Chicken, Chive & Garlic Quenelle Style Dumpling Soup For The Heart & Soul

My first July post.  It’s the second week of Wimbledon and the first week in July, but of course, it feels like October! Welcome to the British Isles!
Normally at this time of year I’d be craving delicious salads that I could dress with interesting concoctions, I’d be enjoying the best of the summer fruit and the long summer nights outside. Unfortunately, I don’t feel the slightest inclination to make a salad or even enjoy a simple bowl of strawberries today.

After an extremely long weekend of labour, my plans for this week were dashed unexpectedly and the summer sun has hardly offered a glimmer of warmth to compensate, therefore my answer to this is soup.

I’ve talked about the magic of soup in my previous posts and today called for some of the special pick-me-up kind.  I was trying to decide what kind to make when I remember an episode of Rachel Khoo’s The Little Paris Kitchen.  The one where she makes that delicious, quick and easy looking Chicken Dumpling soup.  That was it.  My heart made up my mind.

Trying to remember the episode, I looked it up on YouTube and found the clip which was barely 3 minutes and so after a quick watch of the clip I set about gathering ingredients to make my own version.  I had a quick walk outside to see what I could gather from the garden and after an armful of delicious produce( carrots, bay, thyme, kale and chives ) from my ever expanding kitchen garden (at least the plants are enjoying the rain in July!) I set about making my own rustic & hearty variation of Rachel’s recipe.

 My Chicken, Chive & Garlic Quenelle Style Dumpling Soup

For the  Dumplings:

This recipe yields enough quenelles for 2 lots of the soup recipe below. (About 32-36)  I’d estimate this dumpling recipe serves 6-8 people well, but be sure to adjust the broth quantity accordingly. I made this recipe larger as I wanted to try freezing half the mixture for a super quick soup fix for next time or try poaching and then baking the quenelles in a Gratin de Quenelles de Volaille of sorts.  I will keep you posted when I come around to it.  If you just want to make enough for the broth below, half this recipe.

Ingredients

400g  skinless, boneless chicken meat.  I used a mix of thigh and breast, but either alone would also work well.  Ensure that tendons and gristly bits are removed.

200g stale white bread. The white bread adds to the fluffiness.

200ml cream- whatever you have to hand (single, double, whipping).  I had double

2 eggs and 2 yolks or 3 eggs will work too.  More yolk adds a richness. If you’re halving the recipe 1 egg and 1 yolk would work best.

2 cloves of garlic crushed

4-5 tbsp finely chopped chives.

salt and pepper

Method

  1. Take all the ingredients above apart from the chives and put in a food processor.  Blend until a whipped paste consistency in acheieved.
  2. Remove mixture from food processor bowl or if your food processor bowl fits in your fridge, then just take the blade out and stir in the chives well.
  3. Refrigerate the mixture while you prepare the broth.
  4. Once the broth is ready, make quenelle shapes of the chicken mixture by shaping with 2 tablespoons and drop into the broth.
  5. The dumplings are done when the float to the surface, about 5 minutes.
For the Broth :

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 l  homemade chicken stock (4 1/2l water, chicken bones of 1 or 2 chickens -I keep some bones in the freezer after a roast or when I am de-boning a chicken for something else, a bay leaf, small onion halved, 1 carrot in chunks. Simmer for an hr.) or if you’re in a rush an equal measure of  good quality ready made stock or as a last resort 2-4 good quality organic chicken stock cubes/chicken boullion, quantity used dependent on the salt content.  Try Kallo and taste for seasoning after the second cube. Add a bay leaf to the two alternatives for flavour.

1 medium onion finely chopped

2 carrots finely cubed

2 sticks of celery finely cubed

2-3 cloves of garlic crushed

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar (optional)

a few springs of fresh thyme or parsley (optional)

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

Salt pepper

8 or so large leaves of kale or greens of your choice finely shredded to add at the end (optional)

  1. Heat a pan and add the oil and butter.  I like to use some butter for the flavour, but some oil too as it doesn’t create a film on a broth soup as much as butter does.
  2. Sweat the onions for 5 mins on a medium heat ensuring that they don’t brown.
  3. Add the celery and carrot and sweat for a further 5-8 mins or until softened.
  4. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or so, until the raw smell disappears
  5. Now pour in the stock and bring to the boil before adjusting the seasoning.
  6.  Finally add the optional apple cider vinegar.  This really lifts the dish and cuts through the richness of the quenelles.
  7. Now follow the instructions above for cooking the quenelles.
  8. Once floating to the surface, switch off the heat and stir in the shredded kale and sprigs of thyme/parsley if using and serve immediately with some hearty sourdough.


