I devour podcasts by the audio gallon. Since 2007 (late to the podcast party, I know) I’ve had a regular diet of banter, thought, review and revue. Many have come and gone from my queue, and I’m always happy to try new ones.
A few weeks ago I discovered The Dork Forest. Hosted by comedian Jackie Kashian she indulges her weekly guest in one of their obsessions, or ‘dorkdoms’. It’s a lot of fun, and if you like your podcasts rambly and occasionally educational, this is one for the playlist. On a recent episode her guest Tracey Ashley couldn’t praise her macaroni cheese enough. I don’t need asking twice; I raced off to try it.
Jackie’s original recipe is here, but be warned it’s written in American (Sticks of butter! Sharp cheese!). My rough Anglican version is below. I’ve not used Gruyere as it wouldn’t survive against the strong cheddar I used, an Asda mature cheddar with wholegrain mustard, part of their Asda Summer range. Any cheddar will do but the mustard flavour through it is really good. I’ve also subbed penne over macaroni. But it’s a great pasta bake, with a silky sauce and big flavour. I think it’s the breadcrumbs that make it.
Thanks to Asda for sending me the cheese to try.
Jackie Kashian’s cheese pasta bake (serves 4):
1 garlic clove, halved
4 tablespoons butter, melted
3 slices bread
3 tablespoons flour
500ml whole milk
2 teaspoons salt
¼ nutmeg, grated
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
400g cheddar cheese, grated
400g penne or other pasta
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. Take your garlic clove and rub it around the inside of a baking dish. Whizz up your bread in a food processor, stir in 1 tablespoon of the butter and set aside.
- Get your pasta on to boil in plenty of salted water, and drain when done. Meanwhile make your sauce.
- Over a low heat stir together the remaining butter and flour until you have a roux and continue to cook for another minute until pale in colour. Add all of the milk and whisk constantly for about eight minutes until thick and smooth. Add the salt, nutmeg, cayenne and cheese. Take off the heat and stir through, then fold in the pasta.
- Pour into your baking dish, top with breadcrumbs and bake for 30 minutes until golden brown. Wait 2 minutes before serving to let the sauce settle, and serve with a green salad to try and offset some of the guilt.
I do love panko breadcrumbs. The ridiculous extra crunch the Japanese breadcrumbs give is so satisfying. So I was really looking forward to chicken coated in panko when I got home.
Until I realised I didn’t have any eggs. The typical pane station is flour, egg, breadcrumb. But with no eggs what was I going to do? I figure all it needed was something for the breadcrumbs to stick to. So why not the chef’s friend cornflour? My only problem was avoiding that gluey taste that cornflour can give, so I added some ground spices to mask the flavour. Seemed to work pretty well. To the point in fact where I don’t see the need to waste an egg on breadcrumbing again!
This is an easy to rustle-up, easy to multiply dinner that is a great combo of crunchy chicken and slurpy noodles. You could use any sauce you like with the noodles – even a splash of soy would do.
Chicken katsu with oyster noodles (serves 2):
2 chicken breasts
1 teaspoon cornflour
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
A little plain flour
4 noodle nests
1 litre chicken stock
Large handful of broccoli florets, cut into bite-size pieces
A pinch of chilli flakes
A pinch of sesame seeds
- Get a large pan with shallow oil over a medium heat, and a saucepan for your noodles over a high heat.
- Lay out a sheet of cling film and dust with salt and pepper. Put the chicken on this and lay another piece of chicken on top. Using a rolling pin, bash the chicken to approx 1cm thin.
- In a bowl combine the cornflour, cumin and coriander. Add milk until you get a thick, sludgy paste. Set up a breading station, with one bowl of plain flour, your cornflour sludge, and the breadcrumbs. Dust the chicken with flour, dip in the cornflour paste and then in the breadcrumbs. Make sure they are well coated.
- Lower the chicken into the oil gently. When done on one side flip over until done, then drain on kitchen paper.
- Get the chicken stock on to boil in the saucepan and add the noodles. After 3 minutes or when the noodles are done, drain them and rinse well with cold water.
- Add the broccoli back to the noodle saucepan, add the chilli along with a splash of water. Peel the carrot and use the peeler to shave into strips into the broccoli. Jam the lid on and cook fast. After about 3 minutes the broccoli should be tender, so add the oyster sauce and toss well. Cook for a further minute and then add the noodles back to the pan, tossing well to mix. Serve in a bowl topped with sesame seeds, and top with the sliced chicken.
Whenever my son is offered a treat out to a restaurant, say for a birthday or good school report, before I’ve even finished the question he replies “Wagamama“. And he always orders the same thing: chicken katsu curry.
I’ve hard arguments with people on Twitter about Wagamama in the past; that it is lowest common denominator stuff, that it’s Westernised muck… they are aiming at global appeal to be sure. I can’t speak to its authenticity but I know I like what their kitchen serves up. My favourite dish by a long shot is yaki soba, and I must’ve had it a hundred times in and out of the restaurant.
