29 July 2013

Five spice & honey chicken with mushroom noodle stir fry

Well this is the one that very nearly didn't happen.

The menu plan this week has had several different re-writings and re-shufflings largely due to circumstances changing at the last minute.  As a result, this recipe got bounced off the list, then I forgot to get something else out of the freezer and suddenly it was back on again!

I'm glad I made it though, as it was really rather good.

It's all part of my on-going love affair with the chicken leg.  As I've said before, I like chicken breast meat well enough - I just prefer the darker meat.  As our butcher sells 5 good sized chicken breasts for £5, I'd been having that right up until it suddenly dawned on me that if I bought a chicken leg at the same time, that amounts to two dinners (three breasts/two breasts & a leg) as opposed to one and a bit.  I know, I can't believe I didn't work this out sooner as well - but sometimes the obvious is the last thing we notice.
 All dressed in their spicy goo and ready for the oven

Well, I've done chicken in curry, chicken in citrus, chicken in a hat (alright, maybe not in a hat) but whatever there is to put chicken in, it feels like I've put it in it.  However, up until now, I hadn't investigated the Chinese 5 spice route.  Can't say that any more!

As I was pondering on what to put with the 5 spice, I had the dulcet tones of hubby running through my head.  He was expounding on the fact that "the Eastern thing is the balance of salty/sweet/ sour etc.", so I kind of went along with that - except I totally missed out the sour thing.  As they say in America, "so bite me".  (Except, I'd really rather you didn't, on the whole).  What I wound up with was the 5 spice for flavour, rapeseed oil to encourage the cooking and crisp up the skin on the chicken leg, honey for the sweet (and to caramelise slightly, which always looks great), soy sauce for the salty, a cheeky pinch of dried red chilli flakes for interest - and thought "that'll do!".  Yes, I could have gone the whole hog and added some lemon juice, or vinegar or some other source of sour, but I was interested to know how the unbalanced version would come out.  As it turned out, it was very nice indeed.  (Thank goodness!).

Stir fry ingredients : check. But where's the noodles?
So, what to put with it?  After all, a woman (or her menfolk) cannot live by chicken alone.  (More's the pity).  Well, with it being Chinese 5 spice, stir fry was the obvious choice and as we still had to settle on a carb. of some kind, a noodle stir fry made sense.
Yum - looks healthy!
Now I know that stir fry isn't right up there on son & heir's list of favourite foods, but it's good for him to re-visit foods he hasn't enjoyed, every so often.  He appears to be over his mushroom dislike of earlier years.  Which is just as well, as Asda - in their infinite wisdom - decided to send us a mushroom stir fry pack instead of the Edamame bean stir fry pack such as I'd ordered.  ~shrug~  Oh well, life is all about making the most of what you've got, so that's what we went with.  Of course, the extra mushrooms I'd bought to pad out the Edamame bean stir fry were a bit superfluous, but I chucked them in anyway.   I'd also ordered a pack of mange tout peas - some for the stir fry and some for a salad later in the week and they went in too.  They added a lovely sweet note to the veggies, which would have been a bit cabbage heavy without them.  Yes, Asda's "mushroom stir fry" turned out to be more of a "cabbage stir fry with the occasional mushroom", so it was good that I had a few extra.

At one time, I'd have been happy to have just had the veggies stir fried along with the chicken, but these days I think it is important to have a little carbohydrate in your main meal.  The end result of not having carbohydrates, is just that everyone starts reaching for the bread or crisps at around 8pm.  Truth be told, they do that anyway - but with rather less conviction if they've had carbs in their meal.  Now, because I was including noodles in the stir fry, this meant I needed to also come up with some kind of sauce to include in the wok which would lubricate the noodles and prevent that clagginess that they can sometimes have.  I'm not sure what I had against sour notes for this meal time, but they were very definitely off the menu as I decided to go with the classic dark soy sauce/light soy sauce/mirrin/fish sauce combo - which worked as perfectly as it always does.  This sauce combination gives such lovely colour to your stir fry and more to the point, gives a lovely rich flavour.