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My Version Of Chicken Dhansak Dedicated to my Father

A few weekends ago I visited my ever growing collection of cook books.  There isn’t suitable shelving to keep them in the kitchen so I have dedicated a little cubby hole in the hallway with two book shelves that face each other for my brimming collection.  Inevitably what happens is by the end of each week I have a pile of books to take back to their home from kitchen.  When I took last week’s pile back I realised that they just did not fit probably due to a couple of new members to my cook book family. It seems that now I must leave a pile of books homeless in the kitchen as my new additions have no home on the bookshelf!  Time to buy bigger shelves…..

I ended up picking out a few to keep in the kitchen- mostly Indian ones as I seem to be going through a bit of  a back to my roots phase.  I found one that was particularly well loved  that my father had bought in India a number of years ago.  Although I have used it before, you could tell that it was a book that my father enjoyed and used well.  Apart from the pages of his favourite recipes slightly dogeared and worse for wear, his trademark highlighter marking was garnished throughout the book as it was in most books he read; the more highlighter, the more he like the book.  Any time I come across a book that has been highlighted, I smile.

My father adored cooking and learning new methods of cooking.  His speciality was any kind of meat, especially anything BBQ related, as is what most alpha-male-part-time cooks would say and claim to be their “territory” when it comes to the kitchen.  Saying that, my father was not only a magnificent BBQ-er, he made delicious dal and meat curries too. In fact whatever he made tasted utterly scrumptious.  He certainly knew his way around the spice box and was able to marry flavours together with perfection.   One thing that always made us laugh was his method of cooking.  He was certainly the head chef and he would make sure that he had his sous chefs on hand whenever he was cooking.

When I was a child, I remember my father gathering my sister and me in the kitchen when he was ready to cook something.  As it was an occasional foray in the kitchen for my father, it was a treat when he decided to take over for the day as he would involve us and let us do things like chopping and stirring.  My mother didn’t let us do things like this when we were so young as it would slow her down when she was trying to prepare dinner everyday for the entire family after a long day at work.   My father would sit on the kitchen table in his chair, spice boxes and bottles of seasonings surrounding him, he would concoct his marinades or masalas.  Of course, my sister and I were not idol- we were put to work! Peeling the ginger, garlic and onions, fetching whatever was on on the kitchen table already (my mother stayed out of the kitchen on these occasions for this reason- my father would literally have everything out of the cupboards and the mess would be beyond her tolerance level!).  I never saw it as work, I loved watching my father and helping him.  I don’t think he realised how much he taught me in the way that he cooked and how different it was to my mother or grandmother. My experimental tendencies certainly come from my father.  These were some of those treasured memories I have spending time with him and him sharing something that he loved to do with us;  in turn it has become one of my own passions in life.

My Chicken Dhansak

I dedicated this recipe to my father because this is the kind of dish he loved.  He loved a good  hearty, flavourful meat or chicken curry and although not something we’d traditionally cook in our family, I remember Dhansak being one of his favourites.  My recipe has elements of a traditional Parsi Dhansak, but with a touch of flavour and texture variation from me.  For me, I love the  heartiness of slow cooked dishes.  This one is not only hearty because of the lentils and vegetables, but there is a deliciousness that comes from cooking on the bone makes this as tasty as it is nutritious.  It’s a  wonderfully simple one pot dish  (if you omit the tempering and fried onions stage) to make for gatherings and served with freshly made *naan or tandoori style roti, some fresh yoghurt and some freshly sliced sweet onions.

If you are in the mood for lamb dhansak over chicken, this recipe will work just as well for lamb.  You can use lamb on the bone or off , but you will need to cook for a little longer and on a gentle heat to ensure the meat is not tough.

This recipe can make enough for up to 10 people depending on the size of your chicken.  If you have left overs, this freezes beautifully too.

Ingredients

1 whole chicken de-skinned and cut into 12 pieces or 1.5-2kg of thigh/leg on the bone de-skinned

100g Toor dal (split pigeon peas)

100g Masoor dal (split red lentils)

100g yellow Moong dal

2 large onions chopped finely

2 tbsp grated ginger

2 tbsp grated garlic

3-4 long green chilis (blend these with the ginger and garlic paste)

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

1 good sized aubergine cubed (about 200g)

1 sweet potato peeled and cubed – red or white (about 400g)

Tamarind paste to taste (about 3-4 tbsp)

2-3 tbsp ghee or butter (if using ghee, only use home made- store bought ghee does have the same flavour.  Butter is a much better option)

