"Sometimes the greatest ideas, the most obvious combinations lead to naught." WTF Do I Eat Tonight
The other day I cooked this dish - Chicken with mushrooms, mustard and sour cream for dinner as my 'new' recipe for the week. It had appeared in The Guardian newsletter in Nigel Slater's column presenting 'Two hearty chicken stews for a warming autumn treat'. That description is probably from The Guardian rather than Nigel, but still it seemed appropriate - even though it's Spring here, not Autumn. The weather was certainly autumnal.
Why did I pick it? Well I have made several chicken stews with mushrooms and mustard before. Sometimes improvised and sometimes from recipes. After all it's a pretty standard dish. But this one was different because it also contained cumin, coriander and garam masala. Intriguing - and different - I thought. And yes it could work. Although after the event I think there was indeed a deep-down measure of doubt, which I should have listened to.
What was the nature of the failure? Well David used the words 'very rich'. I think I may have used the word 'sicky'. Whatever the words we used though it was soon pretty clear that we were forcing ourselves to eat it. Not helped I must confess by the very gluggy rice.
Herewith an aside on the rice, which I may have mentioned before. I am not sure whether this is the fault of the rice - it's Jasmine rice, which I confess I don't usually use but there was no Basmati available at the time I bought it - unfortunately a 5kg bag. Or whether it is the fault of the rice cooker because these days rice gets cooked in a rice cooker. Not my preferred way of cooking either I have to say. And I really should set up a series of experiments to test this.
But back to the chicken. Yes the rice didn't help but the chicken dish - now that David had expressed his doubts was increasingly making me feel as if I was going to throw up. So eventually we both decided to desist and resort to bread and cheese - far tastier. Of course, as usual I had made far too much but to my everlasting shame it was all thrown away into the green recycling bin. Yes - our council allows us to do this. I hate throwing food away. Leftovers, however small are almost always either simply reheated or turned into something else.
Why did it fail? Well I think it was three things - maybe four. The first was the simple addition of some flour to the sauce at some point. This made the sauce very thick and gluggy.
The second, and I think the most important was the addition of those Indian spices. I notice that at the foot of the recipe is this note from The Guardian:
"This article was amended on 10 October 2022 to remove a mistaken mention of paprika in the introduction to the second recipe."
Well paprika might have been a better choice particularly if he was aiming for Hungarian - well he does say in his introduction: "There is something vaguely Hungarian about this". Which is a bit odd because really the only Hungarian thing about it is the sour cream. Maybe the mustard. No the Indian spices were all wrong - although I still don't really understand why. After all there are lots of Indian dishes with that sort of mix of spices and mushrooms, and yoghurt is a bit like sour cream isn't it?
That sour cream though was the third mistake although maybe I'm guilty here. You were meant to just dob some on top - well quite a lot - I used far less than he said - but I thought it might be better to mix it in - which I did - but just before serving, although I did let it heat up. I think it made it even more sicky though.
The last mistake may have been entirely mine in that my mushrooms were past their best. So I guess they tasted stronger than they otherwise might have. I really don't think they're the real problem though. No I think it was Nigel. I will not chastise myself on this.
"Sometimes the greatest ideas, the most obvious combinations lead to naught. I don’t mind my dinner being a bit rubbish if I haven’t made much effort. But when I have followed a recipe to the letter, not making any substitutions (which is exceedingly rare) and it still tastes a bit, well, blah, then I feel cheated." WTF Do I Eat Tonight?
Well I did too. Yes I changed it a tiny, tiny bit, but I should have listened to my gut which was wondering why I was adding flour and also why those Indian spices? However, I shan't be listening this particular piece of advice
"Cooking is an art that you can perfect through practice. If the recipe fails for the first time, don’t be disappointed! Instead, take it as an opportunity to improve your cooking skill. Double-check your recipe to make sure that you followed everything exactly and didn’t skip or mismeasure anything, check the dates of your ingredients, and research any techniques that you’re unfamiliar with that you may not have mastered." Recipe.ly
No - I shall never be making this again. However, the person from WTF Do I Eat Tonight? who had failed with another Nigel recipe for Pork with lime, chilli and peanuts (actually I have since discovered - it was cashews) then sort of tested his/her dismissal against a Bill Granger recipe for Spicy beef with coriander relish.
And this he/she likes and 'uses a lot':
"Like the pork, it is full of wonderful ingredients, albeit fewer of them; unlike the pork it tastes of something.
Which is interesting because when I investigated the many people who had tried Nigel's recipe they all seemed to think it was a great success. So maybe it's purely a matter of personal taste. Although, there were two of us who didn't like it, and we mostly do not really have the same likes and dislikes, so it must mean that this recipe is a failure. Alas it only appeared in The Guardian newsletter last week and nobody has tried it out as yet. So the jury may be out.
So did Nigel make a mistake? Was he really trying for a Chicken Stroganoff? Or a Dijon style chicken sauté, even Chicken Paprika. Should I do like WTF Do I Eat Tonight and test it out, because unlike his or her coriander relish, as far as I can see nobody has tried the addition of Indian spices to either of those dishes - examples below - for the Stroganoff from Café Delites, for the Dijon chicken from Stephanie Alexander and from delicious. UK and for the Chicken paprika from Taste.com.au.
I suppose this ultimate abject failure really poses the question of whether I should give up on Nigel Slater? Well no I don't think so. I have made other dishes of his that have been perfect or near perfect. Besides he writes so well. When I want a quote about something foodie he is my first port of call. Definitely a black mark though. And now that I think about it some biscuits I made from one of his recipes were a complete failure too. So no he is not to be totally relied upon. Unlike Delia or Robert Carrier.
When I was talking about tablecloths yesterday I forgot to mention this little tale about Charlemagne - the first Holy Roman Emperor. Apparently he had a tablecloth made of asbestos, which, when the meal was over he would have thrown into a fire. Of course it didn't burn and thus it was thought that as well as having political power he had magic power too. I wonder if anyone else knew that asbestos didn't burn?