Month: May 2013

Moroccan Chicken and Bean Casserole with Zucchini Salad

chicken and salad

Winter is coming here to Brisbane although if you look outside to the sunshine you could wonder when exactly this winter thing will happen. But there is a chill to the breeze which makes me want to wrap a blanket around my legs on the couch and cuddle up to something warm and comforting for dinner. My sister in law had the same idea for her dinner request as simple as ‘Something warm!’. I couldn’t help but agree. I have to admit I have default dishes. Things when I couldn’t be bothered I just through together. The upside to this blog? No one wants to see that I made boiled eggs, chopped tomato and tinned tuna for dinner! 😛 Well you might but I’ll leave that post for another time.

I googled around (googled is a verb now don’t you know) and found some casseroles and other winter dish inspirations. Nothing though that I wanted to follow verbatim so this recipe is a little bit of ideas from other sources and some of me thrown in for fun. I call it Moroccan in the way soy sauce and noodles can be Asian. There are ingredients that are synonymous to a food culture we identify with but I in no way vouch for the authenticity of the ingredients here other than the herb and spice tube was labelled “Moroccan”. If you are a purest please feel free to investigate and see how or what would be used for something authentic along the lines of this dish, or like me have some fun, call it what you wish and thank them for allowing you to create with restraint.

So the dish – essentially a roast chicken that was marinated and stuffed then torn up through a spiced bean casserole with a salad on the side. In can be vegetarian with the addition of some more root vegetables for heartyness if you so wish.

ingredients for chicken

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken (please use organic or free range for this dish)

1 mandarin (or lemon or orange, this was just in my fridge)

2 capsicum

300 g rough chopped pumpkin

1 onion sliced

4 cloves garlic sliced

2 zucchini

100 g semi dried tomatoes

1 tin baby tomatoes peeled

400g tin Bean mix (four, five, ten, whatever tickles your fancy)

1 tube Moroccan herb mix

Spinach

Yoghurt cheese

Method:

1. Stuff and marinate chicken – remove chicken from wrapper and rinse (this just gets rid of stale juice/blood) pat dry and place on chopping board. Coat with oil and rub some of the spice mix over the front of the chicken. To stuff the chicken, roll the peeled mandarin (or orange or lemon) in more spice mix and stuff into chicken cavity. You can add any other herbs or garlic as you wish. The moisture from the fruit creates steam inside the chicken cavity which helps it cook inside and out.

stuffed chicken

2. Place in tray and surround with capsicum that has been halved and deseeded. Cover with foil and bake at 150 degrees for about two hours. It is a low slow heat to allow the chicken to remain moist and fall off the bone. If you like your chicken roasted another way by all means go ahead. The chicken is done when you prod the thigh joint and the juice runs clear.

3. For the casserole, pan fry the onion until softened, add the slice pumpkin and cook until coloured. This process creates a nice caramelisation to the pumpkin to add a little depth of flavour to the dish. If you have some leftover roasted root veg and chicken from the night before, this casserole can be a way to extend the leftovers and perk them up. Just add the cooked vegetables at the end as they will become too soft otherwise.

marinated chicken in pan

4. When the onion and pumpkin are coloured, add the garlic and allow to soften. Mix through some of the spice tube, add the tin of tomatoes, a tin of water, the semi dried tomatoes and the rinsed tin of beans.

chopped veg

5. Allow the mix to simmer on a low heat for an hour to develop the flavours. The tomato liquid will thicken and richen with the simmering. I used tinned baby tomatoes as they have a lovely flavour and their ripeness create a nice base to the sauce as opposed to watery unripe fresh tomatoes or plain chopped tinned tomatoes. You aren’t using a lot of ingredients in this dish so ensure they are quality.

pan fry veg

bean casserole

6. When the chicken is done, remove from the roasting dish and peel the capsicum. Chop the capsicum roughly and add to the bean mix with the juices from the roasting pan.

7. Season and grill the zucchini in long strips and arrange over some spinach leaves with some pieces of yoghurt cheese. Squeeze some lemon juice over as dressing.

salad w zucchini

8. Tear the chicken into pieces and serve over the finished bean casserole in a bowl with the salad on the side with some toasted sourdough or other dense bread.

