Tag Archives: Rice

Another Stab at Chicken Risotto… this time I’m done!

29 Apr

I love risotto – who doesn’t? But how on earth can anyone actually make it, at home, themselves, without going to a restaurant or getting it out of a packet? It just does NOT COMPUTE.

Anyway – I have a history with this favourite rice dish, in that I just can’t make it.  My previous attempt turned into cement that you could actually hold above your head in a pan without it moving a millimetre. You can read about that poor slice of sludge here!

My most recent attempt wasn’t much better, this was another try using chicken and this time some red pepper too. Despite doing the recommended pouring and stirring I still managed to miss the sweet spot when you can reasonably call your dish a risotto before the rice sucks up ALL OF THE MOISTURE IN THE WORLD and turns into porridge.
chick1It actually made a rather good chicken fried rice though. So all was not lost.

Although I managed to kill yet another poor pan. I worry they’re all going to leave home one day. Look at what I do to them here and here!

The pan just about survived to live another day – my desire to perfect a risotto however is DEAD. I’m done.



Some rather racy Thai thanks to Racey

11 Jul

Years ago I used to live in a lovely flat in Notting Hill with a lovely friend called Rachel, I always say that while I lived there I had the time of my life (and I really did), Rachel and I had a lot of fun but I won’t go into any of that here. I knew she had spent a lot of time in Thailand and travelling the far east but I certainly don’t remember her cooking for me and I certainly didn’t for her (I don’t think we ate a lot in those days) but now Rachel is a fully grown up food blogger writing about beautiful, easy Thai food over on Racey’s Easy Thai(ish) Cooking.

We met up recently and in amongst the memories of our shared flat we also discussed me trying out a couple of her (easier) recipes, and so this week I did! She suggested the simplest might be her ‘Lovely Mince & Noodle Thing’ (it doesn’t have a name) and try out her technique to make perfect rice.

photo 1

First up Mince & Noodles.

It certainly seemed simple enough, and I prepped all the ingredients easily:

This is the mince mixed with soy sauce, curry powder, salt, pepper and flour. Plus chopped celery and garlic, a jug of stock and some red wine vinegar mixed with chilli flakes.

I then browned the mince mix in a frying pan in a little oil before adding the celery, garlic and stock to the pan to simmer for about 15mins.


photo 2This bubbling away made the whole kitchen smell lovely .

As soon as the celery started to soften and the stock had absorbed I was left with an unctuous mix that a pack of ‘straight to wok’ noodles was added (well I wouldn’t spoil it by making my own).

After another couple of minutes I added the vinegar and chilli mix and turned it out onto a plate to serve with some salad.

Well…. I have to say it was incredibly tasty, so if you actually have all the right ingredients and follow a recipe exactly as someone has described it works really well? Who knew?

photo 3

As I was on a roll I tried out Rachel’s rice the very same night. Now me and rice do NOT get on very well as this blog will testify. I now use the microwave sachets – which taste terrible – just because I cannot take any more burnt pans, sloppy rice pudding or grains like little bullets, but I thought it was worth another go.

Again I did exactly as Rachel explained, no washing, no  banishing of starch, no stirring, I just put some rice in a pan of salted boiling water and after 12 minutes took out and let it steam in a sieve for another 10 minutes above some remaining hot water. And look – fluffy and separated well cooked grains of rice – a cautious but well received success! My husband couldn’t believe it, and neither could I.
photo 4 Thanks Rachel!

Pot Noodle and I Grow Up

27 May

I used to love a Pot Noodle when I was younger, they seemed incredibly modern and were very useful during my early ‘vegetarian years’ when I lived at home and refused to eat anything my family cooked (and of course never cooked anything for myself).

I grew up, moved out, moved on, started eating meat again, but the hankering for the naughty noodle remained. Chicken and Mushroom was my favourite or Chow Mein at a push (never Beef and Tomato) and so usually once a year the feeling would over take me and not be satisfied until I had mixed up my little sachets and boiled that kettle. Sometimes I couldn’t even wait until it had all softened up and chose to eat those noodles hard.

However, my very real MSG intolerance caught up with me and my beloved PNs had to go because of course they were full of the stuff, which is why they tasted so great. Sigh.

Now I am a lot older and not only have to deal with the fact I can’t eat MSG but wheaty things give me a terrible bloat and almost everything causes my stomach acid to come back up – but that’s a different story – the thing is I have to be a bit more careful with what I eat. So I am always MORE than happy to find things that not only stop my tummy blowing up but are easy and remind me of being young.

photo[1]Bring forth the Kabuto Gluten Free Rice Noodles – and praise them for what they are, for they are decent, tasty noodles in a pot that you activate with boiling water but without that wheat protein that causes me a bit of trouble. Simple enough for students, the inebriated, the hungover, me, everyone. And about as far from a Pot Noodle as you can get without going too far if you know what I mean?

