Chicken katsu curry

The weather is getting a little chilly, and I’m definitely looking for some more rib-sticking food these days.

On the meal plan for today is katsu. I make it about once a month. It’s a little messy, but really good.

Two chicken breasts out of the freezer, each sliced in three and left in a tub of buttermilk in the fridge last night. Normally it’s be four or five pieces let breast for quick cooking and maximum crispy coating, and I’ll go back to this next time. Three wasn’t quite right.

This evening I washed sushi rice and stick it in the rice cooker. Oil into frying pan, and the magic plastic tubs out.

The large one is plain panko. The smaller has seasoned flour – salt, pepper and garlic granules. Last is the chicken, with the buttermilk poured off but with some still clinging on.

This is very much a “dry hand, wet hand” recipe, or you’ll end up caked in batter. Even then you’ll end up washing your hands a lot as you proceed due to glue fingers or raw chicken handling. Cross contamination is no one’s friend.

Flour the chicken by putting half in the tub, firmly putting the lid on, and shaking the daylights out of it. Then repeat.

Add enough water to the flour to get a nice thick batter – like pancake batter. It needs to cling on without leaving too thick a coating.

Then into the panko for a good shaking…

…then into the pan.

Keep each batch warm in the oven as the next cooks. Don’t overload the pan, as it lowers the temp and risks ripping the panko off the chicken, which would be tragic..

I made up half a pack of Golden Curry, which is the standard Curry sauce for katsu, and was lurking at the back of the fridge.

Tah dah!

That’ll cure a case of the Mondays!

Planning the week

The planner pad worked well last week, especially as it stopped me stuffing the presses further with bits and pieces.

The sum total of all groceries this week has been perishables (mostly bread and dairy), some fruit, baby things, two fajita dinner kits (€3 on special, which is cheaper than a single packet of tortillas), garlic granules, frozen chips and tinned plum tomatoes. Everything that went into the basket was a completion of pantry ingredients for a planned meal, apart from the fajita kits which I tend to stock up on when they’re going cheap.

Tonight’s dinner was simple as it gets. 28 day aged striploin and chips. Blue.

Steak from the freezer, bought a couple of weeks ago at the butcher.

I’ve actually got two freezers, truth be told. In the kitchen there’s a standard fridge freezer, which is about half of each. I’ve also got an under counter sized one in the box bedroom. It’s a leftover from when we were renting and only ever had tiny freezer compartments. It came in very handy at the end of my pregnancy, as I batch cooked and filled it solid, which kept us going for the first month with a newborn. I’d like to get it turned off and back into the shed though, as there’s no major need for it right now.

I’ve used steak, wings, chicken breasts and chips out of it this week, and there’s some space freeing up at last. I’m hoping to take some bits to work for lunches this week too. It’s hot lunch weather here, and cheese toastier get boring after a while.

Two tubs with some lasagne for tomorrow, and a huge tub of soup for Tuesday and Wednesday. It’s apparently sweet potato, but I can’t remember after that.

Also, a “before” of my dried goods press. Argh.

In theory it’s full of jars of flours, pulses, oats and the like, plus bottles of oils as it’s one of my taller presses. In reality it’s full of crap that doesn’t belong in it. There’s a half sheet pan and a couple of huge sandwich tins; a 30 cm cake board, a very nice whistling kettle that my current hob doesn’t love but that I love. Baking parchment, cling wrap and foil. Random things like a can of coconut peanuts and a single curtain tie back *mortified* that was stuck there to get it out of the way and has lived there since.

This needs a massive rethink, as I’ve a 10 kg bag of rice that could do with living on the bottom shelf. It’s also a combination avalanche/Tetris situation every time I need to get at the plain flour or chickpeas. I’m probably going to attack this in bits during the week, but I’d like it sorted before end of the month!

Buffalo wings

I’ve grown fond of hot wings over the last couple of years, but they’re something I’m aware are usually hideously unhealthy. I make my own at home, and no one believes they’re not deep fried! I know that’s also usually a b.s. claim in a magazine where the end result usually tastes of cardboard and sadness, but these really are awesome.

