Chicken and potato and leek stew – a recipe

It’s getting cooler now, with the autumn coming, so I thought I’d do a stew, it’s perfect cold weather food. This recipe is based on the French soup, vichyssoise, a cold, creamy soup made of potato and leek. This stew is a take, and when cooked, looks a bit like the filling of a chicken pot pie. This recipe was supposed to be a quick one, but it took me a minute to make it -nearly an hour.

The main difference between this recipe and the vichyssoise recipe is that the vegetables can be browned in this recipe. The vichyssoise recipe is meant to be snow white, so when you cook the food, you have to be careful not to brown the veg to color the soup.

Also, a vichyssoise is cold, meant to be served chilled, but this stew is meant to be served hot as it’s the kind of stew you eat when it’s chilly and rainy outside.

Ingredients:

  • 2 chicken breasts, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 small bag of baby potatoes, diced – I do this because I want the potatoes to cook quickly
  • 1 leek, sliced – you can include the green bits, because we’re not going for that bone china white look – also be very careful that you clean the leeks, there’s a beach-worth of sand and grit in the leaves
  • 4 green onions, sliced – separate the greens from the white – slice the white bit, and mince the green bit and keep aside for serving at the end
  • 2 small shallots, chopped
  • 1/2 small white onion, diced
  • 8 oz of button mushrooms, diced
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 can of cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup of soured cream
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • olive oil

Heat the oil in a large, heavy nonstick pan and throw in the chicken and cook over a moderate heat, letting it brown lightly. This will take about 5, 10 minutes. Add the potatoes, raise the heat and let the food brown a bit – leave it alone for a bit to color the bottom of the pan and shake to loosen. The idea isn’t to cook the chicken and potatoes through – you’ll be braising, but you want to cook to add some color and to brown it a bit. You’ll also create a nice fond on the bottom of the pan.

Fish the potatoes and chicken and set aside and cover. Lower the heat on the pan and add the leek, onion, the white bit of the green onion, the shallot, the mushrooms and stir, scraping up the bottom of the pan. Add some salt, which will draw some moisture out, making it easier to scrape the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Raise the heat to high and cook, stirring constantly, letting it caramelize. Add some of the water and stir, letting the water becoming thick and syrupy, and add the rest of the water and throw back the chicken and potatoes.

Raise the heat to high and let the water come to a boil and stir before lowering the heat to medium heat, and cover and cook until the potatoes are tender, 15, 20 minutes. Uncover and cook some more until the water is reduced, and then pour in the cream of chicken soup and stir, combining the reduced, thickened water and the soup until well mixed. Add the cream and continue to stir and make sure that there are no streaks of cream left.

Grind some pepper and sprinkle the minced green bits of the onion. Oh, and enjoy.

Quick ‘n’ easy sausage and lentil stew

So, I owe a great debt to Sandra Lee. Though people teased her mercilessly for her “semi-homemade” recipes which weirdly boasted 70% store bought products – and she deservedly got dragged by the Internets for her hate crime of a Kwanzaa cake – she did inspire me to look to purchased pantry items when I’m putting together my cooking. While the ratio for my cooking is not 70/30, I do like to use some packaged stuff when I’m cooking.

This evening, I thought to make sausage and lentil stew. It’s starting to get cool and rainy today, so I thought a stew would be in order. But it’s Monday, a weekday, plus I had a crazy early morning, so I wasn’t in the mood to stand over a stove for hours. So I cobbled together my recipe with bought items. Lentils take time to cook, so I bought cooked lentils in a pouch, and instead of just getting vegetable broth, I thought it’d be a nice idea to use tinned vegetable soup. Along with those two packaged items, I used fresh ingredients. It’s a great compromise, and the dish only took me about half an hour to cook.

Ingredients:

-4 fresh sausages – I get the Co-op skinny sausages because they have practically no fat
-1/2 white onion, roughly chopped
-1 medium carrot, sliced into coins
-a handful of green beans, with the tops chopped
-1 package of baby bella mushrooms, chopped roughly
-3 shallots, chopped finely
-4 garlic cloves, minced
-1 tin of vegetable soup – I used Heinz Classic Vegetable, which is 400g (don’t throw away the tin!)
-1 packet of pre-cooked lentils – I used Merchant Gourmet Tomatoey French Puy & Green Lentils
-Olive oil
-Herbs de provence
-Salt and pepper

This recipe is super easy and quick to cook. So first, heat the oil over medium heat and when the oil is hot, add the sausages and cook, brown on all sides. The sausage casings can sometimes burst, so it may do to puncture them. Don’t be tempted to stir too much and move the sausages, because you’ll want to brown the sausages and to create some kind of fond. I cooked the sausage for about 5, 8 minutes until they were browned all over, I then fished them out and lowered the heat to low (careful that you don’t set off the smoke detector like I did with the cooking)

So set the sausages to the side and throw in the onions, shallots, garlic, green beans, and carrot into the pan and cook, stirring, letting the vegetables brown a bit and color. This isn’t a stir-fry, so don’t cook over a high heat, but you don’t want to cook it to a mush (There’s going to be more cooking later). Saute the vegetables for about 8 minutes, letting some of the vegetables color a bit. Add the mushrooms and cook for another 5, 8 minutes, until the mushrooms brown and shrink.

Add the vegetable soup and then fill the can, 2/3rds full with water and add, and then raise the heat to high and stir, letting it get to the boil. Add the sausages back and stir carefully, so you don’t splash the food. Add the lentils, and continue to stir and cook. Sprinkle the herbs and grind some fresh pepper and keep on cooking. You’ll want to cook the food for about 15, 20 minutes – you’ll want the liquid to reduce significantly and become a thick gravy. The lentils will become soft and tender. The lentils will get tender as you cook – if you let the food set for a bit and stir, you can create a crusty bottom, which can be nice. That’s up to you.

