Chicken wraps


2008 Speedway Grand Prix of Great Britain at t...

Image via Wikipedia

Here’s something tasty that I did for a picnic lunch last year.  We were heading out to the UK Speedway GP in Cardiff‘s Millennium Stadium (see picture) and it takes around 5 hours to get there.  We always stop for something to eat and to rest on the way but sometimes the service stations on the motorways are packed to capacity, the queues and the wait are long.  Rather than stand around waiting we took along a picnic that included these chicken wraps.

Ingredients

  • 4 Chicken breasts, sliced
  • good bunch of Fresh Coriander, chopped
  • 6 Salad Tomatoes, sliced & diced
  • Mango Chutney
  • Wholemeal Sandwich Wraps
  • Shredded Lettuce
  1. I grilled some chicken breasts but you can use any cut of chicken to make this including the pre-roasted portions available in your supermarkets
  2. Let the chicken cool and slice them across their width
  3. Open up the wraps and place the chicken along the middle, leaving some space to fold it fajita style.
  4. Combine the tomatoes and coriander in a bowl, season as required (I just used some red & black pepper)
  5. Use a spoon to portion it out over the chicken
  6. Next add the mango chutney, I put a heaped teaspoon into each wrap
  7. Top with shredded lettuce
  8. Wrap everything – start by folding the bottom quarter up, then fold the left and right sides in over the centre to make an envelope shape
  9. Put a couple of pieces of kitchen roll in the bottom of your sandwich boxes and place the wraps inside, make sure the lid is sealed and add to your cold box.  The kitchen roll will help absorb any moisture ensuring the wraps don’t go soggy.

We took a good quantity of water and fruit juice as the weather was hot, some bananas and a couple of packets of potato crisps.

This year I’m tempted to make the same again.  This time round I’ll prep in advance, it was a rush job the last time.  I’m going to marinade the chicken breasts in curry paste overnight in the fridge, then grill them.  I’ll make some mint raita as well, and put a spoon full into each wrap, spreading it on the wrap using the back of the spoon before placing anything else in them.

Advertisements
Posted in Cookery, Poultry | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Parsley Sauce


Parsley sauce always reminds me of Fridays night and Sunday afternoons.  Friday’s for the fish dinners we used to have, and Sundays because salmon was often a welcome alternative to Sunday Roast.

Parsley sauce is one of the variations of the basic white or Béchamel sauce, all that you need is a tablespoon of freshly chopped parsley to go with it.

To make from scratch prepare a white roux, then go on to make the white sauce and add the parsley to the milk as it’s simmering.

If I’m doing the parsley sauce for fish poached in milk I will reserve the milk I cooked the fish in and use that to make the parsley sauce.  This ensures I’m not wasting any of the flavour gained from cooking the fish.  The important thing is to strain the milk before using it to ensure you remove any scales or bones that might be in the milk.  I do that by pouring it through a small tea strainer.

Ingredients

  • White Roux
  • 1 pint milk
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped or substitute for dried parsley

Method

  • Add a small amount of milk to the roux and whisk until it forms a smooth paste – this will make it easier to blend with the remaining milk
  • Stir in with the remainder of the milk
  • Bring the sauce to the boil then reduce to simmer
  • Whisk or stir as it thickens
  • Allow it to simmer for about 20-30 minutes.
  • Check your seasoning and adjust before serving
Posted in Cookery, Sauces | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

White/Béchamel Sauce


This is article is about Béchamel sauce, its classical French cookery at it’s most basic.  If you don’t know how to make this then you can’t make all of the other lovely sauces that use this sauce as it’s base.  Once you can make this, you can make sauces like cheese, parsley, onion, cream, etc.  Sauces always sound so much better when you use their French names but in English I call it as I see it, so I stick to plain and simple names.

Louis Saulnier breaks this sauce down into basics and describes it in Le Répertoire de La Cuisine (based on Escoffier‘s Le guide culinaire) as a white roux moistened with milk, salt and an onion stuck with cloves, cook for 20 minutes.  I love that book, you can’t get any simpler than that.

