chicken

Chicken stock to beat the winter blues

You can certainly feel the chill coming into the air here in Brisbane. With the chill has come the winter cold into our household. With two residents coughing, sniffling and generally feeling sorry for ourselves it was time to bring out the old cure all, chicken soup. One of the hardest working kitchen staples would have to be stock.

Chicken, vegetable, beef or fish, these are the staples of many sauces, soups and dishes of any chef’s repertoire. So why make one from scratch in your own home? A home made stock can yield much more than a flavourful broth. When I make my chicken stock I use either a whole chicken or chicken legs. Why? I hear you ask. To have the delicious yield of the meat and to further flavour the stock. By making your stock at home you can also add more vegetable and serve them with the meat and you know exactly what’s in the stock.

There are a few guidelines though that will help create a successful stock each time:

– Cleaver the whole chicken or legs through the meat just to the bone to allow the lovely bone marrow to release and flavour the stock. If just using chicken frames gently whack the frames with the back of a knife to achieve the same effect

-Cut your vegetables to serving size so you can spoon these out with the broth and flesh at the end    –

-Use a pressure cooker if you can – the quick cooking method keeps the flavour in and reduces stove time

– Add garlic for cold busting properties

– Parsley is added to stocks for a burst of flavour, if you are cooking a stock for two to three hours add the parsley towards the end to keep the freshness in

– Don’t boil your stock just simmer it – boiling clouds the stocks ad produces a scum which can be skimmed off but a gentle simmer allows the flavours to develop

– With a pressure cooker the stock will only take about half an hour, without one gently simmer your stock for about three to four hours

– The stripped chicken meat can be used in the stock, tossed into a salad or in a roll. It is cooked ready to go so enjoy!

Chicken stock and soup is just the basic starting point for meals. You can use it to create pureed soups such as pumpkin or corn or as a base for casseroles instead of water. In my next blog I will show you how to make no fuss pumpkin soup from left over roast pumpkins. Yum!

For a bit of a spicy kick you can also turn your stock into a Chinese master stock. Sounds impressive but it really is quite simple. The use of fragrant spices turns a simple stock into a complex broth just begging for silky noodles and shredded chicken. The best part of master stock is it can be kept for months in the fridge with a quick boil each week to ensure it doesn’t go off. I use my master stock as a quick meal as well by throwing a few dumplings in and slurping it down. Delicious!

So what’s the recipe? This one uses chicken drumsticks as a) they were on sale and b) if you’re not after a big yield of simmered chicken this is just right. The master stock follows below

 Simple Chicken Stock

Ingredients

6 chicken legs cleavered into bone

3 carrots peeled and cut into 3 cm circles 3 sticks of celery cut into small sections

4 garlic cloves

1 cup parsley stalks and leaves 1

onion cut into quarters  

Method

Place all the ingredients except the parsely into a stock pot

Top with water until covered with about 10cm of water

Bring to a simmer and leave for about an hour before adding parsely

Keep simmering for another two hours Remove chicken from pot, strip from bone

Keep vegetables (celery and carrot) and cut smaller if you like or keep chunky and rustic

Strain stock and cool in fridge if not eating straight away

If using for chicken soup, bring to simmer, add chicken meat and vegetables

Remove from heat, ladle into bowls and enjoy with generous chunks of fresh bread. Winter cold be gone!  

My version of Chinese master stock

NB  I use chicken as the base for this as I eat it with the broth and it gives it some depth. The addition of onion and carrot is also my variation as I like to eat the carrot as well and I feel onion is just delicious in any broth too. Not traditional ingredients but then it’s my version of the recipe so enjoy!

