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August 2019

Is there such a thing as an authentic recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala? I doubt it very much. When I did my bit of research for this delight, I came up with a number of conflicting claims on the original. For many years, I thought that it was just some greasy, mild creamy muck that came in a jar from the supermarket. You know the type of stuff, hot colour, thin taste and a huge desire to drink lots of water later in the evening. There are claims that a Pakistani chef, operating in Glasgow, having run out of curry sauce, added some spice to his tomato soup and Chicken Tikka Masala was born. Others believe it to be an Indian original and I believe that England also lays a claim to its origins. In truth, most Chicken Tikka Masalas I have ever tasted didn’t merit anybody claiming the original.  So, I thought I should try my own.

This happens to me every summer. Torpor gets the better of me. It’s not that I stop cooking. I just seem to get into a fug of incapacity. I find I can cook and I can photograph. But, I just can’t write. It takes a really special dish to give me that mental kick in the apricots to force a bit of writing. This combination of free range pork belly and apricots is such a dish.

Don’t make a mistake about it, I’m a real hard-man. I walk tough, I talk tough. I can see out most of the bad-assed things that life throws my way. Though, there are a couple of exceptions to the rule of tough. I’m a sucker for a sob story. I can’t stand the sight of blood (particularly my own) and I am a fear-ridden jelly when it comes to the dentist.

 

Tomatoes are messy things. Purists tell you to drop them into boiling water until the skin splits. Then remove them and cool them, peel them, remove and discard everything except the outer flesh then use this in whatever dish you have planned.

That is far too much trouble for a midweek night dinner. But, I have found a solution. While on a recent trip to the north of Italy (To cycle the awesome Stelvio Pass. It is one of the world’s most beautiful and iconic climbs).

We recently got a steam oven at home. The oven has transformed our weeknight dinners Sous vide enthusiasts will know that one can cook sous vide in a steam oven too, depending on make, model etc. But, that’s for another day. During the week, we tend to eat a reasonable amount of fish with salmon being a once-a-week staple. In truth, it used to be a case of “Grilled salmon, it must be Tuesday”. This is not a good way to run your culinary life. The arrival of the steam oven has opened my mind to lots of different steamed dishes. High on the list of favourites is Sesame Ginger Chicken. It is a perfect partner to the egg fried rice I posted last week.

If there were awards for home cooking, there are plenty of contenders for the big accolades. I could put forward any number of culinary delights. Best Sous Vide Beef might be a fillet served with a lovely wine sauce. Roast Chicken of the Year would be hotly contended and there would be plenty of fish dishes hoping to net the big one. But, not many would be interested in helping the competition shine. My Egg Fried Rice is one contender. So, in my Imaginary Home Cooking Awards, the big actors can slog it out amongst themselves. We have one contender for what can be viewed as the best of the rest.

Honey Soy Chicken Thighs (6 of 8)

We just had a Bank Holiday here in Ireland. For once, the weather was OK for it and I spent more time out on my bike in the Wicklow Mountains than I did slaving over a hot stove for your entertainment. However, that doesn’t mean I have nothing to show you. The truncated cooking schedule merely means that I had to get a bit more creative and prepare something that is really tasty but takes less time than it takes to descend from Glencreee to Enniskerry (that might mean something to a cyclist). So, here’s my take on Honey Soy Glazed Chicken Thighs. After a weekend of cycling, my own thighs are now too sore to mention.

The barbecue season is just about on top of us here in Ireland. It is that brief window where Gender Neutral Adult Figure Nature (Mother Nature to the less sensitive amongst you) strings three or four days together like pearls on a necklace of summer sunshine. Not that I have any issues with Father Nature wearing pearls. But, I digress. When we get the few days of tepid sunshine leaking through the damaged ozone layer above the Emerald Isle, we immediately strip to the waist and fire up the barbecue.

I find myself at a loss for words. That is a pretty unusual state in which to be. This is an excellent dish that I hope you get to try. But, I find that when I go in search of appropriate adjectives to assist in the description, I am at a loss for words. So, I am spreading the load and asking you to fill in your own adjectives as appropriate. To help, I have compiled a list from which you can choose.

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