Hot oven is key. Mine is a fan, and I preheat it to 200C for a good 20 – 30 mins.

For two people, I take a large snappy lid plastic tub and add one tablespoon of Old Bay seasoning and about three of plain flour, and a pinch of salt. Lid on and shake to combine. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Pop about 16 wings into the flour tub, double check that the lid is securely on, and shake the daylights out of it. Arrange on sheet with a decent bit of room around each. Into oven for 15 mins, flip each over, then return to oven for another 10.

The magic buffalo sauce that wing places serve is magic because of one amazing, makes-everything-taste-better ingredient – BUTTER!

In a small pan I combine about 2 tablespoons each of butter and Franks Red Hot sauce ( the original one only, please. And no subbing Tabasco – I love the stuff but the consistency isn’t what we want here). Heat over a very low heat, stirring as the butter melts, and it will emulsify into that glorious, orangey sauce. Check heat levels, and keep warm.

To minimise washing up, I skip the additional step of tossing the wings and sauce together in a large bowl, and just pour over, making sure they all get a little coverage.

Et voila!

Along with a few chips and some sour cream (with a little seasoning stirred in) it wasn’t half bad for a Monday night, and all from my heaving freezer and pantry!

I also picked this little doohickey up in Flying Tiger at the weekend, and have started filling it in.

I’m rubbish at writing down meal plans, so this magnetic pad on the fridge should help! Not sure yet what the plan is for Wednesday or Sunday, but have the rest of the week at least, and with a minimum of shopping required. I’ve a bag of spinach that needs eating, so that’ll need to feature in the next couple of days.

Black turtle beans and canellini beans are soaking already. I’ll cook one each in my pressure cooker tomorrow and Wednesday nights. It’s a bit of faff, but the texture is very different to canned beans, and is largely worth the extra time. That said, the chickpeas and kidney beans for this wont be from dried as I’ve already got some in the press. I’ll start the chilli cooking on Thursday, so on Friday it will just need polishing off. That’s the plan anyway!

Happy New Year!

Our New Year’s Eve was spent sitting on the sofa, watching movies and having a few G&Ts with a small boy snoozing on us. Truth be told, I didn’t even make it to midnight, but that doesn’t really bother me. I’m not a big fan of the whole thing, to be frank.

That said, there was an absolute barrage of very loud, very illegal fireworks at midnight, so I can at least say I was awake for it. Small boy slept through, which I was grateful for and a little shocked by. He can hear a babybel being unwrapped from 20 yards!

A lot of people are involved in Veganuary this year. I can tell by the fact that Hellmann’s have jumped on the bandwagon, and that this is for sale in my local regular, small-ish supermarket

My past experience with vegan mayo has been underwhelming. The only brands available here were a bit too vinegar-y for my taste, and while the texture was fine they just weren’t quite to my taste. Now we’ve got some very popular American brands popping up left, right and centre, including Follow Your Heart and Amy’s, though not the range available Stateside.

This January I’ll be doing some veggie and vegan cooking (I have been both at different stages in my life) but my general theme for January is Iffits. As in, iffits in the pantry, it’s on the menu.

This is partly to cure the raging food hangover from the holidays, partly to force a little creativity, and largely to use things up. I’ve had a minor reorganizing session, and chucked out anything that didn’t pass muster one way or another.

This is now my first pantry press. Tah dah!

Largely spices and baking.

Top shelf has more honey than I thought I owned, some decorating bits, gluten free flour, syrups, jam and icing sugars, and odds and sods.

Middle shelf has extracts, sugars, raising agents, chocolate, and my awesome little nutmeg mill. My sushi vinegar and fish sauce won’t fit on the bottom shelf, so live here.

Bottom shelf then gets most use. Salts, peppers, spices, dried herbs, hot sauces, stock powders and general umami-bringers.