Ingredients

  • White Roux
  • Milk
  • Salt (for seasoning)
  • 1 peeled onion studded with cloves (optional)

I have to admit I often omit the onion studded in cloves so I’ve listed it as optional, however it does add a great deal of flavour to the sauce.  It all depends on whether you’re looking to impress or just dishing up a quick dinner on the table.

Method

  1. To make this sauce, prepare your roux.
  2. If you’re making the roux from fresh then take it straight off the heat to cool a little before stirring your milk in.
  3. A pint of milk is more than enough to serve four people.  Warm the milk up gently before blending it with the Roux, it combines better.  Gradually add the milk to the roux, stirring as you go until you achieve a smooth consistency.  It might help if you use a whisk.  If you’re using Roux that you’ve stored, then add it a little at a time stirring as you go until you get the result your require.
    Note: It is far easier to add something than to remove something from the sauce.
  4. Add the studded onion (or onion clouté) if required
  5. Bring to the boil – watch it doesn’t boil over
  6. Turn down the heat and allow it to simmer for 20-30 minutes
  7. Remove from the heat and, if you used the onion, strain the sauce before serving

The result should be a nice smooth sauce.  If it’s too thick add a teaspoon of milk and blend it in until you achieve the required consistency whilst over the heat.

Posted in Sauces, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Poached fish


This isn’t about going out in the dark of night and illegally catching fish without a permit, this is about the gentle art of simmering a portion of fish in a liquid to cook the fish.

I prefer to do this with a nice piece of coloured smoked fish such as cod or haddock to contrast against a white sauce, but you can do this with most fillets of fish and adjust the sauce to suit.  If find this method is just as good as steaming and I get a sauce out of the process as well.

One thing to note is that I leave the skin on for poaching some fish and remove it for others.  It depends on how strong the flesh is, if in doubt leave it on, you can always remove it before serving.  The only thing you need to do is make sure it’s clean and remove all the loose scales.  It’s easier to ask your fishmongers to do that for you but you can do it yourself using a de-scaler or by running the broad flat surface of a knife over the skin at a slight angle to the skin (it will collect the scales as you go).  If you don’t then you will need to strain your liquid before making the sauce.

You can choose to poach in water, milk or a combination of both.  You can add extra flavour in terms of seasoning, herbs and spices to make this into something a little different but I’m just going to explain the basics.

You have two basic options for poaching fish, in the oven or in a pan on the hob.  I prefer using the hob but the oven works just as well and is sometimes more convenient.

Make sure you’ve a pan large enough for your fillet of fish, or cut the fish into suitable portions to fit the pan.  You’ll find it easier and using a pair of kitchen scissors than you will with a knife.

Note: If you’re using milk, make sure the pan doesn’t get so hot that it starts to burn at the bottom of the pan, and you don’t want it to boil over.  A nice gentle heat will do the fish more justice than a raging furnace.

Bring the pan to a near boil and turn the heat down a little, you’re looking for a gentle simmering action, a full boil will just tear the fish to pieces eventually.

Monitor the fish, you’re looking for the fish to change to a more solid colour and for the flesh to become flaky.  If it’s done correctly the flakes of fish will separate when eaten with the least bit of effort.

Once cooked remove it from the pan with a large slotted spoon, occasionally I use two to make sure the fish doesn’t collapse when I lift it.

Remove any excess liquid, pat dry if necessary with a kitchen towel and serve with some fresh vegetables or some spiced potato wedges.

Keep the remaining liquid to make your parsley sauce

Posted in Cookery, Fish | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Roux


A Roux is the classical basis for any and all sauces.  Getting this right can make or break a sauce just as easily as any other stage in its cooking.

You need an equal weight of plain flour and butter.  It’s better to use butter and not margarine, or use a clarified butter (such as Ghee), full fat oils or animal fat.

I have to admit, in my college days I tried to use margarine, but it doesn’t taste the same and you need a greater quantified of it to achieve something even close to that of using butter.  I achieved the best results once I started using Ghee, the extra flavour this gave the roux is worth the effort and it can cook at a higher temperature than butter without burning.

You need the same weight of flour and butter to make a roux, the quantity you need will vary depending on how much you need to thicken your sauce.  Work on the basis that 45 g (1½ oz) will thicken 1 pint (600 ml) of liquid.