3-4 tbsp Oil plus extra for frying onions for the topping

1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp black peppercorns

2-3 large black cardamom pods

5-6 cloves

2 inch cassia bark/cinnamon stick

1 tsp turmeric

2 tsp coriander powder

2 tsp red chili flakes or powder

2-3 tsp garam masala (mine if homemade and in the punjabi style, you can use one that you like)

1/4- 1/2 cup kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves) depending on the strength

salt to taste (about 2 tsps)

Fresh green coriander/cilantro for garnishing

1 large onion sliced finely to fry until deeply caramalised for garnishing

2 tsp of butter, 1 tsp cumin seeds, `1 tsp of kasoori methi and 1/2 tsp of garam masala for tempering.  (this is optional step and the end.  It adds a nice buttery flavour, but if you omit it, the dish will taste just as good)

** For my tsp measurements when cooking non baked items, I use an eating tsp…they are not level measurements – more rounded/heaped and so a little more than a measured tsp. The measurements I have given are exactly what I used at the time I made this, but each time I make something I rarely follow the same recipe verbatim; there is always room for adjustments, experimentation and of course substitution when you don’t have all the ingredients to hand.   Indian food is all about Andaza (guesstimates) so do what feels right for you.  Substitute if you need to and use my measurements as guidelines to work from!**

Method

  1. Wash the dals 3-4 times and leave to soak for an hour or so or overnight.  If you forget to soak them, you can just wash them and use them as they are, the only difference is a reduction in the cooking time when you soak them.
  2. Heat a wide heavy based pan and add 3 tbs of oil and the 2 finely chopped onions.  Fry at a gentle sizzle for 20- 30 mins stirring occasionally to ensure that they don’t burn.  You are looking for a light caramel colour. (See picture above) They are ready when they are transculent and the sugars are deepening and becoming sticky on the bottom of the pan. About 10-20 mins
  3. Turn the heat up slightly and add 1-2 tbsp butter or ghee.  Allow to melt and then add the whole spices (cassia bark, black cardamon, black pepper, cumin and cloves.  Saute  until the cumin pops.
  4. Next add the ginger, garlic and green chili paste and cook for 2-3 mins.  Do not let it stick to the bottom of the pan.  If it starts to stick, add a little more butter/ghee or oil.  It is important that the onions and garlic do not burn or brown too much as they will lose the sweetness and flavour that they impart to the dish. (See picture above)
  5. Next add the tomatoes and cook until the oil separates from the tomatoes. 3-5 mins
  6. Then add the powder spices- the tumeric, red chili powder, garam masala, coriander powder, kasoori methi, and salt.  Cook for 1-2 mins to release the flavours.
  7. Now turn up the heat to the highest temperature and add the chicken.  Coat the chicken pieces with the masala stirring well to ensure the masala does not touch down in the pan.
  8. Allow the meat to cook like this on high heat for about 1-2 mintues before adding the soaked dals with some water and then the aubergine and the sweet potato. Add enough water to cover all that is in the pan.  Stir well and allow to come to a boil.
  9. Put a lid on and turn the heat down to a gentle simmer and cook for 35-45 mins or until the dal is done and the chicken is coming off the bone.
  10. While the dal is cooking take the sliced onions and fry them generously in oil until they are browned and crispy on the edges.  Drain on kitchen paper and reserve.
  11. When the chicken is done and the meat is starting to fall of the bone,  take a slotted spoon and remove all the chicken pieces from the dal and leave to the side so that they come to a temperature whereby you can handle them to remove the meat.
  12. Meanwhile take a potato masher as now the vegetables and dal will be very soft and roughly mash them in the pan.  If you see any of the whole spices you can remove them from the pan. Check for seasoning and adjust if needed.
  13. When you are able to handle the chicken, take it off the bones in chunks/large shreds.  Do not shred completely.  Discard the bones and add the chicken back to the dal.
  14. Mix the chicken well.  Check the consistency and add a little water if you feel it is too thick.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 mins.
  15. For the optional tempering stage- In a small frying pan take a 1-2 tsp butter and add 1 tsp of cumin seeds, 1 /2 tsp of garam masala and 1 tsp of kasoori methi and fry for a minute.  After the chicken has simmered, pour onto the chicken and stir well.
  16. Garnish with finely chopped coriander and the fried onions.  Serve with home made naan or roti, cucumber and yoghurt raita and some sliced sweet onions.

*A recipe for Naan will follow soon!

Friendship & The Humble Chicken

I have been lost from here for some time.  However, I can assure you I have been cooking lots and have much to share about my experimentation and I will in the coming weeks.

This week I have been feeling reminiscent of good times especially the other night when I prepared this.

