Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Golden Cardamom Chicken with Crispy Onion Spiced Rice

The theme for this weeks Cookbook Challenge was Bird.  Now bird is a very broad theme, lots of different birds out there, chicken, duck, quail and pheasant just to name a few & cookbooks have hundreds of recipes for them.  Despite this I had a hard time deciding what to make.  I think when the theme is so broad and there is too much choice I have trouble making up my mind.  I nearly went for duck confit, a dish I am dying to make but due to the amount of duck I have consumed lately (out & home cooked) and the amount of fat involved I thought I would stick to some simple chicken.   I guess I consider chicken to be a very boring meat, in fact when I got married I didnt have any chicken on the menu for the same reason & the staff organizing totally agreed with me.  Dont get me wrong I eat a lot of chicken and enjoy it though it usually features in very simple dishes in this house.

In the end I found this very interesting sounding dish from Nigella Lawson's Feast cookbook.  It falls under the wedding chapter & serves lots as part of a banquet, I halved the ingredients & it fed us for 2 nights.  I normally tend to shy away from frying in so much oil but it was the weekend & it was for the good of the challenge so away I went.  I marinated the chicken for 2 days & it was extremely tender, the cardamom lent a lovely & very subtle flavour among all the other spices in the marinade.  The coating was nice & crispy & again had some beautiful flavour.  It also tasted great the next day straight from the fridge so it would be ideal picnic food to drag along as well.  The rice was tasty too & love the crispy onion, have always been a sucker for near burnt fried onion slices.  The icing on the cake would have been the sweet and crunchy pomegranate seeds but alas not in season.

Golden Cardamom Chicken with Crispy Onion Spiced Rice - Nigella Lawson - Feast

For the Chicken and the Marinade

zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 onion
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cardamom seeds (from abt 5 pods)
2 fat garlic cloves
125ml olive oil
1/2 tablespoon Maldon Salt or 1 teaspoon table salt
1.5kg boned and skinned chicken thighs

For the coating

4 eggs
175g cornflour
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
vegetable oil for frying

For the Rice

1 onion
3 tablespoons oliv eoil
500g basmati rice
3 cardamom pods, crushed
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 litre hot chicken stock
75g pine nuts, toasted
1-2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1-2 tablespoons chopped mint
1-2 tablespoons chopped coriander

To finish
1-2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds (if available)

To marinate the chicken, put the lemon juice, peeled & roughly chopped onion, allspice, pepper, cardamom seeds, peeled garlic, oil and salt into a processor and blitz to a pulp.  Chop the chicken pieces in half, add the marinade to coat & leave in the fridge overnight or for up to 2 days. 

let the chicken come to room temperature while you start the rice.  Peel the onion and slice into very thin half moons.  Heat the oil in a wide saucepan (one which has a lid) and cook the sliced onions in the oil over a fairly high heat until darkly golden and very crispy.  Remove to a plate and reserve for later.

Turn the heat down, add the rice and spices to the pan and turn in the oil until the rice is slicked and glossy.  Add the stock and let the pan come to the boil, then put the lid on & turn the heat down to the lowest setting.  Cook without peeking for 15 minutes by which time all the water should have been absorbed.  Take off the heat and leave to rest for 5 minutes.

While the rice is cooking you can get on with your chicken.  Beat the eggs together and in a separate bowl, combine the cornflour, allspice, paprika and salt.

Pour enough oil into a pan until it comes about 1cm up the sides & heat until sizzling.  Shake excess marinade off chicken, coat in flour mix, then eggs & place in the frypan.  Cook until golden and crispy (about 10 ,minutes - I did mine one side at a time for 5 mins each), cut into a piece to make sure it's cooked through - thicker pieces may need longer, then remove to a plate lined with paper towel.  Continue until all of the chicken is done.

When ready to serve, stir the pine nuts and most of the onion & herbs through the rice.  Tip onto a serving platter, top with the chicken & finish off  with the rest of the onion & herbs & pomegranate seeds if you have any.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Very Brief Taste of Melbourne

Stokehouse Wagyu beef cigars, artichoke tapenade and horseradish

Friday night I was fortunate enough to attend A Taste of Melbourne for the first time with some friends thanks to SBS Food and Green & Blacks Organic Chocolate.  Unfortunately for me due to a sick little boy who needed a visit to the Dr I didn't arrive until 8.30pm & couldn't make it again due to a very busy weekend.  The doors close at 9.30pm & the bar closes at 9.15pm so 1 hour was really not that long to spend there.  Luckily I had printed out the menu and knew some of the dishes I wanted to try.  Thanks to the map I even managed to find these places though I only got to try 2 savoury dishes & one sweet & only managed to visit the Green & Blacks produce stall.  I have to say I was very disappointed as there was so much I wanted to try, maybe next year I will have better luck.

