Sunday, 25 August 2013

Persian Grilled Chicken Wings

It seemed so easy; post one blog each week on Wednesday. But last week I had a very bad cold and felt horrible. And with posting a new blog every week the problem is not just to have a topic. I like to have a recipe with it, a recipe that I tried and tested before off course. Plus self made pictures to accompany the recipe and make the story more visible.
But sometimes our plates are already empty before I realise a photo of it would have been nice!
And last week I did not feel like cooking at all; a real sign of being sick for a crazy Dutch foodie...

The weekend before I felt miserable we had a great BBQ with a few of our neighbours. It's a tradition that was started 4 years ago by my Iranian neighbours when they moved to our street. A typical gesture of Iranian hospitality we came to know!

It has been more than once that they brought us some delicious Iranian/Persian food. And our favourite is their grilled chicken with crispy skin and really fluffy rice (which I found out after I Googled it is known as Zereshk Polow) One time it happened that I was at their door around dinner time and my husband en myself were immediately invited at the dinner table. Our neighbours told us it's Iranian hospitality to always have an extra plate at the table for unexpected visitors! It's this kindness and hospitality that makes us want to travel Iran in the near future. I think it must be a wonderful Foodie Destination, with extremely friendly people, to explore.

It took me some time do discover the 'secret' of our neighbours delicious grilled chicken wings (or drumettes to be more precise). One of the reasons I guess was their way of speaking Dutch and me not speaking their Persian language known as 'Farsi' ;-)

First of all there is the special BBQ with skewers they use. (see pictures below) I guess in Iran it's common to buy that kind of BBQ but in the Netherlands he had it custom made.

Persian chicken drumettes on skewers

The second 'secret' of the crispy chicken skin is to grill it as far as possible from the charcoals.
Slow cooking on the BBQ. This way they will be done but not burnt.

Grilling chicken on skewers at my neighbours Persian BBQ

For a while I thought he used a marinade for the chicken pieces, until I found out that it was not really a marinade like I know it. But when I asked my neighbour last weekend again to explain me how he marinades the chicken this were his words; 'just some salt & pepper and a bit of saffron for the color'. And then, at the last minute just before I was about to leave, he said: 'but what's really important is the onion'.
The onion???
I had never seen any onion with the crispy chicken drumettes from their Persian BBQ before. It turned out that he 'marinated' the chicken drumettes overnight with some salt, pepper, saffron and finely chopped onions.

It found out that it's a commonly used method for Persian chicken kebabs (Jujeh Kebab) and off course there are many variations possible. Eugenia from the blog Culinaria Eugenius  advises to pulverize the onion instead of chopping it. While Sanam from My Persian Kitchen and  Laurie from Laurie Constantino both add some yoghurt to the (grated) onion and use chicken breast instead of chicken wings or chicken drumettes.

Chicken wings and drumettes marinating with onions overnight in the fridge

It was the first time I heard of this and off course I had to test it immediately as soon as I felt better this weekend.  Even though we don't own a Persian BBQ with skewers it worked out perfectly on our normal BBQ! 
I'm not sure what kind of chemical process  takes place with the onions and the chicken, but the chicken skin was as crispy as when our Iranian neighbour grills it!

Persian chicken grilling on our  'normal'  BBQ

The only thing I have not figured out yet is the amount of salt and pepper I have to use, because the taste was a bit to bland at our first attempt.
Update 10/09/2013: I made it again and wrote the exact amounts of salt and pepper I used in the recipe.

Here is my version of my neighbours Persian grilled chicken:
For the Dutch recipe you can click here.

Persian grilled chicken

For about 4 persons as part of a  BBQ or as a main dish with other side dishes

  • 1 kilo chicken wings or drumettes (our neighbour uses drumettes, we also like the wings so we mix)
  • approximately 160 grams of finely chopped onion
  • a pinch of saffron
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper & 1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon salt
1. Grind the saffron with a mortar and pestle and mix with the chicken pieces and chopped onion in a plastic bag. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Refrigerate overnight! Or at least for a few hours before grilling them.

