Wednesday, 25 June 2014

World Cup Food Recipes - Uruguay

Pollo con vegetales (chicken and vegetables) in a rich white wine gravy

Uruguay qualified for the last 16 of the World Cup yesterday (Tuesday) with a 1-0 win over Italy. Sadly, the biggest talking point by far after the match was the "alleged" incident involving controversial striker Luis Suarez and what action if any FIFA are likely to take retrospectively. That is something upon which the football world still awaits clarification at the time of writing but one thing is for sure, negativity like this should not be allowed to in any way overshadow what has largely been a wonderfully competitive and entertaining World Cup so far.

Uruguayan Pollo con Vegetales (Chicken and Vegetable Stew)

This delicious stew sees pieces of on the bone chicken stewed with a variety of vegetables in a thick white wine sauce. I've used chicken thighs but chicken drumsticks or even on the bone breast portions would work equally well. The secret is in the fact that the chicken must be on rather than off the bone.

Uruguayan chicken and vegetable stew ingredients

Ingredients (Serves One)

2 chicken thighs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 medium white onion, sliced
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
Salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
6 small new potatoes
1 small carrot, washed, topped, tailed and chopped
6 small button mushrooms
2 teaspoons plain/all purpose flour
1/4 pint fresh chicken stock
1/4 pint dry white wine

Vegetables prepared for stew


Pour the vegetable oil in to a large stew pot and bring it up to a medium heat. Add the chicken thighs and take two or three minutes to brown and seal them all over, turning them around frequently with cooking tongs.

Browning chicken thighs in hot oil

Add the onion and garlic to the pot, along with the seasonings/herbs. Stir fry for another minute or two.

Garlic and onion are added to chicken thighs

The rest of the vegetables can then be added to the pot. I also scattered in the flour at this stage. This meant that the simple act of adding the liquids would help disperse the flour more evenly.

Remaining vegetables and flour are added to browned chicken

Pour the chicken stock and wine in to the pot and stir carefully but well. Turn up the heat just until the liquid nears a boil then reduce to achieve a gentle simmer. Cover and continue to simmer as gently as possible for half an hour.

Chicken and vegetable stew is brought to a simmer

Turn off the heat and leave the stew to rest for ten minutes. After this time, lift the chicken thighs from the pot to a holding plate with a slotted spoon.

Cooked chicken thighs are lifted from stew

Again using the slotted spoon, lift the vegetables to a serving plate and spoon on some of the sauce.

Vegetables and sauce are spooned in to serving plate

The chicken thighs should be laid on top of the vegetables and the meal is ready to serve.

Tucking in to pollo con vegetales

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

World Cup Food Recipes - Ivory Coast

Braised chicken thighs in lemon and ginger sauce

The Ivory Coast began their World Cup campaign with a satisfying win over Japan but subsequent defeat to Colombia has left them in a precarious position going in to today's final match against Greece. Although avoiding defeat should be enough to see them through the group stages, a draw would not be sufficient in the unlikely event that Japan should defeat Colombia by a couple of goals. A win remains essential therefore for the African side if they are definitely to book their passage in to the next round.

Ivorian Coast Lemon and Ginger Chicken

While the culture and of course the food of the Ivory Coast remains very much influenced  by the French, this simple dish is hopefully a bit more in keeping with the expected rustic nature of the national cuisine. While it may not perhaps be the most attractive meal ever laid on a plate, it's incredibly tasty and sees the chicken served tender, juicy and succulent.

Chicken thigh marinading ingredients

Ingredients (Serves One)

2 bone in, skin on chicken thighs
1/2 medium white onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and grated
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and grated
Juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 pint fresh chicken stock
1 teaspoon medium strength chilli powder
Salt and black pepper
Vegetable oil for frying
3 ounces basmati or long grain rice

Chicken marinading ingredients are prepared and adding to plastic dish


Add all the marinade ingredients to a suitable dish and stir well with a wooden spoon.

