Panang Gai (dry chicken curry)

At the end of March I went off to the depths of Suffolk to meet Veronica from Leaf House. She’d asked me to come and visit to talk about how I might be able to help her as she switched the focus of her business. She also promised to make me a curry for lunch. We had a great day chatting business stuff and I can report that the curry was A-Mazing.

So I made sure I got the recipe. I’ve made it twice so far and it really is simple and gorgeous. Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients for the paste its worth it.

Panang Gai, dry chicken curry

This is the recipe as Veronica gave it to me, with my adaptations in brackets:

First you have to make the red curry paste but you can blitz this to make it easier (I did and it was super easy). And you will have heaps left over to either make this one again or just use it for a ‘normal’ red curry 9I did half the amount so had none leftover). If you blitz rather than pound the paste, its a good idea to do at least day before so flavours ‘meld’ together (I didn’t I wasn’t that organised).

Red Curry Paste

nb.. recipe is from an Australian book ‘Thai Cuisine’ by Mogens Bay Esbensen… 1 cup = 250mls and 1 tablespoon is 20ml

1 cup shallots (red onions) chopped
1 cup garlic, chopped
1 cup lemon grass, tender parts only, chopped (I didn’t have any)
2 tablespoons coriander root (I didn’t have any of this either)
2 tablespoons galangal/laos root… fresh or dried, chopped
2 teaspoons peppercorns
2 teaspoons coriander seeds, roasted
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, roasted
2 teaspoons lime or makrut zest, grated
1 teaspoon nutmeg, ground (I didn’t add this as am not much of a nutmeg fan)
1 teaspoon mace (I didn’t have any)
20 – 30 dried red chillies (I used chilli flakes about 2 teaspoons worth)
4 tablespoons shrimp paste (kapee) (didn’t have any of this either)
2 tablespoons salt

Grind all together really well. Store in large, well sealed jar in the fridge. Keeps well. (As you can see I didn’t have lots of the ingredients BUT it still made a lovely curry)

Panang Gai.. dry chicken curry

750g chicken breast (I used left over roast chicken as that what I had and it was a mix of breast and leg meat)
1 tablespoon fresh or tinned green peppercorns, crushed (didn’t have any)
50g plain flour (ooops forgot this)
100ml vegetable oil
50g red curry paste
250ml coconut cream (not milk)
25g sugar
40ml fish sauce
60g roasted peanuts, chopped
Basil leaves to garnish.

Remove skin from chicken and cut into bite sized pieces. Rub crushed green peppercorns into the chicken meat and then toss in flour (obviously I didn’t do this bit). Heat oil in wok and stir fry chicken pieces until well coloured and nearly cooked. Remove chicken to platter and set aside.

Add curry paste to wok and stir fry for 2 minutes. Stir in coconut cream, sugar, fish sauce and peanuts. Stir well for 5 minutes.
Toss in chicken and coat with the thick sauce. Turn out onto serving platter and garnish with basil leaves.

note: I cooked the curry paste and sauce first and cooked for longer to thicken it as I hadn’t used flour, probably for 10 minutes. Then I added the chicken and cooked for another 10 minutes. I added some bamboo shoots at the end because I had some.

I think the secret is in making the spice paste it seems to give a much better tasting result.

Easy peasy BBQ baby chicken

Ahhhhhh its barbecue time of year and barbecue kind of weather: smell the grilling food, hear the chink of glasses, the laughter, the fun, the delicate aroma of firelighters, the burnt food, the lobster tinged neighbours. England, the summer.

But it’s be a shame not to join in with at least some of this, right? Correct.

BBQ PoussinHere’s the easy chicken (well poussin actually) we did last night:

2 poussin butterflied (dead simple this, lie it breast bone down, hold the parsons nose, cut along either side of the backbone and remove, flip it over, press down firmly on the breast to flatten, et voila. If stuck try YouTube for clips).

Marinade in lemon juice, zest, oil, garlic and rosemary for a couple of hours (use 50:50 juice to oil).