But the katsu curry is really good too. Super-crunchy chicken and a spiky curry sauce, with fluffy rice to soak it up. I have got the Wagamama cookbook but this recipe isn’t in there, so here’s my interpretation which I think is pretty damn close. They have salad alongside theirs, I went with some more Autumnal veg in fitting with October diets. But it’s the curry sauce I’m absolutely overjoyed with, a dead simple and really tasty condiment that goes with so many things.
Chicken katsu curry (serves 4):
4 chicken breasts
100g panko breadcrumbs
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons flour
Mugful basmati rice
1 star anise
3 cardamom pods
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 Knorr chicken stock pot
White wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Patak’s curry paste (whichever flavour you like)
400ml coconut milk (I like Maggi’s powder)
- You’ll need two frying pans and two saucepans on the go for this one. Sorry about that. You should also put the oven on a low setting, about 100°C and pop a baking tray in there.
- Get the large saucepan over a medium heat and add the rice, the star anise, cloves, cardamom and two mugfuls of water. Cover and stir occasionally while you get on with everything else.
- In another saucepan, gently fry the carrots for a minute in a little oil. Then barely cover the carrots with water and add half the stock pot. Simmer. After 5 minutes, add the peppers and when all the liquid is reduced add a punch of sugar and a dash of vinegar – check for seasoning.
- In a saucepan over a high heat, add the curry paste and cook out for a minute. Then add the coconut milk and the other half of the stock pot. Simmer until thick.
- Get a large frying pan, cover the base with oil and set it over a medium heat. Between two pieces of clingfilm bash the chicken breasts with a rolling pin until 1.5cm thick. Dust with seasoned flour, dip in egg then coat in breadcrumbs. Fry the chicken in batches as your pan allows, browning on both sides and transferring to the baking tray while you finish the rest.
- When all the chicken is cooked, the rice is fluffy (it will probably need some salt and pepper) and the veg is tender, serve with lashings of the curry sauce.
Continuing my series on decent grub on a budget, here’s a pasta bake dish with lots going on. It’s the breadcrumb topping that makes it! This was intended to have a white sauce made with milk but I ran out, so instead I went for a velouté version made with stock.
(PS. I’ve listed ingredients for 1 but the version above serves 2 – 3, in case you’re wondering why yours is smaller!).
Approximate cost for main ingredients, excludes storecupboard ingredients (prices from Tesco.com 7th Oct 2012): £1.91
Garlic mushroom and broccoli bake (serves 1):
100g penne or other shape pasta
100g mushrooms, sliced
1 head of broccoli, separated into florets
1 rasher of smoked bacon
1 slice of bread, preferably yesterday’s
1 clove garlic
500ml hot chicken stock
- Get a large pan of salted water on to boil over a high heat and preheat the oven to 200°C. Get a smaller pan on a medium heat and get a baking dish ready.
- Add the pasta to the water. Add the butter to the smaller pan and once melted whisk in the flour to combine to a gloopy paste. Crush in the garlic and allow it to cook for a couple of minutes. Add all the stock, whisking all the time.
- Add the mushrooms and veg to the pasta water and then return to whisking your sauce. Keep whisking until it resembles thick, smooth custard. At this point you should check to see whether the sauce needs salt or pepper.
- After the vegetables have cooked for five minutes drain these along with the pasta and combine with the sauce in your baking dish. If you have a food processor blitz the torn-up bread and bacon together to breadcrumbs, if not lay both on a chopping board and rock your knife over the lot of it to dice as small as possible. Scatter these breadcrumbs in a single layer over the pasta bake, and pop in the oven for about 15 mins until the breadcrumbs are golden and the bacon pieces are cooked.
Not quite a 30 minute meal. It’s simpler than that. It’s yanked from Jamie’s 30 minute cauliflower macaroni, chicory salad with insane dressing, and lovely stewed fruit. But I only fancied the cauliflower macaroni bit.
I loused up the recipe a bit – I somehow ended up blitzing the cheese with the lovely breadcrumbs, which meant the topping was cheesy but the sauce too bland. Stupid spud. I still feel like the whole thing could use a little more seasoning though.
8 rasher of pancetta
1 head of cauliflower, quartered
Large sprig of rosemary, leaves picked
2 thick slices of bread
2 cloves of garlic
150g creme fraiche
- Get the oven on 220°C. Lay the pancetta in a baking tray ready to take the finished dish and pop in the oven while you carry on.
- Put the cauliflower and the macaroni in a large pot and fill with boiling salted water, and keep on the simmer.
- Get the food processor out with the chopping blade. Get the pancetta out of the oven and whizz this up with the bread, rosemary and a dash of olive oil.
- Drain off the cauliflower & pasta and reserve some of the water. Tip the veg/mac into the roasting tray you used for the pancetta and put on a low heat. Pour in a little water, crush in the garlic and mix in the creme fraiche and cheddar. Mix everything right up, adding more water and seasoning as necessary to get a smooth, silky sauce. Spread out evenly, top with the breadcrumbs and bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until bubbling.