Monday, 20 February 2012

Tomato couscous with Foolproof Chicken Stir Fry


Ready in: fewer than 30 minutes
Multi-tasking level: Low
Feeds: 6 for this version, cut down accordingly

Price (approx.)
5 Chicken breasts
Thigh fillets are cheaper, but fiddlier to cut up. Evaluate whether you can be bothered.
2 lemons
3 cloves garlic
60p a bag- we’re using about 30p’s worth here
Wholegrain couscous is tasty. Remember couscous works really well cold/reheated- cook more than you need
1 can value chopped tomatoes
Sainsbury’s basics ones are actually the best. Nice red colour, come in a carton not a jar
Splash of red wine
Don’t bother with fancy wine here, it’s really just to give it some depth
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Only buy from Chinese supermarkets if you can- it’s a staple there, so it’s MASSIVELY cheaper than supermarkets (and the bottles look impressive)
1 tablespoon cornflour
Cornflour is the best for thickening sauces and soups. Buy a box and it will last forever.
About 4 fists of chopped veg
Seasonality keeps it cheap, otherwise check reduce to clear. Try to get lots of pretty colours in there. Here I used: 1 white onion, a bunch of asparagus, a few mushrooms, two handfuls of baby spinach, three bell peppers (two red, one orange. Never green. Taste like grass.)
                                          Total: £9.58
                                         (Or about £1.60 each)
·       Small saucepan for couscous
·       Large frying pan/ wok/ balti
·       Chopping board and knife
·       Small bowl and spoon for cornflour
·       Plastic bag

       1.  Marinate the chicken- this is a really good thing to do if the chicken’s on its last legs/ bought from reduce-to-clear but it looks a bit funky
a.        Cut the chicken breasts into bits as tall as your thumb- remove sinew (stringy white bits) because they will never taste nice
b.       Put the chicken in a plastic bag with the juice of 2 lemons and three chopped cloves of garlic
c.        Leave it for between 5 minutes and 12 hours, depending on how funky your chicken is looking/how hungry you are
       2.  Couscous
a.        Put a third as much couscous as you want to eat in a saucepan
b.       Add 1 ½ times as much liquid as there is couscous in with it. In this recipe, put a tin of chopped tomatoes on it, a splash of red wine, the last squeeze of lemon juice from the skins of the lemons you used in the marinade, and 2 teaspoons of sugar (otherwise it will just dissolve your face when you try to eat it) – and some chopped basil if you’re feeling fancy
c.        Put on the hob on a high heat and stir frequently with a wooden spoon. Turn it down after 2 minutes. Just make sure it’s not sticking to the bottom. Start cooking the stir fry now.
                                                                       i.       Cooking the couscous will require some attention. It ought to look a bit frogspawny after about 5 minutes- if it starts sticking to the bottom at that time, put a splash more water in it
                                                                     ii.       After 10-14 minutes it should be done (right)


      3.  Stir fry
a.        Put a tablespoon of oil in the pan. Wait until it’s hot (it will be shimmering like a poncy vampire), then add the chicken, but not the marinade. When water hits hot oil it spits, so watch out. Drain water off it when it starts to bubble or they’ll never cook
b.       Start chopping veggies quickly. You want to add the veggies in descending order of how cooked you want them, and then chop the next sect of veggies, so here it goes:
                                                                       i.       Onions
                                                                     ii.       Mushrooms (clean dirt off them with kitchen towel, chop in quarters)
                                                                   iii.       Asparagus (chop and discard two inches from the end to avoid woody stems)
                                                                   iv.       Bell peppers (speed-chop the way Gordon tells us)
                                                                     v.       Baby spinach leaves (add these once the stir fry is cooked and off the heat)
4.        Sauce:
                       a.       Pour the remaining marinate over the stir fry
                       b.       Add 2 tablespoons of sugar (look, I know this sounds weird, but just do it. You just added a bunch of acid, this will make it all sweet-and-sour)
                       c.       Put 1 tablespoon of cornflour in a small bowl, add 1 tablespoon soy sauce and mash all the lumps out with a spoon
                       d.       Take the stir fry OFF THE HEAT and add the cornflour mix- stir in well to avoid weird gloops

Delicious cornflour slop makin'
 your sauce all thick and tasty

       5.  Plate up
a.        Flop the couscous into a sieve just in case there’s any water lurking about still, then back in the pan
b.       Precariously balance the stir fry on a blob of couscous because you’re trying to imitate the food-in-tiny-towers they do on Masterchef
c.        Chow down


Edit: Tomorrow's corresponding Bento lunchbox
Top box: This meal
Bottom box: Salad of spinach leaves, spring onions,
peppadew sweet chillis and crystallised ginger


  1. do, do, do the funky chicken ....

  2. Could you recommend some appropriate music to accompany the cooking of this?

    1. Well, it's paired-down and fun. I would suggest the works of T-Rex. Also, a little kitchen dancing. Ride a white swan!

  3. Pippa, come make me this exact meal for my lunch tomorrow? (and gift me a Bento box?)
    Love the blog by the way!

    1. Glad you love it! Bento boxes actually do make great gifts... Perhaps I'll be sending out a few come Christmas! :D