Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Perfect Roast Potatoes

Yes, i know, i fail again, posting these two days after the day it was important...but at least next weekend you'll have both recipes to try out! There's no real science to these, and assuming you follow the steps each time, you should have perfectly turned out roasties every time.

You will need the following ingredients:

500g (Roughly 1lb) of Potatoes
Tablespoon of Peanut or Grape Nut Oil
Garlic Powder
Sea Salt

Utensils needed:

Medium Saucepan
Roasting Tin
Sharp Knife
Chopping Board

As always, preheat the oven before you start. Set it to Gas Mark 5 (375° Fahrenheit / 190° Celsius). Prep your roasting tin first. Pour the oil into the tin, and try and spread the oil to all the corners of the tin. I use peanut or grape nut oil primarily due to it being far healthier than sunflower or rapeseed (canola) oil, as well as having a high flashpoint. Sprinkle a little of the Garlic Powder into the tin, try not to use too much. You can use a crushed or chopped clove of garlic if you prefer, although you stand the risk of getting burnt, roasted bits of garlic on your potato's, so i stick to the powdered - the taste is much the same. Sprinkle a large pinch of sea salt into the pan. Try not to use iodised powdery salt - it's overpowering and easy to use too much of it.

DON'T PEEL YOUR POTATO'S! The skin contains a lot of the potato's nutrients for one, and without the skin, the potatoes won't crisp up as much. However, de-eye them and chop out any bad bits, then chop your potato's into quarters, or however you like them. I recommend smaller chunks for quicker cooking, and easily managed portions.

Place the potatoes into your saucepan, and add another large pinch of salt, then cover over with boiling water. Bring to the boil and simmer for roughly 15 minutes.

This is a process called 'par-boiling', you're breaking down the starches inside the potato, softening them just enough, and also making them moist in the middle. Roasting a potato from raw makes them dry and a little tasteless.

Strain them off with a colander, and decant them into the roasting tin. Due to the loss of moisture when roasting, the potatoes *will* shrink a little, so you can usually fit a few more potatoes in the tin than you might think! Shake the tin so you can the garlic oil all over the potato's as much as possible - the edges of the potatoes will fluff up, don't worry about this, it's exactly what we're after.

All that's left now, is to add them to the oven. Assuming you're doing them alongside the chicken in the recipe below, and started the boiling the potato's at the same time you put the chicken in the oven, the remaining time should be more than sufficient. A little trick to make them extra crispy, is 15 minutes before the oven timer runs out, take the potatoes out of the oven, and using a pallet knife if necessary, flip the potato's around, again re-coating them in the oil, on the sides that haven't been crisped up.

The end result should look like this:

As with all the recipes i upload - i'd love to hear any feedback from you if you try this recipe!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Perfect Roast Chicken with Cream Gravy

So, it's a weekend, and i love a roast dinner on Sundays more than anything - doesn't matter what, but it always gives me a warm, homely feeling i think everyone is aware of. Problem is...not everyone knows how to roast a chicken properly, and although it's not hard to do, it can be screwed up. Have no fear though, for i shall attempt to walk you through the process of making the perfect roast chicken for a sunday lunch, but be warned, the gravy that goes along with this is hardly the definition of healthy!

You will need the following ingredients:

1 Large Chicken - weight between 1.25 and 1.5kg (2.75 to 3.3lb)
4 Rashers of Rindless Back Bacon
1 Chicken Stock Cube, or one teaspoon of powdered Chicken Stock
1 Dessertspoon of Plain White Flour

Utensils needed:

Roasting Tin
Carving Board
Carving Fork
Carving Knife
Balloon Whisk
Gravy Boat if you're so inclined.

First, it's imperative that you pre-heat the oven Gas Mark 5 (375° Fahrenheit / 190° Celsius), before you do anything - the oven must be hot before you put the prepared chicken into the oven!

Once pre-heated, it's simple enough to prepare. Now i'm going to be a little bit obvious here, for the benefit of anyone reading that has not done this before. After unwrapping the chicken from it's packaging, check the main cavity to ensure there are NO giblets in there. Most pre-packed ones in France sell them separately, but your local supermarkets or butchers may differ. After you've verified that it's clear, place the chicken in a roasting tin, leaving any string tying it together in place.

