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.

Cheesy pasta with broccoli and cheese, served with bruschetta

We eat a lot of pasta in this house…We moved to England, but we eat like we live in Italy. This was a dish I threw together on a weeknight because I was tired and wanted to do something that was nourishing but quick. I also had some rolls I wanted to use up – keeping bread is nearly impossible here in this damp country, it always goes moldy before I can do anything.

I like eating broccoli – it’s one of my favorite vegetable. At the market, I can buy a whole head of broccoli, but I feel it’s a bit of a waste because I eat the crowns, but a good 2/3 of the broccoli is that tough, thick woody stem. I know you can eat the stem if you peel it, slice it thinly, etc. When I’m doing Asian food, I’ll use the stems, but I don’t think it works with Italian cooking.

So I found some tender broccolini – its stems are super tender and cook really well, so I like using it, though I don’t buy it all the time because it’s more expensive than regular broccoli.

This recipe is easy to make and quick – and you don’t have to follow the recipe too closely – do what you’d like. This is a one-pot dish, which is nice because you don’t have too many pots and pans to clean up.

Ingredients (for the pasta dish):
-250 g of short pasta – penne, fusilli, rontini, I’m partial to a rotelle, though I’ve yet to find it up in here in England
– 1/2 ball of mozzarella, diced
-1/4 cup of shredded Parmesan
-1/4 cup of shredded Grana Padano
– 2 cups of water
– 1 cup of cream
– 3 links of small, low-fat chicken sausage
– 4 stalks of broccolini, chopped into bite-sized pieces
– 4 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
– 1/2 small white onion, minced
-1 tbl of olive oil
– salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients (for the bruschetta) – now, mind you, this is a bit of a Sandra Lee-esque recipe because I’m using jarred sauce that I wanted to use up:
– 2 rolls, cut in half, width-wise, and then each half, halved again
– 1 tin of anchovy, mashed up
– 1/4 ball of mozzarella, chopped into tiny bits
– 1 clove of garlic, chopped
-1/4 cup of tomato sauce

So to make this dish, you’ll have to figure out what you want to do first, the bruschetta or the pasta…You have to keep an eye on the bruschetta or it’ll burn, so it’s up to you….This is what I did.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan, with a tight-fitting lid. add the onion and cook, adding some salt to draw moisture and to let the onion brown a bit. Add the garlic and keep stirring and keep cooking for another minute or so. Add the sausage, removed from the casing and broken up. Stir constantly and mix and cook until the meat is no longer pink. Add the pasta and stir and cook and stir for a bit, toasting the pasta a touch. Add the water, raise the heat to high, getting the water to boil, then stir. Lower the heat to simmer, cover and cook for about 10 minutes.

After about 10 minutes, remove the lid – you should have some liquid – not a lot, but some, and keep stirring. Your pasta should be tender by now. Add the cream and stir and cooking, letting the sauce thicken. Add the cheese and mix, stirring, making sure the cheese melts and creates a thick sauce (this won’t be like mac and cheese, though), add the broccolini and mix and cover the dish and cook for another 8 minutes or so, until the broccolini is tender and cooked – but still bright green. Season to taste.

Whilst I’m doing all this, I’m taking care to make the bruschetta as well. Preheat the broiler and put the rack near the bottom. Brush each piece of bread with some olive oil. Put a bit of garlic on each piece of bread. Then spoon a bit of mushed anchovy on each pieace. Then add about a spoonful of sauce. Carefully place a slice of mozzarella on each piece. Finally, drizzle some olive oil over the bruschetta – I use the oil from the anchovy. Put in the broiler and let it cook until the cheese blisters, browns, and melts – Keep an eye on the bread, though, because it can burn just like that (I just snapped my fingers)

Serve the bruschetta with your pasta (like I did in the pic). Oh, and enjoy.

Brown rice and quinoa with mushrooms and peas

I’m shifting to a plant-based lifestyle, slowly but surely. I haven’t given up meat, yet, but have started to gradually move toward vegetarian food. It’s easier to do if one doesn’t go cold turkey. I’ve been eating oatmeal and muesli for lunch and trying to do plant-based dinners. Tonight I made a brown rice and quinoa dish with mushrooms – I love mushrooms because for meat-eaters, mushrooms are a great substitute (it’s the umami – the salty flavor that is contained in ‘shrooms) The dish isn’t 100% vegetarian because I used beef broth (I couldn’t find my mushroom broth), but any broth will do (though chicken broth might be too light)

Anyways, this recipe is totally easy to make – and one that is adaptable to whatever ingredients you have in your kitchen.