Chicken stock is stirred through other marinade ingredients

Lay the chicken thighs in the marinade and turn them over a few times to ensure they are evenly coated in the mixture. Cover the dish and leave to marinate for at least two hours.

Chicken thighs are added to marinade

Heat a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil in a deep, non-stick frying pan. Add the chicken thighs and fry all over until sealed and browned.

Chicken thighs are fried and sealed in oil

Pour the marinade in to the pan and bring to a simmer. Ensure the skin sides of the chicken thighs are uppermost, cover the pan and simmer as gently as possible for half an hour.

Chicken thighs are braised in marinating juices

Wash the rice thoroughly through a sieve under running cold water. Add to a deep pot of boiling, salted water and simmer for ten minutes.

Rice is carefully washed before it is cooked

Drain the rice and lay it in a plate in the form of a bed for the chicken.

Chicken thighs are lifted on to bed of rice

Lift the chicken thighs with a slotted spoon or cooking tongs on to the bed of rice. Spoon over some of the sauce and enjoy.

Tucking in to tender and succulent lemon and ginger chicken thighs

Sunday, 22 June 2014

World Cup Food Recipes - Portugal

Grilled sardines served on a bed of stir fried and spiced vegetables

Sardines are a hugely popular eating fish in Portugal. This is largely because, of course, the Portuguese have access to sardines so fresh that they can have them cleaned and on the barbecue or grill almost before they've stopped twitching! It's sadly not possible to get sardines quite that fresh in the UK but many supermarkets do stock them as fresh as possible and if you have only ever tried sardines out of a tin or can, you really should give something like this a go where you can get your hands on the necessary ingredients.

Grilled (Broiled) Portuguese Sardines with Spiced Vegetables

The most important factor when cooking sardines or any similarly delicate fish is to keep your recipe as simple as possible. Only in this way will you be able to enjoy all the flavours of the fish at their very best. What I did here was grill (broil) the sardines simply with a little seasoning before serving them on a bed of stir fried mixed vegetables which had been seasoned largely with smoked paprika.

Fresh sardines

Ingredients (Serves One)

2 fresh whole sardines
3 small to medium new potatoes
2 handfuls of mixed stir frying vegetables of choice (recipe here includes mixed bell peppers, red onion, carrot and more)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil plus extra for oiling sardines
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Salt and pepper
Shredded basil leaves to garnish

Gutting sardines


The first step is to cook and cool the potatoes. Put them in to a pot of cold salted water and bring the water to a simmer for about fifteen to twenty minutes until the potatoes are just about softened. Drain, cover and leave to cool.

You could ask your fishmonger to gut the sardines for you. If doing it yourself, do it at your sink and make a slit with a very sharp knife along the belly before carefully removing the insides. Rinse in a bowl of cold water.

Gutted fresh sardines

Make sure you have all your stir frying ingredients ready to go while you bring your grill/broiler up to a high heat for cooking the sardines. The cooled potatoes should be sliced in to three or four thick pieces.

Spiced vegetable ingredients

I like to cover my grilling tray with foil to make cleaning up easier but this is optional. Either way, use a pastry brush to oil the tray/foil with vegetable oil and oil both sides of the sardines in the same way. Lay the sardines on the tray and season well with salt and pepper. Grill for three or four minutes each side until the skin is starting to blister.

Fresh sardines ready for grilling

When the sardines have been turned to grill on their second side, heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a deep frying pan or wok. Add the vegetables and smoked paprika, seasoning further with salt and black pepper. Stir fry on maximum heat for two or three minutes.

Stir frying vegetables and spices

Lay the vegetables in a serving dish to serve as a bed for the sardines.

Spiced stir fried vegetables bed

The sardines should be lifted on to the vegetables and garnished with the chopped basil. When you have eaten the top side of each sardine, you should be able to lift from the tail, pulling the bone free to access the underside.

