My take on Chicken Riesling

When I’ve had chicken cooked in a white wine sauce before I’ve appreciated the slight tang, the almost creaminess of the sauce. It’s been years since I had it so I decided to put one together last night. I didn’t bother with a recipe, instead I put it together with the building blocks I knew from experience would work. I have no idea if it’s traditional or not, but I’m pleased with the results.

Working off the principle that color is flavor I first trimmed the excess skin and fat off of a whole chicken, about 1.9kg to start with. Trimming isn’t essential, it’s all down to taste. Because this is a braised dish any fat off the chicken is going to stay in it as there’s nowhere for it to go. Too much fat can make it greasy to me, but others may like it. After trimming I browned all four sides of the chicken and put it on a plate to wait until later.

The base was a roux, wanted a flavorful roux, not a white one. I also wanted to fry off some shallots. I also didn’t want to take forever so I decided that the 3 chopped medium sized shallots would be cooked by the time the roux was ready, so I took the risk and cooked them together. 50 grams of butter or so and a heaping dessert spoon of flour, plus a tiny bit extra gave the right consistency, then I added the shallots in. The mix ended up being a bit tight so I added another 15 grams of butter or so, which loosened things back up again. Gentle heat, I kept stirring, hoping it would work. While I did that I boiled up 500ml of water and added a chicken stockpot, I also opened up the bottle of riesling. A bit of that may have gone into a glass for me at the same time. This was an okay bottle of riesling, lacking the sharp mineral character I like, but it had body, and the right balance of sweetness and acidity for the dish.

The roux started to turn slightly, then deeply golden. I was right, the shallots were just right by the time it was done, getting nice and soft. 2 cloves of chopped garlic went in for about a minute, until I could smell it, then I added 250ml of the wine, plus the 500ml of stock. I added to that a medium pinch of salt, a few twists of pepper, and a sprig of thyme from my garden. The chicken went back in and I cranked up the heat until it started to bubble, then covered the pot and put it in the oven at 160C. It’s important to bring it up to a boil before you put it in the oven or it add substantially to the cooking time.

The length of time to cook it depends on the size of the chicken, for the size of chicken I was using I figured on an hour and a half, in the end it was closer to 1:50. It was probably done after 1:30 but about 25 minutes I put some chunks of broccoli into the pot, some submerged in the liquid and some on top of the chicken, wherever I had space, cooking that added some time on. As the chicken was perfectly tender, juicy and pulled apart I’ll do 1:50 next time as well.

I served it with crushed new potatoes, which soaked up the sauce, and it was a hit. Tender, juicy chicken, rich sauce with a bit of fruitiness, and broccoli that took on the flavors. I’ll definitely be making it again!

Curries are back!

When you have small children your food world shrinks. Children’s tastes tend to be for the simpler, sometimes blander dishes, certainly less spicy. Our policy has been to eat as a family most of the time, and everyone gets the same thing. Sure, we’d sometimes feed the kids earlier and then have a separate dinner ourselves which had some kick, but I found that we’d be having the same things over and over.

That doesn’t mean we ate badly, though, far from it. I know some parents with children who have teenagers that eat french fries and dry pasta exclusively – where do they get their nutrients from? My son was eating sushi before he could talk – I didn’t serve it to him, he took it off my plate when he was a toddler and just ate it, then took the rest of mine – so I knew we were going to be okay. The thing is small children have their favorites and don’t want to stray too far. For some reason he’d eat sushi, but sauces were out – he didn’t try gravy until he was nine. Chili was on plates often, as was chicken in many forms, any roast meat, braised dishes, and any form of potato you choose. Vegetables were never a problem either, carrots, broccoli, even brussels sprouts would be eaten with minimal complaints.

So what I am I complaining about? Many parents would consider that a dream, but I missed curries and other spicy foods. There’s a huge variety from all over the world and I love them all: Thai, Indian in its many styles, Vietnamese, Japanese, and Caribbean. The only times I’d get those were those rare times my wife and I would go out or make a separate meal. I wanted to get more bold flavors in, and more spice, like Tex-Mex. I also wanted to bring in more ‘adult’ ingredients, like wine and saffron. If my kids saw a shallot they may get it in their heads it’s not to their liking.

Then I made my take on enchiladas mole. I was leery about this, my previous experiments into Mexican had not been wild hits, so when I put it on the table I had plenty of other things too in case they turned their noses up at it, which I expected to happen, but I was determined to bring in more variety.

The entire tray was gone in no time. The kids even had seconds, which they rarely do, and I saw that things were changing. Since then I’ve been steadily expanding the repertoire, with Thai curries, more noodle dishes, and more sophisticated flavors. My wife made her Chicken Saag, and the kids loved it! Last night I made my take on chicken riesling, and not my son got extra sauce and told me that it was on par with baked chicken. From him that’s high praise.

Next up: paella!

My serial killer project. Not me, a story. Just to clear that up.

I’ve so far written 2 full length novels and a short story in the young adult science fiction genre, the novels need an editor, and the sort story is on this page: Acid Plains – a short story. Short stories and novellas are smaller bites to chew, and an opportunity to try new things, and that’s what I’ve been up to. First I did a horror novella The Face of Khatagh, and then I had an idea for a serial killer novella, which is almost ready. It’s graphic, it’s gritty, and it’s definitely not for kids! I’ve finished a draft and I’m getting some friend feedback on it, once that’s done I’ll make changes and publish it.

Pandemic Writing Update

On New Years Day I messaged a friend that I hoped 2021 was going to be calmer than 2020. Hah! It was, until a bunch of extremists stormed the US Capitol building and 5 people died as a result. Since my last post months ago there have been so many ups and downs, and the pandemic has changed my life substantially. I suspect I got covid early on in March, which was huge fun except the breathing problems and wondering how bad it had to get before I called an ambulance, fortunately it never got there!

Working from home, helping to home school my children, and huge changes in the system of life meant I didn’t write for awhile. I don’t know what people are doing with the palates of canned tomatoes, toilet paper and flour they bought. Maybe they built emergency covid-protection bunkers to hide in, anyway I hope it came in useful because they certainly prevented me from finding them for awhile. Let me give you a hint, if you suspect there’s going to be widespread interruptions in the food supply and utilities like power and gas don’t buy something you need to cook!

One surprising thing about the pandemic was that I found my commute to be a critical part of my creative process, and without it my writing ground to a halt! I’ve been a NYC subway and now a London Underground user for most of my life, and I’ve long since developed the ability to zone out and pretend I’m not part of a human sardine performance art exhibition. It used to be I’d read, but when I started writing I’d spend the time to and from the office thinking about what comes next.

My method was to write an outline, then the scenes, decide the rudiments of what was going to happen, then I’d spend my commute working out the details. What had I just written, what issues it may have introduced, and who was going to do what next and how. I’d look at keeping tension and making sure I was fulfilling the wider story goals. It meant that when I sat down to write I’d know what to put down, and I’d make progress.

Losing my commute meant that all went, I’d sit down after a long day of mixed work and home schooling and have to work things out, which was slow and frustrating. I had to make changes, carve out time to think about the story. I’ve been finding ways to make it work, and things are starting to flow again, which is when I really enjoy it. Please 2021, please please please just chill!

Going Coronuts, and the Patience War concept.

We are weeks into social distancing and lockdown in London, and overall I’m handling it fine. I’m fortunate to still have a job and a family for company, yet despite that my nature is to crave social contact, and I miss it. I miss flying, I miss going to pubs and restaurants, I don’t miss getting on the underground but I do miss what is at the other end of the trip! This is a 3 day weekend due to a public holiday, but it doesn’t feel like it.

Writing is a hobby and passion, you’d think lockdown would be a perfect opportunity to bang our a few stories or even a novel, after all I’m not going out am I? Yet, for some reason that hasn’t happened, the effort of figuring out how to keep the family supplied when basics couldn’t be found in the store, the work in setting up new social networks and figuring out ways of communicating has drained time away. I don’t know what the toilet paper hoarding was about, people are worried about a respiratory virus so they enough of the stuff to keep their rear end comfy for at least the next decade! Baby wipes too for some reason, why you need those if you’re going to be stuck in your house I don’t know. If I was going to hoard I would have gone for stuff with calories, personally. “They starved to death but their butts were clean” sounds like the beginning of a comic story, maybe. Some other time, perhaps, when I’m out of all other ideas.

So now the “novelty” is over. Skype, Zoom, and other tools have become part of the daily family routine, the kids are getting virtual lessons from school and I can find actual yeast in the store! I’m keeping up with friends online, going running or biking almost every day, and everything is firing on all cylinders. Except it isn’t. I’m finding it getting harder to keep this up, and getting edgy. I’ve invented a new portmanteau to go along with covidiot and quarantini, which is Coronuts. I’m sure I will survive and not be found running naked with flaming hoarded toilet paper wrapped around my head, but I can’t promise not to get grouchy.

I’m going to remember how this feels, the groundhog day, same as yesterday and will be tomorrow grind. I feel like I’m living in a Philip Glass piece, one key repeated over and over until I’m desperate for it to change. It may be strange, but it’s useful.

For years I’ve had a novel series idea in my head, I call it “The Patience War”. It’s in the near future and the Earth is under attack (isn’t it always?) by an unknown assailant. In order to protect itself, humanity must send some of its very best on years long patrol missions. 6 years in a ship with not much more space than the ISS, eating algae grown from your own waste products, breathing recycled air, and talking to the same 4 people under the ever-present threat of the enemy or spacecraft failure millions of miles from any possible help.

What would it feel like to be part of that crew? How can I convey the isolation, loneliness or boredom? I’m getting a taste of it now, not remotely the same level, but something to work with – a small image I can magnify and explore.

Maybe I can turn a negative into a positive, at least in one small way. Maybe it’s inspiration.

Acid Plains – a short story

When I started my first real writing project I was planning a short story, thinking I wouldn’t have everything I needed for a book. After a thorough outline I realized I had more than enough for a full length novel, 120 thousand words later it was done and far too long. Something had to go, so whole subplots disappeared. There was one cut part I saved, a self-contained short story embedded in the larger tale. Acid Plain as I’m calling it was fun to write, so I dusted it off, capped it off beginning and end and here it is!

If you like this story there’s more to be had on this site.


In the UK Easter Monday is a public holiday and I decided to use the time to put new tires on my mountain bike, a new thing for me, usually I’d pay some hippy in flip-flops more than the bike is worth to do it for me. The previous owner in his less than infinite wisdom put slick road tires on it, and at times it would skate around gravel tracks like Ice Capades. I hate Ice Capades worse than raw octopus, so I went onto Chain Reaction Cycles and found that there are more tire options for my bike than my car, fortunately they have some handy guides and I virtually plonked my credit card down on tires, tubes and, I admit, bar ends. I know many proper bike people sniff at them but I like them.

A couple of useful youtube videos and I was ready, and after a fair amount of prying and swearing the new tires and tubes were on, but my front wheel didn’t spin. I fixed that and was proudly spinning my now freed front wheel when my finger got caught and it ripped part of my fingernail off, which put a damper on celebrations a bit.

It’s one of my primary typing fingers, and it’s going to be out of commission for a couple of weeks, but it hasn’t stopped me from finishing my website! In the end I opted for a simpler design, and concentrated on getting the content organized. I’ll be using it to keep you updated on my writing and other hopefully less painful aspects of my life! I’ll be migrating some of my old posts from a previous website onto here in the next few days, then I can get back to writing!


It’s a beautiful Easter weekend here in London and the family and I are on lockdown because of coronavirus, the perfect time to buckle down and finish that website I’ve been meaning to do for such a long time! Except it isn’t. I’m discovering that no time is ever a good time, because I want to be writing! But, without a website I can’t reach out to you, dear reader, so I’m going to buckle down and get this thing done if it kills me! Actually, I may stop before then, if it’s killing me I’m obviously doing it wrong…

Anyway, this site is all about me. I like to cook, I like to fly airplanes, fix cars and mess around with stuff. I knock up steps out of old palates when the need arises, and I want to tell you all about this. But mostly I want to show you my writing! I’ve had ideas for novels and worlds going back for decades, and I finally got around to putting them down on the page, now I want to show them to you. If you like them, share them, and tell me what you think! I’ll be listening, if I can ever get this website finished!

Low and slow chicken curry casserole

I made this tonight and it’s all kind of awesome! It’s pretty quick to prepare and the longer you cook it the better it gets. It’s rich, and the chicken melts in your mouth! I didn’t even need my knife, it went back in the drawer clean!

Equipment: medium size dutch oven or le creuset style pot, oven, knife, hands, eyes, the usual
1.5 kg chicken pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp flour
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
.5 tsp chili powder (adjust to fit your tastes, I used hot)
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp palm sugar (can use regular)
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp chicken bullion powder
300ml water (or so)
oil (I used olive)

Preheat your oven to 130C, about 250F. Heat up your dutch oven and put a bit of oil on the bottom. Pull the skin off your chicken, and fry half in the hot oil for 4-5 minutes, discarding the rest. When brown remove the cooked chicken skin and discard. The reason for pulling the skin off is that I don’t like how the skins get soggy after a long slow cook, I like to fry them off like this to get a fried chicken flavor into the dish. You can leave them on if you like, if you do then fry the chicken skin down to brown and them remove them before the next step.

Next put your chopped onion into the casserole and saute on medium heat until they start to soften, then add the garlic and saute for another 2-3 minutes. Add the flour and stir for a minute to get the flour cooked, if you don’t cook it you can get an uncooked flour taste in the dish. Add the tomatoes and cook for a minute or two until they start to get mushy, then add the ground spices and brown them off for a minute. Add the chicken in and stir to coat. Add enough water to come almost to the top of the chicken, probably about 300ml. Don’t overdo the water or your sauce will be diluted. Add the fish sauce, palm sugar, vinegar, and bullion powder, stir in, then cover and put it in the oven.

How long to bake depends on how much time you have. This could be ready in 45 minutes on a high oven, but I cooked this low and slow because I had the time, over 2 and a half hours with 30 minutes resting at the end. Taste it halfway through and see if it needs anything. When done take the cover off and let it rest for a bit. Serve over rice.

East Wittering Sausage and Chicken Curry Casserole

Months ago my wife started talking about going for a summer holiday. As we now have a two year old and a 5 month old the idea of packing the whole family up and flying somewhere didn’t really appeal, especially since we’d have to spend so much time tending to a baby that we wouldn’t be able to take advantage of being wherever we’d gone. So going somewhere within easy driving distance was definitely the plan. Claire did some research and we decided that we’d do a real family holiday with Claire’s parents, brother and his girlfriend and their 8 month old daughter. So it was going to be 6 adults and three small children in a house by the beach in East Wittering on the south coast of England for a week of sun and sand castles!
It was a really good idea, the only problem with it was that the weather hasn’t cooperated. We arrived Friday in gale force winds and rain, the next day was beautiful except for winds gusting up to 45mph which sandblasted us nicely. Then on Sunday nature in her infinite wisdom saw fit to dump an entire month’s worth of rain in 24 hours. Yesterday (Monday) we woke up to the sound of rain drumming on the roof, which was pretty familiar to us by then, it was the sheet volume of it which amazed. It was is a giant hose was spraying a constant stream of ocean onto our house. Not knowing that the local area was experiencing serious flooding I decided to take my son to a big store in Chichester in order to buy him a raincoat and umbrella which we hadn’t anticipated him needing. Swimsuit yes, bucket yes, sun cream yes, rain gear no, so I set about to rectify the situation so my little guy could at least leave the house once in the week.
Once we were in the car a few minutes the impact that the rain was having on the local area started to become apparent and I began to think that perhaps I would be better off getting my son a floatation device rather than a rain slicker. The fire department was out in force, busy pumping water out of the local homes and businesses. One of the roads out of town was closed and the other was passable with some massive ponds to cross. Nevertheless I soldiered on, determined to bring home the bacon (literally, as bacon was on the shopping list). I had successfully navigated the enormous lake that the road had become and I had an immense sense of satisfaction from it.
Two things stopped me. One, the A27 was backed up 12 miles and getting the last mile to the store would have taken hours. Second, the snoring from the back seat notified me that my son was fast asleep and he was having an early nap. Quitter! Still, we weren’t getting there anyway because of the massive traffic problems, it took me 20 minutes just to get into a position to turn around. Anyway, unable to get to a big store we fell back on the small local ones which were remarkably well stocked considering the natural disaster taking place around us and we were able to get enough for me to make the concoction I’m about to tell. This was completely ad-libbed, I ‘ve never seen any recipe like this, it was all completely improvised. I wanted to make a rich, hearty dish to warm the insides that can serve a bunch of big eaters and came up with this, my Sausage and Chicken Curry Casserole:
7 chicken thighs
14 sausages (meaty ones like italian or solid pork sausages)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
6 carrots, sliced
1 head of brocolli, florets separated from the stem. Chop the stem in the same size pieces as the carrots
2 cups peas, thawed
900ml chicken stock (about 4 cups)
2 tbsp sweet soy sauce (or 1 1/2 tsp soy sauce and 2 tsp sugar)
150ml low fat plain yogurt
1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 cup corn meal (polenta)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp curry powder

Preheat the oven to 180c, 375f. First we want to get color on the meats, so grill or fry the sausages to brown them. Don’t worry about cooking them the whole way through, we want the color. Next heat oil in a frying pan to medium-hot and mix the flour, corn meal, and salt in a bowl. Coat the chicken thighs in the flour mixture and brown both sides in the frying pan. Again, don’t cook them through, just get the color on them. Make your chicken stock and let it cool to room temperature, then add the yogurt to it. If you add the yogurt to hot liquid it will probably split. Transfer some of the oil from the frying pan into another pan (don’t get all the burnt gritty bits through, they don’t taste good) on medium heat. Add the carrots and brocolli stem pieces and saute for 3-4 minutes. This is because the carrots and brocolli stems take much longer to cook, without this step they will be tough when the rest is done. Add the onion and saute another couple of minutes, add the garlic and saute another minute. Add the curry powder and one tablespoon of the flour mixture and fry a couple of minutes. The flour will thicken the sauce, and frying it will keep it from tasting uncooked. Frying the curry powder will help release its flavor and frying it will keep it from tasting powdery, especially in hard-water areas.
Next add your liquid mixture. If you didn’t add your yogurt to the cooled stock before then add the stock and take it off the heat, then add the yogurt a spoon at a time, then put it back on the heat. Add the sweet soy or soy and sugar, then taste. You want the sweetness of the sweet soy or sugar to balance out the sourness of the yogurt, with just enough salt to taste. You want it to be thickened a bit but not too much, don’t worry it will thicken more later. In a casserole dish (don’t ask me how big, this is cookware in a rented house, if you can fit it all in, then it’s just right 😉 put the chicken on the bottom, then the brocolli, then the sausage. Pour the liquid in, then put it in the oven uncovered. Make sure all the brocolli is submerged, don’t worry about the sausages. Bake for 20 minutes after the mixture starts to bubble. 5 minutes before the end put the peas on top. Once it is done let it cool for about 15 minutes before serving over rice.

This fed 6 but could stretch to 8 if you had some bread and/or salad on the side. Variation-wise you could add some ginger, or put in some fish, or try other vegetables, it’s very flexible.