Herbed Couscous

I do love Moroccan tagines and when I have them I like to serve them with this herbed couscous. I try to soak the couscous grains in a stock appropriate to the main ingredient, chicken stock for chicken, lamb stock for lamb, etc. Failing that stock made from the good organic Swiss vegetable stock powder works. (This is one of the very few acceptable uses of dehydrated stock thingies.)

(The smaller fresh herb bags in Waitrose are, I think, 20g.)


serves: 4
preparation time: 60 mins
cooking time: n/a


  • 250g couscous
  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 500 ml hot stock (as appropriate)
  • 20g fresh parsely, leaves picked
  • 20g fresh coriander, leaves picked
  • 20g fresh mint, leaves picked

Stir the olive oil into the couscous in a suitable glass bowl to coat the grains.

Add the hot stock and stir before leaving the couscous to soak and absorb the liquid. Leave it to cool down.

When cool, chop together all the herb leaves and stir them into the couscous.

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Posted in Accompaniments Tagged with:

Chicken Satay

I’ve decided that I’m not a big fan of so-called texture in some of my food; I don’t want crunchy seeds on my salad leaves, for example. Neither do I want crunchy bits of peanut in Satay Sauce. So, since our trip to Sri Lanka, where we had quite a few helpings of Nasi Goreng accompanying Chicken Satay with smooth peanut sauce, I have revised my approach to the latter.

This is my revised Chicken Satay recipe to go along with it. Once the accompanying Satay Sauce had been separated out, this becomes all about the marinade and grilling. Reserve chicken breasts, which can be very dry, for moist cooking methods such as a Thai Green Chicken Curry; chicken thighs are better suited to a fierce grilling.


serves: 4
preparation time: 2½ hrs
cooking time: 10 mins


  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3cm piece of ginger, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped lemongrass
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp kecap manis
  • 1 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 500g chicken thighs, boned weight
  • 1 qty Satay Sauce


Marinating the chicken. Toast the coriander seeds in a dry pan until fragrant, and then grind to a powder in a pestle and mortar. Add the garlic, ginger, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, then pound to a rough paste along with a generous grinding of black pepper. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the oil, kecap manis and soy sauce.

Cut the chicken thighs into long strips about 3cm wide and stir into the marinade, mixing well. Cover, refrigerate and leave to marinade for at least 30 minutes if you’ve got it, or up to 12 hours. To maintain authenticity, soak eight wooden skewers in cold water until ready to use. Alternatively, for ease use stainless steel skewers.

When you’re ready to eat, thread the strips of meat onto the skewers in an “S” shape, pushing them down so they’re all touching. To cook the skewers, I prefer a barbecue. If it’s a gas barbecue, consider using a silicon grill mat to keep it clean. Second choice of cooking method would be a griddle pan. Failing that you can stick the skewers under a hot grill. Either way, cook over/under a medium-high heat source for about 15-20 minutes until cooked through, turning regularly. You can turn the heat down to medium on the griddle after all are well charred – don’t worry about black bits, they add flavour.

Meanwhile warm the Satay Sauce over a gentle heat Adjust the consistency (you decide) as necessary by adding water. Serve the cooked skewers with the sauce.

For our Sri Lankan experience, you might add the Nasi Goreng, too.

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Posted in Poultry

Satay Sauce

Nasi Goreng featured quite heavily as a reliable staple during our trip to Sri Lanka, where it was usually served along with a Chicken Satay skewer. Once back at home, luckily before the distressing bombings of Easter 2019, I found this Satay Sauce recipe which happily uses peanuts as opposed to commercial peanut butter. I’ve converted from those dreaded American cup measures of the original. Unusually for an American recipe, this feels reasonably authentic.


serves: 4
preparation time: 5 mins
cooking time: n/a


  • 125g roasted peanuts, salted or unsalted
  • 3 fl oz water
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • ½ tsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tbs soft brown sugar
  • 1 tbs Thai fish sauce
  • ½ tsp cayenne (or to taste)
  • 5 fl oz coconut milk


The original specified unsalted peanuts but, please, you’re adding Thai fish sauce anyway so what does it matter?

