Friday, 27 July 2012

Recipe - Chicken Adobo

I first heard of chicken adobo two summers ago. That summer is also known as 'the worst summer of my life'. Occasionally, I get flashbacks to a particularly bad time from that summer and think a combination of 'oh man that was god awful I was like a zombie' and 'I am so pleased that that time is over and gone and never coming back'. Part of what made that summer bad was the fact that I had for company only four people I kind-of knew and one misery maker. So I spent most of my time with the four people who I kind of knew and ran away to cry (literally) at the weekends. I would say that as a result of that summer, I know them all properly and really quite like them all even if I haven't really seen much of any of them since then. But one of them is permanently sealed as first text on my phone. THANKS, CLINCH. So, anyway, two of these people went rice-cooker mad because college had forgotten about us and let the kitchen get to a such a horrible state that there were maggots and flies everywhere so understandably, using the kitchen didn't seem like very much fun. So they used the rice cooker instead! They cooked all array of delicious treats in that rice cooker. I never believed it would work yet it always did. One of those delicious treats was chicken adobo. I was cooking chicken with forty cloves of garlic for my visiting guests and it was taking forever and we were really hungry and they kindly let us try some of their chicken and it was so juicy and great and god, I was so hungry. But then our chicken finished cooking and was also delicious and I used the leftover garlic-infused olive oil to make garlic mayonnaise and felt very Nigella. Anyway, I was surprised by the tastiness of the adobo. Not because I judged these then-sort-of-friends as incompetent (although I did consider myself more competent which was probably correct for one of them and definitely not for the other) but because chicken stewed in vinegar and garlic doesn't sound very tasty. INCORRECT. It is lovely and juicy and sour but sweet and perfect. But that isn't how I felt about it half way through cooking it last Tuesday. But then I tweaked it to my tastes and everything was great. Here's the recipe.
Chicken adobo
500g chicken thighs, skin removed
2 medium onions, finely sliced
1 bulb garlic, skin removed, cloves coarsely chopped
1.5 inch ginger, finely chopped
50ml soy sauce
100ml malt vinegar
7 peppercorns
3 bay leaves
1 tsp sugar (optional)
2 potatoes, peeled chopped into mouthful-sized pieces

In a little non-flavoured oil (I used vegetable), brown the chicken well on all sides. This took me about 10 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the pan and reduce the heat.
Add the onions, garlic and ginger to the pan and fry gently until very soft and starting to caramelise (about fifteen to twenty minutes).
Increase the heat slightly and add the potatoes. Fry for two minutes.
Add the bay leaves and peppercorns.
Add the soy sauce and vinegar.
Return the chicken to the pan and bring the mixture to a simmer.
Once simmering, reduce the heat right down.
Leave to cook, uncovered for about 30 minutes.
After that time, taste the sauce. If too tart for your liking (as it was for mine), add 1 tsp of sugar.
Add a splash (about half a tumbler) of water and cover.
Leave to cook for another fifteen minutes.
After fifteen minutes, remove the lid and check the taste and consistency of the sauce. Once reduced to your liking, remove from heat.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Recipe - Chicken Quesadillas

Not much has changed. Except that I now have a house and a job and a unique tax reference number. If I was doing my non-SEO titles (which by the way have not helped one jot), I would have called this 'Change/Progress' or something equally obvious. But that is what's happening! Although it doesn't feel like that because as it stands, I'm still in Birmingham watching TV and reading lots of books and not listening to enough music. Even the food I'm cooking has been pretty boring. I woke up craving quesadillas. It's hard to say why. I'd guess that it's a combination of continuing to read a lot of Homesick Texan and also the fact that we're on a ban from buying more food before we go to Bangladesh. Our fridge is virtually empty but even that's not good enough, we have to use up the contents of the freezer too. 'In case it breaks'. It's very silly. Anyway, as it turns out, the remnants are well suited to Mexican flavours. Mainly because there's lots of onions and chilli and garlic but not much else. So I set about making quesadillas. I was going to make them plain cheese and onion half moons but then I got the idea of chicken fajitas in my head. So I fried some chicken with the onions but it seemed ill advised to try to cram into semicircles so instead I did my usual pentagons. And as usual, the first one broke and distressed me but ultimately it was fine.

Chicken quesadillas
4 chicken breasts, chopped into bite sized pieces
2 small red onions, sliced
2 small white onions, sliced
4 cloves garlic, finely sliced
4 green finger chillies, chopped
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp oregano
1 tbsp lemon juice
4 tortillas
50g of cheese, grated (I used creamy Lancashire because that's what we had)

Fry onion and garlic and chilli in a tablespoon of vegetable oil on a minutes heat for about ten minutes.
Once very soft and translucent, turn the heat up and add the cumin, oregano and chilli powder.
Add the chicken, stir well and fry until cooked through (about five minutes).
Stir the lemon juice through the chicken mixture.
Place a quarter of the mixture on the centre of a tortilla and top with a quarter of the cheese.
Fold one side towards you, then the bit next to that bit so it overlaps and so on. Smitten Kitchen gives better instructions than me for this.
In a frying pan, melt a little butter or oil and heat until very hot.
Place the quesadillas, folded side down and fry for about a minute until brown.
Flip, repeat and serve (once you've made all four).

