Stock and pesto

I’ve had several chicken carcasses in the freezer for ages, so I decided today was the day for making stock. This included the chicken from our first ill-fated attempt at spit-roasting said bird, which meant that it was a particularly meaty stock. Most of the birds had some sort of seasoning on them, from memory, and there was at least one lemon inside, and I don’t have any carrots or celery as recommended by Nigella. So I just added some parsley and thyme and simmered it all together for something more than three hours. It looks like it’s made a pretty good amount of good-smelling stock, so I’m letting it sit in the fridge for a while – I’ll skim it tomorrow and then freeze it…

Today I also made pesto. Initially I thought I might have invented a New Pesto, but on checking the internet no, of course I haven’t. This pesto was inspired by the delivery of a bunch of snow pea shoots in my fruit and veg box. I checked online and the suggestions were stir-fry (not a fave of my darling) or salad. OR, I thought, pesto! Yum! And this time I will freeze some! So garlic and walnuts and parmesan and snow pea shoots. I had some for lunch with avo on toast; delightful.

Family feasting

I had the opportunity to cook for part of my family this weekend – which doesn’t happen very often – so I decided to experiment. Which is perhaps dangerous, but that’s How I Roll.

9781743368565Dinner #1: Indian Made Easy

Chana Masala – chickpea stew basically. It was ok, although not as large as I had hoped. So it’s a good thing that I also made…

Stuffed potato and pea cakes – mashed potato with spices, wrapped around pulsed peas and paneer and more spices, lightly fried. 110% would make again. So good.

UnknownDinner #2: Saffron Tales

Chicken with walnuts and pomegranate – I’ve looked at this a couple times but been put off by the amount of time required with the walnuts. You need to cook the blitzed walnuts with water for two hours, so that it turns into a porridge-like consistency. But you don’t really need to do anything with it, just stir it occasionally, so if you’re home anyway it’s pretty easy. Then you add chicken (or eggplant) and pomegranate molasses and leave it for another 40 or so minutes and… absolute culinary delight; my sister thought it looked like mole (she’s just back from Mexico). Can’t wait to eat this again. Served with…

Coconut rice (because I couldn’t be bothered with proper Persian rice with saffron etc), and a play on salad shirazi (we removed the red onion and added avocado).

But wait! You’re all saying. What about dessert?! My sister made Nigella’s boiled mandarine cake. Which was good… after, um, a slight mandarine+saucepan malfunction. Probably the less said about that the better, if I want to stay on her good side…

Two kitchen failures

I’m feeling a little glum.

To be fair, they weren’t complete failures – like, they were edible, eventually – but still. Sad.

First: if you crowd chicken and potato together in a too-small container, the potato doesn’t cook completely. I thought I was doing the right thing putting it close-ish together because I was roasting it all with a couple of lemons, but it turns out that nope. Bit more space is important for potatoes. NOTED. (Ended up nuking the potatoes briefly, which was a bit humiliating.)

The second was a cake failure, which WOUNDED me. It was an apple butter cake. I made the ‘apple butter’, not completely following the recipe I’ll admit – that was an accident but it didn’t turn into a failure, because it was still tasty, a very concentrated apple. Anyway I decided to make the cake in a ring pan, because that makes it easier to cut up for sharing. I tested it, and the skewer came out clean… I turned it onto a rack after a bit, and then a bit after that I noticed that it had SUNK. It was still doughy! So I put it back in the oven for a bit. It seems ok now. At least it hasn’t sunk again.

Wah.

