Tag Archives: chilli

Szechuan peppercorns

Szechuan chicken wings

I’ve been shopping for spices again, but this time I think I went a little overboard. When I ordered 1kg of Szechuan peppercorns and 500g of curry leaves, I thought I’d have enough to keep me going for a while, but It turns out that spices are lighter than I thought. A lot lighter than I thought. And as a result, I now have a bag of curry leaves the size of a decent pillow and enough Szechuan peppercorns to last me and everyone I have ever met for at least a decade.

Yep – I’m really not sure what I’m going to do with those leaves, but if you’d like some let me know and I’ll have them shipped to you… 


Curry leaves

Szechuan peppercorns though – they are unbelievably  good. So good in fact that I’m annoyed it’s taken me so long to discover them for myself. They’ve always been there of course – providing the basis for that incredible mouth-numbing/tingling feeling you get with a really beautiful extra spicy szechuan pork and noodle soup (go to the New China restaurant on Gerard street if you haven’t experienced it. You can hardly see the soup for the chillies, I promise you won’t forget it).

Anyway, the good news is that you can create that same mouth numbing feeling at home by introducing a generous heap of ground szechuan peppercorns (along with loads of chilli, garlic and ginger) to your wok as you cook. You really must try it.

Chicken wings with Szechaun pepper

These are perfect for a sunday afternoon hangover. Hot, crispy, oily and spicy.

Get your wok nice and hot and pour in a generous amount of cooking oil (I use rapeseed oil). When it’s smoking, add your chicken wings (they should be half covered in the oil) and cook them through on all sides until golden brown.

In the meantime, roughly chop a large thumb of ginger and about 10 cloves of garlic, a red chilli and a few spring onions.

When the chicken wings are cooked, drain off the oil and throw in the chilli, garlic and ginger with the wings, along with a heaped tablespoon of ground szechuan peppercorns plenty of sea salt (I know that’s probably wrong but it really works) and a small tablespoon of Chiu Chow chilli oil.

Toss it all together in the wok for a couple of minutes until the garlic and ginger start to crisp up a little and then turn it all out into a bowl and throw in the spring onions.

That’s it – all done in less than ten minutes, spicy as hell and the most exciting thing you’ll have put in your mouth for months. And make sure you eat all the garlic and ginger bits.

(and there they are, the little beauties – in the jar on the right next to the turmeric)

Szechuan peppercorns

Flying and eating, two chickens

Roast chicken

I’m about to get on a plane and I already know that I am going eat too much. Worse still, I know that I am going to eat too much stuff that should never, under any circumstance, have ever passed my lips. It’s totally and utterly inevitable. We all do it – we can have a beautiful meal no more than a couple of hours before we get on a flight, with the promise of another, excitingly exotic culinary adventure in a strange city waiting for us just minutes after we land and yet, when faced with an (unexpectedly) wet, plastic tray of largely unidentifiable and almost totally inedible fodder, we feel compelled to consume it.

And why do we do this? Why do we have this unshakable need to eat anything put in front of us when we’re on a plane, regardless of its (dubious) nutritional merit? Perhaps it’s some sort of innate survival instinct that we still posses from times where famine was commonplace – we’re held captive in this overcrowded bus in the sky and we’re suddenly coming on all “hoardy” and searching out the only source of nutrition immediately available. Or maybe it’s simply driven by a misguided attempt to derive the maximum value from the arse-clenchingly huge sums of cash that we’ve already piled into making the journey., despite the fact that the food served on the flight probably accounts for less than 1% of the cost of the ticket. And yet, knowing the fallacy of my actions, in just a few hours time, I’ll be sitting in my designed-for-discomfort, baby vomit-stained, dog-eared faux leather seat with a full belly and a deep sense of regret.

And what’s worse, it’s equally inevitable that just a few hours later and an hour before we land, they’ll pass by one more time with a soggy cheese and tomato sandwich sitting uncomfortably beside a diminutive KitKat and it will take all my strength to turn it down (by the way, why is it that everything on a plane is half the size it should be? Cans of coke – of which they always give you two – pretzels, nuts, the aforementioned KitKats, cutlery, pillows, vodka – they all seem to come in dwarf-like sizes. All evidence, (as so eloquently argued in this very post), is that we eat more on a plane so why on earth is the only good stuff presented to us in minuscule portions?)

And while I’m at it, why do we consume an order of magnitude more tomato juice on planes than we do in real life? How often do you ask for tomato juice when you’re not on a plane, except when you’re hung over and there’s half a bottle of vodka in the glass with it? So why do we invariably ask for it when we’re flying? It makes no sense to me, and yet I play along happily…

I’m going to be strong. I’m going to make a stand and beat these urges once and for all. Well I’m going to try (mind you, there is something so magical about peeling off that wet foil to unveil the greasy wonders within…)

Anyway – to business: chicken seems to play a major role in this little blog of mine, and no less so today as I come at you with two wonderful ways of cooking our feathery friends, both requiring a little basic butchery skill, but nothing that should scare you…

Roast chicken with lemon and onions

Take a whole chicken and cut it into pieces: two legs, two thighs, two breasts and two wings, leaving the top part of the wing attached to the breast – in posh circles this is called a supreme.

Now take the pieces and put them in a large roasting tin with a quartered onion, a bulb of garlic roughly crushed, a quartered lemon and lots of salt, pepper, olive oil and white wine. Roast it in an oven at 220c for about 40 mins, turning twice throughout, but making sure you finish cooking with the skin side up so that it gets nice and crispy. Perfect with mashed spuds and some green stuff.