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Recipe - Carne Guisada

Isn't it odd that however old you are, it's totally acceptable to act an immature brat with your parents? (Tongue in cheek, I don't really mean that.) After this altercation, the parents Haque and I didn't speak for a week. I'd like to say it was mainly them but really it was all of us equally. But then one Tuesday morning I woke up and my mother offered me tea and all was right again. She even let me make carne guisada. It was actually a nicer gesture than it seems. Remember when my mother wouldn't let me use the jalapeños how I wanted to use them? Well this time, she did! In the carne guisada. This was because I was reading various homesick Texan chili recipes and came across this which is more familiar as chilli than her other ones. Mainly because it used tomatoes. But a quick look at the comments thread reveals that true Texan chilli does not use tomatoes. Still, since mother was insistent that I use up as much as possible from the cupboards before we go to Bangladesh, I tried to do that. That meant some changes to the recipe though. Obviously, no beer. So I used chicken stock. Lamb instead of beef. No big deal though, apparently you can use whatever meat you like but beef is most common. I also used jarred jalapeños and different ratios of vegetables to meat. But every carne guisada recipe is different so that's ok. This is what mine ended up being. And I used my birthday present casserole to make it in! It's lightweight, especially for my little hands. These guys are sweet.
Carne guisada
1kg lamb
3 small onions, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 jalapeños in jarred form, chopped
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp chilli powder
2 tsp oregano
400g can chopped tomatoes
200ml chicken stock
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil

Heat up a tablespoon of oil on a high heat.
Season the lamb all over with a tsp of salt and a grinding of pepper and brown.
Remove the lamb from the heat and turn the heat down to medium.
Fry the onions and chilli for ten minutes until soft and translucent.
Add garlic and fry for a further five minutes.
Return the lamb to the pan and add the cumin and chilli powder and stir well.
Add tomatoes and oregano and stir again.
Add stock, season with pepper then turn the heat up to high until it all starts to simmer.
Turn the heat down to low and simmer for four hours, uncovered. Add a touch of water if it's getting too dry.

I served this with rice and peas and caramelised red onions with chopped finger chillis. Lettuce and cheese and salsa were there for whoever wanted to add them.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Oxford Restaurant Guide

Hey, it's approaching blog's first birthday! To celebrate, I thought I'd do a special, strictly informative piece on Oxford restaurants. I've spent over £1000 eating out in Oxford. I have not spent £1000 at the twenty or so places I've reviewed on this blog. When I eat out, I don't do it particularly opulently. I'm not particularly stingy but probably won't get a drink unless it's evening (or it's really, really necessary). It's just that I started this blog two thirds of my way through Oxford and so the bulk of the places I've tried, I tried before this existed. Some of the places I first visited before the blog but managed to return to after. However, now that I've left, I'd like to think that my life will go to new and exciting places and so I won't have the opportunity to review every place I'd like to in Oxford on here. Nevertheless, I have a memory. So I'll put that memory to good use and tell you about my experiences at all the places I've eaten at in Oxford, even from the pre-blog days. It's self explanatory. Food covers the quality of the food regardless of price. Value covers how screwed over I felt by what I was charged. Atmosphere is the vaguest criteria and covers the decor, vibe and service. Also, bear in mind that it probably reflects how I was feeling at the time. The overall score is generally how I feel about the restaurant. I've also included number of times I've visited that particular restaurant so you can make a judgement about whether some of them were having really good or really bad days. THIS IS MY OPUS. Ctrl + F and enjoy.


Arbat
Russian, Cowley Road
Visited: 1
Food: 8/10
Value: 7/10
Atmosphere: 5/10
Overall: 8/10
Expect to spend: £15

The Rusty Bicycle
Pub, Magdalen Road
Visited: 1
Food: 7/10
Value: 7/10
Atmosphere: 8/10
Overall: 8/10
Expect to spend: £15

Kalamata
Greek, Cowley Road
Visited: 7
Food: 7/10
Value: 5/10
Atmosphere: 8/10
Overall: 8/10
Expect to spend: £15

AK City
Cambodian, Takeaway, Cowley Road
Visited: 1
Food: 5/10
Value: 7/10
Atmosphere: n/a
Overall: 5/10
Expect to spend: £5

Cafe Coco, Cafe, Cowley Road
Visited: 5
Food: 7/10
Value: 6/10
Atmosphere: 7/10
Overall: 7/10
Expect to spend: £12

Kazbar
Moroccan Tapas, Cowley Road
Visited: 6
Food: 7/10
Value: 4/10 not on deal, 8/10 on deal
Atmosphere: 8/10
Overall: 7/10
Expect to spend: £7 or £15

