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.
I’m certain people who cook a lot, like me, ponder something along these lines: when you really enjoy a dinner, one that you made, what made it special? Was it the choice ingredients, or the exotic technique you used… or was it the company? Heston talks often about this theory – the atmosphere of a meal – and how you can recapture it. It’s often impossible.
I love having friends over for dinner. This occasion was a reunion of very old colleagues who had been through various trials together and come out as good friends on the other side. I took the rare opportunity to cook some fish and heaved a great pile of broadly-Asian-flavoured tuna and rice in front of us, and we all dug in. I know I cooked it, but I really enjoyed the meal. And I’d like to think it was the rare tuna, the fruity rice, or savoury greens, but I suspect that took a sideline to tales of disastrous bike rides, hasty pool tournaments and broken chopsticks. That’s what I enjoyed.
Tuna with greens and coconut rice (serves 3):
1 large mugful of rice
1 heaped tablespoon instant coconut milk powder
450g diced tuna (sustainably sourced, please)
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
A few mixed green crunchy veg, e.g. tenderstem broccoli, sugar snap peas
1 large bag of spinach
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
Soy sauce, to serve
Bunch of coriander, chopped
Chilli flakes, to serve
Lime wedges, to serve
- Get a saucepan over a medium heat and add the rice, coconut powder and twice the amount of boiling water to rice. Cover and simmer while you do everything else. When the water has subsided taste and check for seasoning.
- Get another frying pan very hot. While it heats up, crush the seeds along with salt and pepper together lightly. Scatter on to a chopping board and roll the tuna pieces all over to cover. When the pan is hot add a dash of oil and then stir fry the tuna for about 90 secs, until all sides are coloured. Remove to one side.
- Add the crunchy veg to the pan and toss for a couple of minutes. Turn the heat down to medium and add the oyster sauce, and then the spinach. Toss together briefly until the spinach wilts. Serve everything in a great pile, adding a drizzle of soy sauce and a sprinkle of coriander to everything, and plonk chilli and lime on the side for guests to pimp their own.
This was completely inspired to the ideas I’d been absorbing from Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals. Keeping a few pans on the go, everything cooked separately and brought together, powerful spices to give the flavours a kick… It’s exactly in keeping with the way some of the Jamie recipes work.
I do have one ingredient in there I’m not convinced Jamie would approve of… frozen mince and onion. But I can’t ignore the time-saving this offers me.
If’ I’d have had coriander leaf to scatter on top, it would’ve been perfect. But I was happy enough.
Keema chana curry (serves 2):
250g frozen mince and onion
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 red onion
1 clove garlic
1 tin tomatoes
1 teaspoon nigella seeds
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 tin chickpeas, drained
2 sweetcorn cob halves
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
Get two frying pans and a saucepan on pretty hot. Get the kettle on to boil.
Add a dash of oil to one of the pans and add the cumin seeds and turmeric. After a minute add the mince and onion and stir often.
Get your blender ready, and whizz up the onion, garlic, tomatoes, nigella and garam masala with a pinch of salt until liquid. Add to the other pan and allow to bubble. After a couple of minutes add the chickpeas.
Fill the sauce pan with boiling water and add the sweetcorn. Simmer for 10 minutes until tender, then drain. Return to the pan and add a knob of butter, a pinch of smoked sea salt and paprika. Pop the lid on and toss well.
Serve the mince on top of the tomatoey chickpeas with the sweetcorn on the side.
It’s that time of year when squashes are abundant. When the glory days of pumpkins on 31st October are over there’s still the butternut squashes, acorn, onion, gem, spaghetti… I’ve probably had squash three times in the past week, different every time. Whether it’s blitzed for a pasta sauce, roasted with sausages or thinly sliced and fried, I am a fan.
But I’d never made a puree. Ever popular with the Mastercheferati, I thought it was worth a go. I was very pleased with the result, a super-smooth and sweet puree that worked well with the spicy potato wedges and barbecue ribs. If only there had been more of it on the plate…
What I wasn’t so pleased about was the process. I’ve recently had some kitchen disasters, and here’s another one for the collection. I poured the freshly-cooked squash into my Kenwood Prospero blender and whizzed it up until smooth. As I tried to take the jug off the mixer the bottom fell off, pouring hot liquid squash everywhere. Over the mixer, over the counter, over my feet… a real disaster. I like my mixer very much and I get a whole lot of use out of it, but the attachments have proven less than stable over the years. I’m not convinced I’ll replace like-for-like when the time comes.
Butternut squash puree (serves 4):
½ a butternut squash, deseeded, diced and peeled
A pinch of ground cumin
50ml chicken stock
25ml double cream
- Add the squash to a lidded pan with a knob of butter over a medium heat. Add the cumin with salt and pepper and cook for 10 mins stirring often.
- Add the stock and cook for a further 10 mins. Add the cream for the last minute and pour into a blender. Whizz up to a fine puree, adding a dash of boiling water from the kettle if necessary. Check for seasoning and keep warm in the pan until needed.
Jamie Oliver thunders on with another lightning-quick meal, this time turning his attention to chilli con carne. I’m no stranger to rapid chilli but this is a more hearty and balanced version than mine. This chilli dinner is from Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals.
The genius here is to disassemble chilli con carne’s parts (spiced meat, cumin, beans, tomatoey sauce) and cook each part separately. This way you get a “best of” chilli with all the things you love but in a fraction of the time.
I departed from Jamie’s recipe slightly – he used bulgar wheat where I went for regular basmati rice but the effect and timing is the same. I also didn’t have a lemon to hand so used a little more lime in the rice. He also grilled some chilli peppers as a garnish but they’re really not my thing so left them out. Other than that it’s exactly as is, and it’s extremely tasty. At 14 minutes to crank out it wasn’t too demanding on my time either! I’m especially a fan of blitzing a jar of peppers with passata to make a sauce base which I’m definitely going to repurpose in other recipes for a quick fix.
Chilli con carne meatballs (serves 4):
For the rice:
1 mug basmati rice
1 cinnamon stick
For the meatballs:
400g beef mince
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 small jar peppers
4 spring onions
Bunch of coriander
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tin kidney beans
1 pinch cumin seeds
- For the rice, put the basmati rice with twice the quantity of boiling water into a lidded saucepan over a medium heat, along with half the lime and the cinnamon. Stir often while you get on with everything else.
- Combine the mince and garam masala with some salt and pepper and divide into 16 meatballs. Get them into a frying pan over a hot heat with a little oil, tossing regularly.
- Get another frying pan super-hot. In a liquidizer blitz the peppers, half the spring onions, paprika, half the coriander and passata to a smooth sauce and add this to the pan.
- Add the kidney beans and cumin seeds to the meatball pan. Once the meatballs are browned on all sides remove while you continue to heat the beans. Once the rice is cooked plate with the meatballs, sauce and beans, and garnish with the remaining coriander and sliced spring onions. Serve with creme fraiche or natural yoghurt if you like, and the lime wedges on the side.