Tips: Pickling

Pickling is awesome. It’s more than likely that you will have most (if not all) the ingredients needed to pickle vegetables already at home, if not then you shouldn’t expect to pay out too much to start. Pickling is an effective way of preserving and adding flavour to food, and it’s not a lot of effort to do either. Here’s a rather basic, but (in my opinion) one of the best pickling liquor recipes:

  • 150g white wine vinegar
  • 150g water
  • 115g caster sugar
  • 1tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1tsp chilli flakes
  • 1tsp table salt

You can of course alter this to your own liking. Mustard seeds are pretty much a must; they add a taste that’s hard to describe, but if you’ve ever eaten a pickle you’ll be more than familiar with the smell and taste of these bad boys. I like to add chilli flakes because it adds a satisfying amount of heat to the sweet and sour taste – it just works.

Enough backstory, so first thing’s first: sterilise your jar(s). Preheat your oven to 140°c – things are about to get wild.

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Wash first, realise you left the label on later
From this point forward, I’m going to assume that you’re taking the time to sterilise just one jar like I did (gotta save money, you know). After you’ve washed the jar with hot, soapy water, you’ll need to dry it with a clean cloth and then take it apart – it’s a lot of effort, I know. Place your jar on a tray (minus all the metal bits and the label) and place in the oven for 15 minutes.

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I didn’t know at this point what I know now – I’m not qualified to reconstruct jars in a timely manner.
Put your jar back together again (quicker than I did, hopefully) and prepare the liquor. It’s quite simple, you just need to add everything into the jar and stir it a bit – the sugar will dissolve in good time after being annihilated by the vinegar, so don’t worry. I decided to pickle some shallot, which I used later for a salad. I’m a fan of slicing these into rings because it means that they pickle (taking on the liquors’ flavour) in a shorter amount of time. I would allow about a week before eating these – they will have softened up nicely by this point.

Place your sliced shallots into the liquor, and just like that you’re ready to forget about them until you wake up at 2am and need a snack. Unfortunately pickled shallots lose their nice pink complexion (as you can tell from the cover photo on this blog post), but we can’t have everything we want now, can we?

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That’s gotta be uncomfortable, right?

Creamy Pasta with Chicken and Bacon

Do you like bacon? Cool.

You will need to buy or scavenge (Serves 4):

  • 250g Chicken Breast
  • 150g Smoked Bacon (back or streaky, your preference)
  • 375g Fusilli Pasta
  • 300g Double Cream
  • 1 Small White Onion
  • 200g Chestnut Mushrooms
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic
  • 60ml White Wine
  • 1 tsp Parsley (preferably fresh)

 

First things first, I should say that the above recipe is to only be used as a guide. This is a somewhat obvious statement, but I should let you know that most (all) chefs don’t weigh out ingredients for recipes like this one. You’ll see from the pictures below that I used slightly different ingredient amounts because I only need to cook for 2 people – you may need to adjust to suit your household.

Prepped Onions
Start by preparing all of the ingredients before you start cooking. As with most pasta dishes, you can get everything cooked in less time than it would take most people to chop vegetables.

Stick a pan of salted water on a high heat (you’ll need it at boiling point, so start this early on). You’ll then need to finely dice the onions, mushrooms, and garlic. If you can’t be bothered to chop the garlic, you can instead use a cheese grater to achieve a similar size. Stack the rashers of bacon on top of each other, cut into long, thin strips and finely dice this too. Back bacon would be better to use as there’s less fat to trim (I used leftover streaky bacon, so don’t judge). I’m not going to describe how to cut chicken, I hope you can figure this out on your own.

Place a large saucepan on a high heat, drizzle a little oil in the pan and wait. Once it starts to ‘smoke’, add your bacon in and cook until the fat renders down. Add in your chopped veg and meat then continue cooking until everything is adequately cooked through.

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Normally you would need to brown off your chicken, but as it’s cut small there’s no need to waste time on this step.

Once you’ve brought the pan of water up to boiling point, add in the dried pasta and cook per instruction on the pack, minus 2 minutes. Once the pasta is ready to come off the heat, run cold water over it to stop it from overcooking. Drain the pasta through a colander and reserve until you need it later on.

The next step is to deglaze the pan with the white wine. I went with a cheap Pinot Grigio that I bought from Sainsbury’s about 5 months ago – you wouldn’t be able to tell. Don’t get roped into buying expensive wines to cook with, the difference in quality is negligible after the alcohol is cooked out. Once the liquor has reduced, you’ll need to add in most of your cream. It’s worth reserving some in the event that your sauce ends up too thick, just add in extra if this is the case – it’s a lot easier to add than it is to take away.

Add in your parsley, and season with salt and a touch of black pepper if you wish. I used dried parsley for convenience’ sake, although fresh is always better. It’s worth noting that your cream sauce will become thicker once you add in the pasta because of the starch content, so keep it looser than you think you’ll need it at this stage.

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Note: If I find you sprinkling chopped parsley around the plate for decorative purposes, I will hunt you down.

To finish off, you’ll need to add your (now cooled) pasta into your sauce. Remember that it’s currently al dente, so you’ll need to reheat it for a couple of minutes to finish off the cooking process. Check your seasoning and make sure the pasta is cooked, then serve.

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Congratulations, you made a thing.

The Idea

Hello theoretical audience. I feel like an initial blog is something I don’t really need, but this site made it look like I needed to write one – so here it is. I suppose it could be useful to give anyone who may be reading this a little bit of a backstory into why this page now exists.

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Note: This was the first dessert I ever created for a restaurant. First blog post, first dessert?

Reason Number 1: Boredom

I used to be a chef and I like to eat and cook. That sentence couldn’t have been more boring if I tried, but long story short, that is the biggest reason for why I’ve decided to write about food. My plan is to update this blog every now and then with pictures of food, recipes of my own, and give some tips and techniques that I’ve learnt from my time in the industry.

I was going to write more reasons, but really that’s the gist of it. This isn’t going to be another food blog that you see online that takes itself incredibly seriously, I’m not about that. Cooking is relatively straightforward when you understand the basics and my hope is to maybe help some readers think the same way a chef does.