moroccan

The cheek of it all! – Morrocan style beef cheeks

The saying goes ask and you shall receive. My sister in law asked for beef cheeks and she received them – slow cooked with Moroccan style spices until fork tender and served with a side of roast cauliflower and chickpea salad. Clearly she knew who to ask! B;D

Braised meats are a delicious and simple way to create family favourite meals. Whilst they require time to cook, they are not in fact time consuming to prepare. After sealing the meat and creating the liquid for the beef to cook in, beef cheeks are a great meal that can be left to cook whilst you go about your day.

I have cooked beef cheeks a variety of ways over the years they have come back into vogue – from a carmelised sticky deliciousness as a result of being braised in stout beer to a lighter red wine braise to my version with the Moroccan style spices.

Beef cheeks become a beautiful braised meal when left to stew in their own juices – jokes aside, they do really benefit from a long slow cook as the muscle itself is quite tight and when braised whole keep their shape quite well for presentation. You can also use the cooked cheeks for a ravioli or cannelloni filling – just fork shred the tender meat, mix through some leftover braising liquid to moisten and stuff your cannelloni shells or fold into your silky pasta dough. Easy and delicious. If you’re not up to filling your pasta, just fork shred the beef, add some liquid as before and toss through some pappadelle pasta for a lovely ragu style sauce. Topped with some shaved pecorino (a hard goat’s cheese similar in style to Parmesan) it’s definitely a winner for entertaining guests or just enjoying at home.

The accompanying salad was inspired by some very delicious cauliflower combinations I have discovered in cafe’s and health food shops recently. I must admit cauliflower was a vegetable I studiously avoided for much of my adult life. As a child I absolutely hated it. No matter if mum tried to dress it up with creamy sauce and golden melted cheese – underneath was still the dreaded cauliflower florets. What I realised was I really don’t like boiled cauliflower unless it is then pureed into a soup. I tried cauliflower as an adult again in said salads and found myself really enjoying it. It was because the cauliflower was only lightly cooked and still had some crunch. Then I discovered roast cauliflower. Now we were talking. I didn’t assume this could be done – roast a vegetable that is usally steamed or boiled?! But you can and let me assure you, it is delicious.

You can coat the florets with some olive oil and salt and pepper to ensure a nice even golden colour and if you like a bit of spice, add some chilli powder to the salt blend before sprinkling on. The cauliflower takes about 30 mins at 170 degrees to cook to a tender but still firm texture. I popped some baby tomatoes I had rolling around the fridge in and a salad was born.

Don’t be afraid to mix and match salad ingredients to suit your tastebuds either. I added chickpeas, spinach, coriander and flaked almonds to the mix. The dressing? A lovely avocado dressing I found in the local fruit shop – something a bit different to the usual but you could easily whisk up some orange juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil and seasoning for this combo.The dressing just caught my eye so I decided to go with it!

Feel free to experiment and let me know how you you went with your own recipe variations and happy cooking!

 

 

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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!