Mirch Masala
Indian, Takeaway, BYO
Cowley Road
Visited: 3
Food: 5/10
Value: 7/10
Atmosphere: 3/10
Overall: 6/10
Expect to spend: £10

Rajasthan
Indian, Takeaway, BYO
Cowley Road
Visited: 3
Food: 4/10
Value: 6/10
Atmosphere: 2/10
Overall: 4/10
Expect to spend: £10

Kesh
Moroccan, Cowley Road
Visited: 1
Food: 6/10
Value: 6/10
Atmosphere: 7/10
Overall: 7/10
Expect to spend: £12

Aziz
Indian, Cowley Road
Visited: 2
Food: 8/10
Value: 6/10
Atmosphere: 7/10
Overall: 8/10
Expect to spend: £20

Chopsticks
Chinese, Takeaway, BYO
Cowley Road
Visited: 1
Food: 3/10
Value: 7/10
Atmosphere: 4/10
Overall: 4/10
Expect to spend: £10

Magdalen Arms
Pub, Iffley Road
Visited: 3
Food: 10/10
Value: 8/10
Atmosphere: 8/10
Overall: 9/10
Expect to spend: £18

Oxford Thai Restaurant
Thai, Takeaway, Cowley Road
Visited: 1
Food: 6/10
Value: 6/10
Atmosphere: n/a
Overall: 6/10
Expect to spend: £12

Atomic Burger
American, Cowley Road
Visited: 4
Food: 7/10
Value: 7/10 at lunchtime, 5/10 other times
Atmosphere: 9/10
Overall: 7/10
Expect to spend: £10

Oxford's Grill
Turkish, Cowley Road
Visited: 3
Food: 8/10
Value: 10/10
Atmosphere: 5/10
Overall: 8/10
Expect to spend: £10

Lan Kwai Fong
Chinese, Cowley Road
Visited: 2
Food: 5/10
Value: 7/10
Atmosphere: 5/10
Overall: 5/10
Expect to spend: £7 at lunch or £15 at dinner

Cous Cous
Cafe, Moroccan, St. Clement's Street
Visited: 10+
Food: 6/10
Value: 7/10
Atmosphere: 7/10
Overall: 7/10
Expect to spend: £5

Pink Giraffe
Chinese, Takeaway, St Clement's Street
Visited: 2
Food: 8/10
Value: 7/10
Atmosphere: 6/10
Overall: 7/10
Expect to spend: £15

High Table
European, High Street
Visited: 1
Food: 7/10
Value: 4/10
Atmosphere: 4/10
Overall: 5/10
Expect to spend: £20

La Cucina
Italian, St Clement's Street
Visited: 2
Food: 5/10
Value: 3/10
Atmosphere: 5/10
Overall: 5/10
Expect to spend: £15

Quod
European, High Street
Visited: 2
Food: 4/10
Value: 4/10
Atmosphere: 6/10
Overall: 4/10
Expect to spend: £15

Olives
Delicatessen, Sandwich, High Street
Visited: 10+
Food: 8/10
Value: 9/10
Atmosphere: 8/10
Overall: 9/10
Expect to spend: £5

Queen's Lane Cafe
Cafe, High Street
Visited: 5
Food: 4/10
Value: 6/10
Atmosphere: 6/10
Overall: 5/10
Expect to spend: £5

The Vaults
Cafe, High Street
Visited: 4
Food: 7/10
Value: 9/10
Atmosphere: 8/10
Overall: 8/10
Expect to spend: £7

AT Thai
Thai, High Street
Visited: 2
Food: 2/10
Value: 4/10
Atmosphere: 2/10
Overall: 2/10
Expect to spend: £15

Chiang Mai Kitchen
Thai, High Street
Visited: 1
Food: 9/10
Value: 7/10
Atmosphere: 8/10
Overall: 10/10
Expect to spend: £15

Chequers
Pub, High Street
Visited: 2
Food: 5/10
Value: 7/10
Atmosphere: 6/10
Overall: 6/10
Expect to spend: £8

Edamame
Japanese, Holywell Street
Visited: 10
Food: 8/10
Value: 8/10
Atmosphere: 7/10
Overall: 8/10
Expect to spend: £10

The White Horse
Pub, Broad Street
Visited: 2
Food: 8/10
Value: 8/10
Atmosphere: 6/10
Overall: 7/10
Expect to spend: £12

Turl Street Kitchen
British, Turl Street
Visited: 2
Food: 7/10
Value: 5/10
Atmosphere: 8/10
Expect to spend: £12

Chez Gaston
French, North Parade Avenue
Visited: 1
Food: 8/10
Value: 10/10
Atmosphere: 7/10
Overall: 8/10
Expect to spend: £8

Georgina's
Cafe, Covered Market, High Street
Visited: 1
Food: 7/10
Value: 5/10
Atmosphere: 7/10
Overall: 7/10
Expect to spend: £5

