Half Scottish, Half Japanese. Tempura Mars bar?

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I began writing this blog in October 2010 as a new father documenting food in his family. Before I knew it, I was in the final of MasterChef 2012. Now cooking is no longer just a hobby.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Live Below The Line Part 5

Day 3 (pronounced in a Geordie accent) of Live Below The Line. We have left: 2 chicken drumsticks, two chicken wings, 300g of split peas, 500g of pearl barley, one tin of chopped tomatoes and lots of long grain rice.

Lunch on Wednesday
Soup was always going to be one of our lunch options and I hoped there'd be enough left in the fridge in case we got hungry. I was going to make two types, but for simplicity, I decided to make one and make it as good as I could manage. I took the chicken stock, discarded the bones, set aside the vegetables and passed it through a fine sieve. I set aside 1 litre for cooking and used the remaining 2 litres or so for making soup.

Curried soup with chicken and split peas (about 5-6 portions)
2 litres of chicken stock
200g of yellow split peas
1/2 tin of chopped tomatoes
1/2 tsp curry powder
Pinch of salt

1. Rinse the split peas and bring them to the boil in the chicken stock.
2. Add the chopped tomatoes and a large teaspoon of curry powder and simmer for 30-40 minutes until the split peas are cooked.
3. Blitz in a jug blender. This is a good time to season the soup, with salt and cayenne pepper for more heat, if desired.
4. Pass through a sieve, if you want a smoother texture. Personally I'm happy with it being coarse this weeks - it makes it feel a bit more substantial! You could even add some cooked pearl barley to the soup before serving.

Supper on Wednesday
So far we've had chicken risotto and 'jerk chicken' (it wasn't really but we served it with rice and peas!) for suppers. On Wednesday, we had a mulligatawny style pearl barley stew. I love pearl barley. It's partly a nostalgia thing - my mum made lovely Scotch broth - but also because I love the bitey texture. It's very satisfying (and equally distressing if you overcook it into a gelatinous mush, as I did on one occasion). This recipe uses a British ingredient, cooked using the same technique as risotto, with Asian flavours. I did, however, overlook that pearl barley takes a while to cook - probably twice as long as  rice, so it's not great if you want to rustle something up in ten minutes. I served it with the chicken legs, which I boned, partly to help them cook quicker, partly for presentation. Don't get me wrong, drumsticks have their place, but with something like barley, I think it's nicer for the diner to be able to eat everything on the plate, instead of having a forkful of barley then gnawing away at a bone!

Chicken legs with curried pearl barley (serves 2)
2 chicken legs (preferably boned)
Veg oil
Cayenne pepper
100g pearl barley
200g chicken stock
Large pinch of salt
1 tsp curry powder
Water from the kettle

1. Preheat the oven to 190c and boil a kettle.
2. Coat the chicken legs in veg oil, sprinkle with salt and cayenne pepper. Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes. Use the grill at the end, if necessary to get the skin to crisp up.
3. Bring the barley, chicken stock, salt and curry powder to the boil then reduce to a lively simmer.
4. Add water from the kettle when required and cook for at least 40 minutes.

Day 4, here we come. What's left with two more days to go? The chicken wings, half a tin of chopped tomatoes, 100g of split peas, 400g of pearl barley and lots of long grain rice. Although, Live Below The Line is a tough challenge and exactly why it's such a good awareness raising campaign, it's the kind of challenge I like from a cooking perspective. The tough thing about Invention Tests on MasterChef was being spoilt for choice and having to narrow your choices. For me, a true invention test is when the cupboard is bare and you have to create something out of very little.

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