Friday 23 May 2014

dreamy kievs

"Life's too short to kiev a chicken!"

This was a workmate's response when I explained the lengthy process behind preparing and cooking these buttery breadcrumbed beauts at home from scratch. And it's true - it is about 3 hours of your life you won't get back... However, if like me, you have happy memories of childhood comfort meals (kiev, potato waffles, peas) and in adulthood you still succumb to the temptation of a gourmet buttermilk fried chicken piece (or ten) - then at least attempting to kiev a chicken at least once in your life is a no brainer and defo worth a shot. Not least for that satisfaction of cutting through a crisp crust to release the molten garlic lava within...

I have been banging on about making my own chicken kievs for years, and finally got round to cooking them for friends. An extensive search of various recipes online gave me all sorts of different methods, but in the end I settled on Felicity Cloake's perfect recipe as featured by the Guardian.

Let's face it, I'd never really considered how the butter gets in the chicken in the first place but it seemed a messy business... I knew that I didn't trust the 'make a pocket in the chicken' bit that most people seemed to advise. Any fool can see the garlic butter is likely to ooze straight out. Equally, messing about with mini fillets and using them to plug in the butter, was never going to work for me. My mate Mike suggested wrapping the chicken fillets in parma ham before breadcrumbing to stop the spillage, but I'm one of those philistines that doesn't like mixing meats so this was also a no no.
Turns out the best way of doing it, is to butterfly the fillets and then batter tham out, good n hard, until they're really flat and thin. You can then wrap the meat tightly around a frozen tube of garlic butter, completely enclosing it, and pop the whole thing in some clingfilm and back in the freezer to harden. This means the kiev holds it's shape and makes the butter less likely to ooze through the meat. Done.

The breadcrumbing thing was another messy business. I didn't want a greasy crumb coating my kievs, and using Japanese panko breadcrumbs worked a treat as they're much lighter and crispier than your average. Back out of the freezer the fillets came, dipped in flour, then egg, then panko, then flour, then egg, then panko - then back in the freezer again. At this point your hands are claggy and gluey and you begin to wonder whether this is really worth it. (It is). The more thorough your breadcrumbing, the less chance your butter will escape.

I also knew I didn't want to deep fry the kievs, even though Felicity recommended it. Not only am I shit scared of vats of bubbling hot oil but I also preferred the idea of a slightly healthier, baked version. Plus I was making baked sweet potato fries to go with so I could lump them all on the same tray. So instead I lightly fried mine in a pan until golden brown and then finished them off in the oven for another 20 minutes, which seemed to work a treat.

The result was special! A Friday night treat... Bon appetit.

Makes 2
2 chicken breasts
50g salted butter, at room temperature
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp tarragon, finely chopped
½ lemon
2 tbsp flour, seasoned
2 eggs, beaten
4 tbsp breadcrumbs, panko if possible, seasoned

1. Mash together the butter, garlic and herbs, and season with black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. Form into 2 sausages, and wrap in clingfilm. Put in the fridge to chill.

2. Butterfly each chicken breast by opening it out using a knife, and then put it between 2 sheets of cling film and bash with a rolling pin or meat tenderiser until about 0.5cm thick, being careful not to create any holes. Season both sides well.

3. Put a sausage of butter near one edge of the chicken and begin rolling the meat up around it, tucking in the ends as you go (use some egg and flour as glue if they prove obstinate). Roll into a tight sausage using the clingfilm, and freeze for 2 hours.

4. Put the seasoned flour, eggs and breadcrumbs into 3 shallow dishes and then roll the frozen kievs in each in turn, then again in the eggs and crumbs to double coat. Put in the fridge to defrost, which should take about an hour. Preheat the oven to 200C.

5. Fry until golden brown then place in oven for around 15-20 mins. Serve with veg and potatoes of some description.

Saturday 10 May 2014

#feaster sunday

These days cooking a big family lunch or dinner is a pleasure I relish. The whirlwind of living in the big smoke means food for me is usually a quickly assembled affair, eaten out or cooked in giant quantities then frozen for ease. I should count myself lucky, as sooner or later, I imagine I'll be ground down by the monotony of big supermarket shopping for a family, churning out lovingly prepared food, devoured in seconds with no thanks (or was that just us?)

However at the moment when I do get a chance to properly cook, I enjoy menu planning and spending a fair amount of time slaving over a hot stove. It's especially good when I go home to cook for my family, as we're not that numerous so it's all manageable - and often the ingredients I need tend to magically appear in the fridge so I swerve shopping duties...

Anyway, for Easter Sunday this year I cooked a 3 course lamb roast for the fam. Knowing I would have spent at least two nights out on the razz previous and have depleted my brain cells, I needed to keep it relatively straightforward yet reasonably impressive.

Here's my spring lamb Sunday lunch menu, which serves six, is super easy to make and should go down well with most palates. A seasonal starter, meaty main and chilled fruity dessert. You can prep the starter and pud the night before so on the day all you need to worry about is your meat which needs to go in just 1.5 hours before serving. Why not try it out this weekend...

Aperitif: Hendrick's gin, mint, elderflower & cucumber cooler

A decent bit of booze will make everyone happier, less fractious, more willing to forgive any delays on the food... This cocktail is light and refreshing and actually managed to convert a gin hater! Serve with some savoury snacks - posh crisps or cheese straws - to warm up the party.

  1. Fill a chilled highball glass with ice cubes, 50ml of Hendrick's gin and 20ml of elderflower cordial.
  2. Add two strips of cucumber (use a peeler to peel vertically) and two mint leaves.
  3. Top up with fresh tonic and stir.

Starter: Roasted asparagus & parma ham spears with aioli

Super easy but looks vibrant and is deliciou - allow 4-5 asparagus spears and 1 slice of parma ham per person. Wrap the asparagus spears in the ham the night before and arrange on a baking tray ready for sticking straight in the oven. Aioli for dipping can also be made the night before and chilled in fridge.

  1. Slice the ham into two lengthways so you get 2 long strips.
  2. Wrap half the asparagus spears in the ham, leave the rest plain (it's nice to get a mixture).
  3. Brush lightly with olive oil, season with pepper and roast at 180C for around 5 minutes.
    Serve with aioli (garlic mayo) for dipping.

I used this recipe from BBC Food which was uber garlicky, so don't be tempted to add more cloves even if you're a garlic fan!

  • 3 free-range egg yolks
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • ½ lemon, juice only
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 150ml/5fl oz extra virgin olive oil
  1. Blend all ingredients, except the olive oil, in a food processor.
  2. Pour the oil into the blender in a steady stream, until it forms a thick sauce.
  3. The mixture, once blended, should be vibrant and yellow in colour. Sprinkle paprika on top to garnish.

Main: Roast leg of lamb with all the trimmings

Using a leg with bone in makes everything so much simpler. I used a 2.2kg leg for 6 people, which was plenty.

Leg o' lamb

  1. Mix 3 crushed garlic cloves with a small bunch of chopped rosemary, zest of 1 lemon and a glug of olive oil.
  2. Stab leg 4 times on each side and massage in marinade.
  3. Season with salt and pepper
  4. Cook at 200C for 1.5 hours which should give you a nice pink middle.
  5. Leave out of the oven to rest, covered in tin foil, for 15 mins before serving.

Homemade mint sauce

Finely chop 4 tbsp of fresh mint leaves, and mix in a mug with 2 tsp sugar, 1 tbsp hot water and 3 tbsp white wine vinegar. Season to taste.

Spuds & veg

  1. Peel and chop Maris Pipers, then simmer for 10 mins in boiling water until just tender.
  2. Drain and shake them in pot so they go all fluffy at the edges.
  3. Tip into a roasting tray with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil at bottom (pre heated in oven for 10 mins).
  4. Add in some sliced carrots and parsnips. Slice these in 2, no smaller, as they shrivel up loads when they roast.
  5. Coat and season with sprigs of thyme, salt, pepper and a few whole garlic cloves.
  6. Roast in oven below the lamb, for around 45 minutes.


This recipe is my failsafe and makes exactly 12 puddings. You want everybody to have at least 2 each innit. Make the batter in advance and leave in a jug to chill in fridge. It seems to make the puds lighter.

  • 140g plain flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 200ml milk
  1. Combine gradually in a bowl so there are no lumps. Season with salt and peps.
  2. Pour batter into a jug.
  3. Add a tsp of sunflower oil to each hole of a 12 hole muffin tray.
  4. Put in oven for at least 10 mins so oil is SUPER HOT (this is key to them rising!)
  5. Carefully take muffin tray out and pour in batter to each hole so it is nearly at the top.
  6. Cook at 220C for 20 mins (these can go in once the lamb has come out of oven, so you can bust up the temperature).

Dessert: White chocolate & raspberry trifle

After a stuffing main you want a light dessert. Trifle haters gon' hate. However they may be converted with this whipped up bad boy.
  • 175g/6oz white chocolate
  • 2 medium egg yolks
  • 25g caster sugar
  • 150ml milk
  • 85g/3fl oz double cream
  • 220ml whipped cream
  • 4 x 4cm thick slices swiss roll (bought or homemade)
  • 2 tbsp Kirsch liqueur
  • 225g fresh raspberries
  • a few fresh mint sprigs
  1. Put a 55g/2oz piece of the white chocolate in the fridge, (this will make it easier to grate later). Break the remainder into small pieces.
  2. Cream the egg yolks and caster sugar together in a large bowl.
  3. Pour the milk and cream into a small pan and bring to the boil. Pour on to the egg yolk mixture, whisking all the time. Pour back into the pan and place over a moderate heat.
  4. Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until it starts to thicken and add the chocolate pieces.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Cover the custard with a little icing sugar and piece of cling film to prevent a skin forming.
  6. Place the swiss roll slices in a large glass bowl and sprinkle with the Kirsch.
  7. Scatter with raspberries. Pour the white chocolate custard over the swiss roll and leave to set in the fridge, preferably overnight.
  8. Top with freshly whipped cream just before serving, and decorate with fresh raspberries and a few mint leaves.

