chocolate chipotle chicken

I need a holiday. The only time that I’m not thinking about lying on a gleaming beach of white sand, the sun in my eyes and a cocktail in my hand is when I am having nightmares about all the things that could go wrong at work in the foreseeable future. I definitely need a holiday.

To get me though the dreary weather that is just around the corner, I am going to start planning my escape. Planning, in this scenario has a rather liberal meaning as it will no doubt entail looking at brochures for resorts I cannot afford and private islands I have no superyacht to get to. But my imagination and bank account have agreed on the general destination: Mexico.

I love Mexican food, the creativity and vibrancy, combined with the loud flavours and subtle textures is something that I am desperate to explore further. And I’m not talking about soggy nachos and over-spiced chilli con carne here, I am talking the real deal; sweet and spicy, flashes of colour and hearty as ever. To begin my planning, I had to get my stomach in the mood; so I whipped up this little number, my interpretation of a chipotle mole negro.

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Like I have said on multiple occasions previously; France doesn’t do spicy – I once witnessed a gentleman describe salt and vinegar crisps as piquant and I couldn’t contain my laughter. Keeping this in mind, I had to be a little interpretive with my recipe. Many recipes I found called for a combination of guajillo, habanero, mulato and chipotle chillies. How do you think I went about finding these, short of ordering them in from Mexico? It is impossible to find them at an ordinary supermarché so I settled for a small can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce – smoky jalapeño peppers in a dark, salty sauce.

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The slow cooker is fast becoming my favourite kitchen appliance (sorry coffee machine!); it takes so much of the work out of cooking – you can put it on before heading out for the day and return to a house brimming with the comforting smell of dinner.

Begin by dicing an onion and half a head of garlic cloves, yes, that many because even though your pores will be leaking garlic for days, it is well worth it. If you have the time I suggest you roast them first, but it’s not at all essential. Add to the pot, along with a teaspoon each of cinnamon, toasted cumin seeds, coriander seeds, a tablespoon of cocoa powder or a couple of pieces of chocolate and a bay leaf. I also stumbled across a recipe on Gourmet Traveller which used hibiscus flowers – another ingredient I had no time to try and source, so I used some of my dried orange peel for a subtle fruity hint of flavour. I also added a handful of cashews for the hell of it! Mix through a can of kidney or refried beans, a can of diced tomatoes and as much of a can of chipotle peppers as you wish – I used the whole lot!

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Brown a kilogram of boneless chicken thighs (or any part of the chicken) in a really hot pan on both sides; no more than 30 seconds per side, and add to the pot. Submerge the chicken in the sauce, turn the slow cooker onto low and leave for 6 to 8 hours.

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By the time you get home from work, the chicken will be falling apart and the contents of the sauce will have melted into each other. Shred the chicken with a fork and serve over hot rice, or use to make enchiladas or burritos. These are all perfect meals for day dreaming about taking a trip to Mexico, ideal for eating while flicking through a Lonely Planet guide or looking at beautiful beaches on Pinterest.

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If anyone has any insider tips on things to do in Mexico, I would love to hear them!

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adjectiveless chicken

The second task in my Will Write for Food challenge is about adjectives, or more accurately, a lack of adjectives. Many writers think that the more adjectives they cram into a piece of writing, the better it will be. The result is usually a flowery piece of writing with a lot of words, without very much substance. To avoid this, and to come to really understand the proper use of adjectives, this piece was originally written without any, afterwards I allowed myself to add in five where I thought they were most beneficial (oops I actually did six!)

How do you think I went?

Anyone who grew up in an anglophile home is going to have nostalgic memories of roast chicken, and I am no different. Since beginning my travels I have eaten roast chicken in many countries and in far more situations than a Sunday lunch on a winter’s day.

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Frango no forno is a perfect early evening meal served in Portugal; a series of lemon wedges artfully arranged along the edge of the plate and a scoop of fries nestled next to the glorious oven-roasted chicken. It may seem odd to serve fries as a standard accompaniment to roast chicken, but on any table on Britain you will find potatoes; either roasted, boiled or mashed, within an arm’s length of the stuffing and gravy – fries are just one more variation of a good old potato, offering a fluffy contrast to chicken’s crisp skin and moist flesh.

Since leaving Portugal I refuse to serve a roast without a dish of lemon wedges on the table, I often follow Jaime Oliver’s roast chicken recipe; a whole lemon in place of the stuffing inside the chicken’s cavity with a bunch of fresh herbs. The lemon’s juice keeps the chicken moist from the outside in, from the time in enters the oven until the time in enters your mouth. Not only are the lemon’s juices infused throughout the meat but the lemon’s flesh is infused with the flavours of your herb garden, the bitterness of the rind is cooked out and you are left with a tangy juice to add to your gravy or veges.

chicken with a twist

As I mentioned the other day, I spend more than my fair share of time looking at food on the internet. I also got giving a pile of old food magazines recently, and they aren’t all too fascinating, but a recipe will pop up every once in a while that uses a really interesting flavour or ingredient. One that caught my eye was miso paste… and that is how my miso chicken was born!