Roast chicken pieces with a spicy dry rub

Get another chicken, and chop it up in the same way as above, then rub generously with olive oil and a mixture of the following: two cardamom pods, two star anise, two tablespoons each of cumin seeds, coriander seeds and sea salt, one tablespoon each of peppercorns, fennel seeds, and half a cinnamon stick, all ground into a powder. Stick them on a baking tray (on oiled tinfoil if you want to avoid the worst washing up session of your life) and cook in an oven at 220c for about 40 mins, turning twice throughout, but making sure you finish etc etc..

Serve with lots of chips. To be honest it’s pretty much the same as KFC. But in an edible way.

Roast rubbed chicken

I’ve just landed. I peeled the foil and ate the meal – every last bit of it. I had tomato juice. I awoke to find the devious bastards had placed one of those breakfast boxes right in front of my face but I DID NOT SURRENDER…

A few hot prawns


Two posts in as many days. Perhaps I’m back. Perhaps it’s the fact that I just made a commitment to update this blog more than once a quarter. Or perhaps I’ve finally managed to cook a few new things for a change. Whatever the reason, you’re a lucky reader because this one is a classic and definitely worth the almost zero effort to prepare…

Fried prawns with chilli, garlic and tomatoes

Buy the best quality prawns you can and wash them. Chop a few cloves of garlic, a red chilli and a halve a large handful of cherry tomatoes. Heat a wok as high as you can and pour in a few glugs of good oil. Drop in the prawns and fry them for a minute. Add the garlic, chilli and tomatoes and continue for another couple of minutes. Finally, add a decent splash of vermouth and plenty of salt and pepper and let it bubble away for just a couple more minutes. Finish with a handful of chopped parsley and serve with a crusty baguette and a bottle of Cassis blanc. Your guests will not know what to do with themselves.


Random tortes

We’re a week away from launching The Week. James Murdoch has just been labelled the only mafia boss in history who didn’t know he was running a criminal enterprise (you may think me biased but Tom Watson really is a nasty, chippy little man – is it possible to be any more bitter?). Oscar just had his 11th birthday party. Frankie cockosa was just thrown out of the X factor in a last-ditch attempt by the producers to bring a grain of intrigue into a programme that would be more compelling if the entire roster of artists were replaced with a selection of week-old cow pats. Geeks around the world have just celebrated the fact that 111111×111111=12345654321 (including me). Siri can’t tell the time in Enfield – can it do anything? I have the shorts with me (upstairs) and I’m reminded of a really good pudding that Immie and I made together a few weeks ago –

Chilli chocolate torte

The chilli works really well in this recipe – it gives it a depth and intensity that really appeals to me. I thoroughly recommend giving it a try – embrace the heat…

Start by greasing a loose bottomed cake tin (about 10cm in diameter) and lining the bottom with greaseproof paper. Now for the base – I’m not sure I have this completely right yet, so I’ll update this bit when have the best bottom, but so far two options: One is to finely crush amaretti biscuits and the other is to use galettes au buerre. The key is to get a rich, crispy base that will give the torte a little crunch. You need just enough for a base of about 1.5mm, no more. Next time I’m going to add a little melted butter too so that it binds together. Spread the crushed biscuits evenly on the base of the tin and put it in the fridge.

Now break up 100g of Green and Blacks milk chocolate and 100g of a good 70% cocoa dark chocolate into a bowl above very gently simmering water along with two tablespoons of dark rum, a small fresh medium hot red chilli, very finely chopped (with all the seeds removed) and three teaspoons of liquid glucose. Turn off the hob so that the bowl doesn’t get too hot – the latent heat from the steam in the pan will be enough to melt the chocolate.

Whip about 300ml of double cream into soft peaks. Take a large spoonful of the cream and mix it gently into the melted chocolate (make sure the bottom of the melting bowl isn’t too hot at this point – if it is, you can dip it into cold water) – this will loosen it a little so that you can now very carefully fold the remainder of the cream into the mixture, ensuring mix the cream and chocolate thoroughly (best done with a large metal serving spoon).

Now pour the chocolate over the top of the base, smooth the top with a knife and leave it in the fridge for a few hours. Before serving you can either dust it with cocoa powder, or grate more chocolate over the top (I prefer the latter). Oh and make sure you take it out of the tin before you do this – I find removing the torte from the edges of the tin, turning it upside down onto a plate, lifting the tin base and baking paper from the bottom of the torte, putting your serving plate on top of the upturned torte and then flipping the whole thing back the right way around is the best approach. Hope that didn’t sound too confusing.

Serve with single cream and eat with gusto…


I really mean it this time…

I’ve tried three times to get back into doing this blog and this time I’m going to persevere. I promise…

After having made my now famous ceviche a few nights ago (yes, I have had people come up to me in the street telling me about how they loved it), I had left over stuff that needed eating and this turned out really well.

Coriander and chilli tuna
Finely chop a handful of fresh coriander and half a red chilli and sprinkle over course ground sea salt and black pepper (with a dash of cumin if you fancy it), then rub a couple of nice thick tuna steaks with olive oil and dip them into the spicy herby mix, covering them all over. Let them sit for as long as you like and then fry in a searing hot pan for 45 seconds on each side. Leave to stand and serve with a green salad with red onion, dressed simply with lemon or lime juice and a good olive oil, well seasoned.

Turns out that last night I still had some coriander left over, so I did the same as above but with beef fillet (and added freshly ground cumin, coriander and fennel seeds) – really really good…