I remember the first time I made a version of this.  I had just spent a day at the Southbank in London with my best friend where we had an argument.  It was about something stupid, but we were both in a bad mood when we came back home which wasn’t helpful because earlier in the day we had asked some friends to come over later that evening for an  impromptu dinner.  I had planned to cook something;  there were some racks of lamb that I had marinated the night before in some spices,  a chicken and some vegetables…a roast of sorts was on the cards.

When we walked in I got straight into the kitchen so that I could just concentrate on the cooking of the meal rather than continue with our argument while my friend went to the lounge to tidy up.  It was surprising how quickly things fell into place with virtually no planning.  I am not the kind of cook that likes to rush things and I love to cook spontaneously with whatever is available to feed my love of experimentation.   My favourite time is to cook with people in the kitchen: cooking, talking, drinking at a slow pace so as to enjoy the whole process.  However, saying that,  I can certainly also be efficient when needs be and that day I was efficient beyond words!

I spotted the couscous in the cupboard and immediately started preparing a stuffing with whatever I could find- handfuls of fresh mint and parsley, dried apricots, paprika, roasted cumin, glugs of olive oil, lemon juice, sumac and of course a good pinch of chilli flakes.  I didn’t de-skin the chicken, but I made pockets under the skin and filled them with the marinade ensuring that I slathered the rest over the chicken before stuffing it to the brim with the aromatic couscous jewelled with nuggets of orange sweetness.  Simultaneously,I had put some potatoes to boil and before putting them around the chicken I generously sprinkled them with some of that deep smoky sweet roasted cumin and some glugs of olive oil.  Everything was in the oven within 15 mins with just the veggies and lamb chops to cook when our friends arrived

I was glad that I had that time to clear my mind.  Sometimes it’s necessary to remove yourself from the situation and be alone to reflect.  When my friend came back into the kitchen after tidying up, she took out a  bottle of champagne from the fridge and we had a glass.   We didn’t say much, but we both knew things would be ok.  We have both realised however similar we are, that we also have some strong differences.   Similarities such as stubbornness and the need to have our own way can cause some clashes in our friendship, but it is highly unlikely that there is anything that could ever break our friendship because of the end of it all, life would not be the same without her in

As George Washington said … “True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation.”

The meal went down a storm, much laughter and good times were had by all.

And not to forget a recipe to remember because you see, just a chicken soup is good for the soul and the body, roast chicken does wonders for friendships.

My Seductively, Smoky & Sweet Paprika Glazed Chicken Stuffed With An Aromatic Couscous Jewelled with Feta & Dried Fruit 

I have changed the original recipe slightly with the addition of Feta, some pearl barley and sultanas. I love the saltiness of Feta that contrasts beautifully with the sultanas (which I used because I was out of apricots and I think I prefer.) The pearl barley adds a delicious nuttiness and variation in texture.   