Once the lentils are cooked, scoop it out and serve it with some crusty bread. Oh, and enjoy.

My attempt at making Thai basil fried rice

When living in Chicago, I ate a great Thai restaurant in Old Town called Tiparos Thai. Unlike most people who go to Thai restaurants to order Pad Thai, I always got the spicy basil chicken. It’s a mouth-scorching dish of chopped meat, bell peppers, green beans, Thai basil leaves, and steamed jasmine rice. The dish was studded with tiny bits of hot chilies. After eating it, my lips were swollen and numb as if I had stopped by a Michigan Avenue plastic surgeons to get my lips done. This dish was so hot that it almost hurt to drink water afterwards…

Despite the pain of eating the dish, I ordered each time I went to Tiparos.

It’s difficult to explain the draw of this dish because the taste is so spicy sometimes it feels almost unpleasant to eat it. The basil Thai has a different, silvery, tea-like taste, that gets a pleasant green swampy taste because it’s cooked and steamed. The meat is crumbled and sauteed, the nuggets crispy, giving the rice a nice bite. And the sauce acts as a base for the dish – it’s salty, sweet, and slightly pungent. I always add a bit of Sriracha, to add a fruity sweetness, as well.

Since moving to London, I’ve eaten at lots of Thai restaurants, and have eaten the dish, and enjoyed it, though for some reason I’ve never tasted it as good as Tiparos, though I’m trying (I went to an amazing Thai restaurant in Amsterdam that was pretty good)

Anyways, this is my attempt at making Thai basil rice with chicken. Obviously, this won’t be a 100% accurate – I don’t have all the ingredients in a proper Thai basil rice, and I don’t like buying ingredients I probably won’t use again, so I’ve had to do some improvising.

Also, I used boughten rice. I don’t like cheating but I’m terrible at making rice, and it’s much easier to just buy rice already boiled in the shop. Also there are recipes that call for mince, but I bought chicken and chopped it myself…The texture of mince is a bit too pasty and fine for a dish like this – I enjoy it more with the chopped chicken.

As with most of my recipes, these measurements are at-best, guesses…

Ingredients:

-Thai basil, a handful, to taste, chopped in strips
-Coriander, a handful, to taste, chopped
-300g of boneless, skinless chicken breast, chopped finely – almost to a mince (or go ahead and get chicken mince) if you don’t like chicken, you can also use pork, turkey, or beef – whatever you like, or if you’d like, you can leave the meat out, I’m not the police
-1/2 of a red bell pepper chopped
-3 small shallots, sliced finely
-4 cloves of garlic, minced
-4 finger chilies, minced finely – super finely – I seed the chili and remove the rib because these things are spicy AF
-1 jalapeno pepper – I just added this because I had one left in a bag that needed eating
-8, 10 green beans or string beans, with the ends chopped off, and cut the beans in half
-half a white onion, roughly chopped
– 3 large cremini mushrooms – normally, this dish doesn’t have mushrooms (I’ve never seen this dish with mushrooms) – but I had some that I wanted to use
-1 cup of chicken broth (you probably won’t use all of it)
-1 tbl of sriracha sauce (to taste, really)
-2 tbl of fish sauce (this stuff has a very strong taste/smell, so be mindful of how much you use it)
-3 tbl of soy sauce (I use the reduced sodium soy sauce, which still has loads of salt)
-1 tbl of chili paste – I used Gochujang (Korean chili paste)
-2 tbl of sugar
-some white pepper, to taste
-2 packets of cooked jasmine rice
-1/8 cups of cooking oil, something without flavor (peanut, corn, vegetable, groundnut, that sort of thing – not olive, which has too distinct a taste)

This feels like a lot of ingredients, and it is, and it’s going to be a lot of cooking and adding…You’ll be cooking over a high flame for a lot of the cooking, so keep a window open and turn on a fan (if you have one)

Before cooking, create the sauce. In a bowl or large cup, add in the broth, sriracha, fish sauce, soy sauce, chili paste, sugar, and white pepper and mix, seeing that the sugar is dissolved (I heated the broth which made the sugar melt easily)

Heat the oil over a high flame in a nonstick pan. Throw in the beans, onions and bell pepper and cooking for about four, five minutes, stirring constantly, don’t stop. The onions probably won’t color too much, and you’re not looking into browning the veg. Add the meat and stir and continue to cook, you’ll want to get a good browning on the meat – cook for about four, five minutes. Depending on how small you’ve chopped the meat, you might already have cooked the chicken at this point, but if it’s still a bit raw, no worries, it will cook.

Add the garlic and the chilies and cook for another few minutes, until you smell the garlic cooking (it’s a great smell, btw) and then add the shallots and stir and saute for another few minutes

Remember you’re cooking over a high heat, so don’t stop stirring, you don’t want anything to burn.

Add the sauce and cook…You’ll want to let the sauce get sticky and tacky, and so that it coats the veg and meat and get browned, stirring constantly. Depending on the heat, this can take about five, ten minutes. Fold the cooked meat and veg, stirring seeing that the food is coated with the sauce.

Add the basil and the cilantro and stir, letting the cilantro wilt.

Add the rice and stir constantly – you don’t want to cook this too long, because overcooking the rice will blow it out. Depending on if you like the rice to be crispy, you can let it sit for a few seconds and brown. Sprinkle some white pepper – white pepper’s got a very funky, manky smell, so be careful…

Once the rice is warmed through (remember the rice is already cooked), and you can’t see any white in the rice anymore, then you can plate it. I served it with boughten gyoza. Oh, and enjoy.