Fasta Pasta
Cafe, Covered Market, High Street
Visited: 1
Food: 8/10
Value: 6/10
Atmosphere: n/a
Overall: 7/10
Expect to spend: £5

Alpha Bar
Cafe, Covered Market, High Street
Visited: 1
Food: 7/10
Value: 6/10
Atmosphere: n/a
Overall: 7/10
Expect to spend: £5

Pie Minister
British, Covered Market, High Street
Visited: 4
Food: 7/10
Value: 7/10
Atmosphere: 5/10
Overall: 7/10
Expect to spend: £5

Browns
British, Woodstock Road
Visited: 1
Food: 6/10
Value: 6/10
Atmosphere: 5/10
Overall: 5/10
Expect to spend: £15

Tick Tock Cafe
Breakfast, Cafe, Cowley Road
Visited: 4
Food: 4/10
Value: 6/10
Atmosphere: 6/10
Overall: 5/10
Expect to spend: £5

Patisserie Valerie
Breakfast, Cafe, High Street
Visited: 7
Food: 7/10
Value: 5/10
Atmosphere: 6/10
Overall: 5/10
Expect to spend: £10

Makan La
Malaysian, St. Michael's Street
Visited: 1
Food: 9/10
Value: 8/10
Atmosphere: 6/10
Overall: 9/10
Expect to spend: £8

Pizza Express
Italian, Chain, Cornmarket Street
Visited: 3
Food: 5/10
Value: 7/10
Atmosphere: 3/10
Overall: 5/10
Expect to spend: £10

Cafe Rouge
French, Chain, Little Clarendon Street
Visited: 4
Food: 6/10
Value: 5/10
Atmosphere: 5/10
Overall: 5/10
Expect to spend: £12

Strada
Italian, Chain, Little Clarendon Street
Visited: 3
Food: 6/10
Value: 6/10
Atmosphere: 5/10
Overall: 5/10
Expect to spend: £12

La Tasca
Spanish, Tapas, Chain, Oxford Castle
Visited: 4
Food: 7/10
Value: 7/10
Atmosphere: 5/10
Overall: 6/10
Expect to spend: £15

Chez Gerard
French, Chain, George Street
Visited: 1
Food: 6/10
Value: 5/10
Atmosphere: 5/10
Overall: 5/10
Expect to spend: £15

Giraffe
European, Chain, George Street
Visited: 2
Food: 5/10
Value: 5/10
Atmosphere: 5/10
Overall: 5/10
Expect to spend: £10

Gourmet Burger Kitchen
Burger, Chain, George Street
Visited: 7
Food: 7/10
Value: 7/10
Atmosphere: 5/10
Overall: 6/10
Expect to spend: £10

Noodle Nation
Chinese, Gloucester Green
Visited: 10
Food: 6/10
Value: 10/10
Atmosphere: 6/10
Overall: 7/10
Expect to spend: £10

Jamie's Italian
Italian, George Street
Visited: 1
Food: 6/10
Value: 4/10
Atmosphere: 6/10
Overall: 5/10
Expect to spend £15

Combibos
Breakfast, Cafe, Gloucester Green
Visited: 1
Food: 8/10
Value: 7/10
Atmosphere: 7/10
Overall: 8/10
Expect to spend: £10

Sojo
Chinese, Sichuan, George Street
Visited: 5
Food: 8/10
Value: 7/10
Atmosphere: 8/10
Overall: 8/10
Expect to spend: £15

Paddyfields
Chinese, Hythe Bridge Street
Visited: 1
Food: 2/10
Value: 5/10
Atmosphere: 2/10
Overall: 2/10
Expect to spend: £7

Cafe Opium
Chinese, George Street
Visited: 1
Food: 3/10
Value: 4/10
Atmosphere: 6/10
Overall: 4/10
Expect to spend: £10

Eagle and Child
Pub, St Giles Street
Visited: 1
Food: 5/10
Value: 7/10
Atmosphere: 6/10
Overall: 6/10
Expect to spend: £8

Cape of Good Hope
Pub, Cowley Road
Visited: 3
Food: 6/10
Value: 7/10
Atmosphere: 7/10
Overall: 7/10
Expect to spend: £10

Jericho Tavern
Pub, Walton Street
Visited: 3
Food: 8/10
Value: 7/10
Atmosphere: 8/10
Overall: 8/10
Expect to spend: £12

Jude the Obscure
Pub, Walton Street
Visited: 1
Food: 5/10
Value: 9/10
Atmosphere: 7/10
Overall: 7/10
Expect to spend: £10

Green's Cafe
Cafe, St Giles Street
Visited: 3
Food: 6/10
Value: 8/10
Atmosphere: 7/10
Overall: 7/10
Expect to spend: £5

St Giles Cafe
Cafe, Breakfast, St Giles Street
Visited: 3
Food: 5/10
Value: 9/10
Atmosphere: 6/10
Overall: 7/10
Expect to spend: £5