My first stop was The Stokehouse for the fabulous beef cigars, artichoke tapenade and horseradish.  Wow, I am so glad I tried these as they were luscious, crunchy pastry, moist & delicious filling & the tapenade was the perfect partner.

Next I dropped into Green and Vlacks to say i & thanks for the tickets & tried the chocolate and raspberry cheesecake brownies & butterscotch choc chip cookies, both were great & are from the upcoming new cookbook, I will be very interested to see the book when released, I already have one of their books & love it being a true chocoholic.

Longrain was next on my list so I headed upstairs only to be very disappointed to find EVERYTHING sold out, even the cocktails, not very happy!!!!!!   So it was off to Charcoal Lane for the  Seared Kingfish, Red Curry, Puffed Rice & Coconut.  I loved the flavours in this dish though I think the temperature put me off a bit.  It was quite cold & I think I would have preferred it warmer even though the guy dishing it up assured me this was the temperature it should be served at. 

By this stage I only had 6 crowns left out of my 60 (yes I managed to spend a lot in a short time without even getting much as there may have been some glasses of wine going down too).  I stopped by the Melbourne Wine Room & Mr Wolf stall and they were kind enough to let me sample the Vanilla pannacotta and blood orange jelly.  Nice though by this stage I was more interested in drinking more wine than sweets so headed out the door for a long night at the Brunswick Green and Retreat!

Apologies too for the lack of photos, I did take heaps more but they were completely crap, I really need that new camera  which current financial circumstances have had to put on hold again for now....

Green and Blacks samples

Looking forward to next year & hope I manage a bit more time next visit.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Celebration Cupcakes

When I think of any celebration I immediately think of cake.  Seriously, what cant be celebrated over a good piece of cake in any form?  When it comes to kids, cake is usually best appreciated in the form of cupcakes, and cupcakes with sprinkles or any type of bright decoration.  So for week 41 of The Cookbook Challenge I made up a batch of sticky toffee cupcakes for the celebration theme.  I didnt really have anything specific to celebrate so I tried to find a recipe that was a bit healthier & these had lots of fruit in them, sultanas, apricots & dates.  Chloe was my decorator & she chose a mix of blue, orange & green sprinkles this time.  Sadly while they looked cheery & bright the cakes in themselves were not that spectacular.  They were okay but didnt have much rise & the flavour was a bit on the ordinary side.  I also didnt like the choc topping so no I wont be making these again.

Sticky Toffee Cupcakes with Chocolate Topping - Jamie Oliver - Happy Days with the Naked Chef

30g sultanas
30g dried apricots
30g dates
1 teaspoon baking powder
140g self raising flour
30g muscovado sugar
1 tablespoon golden syrup
1 large egg
30g melted butter
140ml hot water

40g butter
40g caster sugar
40g plain chocolate
70ml double cream

Preheat the oven to 200c.  In a food processor, blitz the sultanas, apricots, dates, baking powder and a little of the flour (just enough to stop the fruit sticking to the blades).  Put this mixture into a bowl with the sugar, golden syrup, egg & butter & stir together.  Then add the very hot water and the remaining flour and mix well with a whisk.  Divide the mixture between 12 cupcake papers (note Jamie places the papers on a tray, I put them in a muffin tray).  Bake for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt all the icing ingredients together in a small saucepan and bubble for a while until darkened in color slightly.  Remove from the heat and let the sauce cool until it thickens.  Then ice each cupcake.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Taste of Melbourne - Last minute give away

I have a few last minute double double passes to give away to this weekends Taste of Melbourne Festival thanks to the lovely people at Green & Blacks Chocolate.  All passes also come with some free blocks of milk & dark chocolate to sample.  

As this is very last minute, the first people to contact me with their address and contact details will get the tickets, so email away & I will mail out tomorrow and hopefully the packages will arrive in time.  Please note all but 1 of the double passes are for Thursday or Friday sessions only so please indicate when you would like to go.

I'm very excited to be going to this years festival, I haven't been before & have heard both good & bad comments on previous years shows.  There is good food & wine and I'm going with fine friends so sure that no matter what I will enjoy myself, details will follow.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Apple & Rhubarb pie

I have been waiting for apple week in the Cookbook challenge for ages, I have been craving am apple pie like you wouldn't believe, cant actually remember the last time I ate one let alone made one.  I chose Bill Granger's Apple & Rhubarb pie recipe from Bill's Sydney Food as he is usually pretty good with his sweet recipes.    The pie recipe serves 6-8 and is supposed to be baked in a 23cm pie tin.  As I only had 2 smaller dishes I made 2 pies & froze one.  This was a brilliant move as the 1 smaller pie still kept us going for 2 days, so it would have been way too much to have the whole thing at once.   When I made the filling I was being bugged by little people & was a bit distracted, I forgot to add the sugar so added it after it was cooked, didnt seem to cause a problem though the filling was very sweet, dont know if that would have changed if the sugar had cooked down a bit?  Overall a delicious Winter pie that was definitely enjoyed by all!