Spit Roast Experiment #1

Aim: to recreate our spit-roast experience from earlier in the year c/ camping friends

Equipment:

  1. A new spit-roast ensemble
  2. A Bannockburn chicken
  3. Masterfoods All-Purpose Seasoning
  4. Kipfler potatoes
  5. Chiminea
  6. Wood
  7. Shovel
  8. Meat thermometer

Method:

  1. Buy the spit-roast and have it delivered to your door and get VERY EXCITED.IMG_0969.JPG
  2. Buy all groceries.
  3. Start a fire in the chiminea to get coals.
  4. Season the chicken.
  5. Spike the chicken and put it onto the spit.
  6. Use the shovel to move coals over to the spit-roast tray, being careful not to burn yourself.
  7. Lower the chicken over the coals and turn on the rotisserie function.
  8. Wait. Drinking wine and staring dreamily into the fire are optional at this point.
  9. Having salted and oiled the potatoes, put them in the handy cage and place that on the spit too.
  10. image1.JPGMore waiting. Drinking wine becomes less optional at this point.
  11. Using the meat thermometer, check the chicken’s progress.
  12. Add more coals to the tray because it’s clearly not hot enough.
  13. Get impatient, figure it’s SURELY done by now, and take everything inside to carve and serve.

Results:

Unfortunately we probably were a bit too impatient, and we probably didn’t have enough hot coals under the chicken and the potatoes for long enough. One end of the chicken IMG_3759.JPG(closest to the pole, in the picture) really didn’t cook at all. The breast meat was mostly fine but we were a bit leary of the thighs so most of the chicken has gone into the freezer to be made into stock whenever I’ve got time. The potatoes looked good but also weren’t as cooked as we had hoped and wanted. We didn’t realise that the cage thing came as part of the ensemble, and hadn’t intended to get it; when camping we’re more likely just to do them in the dutch oven in the coals proper. However, it was very pleasant to sit outside with the fire and this was, as stated, our first experiment.

Conclusion:

More coals are needed. Next time we will probably do it over the fire pit rather than the tray to get a bit more heat happening. If it’s windy the coals needs more attention. The potato cage may not be worth it. We like fire.

A Sirocco Feast

Unknown.jpegWhen I got a copy of Sirocco from the publisher, I was incredibly excited. I adore Persiana, Sabrina Ghayour’s first cookbook, rather a lot: it’s like Jerusalem but slightly more work-a-day… and I think it’s a prettier book too, overall. I had no idea there was another one in the works, and there it suddenly was, on my doorstep!

I’ve cooked from it for the last week or so, but this weekend we had a friend coming over so I thought I’d go full Sirocco.

Main: roast chicken with vegetables.

The chicken has orange and lemon zest and za’atar slathered all over it. I just used the zester on the citrus; next time I would chop it a little finer, because it didn’t stay on the chicken quite as well as I’d hoped. But it was delicious, and I’ll be doing it like this from now on. I also put the zested lemon into the chicken cavity, as Nigella insists.

Souk-spiced root vegetables: turns out I had no cumin seed (?!), but in looking I discovered a jar of Moroccan souk spices that I’d forgotten which was basically what the recipe required. I used parsnip, potato, carrot and celeriac; it was my first time ever cooking (and, I think, eating) the last. Would do so again.

Beans: fried with mustard seeds, preserved lemon, garlic and some other spices. Was meant to have pickled chillies, too, but I couldn’t find what I thought were the right things.

Asparagus: just sat in boiling water for five minutes, then tossed with more preserved lemon, mint, and oil. Also meant to have preserved chillies. I didn’t use anywhere near the amount of preserved lemon suggested, and it was quite lemony enough; needed more mint but it was dark and cold when I went out foraging in the garden.

I think that this dinner will be made again.

Dessert: lime and basil cream

Not enough basil, sadly, but very tangy with the lime – zest and juice of two limes to 600mL of cream (2/3 of recipe). Was meant to be topped with a persimmon compote, but I didn’t realise it was persimmon season, so when I went to the shops and saw them I couldn’t recall how many I needed. Also, persimmons scary. So I did a little not-quite-compote with apples, lime and vanilla. It was very, very tasty; served in jars from Kate’s jams they looked amusingly bohemian. Because I didn’t think our martini glasses were big enough.

IMG_0967.JPG

An average picture but a tasty meal.

It’s available from Fishpond.