I am ecstatic that I finally get to do this. I used to have an unhealthy relationship with procrastination but I can announce to you we have broken up and do not speak or see eye to eye anymore *standing o and loud cheering* *I bow* stank you stank you very much…
ok to the post…
Gbubemi Fregene is the “name” and Cooking is my “game” (yes my failed attempt to sound like a rapper) but after opening my twitter account the name Chef Fregz has stuck and I’m loving it! Right now im a 20 something year old man who hails from the South-South reigon of Nigeria, Warri, Delta state and has an obsessive passion for food. Cooking it and definitely eating it!
My earliest memory of cooking food was when I was ten, I found myself burning egg stew in the kitchen in my house in Benin. I had tasted one the house-help had made for breakfast one of those mornings my sister and I were alone and our parents headed out to work. Something happened in my soul, not only did I want to eat more of it; I wanted to learn how to cook it. I also remember my failed attempt of making scramble eggs as well when I tried to take a fried egg apart with a fork and knife vigorously only to be largely disappointed it wouldn’t “curl up into nice ball like forms” aka scramble. Fortunately my dad rescued my ineptitude and showed me the way.
Six years going through the crazy stage of secondary/high school my curiosity had me reading recipes in the school library and talking about Chinese food with some friends and constant making of pancakes and a helpless addiction to BBC Food, all this many assumed was a fat kid phase this curiosity evolved into heavy duty obsession. 4 years of University passed after dealing with endless lectures and human resource management topics, this obsession had metamorphosed into full-blown passion. On my graduation day I more or less handed my certificate to my mother who seemed to be most excited that her son is now a graduate. All that felt right was
“Mehn I have to cook!”
My 365 day sojourn to the city of Kaduna, North of Nigeria to serve my motherland took me to a place where I experienced another side to Nigeria and learnt to live a humble life. I worked a desk job as a customer service officer at a telecoms office. Three months into the job all I was known for was my food. Whether it was my failed attempts at Jollof rice or a more successful Fish in a rustic tomato sauce I championed my passion still. My aunt I lived with always marveled at how I just was on cloud nine when I would be dancing around the cooker and massaging spices into a guinea fowl to roast. She was always in near disbelief that I was actually happy cooking away.At the end of my Youth Corp service year after much thought, the presidential debate in my mind “to-get-a-job or to-cook” and serious prayer, the evocation and epiphany came
The service year ended and I returned home to Lagos and did not bother sending out any CVs for “work” I more or less plunged blindly into setting up a small catering business called DVARD. For the 7 or so months it ran it was an amazing but very hectic journey. My first gig was for my friend, Victor. His graduation party that had 150 people, it was a Barbeque theme, Pineapple grilled Chipolatas, Honey mustard Chicken, XO grilled Beef (sigh…just reminiscing on what I really loved on the menu that day). From there it was for parties for VIPs, Wedding parties, birthday parties and dinners I was privileged to serve my food at. However though I was satisfied with business and the little money I was making an opportunity of two lifetimes came and I took it with both arms and legs and flew to France and had the platinum opportunity to study at the holy grail of culinary schools. Le Cordon Bleu. The 8 months at the culinary institute took me through basic and very essential classic French techniques in the Basic to superior at Le Cordon Bleu and working at “Market” (a high end restaurant by notable chef and restaurateur Jean-Georges Vongerichten) I went form a boy who had raw passion and talent to a more calculated, more organized cook who’s focus had a clearer view. Through school and the year in Paris the culture shock and invariable exchange fueled and inspired me in my cooking and for life in general.
Ok I think I’m done with my background… yes? No? Well as of now I am a private Chef. I also do some specials tagged “Chef Fregz Special” at a friend’s Café in Opebi, Lagos called Café Licious. All three were resounding successes and I truly thank God and all who attended.
Before I even explain why the Chicken and the Pumpkin should play I want to give an idea of this blog is going to be like.
Apart from posting recipes and pictures of food I create or recreate, I would be talking about my food experiences in general. Whether it’s a good or bad place I have eaten at here and abroad or sites I find useful, tools you should have in your kitchen, how to use them properly and also how to maintain them. Menu ideas, for parties or home and so on. I would be doing some restaurant praising and definitely some bashing! Ha! I would be providing links to other great blogs I swear by! Also, I would be taking questions and would do my best to answer them as correctly as I can because with food everybody has their cemented opinion and so do I. However, there are some basic truths and somewhat universal truths. So if it so applies then I am king! Lol! I also want to show that all this “Cheffery” shouldn’t intimidate anyone. Cooking is all about getting flavours right no matter how simple or complex. Just make sure it taste good and the ingredients are fresh and good. Cooking should evoke good emotions and not bad ones. So yes everyone should get cooking and be unafraid.
So the Chicken and Pumpkin Play…
If I say I have a name for this dish I am lying… and in the light of being honest… I am inventing this recipe as I type… and I have a good reason too. That reason is the need to buttress the point I was trying to make above.
I’m taking my inspiration from chicken which I feel is versatile protein and easily accessible.