I’m not gonna lie, it’s neater than it has been in a while. I’ve also got added motivation now, seeing as I found two open packs of gluten free flour (we’re not GF, but a close friend is) and sodding THREE bottles of black peppercorns.

So yes, work in progress, but much tidier than my other presses. I’ll get to those next!

Time flies

The last six months have, quite frankly, been crazy. I went back to work after maternity leave, managing a lot of people on a big project, working through tea breaks and lunchtimes to make sure I’d finish in time for last call at crèche.

It hasn’t left a lot of brain space free for anything other than keeping us fed (featuring more takeaways and frozen pizza than I’d care to admit), in vaguely matching and clean clothing, and somewhere decent on the sleepometer. Some nights, that involved me going to bed at 9pm after an hour napping on the sofa.

There has been some really fun cooking in between the rounds of cereal for dinner. Almost all of these involved me swearing as I realized far too late that my now-eaten meal needed a photo.

My gorgeous boy turned one, and I baked a huge spread. 6 dozen cookies (largely good 9ld chocolate chip) 3 dozen cupcakes ( lemon and poppy drizzle, salted caramel with chocolate buttercream, and carrot cake with cream cheese icing, all with Hey Duggee toppers). There was a giant (24 cm!) multicoloured layer cake, sticky cocktail sausages, dozens of mini tartlets (chicken and pesto, fresh mozzarella and homemade marinara) and assorted dips and dippables. Did I get a photo of this huge spread?

Leftovers. Bloomin’ leftovers.

The gorgeous white chocolate cheesecake with raspberries or the pecan sheet cake I made for Christmas dinner at my in laws? Not a single photo. Any of the other birthday cakes I made this year? Not a one.

Today is a perfect example. Panfried salmon fillet with proper, homemade hollandaise, snapped in the three second gap before Charlotte potatoes and carrots were added to the plate and my son figured out there was food going (hence the sauce on the side. No undercooked eggs for toddlers, much to his indignation).

I haven’t made this sauce in ages. Partly because you know how much butter is actually involved, and partly because it’s not difficult to make but if you rush it you’ll end up with rather expensive and inedible scrambled eggs.

Totally worth a little window of concentration though, and a lovely way to see out the year. Hope it’s a good one!

Chocolate cherry cupcakes

It’s been a while, largely as a result of the fact that I’m back in work after maternity leave (*sob*) and cooking turned into a whatever-can-be-cobbled-together-and-eaten-as-quickly-as possible in the evening. I’m getting a little more into the routine now, but my experiments are still largely confined to the weekends still.

June is a five week month for payroll, and the emergency chocolate digestives have all been scoffed. Time to raid the presses and see what can be cobbled together without a trip to the shop!

There’s always plain flour, some butter and a couple of eggs knocking around. Some cooking chocolate (of the 72% cocoa variety, not wonderbar) usually lives on a high shelf unless something has gone pear-shaped during the month and it got scoffed.

A quick flick through How To Be A Domestic Goddess later, I was rummaging in the back of the fridge for the almost full jar of cherry jam that was lingering there since the last time I cooked duck (not madness, honestly. Quite delicious, in fact). Chocolate cherry cupcakes it is, albeit it minus the ganache as I’ve no cream at the moment.

Melt chocolate and butter, and whisk together. I love using the microwave for this.

Stir in caster sugar and jam.

Make sure the are no jammy clumps, then add vanilla. In go two beaten eggs. Fold in flour and salt, and baking powder in my case as I don’t usually keep self raising flour around.

Into cupcake cases, of which I am also running a little low, and into the oven for 25 minutes, which does seem like an age. Cross fingers that it’s not a typo.

These babies need ten minutes in the tin after they come out of the oven, then left to go cold on a rack. We didn’t quite manage. One test cupcake, for science.

Slightly crispy, sugary top, moist and fluffy center. Yum.

If you didn’t want to fang about with ganache to top, I think some quite stiffly whipped cream, with a little vanilla and spiked with kirsch would be fab, especially with a sprinkle of grated chocolate.

