Monday, June 28, 2010

Chaste chicken, chicken clothed in a crispy coating covering the thighs so no child may know its true origins

Some people are happy to see a carcass in it's gory glory before and even during consumption. Some are not. My youngest son is one of the latter and for him I make these chicken schnitzels or "Flat Chicken" as he calls it. Possibly a relative of Cousin Boneless (Cow and Chicken, anyone?)


I make in bulk and freeze, so here is a recipe which will make you at least 20 schnitzels the size of 6 year old's ear, or there a bouts.

You will need:
4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
250ml milk
seasoning - I use the generic supermarket season-all product, unless a more up-market manufacturer would like to sponsor me
1 cup of plain flour
2 eggs beaten

1 tablespoon of fine cornmeal or polenta
1 tablespoon of crushed peanuts (optional but my boy needs all the protein he can get)
a lot of dry breadcrumbs - I would say at least 1.5 cups in volume.

Auxillary Equipment:
rolling pin
baking parchment
3 medium sized bowls

1. Trim the surplus fat and bone fragments and sinews from the chicken thighs and lay them out flat.*
2. Take a clean board and cover with a sheet of baking parchment. Place chicken thigh on the lower half and fold the parchment over to cover. With the rolling pin beat until flat. ** 3. Discard parchment paper and cut chicken thighs to size, as a guide 1 thigh should yield five schnitzels.
4. Pour the milk in to a shallow rectangular dish and submerge the chicken. Cover and leave for at least half an hour. ***
5. The egg, flour and crumb station - if you already know about this go to step 7:

You will need plenty of bench space for this procedure which can be messy but well worth mastering. There are few palates can refuse the crunch of perfectly crumbed and fried morsel.
From left to right set up a large plate, a bowl of breadcrumbs mixed with the cornmeal and nuts, a bowl of beaten eggs, a bowl of seasoned flour and the soaking chicken. Tip the milk from the chicken in to the eggs and mix well.

You are going to keep one hand for the dry part of the procedure and the other for the wet. Let's presume you're right handed. Feel like a special flower if you're left. With the right hand take 4 chicken schnitzels and drop in the seasoned flour. Pick up each one individually and pat in the flour until coated, transfer them to the egg bowl and let them submerge. With your left hand take the wet chicken schnitzels out of the egg wash and trail them over the rim of the bowls in to the breadcrumb mix. It is very important to have all the three bowls touching. Sprinkle crumbs over the wet chicken, pat on the side of the bowl to remove excess and place in a flat layer on the plate.
That's it.
Do remember to keep one hand for dry and one for wet as far as possible because this stuff claggs your fingers together if you mix it up too much.
7. If you are going to freeze any of the schnitzels put the plate in the freezer uncovered for an hour then transfer them to a sealed container or freezer bag.
8. To cook: Heat vegetable oil in a small pan to 180 degrees - it must be hot or the crumbs will sop up the oil soggily - and fry on each side until golden brown. Do put a knife through the thickest part of the schnitzel to test it's cooked; salmonella is messier to get off your hands than flour, egg and crumb mix.
If cooking from frozen, let them thaw out first.

I sometimes fry the schnitzels briefly to get colour on each side and then finish them off in the hot oven which is cooking the accompanying crinkle-cut oven chips. If I could get my son to eat tinned spaghetti as a side dish I'd be carried off on a wave of Pommy Childhood Nostalgia. Irretrievably if Pipkins was on the tv at the same time.
SuperMousse for dessert.

courtesy of

* by contrast to Audrey, this chicken dish needs the most fluffing, when raw. I have to get my finger and knife tips right in there to feel for tiny shards of bone left and nick out the head of the vein. And at this point when handling raw meat one should take a moment to marvel at anatomy. This is the ---- veing head I am removing, without which the chicken would not move. Respect.

** note to self don't turn head to watch johny depp in his vest when in the rytm of beating. ow. That's on tv in Public Enemies, not on my sofa in the flesh. Shame.

**why soak in milk? - American recipes usually stipulate this procedure in order to tenderise the meat and stop it from drying out. I am not certain of a scientific principle which upholds this tradition but I 'll get back to you on this one. When I do it I like to fancy I'm in a Nina Simone song. Or Betty Davis. Depends on the weather.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Broccoli Rabe and Cauliflower accompaniment. Better post titles welcome.

