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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.

 

 

rosti

Champ Rosti

rosti

*Warning: this recipe may contain surprise cheese…

It was Pancake Day this week and with my usual organisational skills when I went to make pancakes for dinner on Tuesday, I had run out of eggs. And I don’t want to know how to make pancake batter without eggs thank you very much.

I thought what other flat foodstuff I could make for dinner and my mind went to rosti. Basically a pancake made almost entirely of potato, it’s quite the favourite of mine for that and its relative ease to make. Its Irish cousin boxty defeats me every time. Which might explain why I’m single on Valentine’s Day as apparently its your boxty making skills men are after. Who knew?

No such challenges with rosti (unlike me bothering to find the umlaut on my keyboard it would seem.) I decided to make one large rosti and to fodmap it, replace the onion with the greens of spring onion which gives it a champ flavour.

I also stealthily slipped some sliced mozzarella on top of the first layer of potato before adding a second layer and baking it all in the oven so I ended up with a gooey cheesy filling for a fantastic easy one pot brunch or dinner.

When I say serves 2, you of course know I ate the lot myself but in two sittings which totally counts.

Champ Rosti (serves 2)

  • 700g potatoes, grated
  • 3 spring onions (greens only if fodmap friendly)
  • 25g butter
  • 1 ball mozzarella, sliced
  • salt and pepper

The knack to a good rosti is potato starch to stick the strands of spud together and the best way I’ve found is to peel your potatoes (I used these Elfe ones I’ve been getting in Lidl which are fantastic) and boil them whole for exactly eight minutes.

Drain and allow to cool enough to be able to handle the potato and then grate on the coarsest side of the grater. You will have the correct amount of potato starch needed with the minimum of fuss. It should be sticky rather than gluey.

Put the grated potato in a bowl. Thinly slice the spring onions and add to the potatoes. Season it all well and mix the spring onions through well. I have in the past also added thinly shredded cabbage here too.

Melt half the butter in the base of an ovenproof pan or skillet until it starts to foam. I actually used some brown butter I had left from another batch of these cookies which is why my rosti is so toasty brown.

Press half the potato mix into the pan without packing it down too tightly. Put the sliced mozzarella on top of it all and then press the other half of the potato on top of that. Press it all down quite firmly with a fish slice or spatula. Dot the remaining butter on top it all and put the pan in a preheated 200℃ oven for 20 minutes.

I went to clean the bathroom while mine was cooking but you may prefer to kill time other ways. Either way you’ll have a gorgeous golden rosti with crisp edges and a delicious cheesy centre and the only other effort being whether to top it with an egg or not. Any spare lemon and sugar from thwarted pancake making is not recommended though…

 

 

potato chip cookies

Potato Crisp Cookies

potato chip cookiesYup. This week’s recipe is cookies made with ready salted crisps because a) I’m stuck in the house due to ill health and bored and b) why the hell not? January is a time of indecision for most people and I like to provide the answers to questions like ‘do I want crisps or a biscuit?’ with a literal ‘have both’.

I had randomly stumbled across this idea on an American blog ages ago and clipped it to an Evernote folder. I love Evernote. It’s like the organised version of my tendencies toward large piles of paper and lists and forgetting about stuff and my entire life is plotted out in there.

So when an old friend emailed to say he would be in London this week and would love to pop round for a long catch up and some home baking and I needed some inspiration, I just put the word ‘cookies’ into Evernote and this was the first hit in how my mind stores things.

It may sound odd, but really it’s just a novel way of reworking the good old salt and sweet combo and achieving my ambition to potato-ize every dish in the world. I do like lofty aspirations in my home baking, but I like deliciousness more. Would they manage that?

Spoiler alert: they are basically butter, sugar and crisps combined. They take deliciousness into a whole new sphere. These are so good I even stopped cursing the original recipe for using a cup and two thirds of flour. I want to be eating them right now, not using my hands to type this blogpost…

Potato Crisp Cookies:  makes about 20 (adapted from here)

  • 220g room temperature butter
  • 125g sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 250g plain flour
  • 50g plain or ready salted crisps, crushed up

Preheat your oven to 160℃ and line two baking trays with greaseproof paper. You can cut out the whole tiresome weighing cups adaptation of the recipe because I’ve done it for you.

I mistook the 1/3 cup measure I have and the 1/2 cup one and for the first ever my life added more sugar to an American recipe than it stated, but skipped the whole adding icing sugar step at the end so it worked out fine.

Cream the butter and sugar together with an electric whisk until light, fluffy and pale and then add the vanilla extract. Add in the flour and when it is about two thirds combined, mix in the crushed crisps too.

It will all come together into a soft pliable cookie dough that comes away from the bowl cleanly. I pinched a sort of walnut sized ball of dough off it and rolled and placed on the trays without flattening. The original recipe shows thin flat delicate cookies. I preferred some heft myself.

