28 April 2016

Recipe: Classic chicken Kiev with buttered Jersey Royals

IS THERE A better retro dish to hark back to than the chicken Kiev?  For me, you can't beat that waft of garlic as it smacks you in the face when you open the oven door.

Making them at home really doesn't require much time or effort at all. It's one of those dishes that gives you so much satisfaction that you just want to put your cutlery down and lie back in your chair with a big smile on your face.

Ingredients (serves 2):

2x free-range chicken breasts
125g butter, softened (I always use Abernethy butter)
3 garlic cloves, grated
Bunch of Parsley, chopped
150g plain flour
2 free-range eggs, beaten
200g panko breadcrumbs
Small packet of Jersey Royals
Good quality sea salt

Sweetcorn to accompany


1) Turn the oven on to 180C and have a deep fat frying on at 190C. Mix the butter, garlic, parsley and a pinch of salt together.  Set aside.

2) Remove the fillet from the chicken breast. With a sharp knife, make an incision straight down the thickest part of the breast, being careful not to cut straight through. The aim is to make a pocket for the butter.  Next, make gentle slicing motions to either side of the initial slit to open up the breast. Stuff with the butter and carefully prise the chicken back together (it should stick together a little).  Bash out the fillet slightly, and gently press onto the incision to seal.

3) Have the flour, panko breadcrumbs and beaten egg mix ready.  Place the breast in the flour, ensuring it's covered all over, then repeat the process with the egg wash before placing in the panko breadcrumbs, flipping to coat. If this fails to coat it well enough, pop the chicken back into the egg wash and back into the breadcrumbs. This can be messy so try and use one hand for the dry parts, the other for the egg.

4) Place the Jersey Royals in a pot and fill with cold water.  Bring to a boil and cook for 8-10 mins until tender.  Drain.

5) Carefully place the Kiev into the deep fat fryer, placing it away from you. Cook for 3-4 mins until golden. Drop onto some kitchen paper and repeat for the other Kiev.  Place into the oven for a further 5 mins to finish off.

6) While the Kievs are in the oven, place a couple of handfuls of sweetcorn in a pan.  Boil the kettle and fill the pan with water. Melt a knob of butter in a pan and add the Jersey Royals.

7) Remove the Kievs from the oven and drain the corn.  Finish the potatoes with the remaining chopped parsley. Serve.

23 April 2016

Recipe: Toad-in-the-hole with peas and onion gravy

I'M FORTUNATE THAT my mum always made my family Yorkshire puddings from scratch.  I really can't think of anything sadder than a big roast dinner with those disgusting pre-made 'products' out of a packet. On the other hand, I can't think of a more comforting supper sausages, a tasty onion gravy with peas all housed in a giant Yorkie - that's my type of grub.

We all know by now that James Martin has left Saturday Kitchen and watching him make this dish on his latest show, Kitchen Comforts, put me in the mood for toad-in-the-hole.  I have sausages for tea once a week and I love trying different butchers' efforts.  Many of you will be prone to buying your sausages from the supermarket, but I urge you to give your local butcher a try; you'll notice the difference in quality straight away - even against premium supermarket offerings.

Ingredients (serves 4):

12x butcher's sausages (I like sampling different varieties)
Four medium onions, sliced
200g organic plain flour, sifted
Six free-range eggs
Pinch of sea salt
Tbsp English mustard
Pint of full fat organic milk
Pint of chicken stock
150g peas
75g beef dripping
25g butter
White pepper


1) First, make the batter.  Place the eggs in a bowl with the sifted flour, pinch of salt and mustard then add gradually add the milk, whisking as you go.  Whisk until the ingredients are incorporated and leave in the fridge overnight (If you just fancy it but can't wait, rest it for at least 20 mins before using).

2) Turn the oven on at 220C/Gas mark 7. Place a frying pan on a medium heat.  Add a splash of oil and colour the sausages all over.  Set aside and cool the pan down slightly.

3) Add a tsp of beef dripping and place on a low heat.  Sweat the onions for 10-12 mins until soft and starting to colour.  Add the beef stock and gently simmer in order to reduce.

4) Add the beef dripping into a deep oven dish and place in the oven to melt.  Allow it to reach a high heat in the oven (it should be sizzling when you drop a little of the batter mix in).

5) Work from the oven at this point, being careful not to splash the hot dripping on yourself.  Add the sausages quickly followed by the batter.  Return to the oven and keep the door shut for at least 35 mins.

6) In the meantime, your gravy should be reducing down, but make sure to stir now and again.  In a pot of boiling, salted water, blanch the peas for a minute then set aside.

7) After 35 mins, check that the toad-in-the-hole isn't starting to burn.  Turn the oven down to around 180C for further 8-10 mins. Remove and allow to rest for 5 mins before serving.

8) Melt the butter in a pan.  Add the peas and season.  Allow to warm through for a minute or so.

9) Divide the toad-in-a-hole into portions and serve with the peas and a big glug of onion gravy.

13 April 2016

Fakeaway lunch: Tarka dal

I AM GUILTY of indulging in the odd curry at lunchtime, with The Mosque Kitchen, Punjabi Junction and Desi Pakwan being my regular haunts. I was recently told by the team at BBC Kitchen Cafe that my file has me down as a 'huge meat eater', so I thought I better make a vegetarian contribution to slightly alter that perception. Tarka dal is my usual choice so here is my take on it.

A huge meat eater I am, but I am also heavy with my spice usage.  I have mentioned on here before sitting at my Nan's as a child grinding spices with a pestle and mortar, and although I have graduated to an electric spice grinder (that once masqueraded as a coffee grinder), I still get a tremendous amount of pleasure from the old-fashioned methods.  Spice grinding is a bit of an art form and it's very easy to over blend your spices when using an electric grinder, resulting in a bitter taste to your mix.  You have far more control with a pestle and mortar, so it's worth making room for one in your kitchen.  If you do use a machine, the key is to blend in short pulses and to use your sense of smell as a guide.

Ingredients (serves two):

250g dried yellow split peas or red lentils
1x small red onion, finely diced
3 cloves, garlic, sliced
Thumb-sized piece, ginger, finely chopped or grated
3 green chillis, pricked with a fork
1 red bullet chilli, chopped (optional if you want more heat)
Tin of good quality chopped tomatoes
1tsp organic tomato puree
1tbsp cumin seeds
1tbsp coriander seeds
1tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp turmeric
Few sprigs of coriander, chopped
Few sprigs of Parsley chopped
Vegetable stock to cover
Sea salt


1) Cook the yellow split peas in the stock for 45-50 mins until tender. Drain in a sieve, keeping some of the stock for later and allow to cool.

2) Place a frying pan on a medium heat.  Add the whole spices for 10-12 seconds. When the aroma hits your nose, place them into your pestle and mortar or grinder and crush to a fine powder.  Add the remaining spices and set aside.

3) Sweat the onion for 5-6 mins then add the ginger, garlic, green chillis and red chilli (if using) for a further minute.  Add the tomato puree and stir for another minute.  Now add the spice mix and the tinned tomatoes.

4) Add the split peas or lentils to this mix with a pinch of salt and add a couple of ladles of the stock set aside earlier. Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer for around 15 mins. Be careful not to overcook or you will make it mushy and lose the texture of the peas.

5) This dish is ready to eat, but for best results, leave in the fridge overnight to develop those flavours.  Simply pop it into a takeaway dish and take it for your lunch, reheat in a microwave or a pot. Serve with some delicious bread or a microwaveable packet of rice. Tasty, healthy and simple to make!