Not-veal parmigiana

Another one from “Jamie’s America”, and a real Italian American classic. I’ve eaten this in a few different places on two continents and it has varied wildly in style and, quite frankly, quality. The breaded meat is often deep fried (despite denials) and then whomped under a salamander with cheese on top. This usually results in over cooked, over oily meat, which is a pity as it should be a really delicious dish with lots going on.

Now, as well as veal, this can be made with either chicken breast or pork escallope, which is great as I’m generally not a big veal fan. I won’t eat traditional white veal, as I don’t want to have my few quid supporting the crate system. It is possible to get free range veal, which is still calf, but older and left outdoors with a milk-rich diet, but the resulting, far happier meat, is unfashionably pink in color, as well as being more expensive than the crated veal. Despite tasting better than its white counterpart, it’s simply deemed unsuitable for all white dishes like blanquette de veau.

Anyway, I’ve occasionally seen selected cuts of rosé veal in Marks and Spencer and in FX Buckley’s on Moore street in Dublin, if you fancy trying it.

Step one: make sauce.

IMG_20180316_181801796_HDR.jpg

This is a simple tomato sauce. Garlic, a couple of anchovies (don’t leave them out! You can’t taste them in the final dish, but you’d be completely missing the umami note without them), basil, and a can of tomatoes.

On tinned tomatoes – I’ve heard from multiple places that the tomato quality in the “whole plum” tins is much better than in the chopped, as it’s harder to get away with things with the whole tomato visible. Personally I find that a lot of chopped tomato brands, at various price levels, seem heavy on the juice and a bit low on the actual tomato flesh content, so I’ll usually pick the whole peeled plum variety. Plus I get a little childish glee from squeezing them over the pan in my fist until they burst!

Step two: chicken faffing.

A sucker for giving myself work, I made my own breadcrumbs from the tail end of a lovely sourdough loaf that was even past toasting. Add lemon zest, grated Parmesan and thyme leaves. Don’t forget to give the bowl a sniff – it’s a lovely, summery scent.

IMG_20180316_183823419_HDR.jpg

Sauce into the oven dish you’ll be using, and then it’s time to trim your chicken before engaging in a little stress relief.

IMG_20180316_184725968_HDR.jpg

Cling film or freeze bags are usually recommended here, but I used baking paper – I’m making an effort to cut my disposable plastic use, and the paper is also much less slippery. Beat the daylights out of the chicken breast with a rolling pin, wine bottle, or some other robust, heavy object. You want it to at least triple in area and be very evenly thin, but not to the point where it will break up as soon as you peel it off the paper.

IMG_20180316_185504638_HDR.jpg

Dust with flour, dip in egg and breadcrumb thoroughly. Into a hot pan with a nice glug of oil, for just a minute or two per side to brown the coating and then remove to a clean tea towel to get rid of any excess oil. Crispy, not greasy, is the goal.

Repeat with the next chicken breast, then pop both in the dish on topography the sauce. Break up a ball of buffalo mozzarella and dot over the top. Twenty minutes in a hot oven gives you enough time to clear the breadcrumby mess and get a simple side dish together. In my case, crushed new potatoes. A big spinach salad would be great too.

IMG_20180316_193918132_HDR.jpg

Tah dah!

This smelled amazing as it baked, and it was declared the favourite dish of the project so far. Clean plates all around.

This is going straight in the regular rotation, despite it being a little messy. I can’t recommend enough starting this with clear counter space and an empty sink and dishwasher as it’s heavy on dishes (chopping board, knives, several plates and bowls, oven dish, cutlery and two pans (if you don’t wash one after the sauce, like I did).

Getting those breadcrumbs on thickly, and in every little nook and cranny makes a huge difference. If your pan is only big enough to fry one at a time (which my standard 30cm one is) then do add extra oil after the first one is done. It may seem overkill, but it’s the difference between your lovely coating sticking to either the chicken or the pan.

Overall, two thumbs up. Now for a nap…