This is a recipe I cook quite often, it was inspired by visits to Sais’ Thai in the Oxford Covered Market. Though it has similarities to the dish I had at Sais’ Thai, it’s not quite the same, actually it’s quite different, but I don’t usually use the ingredients they do.
I cook some cubed pork belly in the oven, for about twenty minutes I then remove from the oven and stir fry in a wok with some soy sauce and fish sauce, along with finely chopped garlic and ginger. You could add chilli as well, if you like a bit of heat in your stir fry. I then take a range of vegetables, including but not always limited to: ribbons of carrot, pak choi, red cabbage, courgette, mushrooms (shitake and brown), baby corn, and onions. These are added to the wok. And cooked for a couple of minutes. I then add spinach and basil. I would prefer to use Thai Basil, but I have had trouble either finding it locally or growing it in the garden.
The dish is then served with a sprinkling of cashew nuts. It works well with rice, but I have also served it with noodles as well.
I really do enjoy roasted vegetables either as a meal in itself or as an accompaniment to another dish.
On this platter I have roasted squash, red onions, red pepper, mushrooms, tomatoes, courgettes, aubergine, parsnips and sweet potato.
The method I used for this was in the roasting pan I placed the squash, the parsnips, red onion and sweet potato with a good splash of olive oil. This was then roasted in the oven for about 15 minutes. I then added the mushrooms, tomatoes, aubergine, courgette, red pepper and another splash of the olive oil. This was then roasted for about 15-20 minutes.
Most Sundays we have a traditional roast dinner. This week I onlu had skinless chicken breasts in the fridge and I have always found roasting chicken breasts usually results in dry tough chicken. If using chicken portions, my preference is to use chicken thighs and legs.
So, in the end I sliced into the chicken, added a stuffing consisting of onion, mushrooms and basil. This I then wrapped in foil before poaching for twenty minutes. After cooking, I let them rest for at least five minutes before opening the foil parcels and slicing them.
With them I did some roast potatoes. Firstly you need to use the right kind of potatoes. It’s not as simple as buying any kind, the cheapest or whatever. This time I went with King Edward (as that was all that was available in the shop, well there were other varieties, but no Maris Piper.
After peeling and cutting into chunks the potatoes are blanched in boiling water for about 7-10 minutes depending on the size of the chunks. Now the size if dependent on how you like your roast poatoes and how long you have to cook them. Obviously smaller chunks means a shorter cooking time, whilst larger chunks though take longer are preferred by some people.
While the potatoes are blanched, place the roasting tray into the oven, with a good splash of olive oil and one of sunflower oil. The key here is to heat the pan and the oil. I put the pan into the hot oven (with the oil added) for at least five minutes, not too long though.
After blanching the potatoes, drain and the key here is to let the heat dry the potatoes. If they go into the pan “wet” they won’t crisp up well. The next stage is to slightly “bash” the potatoes by shaking the colander or sieve, this will aid the crisping process too. Then remove the roasting pan from the oven and add the potatoes, turning them and maybe a little more “bashing”.
You should also ensure that the potatoes are not too crowded, in other words they need air to be crisp.
Cooked for thirty to forty minutes (larger potatoes take longer). It is a good idea to turn the potatoes half way through to ensure a more even crispness. The end result should be tasty, crisp potatoes with a fluffy centre.
I also roasted some parsnips, carrots and onions. These I just cut into chunks. Place in a bowl, add some olive oil, mix to ensure the vegetables are well coated before placing in a hot oven for about twenty to thirty minutes.
In addition in another roasting pan, I took some diced onion, sliced courgette, mushrooms and halved cherry tomatoes, these I roasted with a good dash of olive oil for ten minutes before adding some cubes of bread that soak up the juices and crisp up. Usually I will add these ingredients to the roasting tray I have roasted the meat in. However as I was poaching I just used a plain tray.
For gravy I made my own with a roux of butter, oil and flour to which I add stock and some red wine. Cook for at least five minutes.
To add colour and freshness I steamed some carrots, green beans and broccoli to serve with the meal.
