Thursday, February 9, 2017

Chicken Run

When my kids were younger, they loved this claymation movie called "Chicken Run". It was a very cute movie with chicken characters with names like Rocky and Ginger. The chickens were trying to avoid getting slaughtered and hatched a plan to escape their chicken coop, a la concentration camp style - which was the inspiration for the movie.  Sadly, I never paid my full attention and probably, had never seen it in its entirety.  Later on, my sister gave me a whole bag of stuffed toys that she had collected from a McDonald's Happy Meal promotion.  I was just about to give away them away, when upon inspecting the toys, realized that they resembled the entire cast of the movie.  I've since kept them because they formed a very special part of my children's lives.

I too have my own chicken memory.  My mother bought me two little chicks at a time when I was learning about the growth cycle of chicks in Science class.  The chicks grew up in our backyard, only to be threatened by the street cat.  My mother therefore gave the chicks to our housekeeper to raise.  "Hanky and Panky", as I called them, grew big and sturdy and obviously very fleshy.  They were later served up as my chicken curry for Chinese New Year.  I was traumatized and went on a chicken strike for a few months - a rite of passage for many tweens.

There are two chicken recipes that I tried this past week that are worth jotting down.

Buffalo Wings were served up for Super Bowl Sunday, albeit my take with Lingham's Chili Sauce.  (Adapted from "The Joy of Cooking").

1 1/2 pounds of chicken wings, cut into 2 pieces at the joint.

1/2 cup of plain flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon Old Spice seasoning

Set an oven ay 350 degrees F.

Coat the wings in the mixture of flour and seasonings.

Heat up a wok or deep frying pot, add enough corn oil and heat.  Add wings to the hot oil - a single layer will do.  Fry for about 10 minutes.  Transfer the cooked wings to a baking tray and leave it in the oven to warm.

Meanwhile, to prepare the sauce, combine in a saucepan over low heat:

3 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce, such as Cholula or Tabasco

1/2 cup of Lingham's Chili Sauce

1/4 cup of Heinz ketchup

Remove the wings from the oven and arrange on a platter.  Drizzle the sauce over the wings before serving, tossing to coat gently.

Last night, I prepared Grilled Chicken from "The Aleppo Cookbook" - a city so much in the news and a heartache to watch it get destroyed by war.

Marinate the night before,

2 pounds of chicken thighs, make deep cuts through the skin and flesh

9 garlic cloves, crushed

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon ground white pepper

1 tablespoon salt

The day of, remove the chicken an hour before cooking.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F, place the chicken in one layer in a baking pan and cook for 45 minutes.  In the last 10 minutes, you could turn up the oven temperature to 300 degrees F to finish off.

Serve with boiled potatoes.  (I also added cauliflower to the tray of baking chicken, tossed in the remaining marinade, about halfway into the cooking.)


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Victoria Sponge Cake

My first memories of strawberries - me as a child sitting in the supermarket trolley as my sister wheeled me around the aisles of the old Tay Buan Guan.  Then she picked up a punnet of strawberries.  A fresh and sweet whiff - a scent I'll always remember - not to be confused with the saccharine smells associated with the Strawberry Shortcake character.

I've always fancied the Victoria Sponge cake and was enticed by an attractive food shot in 'Mary Berry's Complete Cookbook'.  (She of the 'Great British Bake Off").  So I made the cake today, my way.

Cake Ingredients
6 ounces soft butter
6 ounces sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
6 ounces self- raising flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Strawberry jam
2 cups heavy cream, whipped until thick
Strawberries, sliced to decorate
Sugar for sprinkling

Grease a 9 inch tin (or two 7-inch tins) and line with parchment paper.
Set oven at 350 degrees F (or 325 degrees F convection).

Whisk the butter and sugar, followed by one egg at a time.  Add the vanilla essence.  Continue at high speed until the mixture is pale, smooth and thick.

Sift the self-raising flour and baking powder.
Fold in the flour and baking powder.

Pour the cake mixture into the tin (or divide between the two 7-inch tins).  Bake in the oven for 25 minutes.  Remove and leave to cool.

Peel off the parchment paper.  Spread the strawberry jam, followed by the whipped cream.  Decorate with sliced strawberries and sprinkle some sugar on top.  (If you are working with two 7-
inch halves, spread the jam and half of the whipped cream on top of one sponge, top with some strawberries slices.  Place the other sponge on top, press down, then spread the remaining jam and whipped cream on the top layer of the second sponge, followed by the remaining sliced strawberries and sprinkled sugar.)   

Indonesia in Amsterdam

For years, my daughter had wanted to visit Amsterdam. We were cautioned by friends that parts of the city - particularly Dam Square - m...