The Couscous Stuffing

Ingredients

  • 120g barley couscous
  • 50g pearl barley (optional-I like the slight bite this has to contrast with the couscous)
  • 150g feta chopped into small cubed or crumbled in to small pieces
  • handful of chopped mint roughly chopped
  • handful of chopped flatleaf parsley roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp roasted ground cumin (pan roasting the seeds before grinding yourself transforms this aromatic spice into a deep seductively smoky sweeter version than if you don’t- totally worth the extra step. It also adds to the richness of the colour.
  • 2-3 tsp sumac (more or less to your taste and depending on the strength. If you can’t find this add a few more squeezes of lemon and 1/2 tsp more paprika)  The reasons I use this instead of just lemon are twofold: It adds the sourness that lemon provides, but also an earthiness. Secondly, the speckles of sumac stain wherever they lie with a ting of rich burgundy that looks beautiful.
  • 50g sultanas or chopped apricots or chopped dates
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste
Method
  1.  Boil the peal barley in some salted  water until done.  If you omit this, you will still have sufficient stuffing without or for a large chicken soak a little extra couscous (25g).
  2. Place the barley couscous in a bowl, pour over 150 mls of boiling water and cover with a plate for 4-5 mins (or per the instructions on the pack).  If you cannot find barley couscous, the regular wheat kind is absolutely fine. You could also experiment and try out Israeli jumbo couscous too.
  3. Fork through the couscous add the olive oil and cooked pearl barley and mix well.
  4. Now add all the spices- the chili flakes, paprika, ground roasted cumin, sumac and some salt and pepper.  When adding the salt, bear in mind the saltiness of the feta you are using.
  5. Next add the parsley, mint, sultanas, and feta; stir to combine.
  6. Finally, sprinkle with the juice of half a lemon and taste- check the salt and balance of sour from the sumac and or lemon.  Adjust according to your taste.
  7. Set aside while you prepare the chicken.
De-skinning Of The Chicken
When I do a traditional roast chicken, I will remove some excess fat, but I will leave the skin in tact because an English roast would not be the same without!  However, in the Indian culture the skin is never left on on when cooking chicken. The reason for this is more on the lines of better flavour penetration than for care of health!  The skin, although tasty when crisp and useful to prevent drying out when being fried or roasted, it doesn’t allow for the aromatics to really get into the flesh.
 There is rarely a time that I will not add garlic to a roast chicken; even when preparing a traditional roast.  On these occasions when I want the skin in tact, I will lift the skin on the breasts with the back end of a spoon in order not to pierce the skin and then leave my fingers to gently loosen the skin from the flesh to provide a pocket to put my marinade of choice inside to ensure the flavours get into the flesh.  The skin on the rest of the bird is left as it is because I will stab cuts in the joints to allow for flavour penetration.
Another reason why the skin is discarded is that Indians don’t see the flavour of chicken coming from it’s fat or skin as is the case in a lot of other cuisines.  For them, the flavour comes from the bone hence why the majority of South Asian meat and poultry dishes are cooked on the bone.  Although some of the time Indian meat and poultry dishes can be rich due to the addition of cream and or butter, the removal of the chicken fat and skin and excess animal fat on meat gives Indian dishes a much “cleaner” flavour and allows for the aromatics to shine through.  A couple of exceptions to this rule are when I cook duck or goose.  Almost never without the skin or fat.  That would be sacrilege!
Unless I want the skin for a purpose I de-skin chicken- the whole and pieces.  It’s very easy to do.  All you need is some strong kitchen paper to grip onto the skin, a knife, scissors and a little strength!
The breasts and legs are pretty easy..the wings and the underside can be a little tough sometimes and so if that the case, get a knife and or scissors to help you with the underpart and leave the bits of the wings you can’t get.  Of course if you are buying your bird from a butcher, they will do this for you and if you happen to go to an Indian or Pakistani butcher the chicken will be skinless anyway!
All my Indian, Middle Eastern and Far Eastern dishes with chicken are done this way for the flavours to really get into the flesh; not to mention it’s healthier.  As long as you cook the bird at the right temperature (I recommend between 160-170C depending on your oven) and baste once or twice you will not suffer from a dry bird.
The Marinade For The Chicken
Ingredients
  • 2-3 tbs of olive oil
  • 1tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp roasted ground cumin
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic crushed to a paste
  • the juice of half a lemon
Method
  1. Preheat a fan oven to 160-170C
  2. Place the de-skinned  chicken onto a baking tray covered with foil (I purely put the foil down for ease of cleaning).
  3. Take a knife and make some stab cuts into the thick part of the thigh area and also around the underside of the wing area.  Avoid the breast meat.
  4. Now take some pepper and about 1 1/2 tsp (or to your taste) of your salt of choice- try a good flaky sea salt like Maldon and rub all over the chicken massaging it into the crevices.
  5. Next take the marinade for the chicken and slather that all over the chicken getting into all the nooks and crannys including the opening of the cavity.
  6. With your hands hold the chicken with a firm grip (it may help to hold it upright with the cavity pointing upwards) and pack the stuffing  tightly into the cavity a spoon at a time.  Don’t forget you can get some in from the neck end too.. you’ll be surprise and grateful about how much you can pack in because the stuffing is a sponge for all the deliciously savoury chicken juices while its cooking!  Depending on the size of your chicken- you may have some left over.  I managed to get all the stuffing into a medium/large 2.5kg chicken. If you have any stuffing left over (provided you haven’t contaminated it with raw chicken-y hands or utensils you can keep it to serve with the chicken when it’s done- If I have a smaller chicken, I keep about a cup of stuffing on the side and add it if needed- that way there is no risk of contamination!
  7. Finally put the chicken in the oven for about 1-1/1/2 hrs depending on the size of your chicken and your oven.  This 2.5 kg bird took about 1 hr 15 mins.
  8. Baste it once or twice during cooking by tilting the tray slightly and spoon over the juices.
  9. It’s done when you poke a knife into the thickest part of the thigh and the thick part underneath where the wing joint is and the juices run clear.
In the spring and summer enjoy this with a mixed green leaf and herb salad lightly dressed with a simple seasoned olive oil, lemon and sumac (if you have it) dressing.
In the autumn and winter this dish is perfect with a selection of roasted root vegetables drizzled in some olive oil, seasoned with a light sprinkling of ground roasted cumin, chilli flakes and flaked sea salt to taste.  When they come out of the oven bring them to life with a few squeezes of fresh lemon juice.