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Asian Style Chicken Meatballs

chicken meatballs

I think anyone who bought Slow Cooked got a flavour of my love of meatballs. I am delighted to have enabled so many other people too as they are amongst the most popular recipes from it and popular as a summer dish with the slow cooker too.

However sometimes, you want a dinner you can make really quickly without much prior thinking and effort and these Asian style chicken meatballs are a good one for that. I suspect it will take longer for me to write this post than make them…

On the #fodmap diet these days, my two ‘safe’ foods are always chicken and rice and I fall back on them when I cannot risk anything going wrong. I have almost superhuman abilities to eat plain chicken and brown rice but sometimes I need my staples to be jazzed up a bit so I blitzed some leftover rice with raw chicken and all the Asian style flavours in my kitchen and voila!

Bobbed in some homemade chicken broth with courgette, carrot, broccoli and some radish and fresh herbs I had a fodmap friendly dinner that didn’t feel worthy and used up lots of odds and sods. You could chuck any flavourings in that you liked or need using up. If you go Asian inspired, don’t forget to squeeze some lime over it all. I was limeless and it suffered slightly.

This dish also allowed me to try my newest fodmap trick with a julienne peeler. This turns carrots and courgettes etc into ribbons or julienne that makes small amounts of veg go further and bulk meals up when you can’t do much fibre or need to make one lone courgette serve several people to avoid a trip to the shop. I do like a useful kitchen gadget…

Chicken Meatballs (serves 2 if hungry, 4 if decorous)

  • 4 chicken thighs, boned and skinned
  • 150g cooked rice
  • 1 teaspoon shrimp or anchovy paste
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce (use tamari if avoiding wheat)
  • 1 teaspoon miso paste (if not avoiding barley)
  • 1 teaspoon oil (sesame would be lovely if you have it)
  • 3cm fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon ginger paste
  • 1 stalk lemongrass or equivalent paste
  • 1/2 bunch fresh coriander
  • 1/2 bunch fresh parsley

Take the chicken off the bone. I usually just snip it off with kitchen scissors and then chop it roughly. Add in the cooked rice. I used some leftover stuff I had but if you keep an emergency packet of that microwaveable stuff in the house, it works well.

Put in all the flavourings and the oil in with it all and using a stick blender or food processor blitz it all together into a thick paste. It will will look revolting and oddly reminiscent of a documentary on McDonalds Chicken Nuggets and the shrimp paste will smell vile. Resist the temptation to curse my name and trust me because they will be great.

Wet your hands with cold water and pinch off walnut sized balls of the chicken mixture and roll into meatballs. Place on a plate and repeat until they are all rolled, wetting your hands again as needed. Chill for 30 minutes in the fridge or pop in the freezer for 15.

Heat a pan and add a little oil (not sesame) if it isn’t non stick. Fry the meatballs on each side on a medium hot heat for about 3 minutes, turning to get an even golden-ness on each side. Allow them to rest for about 3 minutes before serving. They have that bouncy chewy texture like Thai fish cakes but if you serve them too hot they are a bit rubbery.

Serve in a big bowl of chicken broth and veggies, maybe some rice noodles if you are super hungry and some chopped red chilli and fresh coriander and lime juice over the top and slurp them up out of the bowl. You could also serve them as a chicken meatball sandwich in a tortilla or flatbread for some serious fusion cooking going on. They are excellent cold as a lunch so it’s worth making a batch and playing around with flavours as you fancy.

Spelt Choux Pastry

chouxI love choux pastry. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a Paris-Brest, a profiterole or an éclair, I adore it. Not even having grown up with tales of my mum’s summer job at Bird’s Eye on the frozen éclair line and still being traumatised at the sight of one decades later could convince me otherwise.

But oddly enough I’d never made choux pastry, thinking it was incredibly difficult and demanding to do. But when I decided to throw a party the other week, I immediately decided to do difficult and demanding because God forbid you’d make entertaining easy in my mind. I’m surprised I didn’t decide to go full croquembouche just to be sure I gave myself real stress.

My only choux dilemma was if you could make it with spelt flour to be wheat free for a fellow Fodmapper. Spoiler alert: it works just fine. This is because spelt still contains gluten so gets a nice texture and structure. You just need slightly more liquid than with wheat flour or it gets almost impossible to beat even with an electric whisk.

I found making the choux incredibly easy and kept thinking something was bound to go wrong because it just seemed *too* simple (why yes, I do collect anxiety disorders like cookbooks since you ask.) Nothing malfunctioned, but I discovered I hate hate hate piping choux pastry so gave up and just dolloped it on the baking tray instead before I turned the air blue and my hand white with squeezing the piping bag.

