Category Archives: experiments with a cookbook

EWAC: Chinese 5-Spice Pork Belly

This will be the last EWAC for a little while – I’m really just catching up.

Donal Skehan has a comparatively new book out, this time called Great Food for Less. I bought it for what the label says is €20.99. He’s well worth the money. I did also sit through a bunch of his TV shows before I got the book and one of the things he did which stood out from that was this Chinese 5-Spice Pork Belly. I, as usual, because I am cooking for one person and while I don’t actually hate my kitchen it is not laid out to my preference (I am getting very testy about these things – later), I cheated. I didn’t have any rapeseed oil. I have no idea what I used. Yesterday, I know I used vegetable oil.

Pork Belly is something I hadn’t eaten in years. This is a bad thing. It’s lovely. It’s particularly lovely with Chinese 5-Spice scattered over it. It took me twenty minutes to get it in and out of the oven yesterday. Did this join the list of stuff I’ll do again? Yes. You can freeze the pork easy enough provided you have room in your freezer and it doesn’t – if you are cooking for one – take a whole lot of time to defrost. These are all good things.

I like Donal Skehan’s stuff because it’s accessible. As far as the book layout is concerned, it’s nicely done and easy to read while you’re trying to follow it. This compares very well to Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals which was not laid out with someone actually cooking in mind; the recipes are cluttered and the print is too small. I also like Donal Skehan’s stuff because he’s bright and enthusiastic about what he does. You’d like to hope that lots of kids will start to cook because of him. And I particularly like him because he had the guts to go on Swedish TV to do a piece and did it almost entirely in Swedish and look as entertaining in Swedish as he is in English.

Anyway, thanks to him I have a slight addiction to this. I’m not so sure that’s a good thing.

EWAC: Chicken Skewers with carrot and apple salad

So, last Monday, while in Superwoman mode, I dragged out Rachel Allen’s EasyMeals book to see if I could create anything newish for dinner. It so happened that I could, just about. I had to cheat a bit, but okay, that’s a little of what running a kitchen is all about.

On page 115 (of the hardcover edition anyway), there’s this recipe for chicken skewers with carrot and apple salad. I didn’t have apples but figured I could do something different on the side serving front anyway.

Nor did I have – despite much searching and many clear memories standing in front of the Sharwoods stand in Tesco – any ground coriander, or, in fact, any coriander of any description. This stunned me but I cheated and used mixed herbs instead. Bearing that in mind, Rachel Allen could argue I didn’t really follow her recipe at all. I didn’t have skewers either but having read the ingredients for the marinade, argued to myself that feck it, doing it with chopped up bits of chicken would be just as good. Delirium hadn’t yet set in so in fact, I was reading the recipe reasonably accurately – oh, 4 tsp peeled and finely grated root ginger? Well I dont’ have that either. Ground/dried is going to have to do. Sorry Rachel.

So, back with the marinade. I have the limes. I always have limes because they go into breakfast most mornings, and I had the ground cumin which I had to buy for some experiment involving a Donal Skehan cookbook a while back. The ground coriander, nope, that was replaced, and the four cloves of garlic I was good on because I always have that thanks to a Jamie Oliver experiment about 8 years ago. Cheated on the ginger and although it was of the set variety, I did, somewhat unusually, have natural yoghurt. I had this because Tesco was out of the mango and peach stuff I usually put in my breakfast drink. Mix all that together and dump the chicken into it in bits and let for about 10 minutes, covered. So I did.

In theory, at this stage, you cover yourself in one hell of a mess by putting the yoghurty covered chicken bits on skewers but I didn’t really have any that would fit my frying pan (yes, I am useless I have 45 cookbooks and no skewers) so I looked carefully at the recipe and decided it would be prudent to add a little oil to the frying pan. I then cooked until the chicken looked cooked and most of the loose marinade had, unexpectedly, reduced off.

On the side I served sliced raw carrot because I like it and because I was low on didn’t have any apples or lemon. I will always have lime but rarely have lemons.

On a scale of “would I do this again, 1 to 10” this has scored a ten. It’s a doddle to do and I bought ground coriander at the supermarket this morning, although no skewers. On the side I might be inclined to put a potato salad or, as I’m more inclined to eat, some mashed sweet potato, but all told, it was good. Just a pity that the dessert was such a fiasco.

EWAC: Vanilla sponge square (or something)

Last Monday, something weird happened and I went into Superwoman mode when I got in from work. Lunch for 2 days, sorted Breakfast for 2 days, sorted. Bread in and out of breadmaker, sorted. You couldn’t believe how on top of things I was. I even did a new dinner (sort of) out of a new cookbook which was fantastic and I’ll write about that in a minute. After all that productive activity, I decided to bake a cake. Something that I could garner all the ingredients for without little difficulty. The cook book was Rachel Allen’s Easy Meals which I got for Christmas and which is a very nifty cookbook.

The cake, well…I’m going to try it again later on today because frankly, it didn’t start off all that well when I made the utterly elemental error of mixing up teaspoon and tablespoon, particularly with respect to baking powder. The error was further compounded by the omission of 150ml of milk.

Kids. Don’t do this. If you seem to be adding a lot of baking powder to a cake mix, always check you’ve read the recipe correctly. I could have used the end result as a brick to build the new kitchen extension with.