The other night I was debating over what to cook for dinner and I realised that I was really in the mood for a good quality beefburger. When I inspected the contents of the fridge I was pleased to find that I had some grated parmesan left over from a pasta dish I’d made a couple of nights before, so I decided to make Italian beefburgers with rosemary fries on the side.
One of my favourite types of fast food is Kentucky Fried Chicken. I’m not a big fan of their chicken drumsticks, but I love their chicken fillet burgers. They’re never dry and are always tasty, succulent and full of flavour. You can understand then, why I’ve always fancied having a go at trying to reproduce southern fried chicken in my own kitchen.
Although KFC uses chicken breasts in their fillet burgers I use chicken thighs because they’ve got far more flavour in them than breast meat and aren’t as dry. Actually, I’ve been buying skinless, de-boned chicken thighs much more than chicken breasts nowadays because they are infinitely tastier than chicken breasts and tend to remain tender and moist upon cooking, whereas chicken breasts dry out very easily. Chicken thighs are also considerably cheaper than chicken breasts. However, you can use whichever you prefer.
I’m pleased to announce that these southern fried chicken fillets are also gluten-free. I was a bit worried in case the gluten-free flour would be too dry in the southern fried chicken seasoning, but it wasn’t in the slightest. In fact, if anything, I think it helped to create that beautifully crisp, crunchy coating that you expect from a good piece of southern fried chicken. If gluten’s not an issue for you though, you can just use normal plain flour. Also, I fried my chicken pieces in a couple of centimetres of hot oil in a frying pan, but you could bake them in the oven if you want a less calorific dinner.
Since developing this recipe I’ve made this southern fried chicken for dinner at least three times because it tastes exactly the same as KFC chicken. It produces deliciously succulent, tender southern fried chicken fillets that are simply begging to be put in a soft bun, topped with good quality mayonnaise and served alongside some homemade potato wedges. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do.
A pack of skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1 egg white
1 & 1/2 cups of gluten-free flour (I use Dove’s Farm G/F flour because it’s made with low FODMAP ingredients whereas many other gluten-free flours are made with high FODMAP options.)
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp salt
1 & 1/2 tbsps sweet paprika
1 tsp asafoetida powder
1/2 tsp chilli powder (optional)
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme (aka marjoram)
Vegetable oil (for frying the chicken)
Line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper.
Mix all of your flour, spices and seasonings together in a wide bowl.
Put the egg white into another wide bowl and beat it.
Coat each chicken piece in beaten egg white before dipping it in the southern fried seasoning and placing them on the baking tray and leaving them dry for 15-20 mins.
Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan and cook the southern fried chicken until they are fully cooked through. Serve.
This is my final guest post for Jen, the doula from Your Birth Scotland, so I decided that I’d make it a recipe that was family friendly for mums who have their hands full and need a relatively quick, but nutritious dinner to serve their families. I figured everyone enjoys a good burger, so why not make it one that would be a great healthy option for both expectant mums and mums with families already?
Beans are incredibly healthy because they are a nutritionally dense protein that is full of soluble fibre (which lowers cholesterol and regulates blood sugar levels, ensuring you have a slow and steady release of energy) and also insoluble fibre (the kind that prevents constipation and, shall we say, ‘keeps you regular’). Beans also contain folate, a B vitamin which prevents anemia and keeps our blood cells healthy, and magnesium, a key mineral required for our metabolism. Therefore, after reading about how nutritionally important beans are to our overall health I figured they’d be brilliant to make a good burger with.
One of my favourite things to eat is a burger. I don’t know what it is about burgers that pleases me so much. It could be the tactile nature of sandwiching something seriously tasty between the two halves of a soft, fresh bun or it could also be the epic range of toppings that you can adorn your chosen burger with. These toppings include things such as cheese, a minefield of options in itself when you are faced with the choice of a cheese slice, a handful of grated cheddar or mozzarella, or a melting coating of blue cheese.
You’ve then got the question of salad. Do you go for sliced tomatoes, crispy iceberg lettuce or a leaf or two of little gem, or fresh cucumber slices? There are other potential additions to your burger to consider too, such as whether to top it with jalapeños or gherkins. That’s before you even start looking at sauces! Or do you dare to go for all of the above, risking the entire structural integrity of your whole burger operation in the pursuit of the perfect bite? It’s evident that burgers are truly a risky, yet rewarding, business.
As much as I enjoy a beefburger I also very much like a good bean burger. (I should probably mention at this point that I’m not vegan, I just enjoy eating vegan food quite a lot and I’m allergic to dairy so it makes sense to make vegan food because it doesn’t contain dairy.) I like making bean burgers in particular because they’re really easy to make in the food processor, enabling me to knock up a quick dinner in no time at all. There’s also a wide range of flavoured bean burgers you can make, meaning I never get tired of them.
I decided to make these Broccoli and Butter Bean BBQ Burgers because I had some broccoli in the fridge and wanted to try it in a burger. The experiment worked quite well and I’m pleased to say that they are delicious. The broccoli adds a nice texture and the butter beans are bland enough that they don’t overpower the taste of the broccoli, but they absorb the BBQ flavours really well. It’s cornmeal (polenta) coating helps hold the bean burger together, but crisps up nicely in the oven, adding a nice crunchy bite to the broccoli and butter bean BBQ burgers. As a result you have a bean burger that has a great soft texture inside with a lovely crunchy outside.
Serve your broccoli and butter bean BBQ burgers in a fresh bun with a selection of toppings, such as coleslaw or hummus (I used Deliciously Ella’s Sundried Tomato Hummus), grated cheddar/vegan cheese slice, tomato, lettuce, gherkins, jalapeños, vegan mayo or BBQ sauce with french fries on the side.