Yum Yum!

Delicious Sticky Date and Walnut Pudding

Winter puddings are some of my favourite desserts. That and chocolate but I’m not always fussy. I have always been a fan of sticky date pudding and after a quick google I found Donna Hay’s recipe and away I went. I always enjoy reading recipes to get some inspiration and ideas and Donna’s recipe seemed simple and easy but I always like to add an element of personal touch. A restaurant I used to work in had a sticky date pudding on the menu which I enjoyed but it had a lot of butter in it so could be a date heavy and greasy at times. We also used to soak the dates in coffee, a twist I still like to do as it adds a little oomph to the dessert. Also in Donna’s recipe she uses a food processor to combine the ingredients. This means the dates will be well incorporated into the dessert thus for a bit of texture I used some chopped walnuts for texture. If you’re not a nut fan you could always hand chop half of the dates and fold these through the batter at the end instead of processing the whole amount.

So the recipe:

pudding finished

sticky date pudding by donna hay

Teaching the art of the ravioli

I recently had the pleasure of teaching my pasta and in turn home made ravioli. We kept it simple with a spinach and ricotta filling but had a great time making it. Amy was so excited to be my first client of the In My Own Kitchen cooking lessons and her only instructions were to teach her something fun and healthy.

The recipe I used for the pasta is a pretty standard ratio and seems to work every time for me which is always a bonus. Depending on the type of flour you use and the size of your eggs on hand (I usually have large eggs) you may need to add one more egg if they are on the small size or a little bit of water in the mixing process if it’s just that bit too dry. Purest would use 00 flour or tipo 00 which is a high protein flour. The higher protein also means higher gluten, the ingredient that creates the chemical reaction in the dough allowing it to stretch and become silky smooth. This of course is a very simplified explanation of how gluten works in cooking and doughs, I’m sure a quick internet search could enlighten you more! 🙂 In any case, normal plain flour will do that trick but it may require extra rolling through the machine to ensure it is silky smooth. Be prepared, pasta making is simple but requires some love and patience to ensure you don’t have lumpy and tough dough.

Some little secrets for lovely pasta – rest it and relax it. Who doesn’t love a nice relaxing lounge around after a good workout?! Same goes with pasta and any dough for that matter. The kneading process is like a good workout, you are creating a frame work of ingredients that are forming together to make your tough. Think if them as muscles that are continually flexing and stretching. Now imagine trying to push those muscles into a shape after all that exercise. Not fun hey? Same goes with doughs. Allow at least 20 mins of resting, covered in cling film so it doesn’t dry out. This gives the dough time to relax the frame work and do it’s thing. In savoury and sweet pastry making this ensures the dough doesn’t shrink in your pan or mould due to the pressure the framework is under. The result? Silky smooth not shrunk dough. How does it get any better than that? You make ravioli of course!

Pasta can be flavoured with other ingredients such as spinach, lemon zest or lemon oil (just replace the olive oil in the recipe), herbs and colourings such as beetroot powder or squid ink. For ingredients such as spinach, it contains a high level of moisture so ensure you drain it thoroughly once cooked to ensure your dough doesn’t get sloppy. Hard herbs such as rosemary and thyme need to be chopped finely to ensure they don’t tear the dough when rolling as they aren’t as flexible. Otherwise open the pantry and experiment. One may even say, show me the dough!

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Right, to the ravioli – the recipe:

Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli

Ingredients:

4 cups of plain flour

4 eggs

1-2 tbsp olive oil

1-2 tbsp water

500g spinach chopped

250g ricotta

3 cloves garlic – crushed

1 small onion diced

Salt and pepper

Method:

Pasta – place flour on bench and create small well in middle of flour mound

In a cup crack out eggs and whisk in olive oil and water

Slowly fold flour into eggs until mix comes together as rough dough

Start to knead the dough for about 5 – 8 min until the dough is soft and smooth – you can use a mixmaster, kenwood or kitchenaid with the hook attachment as well although i find you need to bring your dough together first and then place in the machine for smaller quantities.

