Saturday, July 6, 2013

Chicken & Soup: 3 Ways.

Sometimes, I make up foods in my head. I sit in a restaurant and think - man, if they'd put x and that y together, it would be a perfect dish. I'm not sure what it was last night, but I decided to bring to life one of my imaginations, and that was chicken flavoured rice with chicken.

Okay, does that sound gross? Bare with me. 

1. Chicken Noodle Soup
A few weeks ago, I made my first chicken noodle soup - I boiled chicken thighs in some stock, threw in some ginger, salt, chilli and peppers (see an explanation of my unconventional seasoning techniques in this post) and cooked the chicken. 20 minutes later, I threw in some baby corns, carrots, string beans, broccoli and mushrooms and later, the noodles. It was good.

Upon trial and error, I've discovered the complete uselessness of the stock. So ditch that, and if you'd like, replace it with some soy sauce.

A great option for the flu-ed, and generally a classic.

2. Chicken Soup Rice
But I'm a rice kinda gal. In fact, I LOVE rice and you will see me pick fried rice over chow mein any day of the week. So I recently adapted this well-loved concept of chicken noodle soup (with no soda on the side..), and turned it into a rather confusing chicken soupy rice?

Basically what I did was boil the rice with the soup, and mixed in the chicken and veg. It was gorgeois. The thing that I love about this dish is that there's lots of flavours going on (especially the ginger, mmm!), but it's still easy and has no added oils whatsoever! As a student, it also helps that chicken thighs are generally cheaper than breasts, and being the disgusting slightly bloke-like woman that I am, I love chicken skin. Bonus.

3. Chicken Soup
Roll on lunch time the next day, and if your boyfriend is off playing sports for the weekend, you've got 2 chicken thighs left - what do you do? You make more soup! If you're feeling naughty, splash in some sesame oil. Dunk it in with the above ingredients (throw veg in if you have any left - I did, but was obviously being a bit of an airhead) and it's the perfect amount for lunch :)

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Pot au Feu? Pot au Yu!

Let's just say that French isn't a forte despite my infinite love of French food.

Pot au feu is a dish my mom taught me in the haste before a child leaves for university, when it hits a mother that said child might literally starve to death from not knowing how to operate the microwave. Super easy, warm and great for when you have a cold. Granted she does it a bit differently, I thought in mine and Ben's new journey to healthier eating, that I'll give it a go myself.

I trotted around Waitrose looking for as many root vegetables as I can, and grabbed some pork shoulder meat for £2.99, a packet of £1 button mushrooms, two potatoes and this amazing bag for £1.38 which contained an onion, a leek, 3 carrots, a swede and a parsnip. Bargain (or 'bargs' as I'm tempted to call it).

I chopped whatever would fit in our biggest pot and two cloves of garlic in to chunky bits and chucked them in with enough water to just cover all the pieces. I put it on a medium heat and stuck my head into our cabinet from time to time after tasting, and dunked in whatever I thought would taste good with it - some pork flavouring powder, basil, paprika, mixed herbs and of course our dear friends pepper and salt. It's key to adjust to and keep in mind that the longer it cooks, the flavours in the pork and veg will seep out and add a bit more depth.

Served with the garlic pizza bread (also from Waitrose), this turned out to be a very warm, easy, filling and cozy meal. No wonder pot au feus and other stews (poet and not knowing it!) were often seen as 'poor people' food - it's cheap, easy, warms you right up and lasts forever (I'm sat here eating it for lunch, it has a richer flavour - and there's more left in the pot!). It also doesn't even matter what you put in it.. perfect for a lazy beggar like myself.
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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Sunday Roast by Ben

On our first national holiday in our flat together, Ben and I decided to do a proper roast. Despite our hours of drooling over cooking shows every weekend, we hadn't actually cooked one together in our flat. In light of the fact that in a few weeks we were meant to be cooking a roast for some of his family (by 'we', I mean 'he'), when I spotted a discounted pork shoulder joint with apple and stuffing at our local Waitrose, we went for it.

After a few slicks of oil, a sprinkle of rosemary and salt, and surrounded by some red onions, the pork went into the oven for around 45 minutes for the crackling to cook. Then the heat was turned down and cooked for another hour and a half.

Hands up, we have to admit that the mash, apple sauce, gravy and veg was not of our own making. But hey. We all have to start somewhere (and be lazy on a bank holiday weekend).

That, with a glass of sauvignon blanc.. ooph.
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Hotel Chocolat's Roast + Conch

Last Easter Sunday, I lay on the couch "watching" Mary Poppins - if "watching" can constitute semi-conscious chocolate overdose-induced blank stares at the screen. This year, I find myself munching on a pack of Quavers, after I had a pre-Easter fix of chocolate at the Roast + Conch in Covent Garden yesterday.

The Roast + Conch is a chocolate cafe - yes you read correctly. I love cafes, I love coffee and I love chocolate so you can imagine my delight when I saw such a thing as a 'chocolate americano' on the humble 2 sheets of stapled A4 paper that serves as a menu. But it being Easter weekend and all, I had to go all out and had a nice glass of hot chocolate.

Perhaps one of the hardest things about London is finding cafes that aren't part of a chain, and granted I thoroughly failed in that aspect as Roast + Conch is a part of Hotel Chocolat, the atmosphere of the cafe is something you'd expect to find in an indie cafe on Upper Street. After walking through your typical clean-cut Hotel Chocolat shop, you make your way down a black rusty spiral staircase into the actual cafe. This sets the tone for the homely, indie feel of the shop.

As I said, the menu is just two printed sheets of A4, you can see bits of concrete peeking through the roughly painted cream walls, and the mix of wood and stainless steel top tables all give a rustic feeling to the place. I quite fancied the sofas against the walls, that are decorated with lovely brown and bright green cushions. It was indeed a warm, cozy feel.

I'm a massive fan of Hotel Chocolat so let's say my expectations were high - the atmosphere lodged that expectation even higher, as did the £3 price tag. To start, the complementary bunny rabbits were sweet, tasty and rich. Dunking them in the hot chocolate was simply delightful. The actual hot chocolate took me by surprised when firstly, it took a good 10 minutes to arrive. With the "conch" on the go (this big metal tub with clogs stirring gorgeous melted chocolate) I thought it'd be a matter of minutes. It may have been a backlog of orders or some intricate art of making hot chocolate, but it's not a come-and-go Starbucks jobby - to be fair, the aforementioned atmosphere is everything but.

When the hot chocolates came, I found it not as rich nor sweet as I expected. It was smooth, light and nicely warm. I may sound put off, but actually, with no food to go with it, I think any sweeter or thicker and it could have been a bit sickly. That being said, why would you order a hot chocolate in such a gorgeous atmosphere if you didn't want to wedge yourself between the cushions, warm your hands on the mug and huddle your shoulders for a thick, creamy sip of gorgeous chocolate?

Not quite sure myself, but I have to admit it was good hot chocolate. It was suitable if you didn't have shortbread to water down the sweetness with and it was delicious. Was it fun? Not as much as it could be! A cute mug or a unique texture could have set this hot chocolate apart from the others in the city, and the atmosphere begged such expectations.

But I can only question - did I make the wrong choice? With cheeseboards, melting chocolate dipping pots and cocoa americanos on the menu, a boring choice may have been deserving of the less-than-exciting result. Hmm.. I suppose I'll have to go back for round 2.
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