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Miso is a salty paste made from fermented soybeans and has an interesting earthy and rich flavour. Because of its richness, I chose to roast aubergine and courgette with the chicken because they are both rather savoury vegetables, potatoes would also work well.

I used 6 chicken thighs for this recipe, my original intention was to marinate them in a mixture of 3 tablespoons of miso paste, the juice of a lemon some pepper and a splash of soya sauce but the paste is actually quite thick so would not have worked. Instead, spread half a tablespoon of miso paste onto each portion of chicken with a pastry brush, butterknife or spatula, covering as much of the surface area as possible before placing in a bowl with the lemon juice and soya sauce. Add crushed garlic if you fancy.

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The lemon juice will add a slight acidic tang to your end product while also tenderising your chicken during the marinating process. The saltiness of the miso is enough to season the dish, and I think it is wiser to add more salt at the end than to have a dish that is too salty.

Slice an aubergine and several courgettes into wedges and season with a teaspoon of ground ginger, ground caraway seeds, ground coriander seeds and ground fennel seeds. I also used a thinly sliced onion, a carrot sliced into thick sticks and a yellow bell pepper for colour. If you would prefer, you could add the caraway, coriander and fennel seeds whole for little bursts of flavour.

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Mix the chicken and vegetables together with ¼ of a cup of breadcrumbs for crisp and crunch, transfer to a large roasting dish and drizzle with olive oil. In mixing the two components together, some of the miso paste hopefully will have coated the vegetables; if it hasn’t then feel free to add a bit more to the vegetable wedges.

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Bake at 180°C for 45minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Sprinkle with chopped basil or parsley and serve straight from the roasting dish.

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pimm’s coq-tail

You may have noticed that in part of my orange themed week, it is also a little bit Ottolenghi-themed. And this post is going to be no exception.

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tangelo and pimm’s roast chicken

I have liberally adapted this recipe to fall in line with some flavours and ingredients that I like, and also things that I had readily available at the time, so if you are thinking of making it, feel free to adapt it liberally also. The orginal recipe uses arak but because I am not actually in Israel, I used Pimm’s which worked well because the flavours of Pimm’s are well suited to combine with citrus.

There are two sections of this recipe, for the marinade you will need:
50ml of Pimm’s or other aperitif alcohol
a few spoonfuls of orange or lemon juice
1 tablespoon of wholegrain mustard
1 tablespoon of brown sugar, white sugar or honey
a large gulp of olive oil
salt
pepper
turmeric
cinnamon
thyme
crushed fennel and caraway seeds

Combine these ingredients with eight small sliced tangelos and then coat four chicken thighs or legs (bone and skin inclusive) and leave for as long as possible. If you are preparing this meal well in advance, like I did, freeze the marinated chicken.

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If you are preparing it they day-of, or have thawed the frozen chicken, move the mixture to a large roasting dish and add a handful of almonds and enough root vegetables for your dinner party. I used potatoes, but you can use fennel bulbs, onions, sweet potato or parsnips.

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Bake at 220°C for 45 minutes, the natural fruit sugar in the tangelos will have caramelized and given them a lovely sweet flavours, which will have been absorbed by the chicken and the vegetables, and because they are thinly sliced they will have crisped up beautifully.

Drain any juice that hasn’t evaporated or been absorbed and simmer in a pot until it reduces sufficiently. If there is a lot, mix a teaspoon of cornflour with a bit of water and add to the juice to thicken it up.

Garnish with chopped parsley and eat it hot or serve it cold at an afternoon or early evening picnic.

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saucy orange – orange sauce

One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to become a bit more organised with my daily food preparation, I think it is so important, and yet so difficult to find the time to properly prepare an evening meal every day so I am trying to get into the habit of taking a Sunday afternoon and adding a bit of productivity into my live by preparing a bunch of meals which I can then freeze or refrigerate for the coming week. A little bit of organisation, probably a little bit of a fad… Anyway, here is a delicious orange sauce that works perfectly for this.

This recipe for orange paste is ideal to make while pottering around the kitchen as it essentially just involves leaving a pot of the stove to simmer.

Firstly, cut an orange into thin slices- flesh, skin, pith and all (well, not the pips). Line a small saucepan with the orange wedges, add a dash of vinegar- I used apple cider vinegar as I like the tart apple flavour it brings, 50grams of honey or sugar and half a teaspoon of saffron. If you don’t have saffron (which I didn’t), substitute it for a combination of cinnamon and turmeric. The cinnamon will give it a slightly similar flavour and the saffron’s colour is replicated by the turmeric. Cover with just enough water, bring to the boil and simmer for about an hour while you potter about. You will be left with beautifully soft orange segments and a thick orange syrup.

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Leave it to cool slightly before blending the mixture into a thick, pulpy paste. You can store the paste in a jar in the fridge for up to a week and can be used as a salad dressing or a sauce with grilled chicken. I thinly sliced some chicken breast and marinated them with the paste. As part of my organisational plan, I froze the chicken to be defrosted during the week. This is a great idea to get really tender meat as it absorbs the flavours and juices while it is freezing and continues to do so while it is defrosting. You can then either pan-fry it and add to a salad or use as the base of an orange pasta sauce- a great summer idea and a nice comfort food for those colder nights.