Mock Doner Kebab

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Doner Kebab is a dish, originally from Turkey, made with spiced meat roasted on a vertical  spit roast. The best Kebab I’ve ever eaten was in Berlin, as the city hosts the largest Turkish community outside of Turkey and it’s very easy to find places that serve great kebabs. The situation is London is not as good, as the quality of the meats (you will mainly find lamb, which seems to be heavily processed, and chicken, but not particularly tasty) is not great, plus they serve it on pitta bread, which makes it very difficult to eat. Furthermore, nowadays kebabs often draw public attention for the wrong reasons, mainly for being very high in fat and calories,being made with meats whose origin is unclear (to say the least). As I live in London, for the above reasons I hardly ever have a kebab, which is a shame, because a consider a a good kebab a real treat,
so I was very happy when I found , almost by accident, a way to make something similar to the real thing, although with a completely different process (I doubt that most people have a vertical spit roast at home anyway :))

I am a massive smoked Paprika aficionado and I make my own smoked Paprika-based spice mixtures. The latest one I have come up with is made with dried thyme and oregano, dried Cayenne pepper (I use Italian peperoncino), all reduced to a fine powder using a mortar and pestle and, of course, smoked Paprika.
The result is an intense, fresh, smoky and lightly pungent flavour that works beautifully with chicken and pork.
Once I was eating some chicken that I had made with that mix, and the flavours reminded me of my favourite kebab place in Berlin (Berlin, due to its large Turkish community, is probably the European capital of kebab), so I decided that i would come up with a process to make it look and taste (almost) like a real doner.

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INGREDIENTS:
For the spices mix: dried thyme, dried oregano, smoked garlic, smoked paprika and dried chilli

Good quality bread rolls,
Chicken thighs, boned (allow 150-200g per person)
White onion, roughly chopped (depending on taste, or about 50g per person)

For the sauce: half mayonnaise and half Greek Yogurt and (optional), 1 clove of garlic, better if blanched

Vegetables (quantities here are difficult to define because each Doner will require fairly small amounts of each):
Tomato, finely sliced
Cucumber, finely sliced on the diagonal
Lettuce, finely sliced
Red cabbage, finely sliced

Olive or canola oil, for shallow frying

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First, lets make the spice mix: put the chilli, dried oregano and dried thyme in a mortar and reduce to a fine powder, then add the smoked garlic and smoked paprika. Regarding the quantities, spice mixes depend on taste, so each one can find his way around. As a guideline I can say that the thyme and oregano should make up roughly half of the total quantity, smoked garlic one fifth and the remainder will be smoked paprika. Chilli should just give a hint of piquancy but this is not meant to be a hot dish.

Regarding the meat, I suggest chicken thighs, because they are more tender and juicy than breast; you will find thigh fillets in most supermarkets nowadays; unfortunately, they are boned and skinned, whilst you want to keep the skin on for this preparation as it will add a nice touch of crispness, so it’s better if you bone them yourself or ask your butcher to do it for you.

Once you’ve got your skin-on thigh fillet, proceed as follows:

NOTE: a lightly toasted bread will provide an even better result, so I suggest that you turn the oven on at this point and toast the bread

  • Lay them on a chipping board and flatten using a meat pounder until they have a uniform thickness of 1 cm or less. Pounding the meat will make it thinner, so it will cook more quickly, and will also make the thickness uniform, so the cooking will be more uniform
Pound the meat

Pound the meat

Difference in size between two fillets, the one on the left has been pounded

Difference in size between two fillets, the one on the left has been pounded

Difference in thickness between the two filets, the one on the left has been pounded

Difference in thickness between the two filets, the one on the left has been pounded

  •  Coat with flour
  • In a skillet, heat the oil and shallow fry the fillets on both sides until golden and crispy
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  •  Take the fillets off the pan and shallow fry the onions on medium heat
  • In the meantime, finely slice the cooked thigh fillets. There are several methods to do it, but, since they are very hot, I find that holding them with tongues and cutting with scissors is particularly effective:
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  •  As the onions are cooked through and start browning, return the meat to the pan, liberally add the spice mix, stir well and turn off the heat
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Now all you have to do is to assemble your sandwich. Spread the garlic sauce and add the meat and veggies to the toasted roll, and enjoy!

 

Quinoa “paella” (Chicken and Chorizo)

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Basics needed:

QUINOA
How to peel a pepper

Paella is a well-known Spanish dish, and the most famous version is made with rice, chicken and seafood, and peppers, with the addition of a good of pinch of saffron that gives the dish its distinctive yellow colour.

Personally I am not a big fan of putting meat and fish in the same dish (with some exception, but chicken and seafood definitely falls into the main rule), and I’d rather make my paella with either chicken OR seafood.
Looking for ideas for a chicken paella I came across a version with chorizo, which is an ingredient I particularly like. Since I tend to use quinoa as a substitute for rice due to its higher nutritional value, I decided to make a quinoa paella.
In this recipe I use chorizo sausage, which is more suitable for cooking; however, if you cannot find it, dried chorizo can be used instead.
I also use chicken thigh fillets as it is my favourite part, and, for a finer result, I peel the peppers before cooking them

INGREDIENTS (serves 4)
360 g white quinoa
200 g Chorizo sausage
3 small chicken thighs fillets, without skin
2 red bell peppers
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 ripe tomatoes
1 tbsp. Olive oil
1 tsp. sweet smoked paprika
1 pinch of saffron
Salt
Parsley, finely chopped.
Flour, or corn starch to coat the meat
1 l vegetable stock (optional)

This is the process:

  1. Sear the peppers on an open flame, and place them in a bag; once cold, peel them, then remove the seeds and the white membranes inside
  2. Cut the chicken in small pieces and coat it with flour. NOTE: if you want a gluten-free dish, use corn starch instead
  3. Cut the chorizo in small pieces and dry-fry it in a large pan or skillet, trying not to make it crispy
  4. When the chorizo is done, remove it from the pan and set aside. The sausage will have released some of its fat; add some olive oil if need and cook the chicken until brown on all sides; set aside
  5. Still in the same skillet, on a very low heat, sweat the onions for five minutes
  6. In the meantime, roughly chop the peppers, and when the onion is soft, add to the pan and cook for another five minutes
  7. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute, making sure it doesn’t get brown
  8. Dice the tomatoes and add them to the other ingredients
  9. Rinse the quinoa and add it to the pan, and cover with the stock, if using, or boiling water if not
  10. Add the smoked paprika and simmer until almost all the water has been absorbed
  11. At the end, add the saffron and cook until all the water has been absorbed
  12. Sprinkle with parsley before serving

Sage & Marsala Chicken

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***This is a simple and quick, but very tasty nonetheless, recipe for everyday cooking, shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes to make***

Marsala chicken is an Italian classic; here I make a version with sage, as the two flavours work very well together. In this recipe I use thigh fillets as it’s by far my favourite part of the chicken and virtually the only one I use.

NOTE: Marsala is a Sicilian fortified wine  (14-20% alcohol by volume), much appreciated in Italian cooking. If unable to find it, you can replace it with Sherry for this recipe.

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INGREDIENTS (serves 4):
800 chicken thigh fillets, diced
Plain flour (to coat the meat)
10 sage leaves, roughly chopped
1 small red onion (about 150g), roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
150ml semi-dry Marsala
Salt
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  1. Dice the thigh fillets in small pieces, an inch or whatever you like, but make sure they are all the same size to allow even cooking
  2. Coat with flour: this is very important for a few reasons. First, the flour will draw out some of the moisture of the meat, which in turn will cook more quickly and better; second, it will help the browning of the meat, resulting in a better flavour; third, when you add the Marsala (but this is valid for any liquid you use), the cooked starch will create a nice glaze that will enhance the appearance of your dish
  3. Cook in a pan or a wok, with 2 tbsp olive oil, on high heat, until brown on all sides, and season with salt. NOTE: if the pan is not big enough to cook all the meat at once, cook it in smaller batches (the pieces have to fit in a single layer, every piece has to be in direct contact with the bottom of the pan)
  4. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside, preferably in a warm place
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  5. In the same pan, sweat the onions with the sage on low heat for five minutes, then add the garlic and cook for another minute
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  6. Put the meat back in the pan, add the wine, and cook on high heat for a few minutes, until the liquid has reduced and a nice glaze has formed
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You can serve it with a salad or roasted vegetables on the side

Meatballs

Ingredients:

500g beef, veal or pork meat
1 medium egg
25 ml whole milk
80g red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
15g finely chopped parsley
10g breadcrumbs
10g Salt

The first consideration is on the meat that should be used: I indicated beef, veal or pork, as they can be used alternatively or together, or two out of three can be used – most people do not have an issue with beef, but veal is rather expensive and hard to find in the UK, and some do not eat pork and not only for religious reasons.

I haven’t included lamb because (apart from being generally quite fatty), it’s got a very strong flavour and you should use it only if the other ingredients of choice work well with it.
However, rather than the type of meat, as the choice depends on your taste and circumstances, I would like to focus on the amount of fat that the meat should contain.

Health-conscious people will be tempted to buy lean or even extra lean mince, but the result will be that your meatballs will be quite dry and not very pleasant.

On the other hand, choosing meat with a very high fat content will give you very nice meatballs but will have a bad effect on your waistline (and cholesterol level etc.).

I found out that a good compromise is a mince with a fat content of 10-15%, that will keep your meatballs moist and won’t hit you too hard on the calories side. If you are buying pre-packed mince, the fat content per 100g will be clearly stated on the label (they even show it on a pie chart nowadays), otherwise you can ask your butcher.

Once that the meat has been chosen, we can focus on the other ingredients: onion, garlic and parsley will add some flavour; these meatballs are quite neutral because I am mainly explaining the process, but I will provide more recipes that include other ingredients, herbs and spices to offer more variety.

The other ingredients are needed to give the right texture: the milk will make your meat softer, the eggs, as their proteins coagulate during the cooking process, will make the meat balls firm and the breadcrumbs will make the mix less sticky and easier to work, as well as firming the meatballs up as they cook.

The preparation, once that all the ingredients have been measured (you won’t need to measure them every time, but I suggest you do it at least the first times, till you get a bit of practice) is very simple:

  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl (if you have a planetary mixer you can use the K-beater)
  2. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes
  3. Using the palm of your hands, make little balls

Once made, the meatballs can be cooked in many different ways, the most popular one in Italy probably being in tomato sauce.

To do that, simply bring the tomato sauce to a simmer and gently place the meatballs in it, shaking slightly the pan but without stirring at the beginning or they will break. They will be ready in 15 minutes