Tag Archives: salt

Vegan Raita

cucumber

Old Friend: “I’m in town next weekend if you’re free.”

WFTTD: “Great, come to us and I’ll rustle up some supper.”

Old Friend: “OK thanks. By the way I’m vegan now. Bye!”

Er, WHAT…?!

Three decades ago as a student I entered into a shopping / cooking sharing arrangement with a vegan friend in my halls, and memories of my margarine and soy milk bechamel for a veggie lasagne haunt me still. I have not knowingly prepared a full on vegan repast since.

Still, the bigger the challenge, the bigger the opportunity, and all that.

And in this case opportunity took the form of a cauliflower curry – more on which later – and all the trimmings. Sharwood’s green label mango chutney [the best mango chutney money can buy IMHO] is mercifully free of any animal ingredients, and I found some poppadoms which were vegan, gluten free, GM free, in fact so free of anything it’s a wonder they existed at all. But cooling, creamy, cucumberful, yoghurty raita? Challenge Opportunity time!

Time, in fact, for tahini. Turns out this sesame seed paste is a vegan staple for producing creamy dressings and so forth when cream itself is considered beyond the pail. I’d say “who knew?”, but lots of you probably already do.

You will need

  • A cucumber
  • Half a red onion
  • The juice of half a lemon
  • A small handful of mint, and the same of dill
  • Tahini
  • Water

Finely chop the red onion and leave to sit in the lemon juice for half an hour or so. I spiralised my cucumber, because spiralising is the most zeitgeisty way of reducing a whole vegetable to smaller, more fork-friendly parts, and because I like playing with the spiralising thingy, but do feel free to just chop it into pieces of your desired size. Chop the herbs, add to the cucumber pieces, and tip in the onion and lemon juice. Mix well. Add the tahini a tablespoonful at a time, stirring to mix – I used about four tablespoons. The lemon juice will cause the tahini to thicken slightly, so add a splash of water here and there as you go until you achieve your preferred consistency. Season with salt to taste, and chill.

This worked so well that I’ll do it again, for vegans and omnivores alike. Until I meet a vegan who is sesame intolerant, when we’ll be looking at a whole new  set of opportunities.

With thanks to my good friend RJ for sharing his vegan know-how and advice.

Thyme and Tonka Bean Chicken

Tonka Beans, in a square white bowl, with shadow.

Did I mention already that I think the combination of thyme and tonka bean tastes like tarragon? Not exactly like tarragon – if that were the case it would be easier just to use tarragon! – but a grassier, less aniseedy version. They’re beautifully versatile little buggers these tonka beans, with a vanilla-like freshness that works just as well in sweet dishes [like my Christmas Pudding Ice Cream] as it does with chicken and fish. I swear I detected some yesterday too in the Pork Pibil which I had at Wahaca’s Southbank porta-cabin pop-up, though the recipes I’ve found online make no mention.

I’ve used the pairing here to update a recipe which I first shared in My St Margarets Magazine a couple of years ago. And I’ve changed the method too to produce an easy, prepare-ahead dish for summer entertaining, not least because I know the Lakeland Taxi Driver has a lunch party for twelve this Sunday! This version comfortably serves six, I’m sure you can do the maths. A recent road test played to rave reviews in a packed garden, hopefully your guests will feel the same.

For the chicken

  • A 1.5-1.7kg bird, and a lidded pot into which it fits snugly
  • A large bunch of thyme
  • One onion, finely sliced
  • 300ml white wine
  • 1/3 of a tonka bean, grated with a micro-plane or nutmeg grater
  • Sea salt and black pepper

For the mayonnaise*

  • 1 large egg yolk, and 1 large whole egg
  • 350ml groundnut oil
  • 2 heaped teaspoons of Dijon mustard
  • A good pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsps white wine vinegar

Prepare and cook the chicken as per my recipe for Pot Roast Chicken Veronique [ignore the bit about the Verjuice syrup for this recipe]. Don’t forget to season the bird well, inside and out. Grate the tonka bean over the chicken before you pour over the wine. When the chicken is cooked set it aside to cool. Strain the cooking juices and reduce to one third of their original volume. Let this cool too.

To make the mayonnaise blitz the egg, yolk, salt and mustard in a food processor. Then with the motor running start to add the oil – drop by drop to begin with, then in a thin stream, and then as the sauce emulsifies and begins to bulk up you can increase your rate of pouring. Add the vinegar to the finished mayonnaise with the motor still running. I’ve only just started making mayonnaise and now I can’t stop! It’s proper magical kitchen alchemy, and nowhere near as scary as everyone makes it out to be.

*If you don’t plan to make your own mayonnaise please use a decent ready made one – this really is no time for bog standard factory nonsense!

