chicken fried pork

Chicken Fried Pork

chicken fried porkBelfast folk of my vintage may well remember the Chicago Pizza Pie Factory (where the Stiff Kitten was down the side of the cinema on Dublin Road.) Then again, they might not as it was primarily famed for its cheap Monday night cocktails and extremely lax ID rules.

It did also serve food. The Chicago deep dish pizza the name suggests and other bastardised ‘Murrican dishes were all on the menu along with the implausible sounding chicken fried steak. Pre-internet we thought this must be made up. How does steak ever resemble chicken?

Unsurprisingly, finding out wasn’t one of the pressing ambitions of my adulthood and I’d forgotten about the whole thing until I had a drink with a friend recently. She’d just come back from Texas and showed me a mouthwatering selection of food on her phone.

Maple bacon doughnuts, moon pies and right there, a chicken fried steak. Turns out it’s a good old Texan tradition and takes those thin cuts of steak Americans love and coats them in the same breading used for fried chicken and serves it up with white gravy. And that’s how steak resembles chicken it seems.

On my current low fodmap diet, I eat a lot of meat. And more specifically, a lot of pork shoulder steaks. Admittedly very tasty, they are also about the cheapest cut of meat around that doesn’t need a tonne of flavouring added to it since practically every marinade, sauce or seasoning going has something in it I can’t eat these days.

I decided to jazz up my third pork shoulder steak of the week by turning it into chicken fried pork. I turned to my bible of anything remotely American and food related and read up on chicken fried steak on Serious Eats and got to work tweaking the recipe.

Most US recipes serve 6 so it’s always a mathematical challenge for me to scale them down while converting from their tedious obsession with volumetric measuring. I basically eyeballed this one so if the measurements are slightly out it’s probably that and the fact flour and liquid always varies a bit.

Chicken Fried Pork (serves 2)

  • 2 pork shoulder steaks (approx 150g each)
  • 50g cornflour
  • 1 egg
  • 100ml buttermilk, yoghurt or soured milk
  • 100g plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch monosodium glutamate powder (optional)
  • salt and pepper
  • 450ml vegetable oil for frying

Start by bashing your pork shoulder steak out thinner. I folded mine in greaseproof paper and whacked it with the palm of my hand until it was about  1/2 inch thick. I don’t have a meat mallet and find a rolling pin gets meat thin and bruised. Plus I’d had a frustrating day and beating something senseless helped.

Set the steaks on some kitchen roll to absorb moisture and lay out your breading station so you can work easily. Put the cornflour on a large plate. Crack the egg into a shallow dish and add about 25ml of the buttermilk to make it looser in texture.

Put the plain flour in another shallow dish or bowl and add the seasonings and baking powder. Be generous with the salt and pepper. I also used a bit of Old Bay Seasoning since it’s all fancy pants American.

I’m a big fan of the MSG powder as it adds an extra umaminess to things and I’m so limited in my choice of seasonings now. If you have issues with it or can’t get it (mine is labelled Chinese Salt) just add a wee bit more salt.

Start adding the remaining buttermilk a couple of teaspoons at a time to the seasoned flour and rub it in with your fingertips so you end up with a sandy breadcrumb-like mixture that’s wet but not sticky. You may not use all the buttermilk so add any remaining to the egg.

Set out a baking rack and start prepping the pork. Press it into the cornflour, coating well but shaking off any excess. Dip into the egg mixture, again removing any excess. Press into the seasoning flour breading and lay on the baking rack to rest for 10 minutes. Repeat with the other steak.

I’ve always had trouble with my coating on fried chicken falling off and it turns out that resting the breading before frying does wonders to stop it. I also find deep frying easier for coated things so that’s what we’re doing here.

Fill a deep pan or wok with the oil and using a thermometer, heat the oil to exactly 190℃ and carefully using tongs add one of the breaded steaks to the pan. I fried mine for 4 minutes in total, turning 4 times so each side got 2 minutes but evenly spaced.

Lift out and place on the clean end of the baking rack and fry the next steak. The baking powder causes the breading to puff up slightly and if you put the fried steaks on kitchen roll to rest, the crisp puffed up coating goes soggy and limp, so the rack is a better bet. Just keep your raw and cooked meat separate.