Ingredients (serves two)

  • 1 package of Tilda brown steamed basmati rice & quinoa (250 g)
  • 1 200g package of chestnut mushrooms, chopped finely
  • 1 200g package of white button mushrooms, chopped finely
  • 1 shallot, chopped finely
  • 1 bouillon cube (I used beef, but you can use anything you want)
  • 4 green onions – both green and white parts, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 cup of frozen peas
  • 2 cups of hot water (you probably won’t use all of it)
  • 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 2 tbl of tomato paste
  • 1 tbl of olive oil
  • 1 tsp of lemon zest
  • pinch of red chili flakes
  • pepper
  • salt

In a large, nonstick pan, heat the oil over medium heat, and add the chili flakes and throw in the chopped mushrooms. It’s going to look like your pan is pretty crowded, but that’s okay – mushrooms shrink like crazy when you cook them. You’ll have to cook the mushrooms for a bit – 10 minutes, until the mushrooms shrink and release the juices and then let the juices evaporate and start to create a fond. Add the tomato paste and mix and cook until the raw taste of tomato paste is cooked away, and the bottom of the pan is sticky and covered with browned bits. Add a little bit of the hot water – just enough to deglaze the bottom of the pan. Stir and loosen the bits and mix, adding a bit more water and cooking until all the water is gone.

Add the shallot and stir and cook until the shallot becomes translucent. More fond will be created, so add more water to loosen the browned bits. Add the broth cube as well and stir and cook until the cube is dissolved and there’s a thick, syrupy sauce. Add the package of rice and quinoa (it’s already cooked) and cook, breaking up the chunks of the rice, making sure it’s coated in the sauce. Add the green onions – both green and white parts. Add the lemon zest and the cheese and mix. Add the green peas (it’s okay if they’re frozen – they’ll thaw while cooking) and stir, heating the rice through (just make sure you don’t overcook the peas) Grind some fresh pepper. Serve, and Oh, enjoy.

Vegetarian cooking – Kimchi stir fry – a recipe

The other day, a very good friend and I were chatting about making dinner. She told me about a kimchi stew she learned about from Maangchi. The popular YouTuber has a video of the stew and I was fascinated by it. I love kimchi and the way my friend described it, I really wanted to try it.

So I was interested in making the stew, but I ran into a couple obstacles, mainly that I could find kimchi in my local shops. I went to a Waitrose in Gloucester Road, the Sainsbury’s Local near Kew Bridge, and the Co-Op in Chiswick Park. None of the places had kimchi, so I just bought some stir fry veg and made that, instead.

But I still was a bit obsessed with the kimchi stew, and the other day I went to the Sainsbury’s in Chiswick – the large one, and found kimchi – tiny jars of it, but whatever. So I decided to make a kimchi stir fry, instead of the stew (which I still plan on making)

So I know this recipe is not authentic and doesn’t exist in any kind of Korean recipe – this is not an attempt at an authentic recipe, but simply a stir fry of flavours and ingredients I like. This recipe is yet another in my long line of recipes that aren’t really recipes because you can make them with anything. Another thing is, that I Sandra Lee’d it a bit with some of the ingredients (sue me).

Ingredients (serves two – but very healthy portions)

  • a package of ramen noodles – I chose a hot, spicy ramen (keep the flavour packet)
  • Gochujang – a Korean chili paste – I used about a tablespoon, but be careful, it’s pretty spicy, so use to taste
  • a 215g of kimchi
  • Sriracha sauce
  • soy sauce
  • a bok choy, white part and green parts separated and chopped
  • 1 small onion chopped roughly
  • 2 red chilis chopped
  • a thumb-sized knob of ginger, chopped finely
  • A collection of veg for stir fry – I chose Sainsbury’s Hot & Spicy Stir fry (it came with white cabbage, carrot, green cabbage, red bell pepper, beansprouts, red onion, chilies
  • I package of firm tofu
  • sunflower oil (or any other oil that doesn’t have a strong flavour)
  • white pepper, to taste
  • green onion
  • coriander

The first thing I do is slice the tofu in large planks and fry in the oil, browning on both sides, before removing and draining on a paper towel.