I filled the choux with creme patisserie which also worked marvellously and then whipped up a few coffee mini pavlovas with the remaining egg whites to be economical. This would have worked better if I hadn’t forgotten about a tray of them and found them cooled in the oven a week later. But honestly, with a bit of mise-en-place and good music on the radio, this was a great way to cater for a party of people with food intolerances with minimum trickiness.

Spelt Choux Pastry (makes approx 40 large profiteroles)

  • 120g butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 350ml water or half and half water and milk
  • 300g spelt flour, sifted well
  • 6 eggs

I do have one piece of sad news from the world of choux. When researching recipes, I discovered it is the first time Dan Lepard has ever let me down. There was no indication how much pastry the recipe made and it took me a moment or two to stop reeling and start doing some maths to adapt this internet based recipe into one that worked and served enough people.

Start by heating the butter, salt and water together until the butter is melted and reaches boiling point. Lower the heat and add the sifted spelt flour. I sifted mine twice as spelt has a tendency to clumping and one does not want clumpy choux. Stir it all well until combined until the mix pulls away from the sides of the pan. Mine did it almost instantly.

Take it off the heat and allow to cool for a minute or two. Beat each whole egg in one at a time until well combined. This is best with an electric mixer. My fifth egg caused my slightly dry choux to pull up the beater like a tornado so I had to hand mix the last one in. It should be glossy and just the stiff side of sloppy.

I then tried to pipe my slightly too stiff choux out of a slightly too small nozzle and ended up with tiny pointed topped buns and a general sense of rage. I switched to using a warmed spoon to dollop out blobs onto trays lined with baking paper before baking the buns at 200℃ for 20 minutes. I then reduced the heat to 170℃ for another 20 minutes to allow the choux to dry out slightly.

Once lifted out of the oven, I used rubber gloves to lift them off the trays and poked a hole in the base of each one to let the steam out as they cooled to stop them going soft. Then they then cooled on a rack while I made creme pat.

This is another one of those things people talk about in terms of being tricky and it might well be and I only had beginners’ luck, but I used my other baking bible in Rachel Allen’s fabulous Bake and it was easier to make than falling off a log. It will need to come back to room temperature to be easier to pipe though if you make it in advance. I used cornflour to keep it wheat and gluten free.

Creme Patisserie (will fill all those choux buns)

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 100g sugar
  • 25g cornflour
  • 350ml milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Begin by beating the sugar and egg yolks together in a large bowl until as light and fluffy as possible. I used the electric whisk. I also never use caster sugar because I’m not organised enough to buy it and granulated works fine for me. Stir in the cornflour.

Warm the milk in a saucepan until it just starts to boil and then gently pour the milk over the egg and sugar mix, beating continuously so it doesn’t scramble. I used the electric mixer again as it seemed to require less hand eye co-ordination.

Pour it all back into the saucepan and bring to the boil, continuing to whisk constantly. Mine foamed as it came to the boil and then flattened down as it thickened as it came to the boil and it made it easier to see what it was doing. I cooked it for a minute or two and then removed it from the heat and beat the vanilla into it.

I poured it into a bowl and allowed to cool slightly before covering well and chilling overnight. It set firmly in the fridge and I left it it out for about an hour before piping into the choux. I had intended to mix the creme pat with some apricot jam for an Austrian vibe but I totally forgot. The choux buns went down well despite this. I suspect I’ll be doing the whole thing again very soon anyway.

 

 

Fodmap Friendly Frikadellen

 

frikadellenThis was going to be my year of meatballs and then life got in the way and I haven’t made any at all, let alone hosted soirees filled with them, but when I decided to throw a Eurovision party, I knew they would be on my menu.

I was catering for one non pork eater, a wheat free Fodmapper and a roomful of people with appetites like gannets (the best kind of people I find) so I wanted something substantial. I looked for Austrian inspired recipes, got sidetracked into wurst jokes and decided to go German with frikadellen instead.

These are a slightly flattened meatball which makes them easier to cook and quicker to roll than small ones so when making loads they cut that corner quite well. My dilemma was what to lighten them with. Pork mince was out and so were breadcrumbs. I went for everyone’s favourite anti-carb and used grated courgette instead and it worked very well alongside the small amount of apple I used and the fresh rosemary that gave the sweetness and flavour onion and garlic usually offers. I know some Fodmappers can’t do apple but the amounts are small enough that most people could.

I then rolled and flattened the frikadellen and chilled them well before pan frying them for about 3 minutes each side in advance to give a nice crust. I then put them on oven trays close together and baked them in the oven for 20 minutes at 180℃ when I wanted to serve them. This allowed me to serve hot food with a minimum of fuss and washing up.