And having just downed both the Chicken and Miso versions I can confirm that there is no sign of any bloating. Win, win, I’m in.

Thanks to Kabuto for sending me some of their Gluten Free Rice Noodles to test out, it’s like they knew about my early love affair with Pot Noodles, it’s like they knew about my poor digestion, it’s like they can see into my very soul…


One Year On… A Poem!

21 Aug

So Alice Can’t Cook is one year old.
It’s the first birthday of my blog and if I may be so bold?
I shall celebrate with a rhyme or three…
Remembering the best and worst of my cookery

So I’ve served raw eggs to an unborn baby
Made a risotto so solid it could have plastered a wall, maybe
My roasted vegetables just won’t roast
But now and again I can have a bit of a boast

My self-imposed Veg Box Challenge was really trying
The hideous shrunken-head celeriac had me crying
I created some fruit compote that ended up in the sink
And a toxic hummous that kicked up a stink

Jamie Oliver’s Fritters won the vote but still got burnt
I’ve been a student but still haven’t learnt
There has been SO much trouble with eggs and rice
But thankfully I have a failsafe dish that usually turns out quite nice

Toad in the Hole nearly burnt the kitchen down
And even an easy kids recipe made me frown
A slimy festive turkey had me skidding across the floor
But my Christmas kit cakes had them crying out for more

Just don’t talk to me about curry!
I either make it like soup or a nasty slurry
My pretend birthday cakes reveal me to be a bad mother
But this years castle creation has made me think not to bother!

I’ve made my dog sick and my son scream
But weirdly my really difficult salmon dish turned into a dream
In the past year I’ve laughed and I’ve cried
I’ve served crap food but still no one has died.
Thanks for reading this year, for all your helpful comments and the laughs!
Alice Can’t Cook (still)…
But She’s Getting Better x

Hello Fresh? Well, Hello Baby!

2 Aug

I’m often contacted by well-meaning friends with ideas to help me out in the kitchen, easy recipes that ‘anyone can cook, even you Alice‘ or invitations to come round and learn something. Social media chefs offer handy hints to me via Twitter and of course the wonderful commenters on here give me great advice constantly.

Some things work for me, some things don’t. But I appreciate everything, so you can imagine how happy I was to hear from Hello Fresh who asked if I would try out one of their home delivery boxes – these include all the ingredients you need to make fresh meals at home.

Yes ALL the ingredients, down to a pat of butter, a drizzle of honey or a pinch of seeds (and lots of things I don’t have in my cupboard because I don’t know how to use them). They promised their easy to read recipes and pan-ready items would reveal the gourmet chef in me… How could I say no to a challenge like that?
I was very impressed with the delivery, everything was fresh, responsibly sourced and organic where possible. And the three recipes looked perfect, light and tasty. I couldn’t wait to get going…

Chicken Meatballs With Homemade Ragu & Spaghetti

I made this up for a weekend lunch with my son who loves pasta. I made a few mistakes: burnt the carrots and onions slightly, chopped the coriander too roughly and made the meatballs too big – you were meant to create 12, I made 7!
I was so concerned at my balls being too big and raw inside I overcooked them. And because my coriander was far too large my son spent the time pulling green stalks and leaves out from between his teeth. However, damn they were tasty – you can use fennel seeds in everyday cooking. Who knew? I will be trying again but just a bit smaller next time…

Summer Chicken with Ginger Rice and Courgettes

I love North African cooking so was pleased to see this dish included. However, I have trouble cooking savoury dishes with traditionally sweet things as they always taste like pudding. This sunny little recipe included greek yogurt, honey and fresh ginger – as well as some toasted chilli flakes and coriander seeds which meant the kitchen smelt gorgeous and I didn’t burn them either…
I couldn’t get over how baking and grilling a spiced yogurt actually turned into proper food. You really do learn something every day. And I now know how to flavour plain rice with ginger (and possibly other things?)
The portions were small and light, so great for me but my husband does prefer a bit more ‘heft’ to his meal.

Courgette & Butterbean Salad with Pan-Fried Salmon

Er, I don’t eat fish. At all. Nothing from the sea for me… I’m not allergic I just hate it. I’m the worst dinner guest. But my husband loves it so as a surprise I got this together for him. This is a bright, fresh, colourful meal that was a joy to cook. I loved getting it ready:
My husband was incredibly concerned, every time I have cooked seafood for him before it has been an utter disaster. Maybe because I don’t eat it myself but it is always either overcooked and rubbery or undercooked and dangerous. But I smiled serenely with my failsafe recipe card in front of me!
I was so happy when I served this one up. Nothing went wrong and I enjoyed the experience so much.  I was cooking proper food! Me.
I even had a glass of wine on the go I was so relaxed. It was like being in a kitchen advert.

