Occasional recipes: chicken with brown things

I must credit Teresa Nielsen-Hayden with this one, but her version on Making Light provides three full meals. Here’s how to make one meal for three people.


  • a couple of chicken breasts
  • 150g Israeli couscous. [I hadn’t met this before but the grains are noticeably bigger than normal couscous. Couldn’t find it in Tesco: Best Beloved had to get Mediterranean couscous from Waitrose. As I believe Israel is right next to the Mediterranean, this obviously sufficed.]
  • 1 onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped cashew nuts [well, whole cashew nuts zapped a couple of times in the food processor. Teresa goes for hazelnuts but, hey.]
  • 1 small handful mixed dried mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
Soak the mushrooms in a pint of boiling water for at least half an hour. Then chop them up, but keep the water they soaked in. Also make yourself two pints of stock: chicken or vegetable will do.
Lightly fry the couscous in oil to brown it. I’ve not done this before but Teresa said, so why not? Honestly can’t tell if it made a difference, though … Do likewise with the nuts. Also fry the onions. Chop up the chicken and brown well and good in oil.
Whether you do all this in series or parallel is a function of time, cooking utensils and oven top space. What matters is that at some point you have browned chicken, mushrooms, nuts and onions which you can bung altogether with the mushroom broth into a wok. Simmer on medium heat for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, add the couscous and simmer for a further 15.
This is when you want that extra stock, because the couscous soaks up liquid like there’s no tomorrow. In the remaining 15 minutes I got through the full 2 pints. I could maybe have simmered it a bit longer because it was only a little bit sloppy. But not very.
Teresa says season to taste while it’s simmering and suggests sage, oregano, basil, salt, pepper, and a pinch of smoked sweet paprika. I didn’t use any of those because frankly the mushroom broth makes it strong and salty enough. However, shortly before it’s done, add the dry sherry.
Wash down with red wine and Best Beloved’s delicious lemon sponge layer pudding, but that recipe is not mine to share.

Occasional recipes: Flying Jacob

Flying who?

I know, I know. Sometimes I wonder whether Swedish cuisine is in fact a very clever, straight-faced joke on the rest of the world. Do our Volvo-driving, Abba-crooning cousins really tuck in regularly to pickled herring with creme fraiche, boiled potatoes and lingonberry sauce? Or do they just wait until one of them brings home a Brit who wants to marry her and really, really wants to impress his prospective inlaws?

Anyway, Flying Jacob/Flygande Jakob is a dish that includes those traditional Swedish food items bananas, chili, peanuts and rice. Oh, and chicken and bacon. We got the recipe from Swedish Mike, an exiled Swede who lives in Abingdon and blogs strange recipes at www.freestylecookery.com. I won’t steal a fellow blogger’s thunder, so here I’ll just list the ingredients with our variations. To serve four:

  • 4 portions cooked white rice
  • 6 – 8 rashers of smoked streaky bacon
  • 4 skin- and boneless chicken breasts, cut into bitesized pieces
  • 3 ripe bananas, sliced
  • 125 ml chili sauce (or spicy ketchup) [we used chili & garlic sauce from Tesco: strong but worth it]
  • 350 ml single cream [cream was left off the shopping list to an administrative error: we made up the fluid difference with a 50/50 mix of milk and natural yoghurt. In my opinion this worked perfectly: I wouldn’t want it to be richer/creamier than it was.]
  • Peanuts [regular salted]

As to how to cook all this, see how Swedish Mike does it, and do likewise. You won’t go far wrong. The overall effect is very Thai or Indonesian: the different flavours – yes, even the bananas – work together astonishingly well.

Occasional recipes: fish with a chorizo crust

Originally from The Hairy Bikers, whence this is lifted with my annotations. Very rich and of course totally missing the point about eating on fish on Friday to be penitential. Anyway:


  • ½ lime, juice only [half a Tesco lime produces about 3 microns of fluid. A whole lime. Much better.]
  • 4 firm white fish fillets (not steaks) such as haddock, monkfish or cod
  • 150g/5½oz day-old white bread, crusts removed
  • 250g/9oz cured chorizo, skinned and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely sliced [as usual they totally underestimate. I used 4. Minimum.]
  • 1 unwaxed lime, zest only
  • 2 tbsp flatleaf parsley
  • 2 tbsp parmesan cheese
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 50g/2oz butter
  • lime wedges, to serve [put another way, you need at least two limes, one to juice and zest, one to get the wedges from. I forgot this last night and only got one lime, so sacrificed the wedges. Not such a big deal, except that the bread/chorizo crust is very rich and you really need the extra lime juice to cut through it.]
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.
  2. For the fish, pour the lime juice over the fish fillets. Leave for half an hour while you prepare the crust.
  3. For the crust, cut the bread into chunks and place in a roasting tin. Place the chorizo on top of the bread.
  4. Transfer to the oven and cook for 15 minutes. As the heat increases, the fat from the sausage will run into the bread chunks. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  5. Once cool, place the bread and sausage into a blender or food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles fine crumbs [whee! They go round and round! Again!]. Add the garlic, lime zest, parsley, parmesan and freshly ground black pepper. Process again to combine the ingredients.
  6. Place the fish, along with the juices, skin-side down in a roasting tin. Press on a thick layer, about 0.5cm, of the crust.
  7. Cut the butter into small cubes and dot over the crust.
  8. Tightly cover the roasting tin with foil and bake the fish in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.
  9. Serve with chips or [barbarians] new potatoes and a rocket salad, and the lime wedges.