Although we are 48 hours away from our winter solstice it's 23 degrees and bright sunshine this Sunday.I don't actually have my Australian Passport yet so I'd better make safe and spark up the barbie:- I can do without a visit from the Immigration Department and barbie-ing is The Law under these conditions.

But what to cook?
I'm going to work backwards today. I turn my back on the barbie (Icannot type that while I still hold a British Passport, it's got to be BBQ) and spy my vegetable beds. Raised zinc vegetable beds. Oi, oi Tufty - your number's up: Broccoli Rabe.

Rappini, Broccolini, Broccoli Rabe. Bitter, leafy, stalky and eventually I am told, flowery. But always full of vitamin C and iron. Erect outer leaves cut off at the stalks, plant still growing. Wash, cut in to four or five sections of 4cm lengths and blanched.

Moisture squeezed out and thrown in to a pan containing sizzling sliced red chilli, a teaspoon of roasted garlic and lots of olive oil. Let the greens steep in the aromatics and be coated with the flavoured oil. Add half a cup of water and put the lid on, simmer for 5 minutes, lid off for 5 to let water evaporate. (Hey, that's just like the Tzh Tzai Choi , guess this must be the best tried and tested cross-cultural fail-safe way to get the most out of bitter, dark green leaves! Why, yes, yes it is! Toast pine-nuts in the olive oil for curly kale leaves, add lots of black pepper and finish with grated parmesan).

So far so good, what's in the fridge? Boiled cauliflower florets. I sense a contrast of flavours, colours and textures afoot: Mild musty cauliflower and intense, fresh rappini. Darkest green broccoli rabe and anaemic cauliflower. Shreds of leaf still with a bite and mush. In fact I mush the cooked cauliflower between my fists to purge the water - few things do I detest more than watery food. In to the rappini pan with some oil from a jar of anchovies, a fillet or two set to melt in the bottom. Mix well and let bubble then splash in cream to bind. Salt and pepper to taste. In fact, and this almost never does cauliflower any harm in fact it is character building, let it get a crispy bottom. N.B. this is also superbly low-carb and will go with any well flavoured meat. You know who you are.

Time to think of the main act.
Not sausages. Not Australian BBQ snags. Don't get me started. The German butcher is shut and there are no boerworst at my fabulous GorBlimey local butcher, Steve, today. But there is steak. It must be steak.

You know how to barbecue steak right?
Well fill in your own captions to the following. And if you don't then beg me in the comments box below.

The gravy was made by taking the steak juices over the heat while the steak was resting on a warm plate and stirring in dijon mustard and straining directly over the plate.

Now I have earthy, salty vegetables cut with cream for texture which will mop up the meat juices and gravy, I need a blend of fresh/sweet/acid to finish the job.
Tomatoes with garlic chives, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Perfect. You know how to skin a tomato, right? No tomato should be eaten with it's jacket on in winter. Too tweedy. Gah.

I do not stack or tower or deep fry shredded baby leeks nor do I smear or even sprinkle at the point of presentation. I 'm not technically a chef and I more concerned with ease of eating than with fuss.

Suffice to say the Holden full of officers from the Department Of Immigration and Citizenship drawn up at the front were satisfied. Plus my mother in law was watching The Dockers in her Uggs.*

* not really.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Chicken 3-Way

You know how to cook a chicken, right?
Well then just look at the photos this week, the northern afternoon light does stream through my kitchen blinds in a most fetching way I confess.
If you would like to add to your knowledge of how to obtain 3 dishes from a simple single chicken, read on.

All cultures have chicken soup. And the basic reason is that from bathing your chicken in simmering water with local and customary aromatics you can a) cook the meat b) extract the goodness in liquid form and c) make a single beast go a long, long way.

Here's Audrey, as we'll call her. She's just come out of her aromatic bath leaving behind the gorgeous and wholesome liquor or stock. Shame Audrey didn't have the grace to shut her legs. I have hidden her unsightly cavern behind a passionfruit leaf to protect the sensibilities of my readers.