Bones should peel cleanly out of part eaten sardines

Perfectly cooked sardines should leave you only with the heads, tails and the backbone in between, looking very much like the fish bones left by a cat in many cartoons!

Clean sardine bones, heads and tails

Friday, 20 June 2014

World Cup Food Recipes - South Korea

South Korean fried chicken thighs in spicy sauce

South Korea kicked off their World Cup Finals campaign on Tuesday with a 1-1 draw against Russia. With matches still to come firstly against Algeria and subsequently against Group H favourites Belgium, their World Cup future remains very much in the balance. Today I look at South Korean food and provide the recipe for a tasty dish which is perfect for preparing and enjoying while watching the World Cup. This was last night's dinner for me but I ran out of time last night to get the details published.

South Korean Fried Chicken Thighs Recipe

Korean Fried Chicken probably isn't the first thing people think of when they think KFC. This almost authentic recipe will hopefully give you an alternative chicken meal suggestion when you hear or see this acronym in future. I have made two significant changes to the majority of recipes I have seen around the Web. The first is that I have used chicken thighs (my favourite part of a chicken) instead of wings. Chicken wings recipes are generally very easily adapted to chicken thighs recipes or even chicken drumstick recipes, so this is a great way of adding variety to any relevant dish. The second change was sort of forced upon me in that the authentic recipe calls for the use of Korean chilli paste and I couldn't get it. I instead used tomato ketchup and chilli powder with what I at least believe to be very good results.

South Korean spicy sauce ingredients


2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon tomato ketchup
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon medium strength chilli powder
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 inch piece ginger root, peeled
4 chicken thighs, skinned
3 tablespoons plain/all purpose flour
Salt and pepper
4 tablespoons self-raising/rising flour
4 teaspoons cornflour/corn starch
Freshly chopped parsley to garnish

Ingredients ready for blitzing to make South Korean spicy sauce


Put all the sauce ingredients in to a food processor or blender and blitz until smooth. Pour in to a bowl, cover with clingfilm and set aside.

South Korean spicy chicken sauce

Make sure you take the chicken thighs from the fridge an hour in advance of cooking to let them reach room temperature. If they have not already been skinned, you will find the skin should very easily peel off in one piece.

Peeling skin from chicken thighs

Put the self-raising/rising flour and the cornflour/corn starch in to a large bowl. Season with salt and slowly begin adding cold water, whisking with a fork until a batter the consistency of thick cream is formed. Put the bowl in the fridge for fifteen minutes to let the batter rest.

Mixing batter for chicken thighs

Bring a deep fryer or deep frying pan of oil up to a medium to high heat. Add the plain/all purpose flour to a plastic bag and season well with salt and pepper. Add the chicken thighs and twist the bag closed, trapping as much air in it as possible. Very gently shake/invert the bag to cover all the thighs evenly in flour. This will help the batter stick.

Chicken thighs are floured and battered for deep frying

The chicken thighs are going to be fried twice. When frying them the first time, I fried them two at a time.

Take one thigh at a time from the flour bag and dip in the batter making sure it is evenly coated. Let any excess briefly drip off back in to the bowl and lay carefully in the hot oil. Fry for three minutes each side until the batter is just starting to turn golden. Drain on kitchen paper and leave to cool for five minutes.

Starting to deep fry battered chicken thighs

The oil should be a bit hotter for the second frying of the chicken thighs. Again, they are fried for three minutes on each side, by which time the batter should be an attractive dark golden colour and deliciously crisp.

Battered chicken thighs are deep fried for a second time

Drain the chicken thighs on kitchen paper for a second time and pour the spicy sauce in to a large bowl.

Deep fried chicken thighs and spicy South Korean sauce

Put the chicken thighs in to the bowl with the sauce. Carefully turn them around in the sauce with a large spoon until they are all evenly coated.

Battered chicken thighs are added to spicy South Korean sauce

The chicken thighs can then be plated and garnished with the fresh parsley.