Put all the ingredients into the container of an electric blender/blitzer/liquidizer and whizz to a smooth sauce. [I’m not a big fan of “texture” in food but if you want peanut lumps, you could smash some separately and then mix them in to the smooth stuff.]

If it’s a bit thick for your liking you can slacken it with a little more coconut milk or water.

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Posted in Basics

Nasi Goreng

I became very fond of this dish during a trip to Sri Lanka, where they often seem to serve it with a Chicken Satay skewer.

Nasi Goreng is apparently Indonesian for Fried Rice and to get an authentic flavour said rice should be fried in Nasi Goreng Paste. Kecap manis must also be included.

The basis for this recipe included shredded chicken but not prawns, though they seemed to be included in Sri Lanka. Since I am fond of the mixture, my version includes prawns too. It is traditionally served topped with fried eggs.


serves: 4
preparation time: 15 mins
cooking time: 30 mins


  • vegetable oil
  • 6 banana shallots, halved & sliced crosswise
  • 2 chicken breasts, skinned
  • 1 qty Nasi Goreng Paste
  • 2x250g pouches pre-cooked basmati rice
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tbs kecap manis
  • 1 tbs Thai fish sauce
  • juice 1 lime
  • fresh lime, quartered to serve
  • 250g cooked small prawns
  • 2 spring onions, shredded to serve
  • ½ cucumber, sliced to serve
  • 4 tomatoes, sliced to serve
  • salt & pepper


Begin by frying the sliced shallots in vegetable oil until brown and crispy. Drain these on kitchen towel in a bowl before setting them aside and adding to the “to serve” ingredients.

Add more oil to the onion oil if necessary. Cut the chicken breasts into chunks and fry these in the vegetable oil until well browned and cooked through. Put the chicken breasts onto a clean plate and season with salt and pepper. Once cool, shred or chop them into pieces.

Reduce the heat to low and add another tablespoon of oil to the frying pan. Add the Nasi Goreng Paste and fry gently for 10 minutes. Add the rice, suitably massaged and separated into grains. Increase the heat a little and cook the rice for 3 minutes or so, stirring it and coating it with the paste. Push th erice up the sides of the pan and pour the beaten eggs into the centre of the pan. As soon as the egg has set, break it up and stir it through the rice.

Add the kecap manis, fish sauce, lime juice, shredded chicken, prawns and a little seasoning. (Be careful with the salt because you have the fish sauce already.) Cook for a few minutes until piping hot. Cover it to keep hot for a few minutes.

Fry the four separate eggs. Divide the Nasi Goreng across four plates, scattering spring onions and crispy shallots on the top of each. Now top each serving with a fried egg.

Serve with the sliced cucumber and tomatoes arranged neatly beside the Nasi Goreng.

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Posted in Poultry Tagged with:

Nasi Goreng Paste

Nasi Goreng became a bit of a staple on my trip to Sri Lanka. It all starts with the paste to give its distinctive flavour.


serves: 4
preparation time: 15 mins
cooking time: n/a


  • 2 banana shallots, roughly chopped
  • stalk of fresh lemongrass, chopped
  • 4-5cms fresh ginger, peeled & chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2tsp shrimp paste
  • 2tsp tomato purée
  • 2-3 medium red chillis, seeded if you prefer
  • 1tbs soft brown sugar
  • 25g salted roasted peanuts


Put all the ingredients into a blender/blitzer along with a tablespoon or two of water and blend until smooth.

Store refrigerated in an airtight container until you need it. It should keep for a week or so.

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Posted in Basics Tagged with:

Lentil Purée

A vegetable accompaniment that started from one by Nico Ladenis. The original, I realized after I first cooked it with red lentils, uses green lentils. DUH! It also involved double cream and a bothersome demi-glace but I think cream is over-rich and a splash of a good (i.e. home made) chicken stock works well. [For Darwin’s sake don’t use stock cubes.] A good brown chicken stock would be perfectly fine and closer to demi-glace depending upon how rich do you want it.

