There are days when I get back from work feeling so tired that all I really want is a quick and easy meal for dinner. To me, this is something that can be ready in around 30 minutes. This is one of things I turn to on those days, as it is simple and requires hardly any prep whatsoever.
Polenta is an ingredient I discovered a year ago, and I fell in love with it the first time I tried it. Polenta is basically cornmeal, which means corn ground into a fine powder. It has a amazingly deep and rich yellow colour, which may account for my affection for it. 😛 Polenta can be used in both sweet or savoury dishes – my favourite way to use it is as a substitute for mash potatoes. It’s much less tedious compared to mash, as it only takes about 5 minutes to cook. It’s also healthier than mash (as there is less butter involved).
I know it may seem strange to pair a seemingly Asian dish with polenta, but I think it works well together. Definitely agrees with my tastebuds anyway!
Teriyaki salmon with polenta
- 4 salmon fillets (skinless or skin on is fine)
- Kikkoman teriyaki marinade (thick)
- 4 bunches pak choi (a Chinese leafy vegetable), washed and separated
- Oyster sauce
- Shaoxing cooking rice wine
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
- Boiling water
- 1-2 tablespoons butter (optional)
- Garlic infused olive oil (optional)
- Chicken stock granules (optional)
- Pour a liberal amount of teriyaki marinade on the salmon fillets. (Liberal = just make sure it covers most of the salmon). Leave for 5-10 minutes.
- In the meantime, start cooking the polenta. Again, I’m completely useless when it comes to measurements, and I just eyeball this. More specifically, I pour the polenta in a pot, and add boiling hot water as I see fit…. I have however, heard that it’s roughly 4 parts water to 1 part polenta. A handy tip is that most polenta packages give clear instructions on how it should be cooked.
- I usually add butter to the polenta, along with a sprinkling of chicken stock granules. I also sometimes add a splash of garlic infused olive oil to the polenta.
- Heat oil in a pan over high heat. Cook the salmon fillets in the pan, roughly 2-3 minutes on each side. Take care not to overcook the salmon, it is ready when the fish has a nice “bounce” to it when touched with a finger.
- Whilst waiting for the salmon to cook, fry the chopped garlic with some olive oil. Add the pak choi leaves to the pan, followed by the oyster sauce and Shaoxing rice wine.
- Serve: place polenta on a plate, top with the pak choi and salmon. Add black pepper to taste, and the dish is ready to be eaten!
I never knew about the existence of leeks up till a few years ago, and even then, I never actually tried cooking it. This is where the food channel (UKTV Food, or Good Food as it is known now) came in handy. Leeks were used quite frequently in various recipes, and it didn’t take long to let curiosity get the better of me.
Watching leeks being used on tv taught me something important – how to clean them properly. I never knew this, but leeks grow in sandy soil, and naturally pick up a significant amount of dirt… which makes them rather tricky to clean. One good tip I learnt is to slice the leeks down the centre (which enables the leeks to “fan” out), and then to wash them under running water. This has worked well as I have yet to come across any random pieces of sand whilst eating leeks.
This marinade I used for the chicken is our favourite marinade for roast chicken, which we use on a regular basis. It is adapted from a marinade used by Ching He-Huang, whose food I have grown to like in the past year. I had a look at one of her cookbooks in Borders (Chinese Food Made Easy) and it looks good, with beautiful photos and simple instructions. An additional plus is the fact that her book is rated quite highly on Amazon. Definitely a cookbook I may purchase at some point. 🙂
The leeks are inspired by what I saw Jun Tanaka cooking at Taste earlier this year, which I believe was a recipe from his (then) new cookbook. He mentioned that he always tries to cook vegetables in two ways, as it adds a different dimension to the dish. And I have to say he definitely has a point!
Roast chicken with leeks
- 500g chicken drumsticks/breasts, skin on
- Ingredients for marinade:
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 1-2 tablespoons chinese five spice powder
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons Shaosing rice wine
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 leeks
- plain flour
- 2 tablespoons butter
- dash of white wine
- Heat the oven to 160°C.
- Mix all the ingredients for the marinade together, and rub on chicken. It can be done a few hours in advance and then left to marinade, but this is not necessary.
- Place the chicken in an oven proof tray (I use my Pyrex tray, which is brilliant) and cook for 1 hour, or till cooked.
- Whilst the chicken is cooking, prepare the leeks. Roughly chop all but half a leek into 2cm lengths, and put aside. Julienne the remaining half of the leek.
- Toss the julienned leeks in some plain flour (sparingly). Shallow fry these in hot oil – I use about 2cm of oil. (I’m not a huge fan of deep frying, but I’m think the leeks would taste nicer if cooked this way!)
