes. Add the cumin, chilli powder and oregano to the onions and stir before adding the cooked minced beef. Next add the tomato puree, tinned tomatoes, beef stock cube and some salt and pepper and stir well. Pour in the red wine if using – I often freeze leftover red wine in an ice cube tray and use a couple of cubes in this dish.

Leave to simmer uncovered for at least an hour – add some water if it gets too dry. Serve with some boiled rice, a jacket potato or even some nachos.

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Quesadillas - a quick and easy dinner

So we’re back after a month or so away. It took a while to get everything unpacked and also to get used to cooking in a new kitchen. What with all the stress involved with moving, Erika and I lost our appetites and our desire to try new things in the kitchen but I can safely say that the appetite has returned! This was confirmed today by spending much of the afternoon scoffing chinese food, hot chocolate and a deliciously sweet honeycomb and chocolate mousse at the Thames Festival.

After all that munching only a light dinner was required and quesadillas fitted the bill. They’re really tasty and take just three minutes each to make. Firstly, get your fillings ready in advance (I chose red onion, diced cooked chicken, sweetcorn and some red jalapeños; Erika had mushrooms, chicken and sweetcorn), grate some mature cheddar cheese then heat a little oil in a large frying pan. Spread a tortilla with some tomato purée, place it purée up in the pan then add your toppings as well as plenty of cheese. Top with another tortilla, then cook for around a minute, turn, then cook for a couple of minutes on the other side, giving it a good squeeze with a spatula to compress everything.

Slice into 6 then enjoy. We had ours with a simple salad.

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