She's had a bath in 3 litres of hot water with carrots, celery tops, half an onion, a shake of season-all generic spices you can get at the supermarket and perhaps this is what loosened her up in the pelvic region - chinese rice wine. There has to be some ingredient to give savoury depth of flavour, to pull it all together and make it Broth. Or Stock. Make it savoury.

When Audrey had cooled somewhat I pulled her apart. Eased her limbs from her body and the flesh from her limbs like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas. I took the opportunity to discard her nubbly bits and her tendons, her skin and her gristle and came up with chunks and shreds of her sweet meat. Place to one side.

The first way:
Audrey's breasts I chopped. Not too fine. They formed the prize in a versatile blend of sauteed spring onions, mushrooms and bacon (saute in bacon fat if you have it), along with sweetcorn kernels, dried herbs and more of the same generic spice blend. Sprinkle in Audrey's chunks and half a can of condensed mushroom soup. Now cut a heaped dessert spoon of cornflour with a cup of her bath water and blend till smooth and add to the pan. Bring to a simmer and hey presto: - the filling to chicken and mushroom pies for son #'s lunch box. Form and freeze.

The meat in the sandwich:
Because I don't want anyone to find Audrey's remains directly, she's all going in the freezer. Parts of her will end up like this: Jewelled domes of frozen chicken and mushroom soup. It's very easy: In a large pan put the other half of the condensed soup, some more of the cornflour/stock mix, a can of creamed sweetcorn, some finely sliced mushrooms, milk and of course the glistening shreds of thigh and wing and throat which Audrey yielded. When all this goodness is simmering throw in a handful of uncooked rice, put a lid on it and simmer for 12 minutes. Again, pour in to many bowls for that large surface area action, portion and freeze. 8 supper-sized soup portions for son#1.

And finally:
Her bath water I strained and poured in to as many large bowls as I could fit on my bench-top in order for maximum surface evaporation - I want to get this stuff cooled down an what would be Audrey's ring around the bath tub flotsam away from the broth so I can package what I won't use today in to boxes to freeze. Chicken Stock: basis and booster of so many dishes. I even cook fussy son#2's maggi noodles in it so that some of the Audrey-y goodness is absorbed in to those squiggly cheap flour strands he loves so much.

"easy" Paella.

And speaking of boxes, in my inbox I found a request from a reader (aka a mate I had emotionally black-mailed to read Crackling) for Paella, or rather something easy to use up her chorizo and chicken knocking around in her fridge. You want me to put on a Mantilla and click the castanettes as well?
I worked at an event for a Spanish family doing the canapes while in the back room were 4 generations of Spanish women sitting tightly around a 1.8m diameter paella pan, its contents unctuous and savoury in the extreme. No one out side the family, especially no one in Catering was getting near that baby and the secrets it held. They were, however very happy for us to carry it and it's moltenly scorching and slopping contents up 2 flights of stairs to the poolside for service. The women had spent days on it and now doubt spent litres of sweat while smuggling in goodness knows what cavities the requisite authentic ingredients on their last long-haul flight from the mother-land. So now that we know there is no such thing as an easy paella, we can know that there is an easy and tasty way to use up chicken and chorizo and chicken stock and put on an Antonio Banderas dvd and be close.

To serve 6 or 4 with leftovers for tomorrow's lunch My mate will need
1 large sliced chorizo
about 300g or 6 thighs, two breasts chicken - if not already cooked then break in to joints and put in a roasting dish with salt and pepper and olive oil and cover with foil. Roast in 180 degree oven for 35 minutes, keep the juices and set aside
liberal quantity of olive oil
1 finely diced onion
1 clove crushed garlic
250g rice (any type but basmati)
can of tomatoes drained, juice reserved
a glass of any kind of wine
about 600ml chicken stock
paprika to taste
thyme, dried or frexh
150g or two handfuls of frozen peas
100g some kind of capsicum - bottled or roasted but not raw and NOT unpeeled. So if you can bear to roast it and peel it do.
stoned olives of any type
salt and pepper

In a large pan heat 20 mls of olive oil and sweat the onion. When transparent add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes.