Bake the biscuits for about 20 minutes until just colouring round the edges. They didn’t flatten much upon cooking so I could have put them closer together and done them all once. You live and learn.

Cool for 5 minutes on the tray and then transfer to a wire rack. They are light and buttery like shortbread but with the salty crunch of crisps and my friend and I inhaled several in close succession. I put some in a tin overnight and they softened slightly to be chewy and buttery with the salty crunch of crisps. This is a biscuit that likes to keep on giving frankly.

Make them. That’s an order. Celebrate butter. Celebrate crisps. Make January nicer with both. I might sub some rice flour in next time to give even more shortness, but if you excuse me, I have a biscuit tin to raid instead of chat to you lot…

 

 

 

 

trifle

Chocolate Mousse Trifle

trifle

Merry post Christmas and Happy New 2016! I hope you had a fantastic festive season and aren’t planning to punish yourselves in anyway with month long detoxes or exclusions? You can drink a wee bit less or eat more vegan food any time you know. A pissing wet January weekend isn’t my moment to have a major life change, but I guess everyone’s different…

My big difference this Christmas was that I didn’t cook. I ate some excellent food but for once I allowed other people to cook for me. And it was absolutely wonderful.

My lovely friends went out of their way to welcome me to their homes and tables over the holidays and make food I could eat and make no fuss when there was something I couldn’t. As a result I enjoyed each and every time I ate and felt more treated and spoiled than if I’d been plied with gifts.

This was my first Christmas in England and I decided to go the whole hog and do as many firsts as possible and try as much new stuff as I could. I ate my first blini, drank my first Baileys, ate Brussel sprouts and pigs in blankets with Christmas dinner, had a snowball and the big one, made and ate my first ever trifle.

I have always loathed the idea of trifle. Technically I have never loathed trifle because I have never eaten trifle until last week. It’s not something we do in our family and frankly, I’ve always found it rather English.

My only childhood experience of trifle were terrifying ready made Dale Farm ones made of lurid jelly, cryogenically suspended tinned fruit and squirty cream begging to be put out of its mercy. Other Northern Irish children of the Eighties probably remember these in Crazy Prices or Stewarts too. I believe one was supposed to wash it down with some of that day glo orange squash children were practically weaned on in those days since it came in milk bottles beside your daily pinta.

I never touched them no matter how rude it made me look when I went to friends’ houses for tea after school. Luckily most adults were so tickled by a small child refusing sugar that they forgot to tell my parents what a precocious brat I was. Once I got to secondary school, trifle just seemed to vanish out of my life and I’ve avoided it ever since.

Listening to this Radio 4 programme with Tim Hayward before Christmas was my equivalent of watching a horror film. I ducked beneath the bed covers at least once as they discussed jelly and declared myself trifle-phobic.

Then it all happened. My friends who I was joining for Christmas dinner asked me to bring a dessert. I decided to make a version of this chocolate prune cake but with chestnut puree instead of dried fruit. This was my no cooking Christmas after all and that cake is so simple you can make and bake it in under an hour.

But what you can’t do at 1am on the morning of Christmas Eve is take it out of a bundt tin without it breaking into moussey hunks of panic on your kitchen worktops. Emergency Googling told me you have two options with a broken cake: cake pops or trifle.

And when you’ve got Christmas Eve plans involving prosecco and good jamon and better manners than turning up to Christmas lunch with no desert, you go with trifle.

One swift trip to Tesco Express later and I had the makings of a chocolate mousse trifle. I would layer the sliced cake up and pour raspberry coulis and fresh raspberries over it, add homemade chocolate mousse, more raspberries and whipped cream and it would all be fine.

Apart from the fact a trifle-hater doesn’t usually have anything they can make trifle for 6 people in and carry it around the corner with ease. Which is how I found myself making a bucket of trifle in a Tupperware container big enough to bath a baby, but yet easy to transport.

This actually make enough trifle for 16 people so it was going to be too weird to excuse myself from eating my own dessert. I dug in and told myself it wasn’t really trifle because the cake hadn’t been moistened but was meant to be like that.

And it was delicious. Incredibly ridiculously rich. But delicious. Turns out I’m not trifle-phobic. I’m just fussy. But you probably all knew that anyway…

Chocolate Mousse Trifle (serves an even dozen at least)

For the cake:

  • 400g dark chocolate
  • 200g chestnut puree
  • 175g butter
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 6 egg whites
  • 3 tablespoons icing sugar

For the mousse:

  • 400g milk chocolate
  • 175g butter
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the trifle:

  • 350g raspberry puree
  • 200g fresh raspberries
  • 500ml double cream

You could of course just make the cake or the mousse and not bugger either of them up and serve them separately. But if I’d done that I wouldn’t have had an amusing anecdote or a blog post.

Grease and flour a 9 inch cake tin. You can use a bundt if you want to save on some of the effort of slicing, but a standard tin is fine. Heat the oven to 175℃.