Notes - The pastry was a little hard to work with though it tasted nice & short when cooked.  I did only need to bake mine for about 45 minutes & by then it was already a little too brown.  Strange as my oven usually cooks slower than a recipe so something to keep in mind.

Apple and Rhubarb Pie - Bills Sydney Food - Bill Granger

1kg Granny Smiths, peeled, cored and finely sliced
juice and zest of 1 lemon
50g butter, cut into small pieces
300g rhubarb, chopped
300g catser sugar
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 tspn ground cinnamon
1 qty shortcrust pastry (recipe below)
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons caster sugar for sprinkling

Toss the apples with the lemon juice and zest.  Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Add the apples and cook for 5   minutes, or until softened slightly.  Add the rhubarb and the sugar and cook for 1 minute further.  Add the flour and cinnamon, stir gently to combine.  Allow to cool.

Place half the pastry on a lightly floured surface and roll out until 4mm thick.  Lightly press into a 23cm pie tin and refrigerate while the filling is cooling.  Spread the apples & rhubarb evenly in the pie shell.

preheat the oven to 200c.  Moisten edges of pastry base with egg yolk.  Roll out remaining pastry on a lightly floured surface until 4mm thick.  Cover pie with rolled pastry.  Trim, press edges of the pie firmly together and crimp the outer rim with your fingertips.  make incisions in the top of the pie with a sharp knife.  Brush with remaining egg yolk and sprinkle with caster sugar.  Bake the pie for 1 hour until the crust is golden brown.  Remove from the oven and cool for 20 minutes.  Serve with ice cream of cream as desired!  Serves 6-8.

Shortcrust pastry
4 cups plain flour
1/2 cup icing sugar
a pinch of salt
360g unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 cup cream

Place flour, sifted sugar and salt in a bowl.  Add butter and rub through the fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.  Add just enough cream for mixture to form a ball.  Divide pastry into two balls, wrap in plastic wrap & refrigerate for 30 minutes before using.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The famous Gingerlee Grench toast made by me!

I love the Syrian French toast at Gingerlee in Lygon st, East Brunswick & it's possibly my favourite breakfast out, if I ever go there I find it impossible to order anything else & many others feel the same, so when Delicious recently published a recipe inspired by this dish I was very, very excited that I could finally reproduce this dish at home.  It's a bit fiddly in that there are a few different components to prepare so I needed to invite someone over for brunch to make it worth the effort, luckily Karen was the target & she has tried the dish so felt she could fully appreciate it.  Loved it & seriously think it was just as good as the original which is great news, go ahead & try it & you will have a very speical home cooked brekky.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Bill Granger = Quick Week Night Winners

TV Chefs, seems like every chef out there with a cookbook has their head on tv these days so it wasnt hard to find someone from my cookbook collection for this weeks cook book challenge theme.  Bill Granger, now I have never actually watched him on tv as he only appears on foxtel (as far as I know) and is not accessible to us poor folk who only get free to air tv!  However despite not watching him wow me on the screen I am a huge fan of his recipes for various reasons, he always has great breakfast sections in his books, his cakes & desserts are amazing & his lunch & dinner fare is perfect for simple mid week dining & generally doesnt include 10 pounds of butter or cream as do some other cookbook recipes.  I was originally trying to find some fancy pants recipe for the theme but really had a busy week so this was all I could fit in.  As you can see from the photo the chicken is a deep, rich golden & sticky brown & actually looks quite similar to the photo in the book.  Juicy and tender thanks to the cooking in liquid, the lovely caramel flavour of the chicken is pretty intense (I would probably add less fish sauce next time & keep it a bit sweeter), though it does all balance out welll with the steamed rice & greens on the side,

Caramel Chicken - Bill Granger - Bills Open Kitchen

8 chicken thigh fillets, skinless, chopped in half
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 red onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
freshly ground black pepper
60ml (1/4 cup) dark soy sauce
115g (1/2 cup) brown sugar
60ml (1/4 cup) fish sauce