3. Heat the charcoals for the BBQ. Place the chicken pieces ( without the onions!) on the uppermost grill of the BBQ or on skewers and roast slowly until golden and crispy.


Wednesday, 14 August 2013

5 tips on how to throw a stress-free dinner party!

Dinner parties are really popular nowadays. With the economical crisis there is no better option to enjoy delicious food and wine for a fraction of the price you will pay in a good restaurant. Off course it does requires some time shopping for quality ingredients, menu planning and cooking.
For most people throwing a dinner party yourself can cause a lot of stress, which is really not necessary.

I had to remind myself to that lately. Because ever since I graduated I have been thinking about starting a supperclub (aka 'underground restaurant' and in the Netherlands as 'huiskamerrestaurant'/ livingroomrestaurant). Because I find it a bit scary to start that out of nowhere I decided I first join as a host for EatWith. And before I actually go online and welcome travellers at our dining table, I thought I will test myself cooking for more than 6 people by inviting friends for dinner.
Finishing my study sounded like a great occasion to invite them over for a dinner party at the beginning of September to celebrate.

Once the invitations were sent and I had positive responses from 9 of our best friends the planning started. That went from bad to worse because I want to make everything from scratch. And for me one of the most important things about throwing a dinner party is that I can sit down with my guests and enjoy the food, the wine and the conversations.
It was only last week, with 4 weeks left for 'The Big Dinnerparty', that I realised I was writing a post about tips on how to throw a stress-free dinner party.
Time to remind myself on that tips and publish it!!!

1) Only invite people who enjoy good food and wine! 

Why would you bother stressing and showing off for people who don't even appreciate all the effort you put in throwing a nice dinner party? If you invite over family or friends who don't care about a fancy dinner than just make something simple to eat, have a few bottles of wine and beer on hand and enjoy each others company.

2) Make something you have cooked before

The benefit of making a dish you have cooked before is that you know that it's good. (why else would you bother making that recipe again!) If you do plan on making a new recipe at your dinner party, try testing it before the big date. You will be much more comfortable on the evening itself if you know it worked before.

3) Plan ahead! 

Not just with shopping but also with thinking about what you're gonna cook.
What I do as soon as I planned a dinner party with friends, is put a post-it in my agenda at that weeks page. Whenever I think of an ingredient, wine or recipe that suits the people or evening I have in mind I write it down. I know I'm a bit old fashioned but I still use my paper agenda instead of the one in my smartphone. But I guess Evernote could do a good job here to.  This process can start weeks in advance and sometimes changes until the last minute. But most of the time it gives me some air when I can look at the notes I made.

Another plan ahead thing here is the season. For example; if you want to make something with asparagus or fresh figs you have to be sure you can buy it in that season. Or have a backup dish in your head.
I experienced this recently when I thought rhubarb was already available. After visiting 3 supermarkets and 2 vegetable shops I realised it was not and had to think about another dessert 1 day before the dinner...
The big piece of almond cake from David Lebovitz which I had left in the freezer came in really handy here!

4) Start cooking in time

Start at least one hour earlier than you think you need. Things can go wrong. I always realise I miss one or two ingredients last minute... In that case my husband still has time to rush to the supermarket ;-)
It's also really nice if you have time left to take a shower and change clothes before your guests arrive.
So make sure the bathroom is clean and the table is set before you even start cooking.

Off course it is also really stress reducing if you plan a mostly make ahead menu with only one or two items that have to be made at the last moment. Even better if you have time to make some dishes the day or evening before.

5) Let loose and enjoy! 

Finally, as tip number 5 I would like to quote Megan Gordon from her piece on The Kitchn who says to: Let Loose: "For me the most important part of a dinner party is letting myself relax. At a certain point, a few minutes before everyone is to arrive, there's not much that can be perfected. It is what it is and everyone will be gracious and happy to be in one another's company. Join them. After all, isn't that the reason you're throwing the party in the first place?" 

Off course these 5 tips can be used for any dinnerparty, especially also for Christmas dinner planning. 

I can only agree to this. 