Now for the interesting bit. You can quite happily place the chicken in the oven at this point, no-one's going to berate you for doing so - if you like, go right ahead. However, i layer bacon over the top of the chicken at this point. Why? Well, have you ever had a roast chicken, and the meat is a bit on the dry side? Thought so. It comes from there being not enough fat on the breast. 

Bacon cures this problem AND adds that little extra to the flavour of the bird as a whole. See, by using back bacon, with the fat on, as the bacon itself cooks, layered on top of the chicken, the fat is slowly and consistently released into the meat, and the meaty part of the bacon acts like a lid - keeping the moisture IN the meat. 

So, layer the bacon over the chicken as shown below, keeping the line of fat in the same place.

Try and cover the legs too if you can - on this chicken, i used only 4 rashers, but larger ones can use more, but as with all my recipes, you can use as little or as much as you like.

Put it in the oven, using the rule of thumb as 1 hour for every kilo (2.2lb) of weight. As this one was 1.25kg, it was put in the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Now it's in the oven, take your stock cube, and crush it with a pestle and mortar. This isn't needed if you're using ready powdered stock. Mix in with the heaped spoonful of plain white flour and leave to one side.

After the time is up, check the chicken is cooked in the middle by taking the roasting tin out of the oven, and using a carving fork, tip the chicken upright, so that any juices in the cavity run out into the tin. If the juices are clear then the chicken is sufficiently cooked. If the juices are still red with blood, it's NOT cooked through enough, and should be put back in the oven for at least another 15 minutes, before checking again.

If everything checks out however, transfer the chicken from the pan to your carving board, leaving the juices in the tin, like so:

Now, this is where you start having fun! While the chicken is resting on the board, transfer the tin, with the juices still in it, onto the stove. Turn the heat onto low, and in a few seconds the juices should be bubbling away. Take the flour/stock mix, and add to the pan, stirring vigorously with the balloon whisk until you have a thick paste.

Start adding milk slowly whilst whisking, little at a time, as if it were a roux. The trick is to never let the gravy settle, keep it moving to remove any lumps of flour. Keep thinning it out until you're just past the consistency you're after, as once this cools, it will thicken. The end result should look something like this.

At this point, and if you have one, you can decant this into the gravy boat, ready to serve. The end result, along with some of the potato's from the forthcoming recipe, should make an excellent dinner!

See? Dead easy, and just in time for sunday afternoon, too :D

Friday, 18 November 2011

Chilli con Carne

This is a longtime favourite of mine. It's simply moorish, once you have a plateful, you want more. Guaranteed that if you make this, there will be nothing but clean plates and large grins all round! Now, i'm not entirely sure if it's authentic enough to be classed as 'Mexican' food, especially how this is being served, but i'm hoping that after having eaten it - you won't really care! :D

You will need the following ingredients:

600 grams (1.3lb) of Minced Beef (i prefer fresh, frozen seems to lose it's integrity and falls apart too easily!)
Two Large White Onions
One Can of Diced Tomato's
One Can of Kidney Beans or Pinto beans
One Clove of Crushed Garlic or a large spoon of Garlic Granules
Tomato Puree or Passata
Two OXO Cubes
Cayenne Pepper
Tabasco Sauce
225grams (8 oz) of Grated Gruyere Cheese (can use Cheddar, or whatever you want, but Gruyere melts nicely)
One Tub of Sour Cream or Creme Fraiche
One Large bag of Tortilla Chips (Cheese flavoured, if you can get them!)

Utensils needed:

Large Saucepan
Wooden Spoon
Large Pyrex Oven Dish or Similar
Sharp Knife
Chopping Board

Now, in case that list was a little on the long side, i laid out all the ingredients for you, so you can visualise it:

First things first - preheat your oven to Gas Mark 4 (350° Fahrenheit / 180° Celsius) - you'll find out why later! Now that's out the way, put a large knob of butter in the saucepan. Chop up both onions, and put in the saucepan with the garlic, and make sure you put the lid on, and turn the heat down to low - we don't want to burn the onions, just sweat them off.  

