Al Dente: Chicken Goulash with Polenta and Cottage Cheese Dumplings

Spring has sprung, summer is in the city and the back of my neck is indeed both dirty and gritty. Thankfully I wash my neck before cooking. Not because I cook WITH my neck,

that would be weird,

but rather because I’m a firm believer in not smearing dirt and grit all over my food. It’s an old fashioned thing. Much like Goulash.

Goulash is the subject today, chicken goulash to be precise. Weight Watchers chicken goulash to be preciser. The recipe on page 74 of Chicken Favourites, part of their mini-book series to be precisest, to achieve precision…vana.

Yeah.

Anyway, these little cook books are really good because of four things; firstly they’re small and packed with recipes, secondly all those recipes are pretty easy, thirdly they’re all healthy and fourthly? They don’t SUCK. I’ve eaten enough health food in my time to know health is usually spelt ‘dusty, awful and frequently muesli’. These books spell health ‘awesome’. And, also ‘h e a l t h’.

Victor! Usual suspects!

So, we have;

-Cornmeal. Which is either a close cousin of cornmeal or a relative of Polenta in the witness protection program (WHAT DOES IT KNOW?). You know the sort. The cousin that’s always in trouble but always means well and you send to Cuba to set up the family operations there and no wait that’s The Godfather.

-Salt.

-Pepper.

-Garlic

-Celery, a vegetable forever associated with the belief that if I wear it and it turns people I’m in the presence of 1980s science fiction radiation thanks to an appearance on Doctor Who. Of course, given what’s in my office, the celery would actually be black by now. And on fire. And that might actually make it taste of something, much like this goulash will.

-Tomatoes

-Leeks

-Cottage cheese

-An egg

-What is technically referred to in culinary circles as big honkin’ lumps of chicken.

-The distilled juices of Marco Pierre White

 

I know, I know. It’s not really. At least I hope it isn’t…

 

So first off, you take a bowl, measure 50g of Cousin Vinny Polenta into it, then crack the egg in there, and empty the (250g) tub of cottage cheese in. Stir them together until you get…the mixture. The mixture looks a little bit like someone’s vomited cottage cheese into some wet sand and, inevitably, it’s not the most appetising thing in the world to look at. Thankfully you don’t have to! Ignore the eldritch cries of its partially formed but rapidly evolving lungs and throw it in the fridge!

It will return. It tests the fences. It remembers…

Next up? Is chopogeddon. Seriously, this is not a complicated recipe. You take everything you have in that photo (Aside from the salt and pepper shakers, that would be weird. And require an angle grinder. And goggles. Safety first!), chop it up and put it in a bowl so it looks like some form of ghastly produce mass homicide. See?

 

 

You’ll notice I’ve lightly seasoned the silence of the root vegetables there. That’s a teaspoon of paprika, and some fresh thyme. Some here being however much went in whilst I was subconsciously singing ‘Shake it shake it shake it! SPICE GIRLS!’

Don’t judge me.

Oh top garlic related tip; garlic, like brown rice, can be an ASSHOLE. Don’t give it the chance to slip around whilst you try and perform keyhole surgery on the bastard trying to chop it. Just peel it and take a microplane to it. It grates down in about five seconds and the micro plane also grates cheese very successfully to wafair theeen consistency.

Then, chop the chicken fillets into strips and fry them lightly in the pan you’ll be using, just to seal it. If you have to, turn the hob off or down once that’s done, the heat’ll just cook them through a little more until you’re ready.

Once that’s done, boil a kettle and prepare to cope with the juices of Marco Pierre White! And that is not a sentence I expected to be typing this morning! You don’t have to use the gelatinous cube, or indeed any of his products (BADUM and indeed TISH) but they were what we had in the house. The recipe requires 600ml of chicken stock and, of course, that doesn’t quite fit with Mr ‘Hoity Toity Posh Chef Who Looks At Alasdair From The Casino Billboard Near His Job And Unsettles Him’’s portions. Noooo, he’s far too busy starring in the weirdly obtuse trailer for Layer Cake to stoop to petty human measurements. It’s 500ml or NOTHING!

So I used two. That’ll teach his two dimensional non sentient image to look down at ME.

Stir them in until the juices are…thinned (Oh God WHY? Why did I choose this metaphor?) Then, throw them in a crockpot, large bowl or whatever you’re making the Goulash in. Then, put the Root Vegetable Massacre over the top of it, stir it in, panic a bit and then add some more stock just to be sure. Finally, bring the pot to boil, lower it to simmer (Which on our gas hob, is a setting one micrometre wide and neatly situated between ‘VOLCANO DEATH HEAT’ and ‘SILENTLY PUMPS OUT GAS UNTIL YOU DIE’.

Then wait 45 minutes.

How about a little music whilst we wait?

Ahhhhh….Anyway, after 45 minutes come back and retrieve…the mixture. As long as you’ve not left it too long and it’s evolved linguistic skills and rudimentary culture, it will be ready for the dumplification process. Now, the recipe recommends using wet hands to shape it, but homie don’t play that. Instead, I use an ice cream scoop. It’s fast, it’s clean, your balls are a uniform size.

Heh.

Size.

And once they’re done you can lay them on the goulash and…wait some more. Once more please?

Bless you. Oh hey whilst we’re here is the squash done y-

Balls.

After five to ten minutes, pop the top off the goulashinator (Or pot if you want to use technical terms) and voila!

The polenta and the cheese bake in place, expand and become a coherent structure but still soft and gooey on the inside. It’s really cool, and they taste great. They taste even better if you don’t actually forget to sale and pepper them either.

I’m told.

 

Anyway, time for the beauty shot. Victor!

 

 

He’s playing with shadow this week. Bless. I’m actually pretty happy with this. The chicken was great, holding its shape but falling apart once you started eating it. The dumplings were excellent though, which was a very pleasant surprise. I was dubious about the cottage cheese thing but it really works and I’m already thinking about how to add a little more flavour to them. The sauce was good but a little thin. However, it could be thickened either with a little cornflour or by using gravy powder instead of the Marco Pierre White…fluids.

All in all though this tasted great, it’s ridiculously easy to make and it’s 330 calories per serving. Plus it’s endlessly customizable if you want to swap some vegetables around or change the sauce. Like edible Lego…

 

Stuff I Learned:

-Cottage cheese is a very useful thing that I should use more.

-I’m still a little seasoning gunshy. That’ll change.

-Dumplings are awesome. Especially when you remember to season them. Dumbass.

-The theme to The Gallery on Vision On, is actually called Left Bank Two and was performed by The Noveltones.

-Marco Pierre White’s juices are neatly packed, surprisingly gelatinous and I don’t really want to think about them anymore.

 

So, yes, chicken goulash. Fast and easy and healthy. Go put it in your faces.

Next time, whoopee pies! President Bartlet! Impromptu food history!

 

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