Tag Archives: chicken

Chinese Hoi Sin Chicken Wrap

I’ll apologise now for how slack I’ve been with updating this. The truth is I’ve been quite busy having a creative block, and trying to come up with features for a radio show I’m presenting. I seem to work better under pressure because I’ve known about the show for months, and a week before the first one, the ideas started and just kept coming.
Maybe I should give myself deadlines for other things that are very close. I can’t immediately think what though. Answers on a postcard please.

So anyway, a week or so ago, bored, browsing Tescos. I had an idea I’d cook something involving duck (instead of chicken) for a change. I was disappointed to see Tescos don’t sell it. Unless it’s not with the beef, pork, chicken, etc for some reason, they don’t seem to do it.

As I wandered the aisles aimlessly, I spotted something similar to the fajitas I’d done before, but described as “Chinese”. For some obvious reason, anything oriental always grabs my attention.
It was pretty much tortillas as before, but involved a few ingredients I’d never eaten before. To my knowledge, I’ve never had “Hoi Sin Sauce”.
And I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a spring onion before either.

It’s a kit of tortillas and sauce and you add your own spring onions, cucumber and chicken.
I did alright with the cucumber, but if truth be told, I couldn’t really think what spring onions looked like.
I browsed the entire vegetable and salad section hoping for something to jump out at me.

Nothing did.

So I called my sister and asked her what spring onions looked like. I believe she described them as “little onions with long stems”. I wandered a bit more, then finally gave in and asked a guy putting out apples if they had any spring onions. No.

I had something boring for tea that night. Oven chips or something most likely.

Several days later, I got the spring onions (or “salad onions” as they’re actually described in Tescos for some reason). Went home and followed the recipe on the packet.

Now, as I said I’ve been busy. I intended to write that up when I had it a week or so ago, but never did.
So – tonight I did this same meal for a second time. Partly to refresh my memory, and partly because it’s pretty quick and I didn’t go to Tescos til gone 20.30, so wasn’t cooking til gone 21:00.

So this meal’s ingredients (what it says on the Uncle Ben’s packet):
– Uncle Ben’s Wraps – Chinese Hoi Sin Meal Kit (tortillas, hoi sin sauce, and “oriental spice blend”
– Chicken – about 200g of skinless breast
– 1/4 cucumber
– 2 spring onions

I’ve cut the ingredients in (roughly) half, as it’s meant to serve 4. The first time I cooked this I bought 1/2 cucumber, and it was horrible, so I didn’t bother when I did it tonight. Other than that, I did the same tonight as a week or so ago.

So, back to my trusty wok, chicken cut into strips and fried. I’m fine at that. If anything, I overcook it a bit, but it tastes fine to me and nobody else is desperate enough to need me to cook for them.

That done, you add the “oriental spice blend”. This is a very odd looking thing. It’s a type of powder that looks like a sand and gravel mix that a tiny builder from a model village might use.
It smells bizarre. Not nice at all.
Not to be put off by this, I added it to the chicken and stirred it around.
For those of you wondering, the ingredients listed for the “spice blend” are:
anise seeds, fennel seeds, cinnamon, pepper, clove, chilli powder, ginger, sesame seeds, garlic powder, sugar, tamarind powder, salt, and plain caramel.

While this is finishing cooking, I set about cutting up the spring onions. The instructions on the Uncle Ben’s Wraps say: “slice the spring onion into thin sticks and place into serving bowls”. I guessed I had to wash the spring onions first, but after that I had a slight issue.

Which bit of a spring onion do you eat? The bulby/oniony bit, or the green bit?

I gave it a sniff at either end, and both ends smell like onion. I guess that’s to be expected.
I had a look on the photo on the box, but you can see a lot more cucumber than onion. I couldn’t see much white – mostly green vegetable-wise, on the box.
As it was a 50/50 shot, I decided on the green leafy bits. After all, they tell you to eat your “greens”.

That done, the instructions tell you to “remove the tortillas, cover with cling film and heat on full power for 1 minute”. Nice and easy that.

Tortillas do intrigue me, as they’re not easily breakable. After warming them, you can fold them around, scrunch them up, and then straighten them back out again.
They should make shirts and trousers out of tortillas. You wouldn’t have to iron them, just put them in the microwave to warm them through, then put them on. Hey presto – instantly to the shape you want them.

I removed them from the microwave and instantly burnt myself.
Maybe trousers made from tortillas aren’t such a good idea after all.

I opened the sauce, and turned off the heat on the chicken and “spice blend”.
It’s just a like a big sandwich from here on. Spoon in some Hoi Sin sauce, spring onion, chicken, roll up, eat.