Ingredients

3 litres water

1 Whole chicken or 6 chicken drumsticks

1 brown onion

2 carrots cut into small pieces

½ cup light soy sauce

½ cup chinese cooking wine

¼ cup brown sugar or chinese rock sugar

50g fresh ginger (I sometimes put mine under the oven grill to bring out the flavour)  

Spice Bag – These spices are used to flavour the broth – for easy removal place in a muslin square and secure with string before adding to stock. If I am grilling my onion and ginger first I add the spices for a minute to bring out their flavour

5 garlic cloves

3 cardamom pods

2 cinnamon sticks

10 g (2 tsp) dried mandarin peel (available at most Asian grocers)

4 whole cloves

4 star anise

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 large red chilli  

Method

Place all ingredients into a large pot and cover with water If using pressure cooker, allow to come to steam and drop to simmer for about half an hour

If using stock pot, bring to gentle simmer and allow to cook for 2-3 hours

Remove from stove, discard spice bag, keep chicken meat and carrots, discard remaining ingredient and strain stock

If using as a base for marinades etc, bring to boil before storing in fridge in sealed container

Will keep for a long time (months) if boiled weekly If using as soup, bring to simmer with shredded chicken, carrots, cooked rice noodles and broccoli.Serve with a squeeze of lime juice and a dash of fish stock to taste.

 

Daily decadence doesn’t mean you’re a slave to the stove

 

 

Creating and preparing food is a part of my life. I’ll admit, some days when I get home from work buttered toast is about as bothered and I feel like being. It all comes down to one question though.

What to have for dinner? Everyone has lamented this question at least once. More often than not the answer to this question is to make the usual go to meal. Busy lives, limited time and other things to do can take you away from the stove and experimenting with something new.  Not to mention the cost of new ingredients and the risk of it not working. Time and money wasted.

What if the decision could be made easier by changing up the favourite dishes you have to create a new take on the skills you already have? Trying something new doesn’t have to mean creating a whole new dish. You know what you, your partner or possibly the family  like to eat. These are the keys to a fabulous meal. Fresh ingredients can lend themselves to all sorts of meals. Bolognese sauce can be teamed with spaghetti, made into lasagne or rolled into arancini. A whole chicken can be broken down into pieces to create stock, breast pieces for schnitzel, the thighs for stir fry. With a little know how creating new meals can be easy.

This week I had the pleasure of creating a meal for my friends and of course comes the question – What to cook? Roast chicken pieces came to mind, a Greek salad and some potatoes. A simple meal really. What can make the difference is the way it is cooked and prepared. Greek salad can be fancied up with a few simple tricks. Instead of cutting everything into cubes you can mix it up. Slice the tomatoes, make cucumber ribbons, thin strips of capsicum and crumbled fetta, all of a sudden the simple salad is a worthy side dish. Roast potatoes? Cut them into uniform wedges and they will happily sit on the plate below the pride of place roast chicken pieces. Set the table with cutlery, napery and a water glass and suddenly the meal becomes an elegant dinner without taking more than an extra ten minutes to bring some care and attention to your meal.

 

Simple ingredients for a delicious meal

We easily assume that a decadent meal must include ingredients such as truffle, expensive wine, wagyu steak and more. Perhaps for some, but not always. What if decadence is just sitting at a table, savouring each bite and enjoying the fruits of your labour. What if decadence is about just stepping it up a notch from your usual repertoire with a tweak that has your family clamouring for more. Or just you licking the bowl for seconds 😉

Stepping it up a notch can be easier than you think. Remember your favourite childhood meal? I used to love when my mum cleaned fresh squid from the fish monger and sauteed it with garlic and parsley. So simple. Stepping it up a notch? Grill it on a bbq, squeeze on some lemon and create a herb salad with some cucumber ribbons, roast cherry tomatoes, pickled red onions and suddenly you have a bistro esque meal all in the comfort of your own home.

Where to find your inspiration? Books, magazines and cooking shows can give you inspiration for different meal ideas. Chefs often look at other menus, current magazines and online forums for new trends and methods. Food has seen so many trends come and go. What remains though are the skills and techniques behind the dishes. Like a helping hand in the kitchen from someone who has many a meal under their belt? Drop me a line and I can show you how. Happy eating!

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!