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Oi muchim, courgette flowers & boiled rice

Heat me up, melt me down: cool Vietnamese & Korean chilli favourites

Oi muchim, courgette flowers & boiled rice

As you might’ve noticed, it’s been hot. Very hot. And when it gets hot, I want food which both heats me up and cools me down (as the Shirley Lites almost sang). You could plot a graph showing a direct correlation between outside temperature, and my yearnings for salads and chilli. When we were growing up (and unexposed to hot, spicy food) I didn’t fully understand the concept of hot food actually cooling you down. I’ve come to appreciate it more over the years, and now many of my favourite foods in hot, humid weather are liberally laced with chillies.

My first chilli experience was… instructive. When I was nine, I watched a chilli-eating contest on a BBC TV programme called ‘Zoo 2000‘*. They made it all look fun and easy, so I went to the fridge and took out a green chilli I’d previously spotted. Biting off a decent chunk in one go, my  reaction to the subsequent heat caused the rest of the family to dissolve with mirth.

What turned it from a minor distraction into a family legend, though, was our dad laughing in that slightly condescending way adults can do, then eating the other half in one go. He probably thought my young palate was overly sensitive… but when he turn scarlet and grabbed the milk bottle from my hands to douse the fire within, comedy reigned. I learned two things that day: to treat chilli with respect, and that milk tempers capsaicin better than water. One reason I prefer lassi to beer in a curry house.

Anyway, weather like this tends to suppress my appetite, so an array of light but spicy food is perfect to nibble on. Recently I’ve been enjoying two of my favourite different south-east Asian dishes, each with a bit of fire in them. Hope you enjoy trying them out.

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Michelada Peri Peri Poussin

Michelada peri peri chicken

It was sunny yesterday and it looks like it might remain so for an hour or two more. I was desperate to get the barbecue out and use it for the first time all summer and do some classics like beer can chicken and grilled sardines, but cautious of this ever changing weather this summer, I decided not to risk something that might take a couple of hours and decided to beercan a poussin instead.

Quick thinkers will have realised that a poussin is a petite bird and that the average beercan won’t fit inside it, which is how michelada poussin came about. I rather like a pre-dinner drink and often keep cocktail sized cans of tomato juice so I can have a Bloody Mary. These looked like they’d fit a poussin perfectly. Worried that the tomato juice wouldn’t give enough steam, I replaced half of it with a can of Red Stripe. I then carefully wedged the can inside the bird and marinaded with homemade peri peri sauce before cooking a few hours later.

I didn’t actually get to cook my poussin over the barbecue as my neighbours decided to throw a raucous party with a full on sound system that drove us all indoors with the windows shut, but I was delighted to see that you can still beercan a bird in your oven with a minimum of hassle!

Michelada Peri Peri Poussin: one poussin serves one person and amounts are for one bird

  • 1 poussin
  • 1 teaspoon peri peri sauce
  • 1 teaspoon tomato puree
  • splash vinegar (anything except malt)
  • drizzle of oil
  • 1 cocktail sized can of tomato juice, half and half with beer
  • 1 pair of latex gloves

First make your peri peri sauce. It’s easier than falling off a log and it’s brilliant because you can add as much heat or flavour to it as you like giving you the chance to experiment and customise

Peri Peri Sauce:

  • 8 large red chillies
  • 2 scotch bonnets
  • 4 cloves roast garlic
  • vinegar (not malt) to loosen
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ses salt
  • two sprigs fresh thyme

Roast all the chillies until blackened and blistered. This should take about 25 minutes at 200℃. Make sure you wear latex gloves and once the chillies are cool enough to handle, top and tail chop the red ones finely. Remove the seeds from one of the scotch bonnets. Then put everything in the blender and blitz until a thick puree. Add in the lemon juice and enough vinegar to make the consistency like a thick ketchup. Pour into a sterilised jar and keep in the fridge. It’s pretty hot, and fairly addictive, especially used raw, cooking mellows it to a pleasant tingle.

To do the poussin, pour half the can of tomato juice out and top up with beer. Wedge the can up inside the bird so it is literally perched on it. Mix the peri peri sauce and tomato puree with a splash of vinegar and oil to make it loose enough to rub over the bird. Make sure you wear latex gloves to do this and work the marinade into all the nooks and crannies and leave to soak in for an hour or two.

To cook, either use your kettle barbecue with the coals on either side and the poussin in the middle to cook indirectly for about 30 minutes before giving the skin a crisp up over the heat or pop in the oven on a tray to cook for 40 minutes at 180℃. The liquid inside the can steams the poussin as it cooks so the meat is super succulent and the vertical roasting means all the skin is equally crisp. I kept it simple, roasting a few tomatoes in the tray under the bird as a side dish to soak up the juices.