Spicy Korean fried chicken

Serve the chicken thighs and eat with your fingers, just as you would wings.

Tucking in to Korean fried chicken

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

World Cup Food Recipes - Belgium

Lemon sole meuniere with Belgian rather than French fries

Belgium are tipped by many to do very well in this World Cup, especially given the fact that they were granted what is at least on paper a fairly favourable draw in all respects. They kicked off their campaign tonight against the North Africans of Algeria and despite falling behind, managed to turn matters around late on and secure a fairly uninspiring 2-1 victory. Today, I am featuring my take on a classic Belgian fish dish which - like all the best fish dishes - is quick and simple to prepare, incorporating only a minimum of ingredients.

Sole Meuniere with Belgian Fries

So what are Belgian fries and how do they compare to French fries? The reality is that what is now the country of Belgium lays strong claim to having produced these little delights before its French neighbours, so they are simply an alternative name for the same thing. The sole meuniere in Belgium would normally be prepared with what is known as Dover sole in the UK but for availability and cost reasons, I have used the delicious and tender little fish alternative that is lemon sole.

Cut fries are ready to be refrigerated to dry them out

Ingredients (Serves One)

1 large baking potato, peeled and sliced/chopped in to fries
2 gutted lemon sole
2 or 3 tablespoons plain/all purpose flour
Salt and pepper
2 ounces (1/2 stick) butter
Juice only of half a lemon
2 teaspoons freshly chopped parsley

Fries are added to hot oil for the first time


When the fries were cut, I firstly steeped them in cold water for ten minutes to get rid of the excess starch. I then drained them well, spread them in a large dish and refrigerated them for an hour to dry them out in the cold, dry air. While neither of these procedures are essential, I honestly believe both contribute to better final results on the plate.

Bring a deep frying pan of vegetable oil up to a medium heat. I always use a deep frying pan for deep frying in this fashion as it lets me watch what is happening and control the cooking much better than a deep fryer. If you don't have such a pan, you can pick one up fairly cheaply on Amazon, Amazon UK or from your country's Amazon store. Fry the potato pieces for three or four minutes, just until they are softened and starting to take on some colour and no more. Drain on kitchen paper and allow ten minutes or so to cool. 

Cleaned lemon sole

Take a fairly sturdy pair of kitchen scisoors and snip the fins off either side of each lemon sole.  What I find happens if you don't do this is that the fins start to separate from the main body of the fish in the frying pan and it gets messy.

Cutting the fins from lemon sole

Scatter the flour on a plate and season with salt and pepper. Pat the lemon sole in the flour on both sides. Gently shake to remove any excess.

Lemon sole are patted in seasoned flour for frying

Start your deep frying oil heating to a fairly high heat.

Melt  the butter in a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and lay in the lemon sole dark skin sides down. Fry on the medium heat for four minutes. Turn them carefully with a spatula or fish slice and fry for another four minutes on the second side. This may seem like a long time to fry such a delicate fish but remember that the skin is on them and the bones are in. The skin will protect the flesh of the fish.

Frying lemon sole

When the lemon sole are turned in the pan, start the potatoes frying in the oil for a second time. Turn them around occasionally with a deep frying spider. After four or five minutes, they should be nicely golden and should again be drained on kitchen paper.
Twice fried Belgian fries are drained on kitchen paper

Lift the lemon sole carefully from the pan to your serving plate. Add the lemon juice and the parsley to what should be the nicely browned (but not burned) butter, reduce the heat and stir for about a minute.

Finishing off the sole meuniere sauce

Plate the Belgian fries alongside the lemon sole on your plate.

Pan fried lemon sole and Belgian fries

Spoon the parsley butter over the lemon sole. The sole should be eaten by carefully cutting away the top skin and sliding the flesh sideways off the bones. The bones should then easily lift free to allow access to the flesh on the underside.

Tucking in to lemon sole meuniere and Belgian fries