A plate of these each with a mountain of dill and gherkin infused potato salad fortified us beautifully for all night Eurovision fun. I’m sure it was them and not the export strength gin that saw my friend and I still celebrating the Irish referendum at 5am by listening to Jedward’s Lipstick

Fodmap Friendly Frikadellen (serves 4-6)

  • 750g beef mince or 250g pork and 500g beef
  • 1 medium sized apple such as a Bramley or Braeburn
  • 2 medium or 1 large courgette
  • 3 stalks fresh rosemary
  • 1 large bunch flat leaf parsley
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper

These are lovely and easy to make but need chilling time so don’t rush them.

Put the chilled mince into a large bowl and break it up really well with your hands. This is surprisingly hard work. Peel and grate the apple into it.

Grate the courgette and then chop it roughly too. You want something slightly shorter than grated but not actual pulp so don’t use one of those electric choppers. Add the courgette along with the well chopped fresh parsley. I have finally got a spice grinder and was able to turn my rosemary into a fine powder. It’s the best thing I’ve bought in an age and where electricity trumps doing stuff by hand.

Whichever way you chop your rosemary, add it in too and season it all generously. You want a little bite from the pepper. I used a little bit of white pepper too as I really like its flavour. (I was always under the impression it was ‘common’ when I was a kid, but I bought mine in Waitrose for the slow cooker…)

Mix all the flavourings into the meat well and add the egg half at a time and then keep mixing well with your hands. It should be quite a stiff paste. Then pinch up a good hefty handful and roll roughly into a ball and then flatten it so it looks like a mini burger or slider. Put on a plate or lined baking tray and chill for at least 30 minutes. I gave mine an hour to be sure.

Then fry on a medium high heat for about 5 minutes each side, turning every 2-3 minutes to allow them to brown but not burn. You’ll need to do them in batches in the pan to give you room to flip so if you scale up, it’s easier to finish them in the oven as above. Rest them for 10 minutes to make them juicier and easier to eat. I’m going to try them in the slow cooker next time too!

Any potato salad will go well or a nice crunchy slaw of finely mandolined  red cabbage, carrot and radish or daikon. But be careful if you mandolin. I had to give my leftover meatballs to a friend who spent Friday night in A&E thanks to one. Her finger was too bandaged to cook but she said the frikadellen made an outstanding meatball sandwich that almost made up for it all!

*PS, no photos of the cooked ones. They got devoured too fast for that and the kitchen was too chaotic for pre table photos.

 

 

Chocolate Liquorice Cake or how to perk up a prune…

The last few weeks have been a bit of a blur of new tastes and food experiences and travel and general activity. I’ve had great company and great meals, but I’ve been yearning to get back in the kitchen and play with my new finds. Mister North had very kindly shared some of his Lakrids Liquorice Powder from a Harvey Nicks bloggers’ lunch and I was intrigued as to what on earth to do with it since the package gives no clues and the site is entirely in Danish and my Sarah Lund fixation really only gives me rudimentary Danish vocab for the world of crime, not cooking.

I’d been eyeing up this David Lebovitz chocolate and prune cake for a while. Luscious with dark chocolate and butter, it’s a flour free number with a squidgy mousse-like consistency and having never made a cake like this before, I couldn’t wait to give it ago. I decided to give it an extra edge by adding some of the liquorice powder to the cake as liquorice is many times sweeter than sugar and I liked the idea of using it to smooth out the sharpness of the dark chocolate and give the prunes an extra earthiness.

 

I’ve linked to David’s orginal recipe so you can just follow that or you can do what I did and misread it and thus go about it slightly differently and awkwardly. Your call, but be aware my version gives you an excuse to drink some rum as you go…

Chocolate and Prune cake (from David Lebovitz, tweaked by me)

  • 170g pitted prunes
  • 80ml dark rum (or other dark spirit of choice)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 340g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 170g butter
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons raw liquorice powder

First prep your prunes. I cut mine into quarters and then soaked them overnight in the rum and sugar because I obviously thought I was making a tealoaf instead of reading the recipe properly. However, if I’d done it properly, I wouldn’t have discovered how good rum soaked prunes on my morning porridge…

Then butter a 9 inch cake tin (preferably springform). I also used cocoa powder on it and the cake stuck more than usually happens in my tin so I’m not sure I’d do that again.

I melted the chocolate and butter over hot water, stirring well to make sure it was well melted and glossy. I took it off the heat and added in the prunes and remaining rum which cooled the mixture slightly which meant I could add the egg yolks without fear of scrambling them. Pop the liquorice powder in at this point.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff and firm, adding the sugar gradually and then fold them into the chocolate mix a third at a time, making sure you don’t overbeat and knock all the air out of the batter. Pour it into the tin and bake at 170℃ for 40-45 minutes. You can’t use the old skewer trick as the cake rises massively and the centre should be slightly soft, but the edges are pulling away from the tin. Cool well and you’ll notice the cake settles back down again in size.