Now for the aromatics and the fruit: Add paprika and stir through, let it sizzle. Then the chorizo. Allow the slices to char a little and to release their lardy goodness.
Then the strained tomatoes, mixing them in and breaking them down a little with a spoon. This will intensify the flavour and sweetness of the dish. Now the wine, let it, yes, sizzle.

Now for the rice, but first please add the tomato juice to the stock and bring to a simmer - any liquid for rice cooked this way must be hot. Take the unwashed rice and add to the pan, stirring well to coat with. Add the hot liquid and stir well. Reduce the heat.

Now get the rice cooking while stirring often to prevent stickage ( no body likes to wash off burned rice. No one, I tell you). After 5 minutes of cooking add the cooked chicken and attendant juices.

After another 5 minutes, or when the rice is 3/4 cooked add the capsicum and olives, thyme and salt and pepper. Puth the lid on the pan and turn off the heat. Wait 5 minutes. Throw in the peas and stir. Replace lid. Wonder how much farther Melanie Griffiths will go to keep Antonio and then check the seasoning and serve.
Buono Estente

Monday, June 14, 2010

And from the North Western Quadrant...

Lemon Meringue Pie for dessert. It's a triple layer of science: Pastry, Custard, Meringue.
One of my guilty pleasures is watching Canadian Pastry Chef Anna Olson's series Sugar. Man, I 'm surprised that woman has any teeth left. She is, however, technically valuable. For example she tells one to strain the custard ( there are always claggy, eggy floaters) and to put the raw pastry shell in the freezer to firm up. And she's right.
You can have a look at her recipe for yourselves, I 'll just bang on about the way I did it.
Oh, and it went down very well as the last course of the Family Fusion Feast. Except for fussy son #2 who had crisps.

Changes: I used cream not egg to bind to pastry - it worked.
I used a ceramic pie dish, however, next time I will be using a loose bottomed metal pie tin. A bit like this one* The holes in the bottom encourage the moisture in the pastry to evaporate promoting a crisp bottom. Soggy bottoms often let pie and tarts down. Make your own joke.

*After spending 8 minutes of my life trying to find a picture of one online I come to the conclusion this is Not The Best Use of Anyone's time, particularly when my kitchen looks like this.
However, I do know a man who sells them. From this shop - more of which later on this week.

Ms Olson makes good points about the pastry - firm up the shell in the freezer for 10 minutes before baking, give it an al-foil collar half way through cooking and let it sit in the turned-off oven for 10 minutes after baking time.

All these steps are worth taking time over as the crispness, yet tenderness of your pie shell is what will count.
Pastry = Science. More of that later.

The lemony custard filling of a LMP must be firm and sharp and sweet, so don't skimp on the lemon juice nor the cornstarch.

The meringue must be crisp on the outside and yielding on the inside.

Sure enough, the one I produced was all of the above, however I did not bargain for the extra catergory of Sloshy.

Because, like the best of us, I can be a Fat Handed Twat, as I pick up the finished pie to transfer it to the fridge I drop, it just a little: it leaks a clear fluid. Mild Panic. Have I stuffed up the meringue? The egg whites are not plasticised in the centre and are oozing water? I dip in one of my fat fingers and the liquid is lemony-sugary syrup. In my mild panic I knock an olive oil bottle on denting the meringue top and after explaining to my son why I am swearing I excise 2cm square piece for further investigation. It is not the meringue - that is continent, it must be the filling. The pastry is not soggy, so I must be the filling. I tip the dish and more lemony-sugary syrup trickles out. The filling has separated. What is the science behind this? Eggs = Science. Have the stupendously effective insulating properites of egg white prohibited the escapte of the steam from the re-heated filling? Is it merely lemony condensation?
Anyhow, I am thankful I drained the pie before serving or would a thorough chilling have re-amalgamated the filling?
Dunno, but I won't be cutting no watery slice of pie I can tell you.

On the whole, I got it about 85% right. Thanks for the tips, Anna. It was gone in 85 seconds.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Fusion Family Style

I am only going to say this once, for those who may not know: I am Suzy Wong by marriage. Mr Wong's heritage is Chinese, ancestral home Sabah, East Malaysia.

