Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Something amazing! Easy chicken strips with smoky chilli sauce.

I made something awesome for dinner. I call it: Easy chicken strips with smoky chilli sauce.


6 dried chillies, including smoky-type chillies.

1 tin chopped tomatoes.

3 boneless chicken breasts.


Ground cumin.
Ground coriander.
Ground black pepper.
Garlic powder.

3 cloves garlic.

(Vary seasonings according to taste.)

Chilli soak stage

First, boil some water and put in the dried chillies. I have a little dried chilli collection.

I used: 1 naga jolokia, 1 ancho poblano, 1 guajillo, 2 chipotle, 1 pasilla. As long as you use a few smoky type chillies it should be fine. Dried chipotle is smoky, and easy to find. I got many of my chillies from South Devon Chilli Farm, which has descriptions.

Turn the heat off and let the chillies soak in hot water while you do other things.

Chicken strip stage

Prepare a bowl of milk and a bowl of flour. Add salt, ground black pepper, and garlic powder to the flour and mix.

I used skinless boneless chicken breast, but I think it would be better with skin-on. Then you'll get the crispy skin. It's the best bit!

Cut the chicken into strips.

Dip the strips into the milk bowl followed by the flour bowl, then fry until crispy and cooked through. Drain chicken strips on a plate lined with kitchen roll.

Carb stage

We had rice, so at this stage I cooked the rice in the rice cooker. Prepare the carb of your choice.

Sauce stage

Blend the soaked chillies (stems removed, and de-seeded if you want) with a little bit of the chilli water and three cloves of garlic.

Heat some oil in a pan.

Add chilli mixture to the pan.

Add your seasonings: oregano, ground cumin, and ground coriander. I shook the bottles until I was satisfied. I used about a teaspoon of each, but I put more oregano in because I like it.

Fry until fragrant.

Add a tin of chopped tomatoes.

Add salt and sugar. I used sea salt and demerara sugar.

Mix thoroughly. Simmer for a while. Taste. Adjust seasonings.

At this point, the rice/etc. should be ready as well.

Rice + Chicken + Chilli sauce.

Leftovers. I will have them in a sandwich for lunch tomorrow. So many things can be done with it! Like potato waffles!

I'm very pleased with my attempt at chicken strips, and I'll do them again, with different sauces. I'll do skin-on chicken next time, with potato waffles/

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Tapas and Boxhill

I finally did tapas.

I'd got some padron peppers and peppers stuffed with squid from Delicioso. They have all kinds of Spanish things!

I had a sudden desire to eat tapas about two weeks ago, but I'd only had tapas when we went on holiday to Barcelona last year. Apparently there is only one decent (decent, not good) place for tapas in London, and we don't know which it is. We hear it's in Waterloo. I was also inspired by the Jamie Oliver book where he goes to Spain and things, and he's done a couple of pages about tapas. It's a pretty good book, all the stuff I've tried from it turned out lovely. I especially like that there's a few different meatball recipes. Meatballs are really useful and easy to do, you can have them in so many ways as well.

I did very little for the tapas. I fried Padron peppers, heat up the peppers stuffed with squid, fried some sliced artichokes from a jar with some honey and dried thyme, and cut some Manchego cheese.

The peppers stuffed with squid aren't that nice.

Not so nice. Very tomato-ey.

Blackened Padron peppers, fried and sprinkled with sea salt:

Manchego cheese, with honey and dried thyme:

Sliced artichokes, with honey, dried thyme and ground pepper:

Truffle oil with ground black pepper, for dipping bread in. We had part of a baguette as well:

I've kept the leftovers in the fridge and might possibly assemble it into a sandwich for lunch tomorrow? Tapas sandwich.

I'm encouraged by this and will have more tapas meals, we still have a bowl of Padron peppers sitting in the fridge and must use it soon. I plan on making patatas bravas in the future.

Yesterday we went to Boxhill, which is about an hour away on the train, and had a lovely day. It's an idyllic National Trust nature-y hill named after the Box plant., and has a few different walking paths to go on: a Long Walk, Short Walk, Nature Walk, and Riverside Walk. We went on what was pretty much the Riverside Walk to get there from the station and back, and when we got to Boxhill itself we went on the Nature Walk.

The good thing about the Nature Walk is that it's not a monotonous walk, you go from one bit to another. There's a foresty bit, a dirt path bit, places to rest and admire a scenic view, and a very nice golden valley. It's also quiet. Lots of people who got on the train at London got off at Boxhill, but most people seem to accumulate at the mount, and start having their picnics and things, so the walks are very peaceful.