The first mouthful was ruined the first time I did this by the awful cold cucumber.
I removed the rest from the first one and binned the rest. Tonight when I cooked this, I didn’t buy cucumber at all. Maybe if I cooked the cucumber with the rest it might be nicer.

Spring onion is quite nice though. I’m not saying I’d want to eat it on its own, but it doesn’t taste too bad with something.

The oriental spice blend tastes like nothing I’ve had before.
When it’s cooking it smells like you’ve just set fire to something.
Before it’s cooked it smells bizarrely strong.
After its been cooked and coated all over chicken though, it doesn’t seem so over-the-top. Weird.

The Hoi Sin sauce smells a bit tomato-ey, looks a bit tomato-ey, and according to the ingredients is made of mostly…tomatoes, plum juice, soya, soy sauce, sugar and vinegar.

Altogether, its not bad. Unusually I don’t have to say “but I might change my mind when I have it again”, because I did have it again. Tonight. And it was still nice.
I’m really not sure if it’s good for me at all, as the only vegetables my version of it contains is a couple of small spring onions.
It’s probably healthier than oven chips and and baked beans though.

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.

Takeaway – Pieminister

Ok, so I’ve mentioned before I like pie and chips. A friend of one of my housemates works in a shop in St. Nicholas Street Market in Bristol called “Pieminister” which oddly enough, sells pies.
Because the guy who works there spends a lot of time round my house, I happened to hear of the place, and apparently its all fresh ingredients (meat and vegetables), free range, locally sourced, etc.
Anyway – I took lunch today, wasted 55mins arsing about, bought a sausage roll from Parsons and ate that, then I was passing St Nicholas Street Market and remembered Pieminister, so thought I’d go and check it out. And maybe buy something. A double fat-bastard lunch, as it were.

I was slightly concerned at the menu when I got there.
Me being a bit fussy about my food was expecting to see some basic pie favourites – chicken and vegetable, etc, but they were surprisingly extravagant.
Kidneys, asparagus, spinach, sweet potato. There were plenty of things putting me off their pies – plenty of things I might not like.

I decided on the “Chicken of Aragon” pie.
It is described as “free range british chicken, smoky bacon, roast garlic, vermouth and fresh tarragon in lovely pastry”.
I’ve not the slightest clue what vermouth or tarragon taste like. Isn’t vermouth used in cocktails?

I asked about how long it took for a pie when I got there, and was disappointed to hear they were cooked as ordered – in order to make sure they weren’t all dry and crap like most takeaway food generally is. As I only had 5 mins left of my lunch, I wouldn’t have time to wait. As luck would have it, they had just cooked a load of Chicken of Aragon pies and somehow had wound up with one left over.
I purchased that one, declined mashed potato, gravy, mushy peas, and whatever other sides they had, purely because I was in a bit of a rush.

I ate it while walking to my next place of business, and enjoyed it. I wouldn’t say I noticed the garlic in it, which is a definite good thing – and the chunks of chicken were very nice. It did taste very fresh and as you know – my tastebuds aren’t really acquainted with such cuisine, having grown up on a diet of jam sandwiches and luncheon meat. That said, the pastry was superb.
Someone who enjoys freshly cooked food made properly will probably enjoy it more than I did, but I certainly didn’t dislike it. It will require further visits in the future when I have more time to sit down and enjoy it, and maybe try some of the rest of their range.

I was under the impression they only had one shop in Stokes Croft. Not having been wandering through St Nicholas Street Market in a long time, I wouldn’t have noticed that one if it weren’t for a guy working there frequenting my house. Turns out they’re doing better than that though – and they’ve expanded from Bristol – with lots of them now all over the country. So if you happen to be reading this in Oxford for some reason (or any of their other locations) – go check out Pieminister.

See www.pieminister.co.uk for more details. Some vegetarian options are available.

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.

Old El Paso Fajitas – Chicken with Tomato and Peppers

¡Arriba! ¡Arriba! ¡Ándale! ¡Ándale! (spelling courtesy of wikipedia)

“Wow!”
There was a certain look of surprise on a housemate’s face as he walked in on me cooking something that didn’t come entirely from a packet. Something that actually involved actual vegetables.
Also, apparently it’s something he likes a lot. Well that’s nice to hear from someone who I consider to eat a lot healthier than me.

Coincidentally, my first major cookery mistake since the start of the blog, happened tonight. Details below.

I chose these in Tescos the other day because you have chicken with them, and I like the overly-Mexican adverts on tv with the dancing cacti.

