Category Archives: Chicken

Winter + oven =

It is, in my view, the duty of an apple to be crisp and crunchable, but a pear should have such a texture as leads to silent consumption.
~ Edward Bunyard, The Anatomy of Dessert

I chanced upon this delightful post by Chef Millie and it sounded too delicious not to make.

So last night I made a slightly modified (to suit what I had in my pantry) version of this roasted pear, leek and chicken salad – and… tonight, I made it again (admittedly again modified to suit what I had in my fridge). I don’t think I have ever cooked the same thing twice in a row when cooking for others – but try it and you may just decide to make this for dinner every day for the rest of the week. Or month? ;-)

I actually felt a little guilty when John, Fran and Heather complimented me on this dish because it was really so easy. There is no real need to measure anything, and ingredients can be substituted. Everything goes into a baking tray, which goes into an oven – and you can read a book or take a shower then sit down for dinner and have just one tray to wash afterwards. Magic!

Last night, I roasted leeks, pear wedges and chicken breasts and plated it individually atop a bed of baby cos/romaine lettuce with toasted Turkish bread on the side.

Tonight, I baked yellow capsicum pieces, pear wedges, half a leek and chicken thighs and placed the tray on the table for everyone to help themselves. Along with this I toasted ciabatta with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper on each slice, and served up bowls of Nigel Slater’s pumpkin, tomato and cannellini bean soup for us all. I still had a bottle of sparkling Sauvignon Blanc from Mindfood magazine so that found its way to the table too…

Main modifications with this recipe: I used different parts of the chicken; smeared wholegrain mustard on the chicken and left out mustard seeds; added in rosemary last night, thyme tonight; changed the goats’ cheese to feta; used more garlic. I also left out the step at the end to heat the fat on the stove and deglaze with red wine vinegar, even though it sounded divine – purely to save time, will have to try it next time!

So I already knew that chicken + mustard + herbs + salt + pepper + oven is often bound to please, but baked leeks and pears together? – a revelation for me. The leeks went slightly pink and so sweet and melting; and pears – they are a total pleasure to eat raw, but when cooked – they are like a golden crown, a fancy something. I really like cooked pears – they make a meal special, somehow. Oh, and fennel seeds – I wish I had discovered them sooner. Now I have to actively restrain myself from this wild urge to spray them liberally on everything…

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Dinner with Lamia!

To me, every hour of the day and night is an unspeakably perfect miracle.
~ Walt Whitman

Lamia and I had a super ‘girly’ night in tonight. I even enjoyed a cheesy chick flick where I knew what the ending would be within the first ten minutes of the movie… :-O

I waddled around my kitchen while Lamia composed this delicious meal… mmm! We had sweet, lightly spicy, succulent chicken… crunchy asparagus and peas and juicy cherry tomatoes… baked potato wedges with garlic, herbs and salt.

With her permission, here is the recipe (sans exact quantities, since she is a gifted cook who really cooks with her senses):

    Chicken:
    Marinade chicken breasts in balsamic vinegar, olive oil, dried herbs, pepper and let it sit in the fridge for a night.
    Fry them in a skillet with a dash of hot sauce and salt, until golden brown and crisp on the outside and tender inside (a fork stuck into the middle of the chicken pieces should yield clear juices).
    Vegetables:
    Heat a small amount of olive oil in a frying pan, and saute chopped onion and garlic until they are fragrant and lightly golden. Add in fresh pea pods and fry for 2-3 minutes. Add in capsicum strips and asparagus spears, and stir for a further 2-3 minutes, adjusting the heat as and when necessary. Add in the cherry tomatoes and remove the pan from the heat. Avoid over-cooking the vegetables so they stay crunchy and sweet.
    Potatoes:
    Wash and cut a few potatoes into wedges. Place them in a saucepan with enough cold water to cover the wedges, and bring to boil. Add in some salt. Once they are cooked, drain them and place them in a baking dish.
    Add enough olive oil to gently coat the wedges, some dried herbs and a few smashed unpeeled garlic cloves. Bake them on maximum heat until they turn golden brown (this is a tip I learned from Lamia today – yields perfect potato wedges which are crispy on the outside and soft inside – yum!)

For dessert, we had creamy Puhoi Valley berry yoghurt sprinkled with Valrhona chocolate bits – and a glass of Villa Maria sparkling sauvignon blanc. Smiles and pink faces all around (alright, admittedly the latter happened only to my face).

