Monthly Archives: February 2013

The Power of Fried Chicken

Black people love chicken.

This is an immutable fact. As much as the fact that Kenyan love their Farmer’s Choice sausages, or that Pride & Prejudice is the greatest book ever, or that Taylor Swift songs have an inexplicable catchiness that rivals even Call Me Maybe.

I’m about to share something shocking with you, though, friends. I. Don’t. Really. Like. Chicken.

Yes, it’s true! My shameful secret is out! At times this makes me question whether I really am black, then I look at myself in the mirror and am reassured that my race is not in question. I console myself by saying I’m the exception that proves the rule. It’s not that I don’t eat chicken at all; in fact there’s nothing better than my Mama’s legendary peanut-coconut chicken (which, despite several attempts, I’ve only come close to recreating once). I only eat chicken bought from one store, and even then, I can’t eat the free range stuff.

The problem with chicken is that it’s just too darned chickeny.

But, seasoned appropriately (garlic and ginger are mandatory), sometimes a girl just needs a little bit of chicken; and home-fried chicken is just the thing to satisfy that craving. Hey – I guess I am black after all!

So, friends, what I’m about to share with you will change your lives forever. Never again will you be held hostage by the greasy of-suspicious-origin fried “chicken” from fast food outlets! Let’s do this.

First, you need to marinate the chicken overnight. Select a couple of your favourite spices. I usually use the best curry powder in the world, Simba Mbili curry powder (sorry for you if you don’t have regular visits to Kenya to stock up) and tandoori masala. Naturally you also need salt, crushed garlic, and ginger (preferably fresh, dried will do.)

I like to alternate layers – chicken, crushed garlic, ginger, sprinkling of curry powder, chicken, crushed garlic, ginger, sprinkling of tandoori masala – continue till all chicken used:

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As you can see I use skinless chicken. Next, pour over enough buttermilk to cover the lot. (If you forget to buy buttermilk, make your own):

IMG_0591Looks gross but I assure you, it’s the best. thing. ever.

So the next day, once the chicken has marinated overnight (do fast-forwardy thing like on TV cooking shows), get ready to fry the stuff up. First, put some sunflower oil and a few spoonfuls of duck fat into a pan to heat up. (I also added a few drops of sesame oil for flavour, and cooked it all up in my beloved wok):

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While that’s heating up, prepare your chicken coating. I’m quite useless at remembering what I put into my meals so I took a photo that cleverly incorporated all the ingredients to remind me:

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So that’s cake flour, semolina flour (for a lovely crisp crust), turmeric, Royco mchuzi mix (again, just get on a plane to Kenya), freshly-ground black pepper, dhania jeera, mixed spice, whole coriander seeds, cumin and salt. Salt, people, salt. This is critical. Add salt to the mix, and when you think you’ve added enough, add more. And more again. This sounds crazy but I’m one of those people who doesn’t even like salt and never adds salt to my plate, but in this recipe loads of salt is essential.

Now for the messy part – fish the chicken pieces out of the buttermilk mix and dredge it in the flour mix:

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Pop it in the fat and let it cook away happily:

IMG_0594Bubbly bubbly happy fry.

You’ll need to turn them over once while cooking, then you can put them on a wad of kitchen paper to drain:

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When all the extra grease has been mopped up (just because you’re eating fried chicken that’s no excuse to walk around with greasy lips and chin) pop the pieces in to a pre-heated oven to cook through and keep warm. Now, you have to be smart about this: you don’t want to serve some uncooked and some overcooked chicken pieces. Start with the pieces that take longer to cook like the thighs; they definitely won’t cook through in the oil so they’ll need a bit more time in the oven. Next the drumsticks, then the breasts and wings which will dry up if you keep them in the oven too long.

And when al the pieces have had their turn in the hot fat, pile them into an impressive-looking heap and it’s nom nom nom time:

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Enjoy! 🙂

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Carbonara for the Soul

Today wasn’t the best day I could have had

It started pretty darn well. I’ve been suffering from a combination of asthma, allergies and a throat infection for the past week, so when I woke up this morning feeling sprightly and ready to tackle anything the day could throw at me it felt like nothing could go wrong.

Then I got to work and a series of unrealistic expectations totally stole my joy. I stumbled through the rest of the work day, and as soon as it was acceptable to do so, I escaped the office to get started on the meal I’d been daydreaming about for most of the day.

It all started with a tweet by Chrissy Teigen (I love her – so witty, such a gourmand!) on an article about her new TV show. (BTW, if you’re not already following So Delushious you can’t possibly love food.) In the article she talks about how love tastes like pasta with prosciutto and peas. I”m not sure about the peas, but the combination of pasta and cured pork sounded like love, and after the day I’d had a little love was exactly what I needed. And as an awesome guy I’m lucky to call a friend said today, cooking is the ultimate therapy.

On my way home from work I stopped by my local woolies (I swear I deserve shares in that store) and picked up some dried linguini, parmesan cheese, eggs, pancetta (yes, there were pancetta bits in stock!) and bacon. I completely forgot to get the garbage bags that were my official excuse for passing by there in the first place.

I was going to attempt a carbonara. For only my second time ever.

My fear of carbonara is more a mental block than anything else. I, understandably, get nervous whenever I have to add eggs into a hot mixture. The fear of creating rather expensive scrambled eggs is the only reason I’ve never attempted home-made custard. Today, though, I was feeling reckless enough to take the chance.

So with a quick googling of recipes for some guidance, I got started.

While the linguini (I prefer this to spaghetti because I feel it holds the sauce better) boils away in not quite enough water (laziness):

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I render the pancetta in a bit of olive oil. I added several rashers of regular bacon because bacon makes everything better. And yes, I realise that it’s not traditional to make Italian food in a wok, but I love my wok:

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In the meantime, I add my own twist to the classic carbonara recipe by chopping up some Kenya-grown spring onions:

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Which I then add to the rendered, crispy bacon and pancetta mix with a teaspoonful of crushed garlic. I drained the linguini into the sink:

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and almost instantly realised I’d made a grave error as the left-over water should always be kept aside to thin the pasta sauce if necessary. Oops.

Heedless to the pasta faux pas I’d just committed, I dumped the cooked linguini into the wok with the pancetta-bacon-olive oil-spring onion-garlic mix:

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Ooooh, puuurdy! Tossy tossy:

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…before I threw in and vigorously stirred the egg mix. Which you really should have made first. Because it’s critical that the pasta is super hot when you toss the egg mixture in. So I really hope you’re reading this through before making it so you have the time to beat one whole egg (or two eggs for a richer taste) with a cupful of grated parmesan (grate it yourself, don’t be lazy and use the store-bought pre-grated stuff) and two large dollops of creme fraiche (not traditional, but a bit of cream never went amiss):

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Stir stir toss toss! Vigorously! This step is critical – you do this wrong and you end up with scrambled eggs. And scrambled eggs with spaghetti is… avant garde to say the least. The sauce did turn out to be a bit too thick, and as I had recklessly tossed the cooking water down the drain, I thinned it out with a few generous glugs of white wine which has been relegated to cooking duty as it is too sharp to drink

I then served with a sprinkling of freshly-grated parmesan on top, some fresh-ground black pepper, and a glass of crisp white wine:

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Buon appetito friends!!!

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