Once the bird is done, set to one side to rest, making sure there is a tray or bowl to catch the juices. Ten minutes will make it even more juicy and delicious and more to the point allows the can to cool enough that you can pull it out to make the poussin easier to eat. Dust the skin with some sea salt and then sit down to perfectly poultry.

The meat is so juicy, you need some flatbread to soak it up, but as you pull the legs and wings off it’ll be dripping down your hands too. Don’t miss a morsel of the meat and revel in the good proportion of skin to meat compared to a normal chook. There’s something incredibly decadent about a whole bird to yourself and it gets round the who likes what bit dilemma nicely. I found one whole poussin and some flatbread was incredibly filling, but utterly indulgent and delicious. It didn’t stop me wanting to demolish a second crispy skinned spicy little number…

 

 

Game for a curry? Tandoori pheasant & squirrel

Finished plate of tandoori pheasant

As I’ve said before, although I’ve grown to appreciate great south Asian food, it’s not something I have a load of experience with. However I’ve been recently fired up by experiences at The Spice Club, some great reading on various blogs, and the burgeoning movement in authentic gourmet Indian and Pakistani food in the UK.

In addition, a present last Christmas – the cookbook ‘Food of the Grand Trunk Road‘ by Anirudh Arora and Hardeep Singh Kohli – has provided a load of inspiration, and the chance to try my hand at some of the recipes. Which are all excellent, but more time-consuming than I’m used to. The book’s also prompted me to extensively update my store cupboard as a result, so I’m now discovering the joys of sourcing exotic ingredients and grinding fresh spices more regularly.

Grilled tandoori pheasant pieces in shallow dish, beside book

I was given a pheasant during last year’s game season… after a few days hanging and prepping it got placed in the freezer and I forgot all about it until having a bit of a clear-out last month. Wanting to try something a bit different to the usual roast, I mulled over something Middle Eastern or Indian-influenced. Perhaps something at the back of my mind was thinking about the long-distant Anglo-Indian themes… curry, kedgeree and grand homes; hunting parties and polo; gin & tonics and cool glasses of IPA. Anyway, a quick flick through the aforementioned book, and I came across a recipe for Teetari, or Tandoori Guinea Fowl. That sounded pretty fine, and after checking the recipe I had the time to marinade the meat properly and make a proper meal of it.

Mind you, I didn’t think it’d be so good. As I found out, tandoori and game are pretty much perfect partners, especially if you marinade the meat properly so it tenderises the lean, sinewy flesh. Truly sublime. A word to the wise though… this marinade recipe is pretty punchy, so if you don’t like hot food, you may want to tone down the amount of chillies a wee bit.

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Duck and scramble with huevos rancheros

It struck me earlier I don’t often blog about breakfast, which as we all know is the most important meal of the day. I’m a great fan of a hearty, lazy, savoury breakfast… something which isn’t normally possible with the bustling routine of the working day. So weekends are the time to reclaim the tradition of cooking up a proper breakfast.

Today I’m going to cover huevos rancheros (or raunchy eggs as my breakfast companion called them earlier).These ranch-style scrambled eggs have a bit of a kick to them. I’ve only made this dish once before, many moons ago, when a mate crashed over after a night on the beers, and we felt we needed something to counter the first signs of a hangover. I remembered it was delicious, but also a bit of a faff. Definitely the kind of low-intensity task best suited to lazy Sunday mornings with the brain switched to low power mode and some good tunes in the kitchen. Perfect for this morning, in fact.
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Crabapple Cheese…with a kick!


October’s Invisible Food Walk was themed around the autumnal joys of apples and pears (the real ones, not the Cockney version) and I was amazed to discover that I could pick both within five minutes walk of my house.

We visited the pear tree in the Loughborough Estate off Angell Road and using a fishing rod with a handy blade attached, honed our skills at cutting through the stems and sending the large green pears downwards, like a fruity version of a fairground game! I’m not sure what variety of pears these are, but they tasted pretty good after being slowly poached in wine and spices as a light autumnal dessert after some goat stew.

Further round the corner in the community herb garden at Angell Town we came across our apples. Beautiful little cherry sized crabapples to be precise. There are three decent sized trees and they were absolutely groaning with fruit. With a bit of concentration and time, I managed to pick 8lbs of the most perfect looking little apples and carried them home with glee, planning to work on the domestic skills I picked up making quince jelly a few weeks ago and make both crabapple jelly and cheese with them.*

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