I plan on going again, possibly in the summer. I've been once before and there were little orchids and blackberries and strawberries growing wild. Only some tiny purple orchids are out right now, there are exciting orchids yet to come. Tiny ones that pretend to be bees.

James in a hole:

We also saw a bee-fly. It looks like a small bee with a long nose and makes a humming sound. I'm not sure that you can see it in this picture:

It's a type of fly, but feeds on nectar like a bee. But it isn't a bee. There's lots of them.

You can see its mighty shadow.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Anti-cuts March + Knit & Craft Show + Singapore Black Pepper Crab Sauce, With Fish!

The anti-cuts march at Hyde Park, we were there. I went because I believe that some things are important but ultimately not profitable, like universal healthcare and education. I wish I'd brought my phone/camera along but I was minimising baggage and brought nothing.

Went for food at Piccadilly Circus after, passing paint-splattered Topshop en route, and after food we accidentally entered the 'violent' breakaway protest group and stayed to watch with the rest of the onlookers, tourists, and official observers. We were on the little memorial thingy near the station so had a relatively good view of what was going on. Yes, there was a little heap of things burning, but it looks a lot bigger zoomed in on TV. Riot police marching back and forth.

The demands of the protesters (at Hyde Park) seemed simple enough. Don't destroy the NHS, get money from outstanding tax still owed by wealthy tax evaders. A common question I heard was: But why did they get Topshop? The answer is: He evades tax, tax enough for you and me. Let's not buy bullshit clothes from the Topshop-Arcadia empire, they're not that good anyway. The big Topshop on Oxford Circus also sells ridiculously overpriced old clothes in their vintage section - get the same from your local charity shops, or if you're in London, the East End Thrift Store is amazing.

Of course, that's not the point. It's not really about whether there's enough money from the public to serve the public (and to put things in perspective, surely the money that goes to commercial profits mostly come from average people, people buying Panadol, people buying Topshop clothes, for example, and this somehow accumulates in the offshore accounts of a few people. It would make a huge difference if this money was funnelled back into salaries for workers, or actually put into research.), it's about their free market fantasy. Some stuff, just isn't profitable.

Happier matters: the week before that I'd gone to the Stitch & Craft show at Olympia and got some lovely cowboy fabric with which I made a little clutch. I'm also going to make a tote. Let's rebel against capitalism and make our own accessories! I have pictures from it I need to put up.

I also successfully cooked black pepper crab but with stingray instead of crab. Black pepper crab is a food of Singapore, where I'm from. I got my version from my mother's amazing cookbook. It is tasty and most importantly tastes authentic. I haven't tried any black pepper crabs or whatever in London but I'm sure this recipe is better and more authentic than them. If they even exist. Truth.

I mostly followed the recipe, but simplified it into two major steps: blend and fry.

Singapore Black Pepper Crab Sauce (with ray wing)

Blend with a little water into a paste: 1) one onion chopped into quarters, 2) about 10 garlic cloves, 3) 10 dried bird's eye chillies (I use dried piri piri from the African shop because I can get that on my way home). I used my handy mini chopper. I like very very spicy food so I don't recommend you use 10 dried piri piri, unless that's how you roll.

Blend together the sauce: 2 tbsp of each of these (pictured): soy sauce (I used light soy sauce), thick soy sauce (I used Ayam Brand kicap manis instead but Waitrose has a version, I think called ketjap manis), ketchup, oyster sauce, ground black pepper. You're meant to use 1 tbsp fish sauce but I have the little bottle of Bart's fish sauce with a very small opening, so I used a few tiny shakes. This bottle of fish sauce is not sensible if you use fish sauce frequently.

You're also meant to use spicy sesame oil but I don't have any. Blend the ground black pepper

I used a ray wing and pre-fried it. It's soft and white and flakes, so I imagine you can cook a can of tuna in this sauce and the effect would be similar.

After frying, remove the ray wing to drain onto a plate, and fried the paste until fragrant and not moist.

Return the ray wing to the wok and mixed it in with the paste, fry quickly for a few seconds.

Add blended sauce and half a cup of water, and cook through. Sauce should be thick.

I added little tomatoes before serving, like the picture in the book, although the recipe calls for quartering regular tomatoes. Serve with plain boiled rice or fried buns/mantou. Rice is easier.