To make a roux

  1. melt the fat in a heavy saucepan over a gentle heat – you do not want this to burn this at any stage
  2. when the fat has melted add the flour
  3. using a wooden spoon, stir the flour into the fat to make a paste
  4. continue heating until you have achieved the desired roux

It is important to cook out the taste of the flour.  You want it to form a paste when mixed.

There are basically three types of roux

  • White – this is actually yellow in colour and will form the basis of your white sauces, cheese, parsley, etc.
  • Blonde – heat the fat/flour paste for a couple of minutes and it will start to turn a creamy beige colour.  Use it for cream sauces and soups.
  • Brown – the roux starts to turn brown and it will develop a nutty flavour.  This is ideal for brown sauces, chicken, fish stocks and wine sauces.

One of the advantages of using a roux is you can make the roux in advance and store it until you need it.

  • either freeze it and defrost before using
  • or store it in your refrigerator and add a quantity as and when you need to thicken a sauce

If you’re going to store it make sure it cools rapidly beforehand and don’t leave it out once it is at room temperature.  Pack it away as quickly as possible in an air-tight container.  One way of storing it is to treat it like a herb or spiced butter, chill, then roll it into a sausage shape, wrap it in cling-film and cut off what you need as and when you need it or do so before you freeze it – you can end up with coin sized pieces of roux.  It will last for a very long time either in your refrigerator or the freezer, as long as the container is air-tight.

The roux can be re-used either hot or cold.  If you store a white roux then it’s possible to convert that into a blonde or brown roux by re-heating.  I think it’s best to defrost in the fridge, allow it to come to room temperature just before using and re-heat gently to the stage you require.

Posted in Sauces | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Grilled Whole Trout


Without a doubt you can’t beat trout!

…..especially when it’s accompanied by some spiced potato wedges, spicy salsa, salad and a nice cold cider.

This is probably one of our simplest but most enjoyable of meals.  It’s simple, quick and the aroma and flavour is huge tantalising your taste buds as the trout cooks.

Prepare the Spiced Potato Wedges and get them into the oven, they’ll cook nicely whilst we quickly prepare and cook the fish.

I don’t know about anyone else’s grill but ours never appears to have the depth to allow trout to sit on top of the rack without being a gnats whisker away from the heat, so when I do this the rack comes out and I line the grill pan with foil to make it easier to clean and to keep the heat where I want it.  This reduces the height of the fish away from the grill enough that I can control the cooking to a better degree.

I don’t do a lot to the trout, I drizzle or brush some olive oil over the skin, add some seasoning and that’s about it.  Sometimes I’ll put a slice of lemon, lime and some thyme inside the fish, but I’ll only do that if I’ve some in, most of the time I haven’t planned that far ahead and the trout is often a spur of the moment buy.  The trick to grilling it is to get the grill hot first then turn it down to a medium heat.  Start cooking and keep a close eye on it, adjust the heat as necessary.  Some of the skin will blister and may burn a little, don’t panic, but if too much of it is happening then you’ll need to adjust the heat or lower the grill.  Watching for the colour of the flesh in the middle of the fish to lose its translucent property, it will start turning a lovely solid shade of pink, and watch for the eye to turn white.  It’ll ooze juices whilst cooking, when it turns white and stops oozing that’s generally a good sign that the fish is ready to turn so we can cook the other side.

You can do something similar on your barbecue, place the trout in foil, add the lemon, lime and thyme, drizzle with oil, and wrap the foil over the fish before placing over the heat.

Once it’s cooked, serve it up with your spiced potato wedges, spicy salsa, salad, a slice of lemon and a nice cold cider.

Posted in Cookery, Fish | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Spiced Potato Wedges


These make a good healthy alternative to deep-fried chips, I’ve used them a lot with various fish dishes like grilled whole trout or steamed fish, I’ve also used these with burgers and grilled chicken breast.

You’ll probably need a large potato for each person, each potato can produce up to 8 wedges.

