Thursday, 21 February 2013

The Chicken Wings are go! Wednesday 20th February 2013

Today we ate the chicken wings!

And today the lesson is in frugal use of cooking heat. We, like everyone else, have seen our power bills soar this year. We were luckily on the British Gas/Electric capped tariff until it ended last year and we have been working through Martin Lewis' suggestions for better suppliers. But even though we have one of the best ones suggested, the bills are still high. And we are on a fairly tight budget anyway, so power isn't something to use without considering how to use it wisely.

I have been using the small oven/grill more than the main oven for lots of things. I don't think it cooks bread well, and doesn't have enough room for loaves to rise anyway, so bread has to be baked in the main oven. But I am using my pressure cooker a lot, and this saves a lot of power as it reduces the time you need so dramatically.

I have also been looking into cooking things together more often, to make good use of the heat produced.  This is something that everyone did during the war when heat and energy was in limited supply and is something we could well learn to do again.  Today I wanted to cook a small gammon joint, to use the stock for lentil soup and to finish cooking the chicken wings I wasn't happy with yesterday. I wanted to cook all of these together, but I didn't want the barbecue sauce on the chicken wings in the stock,  so I decided to try something I had been thinking about but hadn't got around to trying - my Food Saver vacuum packer.

I use my vac packer a lot for packaging things for the freezer,  and I know top chefs use these vac packers for sous-vide cooking, but that is at a low temperature so I wasn't 100% sure how it would work at the much higher temperature inside a pressure cooker. There was only one way to find out.

I have an old fashioned style Prestige High Dome pressure cooker, so that gives me plenty of height for stacking things. I half filled the base with water, added a quartered onion, a chopped stick of celery, two chopped carrots,  three peppercorns, three cloves, a tablespoon of muscavado sugar. Popped in the gammon joint (a small one, just under a kilo) and then on top of all that, the chicken wings that I had vac-packed.  The pack had to be bent around a bit but it fitted in fine.

I brought the pan to pressure, and cooked for 40 mins, then allowed to cool slightly before reducing the pressure.  The chicken wings were still firmly held in their vacpack, the barbecue sauce hadn't leached into the gammon stock. The gammon was also well cooked.

These two came out, the very soft skin of the gammon was removed, chopped finely and returned to the stock along with two handfuls of red lentils and two of puy lentils. I closed the cooker again, and cooked the lentils in the stock for another 15 minutes.

Whilst the lentils cooked, the chicken wings (out of their packaging) and the gammon went into the little oven for a quick crisping - the gammon coated with mustard and demerara sugar to make a nice sweet and sour crust - for around the 15 minutes the lentils took, about the same time it took to cook the potatoes and cabbage.

Lentil soup was then blitzed with a stick blender, and will be for lunch and dinner tomorrow, and the wings and a little of the gammon made dinner tonight! And I have gammon all cooked and ready for tomorrow.


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