Los Iguanas
Mexican, Park End Street
Visited: 1
Food: 5/10
Value: 6/10
Atmosphere: 5/10
Overall: 5/10
Expect to spend: £12

4540 Miles to Delhi
Indian, Park End Street
Visited: 1
Food: 6/10
Value: 4/10
Atmosphere: 6/10
Overall: 6/10
Expect to spend: £15

Dosa Park
Indian, Takeaway Park End Street
Visited: 2
Food: 7/10
Value: 9/10
Atmosphere: n/a
Expect to spend: £7

Chutney's
Indian, Takeaway, St Michael's Street
Visited: 8
Food: 8/10
Value: 6/10
Atmosphere: 5/10
Overall: 7/10
Expect to spend: £15

Maxwell's
American, Queen Street
Visited: 3
Food: 4/10
Value: 7/10
Atmosphere: 5/10
Overall: 6/10
Expect to spend: £15

Pierre Victoire
French, Little Clarendon Street
Visited: 1
Food: 7/10
Value: 7/10
Atmosphere: 6/10
Overall: 7/10
Expect to spend: £15

Al Shami
Lebanese, Walton Crescent
Visited: 1
Food: 4/10
Value: 3/10
Atmosphere: 5/10
Overall: 4/10
Expect to spend: £15

Bombay
Indian, Takeaway, Walton Street
Visited: 1
Food: 7/10
Value: 7/10
Atmosphere: 5/10
Overall: 6/10
Expect to spend: £12

Jamal's
Indian, Walton Street
Visited: More than I'd care to admit
Food: 1/10
Value: 2/10
Atmosphere: 3/10
Overall: 1/10
Expect to spend: £15

Jericho Cafe
Cafe, Breakfast, Walton Street
Visited: 1
Food: 9/10
Value: 8/10
Atmosphere: 8/10
Overall: 9/10
Expect to spend: £7

Al Andalus
Spanish, Tapas, Little Clarendon Street
Visited: 4
Food: 9/10
Value: 7/10
Atmosphere: 8/10
Overall: 8/10
Expect to spend: £15

Mamma Mia
Italian, Walton Street
Visited: 1
Food: 6/10
Value: 7/10
Atmosphere: 6/10
Overall: 6/10
Expect to spend: £10

Gino's
Italian, Gloucester Green
Visited: 1
Food: 7/10
Value: 7/10
Atmosphere: 7/10
Overall: 7/10
Expect to spend: £12

My Sichuan
Chinese, Sichuan, Gloucester Green
Visited: 1
Food: 6/10
Value: 6/10
Atmosphere: 8/10
Overall: 7/10
Expect to spend: £20

Shanghai 30s
Chinese, St Aldate's Street
Visited: 1
Food: 9/10
Value: 6/10
Atmosphere: 8/10
Overall: 8/10
Expect to spend: £20

Liaison, Chinese, Castle Street
Visited: 1
Food: 2/10
Value: 5/10
Atmosphere: 3/10
Overall: 3/10
Expect to spend: £10

Manos, Greek, Cafe
Walton Street
Visited: 1
Food: 7/10
Value: 8/10
Atmosphere: 7/10
Overall: 8/10
Expect to spend: £7

Mission
Mexican, Takeaway
St Michael's Street, King Edward Street
Visited: 3
Food: 5/10
Value: 7/10
Atmosphere: n/a
Overall: 6/10
Expect to spend: £7

Oxford Pizza and Kebab Shop
Kebab, Takeaway, Late Night
St Clement's Street
Visited: 2
Food: 8/10
Value: 7/10
Atmosphere: n/a
Overall: 6/10
Expect to spend: £5

The Fishes
Pub, Countryside, North Hinksey Village
Visited: 1
Food: 8/10
Value: 5/10
Atmosphere: 8/10
Overall: 7/10
Expect to spend: £20

The Fishes
Pub, Countryside, Binsey Village
Visited: 1
Food: 9/10
Value: 7/10
Atmosphere: 9/10
Overall: 9/10
Expect to spend: £30

