Whole Barbecued Red Stripe & Jerk Chicken

Jerk Chicken cooked on the BBQ using a can of Red Stripe lager.

Jerk Chicken cooked on the BBQ using a can of Red Stripe lager.

This idea came from a friend of my daughter’s who is the BBQ king! (That’s you, Scotty McShotty). It was described to me but I’ve never actually seen it done so I didn’t really know this was going to pan out. I needn’t have worried, though. It was a triumph and didn’t really take a great deal of effort. It’s a really flexible idea in terms how many variations on a theme are possible; you could use a can of cider and make a cinammon based rub or perhaps a can of Cobra and use an Indian spice rub. For children I guess you could use a can of ginger beer and a more traditional BBQ style spice rub , although, to be honest, the bird doesn’t really taste of beer as such – the purpose it mainly serves is to keep the meat moist. Of course, if you wanted to keep it simple you could just open a can of beer, rub salt and oil on the chicken and away you go. The beauty of this idea is in it’s potential for adaptation and that means it can be as complicated or as easy as you like.

Always wear gloves when handling Scotch Bonnet Chillis! They are HOT.

Always wear gloves when handling Scotch Bonnet Chillis! They are HOT.

The recipe I came up with has two different rubs, a wet rub for the inside of the bird and a ‘dry’ (it’s not really dry because you mix oil with it but it uses dry ingredients) rub for the outside. The most important component for the dry rub is the allspice berries. This is a much used spice in Carribbean food, probably because it does what it says on the tin and tastes like a combination of many other spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.

Allspice berries.

It is the main ingredient in my version of jerk seasoning and it’s at it’s best if you buy it in dried whole berries and grind it freshly but if you can’t find any you will definitely get the ready ground version in any supermarket. The amchoor is dried mango powder and adds a tart, tangy flavour to the rub. This may be hard to find – although I have noticed Tesco sell it online, at least – but you could always substitute a quarter of a teaspoon of dried ginger to do the same job. 

Red Stripe and thyme

It doesn’t have to be a can of Red Stripe but seeing as it’s sold in almost every corner shop near me I thought why not? I do love a theme so it seemed obvious to me that if I was making beer can chicken with jerk seasoning then that beer had to be Red Stripe!

Ingredients

1 medium chicken

1 can of Red Stripe

Couple of bay leaves

Wet Rub

2 small Scotch Bonnet chillis

1 thumb sized piece of ginger

3 cloves garlic

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon of oil

Dry Rub

3 teaspoons freshly ground or ready ground allspice

1 tsp amchoor

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder (or however much you prefer)

3 cloves garlic, crushed

Half dozen sprigs thyme, leaves picked

1 teaspoon sea salt

3 teaspoons brown sugar

Enough oil to make a paste when mixed with all the above.

Method

(Before you begin working with the bird, get a sharp knife and cut the bottom of it’s back bone off as far as you can. This will help the lid of your BBQ sit snug over it once you start cooking. Red Stripe cans are quite tall and even a big BBQ will struggle to acommodate the height of one combined with a chicken sitting on it).

OK,  start by making the wet rub and massaging that into the inside of the chicken. Simply put all the wet ingredients into a small blender and whizz until you have a smooth paste. I’ll give you one very important piece of advice here though and I urge you to heed it: wear gloves! Scotch Bonnet chillis, whilst not the world’s hottest, are still bloody hot and if you accidentally get them anywhere near your face or anywhere else (!) they will burn like hell. When you are applying this to the inside of the chicken, hold one teaspoon of it back and add that to your dry rub. 

Next make the dry rub by combining all the ingredients – including your one teaspoon of wet rub – with enough oil to make a paste and apply this to the outside of the chicken. Rub it in well. You will find on some parts of the bird, like the breast, it doesn’t rub in so well so you’ll have to sort of pat it on. A small amount will fall off but enough will stay put to give you a fantastic flavour.

Red Stripe Jerk Chicken Marinade

If you have time, leave the chicken to marinade for a few hours but don’t worry if you haven’t got that luxury. When you’re ready to get it onto the BBQ, tip half the beer out of the can (down husband’s/wife’s/partner’s/own neck, usually) and pop the bay leaves into the beer. When your coals are ready to cook (you’ll need a good amount for this) put your gloves back on and wriggle the chicken onto the beer can before carrying it carefully outside to place on the BBQ. I was worried it would fall over but it was surprisingly sturdy, despite me not realising that it was too tall even for a large Weber BBQ lid to enclose it fully at first (it sank down as the chicken cooked) and having to balance the lid precariously on the chicken-and-can structure. It cooks really quickly, I’d say give it half an hour and then pop your burgers or ribs, etc around it for the last ten minutes.

