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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…

 

 

Meatball stuffed tomatoes

There are somethings I never tire of and could eat for all eternity and one of those things is meatballs. I just adore them. Served with spaghetti, stuffed into a sandwich, as a canapé or just on their own, I can’t get enough of them. I usually use Allegra McEvedy’s failsafe recipe from the first Leon cookbook, but as the sun slowly came out over London a few weeks ago, I fancied something lighter and more summery. A chance encounter with some veal mince at Waitrose helped focus the mind and the next thing I knew, I had a plateful of veal, black olive and parmesan meatballs chilling in the fridge.

Pan-fried until well sealed and then steamed with stock until fully cooked through, I served them with some grilled courgettes and the pan juices for a treat of a Friday night dinner after a long week. And they were good. The sweet meatiness of the veal was enhanced utterly by the umaminess of the parmesan and the olives. I scraped the plate clean in record time and even recommended the combo to the little loaf on Twitter. But something was missing. It needed something to take it from good to amazing.

It had to be tomatoes. The July sun and heavy rains of the past few months mean that everything is better with a British tomato right now. Bursting with flavour and warmed up naturally by the flickering sun, they add a note to every dish that lifts it beyond just good. But even having decided on the welcome addition of tomatoes, it still needed something beyond just a sauce. And flicking through some stored up summer recipes, I saw an idea for stuffed beef tomatoes and it all fell into place. Meatball stuffed cherry tomatoes…

As I’ve mentioned before, my life is never too short to stuff anything. Not when everything is more delicious filled with something else. Taking the tops off and scooping out the middles of the cherry tomatoes is in fact no more time consuming than rolling individual meatballs and chilling them into shape. It’s almost as relaxing in fact.

I used about 200g of veal mince, a handful of fresh oregano, about 75g of parmesan and about ten black olives finely chopped and bound together with an egg yolk. I didn’t bother with the usual milk soaked breadcrumbs as I didn’t need the mixture to form such distinct shapes and then I stuffed the tomatoes nice and full. They then got baked for around 35 minutes until soft and collapsed and intensely tomatoey. This was longer than I thought they’d need and when I checked them about 20 minutes in, I added a splash of tomato juice to help steam them quicker. I then served them along with the pan juices on a big plate of pasta.

And they had gone up a notch from tasty to terrific. The tomato was exactly what they needed to set off the flavours perfectly and despite my intentions to only have half the meatballs for dinner, I found myself wolfing down the other portion immediately because let’s face it, there was never really any chance of me saying no to two of my favourite things combined. I enjoyed every single scrap and wished I had twice as many. I did miss the sticky cruncy crust that you get on a fried meatball, but I might just put them in upside down, pan sear them and go from there in future. But really these are the perfect summer supper. Stuff one immediately!

Clamato: the clam before the storm!

As a small child following my parents round the supermarket during the weekly shop, my eye was always caught in the juice aisle not by the shiny foil packs of Capri Sun or the cartons of Um Bongo, but by the truly bizarre creation that is Clamato. Combining tomato juice with clam broth seemed like the most revoltingly fascinating thing I had ever heard of. Those glass jars taunted me as I half hoped my parents would buy it, but feared I would have to actually drink this weird fishy beverage. Then the independent supermarket we visited closed in the mid 90s and was replaced by a Sainsbury’s and so trips to buy groceries became much less exciting and I forgot all about Clamato…

An adult obsession with the Fifth Taste or umami reminded me of my childhood fascination with Clamato and suddenly the idea of shellfish infused tomato juice ceased to be scary, but in fact became oddly alluring. Imagine my disappointment when it turned out it had become incredibly tricky to get my hands of this bivalve infused nectar here in the UK. It may form the basis of Canada’s favourite cocktail, but the Brits are a lot less keen. I was tempted to pay vast sums of money for a bottle of the stuff online, but instead I was excited to find a quart bottle of Clamato nestled amongst the other treasures at Sawers Deli in Belfast last week. Mister North and I were definitely sampling a Caesar this weekend!

I was momentarily disheartened to see that the tomato base of Clamato is from concentrate instead of fresh juice, but since I’m not a particular coneissour of tomato juices, I figured I’d still enjoy it. I was less convinced though by high fructose corn syrup being the third ingredient on the list. The HFCS along with a dose of onion and garlic powder and only dried clam broth to add that extra umami kick makes me think Clamato isn’t as high quality as I thought it was. With a mounting sense of disappointment akin to discovering Father Christmas has the wrong house, it was time to actually sample the product.

I dusted down my best martini glasses, crushed some ice and enlisted the help of my mixologist friend G and got cracking with a round of Caesars. This is basically a Bloody Mary made with Clamato for those of us who like our cocktails to be a good substitute for brunch! They are as easy to make as a Bloody Mary, but because we were nervous about the taste sensation awaiting us we had decided to go for a smaller glass rather than the traditional long style of a Bloody Mary.

Feeling fancy, we dipped the rim of the glasses in celery salt and then shook a shot of Russian Standard vodka together with the same amount of Clamato along with a shake of Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco. This was poured into a glass rinsed out with fresh lime juice and garnished with a celery stalk since I couldn’t get either Mister North or G to join me in the apparently common addition of a prawn…

There was nothing left to do but to taste it. First impression was of celery salt. Lots of celery salt in fact. But the second impression was that it was pure umami heaven. The clam broth isn’t distinctly noticeable in its fishiness, but simply adds a rich base note that perfectly compliments the smooth tomato-ness. Once I’d brushed some celery salt off the rim of the glass, I couldn’t stop sipping this and enjoying every wave of glutamate goodness I got from it.

Mister North seemed less enamoured, but admitted he isn’t a huge fan of Bloody Marys at the best of times. Both G and I love them (especially the morning after the night before) and we rattled through our Caesars much more quickly and enthusiastically, going back for seconds before we went out for dinner. I was delighted to fulfil a childhood ambition by finally sampling Clamato (although I didn’t dream of vodka in it then) and even more chuffed to discover I hadn’t carried something so heavy home in my suitcase for nothing!

I have enjoyed a Caesar or two on several occasions since then, rather enjoying reintroducing cocktail hour in my house. In fact, so pleased clam-rich enjoyment of Canada, I decided to try out Mexico’s Clamato cocktail next in the shape of a Chelada. It sounded odd, but then hadn’t I thought that about Clamato itself?

It turns out mixing beer, Clamato, lime juice and hot sauce isn’t just odd. It’s repulsive in more ways than I thought I could experience in just one mouthful. Maybe it’s because I used Meantime London Pale Ale instead of the recommended Budweiser or maybe it’s because this combo is so disgusting that I find it hard to believe that even the most determined middle of the night drinkers could come up with this concoction and actually stomach it. To me it tasted of like the shame and acidity of a really bad hangover. I barely managed one mouthful and then threw the rest down the sink, running the tap as keenly as you might when faced with a massive spider and then removed the taste with the rest of the bottle of Meantime.

At £5.99 a bottle I won’t be buying Clamato again, but despite the hideousness of a Chelada, I am rather hooked on this umami-tastic drink. So I’ll be experimenting with making my own version of this drink with a better quality tomato juice and some shellfish liquor whether that be from cooking my own or simply adding a dash of bonito to oomph it up. Once you’ve gone to this level of glutamate joy, you’ll find it hard to go back…