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Recipe - Duck Curry

So as the previous entry stated, I bought some gooseberry chutney for my mother so she wouldn't make things awkward. It kind of worked. There were no big issues while the Actress visited. I mean, it was still soul crushingly boring and there was nothing interesting I could show her do we ended up in Spoons at 1.30 (after having eaten a delicious Greggs) but we watched lots of TV and ate food and stuff. Some of that food I cooked myself. The duck curry! I've banged on about how good that Bengali duck I had at a dinner party was before. It was so good, I still remember it as vividly as if I'd eaten it earlier today. (What I actually ate earlier today was Linda McCartney sausages, cheese and red onion plaits and a veggie supreme pizza. The oven is very useful for when you're too hungry.) That's what I tried to replicate. Of course, it wasn't that good. But it was still pretty good. It went down a treat. I would've liked to simmer it for an extra hour though. I do enjoy my meltingly tender fatty meats. Anyway, my parents, my brother, my guest and I all ate together and made silly chit chat and all was well. The Actress and I sipped secret wine like I did on Fourteen Year Old Fridays and EVERYTHING WAS GREAT. But you know how the old song goes: 'then I go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like 'why didn't you get a first?'' I reacted badly. It was awkward. Anyway, here's the recipe!
Duck curry
4 duck legs, seasoned with salt all over
1 large onion, finely sliced
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1.5 inch ginger, finely chopped
1.5 tsp fenugreek
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp chilli powder
0.5 tbsp turmeric (I used 1 tbsp then regretted it)
4 cardamom
1 stick cinnamon
2 bay leaves
4 cloves
1 tsp salt

Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a heavy bottomed pan.
Once hot, brown the duck legs all over, about five minutes on each side.
Remove the duck legs and place to one side.
Turn the heat down to medium and add a teaspoon of ghee.
Fry the onions until browning for ten minutes, scraping the bits from the bottom with a touch of water if necessary.
Add the garlic and ginger and fry for a further five minutes.
Add the spices and fry for a further minute.
Replace the duck legs, add a couple of tablespoons of water and bring to a simmer.
Turn down to a low heat and let simmer, covered for 1 hour AT LEAST until the duck is tender.
Remove the lid and increase the heat slightly.
Let simmer, turning occasionally, until all the water has evaporated and the duck is frying in the spice-oil. This should continue until the meat is a glorious dark colour and the sauce is reduced to your liking.
Serve!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Review - The Essex Rose

'Actually North Essex is really nice.' This is what my friend who lives in Essex but pretends he lives in Suffolk said. No one denied that Essex wasn't nice. I was just commenting on how peaceful and quaint Dedham was. All pastel walls and a tab at the butchers'. It's only TOWIE that gives that impression. Side note: did vajazzles ever catch on? They should've done. The Essex Rose is firmly on the village side of Essex life rather than the fake tanned clubby side. It's full of cosy old couples and yummy mummies who appear to be treating their babies to ham. The menu is befitting of the clientele and location; cream teas and choice sandwiches. Some jacket potatoes too! That's what I initially ordered but they'd run out. So I went for the coronation turkey. At almost £6, I must say I didn't think I'd think it was worth it. But the little cafe surprised me! Cut into four soft triangles, the sandwiches had minimal crust. The filling was creamy and sweet but unlike other coronations I'd tasted, the meat had a salty flavour cutting through the cream. I admit that I haven't tasted many coronation chickens in my life but this was certainly the best despite being turkey. The nicest touch was the crisps and salad sitting beside the white vertices. The leaves were bitter and assembled amongst some sweet cherry tomatoes with a smattering of posh tasting lightly seasoned crisps. The fanciest sandwich lunch I've ever enjoyed. It's notable that I say enjoyed since I rarely enjoy overly bready sandwich lunches. I LOVE RICE. So, thoroughly pleased with the food. The whole thing had an extra positive shimmer added to it by the fact that I bought a nice gooseberry chutney to take home to my mother. It was a bribe to ensure she wouldn't still be silent-treatmenting me since I was bringing a guest home and that would be awkward. More on that next time.

Monday, 9 July 2012

A Persian Feast

It wasn't a Persian feast. It was a half Bengali/half-Persian-but-within-the-realms-of-flavour-that-my-mother-wouldn't-bitch-about feast. Why did I cook this? Well, frankly, I was getting quite bored. Birmingham hasn't been as soul-crushingly awful as it usually is. But that's because I've been busying myself with organising what I'm going to do when I leave. You know, house hunting, worrying about money, crying at the thought of funding my little projects (things which are fun that I want to do) from jobs which pay minimum wage. Minimum wage = not very much. I've also done some entirely useless things. Like sorting my room/wardrobe out even though it will all be tipped into turmoil again in a month or so. Although that turned out to be quite useful as it lead me to the conclusion that there is absolutely no need or justification for me to spend any money on clothes in the next (two) year(s).  I MISS MY STUDENT LOAN. Ergh. Anyway, this is dull. Let's talk about how I came to be cooking this particular food. Well, my mother was given some useless kitchen ornament which came with a little pot of salsa and a little pot of jalapenos. My mother demanded that I cook something that uses them up. Then someone mentioned this and I was all 'oh this is useful'. But then a wave of 'Do you really want to try baking again NOW?' came over me. And the chilli recipe is quite boring without the cornbread muffins. So then I started browsing Homesick Texan for recipes because she loves jalapenos. And the recipes all looked really great, full of meat and cheese and other deliciously base treats. But mother dearest kicked up a fuss. So I decided to make jalapeno macaroni cheese with smoky shredded barbecue chicken (no bacon in the Haque household, nuh-uh) but then my mother was all 'YOUR BROTHER NEVER EATS THINGS YOU MAKE WITH PASTA AND CHEESE' and I was all 'God, MY CREATIVITY CAN NEVER FLOURISH HERE' and then she was all 'hey we're having people to visit so why don't you cook a little something that we can serve with our NORMAL food?' (The cooking equivalent of giving someone a pound and saying 'go and buy yourself something pretty'.) So I was all 'FINE but it's going to be PERSIAN inspired'. Persian food uses lots of similar spices to Bengali food so I figured that she wouldn't complain too much about that. Then I read lots of this blog and decided that I would make an array of things and they'd all be more delicious than whatever my mother cooks and then she'd be irrationally moody and feel usurped. Yes. The chicken was the stand out dish although the Bengali chicken, mirza and kofta I did appeared to be a hit too. I also went to great lengths making meat dishes pretty with spring onions.
Persian(ish) Fried Chicken
5 chicken thighs and 5 chicken drumsticks, skin removed and washed
5 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely sliced
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp turmeric
Large pinch saffron strands
25ml lemon juice
1 tsp mango chutney
Salt and pepper