Now, a word must be had as regards oil.  If you've been reading along over the years, you'll know that I fairly recently eschewed the use of olive oil in favour of our lovely locally produced rapeseed oil - for the health benefits as much as anything.  As much as I love my rapeseed oil, it does have the unfortunate habit of spitting every flipping where if you use it at high temperature.  I've got a bit fed up with it doing that - and consequently ruining whatever I happen to be wearing at the time, as I've pretty much always forgotten to put an apron on.  We've always got sunflower oil in the house, as there are just some things that are better fried in sunflower than rapeseed (not many though, I'll grant you that!).  However with a stir fry, because the veggies are fried for so short a time it always feels as though the oil is much closer to the surface than with other types of cooking and consequently, you want an oil that has a lovely flavour.  My oil of choice is groundnut oil.  Not surprisingly, it has a lovely, light and delicate nuttiness that goes so well with stir fry dishes and complements curried dishes too, without any of the heaviness that accompanies a mixed vegetable oil or indeed olive or rapeseed.  If you haven't tried groundnut oil, I heartily recommend you get some in and give it a go.  Not as your everyday oil - you want something healthy and full of the lovely omega fats for that - but for stir fries and curries.  You'll be surprised.

So there we have it!  I don't have any special points to make as regards the cooking, as that is simplicity itself.  As regards the chicken, you can cook the breasts for the same time as the legs, so long as you remember to joint the leg portion.  Just cut across the hinge joint and separate it into a drumstick and a thigh.  That way it will cook a lot more quickly and correspond with the time it takes the breast to cook.

Use your own choice of stir fry veggies - they all take roughly the same amount of time to cook.  Just remember if you're adding any extra veg., to cut it into similar sized pieces so that it all cooks in the same time scale.  I sliced my mushrooms and cut the mange tout peas into three, which did the trick.

Mmmmn .... yummy chicken rules!


Ingredients :

3 chicken portions (I used 2 skinless boneless breasts and 1 leg)
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 tbsp runny honey
2 rounded tsp Chinese five spice
a good pinch of dried red chilli flakes
1 tbsp light soy sauce plus another 2 tbsp
a pinch of sea salt & ground black pepper
2 tbsp groundnut oil
4 large chestnut mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
40g mange tout, each cut into three pieces
400g pack of fresh stir fry vegetables (cabbage, carrot, beansprouts, pepper etc.)
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp mirrin
2 tsp grated ginger (from a jar, but feel free to use fresh)
3 sheets of dried egg noodles.

Method :

1.  Score the chicken breasts lightly across in a diamond pattern, to encourage the absorption of their marinade.  Score the leg portion similarly.

2.  In a bowl, mix together the rapeseed oil, honey, 5 spice, chilli flakes, 1 tbsp light soy sauce and some salt and pepper.   Add the chicken and toss until completely coated.  Allow to sit for as long as until you have the baking dish and veggies for the next stage prepared.

3.  Slice the mushrooms and mangetout and chop the garlic.

4.  Into a small bowl, add the 2 tbsp light soy sauce, the dark soy sauce, fish sauce, mirrin and ginger and stir to combine.

5.  Place the chicken onto a baking dish with a lip - as it will generate some liquid that you don't want to spill all over the kitchen floor - and place into a pre-heated oven at 190degF/375degC/Gas 5 for 30 minutes or as long as until the juices from the chicken run clear.

6.  When the chicken has just 15 minutes to go, bring a saucepan of water to the boil and add the groundnut oil to a wok.  Heat the oil until almost smoking, then add the sliced mushrooms and stir fry for 2-3 minutes.  Add the contents of the stir fry pack, the mangetout and the garlic and stir fry until tender.

7.  When the chicken has just 5 minutes to go, add the sheets of dried noodles to the boiling water and simmer for 4 minutes or until the noodles are soft.  Drain and return to the saucepan.

8.  Add the soy sauce/mirrin/fish sauce/ginger mixture to the wok and allow to frizzle and reduce whilst you add the noodles.  Toss and stir to make sure the noodles are coated in the sauce and vegetables.

9.  Remove the chicken from the oven and serve with the noodle stir fry alongside.

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