Rest the steaks for at least 5 minutes but up to 10 is fine. The coating insulates the meat and keeps it pretty hot. I served mine with a baked potato and a quick slaw of grated red cabbage, carrot and daikon in a dressing of buttermilk, cream cheese and a dash of vinegar. But quite frankly, you’ve just deep fried pork for dinner, you could serve it with anything and it’ll be awesome.

And awesome it was. The coating was light and oh so crunchy and the pork was perfectly cooked and lovely and tender. I chose not to serve the white gravy beloved of Americans because it seems weird to me to get the coating so crisp and then make it soggy. And because I forgot…

It was still one of the best dinners I’ve had in ages though. I sense a lot more fried breaded things in my future. I’ll try a spelt version next for the fodmappers out there who can’t do wheat. I’m generous like that.



Mango Lassi Frozen Yoghurt

mango lassi

London has been hot and humid recently. The kind of weather where I stop daydreaming about dinner for once and imagine cold showers and ice lollies instead. I’ve been drinking ice coffees to cool down and rather than cooking in the evenings, standing over the kitchen sink trying to keep the juice of a chilled watermelon or a sun ripened mango from running down my front.

Mangoes are one of the finest flavours in warm weather. Sunshine turns them into something really special, and it’s a joy to suck the flesh from the stone inside while holding it in sticky hands sitting outside. But few things are more refreshing than the subcontinent classic of a mango lassi.

Sweet velvety mango puree with creamy chilled yoghurt and the tiniest dash of salt cools any day or any curry down beautifully and I can’t get enough of them in Indian restaurants. I can never get them quite right at home though usually. The yoghurt isn’t thin enough for drinking consistency and if I water it down, I lose the flavour of the mango. But this heat had me determined to crack the code.

And that answer came with the recent discovery of buttermilk in the local Polish shop. I think we all know I’m totally and utterly obsessed with this ingredient and it’s a total fridge staple for me. The Polish stuff is a lovely loose consistency and I knew it would get the texture just right if I mixed it with the yoghurt. It did and I’ve been starting the morning with a glass of this amber nectar.

It put me in mind of how I’ve always meat to try making frozen yoghurt again after an ill fated attempt a few years ago where it frozen so densely, it took about an hour to defrost enough to chip a spoonful out by which time we’d eaten the dessert it went with and moved onto ice cold beers instead. Perhaps the buttermilk would sort the texture here too?

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Buttermilk Brined Barbecued Chicken

buttermilk chicken

I admit it. I am obsessed by buttermilk. But why wouldn’t I be when you realise what an amazing ingredient it is. Traditionally the the liquid left behind when cream is churned into butter, it’s an astounding versatile ingredient. High in protein and low in fat and more tangy and flavoursome than whey, it has been used in cooking for centuries.

These days it is usually made from culturing milk to make a creamy liquid in the same vein as drinks such as kefir which have always been associated with good digestive health as well as a delicious flavour. A friend of mine shares by buttermilk mixed with orange juice as a hangover cure which is beyond my limits of love for buttermilk.

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A trilogy of fried chicken…

Three gluten free fried chicken recipes

I hear fried chicken is the next ‘junk food’ to get the gourmet treatment and because I live in Brixton, my tolerance for hipster venues is plummeting, I decided it was time to conquer my fried chicken demons and learn how to do it at home where the whole thing would take less time than queuing up in Market Row. I also decided to set myself the challenge of making it all gluten free as well…

I’m not gluten or wheat sensitive, but for some reason three different people have had conversations with me recently about fried chicken coatings that happen to be gluten free, so inspired by their enthusiasm, I thought I’d steal their ideas and do a fried chicken crunch off, testing each version against each other. All three were good. All three were easy. One was a clear winner.

I standardised a bit. Each recipe does 4 pieces of chicken. All the chicken was free range and was bone in and skin on thighs. I marinaded them in yoghurt loosened with lemon juice to save you all hearing my obsessive rant about why you can’t get proper buttermilk in England again. This would be brilliant marinaded overnight, but a couple of hours will do nicely. About 20 minutes before you need them, drain the thighs in a sieve so they aren’t too wet. Then turn attention to the coatings.