It’s fun and games getting it off the BBQ and onto a chopping board to carve once it’s cooked and the only real way to do it is to use clean oven gloves and chuck ‘em in the wash straight after.  Don’t be afraid to give it a go. What’s the worse that can happen? If you don’t get it quite right there’s usually an oven it can go in to finish off and if you do get it right – and I promise it’s easy – it looks damned impressive to the other BBQ guests!

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Pistachio and Sundried Tomato Pesto

Linguine with pistachio and sundried tomato pesto.

A ‘recipe’ for pesto seems like a contradiction in terms seeing as it’s surely just an assembly job? Throw it all in the blender and you’re done, right? This pesto is slightly more involved and it’s worth the effort because it’s different to any pesto you would be able to buy in a jar (plus it’s about a quarter of the price). At least, I’ve never seen one that uses these ingredients. I suspect the luxuriousness of said ingredients would not make it an attractive profit-making prospect for large manufacturers. So whilst you can just buy a jar, and lots of them are very good, it’s worth spending half an hour knocking this one up because once you have, all you have to do is boil some linguine and stir some through for a fairly decadent dinner in ten minutes flat. It can also be spread on fish or chicken and baked in foil in the oven as well as spooned onto crostini as a nibble to hand round at parties.

A word about the mint and coriander used in this recipe; don’t get them from the supermarket. It’s just way too expensive and the packet sizes are just too mean. Find a local Indian or Middle Eastern grocery shop that sells big old bunches for fifty pence – or even 3 for a pound in some places. These two lovely abundant bunches below cost me a quid, and you can’t say fairer than that, really.

Big beautiful bunches of herbs are cheaper from your local Indian or Middle Eastern grocery shop.

Big beautiful bunches of herbs are cheaper from your local Indian or Middle Eastern grocery shop.

The other thing about this recipe is that it may seem like rather a lot of garlic and normally it would be, but the difference here is that the garlic is gently cooked in the olive oil until it is just soft. This gives a sweeter end result to the pesto. The final difference is that there is no parmesan or pecorino in this version. It doesn’t need it, it’s rich enough without it but of course you can always grate some on your finished pasta dish afterwards.

IMG_3904

Ingredients

250 grams salted, roasted pistachios in their shells

3 – 4 bulbs garlic

1 jar sundried tomatoes

1/2 pint olive oil

1 large bunch mint

1 large bunch coriander

1/2 tsp sea salt

Method

Shell the nuts, peel the garlic and wash the herbs. Put the garlic cloves into a heavy based pan with the olive oil and heat very gently. All you want is for the garlic cloves to soften. Don’t allow the oil to boil. Once the garlic cloves are soft allow them and the oil to cool a little and then simply blend everything together. Depending on the size of your blender, you may have to do this in batches. Do use the stalks of the herbs and include the oil that the sundried tomatoes come in. That’s it. Put it in jars and keep it in the fridge.

Makes a pint and a half of pesto!

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Keralan King Prawn Curry with a side of Chilli Salt Watermelon

Keralan king prawn curry 3

With so many good curry houses near us (the Millenium Tandoori in Sydenham, voted Britain’s Best Takeaway last month, springs to mind) it’s tempting to be lazy and just order in, and we sometimes do. But also I love making a nice big pot at home because that means lots of leftovers and curry is always nicer the next day (guess what we had for breakfast this morning?). This week I resisted the temptation to make far too many dishes and just stuck to this southern Indian style king prawn curry, plain basmati rice and Michael’s all time favourite Indian vegetable dish, bhindi bhaji. I also quickly knocked up some chilli salt watermelon as a cooling side dish – it’s hardly a recipe so I won’t bother writing it up. It’s just a case of cutting some watermelon up into chunks and sprinkling chilli flakes and sea salt on it. It may sound odd at first but it’s really refreshing and can be eaten with your fingers while you drink a G&T and wait for your curry to cook or on the side with the main event, serving the same sort of purpose as a dish of cooling yogurt (easy on the chilli flakes I guess if you’re using it in that capacity!).

Chilli Salt Watermelon

Guntar Sannam Chillis

Guntar Sannam Chillis

This recipe uses three types of chilli; fresh green ‘birds eye’ chillis, chilli powder and Guntar Sannam Chilli from southern India. The reason for this is to give the finished dish a heat which is layered and hits you at different points as a opposed to the sort of curry heat that just grabs you by the throat (literally) and hurts. It’s hard to judge what one person deems hot compared to another but the point of a recipe which includes heat is to adjust to your own tastes. I would also say if you don’t have three types of chilli in the house, don’t let that stop you making the curry. Adapt, adapt, adapt is the key to all recipes. Green birsdeye chillis

Tamarind in this form has a gooey, fudgey sort of appearance.

