|UD three-wheel float, c.1954. Photo posted to the Milko group by Don Reid|
Until 1995, I had learned from my mother, along with some stalwart cookery books from 1940-1978. Fruit cake? No problem. Rissoles? Easy! Stuffed Sheep's hearts? Bugger off.
But here I was at university, and I was about to cook my first meal for a man. Not just any man, but a chap with whom I was hoping to become romantically involved. This called for some more modern cuisine. But it also called for dining on a budget. I was a student, after all.
There was no proper internet to turn to, nor smart phones. I didn't even have a mobile phone back then. But then staring into the Spartan fridge in our painfully clean kitchen (we were three OCD neat freaks and still best friends, though not quite so tidy now), my gaze landed on a pint of milk and I had a brainwave.
Now during the 1980s and 1990s we used to support our local Milkman from the United
Dairies. He would come every Saturday with fresh eggs, milk in cool glass bottles, pats of golden, creamy butter in shimmering gold paper. And, once a year, my mother would buy me a diary for the year, which had recipes dotted throughout. I turned to this for help and there it was. For 1998, Pan-Fried Chicken in Mustard Sauce.
I cannot quite remember how UD told me to cook it but it was a doozy of a recipe. Here is my version, with love.
As an aside, I used to wash and clean the chicken before I cooked it. I used to wash off all the blood and fat, and then clean it with lemon juice and salt. All my friends' mothers did the same. Apparently this was not the right thing to do. Oh well I ain't dead yet. Anyway I do believe the lemon, salt and pepper gave something extra to the chicken. You decide.
I've built on the recipe by adding mushrooms and crushed garlic, but these are optional.
Ingredients (serves four)
1 pack of slender chicken breast fillets. I think at the time I used Sainsbury's budget label or Morrisons.
1 tub of 200g creme fraiche
2 medium brown onions
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 pack baby button mushrooms
6 teaspoonfuls of Dijon (grainy) mustard
2-3 cups of basic white rice
1 bag of green beans (or mange tout if you want to be posh)
In one saucepan, start to boil the rice in a little water.
While this is doing, finely chop the onions and start to fry them in a little olive oil (or whatever you have) in a large frying pan. Add the crushed garlic.
Start dicing the chicken.
When the onions start to brown, turn down the heat.
Add the diced chicken to the pan and stir gently until it starts to turn white on the outside. Keep on a moderate heat for 10 minutes until the chicken is white in the middle.
Dice or slice the mushrooms. Clean and prepare the beans, and put to steam for five to eight minutes. If you do not (as I do not) have a steamer, put a small covering of water and butter over the beans in a saucepan and lightly cook with the lid on for about 8 minutes.
Add the diced mushrooms to the pan and season with a little butter, pepper, salt and/or garlic to taste.
Whack in the creme fraiche as soon as the meat starts to brown on the outside and stir in the mustard. Within two to three minutes, the sauce should look brown and the mustard worked through. As soon as the rice and beans are done, serve.
To look fancy
I grow my own chives so it's easy and cheap to put a lovely garnish on the meal. Also to create the bowl effect with the rice, put lots of rice into a small bowl - I have a small round plastic one left over from Uni days - and turn upside down on the plate.
It looks great, full of fresh flavour and zing, but all for less than £8:00 for four people. Now THAT is a champagne taste on a Cola budget!
Oh, and I ditched the romantic interest from University eventually, even though he loved the meal.