Light barbecue (using your preferred method: paper, firelighters, gas ignition) and wait for coals to be that delightful glowing cooking temperature.

Pop the poussin over the heat and cook for about 30 minutes turning regularly (cook it with skin side up more often than down, this way it cooks the meat from the inside without over cooking/burning the skin).

Meantime heat the remaining marinade in a saucepan and simmer hard to reduce to a nice glossy sauce.

Cut each poussin in half to make 4 portions. Eat with veg and carbs of your choice.

Lemony poussin, sourdough, broad beans, yoghurtWe had homemade sourdough bread to mop up the sauce/juices and broad beans tossed in minty yoghurt.


Just for the record

Those who have been following carefully might wonder where the very last of the roast chicken went.

You’ll be please to know that the cat didn’t get it but instead it ended up as a quick lunch in a fresh white lovely soft floury roll with lemon mayonnaise (or salad cream for one of us) and tomato. It was breast meat – perfect.

So in these credit crunch times lets see whether overall we got value from the chicken. We had 4 meals (for 2 people each time) using the meat (roast, curry, pie, sandwich) and about 5 pints of stock, which will make 10 potions of soup or risotto or whatever. The chicken cost £11.32 – you can do the maths anyway you want but that means it cost £1.42 per portion if you ignore the stock and 63p if you don’t.

Not bad going whatever angle you peer at it from.

Almost the end of the chicken

After cooking up a good batch of stock on Friday afternoon it was then time to use up most of the rest of the roast chicken leftovers.

Subconsciously I must have known it was ‘British Pie Week’ (as created by Jus-Rol the makers of ready to roll pastry!) as I’d been thinking creamy chicken pie with mushrooms or leeks for a few days. And to do credit to Jus-Rol it was their pastry I used – there was a half packet near the top of the freezer leftover from a previous pie-making moment that was begging to be put to good use – and so out it came to be defrosted.

Now I know you can say its not exactly home cooking to use ready made pastry and if it had been shortcrust that was needed I might have made my own as I’m finally quite good at it. I used to be rubbish at pastry but I think your hands just get colder as you get older so you get better without trying – at least in relation to making shortcrust pastry ;). But I find that a hot meaty pie needs a puff pastry top because really I love the way it gets all crispy on the top and soggy next to the filling without ending up too heavy or stodgy. Plus we have to remember that sometimes a few quick cheaty bits in the kitchen help to deliver a different dish – if I’d thought I’d have to make puff pastry myself, something not attempted since domestic science at school (such a great name to inspire teenagers to cook –what were they thinking) then there’d have been no pie.

So cheats pastry it was (come on, Delia cheats what can be wrong with it?).

To the pie filling. This was an amalgam of having read many recipes over the years and just thinking through what I wanted. Creamy but not too creamy; so crème fraiche instead of double cream. I wanted the mushrooms to play as big a part as the chicken – well I would they are in my top 5. And that was pretty much were I was coming from. 

So chop an onion and sauté in a little butter (for me onion just adds 

a nice tangy sweet flavour to any savoury dish – its a staple ingredient). I also added a couple of rashers of bacon chopped up small – because I had some thereto use up. Then add the mushrooms chopped into medium chunks or left whole if they are tiny. I used some big portobello’s and some small chestnut mushrooms to get to different textures – the portobello’s are softer the chestnut ones quite dense. Cook down a bit until the mushrooms start to release their juices. Add the chicken cut into bite sized chunks, a splash of white wine bring to a simmer and add the crème fraiche. Cook it down a little so it’s thickening up. Putit in the pie dish (remember you need a pie funnel if the dish is deep).
Roll out your home made (swot) or cheaty pastry (top marks for thinking ahead) to a good inch larger than the pie dish. Cut off about ½ inch of this extra and use it to create a pastry rim round the dish – even if you don’t need one it means there’ll be some extra crispy crust. Moisten the pastry rim and the lid and apply lid to rim. Pinch together with your fingers then knock up the edges with a knife to help give some extra lift. Cut a slit to allow the steam out. Apply decorative pastry patterns with any remaining pastry. Into the oven it goes – gas 6 (200C/400F) for around 30 minutes to cook the pastry.