Potato fried chicken: (first piece from the front)

This is basically going a bit 70s and using dehydrated instant mash flakes as your topping. You need the cheap ones from a Basics range so that you don’t accidentally end up with potato paste over chicken skin. It’s dead simple. Put 1/2 cup or about 50g of flakes in a shallow dish and add the seasoning of your choice. I went with thyme, black pepper and paprika. Then dredge your chicken well each side without shaking too much coating off and shallow fry for 10 minutes, turning gently or spooning hot oil over the other side to firm it up before turning. Finish off for 10 minutes in the oven at 180℃. Or simply cook in the oven the whole time without adding any extra oi at 200℃. It won’t be as golden, but it’s quick, easy and crunchy at the same.

Rice flour and cornflour fried chicken: (middle piece)

Slightly more complicated than the first recipe, this has three ingredients instead of one. Mix 1/4 cup of rice flour and 1/4 cup or 25g of each in a dish and add your choice of seasoning. I used Old Bay and cayenne. Then add 4 tablespoons of the yoghurt/buttermilk mix and with your fingertips, rub together until you get what looks like slightly damp breadcrumbs. You don’t want it sticky or too clumpy so keep rubbing til it’s right. Then coat the chicken on each side making sure there are no lumpy bits and shallow fry as above. Or again, oven cook the same way.

Egg white batter fried chicken: (furthest from the front)

A little bit Chinese in style, this one uses egg whites and cornflour beaten together to make a batter. I used 2 egg whites (from the approximately 9000 leftover from my ice cream making) and 1/4 cup cornflour whisked together. I’d run out of seasoning ideas, but some garlic powder might have been good here. Your batter needs to be thick, not liquidy and move quickly or it’ll solidify into something like cement.  Coat the chicken well and then fry. This one needs oil, not the oven. I ended up with a light puffy batter on each side and an uncooked seam from shallow frying. I basted it with hot oil to rid me of this, but it might have been easier to deep fry it. Rest it in a warm oven for 10 minutes after cooking through.

All the chicken was incredibly juicy and tender from its lactic acid bath. Each one had a good contrast between the coating and the meat, but my winner was the potato coating. The rice/corn flour one had a floury squeaky mouthfeel that cloyed slightly, while the batter one was a bit greasy as it absorbed a lot of oil in comparison to the others and both lost their crunch quickly on the plate, becoming a bit gluey, while the potato flakes held up well after cooking and had the most interest to me. It would also have worked well as an oven dish and would be good with fish instead.

I liked all of these better than my usual wheat flour recipe which required marinading, egging and coating and then double dipping to get a good crunch on. The gluten free ones were all very simple and it pleased me the simplest one of all won out. I served my chicken with some roasted plaintain and chilli rubbed corn on the cob for a carb fest, but some slaw would cut through it all nicely and add some colour to the plate. Serve with a refreshing beer and you’ll be frying tonight without having to leave the house…



Twice as nice… our daily bread

It’s said man cannot live on bread alone. Considering this statement, I’m surprised organised religion remained so popular for so long on our wee island, when you think what a cracking range of Irish breads there are (veda, potato bread, soda farls and wheaten bread amongst others). I’m all for a bit of decent bread, slathered with butter, rather than some dour sermonising or happy clapping. I’ll probably be smitten down by the hand of a deity for saying that, but at least I’ll go with a smile on my face and a full tum…

Sundays are ripe for laziness*, cooking, and loafing around the house. Today’s mission was to make a decent and homely wheaten bread, to help counter the autumnal blues outside. However we’d been out drinking in Leeds yesterday (sampling some great ales from Leeds and Ossett breweries amongst others), and after a late night and a fuzzy head this morning, something special was required for breakfast first.

I’d planned to make baked eggs, following the recipe from the Parlour Café Cookbook. These have rapidly established themselves as a brekkie standby, not least because they’re so easy to cook. Their simplicity belies their deliciousness. I swapped the Parma ham from their original recipe with some slivers of locally hand-crafted air-dried ham from my friends at Porcus. Their rare-breed pork is heavenly, and I’m privileged enough to get samples of their splendid ham from time to time. These were perfect to line the ramekins, before cracking a hen’s egg in each. But I felt I needed something a tad more substantial to accompany these, so I made some potato bread – a family favourite – for the first time ever.

