I'm a cheat and a fraud.
My current twitter profile picture (I think the cool kidz are calling this an "avatar") is of me at my friend's wedding nearly 4 years ago. I don't see the point in being modest about this...I looked HOT. I had lost 3 stone, I could wear a flippy silk dress, I HAD A WAIST. I had a boyfriend too - granted, he was a thoroughly crap one that told me that I was still too fat, but I could pretend to myself for a bit that he liked me and that made me like myself a bit more (yes, I really am that shallow.)
I see this avatar more than a dozen times a day. Sometimes I let myself click into it and I do a happy sigh because of my tiny waist (it's teeny!) and my small(er) boobs that fitted into pretty chocolate brown, spotty bras. The picture makes me happy but I really do feel like a massive fraud, because it's just not me any more. People who "do" twitter will know that it has an unintended secondary function as a free dating site and that the opportunity to flirt with total strangers is one that is regularly taken up. I've had countless direct (i.e. private) messages from guys who, if they knew what I really look like, simply wouldn't have bothered. And I feel bad about it because the picture is a big fat lie. (For the avoidance of doubt, I've never dated anyone from twitter. NEVER. So don't judge me, yeah?)
Anyway, part of the reason I've put Hot Pic on twitter is to counteract the misery which has been induced by the result of my recent enforced work photo session. I'd been in Australia for three weeks and arrived back at the office to find 3 new members of staff (this is about 40% of our entire staff), one of which informed me that I was having my photo taken for the firm's website the following day. Dude. Not the best way to get on my good side. This resulted in a total sense of humour failure on my part. 3 weeks in Australia had made me even fatter - yes, it's actually possible! WHO KNEW???! A 24-hour flight had left me shattered with puffy eyes and dark circles, crappy skin, bent double through back pain...I'd completely lost my smiles.
Now, I'm pretty good at Faking It. I do this a lot of the time, for example, doing my best to shelve my sadness when I'm around others. I failed to Fake It on photoshoot day. I was grumpy, embarrassed by my heft and chins (plural), angry that a proactive new colleague (I would just like to say at this point, he's lovely) was inflicting Fat Website Photo on me. After the pictures were taken, I legged it to the loo and cried for ten minutes. Not minor sniffles - full on sobbing. I was devastated (again - yes, I really am this shallow.) I never let people take my photograph...it's a self-preservation thing. I can kid myself that whilst it's clear that I am fat, it's not that bad, and then I see a photograph and it hits me like a punch in my stomach and I see what other people are seeing and it's both genuinely devastating and surprisingly shocking every time. I won't look at my firm's website at all now, I just can't bear it. I'm mortified and embarrassed that clients that I've never met now know what a slob they deal with every day.
I keep telling myself that I'm really going to start dieting. I've started eating porridge in the morning (Rude Health's Morning Glory is AMAZING, try it) and I'm trying to take sandwiches in for lunch. I went so far as to buy these ridiculous things called Slim Sticks which I suspect are utter bullsh*t and certainly taste bloody terrible. I keep finding that I diet brilliantly for a day and then the next I'm just rubbish.
ANYWAY. Last weekend I made Hainan chicken. It's healthy and amazing and I've been asked for the recipe by several people, so I said I'd blog it.
For the chicken bit
Medium chicken - get a good one, you're going to poach it and make a stock soup
A big knob of ginger, sliced - don't bother peeling it
The green ends of a bunch of spring onions, the bits that you'd ordinarily throw out
A banana shallot or a few regular ones, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 tsp of whole black peppercorns
2 star anise
For the rice bit
Basmatic rice - I had about 300 mls (see point 6 below) - this makes loads.
A clove or two of garlic
(A little vegetable oil...maybe - see below)
For the finished dish
Spring onions, sliced
Light soy sauce
HOT chilli sauce. You could make this, I couldn't be bothered so bought some from the local shop.
(I forgot to take this before I'd put the chicken in the pan...)