Saffron

I got some saffron in Spain.

I’ve never cooked with it before, and it was hard to count out 10 strands (for our dinner) and resist the urge to add more – since I can be quite liberal with my spices – but here it is… my first experiment with it.

Spaghetti with a sauce composed of 10 saffron threads soaked for 20 minutes in hot water, 1/2 onion, 3 cloves garlic, salt, pepper, 1 tbsp caster sugar, juice and zest of half a lemon, some olives, some sliced almonds, 220g chicken – cubed, 1 zucchini, 1 tomato, dribble of cream, dribble of chicken stock, dribble of white wine… I liked the flavour of the chicken and sauce, but not the appearance of this dish or its overall effect – thanks Matt for eating it, and John for not falling off the couch in horror!

There is, I feel, a lot more that can be done with saffron… stay tuned for more saffron experiments!

Oh yes, and speaking of wine, it was such a surprise to find out that Mindfood magazine selected a casual note I wrote to the editor to be “letter of the month”! Thank you, Mindfood and Villa Maria, for this great Christmas present!

Shéhérazade, Fès, Morocco

I went travelling from 18 Nov – 18 Dec. I’m now blogging about some of the places I went to… posts are not written in chronological order.

To be honest, I didn’t immediately like Morocco. When we got off the ferry, I missed Spain immediately, and a public toilet we used made my heart beat so fast I thought it might fall out. So it is that by nightfall on 23 November, I had started to prepare myself for a less than splendid dinner. I know this is totally rude and unfair, but it’s the truth. This was especially the case because the tour bus let us off a short distance away from the restaurant, and the alleyways we walked past were deserted and appetite-killing (to a pessimistic me, anyway)…

So it is that I was completely shocked and delighted by the dinner we did have at the end of our little walk. Actually, I felt a little teary-eyed.

It was, in short, magical.

This place was beautiful. I remember standing in one spot and rotating, slowly, drinking in the details – willowy trees, soft music, dim lights, pretty tables and chairs. The owner of the place and the waiters stood attentively, smilingly, ready to offer us either the room upstairs or the patio… of course we chose the patio. The weather and sky were perfect. All of us were gasping and exclaiming. I think they must get this a lot, for they just beamed patiently.

We started with some herb-infused bread and a spiced, flavourful harira (squeezed tomato soup). Few of us could resist a double helping of this… it tasted of herbs, spices and something less tangible – something I could only describe as carefully crafted to coat the tongue with pleasure.

For the main – a tagine of saffron chicken with tangy lemon and olives. The chicken was gently tender, nicely complemented by the olives and lemon – at once sweet and sour, but in subtle amounts. Again, my tongue could only smile without knowing how to describe what it was tasting. The whole time, we enjoyed glasses of good red wine.

Finally, we had something akin to crispy thin pancakes with milk, nutmeg, honey and cinnamon, topped with what I have just realised was pomegranate. Really, really nice. Freshly made, with a great texture and combination of sweetness and spice.

At the end of our meal, we were offered mint tea avec ou sans sucre… I love this refreshing minty drink without sugar. It slips down your throat like a warm sherbet of ice!

It hardly needs to be said, but this was what I needed to change my mind about Morocco – and glad I am that we had this dinner, for I was in superb spirits the next day – enough to really enjoy the Medina in Fes. :-)

Shéhérazade – 23, Arsat Bennis Douh Fès Médina, Maroc – Phone: +212 535 74 16 42

A shiny new header – and a kitchen experiment

The trees are God’s great alphabet:
With them He writes in shining green
Across the world His thoughts serene.
~ Leonora Speyer

I’m not sure there is an adequate way to describe art which makes your heart twinkle… alright, see the new header graphic above? How can one not smile at it? Do you like it? I think it’s more delicious than a generous slice of moist banana-chocolate cake… it makes me wish I was sitting up on that tree branch asking you to come up and join me for a cup of tea. It’s a dream, is it not? I hope you like it too, especially if you visit my blog often… thank you Mr Piper for designing it! :-)

Tonight was the first night in awhile of cooking for all my flatmates again, and I couldn’t decide what to make. Steak? Pasta? Something crazy? In the end, I decided to make do with whatever I could find…

So. Four potatoes. One pack of chicken thighs. Leftover salad. An orange. A lonely nashi pear. A small handful of hazelnuts. An even smaller handful of dried apricots. Hmm…

I like mentally choosing a dish, and going to the supermarket to buy what I need. I like walking around the market, thinking about what to make and buying what I need for it there. I like having a lot of ingredients to choose from and work with. Spontaneous as I am, I usually like feeling prepared ingredients-wise when I’m cooking for others… tonight, though, I decided to relax and try cooking something out of nothing, so to speak.