Two things you need to know:

  • I have NEVER cooked salmon in my life
  • My husband said it was the best thing I have EVER made for him

So… as an experiment I’d say it was a success. I loved the fact the recipe cards spelt everything out so clearly, for a ‘non-chef’ it was great to get ideas on what flavours went together and such detailed instructions. I always think when I am told to ‘put something into a pan of boiling water’ why wasn’t I told to put that pan on a few steps ago – well Hello Fresh does that.
In fact the only thing it assumes about your cooking is that you own some salt and pepper, and even I have some of that! I’m not completely useless…

(Thanks to Hello Fresh who provided me a with free box of ingredients so I could write this blog post, I hope you enjoyed reading it, but I normally buy and burn my own food OK?)

Notto Risotto

18 Jan

My adventure with rice continues. It’s a long and arduous road, littered with failures. A culinary journey of self-discovery and self-reproach. An odyssey, if you will, into the world of cereal grain staples.

Basically I still can’t cook rice.

But I found this little jar in M&S that promised to make a great risotto, all I had to do was add the rice and whatever I liked. There was a very easy recipe printed on the side so I decided to give it a go. The jar contained a paste that was to act like a stock for the risotto meaning I didn’t have to rely on myself for the flavour (or lack of it).

I added this gooey unction to a hot frying pan with some olive oil and added the rice for a minute or so. Then transferred all of it to a big pan, and poured in a litre of cold water.
While it was heating up I fried some diced chicken breast with dried sage and butter to throw in at the end. Here I am at this stage, the watery rice mixture seems to have a rather attractive scum on it!
I informed Twitter that I was about to attempt a risotto and the helpful hints came flooding in. It seemed the main thing to do was to just keep stirring while the rice was simmering. So I stood over that pan for nearly half an hour agitating that rice almost continuously. Everyone seemed rather concerned that the recipe had required me to add all the water all at once instead of gradually, but surely M&S couldn’t be wrong? I ploughed on…
Gradually the gloop seemed to take form and thicken, maybe I wasn’t going to dine on rice soup tonight after all?
I tossed in the cooked chicken and thought about how marvellous it was going to be to serve up an unctous, oozing, tasty risotto on my first attempt.
I started to think of trying a fresh pea one, using white wine in another and maybe buying an expensive slab of parmesan cheese to serve with all of these fabulous future risottos I was going to make.

But something happened, the rice had sucked up the stock, but also seemed to have sucked up everything else too. Every bit of moisture in the air, possibly the air itself. Suddenly it became massive. Massive and Hard!

My spoon stopped moving through the mixture. It had turned into a solid, chicken porridge.
I lifted up the heavy pan, made even heavier with it’s leaden contents, and upended it over my head. Nope, not a drop or a grain landed on me, I’d ruined it. Forget ooze, this stuff wouldn’t move at glacial pace.

I tried a spoonful, somehow the rice itself wasn’t even that cooked, it still felt rather bitty. But how could that be? It had consumed a bathtubful of water? It also had very little taste, maybe I should have relied on myself and seasoned it?
The chicken pieces tasted reasonably ok so I picked those out and ate them.

My dream of a fresh pea risotto, made with white wine and topped with expensive parmesan is back on the shelf. For now.

Rice is Nice?

15 Sep

Rice is nice. I like rice. So does everyone else. Egg-fried, risotto, pilau? It’s all good.

As a basic staple for a large part of the world it really should be quite easy to get right? But basic boiled white rice is incredibly hard! It should be hot, light and fluffy and fall apart off your fork. My husband can make rice like this quite brilliantly.

I however, make rice in two ways:

  • Rice Cake – a huge lump of gelatinous matter that comes out of the pan with a thud
  • Rice Bullets – uncooked pellets with a side of grey water

Here is where I think I am going wrong:

  • I use boiling water instead of cold
  • I estimate the amount of rice to water
  • I can’t resist giving it a stir
  • I give it too long or don’t give it long enough

This week I really applied myself and religiously washed the starch away, boiled up from cold, kept the lid on during steaming and ignored it.

Here is the finished result – I seem to have made a mixture of my two problem rices – the top is a bit of a cake and the bottom of the pan still held a lot of water and some bullets. But look, you can see individual grains…

The middle section could have held a bit of light and fluffiness but on forking it all went to mush. I told my husband it was my take on Thai sticky rice (even though we were having chilli) but we did manage to eat it.

I’m thinking of getting a rice steamer?

%d bloggers like this: