Tag Archives: chicken tonight

non-oriental chicken stir fry + couscous

This week, I really did start with the best intentions. I went shopping Monday, looking for new things to try.
I picked up an alternative to the fajitas I had success with before – which uses soy sauce and attempts to be more of an oriental-style affair. However, that particular “kit” called for spring onions, and after trawling Tescos up and down, and I had called my sister and asked her what spring onions looked like (I didn’t really know), and then asked a member of Tescos staff, I was informed they didn’t have any.
So I thought I’d keep with the oriental theme, and try and create something involving duck. Tescos didn’t have any of that either.

I bought the soy sauce, and some chicken breasts anyway – and assumed I’d put more effort in later in the week.

But then Tuesday my new computer arrived. It’s an iMac, and I’ve not really got a clue how to use a Mac. I work in IT support on exclusively Windows machines, fancied an upgrade to my computer at home, and I think Vista is a pile of bloated marketing BS that is harder/slower to use for no good reason. So I thought I’d see how the other side live and try a Mac instead. iThink it’s alright, but iDon’t really have a clue how to do what iWould consider basic things on a Windows machine. iGuess I’ll pick it up.

So yes – tonight iWas playing with my iMac til gone 9pm, and thought iHad better cook something for dinner. At that sort of time, the options if you want to be eating sooner rather than later are pretty slim.

I opted for a stir fry, as it would give me a chance to try a different sauce I bought in a jar the other day. And after my sister heard about me being indifferent towards rice, she had suggested I try couscous instead. So it’d give me a chance to have this.

So used tonight for this:
1. Knorr Chicken Tonight sauce – Spanish Chicken variety, with tomatoes, peppers, olive oil and thyme
2. about 250g of skinless chicken breast
3. Crazy Jack’s organic wholegrain couscous

I’m fine with heating oil then adding strips of chicken now. However, given the late night, I couldn’t really be arsed to wait for the oil to heat up, nor cook it properly. It was probably a bit badly cooked tonight.

The sauce is unusual in that it says to “stir in the sauce, cover and simmer for 20 minutes”. This seems an extremely long time considering the oriental version of the same sauce (with half the same ingredients), cooks in 10 minutes.
I gave it 3-4 mins and started on the couscous.

Now couscous seems unusual.
The instructions say “boil water in a wide bottomed pan. Remove from heat and add couscous. Cover and leave for 5 to 7 minutes. Add a knob of buter and fluff up with a fork”.
I boiled the water in the kettle cause its quicker, added it to the pan, then attempted to add couscous, which all stuck to the inside of the cup I was using for measuring, as I’d just had hot water in it. It would work better the other way around if I do it again.
A bit of rinsing the cup with boiling water to remove it from the cup, I put it all in the saucepan and put it back on the hob.
I re-read the instructions and realised this is apparently a mistake on my part.
Is that right? Boil water, add couscous and leave for 5-7minutes? It was closer 5 than 7 it has to be said. I don’t really see its doing anything apart from getting wet.

Anyway I gave the sauce about 10-12mins tops, and plated the lot.
Couscous is a different taste, but I’m not rating it so far. I could/would eat it if someone cooked it for me, but just like the rice – why I would bother on my own is beyond me.

Another point my sister had used while selling the benefits of couscous to me was that it didn’t need to get a sieve dirty, like you do with rice. While this is true, it still needs a saucepan, apparently with lid, plus a fork to “fluff” the couscous, and something to remove it from the pan. There seemed to be some water left in the bottom of the pan (probably due to me not leaving it long enough), so something with holes in it would probably have helped to remove it – maybe.. a sieve.

Overall I’m not impressed. I ate the chicken, some of the sauce, a bit of couscous and left the rest. However, I think this post shouldn’t be considered too accurate given I didn’t cook most of it properly, and I was cooking while already tired, fed up, etc, plus disappointed with myself for not eating properly this week. This evening I’m also fed up of people banging on my door or ringing my doorbell every 30 f*kin seconds trick-or-treating.
I may try this again another night with a slightly more positive pre-cooking outlook.

Rice plus previous oriental stir-fry

Ever eaten something and not been sure if you like it or not? It’s happened to me a few times.
At a Chinese restaurant at Christmas 2006, my then-girlfriend told me I wouldn’t like the seaweed – so it almost became a challenge that I had to have some to see how bad it was.
To this day, I couldn’t be 100% sure I really liked it. It was weird. Kinda salty and crunchy. It somehow tasted like it looked..if that makes sense.

Likewise, I’ve had people give me food before – watch me eat the first mouthful and say “well..do you like it?”, only for me to reply “I don’t know. I’ll tell you in a minute”.
Normally I wind up eating some more, and some more, and sometimes a bit more. Occasionally I’ll eat half the cake/meal/other foodstuff, and still not be sure either way.

Last year, the aforementioned girlfriend cooked me a curry (although remove the rice and I’d have said it was a casserole). She did rice with it, and I don’t think I’d ever actually eaten rice prior to that. At the time, I wasn’t sure if I liked it, so as I was tired tonight and had left it til gone 9pm to start cooking, and as I have chicken in, and I bought some rice before for future stir-frys, and I have Chicken Tonight, I did a repeat of the oriental stir fry (listed on this blog, 16/09/07) but added the rice I should have put in the first time.

Quite simple to cook really. I had no idea when it was ready or what I should be looking for, to tell if rice is “tender”, so I followed the instructions on the packet. I was slightly put off as it was a weird kind of orangey-brown colour to start with. There seems to be a lot of different types of rice, and at the time I bought it, I hadn’t done any research, so grabbed the one that was described as easy to cook.

You seem to wash it in a sieve in cold water, put in boiling water for 12 mins, and wash it again in boiling water. Seemed easy enough although it loses points for making me use a saucepan lid (“cover the rice and leave to simmer”), and because the sieve is a sod to clean. You never seem to be able to get all the bits out of it, and theres always some stuff caught between the handle hoop part, and the meshy part.

I think it turned out alright. My rice with sweet and sour chicken on top, was quite a lot like the picture on the Chicken Tonight jar.
Taste-wise I’m still not sure about rice. I could have happily eaten the meal without it, although it does seem strangely filling, which can be good if I’m not sure I’ve cooked enough, to fill up on.

oriental chicken stir fry

Well I felt like chicken tonight, like chicken tonight (insert your own dance), tonight.
Knorr might have the K-now How, but I certainly don’t, so this was to be my most complicated new meal so far.
This wasn’t going to include any microwaves and if you read the instructions it sounded very simple but there were a few places I might lose it here.

Lets start with the positives though.
Ingredients:
1. 450g Tesco finest fresh, free-range, organic, chicken breast (2 breasts)
2. Knorr “Chicken Tonight” sweet & sour sauce

What it says on the side of the jar is “an Oriental inspired cooking sauce for chicken with pineapple, peppers, bamboo shoots and honey. Great with rice or noodles. Serves 4 hungry people.”
I’ll be honest, that sounds nice. I like pineapples, not sure about peppers, honey is great, and I’ve never eaten bamboo shoots but I think pandas are cute…although they aren’t interested in sex…so maybe it’ll stop my desperation where women is concerned too. Double bonus.
I love Chicken, so theres not much to go wrong there.

One slight downside to this was the price of the chicken. According to the “Chicken Tonight” jar, it is designed to go with 450g of chicken. 450g of finest tesco skinless organic, etc, etc chicken is £6.50. Seems expensive but then it’s designed to feed 4, so not too bad.
I must admit I hadn’t noticed the “serves 4” until I started typing up this. At the time I’d guesstimated 1 chicken breast, and roughly half the sauce.

So onto the cooking we go.
The directions for the sauce say “10mins in a wok” or “20mins on the hob”. Neither includes cooking time for the chicken, and I’ve never cooked fresh chicken before. I was hungry and thought 10mins sounded better than 20, so I found a wok in my kitchen.
I’ve never used a wok before either, and I’ve never fried anything since before I moved into this new house in July 2006.
I lived in a bedsit before that, and I used to fry food there every now and then, but the smoke from it used to prevent me from sleeping well, and make everything smell of smoke for ages, so I just stopped.

So in my new shared house, I was able to find a wok in my kitchen belonging to someone else. Looks like a big frying pan to me, so I poured in some oil. Don’t worry. I have seen some cookery shows – I know you’re not meant to pour loads in – just added a little bit.
While it was getting hot, I cut up one of the chicken breasts. The sauce directions say to “stir fry 450g chicken strips in a little oil until golden”. I’ve not really got any clue how long that takes, but cook until brown.. seems easy enough. Not sure what the definition of strips are..long and thin? Or some sorta rough size? I took a wild stab in the dark there.

About now, the wok started smoking so I shut all the internal doors to stop the smoke alarms going off. I was at V Festival in Chelmsford a while back this year, and someone having a barbeque said the smoke meant it was too hot. I turned the gas down a bit on the oil til it stopped.
Chicken added, cooked til brownish, sauce added. Directions say “add the sauce and simmer for 10minutes, not covered, stirring once or twice”. Those last 10 minutes seemed like an eternity. I think it was up too high to start with because it started spitting sauce all over the place.

That said, so far I’ve used one sharp knife, a chopping board, and one wok. Not looking bad on the ‘utensils used:food at end’ ratio.
It did say on the sauce jar “great with rice or noodles”. I hadn’t bought any of either so I missed them out.
It was only a few months ago that I tried eating rice for the first time in my life. Courtesy of my ex-girlfriend this was. I had no idea what it might taste like – looks like snow, and I’m not hugely keen on rice krispies. I was surprised that it didn’t really taste of anything. She’d had a slight mixup with spices and made the rest of the meal quite hot, so I probably didn’t eat a lot of it – but it was ok.

Almost exactly 10 minutes to the second the sauce went in, the heat came off, and it all went onto a plate.
I couldn’t find my emergency chopsticks I’d got free somewhere, so opted for a knife and fork. First impression – unusual. Dare I say it – “nice”. Interestingly..well.. it sounds obvious, but it really is sweet and sour together. I ate it all and felt like I could have eaten it over again. Sauce says “serves 4”? Well I’d eaten two people’s share already.
Very exciting. A food that isn’t completely boring, that I like, that someone else might want to eat, that I can cook in less time than a pie and chips. Result! 🙂