Sunday, May 26, 2013

Chicken Wings – Go on! You know you want to!

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Chicken Wings - every time I see them on a menu the naughty imp on my shoulder whispers "Order them... order them... go on... you know you want to!"
And I do want to... but the healthy imp - a paid-up member of the calorie police - on the other shoulder warns “Noooooooooo. They’ll be disguised with a varnish of BBQ paint and be flabby and disgusting underneath - definitely not WTC*."
I have been so abstemious of chicken wings that of course now I have the biggest craving for these savoury little morsels.
In order to sneak a chicken wing past the calorie police, it must:

·        have a tan worthy of Coco Chanel
·        be succulent, juicy and redolent of spice, with a little chilli kick
·        be simple to make
·        be *Worth The Calories


For simple, succulent, tanned chicken wings for 4 – 6 as a canapĂ© or 2 greedy people as a starter you will need...

Approximately 850g chicken wings
400mls water
6 tablespoons dry white wine (or dry sherry)
4 tablespoons dark soy sauce
4 tablespoons dark brown sugar, or runny honey
4 fat cloves of garlic, crushed
4 teaspoons of grated fresh ginger
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 red chilli, roughly chopped (the ‘heat’ is up to you – I prefer medium-hot for this dish)
1 ½ teaspoons fine table salt
¼  teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼  teaspoon Chinese five spice

Sunflower oil for frying
1 thinly-sliced scallion (spring onion) to garnish
a little sea salt to taste



If you have never examined a chicken wing before, you might like to know that it is made up of three bits: the wing tip, the wing, and the drumette. The wing tip has hardly any meat, so, using a heavy knife or a poultry scissors, remove at the joint and discard (or freeze for stock-making later). Divide the rest of the wing into two pieces at the joint. Place in a medium saucepan, along with the remaining ingredients (except the oil, scallion and sea salt).

Bring to the boil, then simmer gently, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Immediately, remove the chicken pieces from the cooking liquid. Drain on kitchen paper to remove any moisture. When completely dry, transfer to the fridge until ready to finish cooking.

To finish, heat the sunflower oil in a wok or deep fat fryer to 180°C. If you don’t have a thermometer, this is when a 1cm cube of bread dropped in the oil takes about 10 seconds to turn golden brown. I use my wok, filling it to about 1/4 of its capacity, as I use the least amount of oil this way. (Obviously, a wok of boiling oil should not be left unattended for one moment). You could use your deep-fat fryer if you prefer.

Carefully place the cooked wing pieces in the hot oil and fry until dark golden brown, turning once during cooking – this should take between 1½ -  2 minutes. Transfer to a dish lined with kitchen paper to remove any excess oil. Remove the paper and serve immediately, scattered with the sliced spring onion, and sprinkled with a little sea salt if necessary. 
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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge – a delicious mistake !

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We all make mistakes. Hopefully, most of the time we learn from the experience, and we try not to make the same error again. However, sometimes a mistake is worth repeating.
I was aiming for smooth creamy fudge. Instead, I got crumbly Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge. In my book, ‘crumbly’ is not proper fudge. However, one of my taste testers - my lovely sister, Dee - sniffed out the jar of failed fudge I was saving to mix with ice cream and her reaction was: “Ommmfff! Mmmmmffffffff!  Ggggggggggnomnomnom.” – or words to that effect.
I think it must have been positive feedback because she agreed to taste-test the cheaty ice cream I made by mixing morsels of the fudge with softened vanilla ice cream and returning it to the freezer for days when I need a blood-sugar spike
For approximately 800g of slightly crumbly fudge you will need...
... a sugar thermometer  
500g caster sugar
150g condensed milk
150mls cold water
100g butter
½ teaspoon salt
100g smooth peanut butter
90g dark chocolate, broken into squares
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
 
I think I have a temperature...
 
1.      Place the first 5 ingredients in a large saucepan over a medium-low heat (I use a 2.5L pan for this amount). Melt together without stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved. Then turn up the heat to medium. The mixture needs to reach 238°F (soft ball) on the sugar thermometer, stirring occasionally to prevent the mixture ‘catching’ on the bottom of the pan and burning.  (Conventional fudge wisdom warns “DON’T STIR” ... as this can cause crystallisation... which leads to crumbly fudge. However, today I want crumbly fudge! )
2.      Once the soft ball stage has been reached, remove the pan from the heat. Without mixing them in, add the vanilla extract, peanut butter and chocolate. Leave the pan to cool for about 10 minutes and then beat (with a wooden spoon if you have lots of energy and elbow grease, or with electric beaters) until the mixture is very thick and loses its gloss.
4.      Transfer to a 20cm x 20cm tin, lined with cling film or parchment paper. Transfer to the fridge and leave to cool before cutting into squares.

Stored in an airtight container, or in the freezer, it will keep for up to 3 months and is outrageously good chopped into small pieces and stirred into good vanilla ice cream.
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