The fresh herb added could be varied according to the starring item. If the lentils will accompany chicken, then tarragon would work well, for example. The coarse grain mustard is terrific.


serves: 4
preparation time: 5 mins
cooking time: 40 mins


  • 200g red split lentils
  • knob of butter
  • 1 large banana shallot, chopped
  • 250ml chicken stock
  • 1 tsp fresh chives, chopped
  • 1 tbs coarse-grain mustard
  • Salt & pepper


Simmer the lentils in just enough unsalted water (900ml is about right) for about 25 minutes or until they are breaking down. Red lentils are great because they purée themselves. Drain any excess liquid through a fine sieve.

Heat the knob of butter in a modestly sized sauté pan and, when melted, gently fry the shallot for 3-5 minutes to soften it. Add the lentils and stir to mix. Now add enough stock to slacken the mixture – a consistency like single cream is good. Stir in the chives (or chosen herb) and whole grain mustard. Let the mixture bubble gently, stirring to stop any catching on the bottom of the pan, to thicken slightly – go for a consistency similar to double cream.

Adjust the seasoning with salt, definitely, and pepper, maybe – since red lentils have a mild peppery taste anyway, you may decide not to use any more.

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Posted in Veggies

Sag Aloo

I’ve always been fond of Sag Aloo as an accompaniment in our local, excellent Indian restaurant and, having some potatoes and spinach to use up, decided to try this as a side to my chicken and lentil (Murghi aur Masoor Dal) curry.

This version, basically from the BBC, proved delicious but, as usual, I had to adjust the potato cooking time. Since I use stainless steel pans which dislike undissolved salt – salt crystals make pits in stainless steel – I also changed the point where the salt was added.


serves: 4
preparation time: 15 mins
cooking time: 35 mins


  • 2 tbs sunflower oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbs fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 400g potato, cut into 1½-2cm chunks
  • 1 large red chilli, deseeded & finely sliced
  • ½ tsp black mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • salt
  • 250g spinach leaves


Heat the sunflower oil in a sauté pan (one that has a lid). Add the onion, garlic and ginger, and fry for about 3 mins until the onion is softened.

Stir in the potato chunks with the chilli, black mustard seeds, cumin seeds and turmeric, and continue cooking and stirring for 5 mins more.

Add a splash of water and stir. [Modification time] The original recipe adds salt above, with the other spices, before the water. I used a stainless steal pan which doesn’t react well to undissolved salt so I stir it in now, after the water. Cover, and cook for a further 15-20 mins or until the potatoes are tender.

Add the spinach leaves and cover again to wilt them. Stir them around a few times to mix well while they’re wilting well.

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Posted in Veggies Tagged with:

Smoked Trout & Egg Salad

This is from a Waitrose recipe card . The main appeal of this recipe for me was the light pickling treatment given to the cucumber and onion.

As luck would have it, it seemed that no sooner was this recipe published than my local Waitrose store stopped stocking the required hot-smoked trout. How perverse is that? Undeterred, I used a couple of pieces of their excellent lightly cold-smoked salmon portions, which, being cold-smoked and therefore raw, I poached gently and allowed to cool. Actually, it was great to have something appealing that suited them. They worked well as, I’m sure, would the trout if it ever returns.

Despite the enforced modification, it shot straight into my favourite salads list.


serves: 2
preparation time: 15 mins
cooking time: 10 mins


  • 250g new potatoes
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cucumber, finely sliced
  • ½ red onion, halved & finely sliced
  • 2 tbs white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 130g fresh leaves (e.g. spinach, rocket & watercress)
  • 125g hot-smoked trout fillets/2 lightly cold-smoked salmon pieces
  • 3 tbs Greek yogurt
  • handful chopped fresh dill


If you’re using the raw, lightly cold-smoked salmon option, poach it gently in water (just below simmering point) until barely set (about 6-7 minutes). Set aside to cool.

Boil the new potatoes in salted water for about 10 minutes or so until just tender. Set aside to cool.

Boil the eggs. I tend to start with the water cold, bring it to the simmer and cook for about 5 minutes to get a soft set to the yolk. Drain and set aside to cool.