Serve with a flourish but hope that it doesn’t collapse like mine did, the filling was a long way below the pastry – still tasted great though.


Leftover roast chicken – lets make stock

The stockpot is on. And in a good few hours there’ll be a fresh batch of chicken stock to use in soups, risottos or casseroles.

There is nothing quite like making stock (chicken or any other type) to make you feel virtuous, in fact there’s a danger of becoming smug about the whole thing. You’re getting maximum value from something in a way that would make your grandparents proud and you’re going to get extra special compliments on all the dishes you use it in; not because people know, but because they really can taste what it adds to the dish in its wonderful background way (kind of like a book printed on particularly nice paper). Soup made with proper stock really is on another level – anyone who ever says in a soup recipe use stock or water as if there is little difference is absolutely missing the point in my book.

But before you get carried away with the idea of stock making let’s just check in with some basics.

Do you have a big enough pan? If you only have a small saucepan then I’m sorry but making stock is not on the cards for the time being. You need something large enough to hold the broken up chicken carcass along with the vegetables we’ll be adding and up to around 3 litres of water. So pretty big – roughly 22-24cm in diameter or more. The pan in the pictures below is 28cm in diameter. There’s lots of lovely pans out there but there’s also no need to go mad. A great pot will last you for years and will be really useful for pasta, big batches of chilli, ragu and casseroles. As an example IKEA do a 5l stainless steel pot for about £17 and I’m sure there’s plenty more reasonably priced options out there – as with any kitchen kit though do go for the best you can afford today.

Have you got enough space to store the stock? You’re going to end up with between 1.5l and 2.5l (about 3-6 pints) of stock so think about where you are going to keep it. The ideal choice is to freeze most of it but if you’ve only got an ice box rather than a freezer then it could prove a little difficult. It will keep fine in the fridge but you’d need to use it within a week.

Have you got time? In many ways it doesn’t take long and you don’t have to constantly attend to it but on the other hand it will need to be simmered for at least 2 hours so don’t decide to make it when you know you need to go and collect the dry cleaning in half an hour. Anyway you won’t want to go out once its cooking because the smell will be so delicious you’ll just want to stay in and do some more of that ‘stock smug’ feeling thing.

Have you got something to strain it through? A colander is fine if that’s what you’ve got – it’ll take out the big/medium debris. Some people like to strain it through something finer, even muslin to get the smaller bits out and create a clearer stock. A fine gauge colander or a sieve you won’t be using for flour is good. 

Okay so lets get going.

Get the chicken carcass and any bones you’ve saved from using up the leftovers so far. Strip all the good useful meat of the carcass but don’t be too fussy about this – leaving some meat on the bones will add to the flavour of the final stock. Bung all the bones, any really scrappy meat, the carcass and the skin i.e. anything chicken-y, into the stockpot.

Next add the vegetables and herbs that are going to help flavour things. Read any cookery book and even if they tell you that you shouldn’t be using leftover roast (ignore them, they are wrong, stick with me, Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall) they will tell you to add the pretty much holy trinity of onion, carrot and leek – so do that. One medium onion (in quarters), a couple of reasonable size carrots cut in chunks (no need to peel unless you can’t manage to get all the soil off any other way) and a leek (all of it except the very bottom – no throwing those green tops away) again cut into chunks and rinsed so you don’t get sandy soil in the stock. Also good to add is celery – a couple of stacks – chunks again. On the herb/spice front you need some whole black peppercorns (6 or so), a bay leaf or two and a spring of parsley or thyme.

Pour on the water so everything is just covered – the tighter you pack the pot the less water you’ll need and the richer the end result. Less than 1.5l and you’re likely to have missed something out from the pot (so check because no chicken carcass = no chicken stock), more than 3l and its not really going to be that flavoursome.

