Saturday, 28 August 2010

Cheese and Chilli Chicken with Chips

Yesterday, I realised that it had been quite a while since I had featured chicken on this blog. Although the chicken pieces which I used in this dish had been purchased for an entirely different dish and project, I decided that it was more important to put this apparent neglect right. After all, chicken is of course a hugely popular cooking ingredient and one which many people enjoy.

The chips which I have served with this cheese and chilli chicken are prepared in exactly the same way as I have featured them before on this blog many times. The precise instructions can be found or revisited by clicking here before going any further.

Cheese and Chilli Chicken Ingredients (Per Person)

1/2lb chicken breast fillet (chopped in to 1" cubes)
3oz cheddar cheese (grated)
1 small red chilli pepper (finely chopped - seeds in or out depending upon preference)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tbsp sunflower oil for frying


Important note: It is immediately before stir frying the chicken that the chips should be put in for their second frying.

The overhead grill should be put on to preheat to maximum. The wok should be brought up to a very high heat and the sunflower oil added to heat through. It should be noted that normally when I am stir frying chicken, I will, "Velvet," it beforehand. This is a procedure used by the Chinese to protect the chicken during cooking and ensure it does not overcook on the outside while remaining raw on the inside. On this occasion, however, I wanted the chicken to be slightly browned and crisped on the outside, so omitted the procedure altogether.

The chicken pieces should then be stir fried for a couple of minutes on maximum heat, until cooked through and slightly browned on the outside. They should be seasoned with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper. It is important to then remove them from the wok, drain them and dry them carefully with some kitchen towel, before placing them as shown in a small ovenproof dish.

The chilli pieces should be stirred through the cheese and the mixture used to evenly cover the chicken. A little extra black pepper can be added at this stage, if desired. The dish should then be placed under the hot grill until the cheese melts and begins to bubble.

The meal can be plated up either by simply serving the chicken in its cooking dish as shown below, or sliding it out of same as shown at the top of this post.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Fillet of Baked Pike with Meuniere Sauce, Salad and New Potatoes

There are a great many people here in the UK who believe either that pike should not be eaten or that it does not afford an enjoyable eating experience. Although I had eaten pike before, in both Austria and the Czech Republic, I had never until very recently had the opportunity to actually cook pike.

That all changed one night last week when I got a phone call to enquire whether I could use a pike which had just been caught. I established that the pike was about two and a half pounds in weight and in good condition. I delightedly therefore accepted the offer and headed off to collect the fish that would form my dinner the following evening.

I gave considerable thought as to how I would cook my pike. On the two previous occasions I remember eating pike, it was on one occasion barbecued and on the other, poached in a fish kettle. In the name of variety and experimentation, I therefore decided to cook it a different way altogether and bake it in the oven.

What I did was gut the pike but otherwise left it whole. I then sat it on a bed of sliced lemon and white onion and made four large scores in the uppermost side of its flesh. I then prepared a very basic meuniere sauce by melting and browning some butter in a saucepan and adding lemon juice and freshly chopped parsley, which I poured over the pike before covering the baking tray with aluminium foil and baking it an oven pre-heated to 375F/190C/Gas Mark 5, for twenty-five minutes.

For more detailed instruction in this process and accompanying photographs, click on the link below:

How to Cook Pike

The cooking of the pike was carried out very late on one evening, so this was the principal reason why I decided to eat it cold the next day. I simply allowed it to cool when it came out of the oven, before refrigerating it whole in a large dish covered with clingfilm until the following evening.

The skin of even a small pike like this is very thick compared to most other edible fish. This actually in a sense makes it easier to remove, however, and by making an incision behind the gill, I was able to strip the skin completely off the uppermost side of the fish. The fillet could then simply be slid from the bones with the aid of a blunt knife and a fish slice. By lifting the head and again using a blunt knife if required, the entire skeleton of the fish should then be lifted away from the second fillet. I then shredded some lettuce and white onion and used it to form a bed for the pike fillet.

I have served the pike fillet here simply with some new potatoes in butter and parsley, some blanched baby corn, cherry tomatoes and a fresh batch of meuniere sauce, made up at the very last minute.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Roasted Duck Breast Fillet with Sauteed Oyster Mushrooms and New Potatoes

Duck provides a very different cooking and eating prospect from other fowl, such as chicken or turkey. While chicken or turkey are very lean meats and should always be fully cooked prior to being eaten, duck breasts in particular have more fat on them, the meat is richer and they should be served just that little bit pink in the centre to be enjoyed at their best, in a very similar fashion to lamb.

In this recipe, I have firstly crisped up the skin side of the duck breasts in a frying-pan before finishing them off in a moderately hot oven. I have served them with a sauteed selection of fresh oyster mushrooms, though virtually any type of mushroom will suffice where oyster mushrooms are unavailable.

Ingredients per Person

1 fresh duck breast (skin on)
Generous handful of oyster mushrooms
Baby new potatoes, as required
1 clove of garlic
Pinch of dried sage
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


The oven should be preheated to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5.

The potatoes should be washed and added to a pot of cold, lightly salted water. They should be placed on to a high heat until the water reaches a boil, at which stage the heat should be reduced and the potatoes allowed to simmer for twenty-five minutes to half an hour.

The duck breast should be seasoned with salt and pepper on the skin side only. A frying-pan should then be brought up to a high heat and the duck breast placed in to the dry pan for three or four minutes. Fat will almost immediately begin to escape from the duck breast, so no oil is required.

The duck breast should then be transferred to a wire rack over a baking tray, flesh side down this time, and placed in to the oven for around twenty-five minutes. It should after this time have cooked almost all the way through, with just that ideal hint of pink in the centre. It should after this time be removed from the oven to a plate and covered with aluminium foil to rest while the potatoes are drained and the mushrooms are quickly sauteed.

The mushrooms could of course be sauteed in the duck fat in the frying-pan which was used previously. In the name of healthier eating, however, and to minimise the amount of saturated fat in the dish, I am instead using olive oil. A couple of tablespoons of oil should be added to a saucepan and brought up to a medium heat. The garlic clove should then be grated in to the pan and the sage added. The garlic should be sweated off for about a minute before the chopped mushrooms are added and cooked for a further couple of minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon.

The duck breast should then be sliced across the way and plated as shown, with the oyster mushrooms and potatoes added alongside.