After that, I add the white part of the bok choy, onion, and red chilis, ginger, and stir fry, before adding the chili paste, and cook over medium-high heat, constantly. Let the pan develop a fond, and sprinkle the soy sauce and sriracha and deglaze and mix and stir. Sprinkle the flavour packet and mix (I do it a bit at a time, because you may not need all of the packet)

I covered the pan and let the pan cook. In the meantime, I set a colander in the sink and poured hot, boiling water over the ramen noodles to soften them up.

I uncover the pan and add the kimchi with the brine and stir and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any loose bits. Then I add the package of stir fry veg and the bok choy greens, and keep cooking, mixing continuously so that nothing burns. I periodically sprinkle more soy sauce and sriracha while cooking, because I like my stir fry very spicy (you may want to do less – that’s up to you)

Cook for about 15 ,20 minutes, until the veg has cooked and all of your veg is cooked through. Add the green onions and the tofu and stir carefully so that the tofu doesn’t break up too much. Sprinkle more soy sauce and sriracha and keep cooking (you may want to sprinkle some water, too) Finally, add some of the white pepper – it’s a strong, pungent, musty spice, so be careful not to add too much.

When serving, sprinkle some freshly chopped coriander. Oh, and enjoy.

My second Easter Sunday in London

Easter is a big deal in Polish Catholic homes – more important than Christmas, even. As a kid, my grandmother took the Easter season very seriously. On Palm Sunday, we decorated our palms with extravagant tackiness (mine always turned out looking like something from a mini-challenge on RuPaul’s Drag Race), and the Easter baskets were also key to the celebration. Unlike the American Easter baskets – of which I was very covetous – the Polish Catholic Easter baskets were all about feeding the poor and honouring Jesus Christ who has risen from the dead. We didn’t have cute bunny rabbits, cartoon characters, or toys, wrapped in colourful cellophane. I remember my baskets would have jars of horseradish, smoked sausage, butter carved into the shape of a lamb, and a sweet Easter bun (which wasn’t really all that sweet) At the end of mass, we were expected to leave something behind on the alter, which would later be – I hope – donated to the poor.

Once I stopped being Catholic, the holiday was never that big a deal for me, and it was just an excuse for me to go out with my friends to brunch. Easter usually fell sometime in latet April, early May, so the weather started to turn, and it felt very city to get dressed in light linen and go to a trendy restaurant to eat eggs and drink mimosas (this was before I became a teetotaller)

A year and a half ago, I moved to London. Easter is a huge deal here, and we get lots of time off around the holiday. My mother is in town, visiting, and so I decided instead of going out for Easter brunch we’d have dinner at home. I also invited my dear friend Sheila (who’s from Australia), and Cara, a fellow Yank-turned-Londoner (she even grew up in Chicago, so we traded Chicago trivia like neighbourhoods and city haunts)

This year was interesting because I wanted to combine the traditions of my partner, who’s American, my Polish mother’s traditions, but I also wanted to be sensitive to Cara, who’s a vegan. This brunch would be an interesting challenge.

Before I go on, I would like to say that when I write cooking vegan food is a “challenge” I don’t mean it in a “ugh, what a burden – vegan food is so weird, what am I gonna do?” way. It’s not…Vegan food is great and accessible, and vegans should be given more options for their dinner than lettuce leaves and chickpeas.

That being said, I never cooked vegan food before, so I thought it would be fun to see what I can do. I decided that I wouldn’t go the fake meat route and make some kind of fake ham (Sham?) or tofu lamb chops. Instead, I looked to beans and veg for my menu. I looked at different bean stews, and settled on a Mexican-style bean stew. I didn’t go by a recipe, and instead worked with the kinds of vegetables I thought would work well with Mexican style stew.

That means I bought cans of black beans, red kidney beans, chickpeas, pinto beans, corn. I also got tinned tomatoes. I love cooking with beans – I do meatless Mondays and beans are a go-to for me when cooking vegetarian dishes. I chopped an onion and sautéed it in a large pan with some corn oil (olive oil is too distinct and peppery), and once the onion got translucent , I sprinkled in some taco seasoning (I know, I know – I live in London and so my access to the right herbs is severely limited, so I have to sometimes rely on El Paso). I chopped some red pepper and chili pepper and threw that it – I also rubbed my nose and started to scream and rinse my nose out. Be very careful when chopping chili peppers – wear gloves if you can. After throwing in the peppers and letting them sweat for a bit, I poured some vegetable broth and threw in the tinned veg with their waters (except for the chickpea water – I reserved that for vegan latkes) I cooked over high heat until it was reduced, thick and soupy – like a Mexican-spiced ratatouille. I transferred most of the stew into a Pyrex baking dish, and reduced the remaining stew further until it took on a dark, chocolate colour and poured that on stew and baked in a moderately hot oven for about an hour.