Ingredients for the Broccoli and Butter Bean BBQ Burgers:
200g raw whole broccoli
200g of tinned butter beans (drained and rinsed well)
1 egg (or a vegan egg made of 1 tbsp. of chia seeds mixed with 3 tbsps. of cold water and soaked for half an hour)
1 tbsp tamari (gluten-free soy sauce)
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. of ground black pepper
1 tsp asafoetida powder
2 tsps. smoked paprika
The juice of 1 lime
50g cornmeal (polenta)
To Make a Quick Coleslaw Blend These Ingredients in a Food Processor:
To Make the Broccoli and Butter Bean BBQ Burgers:
If you’re not using a normal egg, prepare the chia egg by mixing 1 tbsp of chia seeds with 3 tbsps. of cold water and leaving them to soak for half an hour.
Preheat your oven to 200C/180C Fan/400F/Gas mark 6.
Cut the broccoli into small florets and steam in the microwave until tender.
Place all of your ingredients in a food processor and pulse until it’s combined together. Empty onto a plate.
Sprinkle your cornmeal onto another plate and lay out a piece of greaseproof paper beside it, so you have a production line in place.
Take some of the bean burger mixture and form a burger patty with it before coating it in the cornmeal. Continue making burgers until all the mixture is used up.
Place your burgers on the sheet of greaseproof paper and bake in the oven until they are golden brown.
Serve in buns with whatever toppings take your fancy.
Some time ago a friend of mine asked me if I’d consider doing a blog post on fajitas, but every time I made chicken fajitas I never felt as though they were interesting enough to feature on my website. However, I came to realise that this was down to two reasons. One, I’m utterly bored to death with eating chicken in fajitas when there are much more interesting options out there instead. And two, I needed to know more about how Mexicans created authentic fajitas (i.e. what meat did they tend to use? How did they marinate it? And what herbs and spices did they use?). This realisation led me into an investigative journey into the chemistry that creates a fantastic fajita.
WARNING! SCIENCE AHEAD! READ ON AT YOUR PERIL!
(But it’s quite interesting so I’d keep reading if I were you…)
The perfect fajita is made up of a number of components which come together to produce a wonderful medley of Mexican flavours: a warmed soft tortilla; juicy, slightly seared around the edges meat which is encrusted in paprika, cumin and chilli; and soft, buttery guacamole that’s sharp, but aromatic, with freshly squeezed lime juice. Bliss.
Although, there’s more to it than just serving the right combination of ingredients for people to cram into a tortilla, the meat’s got to be treated right in the first place in order for it to give its all to the diner’s palate. That’s where the chemistry comes in. Upon investigation, I’ve discovered that the best meat to serve when making fajitas is beef. To be precise, good quality lean skirt steak (also known as flank).
The unique structural fibres of steak enable it to absorb the oils, acids and salts of a marinade much better than chicken or pork ever could and allow it to retain the flavours of the herbs and spices we choose to add, but it’s the important chemical effect of the marinade that leads to the production of a beautifully soft and juicy piece of cooked beef.
The best steak fajita marinade will always contain three elements: oil; acid; and salt. The oil works on three levels: it emulsifies the marinade and allows it to coat the beef efficiently; it dissolves the oil-soluble flavour compounds within the spices, enabling them to be absorbed into the meat; and it also provides a protective layer around the meat when you cook it over a high heat, hopefully helping it to retain its natural moisture. The acid, in the form of fresh lime juice, tenderises the meat and breaks down the connective tissue, leading to a softer and easier to chew mouthful of beef. And lastly, the marinade’s salt content dissolves myosin (a muscle protein) which gives the beef a slacker texture and helps retain its moisture. Also, by using soy sauce instead of plain old salt it introduces glutamate and protease (found naturally in soy sauce) into the marinade which add umami flavours and tenderise the meat further.
I did warn you there’d be science.
In an ideal world I’d marinade the steak fajita strips overnight to really let the flavours be absorbed by the meat, but if you take the notion to make these I think you can get away with an hour’s marinating (that’s what I did, to be honest). And in terms of cooking the meat, cook it fast over a really high heat and try to cook the steak medium to enable the natural juices of the steak to remain.
Serve the steak fajitas with a plethora of delicious accompaniments so that the people at your dining table can build the perfect fajita to suit themselves. Sombreros and stick-on handlebar moustaches are entirely optional though.
Ingredients for the marinade:
500g of skirt steak (cut into strips)
1 heaped tsp paprika
1 heaped tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp celery salt
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground chilli
¼ tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsps. tamari (gluten-free soy sauce)
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
The juice of 1 lime
100g red bell pepper (cut into thin slices)
100g green bell pepper (cut into thin slices)
8 corn tortillas (or gluten-free tortillas)
To make a basic guacamole:
The juice of ½ a lime
8 cherry tomatoes (quartered)
¼ tsp fine salt
Put the steak strips in a large bowl and add all the ingredients into the bowl with it (apart from your guacamole ingredients, obviously). Stir it all thoroughly and leave to marinade.
When you’re happy that your meat’s marinated enough put a griddle pan or a large frying pan over a high heat.
Drain and discard the liquid from the steak marinade before putting the steak and the slices of pepper into the hot pan.
Cook the steak to your preferred liking. Once cooked, put the steak in a serving bowl and cover with foil and let it rest for 5 mins while you make the guacamole.
To make the guacamole:
Half your avocados and remove the stone. Use a spoon to scoop out the avocado flesh and mash it in a bowl before adding the rest of the guacamole ingredients. Mix them all together and place in a serving bowl.
Serve your steak fajitas with warm, soft tortilla wraps, the guacamole, chopped fresh coriander, salsa, crème fraiche or sour cream (or a non-dairy version), re-fried beans, grated cheese (or a non-dairy version), and slices of fresh chilli.