Thursday 1 May 2014


One night in Argentina...

Not some sunny knock off version of Paris Hilton's sex tape - oh no. This was Cambalache (Spanish for bazaar), a pop up evening event we attended last night, bringing together Argentina's finest wines, food and entertainment to give a flavour of the country famed for it's gauchos and steaks.

Given a heads up by the Nudge team, we managed to bag tickets for the two date event which sold out like hot empanadas. At £40 each, and encompassing wine tasting of 120 different varieties, a three course Argentian supper plus a cocktail and a beer this seemed pretty darn reasonable. Pop up, one-ticket-covers-all ventures can sometimes be a risky business for the punter - often disorganised, food and drink can be stingily sized and served cold and rushed, as organisers struggle to keep up with demand from the baying mob. However Cambalache was a very slick operation, a lesson in how to run an event, with good quality food and drink and importantly, more than enough staff on hand to advise and guide ticket holders round a little slice of Argy in London.

Held at MC Motors in Dalston, the slightly grotty exterior belies the vast, light and airy atrium which lies inside. I have often walked or bussed past the venue and noticed the cinema style sign on the front, often with some witticism spelled out along the lines of 'Hipsters need love too' or 'Dirty Bertie's Thirty' so i guessed it was available to hire for weddings and parties. However it was clearly also a great location choice for the recreation of a bustling Argentine village, with artfully distressed and relaxed furnishings, exposed brickwork, windows to peer through, mirrors to gaze in and an outside area based on a San Telmo market, complete with chimichurri blending station, graffiti wall, Argentinian BBQ and street band.

On arrival we were welcomed in by real LIVE Argentinians (oh yes), given a map of the event and soon sat round a 'campfire' on animal skin rugs with friendly gauchos - or the mate men as I nicknamed them - and learnt how the traditional yerba mate tea is brewed and drunk from the iconic calabash gourd. Bitter in taste, if you like green tea, mate's your mate.

We then made a good stab at tasting the many and varied wines on offer, which is predominantly what the event is about. It's a chance to quiz wine buffs on their knowledge, and act like you got some yourself. From reading my illegible notes, I am pretty sure we were well impressed by tasty tipples from Familia Schroeder, Graffigna, Trivento and Vinalba. There's been a massive spike in Malbec drinking of late, especially in the States, and Argentine wines are in demand. The only thing missing was some kind of delicious meat and cheese platter to accompany our fine wines, but we made do with some palate cleansing, dainty pots of cucumber ceviche instead. It's safe to say that wine tasting is a slippery slope, and we were soon rhythmically tango twirling (or wobbling) our way outside to the asado to cash in our food tokens. Three different perfectly crisp and delicious empanadas to start, followed by tender lamb with roasted veg and chimichurri in a hearty, greasy sandwich, rounded off with some divine dulce de leche icecream courtesy of Ice Cream Union. Stomach lining complete.


Luckily we had arrived early at the event just after 6pm, and booked ourselves in for some of the in demand experiences which definitely added to our enjoyment (and alcohol content).

Wine and the Senses was a whizz through the mind boggling effect of touch, sound and sight on our tastebuds. Who knew that certain music could make wine taste sweeter, or stroking your finger on a piece of velvet (THE WRONG WAY!) make a drink taste less smooth. Blindfolded sipping and crunching coffee beans whilst supping red wine was a particular taste sensation.

A Fernet-Branca tasting session was also a revelation. I had heard about this Italian spirit before but never sampled it. First off we had to guess all the components that made it up, set out before us in little glass bottles - not easy. Myrrh, camomile, saffron and aloe are all thrown into the mix with this unique, herby, sweet and thick liquor which Wikipedia quotes as 'tasting like black licorice-flavoured Listerine'. Nice. A small shot was enough to get most of us rolling on the floor and gagging.
However the Fernet-Branca guy waxed enthusiastically about the black stuff and got us all on side, leaving us converted by the end with glasses mixed with coke and lots of ice. Turns out in this format, it's a bloody amazing drink!

The rest of the evening is a bit of a blur, filled with tango lessons, super strong cocktails drunk to nice beats, learning (and failing) to play Argentine card game truco and meeting some absolute characters. Cambalache will no doubt return again next year, and I urge you to jump on those tickets quick smart as it's certainly worth the 40 bucks. You might even learn a thing or two in the process - if only, that the next holiday you'll want to book will defo be Argentina. And that in the absence of paintstripper Fernet-Branca is a less than sloppy second. Olé!