Make a bain marie by placing a large bowl over a pan of water on the cooker, making sure the water doesn’t touch the base of the bowl. Melt the chocolate, chestnut puree and butter together in this. Separate the eggs and set aside.

Once the chocolate is melted, take it off the heat and set carefully into a sink of cold water to cool. Beat the egg whites with the icing sugar until stiff peaks and set aside.

Take the chocolate out of the water and beat each egg yolk into it one at a time with your electric whisk to add lots of air. Then fold in the egg whites a third at a time.

Pour the mix into your cake tin and bake for 40-45 minutes. The cake will rise massively in the oven so allow breathing space. Once the top is slightly cracked and light in colour, take out and let it cool on a wire rack.

Make the raspberry puree by blitzing either defrosted raspberries or fresh ones with a tablespoon of icing sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice and set set aside.

Slice the cooled cake and layer into a trifle bowl (or enormous tupperware container.) Pour the raspberry puree over it and add about half the raspberries. Allow to sit while you make the mousse. You could use that bottle of Chambord you have knocking round instead if you prefer.

Set up up your bain marie again and melt the chocolate and butter together. Separate the eggs and cool the melted chocolate well. You do not want scrambled egg while you’re making trifle (obviously I got it on Christmas Eve and just carried on anyway.)

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks with a pinch of salt and set aside. Add the vanilla extract and beat each egg yolk in one at a time and then fold in the egg whites a third at a time.

Pour over the cake and raspberry puree and chill for 4 hours or overnight. About an hour before serving whip the double cream and spread on top of the set mousse and decorate with the remaining fresh raspberries. Serve and convert all the trifle haters and jelly doubters!

 

fodmap granola

Fodmap Friendly Granola

fodmap granolaThe places that those pesky fodmaps can hide is never ending. If there is isn’t wheat in one thing, there’s lactose in another and honey in the next. Ironically the ‘healthier’ the food is, the more likely it is that a fodmap trigger will leap out at you.

I don’t really eat cereal, but I do love granola. Two things force me to make my own: the cost of the decent ones and the fact they all seem to sneak inulin in there for fibre. Inulin is the stuff that makes Jerusalem artichokes so difficult to digest for most people and it’s a super charged neon light flashing fodmap.

Discovering there was such a thing as oatgerm recently made me realise I could tweak my basic granola recipe to something all fodmappers can eat if I switch the honey for golden syrup. Before everyone gets up in arms about sugar in their breakfast cereal, let me remind you that honey is just middle class sugar. In fact it’s got a higher fructose load than the high fructose corn syrup we are taught to fear but it’s allowed to be put into things as ‘no added sugar’. Ahem.

Fodmap Friendly Granola (makes about 850g)

  • 100g jumbo oats
  • 150g porridge oats
  • 30g oatgerm
  • 30g sesame seeds
  • 30g pumpkin seeds
  • 30g sunflower seeds
  • 100g Brazil nuts, halved
  • 50g pecans
  • 100g flaked coconut (not desiccated)
  • 125g vegetable oil (or coconut oil if you like)
  • 125ml golden syrup
  • pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg white

This is so easy to make and this is a good base recipe that you can tweak to your own preferences. If you want higher protein levels, add some amaranth or if higher fibre is your thing, add chia seeds. If you can tolerate dried fruit, add about 100g as the granola cools. If like me, you like your granola more like a snack than breakfast, add some chocolate chips when it’s cooled.

Put the golden syrup and the oil in a small saucepan and heat until melted together. Take off the heat and add in the salt and the vanilla extract.

Put all the dried ingredients in a large bowl and pour the syrup and oil mix over it all and mix well. It will look like the liquid has soaked in and it will be too dry. Don’t panic. It will be the perfect amount to give a burnished golden look to the granola.

Beat the egg white slightly in a small bowl and add to the dried ingredients. This helps them to cluster together to give that luxurious feeling the posh granolas have and separates it further from its raw cousin muesli. It doesn’t make any difference to the storage of the granola because the egg is cooked.

Put the granola mix into two deep non stick roasting tins, making sure you can move the granola around in them. Cook in a preheated oven at 160℃ for about 25 minutes or until as golden as you like it. It will still be very slightly soft as it crisps up as it cools.

Give the granola a stir round before it cools or it will harden into a massive clump that you will have to chisel off the tray later. I made this mistake the first time and the mice in my kitchen are still enjoying the spoils of it exploding everywhere when I tried to lever it out of the tray.

Once cooled, stir any additions in and then store in an airtight container for up to 4 weeks. It would also be rather excellent in small cellophane or foil bags as Christmas gifts. Just leave the egg white out if you’re going vegan.

It will seem like you spent a lot of money to make a small amount of granola, but remember the ingredients make at least five or six batches for the price of two boxes of branded stuff. Plus you can eat it dry in front of the telly over Christmas and look much fancier than if you ate cereal from the packet…