In a bowl large enough to hold the cucumber and onion slices, mix together the vinegar and honey with a pinch of salt. Add the cucumber and onion and toss well together with the pickling juices. Stir occasionally, pickling it for about an hour.

When everything is cooled and either you or the cucumber is pickled, dress the plates with the salad leaves. Halve or quarter the potatoes, depending on size, and add them to the salad leaves. Flake the smoked fish over the salad. Lift the cucumber and onion from the pickling juices, reserving the liquid, and scatter them over the top. Stir the yogurt and most of the dill into the pickling juices to make a dressing; spoon the dressing over the salad. Peel and quarter the eggs and place these on top of the salad. Scatter over the remaining dill.

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Posted in Salads Tagged with:

Chicken Livers de Mike

This is work-in-progress. There was a restaurant in Jalón, Spain, whose chef, Mike, was sadly lost to cancer. He made stunning hamburgers, mincing his own steak, and also a very popular dish of chicken livers which he served either on salad or on noodles. There was supposedly a secret ingredient, , which may have been responsible for this dish’s popularity.

This is an ingredient list, sin quantities, which suggests that the secret ingredient was most likely sobrasada, a raw, cured sausage specialty from the Balearic islands. In an earlier personal experience, supermarket sobrasada in a plastic tub proved to be a depressingly unpleasant experience but versions are available from proper charcuteries, which are considerably more palatable. I’ll try it with one of those.

Since there are no quantites given, this must be assembled using your skill and judgement, remembering that you do not want to swamp the chicken livers, which should remain the star ingredient.


serves: n/a
preparation time: 15 mins
cooking time: 15 mins


  • 40% walnut oil
  • 60% olive oil
  • onions, chopped
  • smoked bacon, diced
  • serrano ham, diced
  • sobrasada
  • chicken stock
  • croutons
  • chicken livers, trimmed, washed and dried


Cook the onions slowly until soft in the combined oils. Add some sobrasada, bacon and Serrano and fry for a little longer to mix the flavours.

The original suggestion was now to moisten with enough chicken stock to make a thick sauce, before adding the chicken livers. I’ve tried it that way and I think that’s wrong. I think you need to fry off the chicken livers first, with the sausage and bacon mixture. Then you can add enough chicken stock to make a little sauce, just enough to help coat the noodles with which it goes so well.

Alternatively, the livers can be served with salad but that, maybe, needs the mixture to be a little drier so in this case, just moisten the livers with a little chicken stock and warm it through.

Posted in Starters Tagged with:

Quail in Escabeche

Or Codorniz en Escabeche, to give it its proper Spanish name.

I’m very fond of fish in escabeche and, on our journeys back through Spain to the ferry, we’ve seen bottled Quail in Escabeche, so I could hardly resist documenting this version of the latter. The use of dried fruits is very different to the fish recipe, though.

This would serve 4 as a tapa, BTW.

[Yet to be tried.]


serves: 2
preparation time: 15 mins
cooking time: 2½ hrs


  • 4 quail, spatchcocked
  • Salt & pepper
  • 400ml olive oil
  • 200ml white condiment (a.k.a. white balsamic)
  • 6 bay leaves, preferably fresh
  • 20g pine nuts
  • 100g sultanas
  • 100g dried apricots
  • 100g stoned dried prunes
  • 6 bay leaves, preferably fresh
  • Selection of herbs, e.g.: sage, tarragon, mint, thyme, rosemary (handful each)


Put all the ingredients for the escabeche into a large pan. Warm very gently for 10 minutes, then set aside. Don’t let this boil as you will lose the aromatics. Pour the warm escabeche into a bowl to await the quail.

Heat a griddle pan until very hot. Grill the quail for about 3 to 4 minutes, skin side down, then turn and
grill the opposite side for 2 or 3 minutes more, just until done. [Note to self: I’m not entirely sure roasting wouldn’t be better approach, here.] Put the hot quail straight into the escabeche mixture and leave to infuse for 20 to 30 minutes in a warmish place, turning them halfway through.

Remove the quail from the escabeche and place on plates, spooning some of the escabeche mixture over each bird. Season well with salt and pepper and serve.

Posted in Game, Starters Tagged with: