Who’s afraid of the big bad kitchen?

Unfortunately for those of you who come to this blog for the food rather than the feelings, my last post about battling my inner demons in Istanbul was so cathartic – and I was so touched by the number of people who got in touch on and off this blog to share their own experiences – that today I’m going to be dishing up more feelings. There is a recipe for some finger-lickin’ ginger sesame chicken at the end though too, so hopefully you’ll find it worth it.

Today, I want to talk about another of the things I am – infuriatingly – afraid of, which I touched on at the end of my last post about being afraid of stuff. This time, it’s cooking.

Yep. You read that right. I’m afraid of cooking. Uh huh. I write a blog about food, and I’m afraid of cooking.

This phobia, which usually bubbles along quite happily under the surface, came boiling over the other day when M casually suggested that we invite his family around for dinner – something that would involve ME cooking for THEM. Inside me, a small, terrified voice screamed ‘No! Are you insane!? NO!’

20130516-220046.jpgI know. It’s ridiculous. I love to cook. And I especially love it when other people like what I make. But ask me to cook for people I don’t know well, or have never cooked for before, and the fun to stress ratio starts to tilt away from fun. Ask me to cook for people who inhabit a different culinary landscape from me, who don’t have much taste for ‘foreign’ food AND who I need to impress, and the fun to stress ratio simply implodes.

Now, for you to properly understand my predicament, you need to know one key thing: M comes from a family of formidable cooks. The first time I had dinner at his brother’s, I wept a little on the inside because the food was so darn delicious that I knew it’d be a long time before I could cook like that. His mum is also a whiz in the kitchen, who, every time I’ve eaten with her, has made something new and different and incredible.

Combine this with my lack of culinary self-confidence, and you can imagine my mental state as I pondered what to make that morning.

In hindsight, I’ve realised that one of the major reasons I started this blog was to force myself out of my comfort zone a little more. I’d *like* to think it’s a testament to how far I’ve come – both in learning to chill the heck out in the kitchen and in learning to feel at home with M’s family – that, when M made his casual suggestion, I didn’t unleash that inside voice. Instead I just smiled and got on with it.

I played it safe with the ginger sesame chicken. It’s delicious, fast and not too crazy on the flavour front. Everyone was very intrigued by this değişik soslu tavuk, as they called it, which roughly translates as ‘different sauce chicken’. M’s sister in law, Neşe, looked distinctly sceptical when I showed her the marinade.

In the end, though, it was a BIG hit. People had double and even triple helpings, and it didn’t seem like anyone was choking down vomit. I was so chuffed that I did a little victory dance in the kitchen afterwards to celebrate. Which was great until I spilled my freshly boiled tea all over my own hand, and decided it was time to reign things in a little. The only downside to the dinner was that we were all so full that we totally forgot about the Nutella cheesecake I’d made for afterwards. But I’ll save that one for another day…

Now, for those of you who don’t give a sh*t about my feelings, here’s the recipe.

Serves 5

Time needed: 4 hours marinating, 20 minutes cooking

What you need

750g chicken, cut into generous chunks (on the bone would be great for a BBQ, but off the bone was better for griddling)

5 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp honey

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

4 cloves garlic, finely minced

2 spring onions, finely sliced

5 inch piece of ginger, finely grated

1 tbsp sesame seeds

A handful of parsley, chopped

How to make it

  1. Combine all the ingredients except the parsley in a bowl. Mix to coat the chicken completely, cover and leave in the fridge for 4 hours to marinade. Stir occasionally, to make sure the meat is evenly marinated.
  2. Heat a frying pan with a drizzle of oil until very hot. Lift the chicken pieces out of the marinade using a slotted spoon, and place them carefully into the pan. If your pan isn’t big enough, you’ll have to do this in batches. Fry the chicken for 5 or so minutes on either side, until cooked all the way through.
  3. When cooked, removed the chicken from the pan and place on a serving dish. Pour the remaining marinade into the hot pan, and let it bubble for a few minutes until thick and gloopy. Remove from the heat, pour into a dipping bowl and serve along with the parsley-garnished chicken.

More recipes using ginger, sesame and chicken in various exciting combination