Untruss your chicken and cut off the extra bits of fat around the neck hole. DO NOT THROW THESE AWAY. Stuff the chicken cavity with the spring onion greens and the ginger slices. Put the chicken into an enormous lidded pan, cover with cold water, add the peppercorns, star anise, shallots and a huge shake of fish sauce.
Bring the chicken to the boil, skimming off the manky white stuff and put the lid on It should like a bit like this:
Cook it at a very gentle simmer for about 45 minutes. I thought it would take longer than this, but mine was falling apart and blood free at this point so I whisked it out of the water, popped it on a plate, extracted the stuff from the cavity and put that back in the stock and covered the chicken with foil to keep it a bit warm.
This next bit is boring. Taste the stock - it's a bit watery and boring, yes? You need to reduce it like crazy. Take the lid off and boil it furiously. This takes FOREVER. I think I watched a whole episode of The House of Eliott while I was reducing my stock. (I love The House of Eliott. I'm so old.) Keep tasting it so that you don't turn it off too soon; I know, it's really tempting because this bit is soooooooo dull, but it's worth it in the end, I promise. Oh, and keep adding more fish sauce. It tastes good!
Once your stock almost tastes like something you could drink (you're going to drink it later), start on your rice. Remember that chicken fat that you saved from earlier? You need to render that down in a smallish saucepan. If you haven't got enough fat or can't be bothered to do this, just use a little bit of vegetable oil. Try to avoid eating the crispy chicken skin. I TOTALLY avoided eating the crispy chicken skin.*
Measure out your rice in a jug (there is a reason for this, honest). I think mine was came up to the 300ml mark. Pour the rice into a sieve and rinse it thoroughly to remove the starch.
Crush the garlic cloves into the chicken fat, cook for a few seconds and then throw in the rice. Fry this off for a few minutes and then add 600 ml of the now-tasty chicken stock. This is why you measured the rice in the jug - you need double the volume of liquid to rice. It should bubble furiously then turn the heat down as low as it can go, put the lid on and let it cook for 20 minutes. DO NOT TOUCH THE LID.
After 20 minutes and another 1/3 of an episode of The House of Elliot (I'm obsessed) have a look at the rice. DO NOT REMOVE THE LID. I hope to god that you have a glass lid otherwise you're going to be a bit screwed at this stage. Assuming that you have a glass lid, tip the rice to the side LEAVING THE LID ON to see if there's any liquid remaining. There was in mine so I cooked it for another 4 minutes and crossed my fingers. If there's no liquid, turn off the heat, LEAVE THE LID ON and let it sit there for 10 minutes, becoming delightfully fluffy in its own steam.
Chop up your vegetables - thin slices of spring onion, half slices of peeled cucumber, chopped coriander. Carve up your chicken - it should still be a bit warm but it doesn't need to be, nor should be, hot. Drizzle it with a tiny bit of sesame oil and a little soy sauce. Take the lid off the rice and fluff it up with a fork. Taste it - it's AMAZING.
Serve it as you see fit. I shaped my rice in a bowl (because I'm a git) and sliced up a whole chicken breast. Pour yourself a cup of the soup to drink too because it's pretty delicious.
Basically, you've got the hot rice, warm chicken, cool crisp vegetables and drops of hot hot chilli sauce on top with the refreshing soup to drink alongside. Look, see?
This is pretty close to my food heaven which is strange as it's actually pretty healthy. I didn't get to this size by liking healthy food. However, as much as I love it, it's a little time consuming. It's not something you can cook when you get home from work - it's definitely a weekend recipe. My main problem during the week is that I'm always so tired and I just don't have the energy to cook anything spectacular after work...which is when I turn to the takeaway.
So. I challenge YOU, my readership of 3, to send me your super-speedy, low-effort, inexpensive, salmon-and-tinned-tomato-free recipes that I can prepare in minutes in the evening. (Oh, and since I ate weever fish at the weekend, I've gone off fish a little bit unless it's mackerel or cod-type-fishes. Or shellfish. Or squid. Meaty fish now freaks me out, so none of that thanks.)
And seriously, make this. It's a goodun.
* I ate the crispy chicken skin.