Roughly tear the flesh from the legs, breasts and back of the bird and scatter into a dish. Take a couple of small ladles of the reduced juices [about 60 ml] and mix into the mayonnaise, and taste. If you feel it needs more, add some. And perhaps add another small shaving of tonka bean, but do it with a light hand, if at all. The flavour could easily dominate, and will build as the dish rests.

Coat your chicken with the enriched mayonnaise, stir well, cover and refrigerate overnight. To serve give it half an hour or so out of the fridge, and decorate with some chopped parsley, a grind or two of black pepper, and some lemon slices – or some watercress, or perhaps pea shoots. It will need a little garnish as although it’s delicious it can look a tad monotone without. This deserves to take centre stage, so make sure it’s dressed to impress!

Wal-Slaw and PFC

 A coleslaw salad including celery and apple

Whilst to some of my younger readers this will clearly mark me out as some sort of antediluvian anachronism, I can actually remember a Britain before McDonalds. The golden arches didn’t make it to our sceptred isle until 1974, fully 6 years after I first landed, and it would be many years more before Ronald showed his face in the provincial backwater that was my childhood home.

Colonel Sanders on the other hand was quicker off the mark and KFC opened its first UK outlet in Preston in 1965. I don’t think the one I remember, a roadhouse style takeaway on Preston New Road, was the ground-breaker but it seemed always to have been there. We didn’t use it often – it was enough of a drive for the food to get cold before we got home, and being ‘foreign’ was clearly not intended for everyday consumption – but it was my first real introduction to the then exotic world of the fast food takeaway.

Perhaps because of this childhood association fried chicken still holds a special place in my arteries, and is one of the few fast food staples that I might still crave before 2:00 a.m. and whilst stone cold sober. The colonel’s spice mix is of course as secret as the recipe for Coca Cola [apparently not even the factories who make it know the exact proportions, which I would have thought could prove to be a tad awkward, manufacturing-wise?] but it’s not actually that difficult to cook up a reasonable facsimile at home. Many of the myriad American recipes available online use frankly frightening amounts of MSG but even if this did figure in the Colonel’s own mysterious mix you don’t need it. Plenty of good old fashioned salt and pepper does the trick.

Of course you can’t have fried chicken without some sort of slaw. When making this I had crunchy celery and apple to hand [as in a Waldorf Salad] and hey presto, Wal-Slaw was born! The sweet-corn is another classic fried chicken accompaniment so into the salad it went. A buttered baked potato finished off the finger lickin’ feast.

Wal-Slaw

  • Half a small red cabbage, finely shredded
  • Half an apple, diced
  • A shallot, finely diced
  • One carrot, grated
  • A small tin of sweet-corn kernels (not Colonels!)
  • Two sticks of celery, finely sliced
  • The juice of half a lemon
  • A splash of malt vinegar
  • Sufficient mayonnaise to bind

First dice the apple and toss in the lemon juice and vinegar. Then just throw everything else in and stir in the mayonnaise to your liking. Season and chill.

Philip’s Fried Chicken [PFC]

  • 6 chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
  • 4 tbsps plain flour
  • 1 soupspoon cornflour [optional]
  • 2 medium eggs, beaten
  • 2 tsps salt
  • 2 tsps ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp celery salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 stick of celery broken into four [optional]
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Soak the chicken thighs in the beaten egg and allow them to wallow for a while. Place the flour [and cornflour if using], seasoning and spices into a zip-lock plastic bag and shake well to combine. Throw the chicken pieces into the spiced flour, zip up the bag and shake well to coat them evenly. Rest the whole lot in the fridge for a few minutes whilst you heat up the oil and shake again.

In a heavy, lidded skillet or frying pan heat about half an inch of vegetable oil. The depth needs to be such that once the chicken is in the oil will not reach higher than half way up the side of the pan. To see when the oil is hot enough for frying insert the handle of a wooden spoon – when the oil forms lively bubbles around the handle you’re ready to go [NB very vigorous bubbling means the oil is too hot, allow it to cool a little and try again]. Using tongs gently place the chicken pieces into the oil, skin side down, and add the celery pieces if using – it may be an old wives’ tale but this is supposed to help to crisp the chicken.

Cover and cook for nine to ten minutes, checking from time to time that the underside isn’t browning too quickly – if it is, lower the heat. Again using tongs turn the pieces and cook for another nine to ten minutes but this time without the lid. When all the chicken pieces are beautifully golden brown all over remove from the oil and drain. Some say this is best done on brown paper such as a grocer’s bag but kitchen roll will do too. Let the chicken cool for a few minutes before you dig in to avoid southern fried lips, a less appealing dish by far.