Steamed rice & green vegetables such as broccoli & spinach to serve

Place the chicken and oil in a bowl and toss to combine.  Heat a large frying pan over a high heat until hot.  Add the chicken, in two batches, and cook for 2 minutes on one side until lightly brown, turn and cook for another minute.  Remove from the pan.  Reduce the heat to medium and add a little extra oil if needed. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Return the chicken to the pan, sprinkle liberally with black pepper, add the soy sauce & stir to combine.  Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Increase the heat to high, add the sugar and stir to combine.  Cook uncovered for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce is rich, dark & syrupy.  Add the fish sauce and stir to combine.  Place ina serving dish and serve with rice & greens.  Serves 4

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sugar & Spice and all things nice

Week 38 of the cookbook challenge was spice week.  Even though I love spice in all forms I had a difficult time deciding what to make.  I didn't want a curry as I'd done my Sri Lankan dish just recently & didn't want a cake as have been over doing it a bit lately.  When I found this recipe for duck it sounded perfect, love duck & the spice mix was a bit different to anything I usually cook with.  The mix actually gave the duck a really lovely sweet flavour that went perfectly with the parsnip puree.  My mum had dropped off some home grown beets which I made a nice salad with & did some roast spuds to keep the kiddies happy, fantastic meal & really quite special for a weeknight.

Sugar and spice crusted duck with parsnip puree - Jill Dupleix - Good Living Winter

4 duck breasts
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp juniper berries
1 tspn cumin seeds
1 tsp caraway seeds
Sea Salt and Pepper
600g parsnips, peeled and chopped
Brown sugar
1 tbspn butter
grated nutmeg
50ml milk

Preheat oven to 200c.  Score the skin of the duck in a diamond pattern.  Crush the peppercorns, juniper berries, cumin and caraway seeds and 1 tspn salt and place on a plate.  Gently press the skin into the spices.

Heat a dry, non-stick frying pan and cook the duck skin side down for 5-6 minutes over a gently heat until crisp.  Turn once & cook for 3 minutes.  Pour off the fat as it renders to prevent it burning.

Cook the parsnip in simmering salted water for 15 minutes until tender.

Transfer the duck to the oven, skin side up, scatter with brown sugar and bake for 10 minutes, then rest.  Drain the parsnip and puree with butter, nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste and sufficient milk to make it smooth.

Carve the duck thickly and serve on the puree.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

A Well overdue dinner party

Last night I had my brother & his girlfriend over for a bit of a dinner party.  I realized I haven't had anyone over for a proper dinner (apart from parents and in laws every week after babysitting which doesn't count), since before our renovations which is at least 18 months.   There have been plenty of brunches, lunches, cake & coffees & even a couple of parties of mass catering but no good old dinner party.  I love a dinner party & am really a bit sad that no one (I know) seems to have them anymore or if they do they dont invite me!  Back in my late twenties before marriage and kids, a few of us would have them all the time but since most people have settled down with kids they seem to think it's too much effort.  Not me, I am now going to try & do a dinner a month or so as I love it & dont care if I dont get an invite back, people will just have to put up with me & my dinners.  It's a great excuse to cook dishes I wouldnt normally make for just us & the kids.

My entrée for dinner was a mushroom, spinach & goats cheese tart.  I love tarts & would eat them every day if the pastry & cheese, etc wasn't so bad for my cholesterol.  This pastry recipe actually cooked a bit quickly so ended up a bit on the very dark brown side (though not burnt) & so was a bit crumbly, a little disappointing but not a complete failure.  The filling was delicious & right now I am wishing I made a double batch for leftovers but looks like it's toast for lunch again!

The main course was pan fried veal with a balsamic, pine nut & currant sauce/jus, whatever you want to call it, with a pumpkin & rocket salad on the side.  This was a risky move as I had to pretty much cook it up fresh after the entrée and by that stage I'd already had a few glasses of wine, luckily I was still functioning ok and there were no disasters, in fact I loved this dish in all it's simplicity & will definitely make it again.

Dessert was pretty much ready to go.  I made a white chocolate, mint & dark choc chip ice cream the day before which I was a bit concerned about.  It was a sugar syrup rather than a custard based ice cream and the melted white chocolate didn't seem to blend very well with the syrup when mixing.  Then the mixture didn't set in the ice cream machine which might have had something to do with the creme de menthe & vodka in it.  I threw it all into the freezer & hoped for the best.  tasting it in the morning I thought it was delicious even if it was a bit grainy, almost granita like.  I bought some store bought ice cream as a back up in case I had any last minute reservations but turns out there was no need to worry.  The ice cream was served with some oozy chocolate fondants, after the last week of Master chef there was no question this was what I had to make.  A few hours in the fridge before cooking ensured that they didn't set right through & just imagine how well they went with the minty, chocolatey ice cream, heaven!

I was very happy with everything & cant wait to invite my next lot of guinea pigs over for some more feasting.