Bring it up to the boil. You might get some horrid looking scummy froth rising up – scoop it out. And then cover and simmer for anything from 2-5 hours depending on the richness you want to achieve and the time available between starting and needing to do something else – like sleep or use the stock to make your dinner.

That’s pretty much it for a while. Check up on it every now and then and top up the water if it’s looking a bit low.

Once it’s done, allow it to cool and strain it – maybe straight into the tubs you’ll freeze it in. Use the size of tub that you’ll need your stock to be in later. Quite good are the tubs that fresh soup comes in at the supermarket – eat the soup, wash the tub, refill with stock, confident that you won’t need to be buying soup from the supermarket again anytime soon.

Roast chicken leftovers parts 2 and 3 – get ready

Today its time to use the rest of the roast chicken. Its going to be a chicken and mushroom pie for dinner and a big batch of stock.  So off to get any missing ingredients and prepare for a lovely afternoon of cooking (and delicious aromas filling the house). 

Come back later to check on how things are progressing.

Roast chicken leftovers (Tuesday night is curry night)

So what have we done so far with our roast chicken leftovers (apart from store them safely in the fridge of course)?

Well one of the favourite options is to rustle up a quick curry – always good whether you go for a creamy or a tomato based option. Probably not very authentic but WAY BETTER than anything you’ll get in a supermarket heat and eat; and believe me I know, I’ve tried a lot of heat and eat curry in my time searching for one that’s vaguely good. They are few and far between. Even if the supermarket recipe started out more authentic it’ll never taste quite as fresh and zingy as something you do yourself. So next time you’ve some leftover chicken gives this recipe a whirl and your taste buds a treat.


We went for a tomato based option and did a side of chickpeas and purple sprouting broccoli (because we happened to have a few bits of the latter lurking in the fridge drawer).

First the chicken curry…..

(enough for two – scale up with the chicken meat for greater numbers and add some water if there’s 4 of you, more tomatoes if there’s six – we could have made enough for six with the meat we had left but decided to save it for later in the week). 

The pan: we always use some kind of low sided sauté type pan for curry as this helps the sauce thicken faster than a regular sauce pan would – which is quite important.

The onion: we pretty much always start by frying up an onion fairly finely chopped so its starts to colour but not get too dark (it can get bitter if it over colours though I have found a great curry recipe with really crispy onion but I’ll save that for another post).

The spices: then we add the spices which are a mix of mostly freshly ground and a few ready prepared; we just go with the flow of what we fancy taste wise and how hot we want it to be (this last point always being up for a bit of debate as I’m a bit of a curry wimp when it comes to the chilli content). This time we used coriander and cumin seeds, ground turmeric, dried chili flakes and a chopped fresh red chilli. We toss the spices with the onions for about a minute to start to release the flavours – boy does it start to smell lovely.

Tomatoes: we add a tin of chopped tomatoes and raise the heat so it all starts to simmer down.

The chicken: as the tomatoes begin to bubble quite vigorously we add the chicken meat, which I’ve pulled off from one of the legs and cut into smallish chunks.
We leave this to bubble away fairly rapidly, keeping an eye out and stirring every so often to prevent it catching on the pan bottom. 

While that’s working its curry magic we get the chick peas and sprouting broccoli on the go, cutting the latter up into small florets and tossing with the chick peas, a tiny bit of water and a few twists from a garam masala spice mill plus a good dollop of greek yoghurt to coat everything. This cooks away and thickens whilst we pop on the basmati rice and get some bowls warming.

The chicken curry needs a good 20- 30 minutes of swift bubbling to get the chicken heated through and the sauce nice and concentrated, the chick peas and broccoli need about 15 minutes cooking (thought they’ll survive more if the timings go a bit awry) and the basmati needs 10 minutes boiling and few minutes after its drained to help fluff up.

Then its into the waiting bowls, to the table and dive in for a tasty curry experience. Pretty good all round authentic or not. 

Oh and there still at least two meals left on the chicken before we even get to thinking about maybe making stock.