Tag Archives: onion

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.

Sausage, barbeque sauce, new potatoes

I feel like sausages tonight, like sausages tonight.. that one doesn’t really fit.
I was shopping this afternoon and struggling to decide what to cook tonight, when I remembered that a week or so back I’d bought a jar of “Sausages Tonight”, on the back of the success of “Chicken Tonight”.

So I went wandering Tesco’s aisles in search of sausages, and was surprised at how many different types of sausages there are. They even had some stuffed with cheese – which sound interesting.
I’ve always liked sausages in fry ups, and also sausage rolls if done well. They’re few and far between, but Parsons stores in and around Bristol do superb sausage rolls.
Sadly, I’ve never been able to cook sausages really. I tried in my old flat several times and huge great plumes of smoke resulted. I’ve since learnt this was likely because I had the oil too hot in the fryer. After the smoke experience, I tried with a deep fat fryer, with less than satisfactory results. I tried grilling them but they seemed to turn out very dry.

So, with that in mind, I browsed the sausages, and picked some ordinary pork sausages.
I considered the organic ones, but they were crazy expensive and all very small. Which is odd. I can understand why some organic things might be smaller, but sausages? It’s all random bits of meat stuffed in a skin anyway – surely organic sausages could be the same size as ‘normal’ sausages?

Strangely enough, sausages are all the same price. Tesco’s own, branded (walls, etc), organic – all seem to be priced around 2-2.50 for 300-400g. Obviously there’s “value” crap cheaper, but I make enough money to eat better these days, and I’m trying to teach myself to appreciate good food, so this is no time to get short-arms/long-pockets syndrome.

The most normal ones I could find that looked like proper sausages (“90% pork” on label), were part of the range offered by “The Black Farmer” aka Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones. These stood out, because I saw a kind-of reality show on Channel4 a while ago where he took inner city black kids and taught them about farming. He claims (or certainly used to) to be the only black farmer in the UK. Was an amusing documentary though – seeing the reactions of extremely white people in Devon, when the local black population has gone up 10-fold overnight.

So ingredients used tonight:
– Knorr “Sausages Tonight” – Ranch Barbeque sauce – with tomatoes, onion, and paprika. Also contains soy sauce, lemon juice, parsley, and a few other bits and bobs.

– The Black Farmer – premium pork sausages.
It says on the top of the (400g) packet “flavours without frontiers”. This set me off in the supermarket singing a rehashed version of “Games Without Frontiers” by Peter Gabriel to myself. “Flavours without frontiers….and without…err….fears, if looks could kill they probably will….” and so on.
Actually “if cooks could kill” would work better. With a bit of work, it could definitely be a cookery song, to go on the tv/radio advert for the sausages.

– New potatoes. Bought in the poncy bag because from the day Tesco started selling pre-packed potatoes, their loose potatoes have become almost non-existent.

So at home, in the kitchen, I go for a wok to fry these sausages in based on moderately good past experience.
Instructions on the sausages says “Heat a dessert spoon of oil in a frying pan. Cook on a medium heat for 8-10 minutes, turning regularly. Drain before serving”.
I got the potatoes on, then started heating the oil. I added some sausages, and wait.
This is taking a long time. I’m hoping thats a good thing because I’m told the reason they go black externally, but uncooked internally, is down to cooking them on too high a heat.
They seem to go brownish, so I turn them.

Sometimes its amazing what makes me laugh when I’m bored. One of the sausages seems to have kind-of ballooned in one part so its not quite as sausage-shaped as the others. The fat spitting sets it off kinda rocking back and forth like it’s moving on its own. I mention to a vegetarian housemate in the kitchen at this point how it might not be dead yet, as it’s still moving. Sadly, it stops rocking before she looks, making me look like I’m totally mad.

After a long time of cooking, turning, etc. I’m still not convinced these sausages are done. They’ve browned in some parts, but they still look whiter on the ends. I decide to cut one up and taste it to see if it’s edible. It tastes kind-of hard, but edible.
Still not convinced it’s cooked right, I give it another few mins.

Shortly after, i try again, with another sausage.
Thing is – I’m poking them with a very sharp knife. I ditch it and decide to use a normal dinner/eating-knife to see if it’s harder than I’d expect a cooked sausage to be. Still not sure if it’s cooked.
Rather than risk food poisoning, I decide to cut the sausages up into smaller pieces, as small-pieces-plus-sauce seems to work a treat with the chicken stir-fry.
I give it another few mins frying and although I’m still not convinced the sausage-bites are cooked properly, I’m bored of waiting.

“Stir in the sauce and heat through for a few minutes”.
Gives me time to drain the potatoes and put butter on them.
Only realised after I added the sauce, I missed a step listed both on the sausages and the sauce jar, where it said to drain off the excess fat before eating. It’s a bit late to remove it now i’ve added the sauce to it, so I’ll have to put up with it now.

Heated sauce for…3-4mins (not sure what the definition of “a few” is), and plated.

It’s not so bad. It’s not anything like normal HP Bbq Sauce. Probably healthier I guess. It’s not revolting, but my screwed up tastebuds are taking a long time to adjust to eating stuff that doesn’t have more E-numbers and artificial colourings than real things.
I probably poured on a bit too much sauce really as the sausages were drowning in it. I do also wish I’d drained the oil out before adding the sauce.
And even now I’m not sure those sausages were cooked properly. I feel a little weird at the moment, but I’m hoping it’ll culminate in “early night and awake refreshed”, rather than “long night in the bathroom”.
I’ll probably have another go during the week, as I’ve got half a pack of sausages left, and half a jar of sauce to use up.

Old El Paso Fajitas – Chicken with Tomato and Peppers

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

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
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.
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.