It was good fun.

Of course, our cupboards and fridge were not too desolate, which made things a little easier. I sliced the chicken thighs into mini strips, washed and cut the potatoes, set some rice to cook in a bubbling saucepan of water.

I fried the chicken strips in warm, shimmering olive oil with garlic, mustard, paprika and chilli, adding the apricots, hazelnuts and a sprinkle of dried basil and mint in later. Boiled the potatoes. Zested an orange, cut most of the orange into cubes, tossed it all in with the leftover salad and left a wedge of orange out to make a simple orange juice salad dressing. I dusted the nashi pear pieces with some salt and added them in to the salad (sweet and crunchy, so good!).

And there we have it… a random dinner. Ate with my flatmates, and it was great. As a bonus, Matt was so good as to wash the dishes too. :-)

Goodnight!

Avgolemono

Let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius.
~ Pietro Aretino

Did you think I’d given up cooking through “Falling Cloudberries”? I was afraid I had too. However, it isn’t December yet, so I guess I’m not allowed to give up!

Tonight, I decided to try my hand at making this Greek dish from Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries” to warm us up…
#56 Avgolemono (Chicken Soup with Egg & Lemon) – Page 82

I tripled the amount of carrot and celery used in this broth, and absolutely loved inhaling the aroma of this while it simmered slowly on the stove. No butter, no oil, just sweet veges, flavourful parsley, piquant peppercorns and – of course – a grand free range chicken.

Tessa Kiros’s recipe for this yielded 4 generous servings of sweet, comforting broth with a refreshing twist of lemon, creaminess from the egg and a smattering of rice to provide texture. We had the chicken (tender and still sweet) and vegetables on the side. I am so pleased with the result of this!

In other news, we visited La Cigale yesterday where I picked up some yummy turkish delight, and Mandy and I introduced ourselves to the whimsical world of macaroons…. oh, and I also had a lovely chicken liver parfait brioche, which made for a tasty breakfast. I kicked myself for not having my camera with me as we watched a man sifting almond sugar on to his tray of croissants, people surveying the spread of fresh organic vegetables, a grumpy woman selling jam…

Berry nice indeed

To invite someone is to take charge of his happiness during the time he spends under your roof.
~ Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Lizzie arrived yesterday afternoon to visit! She is golden-haired with twinkling eyes and a pure heart to rival Snow White’s. She has a wonderful way of drawing you out of your shell into who you are, and talking to her reminds me of what it feels like to bask in sunshine. She also makes me laugh – alot! – (in a good way, Lizzie, if you are reading this!)

We took a trip to Moore Wilsons in the rain to look at what to buy for dinner. As we studied baby beetroots, lemon verbena, the many types of olives, huge moon-sized (seemingly) blocks of cheese – I was drawn into a world just beneath the world we live in. A delicious world of memories, recipes, family habits/traditions, allergies (yes really!), etc… all this came forth as we conversed, remembered, thought about what would go well with what.

Groceries duly purchased, we shared an umbrella in the now pouring rain, and made a beeline for gelato. The best thing you can have when it’s raining.

Along the way, skipping over puddles and sitting aboard a cramped busy bus, we caught up on our lives.

I had prepared the cheesecake earlier in the morning, from Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries”:
#53 Berry Cheesecake – Page 272

(I LOVE peeking into the oven in the final minutes of baking… it is like opening presents on Christmas morning!)

Sunny came over in the evening to join us in dinner preparations. On the menu:

Gingered Carrot Soup with Avocado – recipe from Orangette (a fresh cold soup with a nice touch of creamy avocado, slips down your throat like a dream)

Salad with pan-fried basil chicken, nashi pears, feta, mixed greens topped with lemon and a warm dressing of olive oil, olives, capers, sundried tomatoes, garlic (simple, elegant and tasty)

Grilled bread

We bustled around whilst John and Matt sat on the couch, trying to watch TV amidst the growing noise and slightly delayed arrival of dinner – poor boys! (Of note were Sunny’s patience with our temperamental blender and Lizzie’s super plating skills!)