And this week one of the many cousins and his family is here in holidaying in Perth. There is food. Lots and lots of food. Not fancy. Not restaurant standard. Not painstakingly thought out. Not complicated. Not towered nor stacked nor served in trios or quartets. Not garnished. Food we like. Food we are good at Making. Food we want to share with our family. Fusion.

Just for example on Monday night the table was loaded with Vegemite and Mozzarella on Toast for fussy son #2, satay beef in gravy not on skewers, bok choi cooked in single malt Irish whisky (duty free) because we'd run out of Chinese rice wine, scallops cooked plainly in olive oil, portobello mushrooms sliced like steak and fried, rolls of smoked salmon, rolls of leg ham (no olek-sambal aioli to pull the influences together)

and, best of all, something straight out of the back yard.
That's what I admire so much about the way the Chinese cook: they use everything they have. In family cooking there is nothing too humble to put next to the grand. My Mother In Law (MIL) plucked these from the back yard.

The leaves of the sweet potato plant which grow haphazardly in the yard, the tubers themselves too small and knobbly to use. So she uses the leaves. Washes and washes and washes them and blanches for 2 minutes. She fries the typical Chinese Malaysian blend of aromatics for vegetables of red chili, minced garlic, dried prawn and salt in light olive oil (fusion) until golden and then chucks in the potato leaves and stir fries for 2 minutes.

Back in Sabah she would use Sayur Manis (Malay) or Tzh Tzai Choi (Hakka).
One can breath in the vitamin and iron vapours coming off this dish. It is perfectly balanced as a nutritional compliment to small amounts of protein and rice of a simple family meal and tonight it is a flavoursome high point to the melange of dishes on offer.

My cousin also tells me snow peas and snake beans can be cooked in the same way.

Sit Fan (eat food)
Dig In.
Eat Fusion food without spotting the influences, the flavours. Without scoring points for identifying the most polarised ingredients matching one another. Eat what your family thinks is good.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Restaurant Reviewing when Mature

I'm old-ish, I 'm European, I 'm gobby and I ruffle up the wrong way very easily. Would anything I say influence a) the restaurant or b) a diner's choice and experience? I'm not so sure. So I couldn't help but wonder, is restaurant reviewing in a small city like Perth something I should touch?

Cantina 663, Mount Lawley, Last night.

Tappas bars in Spain have the dishes on the counter near where the money changes hands ergo, well-lit and simply easy to see. That's why they work. Take a pawful and your glass of vino tinto to the corner of the bar and stand with your friends in the dark because you got to see the goods at point of sale. That's why they work.

I don't like waiters to hang their buttocks over my food when serving the adjacent table because the dining room designer has left such a narrow gulley between tables that the waiters are forced to stand sideways. - what can you do?#

I don't like it when the waiter drags his knuckles over my cutlery on my plate when he puts down new dishes - what can you do?#

I don't like it that the lovingly executed presentation of the poletna-crusted sweetbreads, the jamon croquettes ( not a good idea to serve them on oily pimento alioli, there is enough oily sweetness in side the well-flavoured croquettes which I am over-joyed to notice are just as wet and fragile as the ones I make) nor the gremolata prawns is obscured by the dreary gloom of the ill-lit dining room. - what can you do?*

I don't like it that the lighting is so dim I can't read the menu nor see the food from the feeble rays of the single tealight on the table - what can you do?*
The wait staff can't see the food either:- I am told that the mound of deliciousness accompanying the excellent duck liver parfait is quince paste when it is onion confit. Clarity in the dining room is needed, clearly

# answer - absolutley bugger-all: If you don't know you're doing this and you're still working then fergeddaboutit.

* answer - when you (well me, blogs are all me, me, me right?)bump in to the head chef on the way back from the powder room you can, because you are older and have more insurance (Thelma and Louise - do keep up) can tell him that his food is wonderful and much appreciated but he needs to tell the precious interior designer to spit out the style dummy and bite the common sense bullet and put some more light in the dining room.


