4th of July Chicken

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This chicken is called 4th of July Chicken for no other reason than that I made it on 4th July, to take to a picnic that evening. There’s nothing particularly American about it – if anything, I guess it has a slight Italian influence to it. This July 4th was my first in the States – so, in fact my first July 4th full stop, because to be honest it somewhat passes us by in the UK. Not surprising, really.

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I had a very pleasant lazy day, followed by a picnic watching the concert and fireworks at Tanglewood with my friend Vicky. Vicky, it turns out, is the picnic queen, and brought all sorts of treats for us to enjoy, as well as an impressive array of picnic paraphernalia, so we were very well catered for. I brought wine and chicken. It was a fun evening, although as I watched a volley after volley of jubilant fireworks, I couldn’t help but feel you Americans must REALLY hate us Brits…

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Anyway, either way – this is tasty chicken. It’s great for a picnic – we had it just as it comes, but it would also be great to beef up a salad. It’s quick and easy, and you can make it in advance. You also get to flatten a chicken breast with a rolling pin, which is always fun. The herb mix running through the centre can be adapted to use any herbs you like or have to hand.

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4th of July Chicken 
Serves two as part of a picnic

For the herb filling:

  • Approx 1 tbsp each of basil and tarragon leaves
  • Approx 1/2 tbsp of thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tbsp capers, drained and rinsed
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • Juice and zest of 1/4 lemon
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • Salt & pepper

For the chicken

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 4 slices prosciutto

Preheat the oven to 200C / 400F

Start by making the herb filling. Finely chop all of the herbs, capers and garlic – you can use a food processor for this, if you prefer, but I find it just as easy to do by hand as it’s small amounts. Mix with the remaining ingredients – stir well, and set aside.

Take the first chicken breast and place between two sheets of cling film/plastic wrap. Using a rolling pin, gently but firmly bash the chicken all over until it is approx 1cm/0.5inch thick. Repeat with the second chicken breast. If you don’t have a rolling pin, a bottle of wine makes a good substitution…

Lay two pieces of prosciutto on the work surface, overlapping very slightly, and place one of the flattened chicken breasts on top. Spread half of the herb mixture over the chicken breast – you are aiming for a seam of herbs running through the middle of the chicken, rather than a stuffing as such. Fold any overlapping prosciutto on the right hand side of the chicken into the middle, and then gently roll the chicken into a tight roll. Repeat with the second chicken breast.

Heat a frying pan on the stove to a fairly high heat. Sear the chicken quickly on the outside, before transferring to a baking dish and placing in the oven. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Allow to cool, slice into rounds and spoon over any cooking juices. Serve at room temperature or very slightly warm.

Note:
I would have preferred to secure the rolls with a toothpick, but I didn’t have any – so I risked cooking them without. I found that one of the chicken breasts was slightly thinner than the other, and this one stayed better rolled when cooking. So, especially if you have no toothpicks, make sure the chicken breasts are nice and thin before filling/rolling.

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Guest post: Noel’s Curry Corner!

Noel's Curry Corner

Last week, I promised you a surprise – and here it is, a guest post from my lovely boyfriend Noel. I’ve already mentioned how much I love sharing food with my family and friends, and so it seems very natural to me to share this space with them as well. So here is what is hopefully the first of several guest posts! He’s also kindly edited this introduction to include his thoughts…

Noel loves curry – I think it’s probably his favourite  (we are in America you have spelled this wrong) food (maybe after kebabs…)(You would make a rubbish PR exec but there is nothing libelous here). We have eaten a lot of curry together in restaurants (You passed the test and moved to level 2), and now Noel has perfected his curry recipe, and is ready to share it with you – in Noel’s Curry Corner. He’s been pretty excited about this, and even has his own theme song – which involves singing ‘Curry curry corner’ to the tune of the theme tune of the Chuckle brothers’ hit-TV show ‘Chucklevision’. (Think we should have kept this one between us, please don’t take up PR) So here it is – Noel’s Curry Corner!

Toasting the spices

That was quite the introduction, thank you. I have edited it slightly in red. It is true that I have a passion for curry. Love the stuff. Some people have said that I left the UK on Doctor’s orders because of my curry intake.  I took those people to the best curry place in the world: Spice Lounge in Summertown, Oxford, and infected them with the curry bug. My spice addiction got to such an extreme that they put a new curry on the menu to satisfy my hunger based on the naga chili.

When I arrived in Boston I didn’t feel homesick for family, friends and my girlfriend (sorry guys). What I truly missed was my one true love The Spice Lounge and its fiery goodness. I set about on a quest to find decent curry. I worked my way through Yelp and was disappointed each time. Most of Boston’s curry offerings have been mediocre and surprisingly expensive.

Preparing the chicken

I spoke to my boss back in the UK and told him I wanted to return home, telling him that I couldn’t handle the lifestyle changes that I was being forced to make in the US. He talked me down and I had a brain wave. Why don’t  I make my own curry? I did some intensive research for recipes, spoke to my guru for spiritual guidance (cough* Googled “chicken vindaloo”)

After approximately 12 minutes of searching I stumbled across this recipe

Cooking a curry at home is not difficult once you have stocked up the cupboard with the required spices. My tip is don’t buy the spices at your standard supermarket/grocery store. It will cost you loads and you may as well fly back to London, jump on the X3 bus and then get a taxi to the Spice Lounge.

Instead, hunt down your nearest Indian supermarket. Luckily for me I have 3 on my doorstep. Here you can find every spice under the sun, in quantity and not very expensive. With a fully stocked cupboard you can now wage war on crappy curry. Once you have the ingredients you can cook cheaply, only needing to buy garlic, onions and the protein of your choice. I have also substituted potatoes during meat amnesty’s to make tasty meals super cheap.

Curry after it's been reduced

Before you begin you need to get yourself “in the zone”. I typically like to get all my spices ready on the plate and then chop them into patterns and possibly words, if you are feeling super adventurous. This is more difficult than you might think and took me as long as the actual cooking.

Thank you and goodnight from Noel’s Curry Corner.

Chicken Vindaloo

The Chicken Vindaloo

Serves 4 normal sized portions

Ingredients

Vindaloo Paste

  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 or 2 tsp Garam Masala
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp mustard powder
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2cm cube of peeled ginger
  • 3 tbsp distilled vinegar (normal recipe asks for white wine vinegar I don’t have this in stock)
  • 1 tsp sugar

Vindaloo Base

  • 150ml vegetable oil
  • 8 garlic cloves, crushed or blended
  • 3 finely copped onions (original recipe says red onions but I have had great results with you common yellow onion, use whatever you have in stock)

Other Ingredients

  • 3 red chilies ( I use the dried out ones and de-seed, be careful though this is really, really hot. Dried out does not mean that they don’t pack a punch as Sarah and myself can testify)
  • 4 skinless chicken breasts cut into bite size pieces
  • 800g good quality chopped tomatoes or chopped tinned tomatoes (the original asks for 500g of tomatoes, I have found that 800g works fine and this means you get an extra portion of curry)
  • 1-2 tbsp of tomato purée to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste

This is where the magic happens

Step 1:  Heat the oil in a large pan or whatever is clean and large.  Add the garlic and onion and cook on a medium heat for around 7-10 mins. Don’t let them burn or brown too much.

Step 2: After leaving the garlic, onions and oil to do their thing heat all of your dry spice powders in a shallow frying plan for around 5 mins or until they begin to smoke a little.  This should release their flavours and make your house smell like curry for 3 days. (curry is the world’s strongest aphrodisiac)

Step 3: In a small dish mix the vinegar, ginger and sugar.

Step 4: Mix the spice powders with the vinegar, ginger and sugar into a thick vindaloo paste.

Step 5: Salt and pepper the onions &  garlic & then add the chicken to them. Cook for a few minutes until the chicken starts to color.

Step 6:  Add chilies, tomatoes and tomato puree and begin to stir in the vindaloo paste.

Step 7: Salt and pepper to taste.

Step 8: Bring to the boil and then simmer for 1hr +. The curry might dry out depending on how watery the tinned tomatoes were that you put in. If it is starting to look dry then add a cup of water.

I would serve this with Basmati rice and also some lime pickle (you can find both of these at your local Indian supermarket).

This curry tastes even better the next day and freezes very happily.