The Second Half

Anything goes. Within the bounds of propriety, of course.

‘Twas a day of peppery pleasure — October 29, 2017

‘Twas a day of peppery pleasure

Remember a while back, when I shared with you the recipe for a fantastic meal? Well, I happen to find it exquisite, you may beg to differ. Anyhoo, I told you then I’d be back one day with the recipe for one of my favorite dishes and here I am. Sorry it’s taken this long but I had to up and cook it, you know, take pictures and stuff. And that’s just what I did the other day, which is the reason I’m now at my desk, pounding away on the keyboard.

Before we get into the swing of things, let’s give credit where it’s due. I did not come up with this recipe, uh-uh. It resides here but might not be of great help because it’s in my native language (Bulgarian). You can try with translation or you can just rely on me – I’ll give you my version but also tell you what the original says.

Now, this one is supposed to be a salad – you prepare it, let it cool and serve it. I’ll probably become the object of ridicule, but I’ll go ahead and say it anyway: I’ve consumed this in the prescribed way but I have it more often as a proper meal. You know, serving it hot with crusty, fragrant bread to dip in the sauce.

The second thing I want to note is that you’re supposed to grill the peppers and peel them. I tell you right away it’s too much hassle for me. I might be persuaded to grill peppers, but I do my Speedy Gonzales act when peeling looms. Besides, very few things smell as heavenly as frying peppers or taste as good. In other words, my version has the peppers fried.

OK, we’re ready to get cracking. If you’d be so kind as to look at the picture above, you’ll see the ingredients you need and realize it’s a simple meal. I have another selling point: it only takes about half an hour to prepare. Here’s what I invested in this cooking venture:

  • About 400g of chicken cut into small pieces (I bought about half a kilo but my cats decided they were in the mood for some. Mind you, they don’t much care for chicken, cooked or otherwise, but they were being contrary, for some reason)
  • 420g of corn (that’s what it said on the can)
  • 400g of peeled and diced tomatoes
  • 7 or 8 red peppers cut in strips (I forgot the exact number, shouldn’t matter much)
  • 3 or 4 cloves of garlic (or as many as you want or maybe none, depends on your relationship with the plant)
  • Ground white pepper
  • Basil
  • Cooking oil

It’s all pretty straightforward from here on. Heat the oil and start frying the chicken. A couple of minutes will suffice because you’ll get to cook it some more when you add the peppers. Don’t let them fry for too long either as they’ll get mushy when the tomatoes go in. Say, 10 minutes max for the peppers, then on with the tomatoes and the garlic. That’s where most of the cooking time will go – give the tomatoes at least 15 minutes, adding the white pepper and the basil at some point. When you decide it’s just about ready, throw in the corn and let the whole mixture cook for another minute. Turn off the heat and you’re done. Congrats!

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Whether you serve the cold or warm version, I hope you find that half an hour time well spent. Bon appetit!

It had me at broccoli and blue cheese! — May 29, 2017

It had me at broccoli and blue cheese!

I tend to improvise a lot when cooking. I also go with my gut where quantities are concerned. That’s not to say I go completely rogue, but I generally use the amounts provided in recipes as more of a guideline than gospel.

What I just said does have a point, I promise. I’ll give you the recipe for a meal I cooked today and I must say it’s the tastiest thing to emerge from my kitchen in perhaps five years! Absolutely, insanely, indescribably delicious! I didn’t come up with the recipe. I’m not really an original in the kitchen; my creativity begins and ends with adding or removing ingredients and sometimes tweaking the serving suggestions.

I found this recipe on a website where I usually go for culinary inspiration or just an idea for a quick dinner. However, it’s a Bulgarian portal. Google Translate might be of some help but be prepared for quite a bit of guesswork and occasional examples of the ridiculous. In this particular case, you’ll get my help along with my personal choice for execution. Let me just repeat what I said in the beginning: I don’t deal with exact quantities so you might want to take a peek at the original recipe if you’re a stickler for such things.

So, what are we talking about here? It’s essentially chicken with vegetables and a scrumptious sauce.

1) The veggie mixture

I chose baby potatoes, carrots, sweet corn and broccoli. If I had any say in it, governments would pass a law making broccoli mandatory for daily intake! When I die, I want broccoli wreaths on my grave!

But back to the task at hand. Pick your favorite veggies and stir-fry them. I think I had about 450g of baby potatoes, two carrots, canned sweet corn (about 420g) and a head of broccoli weighing just under half a kilo.

I began with the potatoes as they require a bit longer to cook. Then in went the carrots, and the corn and broccoli joined towards the end. I like my broccoli crunchy, but if you prefer it well-cooked, you can add it earlier. Just a few pinches of salt here, nothing else. When the veggies are cooked, remove the pot, set it aside and get cracking on the chicken.

2) The chicken part

I had about 400g of chicken breast, but you can put as much as you want. Still, keep it reasonable: more than 600-700g would be overkill.

You can cut the meat into strips (as the original recipe suggests) or into mid-sized chunks, I don’t think it really matters. Season the pieces with a little salt and pepper. I recently bought one of those grinders that come with a mixture of peppercorns: black, white, red, green, some other color may have been inside as well, I’m not sure. So I used that on the meat. Then you just throw it in a pan and fry it until ready. Put this one aside too and start on the sauce.

3) The saucy bit

I suspect that my choice of this recipe had much to do with blue cheese being among the ingredients. Love, love, love it! But if you don’t, there’s no reason to give up on this dish. You can substitute blue cheese for another kind. Just make sure it’s some kind that will melt in water.

So, you need a piece of blue cheese and a small carton of sour cream. I had 100g and 200g, respectively. Pour about 150-200ml of water into a pan and bring it to a boil. It’s best to have the blue cheese mashed with a fork before you add it to the boiling water because it will melt faster. When it’s melted, add the sour cream and keep stirring until you get a smooth mixture. That should take less than five minutes.

And now you have all the parts ready! The original recipe calls for mixing the chicken and the sauce and serving it with the veggies on the side. However, I chose to mix all of them together in the pot where I’d cooked the vegetables. And I ended up with this:

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Is it any good? Well, let me put it this way: I nearly burst into tears when I tasted it! Tears of joy and pride, of course. The same thing happened a couple of years ago, when I tried my hand at another dish. I’ve since experimented a bit with it and made it even better (at least I think so) but I’ll tell you about it another time.

I really hope you give this recipe a try. It doesn’t take long to cook: depending on the vegetables you choose, it will be 30 to 40 minutes in all. If broccoli and blue cheese are things you love, you’ll be sobbing after your first bite. If not, you can pick veggies that you like and some other cheese and still end up with a mouth-watering meal. I believe that’s the secret of good cooking: take an idea and give it your own treatment!

Bon appetit! I’m off for a second helping.

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