Saturday, September 28, 2013

Browning meat

When making stews, I have been wary of recipes that imply that you can soften or brown onions first, and then add meat to be browned in the same pan. If you turn up the flame to the level you need to get the browning process to work, you burn the onions. Keep the flame low, and you simply stew the meat in its juices.

Or you can take the onions out of the pan first. This seems fiddly: you need to remove every last bit of onion, or you will have charred remnants tainting the flavour of the dish. However, it occurred to me that if you followed this schedule, you might get the meat to brown more quickly – for the same reason that when you brown meat in batches, you need less time for the later ones.

This theory did indeed work out when I made a stew with slices of belly pork. They browned, over a medium heat, in little more than a minute. The only problem is one I often find when I fry larger pieces of meat: the exposed areas of the pan get too hot, and char. I’d like to cook everything in one pan, but am reluctant to do so when parts of its surface are blackened.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Chicken tikka, simplified

Forced compromises can sometimes lead to happy discoveries. For example, you don’t always need to include a huge medley of spices in a dish. Because of aversions among some members of my family to cumin, coriander, cardamom, and other traditional ingredients of Indian dishes, I included only three spices in this baked chicken dish, which we took on a picnic. We all loved it.

2 chicken supremes, cut into fork-sized pieces
2 cloves garlic, crushed into a pulp with a little salt
1tsp turmeric
1/2tsp ground ginger (I would have used grated fresh ginger if there had been some in the house
Cayenne pepper to taste
About 2tbsp Greek yoghurt
Lime juice

Toss the ingredients in a baking dish. There should be just enough yoghurt to coat the chicken. If you have time, leave the chicken to marinate in the fridge, covered, for a few hours.

Put the dish in a hot, gas mark 8 (230C) oven for about 20 minutes, until the chicken has a reddish brown glaze and is cooked through.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Chicken with lemon, garlic, and rosemary

A Nigella Lawson recipe for baked chicken and lemon asks you to cover your pan at first, before uncovering it to allow the meat to brown. This is not a great idea if you use a jointed chicken: the breast pieces will overcook and toughen. But it works well with thighs and drumsticks. They become very tender, as does, in this version, the garlic. When I made it last week, I used drumsticks only.

I have a heavy, shallow, 28-inch casserole. A roasting tin, with foil as covering, would work too.

12 chicken drumsticks
As much garlic as you like, separated into cloves, unpeeled
1 lemon, quartered
2 sprigs rosemary
2tbsp olive oil
Salt, pepper

Put the ingredients in a heavy, wide casserole or roasting tin, toss them thoroughly, and bake, covered, in a gas mark 6/200C oven for 45 minutes. About half way through this time, give the ingredients another stir. If they are bubbling too fiercely, turn down the heat.

Remove the lid or foil, reset the dial to 6 if necessary, and cook for a further 30 minutes, to brown the meat and reduce the sauce.

Very simple, and delicious.