Here is my recipe for a stress-free start of your dinnerparty with an easy cocktail:

Prosecco with amaretto & raspberries
Inspired on a welcome drink I had at restaurant Tuinhuis Culinair in Tilburg, Netherlands

  • Amaretto 
  • Prosecco
  • Fresh raspberries. 

Divide a small dash of amaretto in champagne glasses; not to much or it will be very sweet. 
Top it off with prosecco and a few fresh raspberries. 
Serve with straw. 

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Confessions of a Cookbook Addict

OK I admit; it's not just a hobby anymore it's more like an addiction. A cookbook addiction.  
I'm not sure if there is a treatment for that… 
But as long as I can afford it I don't think it's such a big problem. 
Except maybe a space problem in our house. For now they are scattered around the house; the living room, the kitchen, the study and even the bedroom!  
My last money at the end of the month is more likely to be spent on a new cookbook rather than new clothes or something for the house. And when we were backpacking in Peru last year and I discovered there were already two volumes of  Tony Custers 'The Art of Peruvian Cuisine', each volume about 2,3 kilo grams in weight, I could not resist buying them both.  A bit crazy, I know.

Fortunately I'm not the only one; many foodies are suffering from this addiction. 
Some of them even devoted a whole blog to it! Like Diary of a Cookbook Addict with lovely posts about her favourite cookbooks written by a Philly native who moved to Dublin. Unfortunately she stopped posting since this year. 
Then there are the other foodbloggers like myself who made confessions on their blogs; Anja & Ianna from the Dutch foodblogs Brutsellog & Beginspiration blame blogging about recipes as the start of their cookbook addiction.
And Dana from The Kitchn even gives some tips on things you can do if you're starting to feel out of control. But I'm not at that point, not yet! 

Although I can't find any actual numbers at the above mentioned blogs;  freelance journalist Dionne Christian admits she has 148 cookbooks in an article about why we're addicted to cookbooks in The New Zealand HeraldI counted mine; 198 cookbooks + so many issues of cooking magazines I don't even start counting them. But that's nothing compared to the cookbook collection of Tonny Eyk, a Dutch pianist, who according to Bouillon magazine owns a cookbook library with 1500 cookbooks! 
A cookbook library; I need a bigger house for that ;-)

Although my cookbooks are not organised by logical order; they are more or less divided into the following categories:

Books I cook from a lot or are frequently consulted; I keep this in my kitchen cabinet.

The 'big' books; either in weight or from big chefs; they are standing on a bookshelf in the living room.

Below it are the culinary novels; with my absolute favourite 'Cooking for Mr. Latte' from Amanda Hesser 

A big part of my cookbook collection I keep in my study...

Then there is always a pile of cookbooks or culinary novels on my bedside cabinet. Along with some culinary magazines and  'normal' books.

Most of my recently bought cookbooks are kept on a sidetable in the livingroom for a while, so I can look for new recipes while sitting on the couch in the evening.

And last but not least the 'cookbook' I use most; a collection of all the recipes I made over and over again in the last few years. I type them in Word and reprint it at least once a year. It's full of recipes from my cookbook collection, recipes I found on Internet, recipes from magazines and from family and friends. 
All updated and provided with hand written notes. When we bought our kitchen a few years ago I insisted on a cookbook holder so I have them on eye level all the time I'm cooking :-D

There was a time that I made the promises to myself that I actually have to cook 1 recipe from each copy, or else I would have to sell them. Well, let's just say I do use most of my cookbooks a lot but I have not gotten around to make anything from 'A day at El Bulli', the amazing cookbook 'Puurst' from *** restaurant Librije in the Netherlands which won the Gourmand World Cookbook award 2013 in the 'best chef' category or from *** Chef Gordon Ramsey. These are more for inspiration and new ideas for dishes I make in a simplified way.

On my wish list are Ottolenghi's Pleny,  Mastering the Art of French Cooking from Julia Child, Nigel Slater's Kitchen diaries and many, many more.

I'm really curious how many cookbooks other crazy foodies have, what's their favourite cookbook and what's on their wish list! Leave a comment to let me know :-)