Pumpkin because I simply just love making a puree from it and its such a delicious vegetable. and the pumpkin im referring to here is the one from the squash family and not is traditionally known as “garden egg” No. this is the orange stuff thats round and its cut up for Halloween in America for example.
So that’s my springboard I’m jumping of from and lets see how it goes. I have also decided to show 2 ways to cook and present the dish.
- 4 chicken breasts or Thighs 3 cloves of garlic crushed to a paste
- 2 sausages of your choice. chorizo, chicken or pepperoni would be great.
- 1 tsp. cracked black pepper
- 2 tbsp. chicken seasoning (Any brand would do, however I recommend Spice Supreme, Schwartz m Robertson or TRS. Anyone you consider good anything but Knorr chicken please)
- 1-heaped tsp. chopped coriander and extra for garnish
- Salt to taste
- 2 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil
- 200g/2 cups white button mushrooms sliced
- 4 cups/500g of spinach washed
- 1 medium sized pumpkin say 700g to a kilo (you may not need of it though)
- 1/2 cup of heavy cream or full cream milk
- 1 stick cinnamon size of a your thumb
- ½ tsp. cumin powder
- ½ tsp. coriander powder
- 2 big garlic cloves bashed open
- Salt and black pepper to taste
Ok for the preparation
If using breasts butterfly the breast and by butterfly; just slice the chicken length ways but not totally all the way so it opens like a book. If using thighs cut the flesh across the bone and scrape the meat away from the bone and slice off at the connecting tissue Place the chicken in a bowl and place all the seasonings in the bowl and toss altogether. Leave to marinade for 30mins minimum. An hour to overnight would be better.
In a hot pan place some butter or oil or both and add the mushrooms. Cook on a medium high heat till most of the moisture has evaporated season with salt and black pepper to taste. Remove and set aside to cool
In the same pan as more oil and/or butter to the pan and stir-fry the spinach till its all wilted down squeeze/drain the excess water . Season with salt and pepper as well and set aside to cool.
Peel the pumpkin or squash and cut into cubes and place in a pot and cover with water or chicken stock place the garlic, cinnamon stick and seasoning into the pot and boil till soft. To test poke with a knife it should give in easily and come out easily as well. Using a slotted spoon pick the chunks of pumpkin and place in a blender and add the cream little by little so as to get the perfect consistency and it doesn’t get to runny depending on how soft and wet the pumpkin got. You want a texture that’s in between a thick soup and mashed potatoes. Taste and check for seasoning. And keep warm.
On your worktop lay some cling film big enough wrap the chicken Lay the chicken flat skin side down open. place some clingfilm on top and bash-flatten with a rolling pin on a heavy bottle. when flattened to an even thickness (especially the top part which is thicker) aplace some mushroom, chopped sausage and spinach in the lower part closer to you. With a firm hand roll up the chicken with the film but be CAREFUL NOT ALLOW THE FILM GET INTO THE CHICKEN. Roll the chicken firmly using the ends like a sweet wrapper, when its in a nice cylinder shape use the film to warp it into a tight kind of sausage tie tightly at both ends and place a pot of simmering water. Poach for 8mins for breasts and 12-15 mins depending on the thickness of the thighs. When done. Take the chicken out and set aside.
In a hot pan add some olive or vegetable oil , some bashed garlic and butter if you like and brown the chicken all the way round. Cook for about 3 mins till well browned. Take the meat out leave to rest for about a min and slice into 3 rounds. On a plate put some of the warm pumpkin puree and place the chicken you have sliced on the puree. Sprinkle with some chopped parsley or coriander.
If you are not feeling up to the task of cling film and all this “chefy” risky business here is the other way I promised I would show. Its simpler but packs the same flavour
Prepare the chicken as before. But do not butterfly. To make it really easy use ready prepared chicken breast.
Prepare the puree, mushroom as before and keep warm.
In a hot pan sear the chicken breasts for 2mins per side till well browned with some garlic in the pan to flavour. Place in the oven for another 4-5 mins to finish cooking or just finish on a low heat if you don’t have one. Leave to rest In the same pan stir-fry the spinach so it take on the flavour of the chicken season well with salt and black pepper.
Place some of the puree on the plate some mushroom and spinach then arrange the sliced chicken on top or as you like, you may slice into two and arrange or place whole. Sprinkle with herbs and serve.
I purposely didn’t include a sauce here because I felt the pumpkin was already a good wet and at the same time a somewhat solid accompaniment with the chicken. This is a dish is a good first course or light main course with a salad on the side.
Drink suggestion would be a crisp dry white wine. Maybe a dry Chardonnay or a crisp Sauvignon Blanc. Or just some water with a hint of citrus such as lime or lemon with lots of ice.
So with this you are welcome to my journey….
You may be wondering why skinny chef when the scales tell a different truth. Well Chef Fregz is gonna be skinny one day… but would not lose the passion for making excellent food. That’s al I would say for now.
Bienvenue à nouveau
P:S if you try this recipe please take a picture and mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org with your experience making it. I would really love to hear from you. Please give your spin on it and just let me know how you found it. Who knows the best looking dish and possible twist in it may win something *wink* Ciao!