I've chosen a menu which reflects the theme: creamy butternut squash risotto with crispy prosciutto ham, my healthy take on crispy fried chicken and a caramel crunch pain perdu pudding.
All of them simple, quick and economical.
I heard the food critic Jay Rayner say on TV this week that there are very few dishes which aren't improved by the addition of crispy bacon. The man is talking sense.
Whether it's bubble and squeak with crispy pancetta
or cheeseburgers with crispy ham
For the risotto, roast a butternut squash in some olive oil and salt and pepper in a moderate oven until soft. Soften 1 small onion in a little more olive oil with some garlic. Add a cup of arborio rice and stir until the grains have absorbed the oil. Add a glass of white wine and stir until it has all been absorbed. Now add hot vegetable or chicken stock, a ladle at a time, stirring it in until absorbed. Keep going until the rice is tender and the risotto creamy. Add the diced butternut squash, plenty of seasoning to taste, a splash of cream and some grated parmesan cheese (if you like it). Spoon the
risotto into bowls and top with crispy grilled pancetta or prosciutto ham (or streaky bacon).
|butternut squash risotto with crispy prosciutto|
Any leftover risotto is wonderful made into arancini: shape the cold risotto into balls or cakes, roll in breadcrumbs and fry in hot oil until crispy. Again a lovely mixture of creamy and crunchy.
|Arancini with dipping sauce|
The main course today is crispy fried chicken- except it isn't fried, it's baked. It remains juicy and tender though and doesn't dry out thanks to it's clever marinade.
Butterfly two chicken breasts or slice them into goujons (popular with children, I promise you.) Coat them in natural yoghurt and some salt and pepper. Leave to marinade for half an hour or so in the fridge.
|Chicken in yoghurt- looks yucky but trust me!|
|Ready to roll|
|Blitzed tortilla chips|
Take the coated chicken and roll it in first the breadcrumbs then the crunchy crisps. Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet and bake at 200 degrees for 20 minutes or so until brown and crispy.
|Crispy chicken- finger lickin' good!|
I have any leftovers cold with a salad in my lunchbox the next day.
Dessert is simple but scrumptious.
Lay slices of brioche or Madeira cake (I have used trifle sponges too) in a dish. Spread them with caramel condensed milk (the sort you use for banoffee pie) and pour over 2 beaten eggs in some milk. Let it all soak in for half an hour or so in the fridge.
|Spread with caramel|
Bake in a moderate oven (180 degrees) for 20 minutes until firm and golden. Sprinkle the top with demerara sugar (or icing sugar if you prefer) and glaze with a blowtorch or hot grill until bubbling. As it cools, it sets and becomes crunchy and chewy like toffee.
|Glaze with blowtorch|
Delicious with cream or custard.
|Crunchy caramel pain perdu|
So, there are my crunchy recipes...in a nutshell..