Tag Archives: cumin

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…

Spice boy

It’s taken me too long to realise that buying spices from a supermarket in those little 40g jars is a really bad idea, for at least two reasons: Firstly and most importantly, it suggests an ungenerous  approach to the use of spices. They are not something that should be added to dishes by the milligram – a couple of grains here, a couple there. They should be used in abundance – you should know when they are being used in a dish. There’s no place for subtlety where spices are concerned – not in my kitchen. You have to be bold.

I have to thank Taimur and his egyptian salad (lettuce, lots of cumin, lots of lemon juice, olive oil, lots of salt and pepper, lots more cumin) for helping me finally understand this – the first mouthful took a big swing and punched me, very hard, in the face. Bugger subtlety – I’d much rather my food punched me in the mouth than blew in my ear.

Secondly, it’s a complete rip off – two quid for a tiny jar of seeds that lasts a couple of weeks. The worst offenders, and the ones that I have so far managed to avoid, are the bay leaves. Two quid for about ten leaves from a tree that grows in every municipal park up and down the country. Twenty pence for a leaf. Honestly.

So I’m going online to buy in bulk – I want a kilo each of cumin, fennel, peppercorns, coriander, star anise, caraway, cardamom and cloves. And I’m buying a bay tree.

Oh – and don’t ever buy the stuff already ground. Just buy a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder you lazy shit.

Anyway – if I do manage to get hold of eight kilos of spices, I’m going to have to up my game, so here begins the first of a possible series on how to better use your spices. I’ll start with cumin – probably the best spice of all, with just a few ideas:

In your bread – a couple of spoons in your bread mix – really good toasted with strawberry jam.

As a dry rub for beef – pounded with salt and pepper and rubbed over beef fillet 10 mins before frying.

In soup – added to cauliflower soup (or squash soup) – along with a few drops of truffle oil.

With chocolate – grind half a teaspoon and add to a chocolate torte or white chocolate mousse.

In chutney – perfect in a chilli plum and onion chutney

In every curry you ever make – how could you without it?

And of course in a lemon and cumin salad dressing – thanks Taimur


I finally managed to get hold of my spices (see below) – I got the lot – a Kg of each for £40. I then tried to buy the same amount on Ocado in those little jars – would have cost £360. Enough said…