Fry the onion and garlic in the oil for about 15 minutes on a medium heat until the onion is completely translucent and starting to brown.
Season the chicken with salt and pepper all over.
Add the chicken to the pan and fry one side for about 5 minutes. Whilst that side is frying, sprinkle turmeric over the other side.
Turn the chicken over and fry the other side. Sprinkle turmeric on the other side.
Continue to fry the chicken over a medium low heat, turning occasionally, until almost cooked.
This should take about 30 minutes.In a mug, mix the lemon juice, saffron, mango chutney and about 25ml of hot water.
When the chicken is almost done (about ten minutes from being done), add the saffron mixture to the pan.
Turn the heat up slightly and let the mixture get all the browned onions from the bottom of the pan.
Turn the chicken a couple of times in this mixture, basting it a little.
Check the seasoning of the sticky sauce and remove from the heat.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Review - The Hand in Hand

Planning is my forte. I sometimes think I'd always get what I wanted if I always followed my little strategies. Unfortunately, my plans show little sympathy for human impulses and my own extreme lack of self control. So although I had exams and I was but three short months from leaving forever, I took no heed of my own sound advice. So I can forgive my friends for refusing to believe I'd stick to my plans this time. But this time, I did because thousands of miles of ocean is a better enforcer than my will will ever be. My plans also mean that I frequently have lame, sentimental plans. But really, the first or last or birthday or Christmas time you see someone has no real significance and will only have such significance by chance. Still, I'm a story perfecting child at heart. Thankfully, luggage and time and tiredness got in the way and so there was no gallery wandering or tennis watching or any other 'special' crap. We went to the pub and ate and drank with friends, as we did on every other day. And that's the way it should be! This took place at the Hand in Hand in Wimbledon. Since a pub lunch at the Old Black Horse where I'd corrected my previous food envy and ordered fish and chips when I really wanted mash, I'd been craving mash based pub lunch. Pie and mash specifically.
It was the epitome of the lunch I wanted. vegetables, perhaps a little stewed but lovely and sweet, cutting through the rich gravy. Not too much crust on the pie (it's so dire when that happens) and the crust was light and salty. But not too salty! The beef was almost stringy in its tenderness and you could taste the ale. Good mash: non-lumpy, buttery. It was all very laid back and enjoyable but nothing special, exactly how it should've been.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Review - Noodle Nation, Olives

