Admittedly I’ve been enjoying ‘The Voice’ on tv more than Masterchef. Why is that so? I’m not off cooking shows, I mean, I pretty much tape something to do with food every day, sometimes more than one thing. I enjoy late night culinary viewing because it relaxes me. I just feel bored with Masterchef. Thinking about it, I guess there are a few things I don’t like, like when the judges pester the ’doing-five-things-at-once’ contestants and ask them to explain in detail what they’re doing. They might only have ten minutes to go, but they still have to work like mad and give a commentary on what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. I’m also over the tears. And the emotional stories. Do I cry when I cook? Maybe when I peel onions or touch my eyes after chopping chilli’s or if I accidentally poke myself in the eye with the corner of the aluminium foil box as I tear off a sheet.
Matt Moran, no offense, feels like a fifth wheel. Gary thinks most contestants should re-think what they’re doing, five minutes before plating-up, George bounces when he says things are “yummy” and I feel awkward when Matt Preston doesn’t know what to do with his hands and sorta goes into “holding-my-cufflink” mode.
Don’t get me wrong, each one of them has influenced me and I look up to them. Matt Moran inspired my eggplant parmigiana recipe, Matt Preston introduced me to a wonderful lamb and pineapple curry dish in one of his newspaper articles (he also replies sometimes when you Tweet him) and let’s face it.. I always check out his clothes and accessories. I’m going to have the pleasure of dining at Gary Mehigan’s restaurant ‘Fenix’ soon (because I won a $250 ‘Best Restaurants of Australia’ gift card a few days ago).. and I’ve eaten George’s food too at Taste of Melbourne and Little Press & Cellar (Press Club). Local heroes. They sell tickets and put bums on seats.
Again.. It just feels like boredom with Masterchef. My local cooking show of choice (which is finished for 2012) remains MKR, (My Kitchen Rules). I love how the show travels from house to house (all over Australia) in the beginning where contestants cook in pairs in their own homes and serve a three course meal to their competitors and the judges, Pete and Manu. I love being surprised by the themes chosen by contestants which affect everything from tablecloths, flowers, lighting and props (like a ferrari in your backyard perhaps)? The chosen menu’s range from mind-blowing-wow to partially or completely inedible. Some cooking pairs work seemingly effortlessly together while others tire of each other and can’t handle the heat in the kitchen. Shopping bags with essential ingredients get left behind at Coles, ovens don’t work, mashed potatoes fail and contestants make diners wait two to three hours for main courses to be served. Throw-something-at-your-telly stuff!
I’ve only ever seen a few of the MKR ‘stars’ in person. One Victorian couple (housemates Kane and Lee) I spotted at ‘Dancing With the Stars’ last year (we were both audience members, but they had better seats). Manu, one of the MKR judges was a DWTS contestant at the time. I also watched a ‘Sammy and Bella’ cooking demo last year at a local market – the sisters were last years MKR winners who blew me away when the show took us to their gorgeous Sydney mansion-house. Gasps and “wow’s” and “they must be rich” could be heard loudly in our living room. The one thing I have in common with the Jakubiak girls apart from being a foodie is an Eastern European heritage. Them Polish, me Hungarian.
The other night I whipped up this quick and delicious Hungarian-style chicken stew, not thinking it would turn up here on my blog. We enjoyed it so much I thought I’d share it with you today. The pillars of Hungarian cuisine are based on four types of stew, being pörkölt (uses cubed, boneless meat with less paprika-based gravy or ‘soup’ than goulash & no white potatoes), gulyás (also known in English as ‘goulash’, has more paprika-based gravy, uses meat with bones and includes potatoes or dumplings), paprikás (the one my Mum and her Hungarian friends cooked the most when I was growing up, probably wasn’t very authentic, because it was very soupy, not creamy and it was full of potatoes instead of homemade noodles and chicken on the bone as opposed to fillets – It was however thickened with a roux made of paprika, flour and fat – which is actually part of authentic paprikás) and finally tokány (where paprika isn’t the star and meat is cut into strips, not cubes).
Thickening agents (like roux) aren’t traditionally used in pörkölt (pronounced: purr-curl-t) because the finished dish is thickened by way of reduction. I’ve been practical/sneaky and included a thickener because my recipe isn’t a slow-simmered dish, instead a relatively quick and easy stew which is packed full of fresh flavours. Your dinner guests might be fooled into thinking it took you hours to create the wonderful plate of comfort before them. It might sound impossible, but it’s true!
My top tips for the recipe would be: 1. Try to stick to chicken thigh fillets, not breast meat 2. Don’t substitute dried herbs for fresh.. I’d much rather you use ‘Gourmet Garden’ herbs in paste-form from a tube in the absence of fresh herbs and finally 3. The buttered crusty bread is a must-have. I grew up in a house where bread was served with pretty much everything. A Hungarian relative of mine was in distress at my 21st birthday dinner a number of years ago (held at a Chinese restaurant)..because they offered no bread with the banquet. Not a crumb in sight nor a 7-11 across the road, thank goodness because I know he would have sent his wife over to buy a loaf. Sliced Wonder White to mop-up his seafood combination sauce.
Hungarian-style Pörkölt (Chicken Stew)
*Chicken thigh fillets x 1kg, chopped into small pieces (cubed)
*Middle Bacon x 2 rashers, chopped (some of the fat cut off)
*Sweet potato x 400gm (peeled weight)
*Brown onions x 2 extra-large OR 3 medium OR 4 small, finely chopped
*Carrot x 2, chopped
*Red Capsicum x 1 small, finely chopped
*Tomato x 1 big/ripe
*Sweet Hungarian paprika x 3 tablespoon’s
*Cayenne pepper or Hot Spanish paprika (which has medium heat) x 1 good pinch
*White wine (dry) x 300ml’s
*Porcini powder x 2 teaspoon’s
*Fresh parsley x 3/4 cup chopped
*Fresh dill x 3/4 cup chopped
*Chicken stock x 800ml’s (You can make it with a good stock powder like Massel’s and may need an extra 200m’s depending on how thick you like your sauce)
*Salt x 1 good pinch
*Cornflour x 2 tablespoon’s mixed well with 1 cup of cold water
*Loaf of European-style crusty bread & good butter for serving alongside stew
*Optional: Sour cream to dollop on top right before serving
*A sheet of baking paper if you don’t have a lid for your deep pan or pot, the paper will act like a cartouche to keep most of the steam in
-Saute onions, bacon and capsicum with a good pinch of salt until onions are softened (we’re not aiming to brown them).
-Add chopped chicken and turn up heat, stir until chicken has lost its pinkness.
-Add Hungarian paprika and cayenne pepper or both paprika’s if using hot Spanish, stir.
-Add white wine, stir and let bubble for a couple of minutes on high heat before adding chicken stock, sweet potatoes, tomato, porcini powder and half the parsley and dill (the remaining herbs are stirred through towards the end) ~ Turn down heat and let simmer until carrots cooked (about 15-20min’s).
-When carrots turn soft, add remaining chopped fresh herbs and stir. Make sure your cup of cornflour/water mixture is dissolved properly with no lumps (if prepared earlier, give it a stir with a fork before using) then stir through the stew quickly to thicken the sauce… stir for 30 seconds to a minute at least.
-Remove pot/deep pan from heat if it’s thickening too much and stir through a little extra chicken stock.
-Taste for seasoning, you may like extra salt or hot paprika?
-Serve in warm bowls with a buttered piece of European-style bread, sliced thickly off the loaf and torn in two pieces for a rustic look ~ Optional, add a dollop of sourcream on top right before eating.