Tamarind in this form has a gooey, fudgey sort of appearance.

Most of the ingredients in this recipe are easily found except perhaps the wet tamarind. I get mine from any of the many Indian groceries in London, and I suspect if you have an Indian restaurant near you then the ingredients for the food they serve can’t be that far away! If you can’t find any though you can try substituting something that does the same job, which is to add a sort of fruity, tangy sourness – maybe some lime juice or a tablespoon of cider vinegar.

Ingredients

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp mustard seeds

Oil for frying

1 large onion

3 cloves garlic

Thumb-sized piece of ginger

1/2 bunch coriander

1 carton passata

I tbsp wet tamarind soaked in a 1/4 cup hot water and seeds removed

I whole dried Guntar Sannam Chilli (or 1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes)

1/4 tsp hot chilli powder

4 green birsdeye chillis, sliced lengthways into 4 – seeds removed

1/2 tsp each turmeric, ground cumin and ground coriander

1 tin coconut milk

1/4 tsp sea salt

24 king prawns

Method

Pour a couple of tablespoons of oil into a large heavy-based pan and put the seeds in. Cook them over a medium heat until you hear them begin to pop – roughly about a minute. Remove from the heat and blend the following ingredients in a blender: onion, garlic, ginger, half the coriander and a few tablespoons of the passata. Pour them into the pan and place it over a low to medium heat and add the dry spices. Cook it through slowly (spices burn easily), stirring all the while. This will take between 3 to 5 mins. They’re done once you can begin to smell to spices. Add the rest of the passata, the coconut milk, the sliced green chillis and the salt and allow to cook for about five minutes to marry the flavours. At this point decide if it’s about the right thickness for you as a sauce. You may want to cook it down a bit because it’s too thin or add more liquid because it’s too thick. Once you’re happy with the consistency, put your prawns in a cook until they are just pink. This will take under five minutes. Be careful not to overcook them because overcooked prawns are just tough and fibrous, which is such a waste of money. You can also use the same sauce for thinly sliced chicken or Quorn if you’d prefer. Finally, sprinkle on the remaining coriander and serve with chosen side dishes.

King prawn Kerala

King prawn Kerala

Serves 4

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Heavenly Harissa

Ingredients that shout 'summer' at you!

Ingredients that shout ‘summer’ at you!

Hello! I’m back! Well, I haven’t actually been anywhere. It’s more that ‘new job + big house move = no blogging’. I was quite surprised to receive a Facebook notification that someone had ‘liked’ my linked-up page on there (thank you Julie Rollins) and notice it had been just over three years since I last put up a recipe. A combination of that unexpected prompt and a conversation I had last week with a friend about doing what you love just because you love it has made me decide to revive my much neglected blog. I’ve never stopped cooking (and never will as long as I can reach the cooker and wield a chopping knife) so I’ve got lots of new stuff to catch up on but Im kicking off with this kick-ass harissa recipe at the request of my daughter, Rox.

Harissa recipe

Most harissa recipes use fresh chilli but mine uses dried because I think it gives a better kick and I personally prefer the taste. Similarly, most harissa recipes use red wine vinegar, perhaps to help it to keep for longer – but it really does not get the chance to go off and again, I prefer the taste of the fresh lime juice. The sauce goes beautifully with lamb but to be perfectly honest, it’s so divine that it goes quite well with a lot of things. Rox was threatening to eat some for breakfast!

Ingredients

  • 4 or 5 red piquillo peppers or 3 medium red bell peppers
  • 5 fat cloves garlic
  • Juice of 3 limes
  • 1 tbsp dried chilli flakes oaked in a small amount of boiled water
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 3 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp sea salt

Method

First, put your oven on it’s highest setting and let it get good and hot. When it has reached it’s maximum temperature put the peppers on a rack over a roasting pan and cook them until the skins are blackened, turning once during cooking. It will only take approximately 10 minutes. Blackening the skins intensifies the sweetness of the pepper’s flesh and gives it a wonderful smoky flavour. Some people do the job by placing the peppers on a naked gas flame but I find it makes too much mess and if you’ve got five peppers to char it’s much easier to just pop them in the oven and avoid having to stand there trying to blacken them evenly by constantly turning them on the flame.

While they are cooling, prepare the seeds by lightly toasting them in a dry non-stick pan over a medium heat until they begin to give off a fragrant aroma. Be careful, though, because they go from ‘nothing happening’ to burnt in the blink of an eye. Keep the seeds on the move by turning them over with a metal spoon.Coriander, cumin and caraway seeds. Harissa recipe.

Once the seeds are evenly toasted, grind them in a pestle and mortar or an electric grinder.

Chargrilled piquillo peppers harissa recipe

Using the oven to blacken the skins gives a much more even result.

When the peppers have cooled, remove the stalk, rub the skins off, squeeze the seeds out and pop the flesh into a blender. Don’t worry if a bit of skin clings on or a few pepper seeds find their way into the blender. It won’t do any harm or make any difference to the taste.

Finally, throw all the ingredients into the blender along with the peppers and whizz them until they are a consistency you like. I’ve read lots of recipes that says harissa has to be smooth. Nonsense. It’s your harissa, have it however you like it and also, don’t be put off making it if you, say, don’t have the smoked paprika or the coriander seeds or whatever. It’s still going to be delicious minus or even plus a few things. Recipes are an idea, not set in stone, so knock yourself out and have fun.

It’s good to be taking photos and writing about food again!

jo x

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The Secret of Super Smooth Silky Hummus

I thought I knew how to make hummus but a few trips to top quality mezze restaurants later I realised I didn’t – not how they made it anyway. Mine, like shop or deli-bought versions, was thicker and far less smooth. The stuff they serve in Sofra in Covent Garden or Ozer in Oxford Circus for example is far superior, more refined, creamier and more elegant by far.

Never one to be beaten on this sort of thing I spent a few hours on Sunday trying to work out how they made it. And I did. And I’ll tell you – but that’s all I will do. Luxury hummus recipes are easy to find on the web. All you need is a few tips:-

1) You have to soak and boil your own chick peas, tinned won’t work. Keep some of the cooking water back.

2) Look for the type or recipes that include natural yogurt and use the full fat version. No watery, weak imitations!

3) Now here’s the thing; once the chick peas are cooked, cool them and pop the skins off. They come off easily.

Is it time-consuming? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes. Oh, and what is the cooking water for? To add to the recipe to thin it down to a luxurious, thin silky texture about the consistency of double (or if you’re American ‘heavy’) cream; follow the recipe you have chosen and then bit by bit add the chick pea water and continue blending until you have that beautiful thinner, totally lump-free hummus served in good mezze restaurants. Slug a bit of good quality oil on, sprinkle on some chilli or smoked paprika, bung in a few olives, serve with some warm flatbread and you have yourself a gorgeous and inexpensive starter in these recession-hit times!

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Tapas Night

 

One of the standing jokes in our house is to do with how Michael wouldn’t let us have tapas in the Bocceria on our honeymoon in Barcelona, because he didn’t trust it. Oh how I laugh about it now. Not. Still, I don’t go on about it. I just look at him every time it’s mentioned by food critics, friends – everyone – that the Bocceria does the best tapas in Barcelona and raise an eyebrow. That’s all it takes. He knows.

I’m not going to give a recipe for all the tapas pictured here but instead I’m going to pick out a couple of the more authentic dishes and, I think, more interesting. Prawns, patatas bravas, tortilla – they’re all pretty standard and as for the broad bean tapas above, unusually for me, I nicked that from Ramsay’s latest book.

The two recipes I’m going to give from our tapas night are the chicken livers (which no-one apart from me ate but they should have – the look of them puts people off but they taste delicious) and the giant stuffed squid.  First up, the chicken livers. The recipe is simple – a pound of chicken livers, one medium onion, 3 cloves of garlic, a dash of madeira, oil for frying and salt.

Chicken liver tapas - tastes better than it looks!

 Prep the livers but snipping off any connective tissue and set aside. Finely chop the onion and garlic and saute gently in a little oil and enough salt to season generously. Add a good slug of madeira and reduce it back down until the liquid has gone – you want the flavour not the volume. The madeira adds a beautiful sweetness. Finally add your chicken livers and cook over a medium heat for five minutes, stirring all the while. That’s it, done. You can sprinkle a bit of parsley over the top if you have it.

Giant squid stuffed with spicy merguez sausage.

Again, this recipe is simple uses only a few ingredients: 4 giant squid tubes (a good fishmonger should be able to source them for you), 6 merguez sausages, a medium onion, 4 cloves garlic, oil, salt, a thick slice of bread, enough milk to soak it and one tsp smoked parika. Squeeze the insides out of the sausages and set aside. Put the bread into a bowl and pour enough milk over it to just cover, don’t drown it. Saute the onion and garlic in a little oil and a 1/4 tsp salt. When they’re soft add your paprika and cook through for a few more minutes. 

