Sweet and sour chicken


I hardly ever eat takeaway but occasionally I have a craving for sweet and sour chicken. Luckily our local Chinese is closed on a Sunday which is when I most hanker after one (as a salve for a hangover along with a polystyrene cup of chicken and sweetcorn soup and a greasy spring roll).

But occasionally we (should probably read Ben) will make one at home from scratch. This is much nicer anyway and although it does take a little more effort it tastes fresher and doesn’t fill you with regret and self-hatred the moment you’ve finished it.

In other news:

Keeping on the Chinese food theme I have been experimenting with homemade baked spring rolls which are a lot less oily than deep fat frying. They have been quite successful but the filling needs some work before I am happy with the recipe.

My eight year old daughter has declared herself a vegetarian. At first I vowed not to cook special vegetarian meals just for her but I am now being more supportive and have decided to give up meat for Lent in solidarity . So look out for more veggie dishes on this blog. I’ve been stalking the vegetarian aisle in Tesco and have already made a pretty tasty Quorn Bolognese but I would like to get a bit more adventurous (Ottolenghi here I come!).

I recently make some impromptu veggie sausage rolls by wrapping a frozen Linda McCartney sausage in a spring roll wrapper and baking in the oven for 30 minutes. Elizabeth loved them.

I’ve been drinking Ayurvedic detox tea, for no other reason than it tastes delicious (and makes a good caffeine free drink to have in the evening). To make it put ¼ of a teaspoon each of fennel, coriander and cumin seeds into a small tea pot. Pour over ½ a pint of boiling water and allow to infuse for 5 minutes. You can pour in extra hot water afterwards but the tea will obviously be milder.

Sweet and sour chicken

Serves 2-4 (depending on appetite)

For the chicken

  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 2 large chicken breasts cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 4 tablespoons of cornflour
  • Oil for deep frying

For the sauce

  • 1 carrot
  • 1 onion
  • 2 slices of chopped pineapple (tinned is fine)
  • 1 red pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of white vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato puree (or for a sweeter taste use ketchup)
  • 2 tablespoons of caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons of cornflour mixed with 1 tablespoon of water
  • If you want that authentic take-away taste then add a good pinch of MSG too

Season the chicken well with salt then dip each piece into the egg and roll in cornflour. Place on a plate in a single layer.

Fill a wok half full with oil and heat over a medium heat until nearly smoking. Drop in a third of the chicken pieces and cook for about 3 minutes until cooked through and a light golden colour. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen towels. Repeat with the remaining chicken in two more batches.

Remove all but 1 tablespoon of oil from the wok, reheat and stir fry all the vegetables (except the pineapple) for about 2 minutes. You can vary the vegetables depending on what you like. I like to keep the vegetables nice and crisp but cook for longer if you prefer.

Combine the vinegar, soy sauce, tomato puree, sugar and orange juice (and MSG if you like) in a small bowl. Stir in the cornflour mixture and mix well. Pour the sauce into the wok with the vegetables and add the pineapple.  Stir until the sauce boils and thickens slightly. Add the chicken to the pan and stir until well coated with the sauce. Check the seasoning and add a little more salt if necessary.

Serve with rice.


Detox tea for after the mock takeaway.


Vegetarian sausage rolls

Vegetarian sausage rolls

Whilst I enjoy cooking and eating meat free dishes, I’m not a huge fan of vegetarian food masquerading as meat. Having said this, these sausage rolls are a rare exception and they’re an absolute godsend when catering for my own family which includes both die-hard vegetarians and die-hard meat eaters. Even my staunchly carnivorous father can’t believe how tasty they are. They are also great for children’s parties (which is what the ones pictured above were made for).

I have made the original meat version but these are better in my opinion. Vegetarian sausages have a lower fat content which means the pastry stays crisp and dry (rather than swimming in a small pool of grease).

First you need to make a batch of Delia Smith’s quick flaky pastry which is pretty foolproof and can also be used for topping sweet and savoury pies.

Delia Smith’s quick flaky pastry (from her ‘Complete Cookery Course’)

  • 170g of Stork block margarine (this is apparently dairy free and so also suitable for vegans or those on a diary free diet)
  • 225g plain flour
  • Cold water

Weigh out the margarine, wrap it in a piece of tin foil and place in the freezer for 30 minutes to harden up.

In a large bowl measure out the flour, then take the margarine out of the freezer and grate it using a coarse grater into the flour. Dip the end of the margarine into the flour from time to time to stop it from sticking. Be quick here as it’s much easier to do this part while the margarine is still very cold.

Next, take a palette knife and start to cut the margarine into the flour without using your hands. Once the mixture is crumbly add just enough water to form a dough that leaves the bowl clean. It is best to add the water slowly until you have the right consistency – if you pour in too much water the dough will be too sticky to roll out.

Use your hands to form the dough into a ball and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour, although you can make this up to 24 hours in advance.

For the vegetarian sausage rolls

Makes about 18

  • 1 portion of quick flaky pastry (as above)
  • 450g of Quorn sausages (or other vegetarian sausages, Quorn sausages do contain milk but if you are cooking these for someone with a dairy allergy, then Holland and Barrett’s own brand vegetarian sausages are suitable for vegans)
  • 1/2 an onion, grated
  • A little milk or beaten egg for glazing

Take the sausages out of their casings, add the onion and mush up with your hands until well incorporated (vegetarian sausages have a very firm texture so this can be quite hard work but when you add the onion the whole mixture will start to soften up). Divide the mixture into two balls and roll each ball out into a long sausage shape about 1 1/2 – 2cm in diameter. Set aside.

Take the pastry out of the fridge. Divide into two portions and roll each out into an oblong shape as long as the sausages you’ve just rolled out and deep enough to wrap around the sausages with a small overlap. You will probably need to trim  with a knife to make a nice neat edge.

Place one roll of sausage meat onto one strip of pastry. Brush a little milk or egg along one edge, then wrap the pastry around the sausage and seal. Roll over so that the seal is on the bottom and then cut into individual rolls about 2 1/2 cm long with a sharp knife. Repeat the process with the other portion of pastry and sausage.

Place the rolls on a flat baking tray lined with baking parchment, then make two light slices with a sharp knife on the top of each roll and brush with a little milk.

Bake in an oven pre-heated to 220oC for about 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

Store the cooled sausage rolls in a tin. They can be eaten cold or warmed slightly in the oven before serving.

Some other vegetarian recipes on this blog: