Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Determination and change. (Part 2)

Recipes, like any stories, are subject to variation in and of the telling. I record these efforts at substitution so as not to forget the basic principles. It would be useful to think that this is the setting of an intention in amber. Hence my choice of a 60's style for the picture elements. Umbers, ochres and caramels are comfort colours. Suited to the need for the assurance of end of austerity when first employed, This palette a reminder of softer times. Packed with oils and greases and sugars, my mother's recipe books were as warming as the Raeburn stove they curled upon. Here's to the spirits of Marguerita Patten, Elizabeth David and Jane Grigson.

So, intent on removing as many lipids as possible, I set about exploring covered frying. During the process of change, My utensil drawer has rearranged itself. Ironically, I no longer avoid the frying pans and wok. I fry more but 'Fry' less as it were.
Similarly, my initial attempts at releasing flavour were helped along by my continued dependence on oil. Gradually, I have relinquished my grip on 1-Cal Spray. It still remains a useful adjunct but I use far less now. I am confident that, if tested by Sainsburys, many of my dishes would be marketed as 'Fat Free'.
It is, for example, easy to arrive at 'Fried Onions' (I tend to use Shallots as they are some of the more successful survivors of the dreadful summer) using only tiny additions of water as the vegetables sweat.

The absence of the almost immediate caramelisation that arises from frying in oil allows for the slower, more deliberate tempering of flavours through careful use of the liquids and sugars already locked into vegetables themselves. Here, I have used the onions with peppers and herbs as a base for Paprika Chicken.

Skinning the Shallots is best done warm. I pour boiling water onto them and allow to cool to benign temperature before cutting off the root end and slipping the flesh out of the skins. This is a very satisfactory exercise. Each onion pops out with a small leaf end intact. No cutting required. No tears.

The onions then go into a warm saute pan or frying pan with lid and given an occasional shake over moderate heat. At the first hint of hissing and whiff of onion, I add a small quantity of water. Only a tablespoon or so. This will disappear quickly but, as it does so, it starts the process of self steaming/ sauteing that will continue to caramelisation in time.

As the onions take on a little colour, I add more liquid in the form of any additional veg you may want to incorporate. Here, Red Peppers cut into strips. The lid goes back on and confidence increases. Still no spray required.

Soon, the dish is complete. This, with the addition of fresh herbs, salt and pepper is an excellent accompaniment to whatever.

I went on to reduce it further in this instance. Continue cooking until the onions are soft. The peppers will long since have given up the ghost. Add dried herbs towards the end of this process and slosh in a tin of tomatoes. Tomato puree will thicken even more but it also lends acidity so, unless this is tempered by a fruit I am careful with it. Stir over low heat until roughly smooth.

Chicken breasts, skin removed are placed in a bag with a tablespoon or so of Paprika, a teaspoon of Chilli and a pinch of salt. Shake well and leave to absorb for a few minutes. Here, a choice. Either a quick spray of oil onto a grill pan or the use of the mighty Mushroom (more of his later). Here, I used oil but again, keeping the heat down, the chicken browns and cooks without fuss. You are left with no oil to drain and all flavour intact.

I serve this with plain boiled rice.

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