Put the sausage meat in the pan and cook through. Use a wooden spoon and continually break it up so you don’t end up with big lumps. Allow to cool and then work the soaked bread through it  until everything is thoroughly combined. If you have parsley around add a big, finely chopped handful. Divide the mixture into 4 and stuff into the squid tubes using a teaspoon. Don’t overfill them. Secure the ends with a toothpick and bake in a medium oven (gas mark 4) for 10-15 mins. To serve, cut them into 1 cm slices. Some of the filling will escape but don’t worry about that. It’s not meant to look neat!

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Brown Rice Sushi

When I started this blog a very dear friend of mine asked me to do a post about making sushi so she could make it herself, which is a complete lie because she never makes any of the things she asks for the recipe for. That aside, quick as a flash, a year later, here is that recipe.

Why brown rice? Well, because although I’ve always liked sushi it’s always bothered me that it’s mostly made with white rice, which just isn’t that healthy. Then one day I saw brown rice sushi in Waitrose and thought, aha, so you can have a healthier version of sushi. Through trial and error and lots of swearing I have worked out how to make this brown rice sushi and it’s not actually that hard.

The are two tricks to making brown rice sushi rolls and they are to make the rice sticky enough to hold together and to roll firmly and tightly. I used rice which I bought in Planet Organic labelled as brown risotto rice but I believe any short grain brown rice would work. I’ve yet to try it with brown basmati rice but somehow I just don’t think it would stick together.

Before you start making the sushi rolls you need to get everything assembled along with a bowl of water for dipping your fingers in. I’ll tell you why in a moment. I made this batch with vegetarian ingredients because they were for  weekday lunch boxes and I try to stick to vegetarian food during the week and only eat meat at weekends. There is no reason why you can’t put fish in them, though. Just make sure it’s scrupulously fresh and preferably organic. There are lots of other filling options like avocado, chinese omelette, mushroom – whatever takes your fancy.

I’ll start with the method and give ingredients last. Cook the rice in the usual way, i.e. a 2:1 ratio. When the rice is just cooked that’s when you get in there with your vinegar and your soy sauce and start turning it over and over, mixing the vinegar/soy thoroughly through the rice but also getting the rice to release it’s starch and become sticky. This is what will ensure the sushi comes together and holds together. Once the rice is feeling nice and gluey put the lid back on and allow it to cool completely. While you’re waiting, chop up or otherwise prepare your fillings and lay them out.

Place one square of nori on your rolling mat, shiny side down. Use a quarter of the rice and spread it out on the two thirds of the square nearest to your body. Wet your fingers to stop the rice sticking to them and don’t take the rice right to the very edges, leave a small gap instead. Be patient and re-wet your fingers if you have to. Try to get the rice in a nice, even layer as this will help when you come to roll it up. Then place a small selection of your fillings slightly off centre – a tad nearer to you than not – and prepare to roll!

This may take a bit of practise or you may get it straight off but I’ll do my best to describe how it’s done (by the way, if you can make a decent roll up it’s the same principle). Pick up the end of the rolling mat nearest to you. Your thumbs should be behind the mat and all your fingers should be free to tuck and guide and tighten the sushi roll. Do it slowly, you can’t rush this – tuck everything under at the end nearest to you and start to take your end of the rolling mat over. Keep it tight against the roll. Appy enough pressure with your thumbs to make the roll tight but not so much pressure that you burst the nori. Keep tucking in as you go and gathering up the slack of mat with your thumbs. Get your head right over the mat and keep an eye on what’s going on so you can see if anything is escaping or it’s not rolling evenly.

When you about to come to the end, wet your fingers and run them along the far edge of the nori to seal the roll. Once it’s rolled you may find it ‘s not completely round but that’s fine because you can use the mat to gently reshape. You will find the roll is surprisingly sturdy. There will be a section at each end that is not filled properly and can’t really be served. This is inevitable but the good news is, they yours; chef’s perks. To cut the rolls into slices you will need an extremely sharp knife which needs to be wet so there’s a lot of wiping and re-wetting to do but it’s worth it. Serve with wasabi, soy and pickled ginger.

Ingredients

1 cup short grain brown rice

2 cups water

5 tbsps rice wine vinegar (or failing that cider vinegar)

2 tbps soy

4 sheets nori (seaweed) – available from Chinese supermarkets or online

Fillings of your choice

Soy sauce, pickled ginger and wasabi to serve.

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