Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Chicken...sort of.

A weekend of a little too much wine mixed with little decent sleep had me feeling jaded, tired and ready to say ‘sod it’ to the weekly food shop and ‘sod it’ to the meat substitute mission. I was about ready to cuddle up with a baguette filled with strong cheese and pickle and feel sorry for myself!

However, I am remarkably resilient when it comes to the subject of food, cooking and writing with an ability to spring into action should their involvement in my week be in jeopardy; self inflicted or not. It was with this fighting spirit that I headed to the supermarket to stock up.

As mentioned in my previous post I had a myriad of products to try out. I was a little concerned that my shopping bill was going to sky rocket given the fact that most of the products are £2+ as opposed to a can of pulses that are about 60p or a couple of aubergines for around £1.50 but, surprisingly, my bill was around the same as it usually is; still too high, some might say. There was less food in my trolley than normal, though, but this was most likely to do with the fact that I was going to be indulging in the easiness of a ‘meat and two veg’ lifestyle instead of the 10 different ingredients I often use to make a stew, curry or interesting salad.

The journey up the stairs to my first floor flat was somewhat easier with around 2 large shopping bags less than usual to wrestle with. So far, so good.

First up, Quorn Lemon and Black Pepper Escalopes £2.48 for a pack of 2.

Initially I was going to do a chicken, chips and peas pub grub meal but I cannot resist turning it up a notch. For inspiration I turned to the Queen of notch turning, Ina Garten aka the Barefoot Contessa. I love her! ‘How bad can that be?’ she often asks the salivating yet slightly shocked TV audience when listing the ingredients in a recipe all of which inevitably contain butter, cream and loads of salt and pepper. When you want comfort you go Contessa.

I settled on using the sauce from a chicken picatta recipe. My research shows that my initial thinking of this as an Italian dish is actually poppy cock and that it was actually created in the U.S around the 1930s; usually served with something starchy, be it rice, pasta or potatoes.

In the recipe chicken (or often veal) is pounded flat and dredged in flour, egg and seasoned breadcrumbs. I had been spared this job with the Quorn escalopes; already flattened, already breaded. Once pan fried the meat is then doused in a sauce of lemon and capers, flavours common to Sicilian cooking; the sauce is the reason I selected this recipe.

I have a sour-tooth opposite, unsurprisingly, to a sweet-tooth in that I love all things citrus flavoured- be it food or drink. Hand me a margarita alongside a bowl of lime drenched guacamole and nachos and I’m in culinary heaven, a squeeze of lemon over a curry will make it (and me) sing!

Quorn Piccata
(Serves 2)

2 Quorn Lemon and Black Pepper Escalopes
3 tablespoons butter
Juice of 2 lemons (a few thin half moon shaped slices reserved before juicing)
125ml veggie stock or white wine
2 tablespoons capers, drained if in brine/rinsed if in salt and roughly chopped
Salt and pepper
Flat leaf parsley, finely chopped for serving


Cook the escalopes as per the pack instructions, I baked them in the oven for 12 minutes by which time they were golden and crisp.

Meanwhile, in a medium frying pan melt 1 tbl sp of the butter and add the lemon juice, lemon halves, stock or wine, capers and salt (not too much, capers are very salty) and pepper and leave to simmer over a high heat for 2 minutes or until reduced by half.

Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 tbls spoons of butter, parsley and seasoning, if needed.

Serve the escalopes with a mound of buttermilk mash (recipe below) and greens; I used steamed purple sprouting broccoli, the iron richness balanced the buttery mash perfectly. Spoon the sauce over the escalopes and vegetables bringing any surplus to the table for further spooning.

Buttermilk Mash
(Serves 2- 3)

700g potatoes (I used red-skin desiree potatoes for a creamy mash)
¼ cup of milk
60g butter
½ cup of buttermilk
Salt and pepper


Peel and chop the potatoes into 1 1/2 inch chunks and add them to salted boiling water for around 10-15 minutes, until very tender.

Meanwhile, heat the milk and butter in a pan (don’t add the buttermilk, it will curdle) until hot, but not boiling, and set aside.

Once cooked, drain and mash the potatoes (Ina recommended you use a food mill but I am lacking in one of those so my trusty masher was utilised) and stir in the milk and butter mixture along with enough of the buttermilk to provide a creamy consistency. Season well with salt and black or white pepper.

Against the buttery yet ever so slightly sour mashed spuds (thanks to the buttermilk, if you can’t find it use a little natural yogurt thinned with some milk) the densely salted and lemon drenched sauce provided a glorious contrast that satisfied my aforementioned sour-tooth no end.

More importantly, the escalopes were a surprising pleasure to eat. Before popping them into our mouths you would have sworn they were dressed in arsenic not butter and lemon.

Once decidedly poison free we found the texture to be toothsome yet tender almost like a very firm tofu – I say very firm as regular firm tofu makes me gag a little as it’s a bit jelly like, nice deep fried though. Taste-wise it was delicately seasoned and ever so slightly sweet, ideal for this recipe. The crisp breadcrumb coating, again was well seasoned with a lemony hit to counter any richness from the protein inside. Reasonably priced, low in calories and saturated fat yet high in protein, I will buy them again for times when I’m at a loose end or only have time to 'hit the kitchen running' as Nigella would say.

In that you’re reading this post shows I survived, and that, yes, I am a little dramatic. In that I am now preparing the next post on the other products I tried shows the escalopes filled me with enough promise to carry on...

Come back soon.

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