Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Back to the Basics - Chicken Soup (stock)

 Although it is the simplest soup of all (I don't count the instant Chinese noodle soups or canned ready-made ones here), it's been my favourite since I can remember. Back when I was a child, it was an absolute must for a Sunday lunch. When I was old enough to try to make my own one, I was so sure of myself that I nearly forgot to add half of the ingredients :-) Luckily, I sussed out something was wrong early enough to salvage the soup! It still astounds me how could one cock up such a simple thing, but as they as "impossible is nothing " ;-)

To make the soup you need:

chicken meat (it may be 1 whole chicken, or parts - I usually use 4 legs and 3-4 wings)
4-5 carrots
3 parsnips
half a small celeriac
a bit of parsley
1 garlic clove
3 bay leaves
3-4 allspice grains
3-4 black pepper grains
1 chicken stock cube
salt and ground pepper
a pinch of dried lovage (optional)
1 tbsp dried veg mix 

There are two ways of cooking the soup, depending on what you're going to do with the meat. If the meat is going to be used for another meal, it should be added to the boiling water. If the meat is added to cold water it will give all its flavour to the soup, probably that's why this way of cooking is vastly preferred. Regardless of the water temperature, the meat needs to be rinsed under warm water first.
Put the chicken in a large pan and add enough water to cover the meat. Put on a low heat and leave to boil.

When it boils, take the scum off, add the stock cube, vegetables and spices, but don't season it yet. Simmer it for at least another hour (the soup should be cooked for a total of 2 hours).

Add salt 30 minutes before the soup is ready. When it's done serve it with pasta of your choice, adding a bit of carrot from the soup to each serving. Delicious!
Later on, remove the meat and vegetables, and preferably sieve the soup into another pan. After it cools, store in the fridge.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

My Take on Chinese

Today's recipe is inspired by my favourite meal at a Chinese restaurant we frequent. Actually, less and less often, as the service is going downhill there. Anyway, that served as motivation to try to replicate the meal I enjoy so much - sweet and sour chicken with soy noodles. I also decided to "lean" it a bit - the restaurant version of the dish has deep fried batter chicken, mine wasn't deep fried, nor did it have batter, but it was very enjoyable nonetheless! ;-)

For the sauce I used:

1 large can of pineapple
1 cup honey
3 tbsps dark soy sauce
3 tsps ginger powder
half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1-2 tbsps of tomato puree
2 tsps of lemon juice
1 tsp tamarind paste
salt and pepper
1 tsp corn flour

Put the pineapple into a pan, pour in the syrup from the can, add honey, soy sauce, ginger powder, ground cinnamon, tomato puree, tamarind paste and lemon juice. Stir all ingredients and simmer until they blend. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. Dilute corn flour in water (in a separate cup), then stir the mixture into the sauce and bring to boil. Reduce the heat, simmer for further few minutes, then add the chicken.
Chicken preparation:

1 chicken breast (double)
salt, pepper, ginger powder, a pinch of chili powder, a pinch of ground cardamon
oil for frying

Wash the meat and dry with paper towel. Dice into large cubes, season and sprinkle with ginger powder, chili and cardamon. Pre-heat the oil on the frying pan, and fry the chicken, stirring from time to time. It's ready when it gets golden brown on all sides. Move the meat into the sweet and sour sauce, stir well and serve.
I served it with soy noodles - prepared according to the instructions on the packet, but adding a few drops of soy sauce into the water. Once the noodles are ready, you may fry them in soy sauce to enhance the flavour.