- Heat another pan, and cook the non-julienned leeks in some olive oil. 1 minute before the leeks are done, add the butter and white wine (to taste).
- Get a clean plate, and pile the buttered leeks on one side of the plate. Place some deep fried leeks on top of them.
- Lastly, place a piece (or two) of chicken on the other side of the plate, drizzle with the oil from the tray, and season with pepper. Enjoy!
A question: I’ve noticed that some of my photos look somewhat ‘washed out’ on my blog/foodgawker – they look fine on my computer, and look fine when I upload them to my blog posts. But for some strange reason, the saturation seems to drop by about 30% when it’s viewed on the blog, leaving me with rather dull looking photos. I’ve tried bumping up the saturation to overcome this problem, which usually means I’m dealing with radioactive looking colours… but they look fine on the blog. Does anyone know if I’m doing anything wrong?
Jun Tanaka is a celebrity chef over here in the UK, who makes fairly regular appearances on the food channel (which is also the most watched channel in my house). I met him at Taste of London this year, and it was very exciting! 🙂 He’s Japanese, but lives in the UK, and owns a French restaurant, and I’ve always found that combination rather amusing. My friends who have been to Pearl (his restaurant) have enjoyed his food, and it’s definitely somewhere I hope to visit in the not so distant future.
He made this dish on Market Kitchen last week, and it looked really good – which is why we decided to try cooking it during the weekend. It’s more complicated than the average “throw everything together” dinner, but was definitely worth it! I’ve realised that I have a soft spot for anything that is slow cooked… especially when it’s rainy or cold. 🙂
The chicken was tender and literally falling off the bone after being simmered for about an hour, just the way I like it. Jun serves it with boiled potatoes, but we served it with a baguette which we had at the time. It went pretty well together, and the bread was definitely handy to clean our plates! I do have to admit to taking many shortcuts when cooking this though.
Coq au vin
Adapted from Jun Tanaka’s Market Kitchen recipe
- 500ml red wine
- 4 chicken legs/thighs, skin on
- 100g bacon lardons
- 250g chesnut mushrooms
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 leek, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic
- 3 sprigs thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 600ml chicken stock
1. Place the chicken legs and thighs in a large bowl, together with 50g of bacon lardons, carrots, onions, leeks, garlic, thyme and bay leaves. Pour the red wine over this, and marinate overnight.
2. The next day, remove the chicken from the marinade mix, and pat dry with kitchen paper.
3. Pour some olive oil into a pan, and brown the chicken for about 2-3 minutes on each side, till golden brown. Remove from pan.
4. Using the same pan, brown the bacon lardons till the oils are released. Add the chesnut mushrooms, and marinade (from before – including the vegetables) to the pan, and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half.
5. Pour in the chicken stock, and simmer for 30-40 minutes until the chicken is cooked.
6. Season with pepper (to taste), and serve with baguette slices.
I’ve always wanted to own a grater that would enable me to julienne vegetables effortlessly.. but have never managed to find one – till two weeks ago! I bought a Japanese grater when I was back home for summer, hoping that I had finally found “the one”. And I wasn’t dissapointed, as I managed to julienne the courgettes for this pasta rather effortlessly! The best thing about this is that it not only juliennes, but can also thinly slice! All I have to do is to push the two little levers on each side to switch between both functions. I’m just hoping that it stays sharp! 🙂
My new toy!
This pasta dish is very simple, and is perfect for a weekday dinner when there isn’t much time to cook. I put it together based on what I had in the fridge (taking into the account the fact that I wanted to try out my new grater, hehe) and can be adapted very easily. I’ve included a very approximate recipe here, which admittedly isn’t very well written, but I will hopefully get better at it over time.
Courgette, tomato & anchovy pappardelle
- 1 pack fresh lasagna sheets
- 2 courgettes
- 300g cherry tomatoes
- 1 can (approx. 50g) of anchovies in garlic
- 10-12 cream crackers, or 40-50g breadcrumbs
- olive oil
- pepper, to taste
- Cut the lasagna sheets into (approximately) 2cm strips, and boil them in salted water for 3-5 minutes.
- In the meantime, julienne the courgettes and halve the cherry tomatoes.
- Put a pan on medium heat, and heat the anchovies, followed by the cherry tomatoes and courgettes.
- Once everything is heated through, add the cut lasagna strips/pappardelle to the pan, and stir everything together.
- If using cream crackers, crush them finely to make breadcrumbs.
- Add the breadcrumbs to the pan, and quickly stir it through the pasta.
- Dish into plates, add pepper to taste, and eat!