David Lebovitz says the cake can be made up to three days in advance. I made mine two days in advance and kept it in a tin and felt that actually it was a touch dry round the edges, so I’d say wrap it well in a tea towel to be sure.

The cake was worth waiting for, very grown up with the bitter edge of dark chocolate,  sticky and squidgy with nuggets of prunes and completely and utterly lacking in any hint of liquorice at all. I couldn’t taste it and I’m presuming the others who ate it couldn’t either as no one asked what the other flavour was or if there was a magic ingredient. It didn’t even sweeten the cake particularly as the one question that was asked was if there was any sugar in the cake at all. I actually really enjoyed the lack of sweetness, which is unlike me and my common milk chocolate eating ways, but was disappointed by the Lakrids.

This is the second dish I’ve used it in. Once sweet and once savoury, and I couldn’t taste it either time. I’ve bookmarked this recipe as my go to quick chocolate cake, especially for gluten free folk, but I’m not inclined to persevere with the Lakrids, unless someone can give me a really good idea for it or takes me quietly to one side and explains that I’ve been doing it wrong…

Apple and Amaranth Granola

At this time of year I struggle for breakfast ideas. It’s not cold enough for porridge and I find it hard to get the lovely plums and greengages the season offers so find my bowls of bircher muesli less alluring without a fruity topping. I need something to shake me up a bit and hopefully wake me up a bit as well. The bite of granola seemed to fit the bill.

Raw amaranth grains

I’d been wondering what to do with the amaranth I’d impulse purchased at Whole Foods a while back and decided that a granola might lift it from looking like birdseed to something more appetising. As terrified to get it wet as Zack should have been with his Mogwai in Gremlins after hearing it goes gluey, I popped it in a hot pan first, turning it from plain seed to toasty treat.

Popped amaranth seed

Amaranth is an ancient grain (from a grass I believe) and is similiar to quinoa in that it is gluten free* and high in protein and fibre. It makes interesting sounding porridges, but I think it most appetising dry cooked to keep it nutty and crunchy. Bearing in mind that the seed is so crunchy, I decided to make the rest of the granola a little bit softer by coating it with stewed apple instead of oil. Everything about this recipe was impulse based so it’s in cups, not weights.

Apple and Amaranth Granola:

  • 2 apples, stewed down to make one cup of apple puree
  • 2 cups jumbo oats
  • 1/2 cup amaranth
  • 1/4 cup wheatgerm (optional if your granola is wheat free)
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup pecans, halved
  • 1/2 brazil nuts, halved
  • 1/2 cup honey (or treacle)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

First, stew your apples. Back in Belfast where I made this, it’s dead easy to get proper Bramley apples for cooking, but I struggle to find them in London, so just use anything sharp and tangy. Peel, slice finely, add about a tablespoon of water and stew until soft and like a puree. They’ll collapse in on themselves if left at the lowest heat with a lid on for about 20 minutes.

Then using a hot dry pan, toast your sesame seeds and set aside. Have a lid handy and then into the same pan, put your amaranth and toast until about 40% of it looks like tiny white popcorn and the rest is golden brown. It won’t all pop, but what does will go everywhere so you’ll need that lid!

Place all your dry ingredients in a bowl. You can add more types of nuts if you like. Hazelnuts would be lovely. Some flaked coconut is fabulous. You could add in some linseeds or sunflower seeds. Play around to get your perfect mix. Heat the pureed apple and the honey together and then mix into the dry ingredients, mixing well to make sure they are all coated.

Cook on a shallow tray so the granola is well spread out in the oven at 200℃ for about 20 minutes. Turn it over at this point and give it another 10 minutes until golden and crispy looking but not burnt. Cool in the tray and put in an airtight container immediately as this granola is a bit softer than oil based ones and will wilt gently if left out for too long.

Eat clusters of it with your bare hands while doing so or wait until you can get it into a bowl where it is fabulous with fresh berries and yoghurt. Healthy and filling, this doesn’t taste wholesome or lacking in flavour. The amaranth is nutty and packed with flavour and the chunky nuts make this feel very luxurious indeed. Considering it takes so little time to make, I’ll definitely be doing this again instead of spending serious money on boxed mueslis or granolas. Their packaging migh look nice on the table, but you don’t get to pop your own ancient grains with those….

*this whole granola can be gluten free if you choose oats that guarantee themselves GF in processing. See the Coeliac Society for more info from people in the know.