As Miss South’s previously explained, it’s meant to be made with leftover mashed potato, but that’s rarer than hen’s teeth in my house, so I quickly cubed and boiled up a few spuds, ran them through the potato ricer, then mixed in some plain flour & a knob of butter to create a light dough with a bit of bite. Proportions may vary depending on how waxy/floury your spuds are, but normally you want 4 to 5 times more flour than mash. Miss South’s said it before and we’ll say it again: potato bread is dead easy… it takes a Herculean effort to mess it up. A perfect compliment to any kind of ham and eggs…

Wheaten bread, otherwise known as brown soda bread, is another one of those wonderfully yeast-free breads we love back home. As with soda farls, the secret is the baking soda which helps it rise. You can buy it in many supermarkets, ready-made and branded courtesy of Paul Rankin; and both it and the more well-known white soda breads are gaining popularity on this side of the water. No wonder, it’s both healthy and oh-so-tasty. The ever-reliable Dan Lepard popped up on Women’s Hour’s “Cook the Perfect…” last week with his own take on it, and this spurred me on to do it the North/South way…

We’re a bit more old school in our family, and the core ingredients for wheaten bread are normally just flour, buttermilk, baking soda, and a pinch of sugar. Wheaten bread’s at least as easy to make as potato bread, especially if you have some Northern Irish wheaten bread mix to hand (thanks to my mum for bringing some across this summer). Of course, you can instead use a good mix of plain and wholemeal flour instead… but try and use as coarse and bran-heavy a mix as possible, as this really contributes to the flavour. In a mix, the baking soda’s already in place, so today all I had to do was add buttermilk and sugar.

I’m lucky enough to be able to get buttermilk in my local Morrisons, but I hear it’s hard to source in many parts of the country, so you can use full-fat milk and sour it with some lemon juice, or mix in some live yoghurt instead. Use roughly 3 parts flour to 2 parts buttermilk… in this case I used 500g of flour and about 330ml buttermilk, with a teaspoon of caster sugar just to bring out that nuttiness of the bran even more.

Mix it all up until you get a nice dough, not too sticky or overworked. Then normally I’d roll it out into a roundish shape, about 1″ / 3cm thick, before scoring the top into quarters. I dusted it with a little plain flour, but it’s also good finished with some chopped rolled oats.

As I was mixing the dough I realised I’d not made this for far too long; in fact since I went to Rotterdam to visit friends from all over Europe and enjoy a good shared meal. My Italian mate knocked up some fantastic food, so I thought it’d be right to bring a decent Irish loaf to add to the mix. Most people smuggle addictive substances out of the Netherlands: I may be the only person to have smuggled a loaf of wheaten bread in!

This is a bread with instant gratification in mind, with no leavening or proving required. I baked this straight on the shelf in a pre-heated oven, rather than on a tray, for 35mins (200C/400F/Gasmark 6) straight. Once it came out, sounding hollow when tapped, it had to sit and cool down on a wire rack. This is one of my strongest kitchen memories as a kid. I used to hang around, greedily watching while my mum baked glorious bannocks of wheaten bread, but the hardest part was waiting for them to cool, far too slowly, on a wire rack, with a tea towel covering them. As I found out today, self-control still isn’t one of my strong points when it comes to wheaten bread, even after all these years. We succumbed while the bread was warm enough to melt great slatherings of butter.

Simple and effective with good butter, though I had a last-minute hankering for a bit of blue cheese, which works so well with the nutty sweetness of the bread. Cashel Blue would be the natural Irish choice, but I was able to pick up some very decent Jervaulx Blue instead, which I enjoyed along with a pot of Yorkshire Tea. Living just inside West Yorkshire, it seemed a perfect choice. It also makes superb toast. If you’re looking for something a little more special, slices of buttered wheaten bread alongside some good Irish smoked salmon, finished with a sprig of chervil, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and some cracked black pepper is to die for.

*”Oh wheaten it be nice…” with apologies to the Small Faces…