12 March 2016

Recipe: Fried buttermilk chicken

THERE SEEMS TO be a waft of fried chicken recipes circulating TV land at the moment.  I wonder why nobody has set up a street food stall at one of Edinburgh's farmers' markets, it would make a killing, don't you think? Marinating the chicken in buttermilk is the key to this one, it tenderises the meat and keeps it moist during cooking.  Here is my version of this awesome offering.

I always favour thighs over chicken breast.  They have far more flavour and are considerably cheaper, and although there is a little butchery required in this recipe, it's well worth the hassle.  It's crucial to leave the chicken in the buttermilk for a good 24 hours beforehand. I love keeping the skin of the thighs and crisping them up in the oven.  Just lay the skins flat on a baking tray and place a sheet of greaseproof paper over the top. Pop that in the oven (180C) for about 15 minutes and you'll have a crispy chicken snack that is simply irresistible.

This pocket-friendly dish will keep for a couple of days and is deal for freezing, too.  I made a chilli and garlic mayo to dip these delightful morsels into, but you could also chop them up in a tortilla wrap with the sauce and some salad for a tasty lunch or dinner.  Happy cooking!

Ingredients (serves four):

8x free-range chicken thighs, skinned, boned and cut in half
300mls buttermilk
2tbsp smoked paprika
2tsp dried thyme
2tsp dried oregano
Zest and juice of a lemon
150g plain flour
150g panko breadcrumbs
50g grated parmesan cheese
Sea salt
White pepper


1) Skin and bone the chicken thighs.  Depending on size, cut them into equal chunks.  Place the chicken, buttermilk and lemon juice in a bowl and mix until chicken in coated. Place in the fridge for at least 24 hours.

2) Turn on your deep fat fryer to 180C.  In a large food bag, place the flour, paprika, lemon zest, thyme, oregano, parmesan and seasoning.  Pour the breadcrumbs onto a plate.

3) Remove the chicken from the buttermilk and pop into the bag.  Toss vigourously to coat in the flour mix.  Once coated, place the chicken back in the buttermilk, then into the breadcrumbs and toss to coat.  The key to this is to use one hand to coat in the buttermilk, the other to coat with the breadcrumbs.

4) Next, place the chicken piece by piece into the fryer.  Make sure to place the chicken in away from you to avoid splashing the hot oil.  You may need to do this in batches depending on the size of your fryer.  Cook for 5-6 mins until the pieces start to float slightly.  Pop onto some kitchen paper when done.

5) Serve with a few different dips of your choice and a fresh salad.

7 March 2016

Recipe: Confit pork belly with black pudding, cauliflower cheese puree, kale and cider jus

A TRIP TO my beloved Manchester wouldn't be the same without rounding it off with a visit to Westmorland Farm Shop in Cumbria. As we head back up the M6 to Edinburgh, this little oasis provides a welcome change from the usual service station offerings of junk food and overpriced coffee house chains. On this occasion, I picked up some terrific black pudding and a hunk of my favourite meat - pork belly.  I couldn't wait to get home and start cooking.

I'm always impressed with the pricing at this particular farm shop.  Whilst I wholeheartedly welcome the influx of these businesses over the years, you often pay a premium, but Westmorland is refreshingly good value and offers just as good quality and service as any farm shop I've visited.

This pork belly recipe is one of my fondest of all of all recipes. I used to try and improve my cooking by making dishes from Gordon Ramsay's cookbooks before I enrolled at catering school in Glenrothes.  The first time I ever made pork belly was from one of Gordon's BBC Good Food Magazine recipes and although I've tried several different methods since, this one always achieves the best results.

I must mention black pudding before we get into the nitty-gritty of the recipe.  I've done a few recipes on my blog with it over the years and was delighted when it was announced as a superfood.  I think it goes so well with pork and the combinations of the sweet meat, earthy cauliflower puree and the black pudding are just heavenly.  

This is quite an indulgent dish despite the fact that it's relatively pocket-friendly.  It's also an ideal main course for having guests over at the weekend because it can (bar the black pudding) be made in advance and warmed up.  The cider jus is crucial, as it provides the acidity necessary to cut through the richness of the main ingredients. We all know that pork and apple is a perfect match!

Ingredients (serves 2):

For the pork:

600g pork belly, fat scored
Bulb of garlic, cut in half
2 separate garlic cloves, sliced
500mls vegetable or rapeseed oil
2tsbp Chinese five spice
Good quality sea salt

Cauliflower cheese puree: 

1/2 cauliflower, cut into florets
1 shallot, finely diced
Pint of milk
1 organic chicken stock cube
Good knob of Butter (I use Abernethy Butter)
100g Cheddar cheese (I used Keen's), grated
50g Parmesan, grated
White pepper

2 pieces of black pudding
1 bottle of cider
250g kale
Rapeseed oil
Sea salt
Organic black pepper


1) Stir the five spice into a few glugs of oil, add the salt and sliced garlic. Rub all over the pork, especially in between the slits in the skin. Place the pork in a snug-fitting tray and wrap in cling film.  Leave in fridge overnight, if not for 24 hours.

2) When ready to remove from the fridge, boil the kettle and turn the oven on to 200C.  Very carefully pour the boiling water over the skin.  This will help to achieve the perfect crackling. Place the pork back in the tray along with the sliced bulb of garlic.  Top up with oil until the flesh is covered and the skin just above the level of the oil.  Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt onto the skin.  Place in the oven for 20 mins then turn heat down to 150C.  Leave in the oven for four hours. When tender, remove from the oven and pat dry.

*TIP* These first two steps can be done a day or two in advance.  The pork belly will just need a quick blast in the oven to reheat.

3) Turn oven on at 180C. Melt the butter in a pan and sweat the shallot fo 6-7 mins.  Add the cauliflower florets and the stock cube then cover with the milk.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bring to the boil and turn down to a simmer.  This dish does need frequent stirring.

4) Once the cauliflower is on, pour the cider into a saucepan and bring to the boil.  Turn down the heat and allow to reduce until an almost treacle-like consistency is achieved - the acidity is crucial for cutting through the richness of the dish.

5) When the cauliflower is tender, blitz with a stick blender or in a food processor until smooth. Beat in the cheese and correct the seasoning.  Remember the cheese is salty, so watch how much salt you had beforehand. Set aside. Turn the grill on to a high heat.

6) When the puree is made, place the kale in a steamer for around 5-6 mins.  At the same time, place the pork belly under the grill for a couple of minutes to crispen the crackling.  Set aside for a few minutes to rest.

7) Place a non-stick frying pan onto a medium-high heat.  Place the black pudding into the dry pan and cook for 1-2 mins on either side as you plate.

8) Ladle the warmed up cauliflower cheese puree onto your plate.  Put a chunk of the rested pork belly on along with a portion of kale.  Next, put the cooked black pudding on.  Drizzle with a little of the cider jus and serve.