Tag Archives: peppers

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.

Young’s Mediterranean Fish Bake

A load of Pollocks.

It’s been a while since I actually cooked anything on here, I know.
Basically it’s because last Monday I picked up a Nintendo Wii from Virgin Megastore (or whatever they’re called now.. zazzi, vazzi, something like that) and I’ve spent the best part of the last week pulling muscles getting overly enthusiastic at Wii Sports Boxing, shooting angry villagers in Resident Evil 4, and saving lives of fictional characters in Trauma Center: Second Opinion. I’ve never been much of a gamer, but the motion detection, angle detection, wirelessness..etc of it all appeals to me. Plus it’s a lot cheaper than an xbox360/ps3, and really tiny. About the size of a dvd/cd writer in a standard pc. Or for you non-geeks out there – imagine three standard-sized dvd cases on top of each other.

A friend came over Sunday night to have a go with one for the first time, and he’s a guy very much into his gaming. He seems to have had every console created at some point of another (and still has most of them littered around).
But put him in front of a Wii and he’s just as confused as the rest of the world.
You’ll be playing baseball and he asks questions like “which button do you press to throw the ball?”. Answer: none – just throw the remote as if it were a ball (but don’t let go of it).
Having spent years getting my ass kicked at every game he had, its interesting to see him confused at what I think is a much easier system than trying to remember combinations of buttons. It’s also amusing to hear him complain about how a kind of wireless mouse pointer should really be a D-pad. Whatever a D-pad is.

Anyway, back to food.

As mentioned – I’ve planned nothing in the past week, so tonight would have been another pie and chips. However, I stopped off for some toilet roll in Tescos on my way home on Monday, and grabbed some food products at the same time. Biscuits, croissants, some frozen oven chips, and I was trying to think what to have for tea, when I happened upon the frozen chicken/beef/fish aisle.

I’ve never been sure I like fish. For years I definitely didn’t like fish. The look, the fact that its about the only meat sold with the eyes still in it, the smell – there was something about it I just didn’t like.
Even as far as fish-fingers – I didn’t really like them. I ate them as a very young child apparently, but somewhen in between primary school and 18 years old, I had decided I didn’t like fish of any type.
I used to eat a lot of fish cakes at my parents’ house. But fish-cakes being fish-cakes, there’s not a lot of anything in them. Certainly not much fish – they’re mostly potato and batter/breadcrumbs. That said, I don’t really like mashed potato on its own either.

I have distant memories from when I was very young, of my gran on my mum’s side cooking some sort of fish that smelt absolutely revolting. Something a weird yellowy colour that may have put me off for years to come.

Anyway, at some point between leaving college and now, I discovered these Birds Eye cod fillet things – essentially pieces of cod in batter. Like a kind of adult-version of fish fingers. Having decided I quite like them again after all, I started about having things with them. The obvious choice is chips. Then I added baked beans.
I later switched from chips to new potatoes, then tried to find some sort of sauce to go with it. Brown sauce didn’t work, nor barbeque. Gravy just seems like it would be wrong.
I looked around Tescos some weeks ago to try and find something to go with it. There is a big collection of Schwartz sauces that go with fish. However, they’re all in non-resealable packets and serve 4-6. Unless I starve myself for a couple of days first, that seems a bit of a waste to me.

So Monday night I picked up something in Tescos that already has sauce with it. How’s that for a stroke of genius.
So product for dinner tonight is: Young’s Mediterranean Fish Bake.

It is described on the box as “wild Alaskan pollock fillets in a tangy mediterranean sauce made with red peppers and creme fraiche, topped with a sprinkling of cheddar cheese”. It’s also got tomatoes in it.
I’ve never heard of a fish called a “pollock” before, and on the back it says “Alaskan Pollock is from the same family of fish as cod. It’s white flesh has a firm, smooth texture and a delicate, slightly sweet flavour.”
I’ve never thought of fish as having families before – just referred to them all as “fish”. I guess that particular family is cashing in on the life insurance payout now anyway.

It doesn’t say how many it serves. My sister pointed out to me recently that you can work this out, because on it somewhere it will say “a quarter of a pack contains” or “half a pack contains” however much salt, fat, etc, and this is frequently used to show one person’s share.
I don’t watch these markers on food products a lot, but it is slightly worrying that half a pack contains 21.7% of my daily salt intake. Although I suppose if the marjority of an evening meal is only 21.7%, then that’s not so bad as long as I’m not eating 6 meals a day.

So on with the cooking.
The first negative point has to be the overall cooking time. 55mins in the oven. It’s a slow one. I was originally going to have this for dinner last night but I was playing Resident Evil 4 til gone 9, and with Charlie Brooker’s screenwipe on the tv at 10pm, I had to cook something in less time. And finish eating it too – so I don’t spray it across the screen laughing.
While this might be down to my bad planning last night, I’m normally home around 6pm. By the time you’ve got the oven hot and cooked the thing, it’s still nearly 7.30 allowing for nobody else in my shared house using the kitchen (which I was unusually lucky with, tonight), and me actually starting cooking dinner the second I walk through the door. Because of this, I doubt it’ll be a common meal. I’m rarely that well organised.

As far as cooking goes – it seems very odd. It comes in a container plastic, with a plastic “film” lid, much like a microwavable product might. However, it’s done in the oven. Some housemates who know my cooking ability isn’t amazing, mentioned I should remove this film lid, but according to the instructions from Young’s – it stays on for the first 35mins of cooking. It is then removed.
I followed it all to the letter, and as I had an hour, the one upside is I had plenty of time to wash and boil some new potatoes to go with it.

I was slightly concerned when I checked on the progress of the thing. While I was waiting for my dinner to cook, I was busy trying to stop the possessed monks in the castle getting to Ashley (Resident Evil), and I paused to go and check about 10-15mins before it should have been ready. It had gone a bit burnt down one side, but I didn’t want to remove it then in case the exterior looked like a sunbed addict, while the interior was as white as – well..me.
I gave it 5-8mins (give or take a few) and removed it.

Plated with potatoes, and time for the tasting.
It’s surprisingly very sweet. I wasn’t really expecting that but it was quite a nice surprise.
I’d say I can taste the tomatoes and the cheese. I can’t get over how sweet it is though, for something with no sugar, or e-numbers or anything.
I tried some of the fish alone, and I wouldn’t say it tasted exactly like cod, but the similarity is there. Quite bland, which I guess is why you need the very strong sweet sauce with it.
It’s quite nice.
It’s probably the nicest thing that I’ve cooked with a the film lid still on it.
It’s not something I’d eat every day even if it cooked in 20minutes, but was an interesting experience.

I ignored my half-pack-being-one-person theory and ate about three quarters of it, plus some potatoes. The last step of the instructions on the box says “portion as required” anyway. Clearly its hard to cut it in half before cooking, and you can’t refreeze it so they say – so it would have gone to waste otherwise.

As normal, I’m not selling myself out and saying I’ll eat it every week – or even that I like it enough to eat it every six months. If I commit myself, I’d likely get bored of it like most other things. My interest in the Oriental stir-fry has been fading lately due to overuse. I wish I could say the same about the other oriental things I saw chatting by Trenchard Street car park this afternoon. I don’t think my interest in them will ever subside.

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.