I do enjoy roast chicken, but sometimes I don’t have the time to roast a whole chicken.
When time is against me I will roast legs and thighs, which can be done in under half the time.
I do like to roast my chicken with “stuff”, usually onions, mushrooms, tomatoes and other things I can find in the fridge.
Why legs and thighs?
Well I find that the meat on these cuts of chicken are full of flavour compared to chicken breast.
After the chicken is cooked, I usually remove the chicken from the roasting pan, let it sit for a while. In the meantime I add cubes of bread to the roasting pan. These soak up the juices and crisp up, a great accompaniment to the chicken.
Alongside my roast chicken we had roast potatoes and steamed green vegetables.
A quick lunch at Bella Italia was on the cards and not fancying pizza or pasta I went with a sharing platter all to myself…
Our selection of oven baked lemon & rosemary chicken wings, spiced meatballs, calamari, mini garlic filled calzoni and lightly battered courgettes served with flamed pepper and lemon herb dips.
I have talked before about platters, sometimes they consist of a bundle of stuff that was thrown into a deep fat fryer. This one from Bella Italia was more imaginative than most.
The chicken wings were, as I expected, reheated from cooked, but you could smell and taste the lemon and rosemary. The problem with reheating is that it changes the taste and texture of the chicken. Freshly cooked chicken wings are much more succulent and have more flavour and when you have had freshly cooked, you are always disappointed with the reheated versions. These, though reheated, were very nice, and it was also a nice change not have them covered in a sweet sticky sauce.
The meatballs were nice and spicy and were something I wasn’t expecting to find on the platter. They came in an earthenware tumbler and were covered in a pleasant tomato sauce.
The calamari were typical of the calamari at Bella Italia, covered in flour and deep fried. Slightly overcooked for my liking, but it was proper squid and not just rubbery rings as you find at some places. I do like calamari.
The mini garlic filled calzoni were simply small pizza bases, with garlic butter, folded and baked like a calzone pizza. Soft on the inside, but with crunchy edges, the garlic was subtle and complemented the bread.
The lightly battered courgettes, reminded me of a dish I had ordered on Kefalonia. Chunky strips of courgette, covered in a batter and deep fried. These were crispy on the outside and the courgette was lovely and tender, almost melt in the mouth on the inside. Really nice.
Overall I enjoyed my platter and would be happy to order it again.
I was recently lucky enough to go to dinner at the Alba Ristorante in London with some friends., not just once, but enjoyed it enough the first time to go for a second meal. Unlike a lot of Italian restaurants I have been too, the menu here was not full of pasta and pizza, on the contrary it was very different and as a result much more interesting and refreshing.
On my second visit for my starter I had the Misto di Verdure alla Griglia Condite al Balsamico or in English, Mixed grilled Italian vegetables balsamic & extra virgin olive oi.
This was very nice, a simple dish which worked very well. There were courgettes, pepper, tomato and aubergine.
Out of the two starters I had, I think I preferred the duck.
One of the key things about cooking chicken this way is that it stays really nice and moist with lots of flavour.
Firstly take four chicken thighs, now you could use a whole chicken, half chicken or other chicken pieces. I much prefer chicken thighs over the breast meat as it has a lot more flavour (in my opinion).
Today I roasted some pancetta covered organic chicken thighs on a bed of onions, red pepper, mushrooms and courgettes. This was splashed with some olive oil and seasoned with black pepper.
Whilst this was in the oven, I softened in a frying pan, some finely chopped onion with pancetta. When the onion was nicely soft, I added some red wine and beef stock before simmering it down. Beef stock over chicken stock just because of the colour rather than flavour. I then reduced and reduced this.
When I was happy with the sauce I whisked in some butter (with a fork as it happens rather than a whisk) and then added a tin of Epicure Organic Puy Lentils. I needed to add a bit more stock at this point.
I was really impressed with the Epicure Organic Puy Lentils and will certainly be buying them again, I guess it would be potentially tastier to use dried lentils, but I personally was quite happy with the tin.
So I put the lentils on the plate, placed the chicken on top and surrounded it with the roasted vegetables. I served this along with carrots and green beans.