Also, I thought it was a simple dish – pour in, fry, done.
But when I turned the pack over in the supermarket, I saw you had to cook fresh red pepper, green pepper, and onion with it.
Normally I’d shy away from anything involving such a detailed list of vegetables, but I was near the fresh vegetables anyway, so thought I might give it a try after all.

So ingredients used tonight:
Half a green pepper
Half a red pepper
Half an onion
About 250g of chicken breast
and
Old El Pasto Roasted Tomato and Pepper Fajita mix (consisting of 8 fajitas, 1 sachet of spice mix, and 1 packet of tomato and pepper salsa).

The recipe says to use 500g, and whole vegetables, but the packet says it serves 4. Two person’s share is enough for me I think.

So onto the cooking. Cut the chicken into strips and place in a pan with a little bit of oil. I chose a wok as it holds more and I didn’t get burnt with fat the last time I used it.
Started that cooking away, and went to chop the onion, and peppers. I’ve no idea how to cook peppers and having never eaten one before – was surprised to find them hollow.

Onto the onion, and I peeled the outer skin, then started chopping. Half way through chopping (which seemed a little hard going), I realised I hadn’t removed the whole of the outer skin.
That done, it was a lot easier to chop.
Are you meant to cry when you chop onions? I didn’t seem to.

When the chicken was cooked, I added the onion and peppers.
Next complex step here. My housemate mentioned earlier showed me how to move things around the pan so they all cook and nothing burns. It might be useful, that.

Next I needed to add the “roasted tomato and pepper fajita spice mix” – a small packet contained within the fajita kit. It has a “helpful hints” section on the back of the box all this comes in, that tells you to make it less spicy – use less spice mix.
This makes sense, and as I haven’t eaten anything spicy ever, I decided to put about 1/3rd of the sachet in. Remember – I’m using half the ingredients.
I did a quick turn of the chicken, and make sure everything was coated in the spice mix.

As I don’t like vegetables cold, I left them in a long time. I added more oil when it went dry because I was determined to get some properly cooked vegetables.
I microwaved half of the supplied tortillas so they were warm, eventually thought the vegetables must be cooked and killed the heat.

Now, onto the serving, where the accident happened.
You are supposed to add “2 tablespoons of the chicken and vegetable mixture” into the tortillas, then pour on some of the included salsa, and roll to make a fajita. It includes pictures of before and after rolling, for the truly stupid (me).
I’ve never eaten tortillas before either by the way – so this was interesting. Looks like pancakes, tastes of not a lot. Saves putting hot food directly in your hands though.

I added the chicken, tried to add more peppers than chicken, to up my extremely poor vegetable intake.
Then onto the salsa sauce. I poured some of this on in a line, then rolled.
Started eating…unusual…bizarre – different mouthfuls taste different to last depending on if there was more pepper or more chicken in it. It’s almost like a weird healthy version of Revels.

Seemed quite hot though, even though I’d only put 1/3rd of the spice mix in.
Weird.
I drink some water.
Still hungry, I finished that fajita and started on a second – chicken, vegetables, salsa.
I really am feeling quite hot in here. Maybe the heating is up too high, or it’s just because I’ve been cooking. I ignore the sweaty sensation on my face and get myself another glass of water.
These fajitas are quite filling but I don’t want them to go to waste so I get a third started – chicken, vegetables, salsa.
I can now feel the sweat on my face quite badly. I give in and get some kitchen roll to mop my brow. I get another glass of water.
My housemate comes in and draws attention to the fact that I seem to be sweating quite a lot. I near the end of the third fajita, but can’t finish it. I stop eating.
I can’t understand why I’m sweating – I put less than half of the spicy bit in, and the rest is just chicken and some vegetables. I read the ingredients for the first time tonight, check what I’ve cooked, and what I’ve eaten.

Ahhhh. Now it all makes sense!
Turns out that I’d slightly miscalculated one part of the meal. Onions, peppers, spice mix – all fine.
BUT I’d been smearing the salsa on in plentiful supply. In fact I’d eaten over 3/4 of the packet on 3 fajitas….when it was designed to be enough for 8.
The spice mix – that they warn you off using too much of – seems to contain mostly tomato, pepper, onion, and lemon.
Oddly enough, the ingredients of the salsa are almost the same. tomato, pepper, onion, lemon, chili…….I think that explains it.

Overall though – an unusual meal, which was quite interesting.
Not sure if I liked it or not, but I didn’t hate it. I could eat it again I think.
Also, when I looked in the wok at what was left – there was more chicken left than vegetables. This means either I ate more vegetables than chicken, or I had more chicken to start with. As I can’t really remember, I’m going with the former.