I also made vegan latkes – Mayim Bialik from The Big Bang Theory (is it weird that I don’t reference Blossom anymore?) has a YouTube video in which she makes vegan latkes from a mix. I’m not sure what the benefit is of making it from a box, because I used fresh ingredients, and all was okay. I grated onion and potato and used the water from a tin of chickpeas. I added matzoh meal and created a batter. I seasoned with salt, pepper, and some dried dill (use a light hand when using dried herbs) I fried in batches in hot oil and drained on paper towels. I noticed that not using real egg made the latkes cook longer and the texture was slightly different – softer, maybe? But they still came out crispy and good. I served the latkes with cranberry sauce.

As a side, I also made curry chickpeas, since I opened a tin. This recipe is too easy – I almost don’t need to write it. Fry the chickpea over a high heat, stirring constantly, and add some chopped broccoli and stir fry. Add some curry powder and let it bloom. I then added some frozen peas, frozen garlic, and frozen ginger (I like frozen veg) and stirred cooking until the veg took on some browning (the pan got a bit dry at certain points, so I added a bit of water at a time to deglaze the pan)

The final veg dish was also very simple – pan fry some asparagus and pouring balsamic vinegar and spinning, stir frying constantly, letting the vinegar reduce and get sticky and sweet.

The nod to my Polish culture came with the white borscht soup. It’s also known as żurek, a white sour soup made with sourdough starter. Last year I made this soup and made my own sourdough starter (the yeasty stuff that gives sourdough its name), but this year, I was like, “bump that noise,” and instead got some żurek packet soup and used that as a starter, instead. I sautéed some onion, parsnip, turnip, onion until the veg softened a bit. I then added chicken stock and threw in chopped sausage. I used some smoked Polish kielbasa (a variety made of chicken)

Interesting side story: normally, one would use a white sausage, similar to a brat, that’s sold fresh. I went to the local Polish deli in my neighbourhood the other day. I walked in to store to see a low-hum of contained chaos. There was a large crowd of people getting in their last-minute Easter shopping, and so lots of baskets crammed with food. I went to the meat counter and saw a crowd forming. An angry crowd. As I took my place in the queue, I overheard a lady ahead of me ordering some ham and the girl behind the counter announced to us that there was a power outage and so the digital scale wasn’t working, so we couldn’t buy anything that needed to be weighed. This caused a great amount of consternation among the crowd full of Polish aunties and grandmas who were aghast at this news. “How long is this going to last?” One woman asked. The girl shrugged and said she couldn’t answer. Another woman suggested that the girl eyeball how much she was selling, and the young girl shot back with, “Madame, how could I guess how much meat I’d be selling?” There were more shouts from these women and my partner and I got a bit worried that there’d be a riot dotted with looting, so we skidaddled out of there before it stuff got ugly and just went to a regular supermarket.

So because of that, we used the “wrong” kind of sausage for the soup – which was okay, because it turned out well, anyways…I threw in the
żurek mix and cooked for about an hour, adding a spoonful of horseradish, mustard, dried dill and cooked over a low heat, simmering.

To round out the meal, we served it with pierogi and my friend brought some vegan bread. For dessert, I made a quick smoothie by crushing frozen summer fruits (strawberries, red currants, blueberries) and mixing it with vegan yoghurt (made with soy and almond – yum) My Aussie friend also brought dessert – millionaire’s shortbread – and I served some liquor (I drank Pepsi)

We served the food buffet-style, and I was thrilled to be done with my cooking. I planned on serving gooseberry gelatine with peaches, but the gelatine never gelled – I even set it near a window to be cooled – but it stayed as gloppy, lime green slop.

At the end of the evening, I looked at the kitchen and was startled at how destroyed it looked – like a kitchen kabloom took place. I was startled at how secular all this was, though. Like Christmas, Easter is more cultural now – I mean Cadbury eggs? What’s that gotta do with Jesus?

Our party continued as we finished up our food – there weren’t a whole lot of leftovers – I gave some to my friends, and I have to figure out what to do with the leftovers we do have. I’m thinking of baking the leftovers with elbow pasta, not sure…We also have some bread, so maybe a panzanella?

Anyways, Happy Easter!