  1. Put a pan of water on to boil.
  2. Make wedges – cut the potatoes into segments by quartering lengthways then halving those again.  Don’t worry about being accurate because they look better if they’re rustic in nature.  Small potatoes do just as well if you want to make lots of smaller wedges.  Also you don’t have to peel them, just give them a good scrub to clean them.
  3. Pre-heat your oven to a fairly hot oven Gas 6/204 C/400 F (make allowances for your own oven temperature, fan ovens, etc.)
  4. Par-boil the wedges for about 5 minutes to soften them a little, the outside will crisp up in the oven and the potato will absorb the flavouring better.
  5. Grab some Cajun seasoning or a mix of chilli powder, turmeric, cumin and paprika (or cayenne pepper in place of paprika depending on how much of a kick you want)
  6. Mix the seasoning with some oil or butter in a bowl – to allow it to bind to the potatoes and to create a nice crispy skin
  7. Dry off the par-boiled wedges with some tissue paper or a kitchen towel.
  8. Place the wedges into the mix and give them a good coating.
  9. Put the wedges on a baking tray
  10. Cook for about 20 to 25 minutes until the skin is nice and crispy
Posted in Cookery, Sides | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Spicy Salsa


This is something I do as a side when I’ve got some strong flavours to compete with or when I’m doing a BBQ.  It makes a very nice addition to pasta, poppadoms or just for dipping tortilla chips and nachos, and I also use it for fajitas & tacos and alongside fish too, for example, grilled whole trout.

Ingredients

  • 1 large tin Chopped Tomatoes (or about 250 g freshly chopped tomatoes)
  • 1 Onion – finely chopped
  • fresh Coriander – chopped
  • fresh Mint – chopped
  • drizzle of Olive Oil
  • squeeze of Lemon or Lime juice
  • a couple of freshly chopped chilli‘s (or substitute 1-2 tsp chilli power)

Method

  • Roughly chop everything
  • Combine ingredients in a dish
  • Serve topped with a couple of fresh coriander or mint leaves
  • or keep refrigerated until needed.

You can use just about any type of tomato in this, the salad tomatoes will produce more for less but the smaller cherry tomatoes add a nice flavour and some of them even add a little more kick to the dish.  If I’m using cherry tomatoes and they’re small enough I just quarter them instead of chopping them up.

Posted in Cookery, Sides | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Steaming Fish


I tend to use three methods for cooking fish:-

Steaming Fish

This I think is my preferred method of cooking a fillet of fish.  It cooks nicely, won’t burn the fish and leaves it nice, tender and moist.  I’ve got my own electric steamer but I only use that if I need to steam a lot using the tiers, placing the items that need to cook the longest nearer the bottom to take the most heat out of the steam.  More often than not I’ll just use my stainless pan on my gas hob with a steamer insert on top.  It’s not as large as the electric steamer but does the job very nicely for a good-sized fillet that’s been cut in half.

One of the important things is to leave the skin on, it helps remove the fish from the pan as it maintains the structure of the flesh.  The only thing I’ll add to the pan are some herbs and seasoning.

Knowing how long to cook the fish for is a skill in itself, it all depends on the size of the fillet and the thickness of the flesh.  The most important thing is to make sure the water doesn’t boil dry in your pan or steamer and to ensure the lid is secure to allow the steam to build up inside the steamer.  I find the lid will haze up, then water droplets will condense on the lid and eventually the haze will clear, at that point the water is boiling away nicely, turn down the heat a little and the steamer is ready for the fish.  Don’t leave the lid off too long, get everything in the pan quickly and make sure the lid is back on ok.

Knowing when it’s done

Cooking times will vary depending on what you’re steaming.  I look for the colour to develop in the flesh, it starts off with a translucent quality and the colour will gradually develop and become solid.  You can easily check once the flesh starts to come away easily, ensure the thickest part of the fillet is properly cooked before you serve it.

Posted in Cookery, Fish | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

No posts this week


Hi,
I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has taken the time out to read my blog so far, it’s nice to know people are reading it. Could you possibly also leave some feedback about the articles you’re reading? At the moment it feels like I’m writing in the dark, your feedback can help me build this blog into something better.
I’m afraid I won’t be posting anything new this week as I’m very busy preparing my kit for an overnight Airsoft event taking place this weekend. I should be back on schedule next week with a post on Tuesday and the normal weekly post on Thursday.
Thanks again,
Mark.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment