I felt like Chicken Tonight

Bored after a week of unimaginative dinners, I just invented the ultimate chicken burger. In case you’re interested, here’s how it goes. You need (quantities for one person; multiply as necessary):

  • 200g of minced chicken breast (that’s two nice-sized patties)
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 spring onion, chopped finely
  • One teaspoon paprika
  • One teaspoon ground cumin
  • A few finely torn-up coriander leaves
  • Pinch of salt
  • An egg-white (or the whole egg, if you’re not a health-freak)

Mix it all up by hand and have fun making a mess. It’ll be worryingly dark but don’t fret, when you cook it the colour will improve. Mould into two patties and splot them into a frying pan of hot olive oil. Flip ’em until cooked through.

Serve on a bap with mayo, rocket leaves and sweet chilli sauce. Flail around trying to stop the cats from stealing one burger while you’re eating the other.

Why should vegetarians have all the fun?

“Make a chilli with lentils,” Emily whined to me on more than one occasion, revealing her lifelong obsession with the humble lentil. Slaving over a hot stove and stirring the brown goop in the pot, I pondered the blandness of the simple vegetarian chilli. It’s all beans. Why, I wondered, have I never seen a recipe for lentil chilli that included meat? So I tinkered and experimented and after a little trial-and-error and one messy incident with a food-processor, came up with the following recipe. It’s damn good. Have a try:

Chilli à la Mumu (serves 4, or one Emily)
You will need:

  • Lard or olive oil
  • 250g minced beef
  • One medium onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 300g French green lentils
  • One can of kidney beans
  • One can of chopped tomatoes
  • Two large green chillis
  • Two capsicum peppers (one red, one green… oh, just mix ’em up)
  • 0.5l beef stock
  • Cumin seeds
  • The spicy constituent (optional and discussed below)
  • The usual seasonings, viz. salt and stuff

The spicy constituent is dependent on your tolerance for capsaicin. I use two teaspoons of habanero oil, which is a lot of spice. Equally you could de-seed and chop a couple of little red chillis. Or you could just omit, relying on the two big green peppers to bring some mild spice to the sauce.

  1. Check the lentils for stones and foreign bodies, rinse well, and drop them into a pan of boiling water. Turn the heat down and let them simmer for 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Finely chop the onion and crush the garlic. Gently fry them in either olive oil or lard for about 4 minutes, depending on your personal taste in these matters. I use lard because there is no smell in the world finer than onions frying in lard, and I never much liked my arteries anyway.
  3. Add the minced beef to the onions and garlic. Finely slice one of the green chillis and add that too. Stir regularly and gently fry for about ten minutes.
  4. Add the beef stock (I just use Oxo) to the pot. Tip in the lentils and the tomatoes.
  5. Rinse the kidney beans thoroughly. Coarsely chop the capsicum. Finely slice the remaining green chilli. Add these to the pot as well.
  6. Sprinkle in a teaspoon full of cumin seeds and, if necessary, add your spicy constituent. Give the whole thing a good stir and bring it to the boil.
  7. Turn the heat down and let it simmer gently, uncovered, for about an hour or until the stock is well reduced. Stir from time to time. At 45 minutes taste and add salt or additional spices if necessary.

Serve with whatever you prefer with chilli. I like white rice, or tortillas, or garlic bread. I believe some peculiar folks like to eat theirs out of jacket potatoes. An accompanying glass of verdelho works wonders with the spices, too.