After about 10 minutes, they should be beautifully soft. At this point you want to add the minced beef, try and break it up into strands - you don't want it to clump together, if you can help it. Turn the heat up, and keep stirring every minute or two to brown the mince. Once the mince has been browned off, add the OXO cubes, crumbling them over evenly, before stirring them in. For Americans, i'm not sure of what you could use as a substitute, but if you have a Publix anywhere nearby, they *may* stock them in the 'World Foods' section, or get some off Amazon.com (yes, that's right, Amazon!). Anyway, after stirring, you should end up with something that looks like this:

Looks similar to the Lasagne recipe from June, right? That's cause up until now, it pretty much is...but here is where the similarities end, and i throw you a curve ball, ha! :P

Take your can of beans, and drain off the liquid, and rinse them in some cold water in a sieve. Add them to the mince, and stir in. Add the can of tomato's. Now add the tomato puree or passata - it's used to thicken the sauce, so just go with what you think looks right. Now comes the important part - spices. This recipe is adaptable, you can use as much, or as little spice, as you like. I like a chilli with a bit of a kick, but not enough to make my eyes water, so i put in 2 heaped teaspoons of paprika, and 2 heaped teaspoons of cayenne pepper, and a large slug of tabasco sauce for good measure. If you have a whole chilli you want to submerge in there, like a naga, or a habanero, go right ahead, but be VERY careful you don't overdo it, otherwise you're liable to...erm...explode! :)

Turn the heat down low once again, and simmer for roughly ten minutes to allow the spices to permeate and the sauce to thicken. End result should resemble this:

Turn the heat off, we're ready for the final phase - the topping. What's that you hear? Topping? On a Chilli?! Yes - trust me on this, it works!

Decant the chilli into your Pyrex dish (i swear the amount of this stuff i use, i should be employed as a spokesman...), and give it a little shake, to get the chilli levelled out, like this:

Open the bag of Tortilla chips, and layer them all over the top, just try not to go overboard...it's always nice to have a handful while you wait, afterall ;)

Take a few heaped spoonfuls of the sour cream or creme fraiche, and dollop it into the middle of the tortilla's - not a very elegant description i know, but run with me on this. You want a reasonably thick layer, that covers almost all of the tortilla's. On top of this, take the grated Gruyere cheese, and sprinkle it alllll over. Use *ALL* of it, don't skimp!

Now put it in the oven for around 5 minutes, until the cheese melts, and starts to bubble - the tips of the tortilla's *may* get toasted, but that's perfectly okay.

Take it out of the oven and admire your handiwork:

Now my serving suggestion would be to take this, and run off to devour it all by yourself, but that's not very professional, or healthy, seeing at it should feed four people easily. Goes well with plain white rice, or a jacket potato...or even just on its own, if you fancy it.

One final thing - if you make it, i'd like you to leave a comment, and tell me how you got on, ok? :)

Sausage Gravy

Yes, this post has been a long time coming - it was supposed to be uploaded at the same time, or near enough, to the southern style biscuit recipe, however, numerous things got in the way and i just plain forgot...until now!

Anyway, thankfully, it's a simple enough recipe, easy to do in a few minutes, assuming you have the ingredients.

You will need the following ingredients:

Sausagemeat (pork or beef will do nicely, just avoid the stuff thats *too* lean)
Heaped Tablespoon of White Flour
Coarse Ground Black Pepper
Knob of Salted Butter

Utensils needed:

Small Saucepan
Wooden Spoon

Like i said the actual method is easy. Simply put a knob of butter in the saucepan and melt on a low heat. Take the sausagemeat out of the packet and break it up into the pan using your fingers. Brown the sausagemeat for a few minutes.

Add the tablespoon of flour, try and sprinkle it over evenly. I personally add at least 5 large grinds of black pepper, although this isn't mandatory, it gives the gravy it's 'heat', so really, you can use as much or as little as you like.

Stir through thoroughly, making sure there are no clumps of flour. Turn the heat down to low, and pour in the milk, little at a time, stirring throughout, ensuring you get the correct consistency, and no lumps in the gravy. Technically, this is a variant on a roux (as in the tunafish pie recipe).

After about 3 minutes of adding milk and stirring, you should end up with the finished product.

Now make yourself some biscuits to go along with this, and enjoy yourself! :)