Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Chicken Fajitas

Quick. Easy. Gorgeous. Reasonably health but they feel like guilt ridden fast food, which is a lovely combination.

2 Chicken Breasts; 3 peppers (any colour); 1 onion; 1 Fajitas Kit
Fajitas Kit; flour torilla wraps, seasoning mix, salsa

20 minutes start to finish

First, an important point. There is absolutely no shame and no compromise on quality if you buy certain ingredients pre-made or pre-assembled. Often this saves both time and money.

So for this I would always buy a Fajitas Kit. If you can't find one the kits they just contain a pack of tortilla wraps, salsa and seasoning. If you buy a full jar of salsa, it's likely to sit in the back of the fridge sticking to the shelf. The kits are less than £4.00.

Put a slug of oil into a wok, turn on the heat. On a plastic chopping board cut up the 2 chicken breasts into short strips, about the size of your forefinger. Add to the wok or pan. The chicken should sizzle but not spit.

TIP: once you have added the chicken to the pan, IMMEDIATELY put the knife and chopping board into the sink, cover with washing up liquid and add boiling hot water. I am not a 'cleanliness fanatic' BUT the bad bacteria passed between utensils used on raw chicken, then used on other food can lead to quick, serious illness. If you remember nothing else about food preparation hygiene, remember this.

NOW wash your hands.......and relax again

On a separate chopping board, cut up the peppers and onion into small pieces. Add them to the chicken. Stir everything. Turn the heat down and cover with an upside down pan - to act as a loose lid or cover. Do stir every couple of minutes but let everything simmer for a good 15 minutes.

For each person have a bowl for your mix, a plate for the tortillas and a little bowl for salsa.

When the chicken mix is cooked, turn the heat off and finally take your flour tortillas. These are done very last thing because they get cold quickly.

TIP: Separate them from one another before you heat them, otherwise they will stick to each other. Put them into a plastic carrier bag (honestly) fold over the end of the plastic bag, don't tie it. Put them in the microwave for 10 seconds. Done.

If you use cling film to heat the tortillas you will burn yourself, everything else is too fiddly.

Dish up the chicken mix and divide the tortilla wraps. Assemble by putting the chicken mix in the middle of the wrap, add a nice plop of salsa, wrap it up TIP: always tuck in the bottom up first, then fold over the sides, that way the juice won't drip all over you.


Tuesday, 24 January 2012

15 minute Spaghetti Pesto & Bacon

This is what I had tonight..... really tasty; fabulous flavours from the bacon are soaked up by the mushrooms; leeks add a slightly contrasting but complimentary taste. As for pesto, the more you add, the stronger it is; all mixed through spaghetti.

15 minutes from start to finish.

1 Packet Bacon - 6 / 8 slices, Vegetable Oil, 1 Little Box mushrooms - 10 - 20
1 Leek, 1 Packet Spaghetti, 1 Jar Pesto

Boil water in a kettle. Put the water into a big pan; or pot, which ever you like to call it.

Cookery shows and books have 100 different types of pots and pans. In my world there are 2.

A pot; as pictured. And a frying pan or wok. Everything you could possibly need to cook on top of gas can be done in one of these things.

Spaghetti TIP: whilst holding the spaghetti over the pot, carefully snap the lengths into three. Do this over the pot of water, otherwise some bits will fly off. You will leave the spaghetti to bubble for 10 - 15 minutes. This way they don't stick above the water and you don't have to dangerously push them down as they soften. You also don't have to twist the spaghetti around your fork 1000 times before you can take a mouthful.

Slice up the mushrooms and leeks. Put both into a strainer (or anything with holes in it) and give them a quick wash under the tap.
TIP: Leeks and mushrooms are the two vegetables that will always have chunks of soil in
them, so you have to rinse them or you'll crunch it.

Put a slug of oil into the frying pan or wok (a flattish pan basically)

TIP: I think it's impossible to set a rule for the 'heat level' for pans or pots, because every cooker hob is different. Basically, put the heat at about 2/3 of the max. Put the oil in. After 30 seconds you should be able to swish the oil around with it's consistency similar to water. When you put something in, like bacon, it should sizzle gently. If it roars and spits (as per every movie scene set in a busy kitchen) it's too hot, turn it down.

Chop up the bacon. Put the bacon into the frying pan until it goes grey brown and the pieces are stiff; literally about 1 minute. Add the leeks and mushrooms. Keep stirring everything

Again, everything should make a nice gentle cooking mumble; opposed to a screaming angry sizzle. TIP: If anything is sticking, take it off the heat immediately, turn the heat down and THEN put it back on the ring, stirring to keep everything free and moving. Sticking, sizzling, smoking and roaring does not mean things will be ready faster.

Once the bacon, leeks and mushrooms have been stirred, mixed through and cooked a little, you can turn the heat down a bit and cover the pan with another pan. I say this for 2 reasons.

1) it's hard to get a lid to match a flat pan or wok
2) if you do have a lid to match, I find they seal the heat in too much, which can lead to sticking and burning.

TIP: Carefully rest another pan or wok (bottom up) on top of your cooking wok. This will circulate the heat for a more even and faster cook.

Keep giving your spaghetti a random stir.

TIP: After 10 minutes, carefully take a piece of spaghetti out and put it on a cold plate. The heat will leave it pretty quickly; but if you don't do this and throw it into your mouth, you will know about it and burn yourself.

When the spaghetti is soft enough (you have eaten spaghetti a million times, you should be able to bite it, it's not too hard but it also doesn't disintegrate in your mouth); strain it and put it in a big bowl.

When your leeks and mushrooms are soft (after the 10 - 15 minutes) put them into the same big bowl. Take 2 - 3 table spoons of pesto (as in soup / dessert size spoons, I know they're not the same size exactly, but they are roughly the same ..... point is, not tiny tea spoons)

Mix everything thoroughly. Lovely.

I Love Food

I love food. It's that simple. Most people love food. Human beings generally enjoying eating something that tastes nice, even if the only diversity in their food intake ranges from 'Burger' to 'Burger With Fries'

I'm lucky, I love cooking. But I think I love cooking because

a) I'm good at it
b) I am quick
c) I cut out all the nonsense, stress and rocket science

I'm not overly patient. I'm not very accurate, precise or analytical. I am certainly not a perfectionist. I was very lucky as a child; from a young age my father taught me how to cook. Nothing fancy, just the basics. And the basics are the foundation of any meal, whether it's a cooked breakfast or a full roast dinner.

I have also been blessed with Irish common sense. This particular brand of 'common sense' has no tolerance for 'faffing around'.......

You will often hear broad Belfast accents declaring 'catch yourself on, I've no time to be messing around with that fannying about, just get on with it'......... I must point out this blanket statement can and is often applied to a wide range of life's scenarios, from politics to child bearing.

So, with my combination of common sense, love of food, impatience and some early grounding, I have developed into a very capable and highly praised cook.

Praised by my own friends and family, but praise none-the-less. There is a chance that they would say anything to avoid cooking themselves, but I've cooked for such a variety of people; French, Indian, children, older folks....... I think I'm doing something right.

So I'm going to pass it on.