Cover with cling film and place to side to rest for 10-15 minutes

Filling:

Saute onion in a pan until starting to soften, add garlic and continue cooking until golden and soft

Add spinach and allow it to wilt down, remove from heat and allow it cool to room temperature

When cooled, add ricotta, salt and pepper and set in fridge whilst making pasta

To assemble:

Break dough into smaller portions and roll pasta through machine starting at dial one and progressing to dial 5, creating long sheets NB: I used the attachment for my kitchen aid although you can find cheap and cheerful pasta machines in most cookware shops – a little more elbow greases is required but still creates great pasta!

Place sheets down on floured bench and spoon mix out even rows approx 2-3 cm apart

Brush around the filling with water or 1 egg yolk beaten to create a seal

Lay a second sheet of pasta over the sheet with filling and press down around the filling

Cut into squares around the filling and pick up each pillow and press around to seal fully

Ravioli is ready to cook

NB: Ravioli can be frozen raw when laid flat on trays with cling film separating each layer

 If the pasta tears when making ravioli discard torn portion as any holes or rips will cause the filling to come out

Pasta sheets can also be cut into circles to make ravioli for a dinner party look

To cook:

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil

Gently place ravioli into pan ensuring there is plenty of water and room for the ravioli to move around

Allow to cook for approx 5 minutes or until pasta is soft to the bite

Remove from water with slotted spoon and place in oiled dish ready for sauce

Ravioli fillings are as limited as your imagination – keep it soft though for ease of handling

Some suggestions:

– sweet potato, marscapone and caramelised onion

– chestnut, chicken and sage

– rabbit and thyme

– pumpkin and walnut

Most importantly, have fun, for that is what cooking is about 🙂

Tarting It Up – Mixed Mushroom Tart that is!

One of my favourite ingredients to work with is mushrooms. From the delicate oyster mushrooms to the meatier king browns mushrooms have so much to offer in taste, texture and enjoyment. I was at the fruit shop the other day and spotted some different varieties and some puff pastry and the tart was born. Usually I am not an advocate for store bought pastry as to me it just doesn’t do a dish justice but I will make an exception for puff pastry as the man hours required to make it just don’t justify it for me, there are limits for any chef! The puff pastry I choose to use isn’t on the cheap size but at the same time with pastry you get what you pay for and I love this product enough to make the extra dollars. I have found in fruit shops though gourmet food providores may have some too.

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The pastry is quite thick so can be rolled out gently for extended use.

The mushrooms I used in this tart are field mushrooms, oyster mushrooms and king browns. Button mushrooms, enoki and wood ear mushrooms can also be found at markets for further variety.

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I sliced up a couple of cloves of garlic and sauteed that off, adding the mushrooms one group at a time in the pan, sauteed until brown and seasoning well. Place each lot of mushrooms into a bowl and check seasoning, add chopped thyme for further flavour. Finely chopped shallot onions can also be sauteed and added to the mushroom mix.

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Complete the filling by whisking 3 whole eggs and 1 cup of cream together. Place the pastry into a pie pan. I like to par bake my crust to allow the bottom to become nice and crispy. Cover the pastry and weigh down with pie weights or rice and bake for 8-10 min. Remove from oven, place mushrooms in and pour in egg mix until mushrooms are just covered. Bake at 170 degrees for 15-20 min. If the pie isn’t quite set and the pastry is browning, lower the oven to 160 and cover with foil and allow to cook for another 10-15 minutes until down.

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I served the pie with a simple spinach, walnut and parmesan salad and some crumbed chicken. To make the crumb a little more special I added some ground walnuts and truffle salt which was a Christmas present. It gave the chicken a nice crunch with a little bit of class care of the truffle because we all know truffle makes anything high brow 😉

A simple meal for any night of the week. For dinner parties individual pie could be made in muffin pans, just make you line the bottom with some baking paper to make removal easier in case any egg filling spills out. Many a mini quiche has bit the dust from this little drama so anything that ensures success is worth the extra time and effort to me.

Bon appetito!