I shall not be reviewing restaurants any more. Impossible to even put a toe in the shadow of Giles Coren and AA Gill. Plus these guys are doing a fine job here in Perth

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Chocolate and Vanilla Marble Cake

A friend of mine who lives an idyllic Famous Five meets Cranford lifestyle deep in the English countryside is taking her family on a picnic tomorrow. She will pack nice ham, cheeses, chicken, salad leaves, tomatoes and nice crisps. Clearly her children will pick at these items and indicate loudly that they wish they'd stopped at Gregg's on the way and why is that man in the bushes over there taking such a long time to do his buttons up. However, my friend is trying her best to complete the picnic idyll and she has requested the following recipe for the sweet finish:

She needs to, oh hell let's use her name: Edith....
Edith needs to set her oven to 180 degrees, oh hang on I know for a fact she's got a shonky aga, well I guess the bottom oven but to be honest I dunno. Slow oven I would imagine.

Edith needs to line a loaf tin with baking parchment.

Right, she's ready to go.

75g good plain chocolate
100g soft butter
150g caster sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract - none of your imitation nonsense
3 eggs
1 teaspoon of grated lemon zest
150g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
50mls milk

1. Melt the chocolate in a small bowl set over a pan of simmering water
2. In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy
3. Add the eggs one at a time beating well inbetween eggs
4. Add the vanilla and lemon zest
5. Sieve in the flour and baking powder and fold it in well. You may need to add the milk because you, sorry how impersonal, Edith wants a good dropping consistency so quite a wet batter.
6. Get another bowl
7. Put a third of the mix in this nice new bowl and mix in the chocolate.
8. Drop large dollops of the two mixtures (I have another friend called Joanne who physically shudders when she hears that word, mixture. And another friend called Julian who exhibits the same phobias over the words "fret" and "holler")into the cake
9. Give them a little smoothing spread with a spatula to get the marbling effect. Pick up the tin and drop it on the work top to knock out any air pockets and bake in your proper 180 degree oven or, Edith, your trial and error shonky aga. About 35 minutes, but poke it with a skewer. You know the drill

Bon chance, Edith.
I hope your picnic is bucolic in the extreme and you spend the balmy summer evening galloping with stallions.

Influenced by Idris

Well, they turned out bulky. Robust, smooth with chocolate sheen and lipsmackingly delicious.

An exquisite, dainty confection they were not. Guess I 'll have play Amelie in the background if I want that kind of effect

Ann Willan's instructions were most informative: Add the flour in one hit to avoid lumps, remember drying time in the oven is just as important as baking time.
She should know what she's talking about. She ran La Varenne for many years and is a luminary in the American Culinary Scene. I feel a piece about Ann and women like her coming on. What are they made of? Why are they Home Economists not chefs? Are they the women who would have been Cooks in large households pre-1939?

Any from the Sainsbury's Masterclass volume is Sarah Nop's Cold Lemon Souffle.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Poor neglected Creature. Or "I only call you when I want something"

Did you miss me? Did you? Huh?

No of course not.
There are legions of other food blogs out there and besides, you have Your Own Life.
I didn't miss me/it/this either to be frank. However, I was under the impression that the remaining months of my year would be taken up with a foundation science course at uni as a prerequisite to a Masters in Food Science but that is not the case: course postponed for re-grouping and starting in 2011.
So I have decided to immerse my 60s born self in the second decade of the 21st Century and blog in earnest for 6 months; to see what comes of it, to leave proof that I Was Here (the archeologists of the future will not recreate salient citizens of yore with brooche fragments or arrowheads but by numbers of comments and links to uber-bloggers.

I do not know where this blog is going, to whom it would be remotely useful or interesting. But every other fecker seems to have one and so shall I. (put that on the fly-jacket of the ensuing book version, at least it's honest)
Although I am somewhat aimless, charmingly or irritatingly, I have a morning free in front of me and in order to kick-start Crackling I shall learn to make profiteroles from The Sainsbury's Masterclass cookery book - a step-by-step to classic dishes published in Full Colour in 1988. I shall also have episode 11 season 1 of The Wire on in the background. Idris Elba. Mmmmmmmm.

Ann Willans, Home Economist, will be guiding me through profiteroles.

Home Economists - a much neglected and seemingly pedestrian breed, however I feel a renaissance coming on.:strokes beard and ponders.