The problem with having started this blog at the end of my second year is that many a place hasn't been discussed at all despite my fondness for it. I'm working on a comprehensive 'Oxford Restaurant Guide' but that'll take some time since it really is a lot of effort and I really should find a house and some jobs first. Oh no why did I choose to remind myself of that now? Oh no. Anyway, since I've thus far neglected to discuss many Oxford classics, I thought I should rectify that. I didn't feel the need to discuss either Olives or Noodle Nation before because most people in Oxford are aware of their presence and goodness. They are the staples that most students stick to. I've eaten at both several times since starting bloggy but never thought to discuss. I will change that now. On the way back from the Cotswolds, my companion and I were discussing whether to go to Olives or to Noodle Nation. Olives was my companion's preferred choice since we had to go into there to buy some tinned confit duck to put in the cassoulet we were making for our hosts in London that evening. But we had Noodle Nation vouchers! And Noodle Nation is excellent value with vouchers! Unfortunately, a detailed review of the pros and cons of each eatery was overshadowed by an argument. An argument which I wholeheartedly take the blame for. I think unfortunately that my previous boyfriend was so much more unreasonable than me, it completely made me out of kilter with my perception of the reasonability of my behaviour. I realise now that the in this particular argument, I was being completely irrational, unreasonable and refusing to express what the real (very minor) cause for my irritation was. So I dressed it up in something bigger to make me seem more reasonable. Which is unreasonable in itself. And also exactly what my mother does. Must stop this. What made it worse was that after lunch, I realised that the only reason I was annoyed at all was because I was hungry. Like Papa Haque, when I'm at all tired or hungry, I am the most irritable person alive and let everyone know that that's the case. As soon as I ate, I felt instantly calmed and also shamed and sorry. We ate at Noodle Nation because Mr. Reasonable, even in the middle of being character assassinated, still wanted me to have what I wanted to have for lunch. So we ordered a thai green curry and sweet and sour chicken with rice.
Then I ran off to Olives to get the confit duck. And as soon as I saw the baguette of the week (chicken club), I regretted my decision to go for Noodle Nation. Until I tucked in. Then I felt assured that I'd made the right decision after all. That's the great thing about both of these places, it's the consistency. Everything is always at least quite good. It's very difficult to go wrong and everything tends to satisfy. Olives always puts together classic combinations but the care and devotion put into the ingredient sourcing and preparation means everything is guaranteed to taste good. And the sandwiches aren't all that much more expensive than any other sandwich shop. In fact, the range of salads and generous stuffing of the baguettes make them better value, in my opinion. Cristophe makes thoughtful baguettes and it really shows! Noodle Nation is good in something of the opposite way. The food doesn't receive much adoration: it's a speedy process and it's not the most inspiring oriental food to be found in Oxford. Nevertheless, the meat is soft, the vegetables tender and the sauces, while not necessarily bursting with flavour, have a lightness about them. At full price, a sit down meal isn't so bad (around £7), especially with the student discount. But at half price, it's really well worth it. Cheaper than a ready meal but infinitely more delicious. It would have been as disgraceful as the above photo not to mention them

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Cooking in the Cotswolds

I went to the Cotswolds the day after the ball. (The ball was amazing, in case you were wondering.) I didn't sleep on account of al the fun I was having and my mind was especially addled from the fact that it was the end of the world as I knew it (nice album title, JT) and I was feeling very sentimental and telling people who I haven't spoken to in months how much I was genuinely pleased to have made their acquaintance. I was pretty weird. I almost cried at about 9am from the complete lack of endorphins. It was pathetic. As a friend pointed out, it was the ideal time for the Floo network to come into existence and save the day since journeying whilst dragging dirty white tie was the last thing I wanted to do. I also felt slight reluctance at the thought of going to the Cotswolds with people who don't 'define' my time at college since I felt like I should be spending my time with my nearest and dearest. But again, that was just me being stupidly sentimental and irrational. And such irrationality disappeared when our Kind Host read my mind and expressed how much he was craving spaghetti bolognese. The umami, crumbly stew offset by slippery noodles were exactly what I thought would make me feel happier. Like a hug in a bowl. It didn't disappoint. (Actually, that's a lie. It lacked some of the depth I would've liked despite the correct frying of onions and long simmering time. But it was still nourishing enough.) This was followed by a nice (cheap) glass of red and falling asleep to Die Hard. That rather set the tone for the weekend. Cooking simple food in a perfectly arranged country kitchen, enjoying a few glasses of Lambrini-Pimms (two parts Pimms, one part Lambrini and four parts lemonade, if you're curious) and near inactivity. A blissful antidote to Friday night. I stuck to doing tried and tested recipes with a touch of innovative ingredient supplementing from the fact that the larder wasn't quite fully stocked. But I did try one new recipe. Although, as with most of my recipes, it was so easy I can barely call it a recipe. Hopefully you don't care about that though. We were settled on cooking something English and filling. I looked at so many different recipes that I found out that my phone can only look at eight tabs at once. Who knew! I settled on this but unfortunately, this time, Tesco Extra couldn't cater to my needs. So instead, I decided to do a roast 'cause it was Sunday and all. Roast poussin!
Roast Poussin (with pigs in blankets, mash, kale and red wine gravy)
1 large poussin to share between two or 1 small for each person
Smoked streaky bacon
Sage
4 cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper

Stuff each poussin with garlic (1 clove for each small one or 2 for each big one), 1 sage leaf and season the inside with salt and pepper.
Season the outside of the poussin with salt.
Wrap with bacon (about 4 rashers per bird) then season with pepper.
Put in the oven for 40 - 45 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius until the juices of the thickest part of the thigh of the poussin run clear.
Remove, wrap in foil and leave to rest for ten minutes.

Red wine gravy
20g butter
1 small red onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 tsp of strawberry jam (I would've used redcurrant jelly but I was being inventive)
A bunch of sage, tied at the end
1 tsp Marmite
200ml chicken stock

Melt the butter and fry the onion and garlic on a medium heat until the onion is very soft.
Add the jam and cook for a further 2 minutes.
Add the sage, Marmite and stock and simmer to thicken for about ten minutes.
Add the juices from the poussin and stir thoroughly.
The sauce should be glossy and quite thick.

If I were to do it all again (dramatic little me), I'd put a very thin layer of unsalted butter between the chicken and the bacon to make the whole thing a little juicier and browner.