Showing posts with label family food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label family food. Show all posts

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Chicken with Roasted Onions, Grapes & Verjuice

When I made a serious effort to learn to cook in my early twenties, it seemed terribly important to impress dinner-party guests with fiddly platings and pointless twirls and swirls. (Thank goodness the ubiquitous sauce/plate skidmark had not yet been invented, because who knows what horrors I would have perpetrated on the plate.) These days, in my fifties, I have a much more uncomplicated approach to entertaining, and when I'm expecting guests I pour all the effort into creating simple, delicious dishes that sing with clean flavours.

Chicken with Roasted Onions, Grapes & Verjuice

This is the sort of food people want to enjoy when they eat in your home. Of course there is a place for exquisite cutting-edge cuisine that looks like a flower garden exploded on a plate, but that place is not your family table. Honest food made with love and good ingredients will always knock the socks off your guests - and I promise you that most professional chefs melt into puddles of delight when presented with a homely classic such as roast chicken, a rustic veggie soup or a fall-apart beef stew.

This unusual but delicious combination of clean fruity flavours highlights the versatility of Verjuice, which lends a pleasant sweet acidity to this rustic dish.  It takes a little time to fry the chicken pieces and onions before they go into the oven, but it’s well worth the effort, because the sticky golden residue that forms on the bottom of the pan adds gorgeous flavour to the final dish, and the chicken pieces look so beautifully golden and rustly.  

This is the penultimate in a series of new recipes I've developed using Verjuice (available at Woolies),

Chicken with Roasted Onions, Grapes & Verjuice

20 (about 750 g) small pickling onions
3 Tbsp (45 ml) oil, for frying
12 free-range chicken pieces (breasts, thighs & drumsticks)
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs fresh thyme
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
½ cup (125 ml) Verjuice
½ cup (125 ml) dry white wine
1 bunch red grapes, stripped from their stems
1 bunch green grapes, stripped from their stems
salt and milled black pepper

Heat the oven to 180 ºC.  Cover the onions with boiling water and set aside for 15 minutes (this loosens their skins).

In the meantime, heat the oil in a large shallow pan and fry the chicken, in batches and skin-side down, over a medium-high heat, until the skins are crisp and a beautiful golden brown.  (Don’t turn the pieces over or let them cook through.)  Set aside on a plate.

Cut each blanched onion in half lengthways, trim the tops and bottoms, and slip off the skins.  Fry, cut side down, in the hot chicken fat left in the pan, for 3 minutes, or until nicely caramelised. Watch them like a hawk so they don’t burn. Carefully turn the onions over using tongs and fry for a further 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate.

Add the bay leaves, thyme sprigs and garlic to the pan and cook over a low heat for a minute, without allowing the garlic to brown.

Deglaze the pan with the Verjuice and wine, stirring and scraping to loosen the golden sediment on the bottom of the pan.  Tip any juices that have accumulated under the chicken into the pan. Simmer over a brisk heat for two minutes to burn off the alcohol.

Arrange the chicken pieces and onions in a roasting tray, and tuck in the grapes.  Pour the hot wine/Verjuice mixture around the chicken, and scatter over the bay leaves and thyme sprigs.  Season to taste with salt and milled black pepper.

Bake at 180 ºC for 40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the grapes are beginning to collapse.

Serve immediately with a crisp green salad, plus crusty bread to mop up the juices.    

Serves 4-6.


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Saturday, 6 July 2013

Comforting Fish Cakes with Moroccan Flavours

Fresh fish of any sort is my idea of a fine feast, but often I feel thwarted in my efforts to eat more of it. First, no one in my family really likes fish, unless it's battered and deep fried. Second, good fresh fish is ruinously expensive in Cape Town, and so is good quality tinned and smoked fish. Third (and this is not a grumble), I no longer buy - or feature on this blog -  any threatened or vulnerable species of fish or shellfish, using the SASSI database as my guide.

Comforting Fish Cakes with Moroccan Flavours
Crusty hot fish cakes, lightly spiced with North African flavours, and served with lemon
wedges and a cool yoghurty dipping sauce.
Buying and cooking with sustainable ocean species is rather limiting, and while I'm determined to support SASSI's initiative, I must admit sorely to missing eating the beautiful, spanking-fresh linefish I enjoyed so much as a child -  beautiful, springy, snow-white kabeljou in particular.  Prawns drenched in garlic, chilli, lemons and butter are - sob! - another no-no, but more about that in a future blog post.

Snoek, yellowtail, dorado, angelfish and hake are still green-listed, so I buy a side of one of these about once a week.  I usually bake or grill the fish, eat some of it for lunch with salad, and then refrigerate the leftovers for making fish cakes the next day.  Oddly enough, some members of my family are willing to eat fish cakes, especially if they're made - as all good homely fish cakes are - with mashed potato.

Comforting Fish Cakes with Moroccan Flavours
A blend of North African flavours gives these fish cakes a lovely flavour.
Here is my recipe for fish cakes spiced with some fragrant Moroccan flavours.You can add any combination of aromatic ingredients you like, of course, to this very basic formula, but there is something about the warming spices of North Africa that makes these very moreish.

These are quite lightly spiced, because I want the cakes to taste of fish, but  feel free to add more heat and perfume if you'd like your fish cakes to pack a punch.

And if you're in a tearing hurry, please use instant mashed potato.  The sky will not fall on your head, and I doubt anyone will notice the difference.  If you go this route, however, be sure to make up the instant mash powder with a little less boiling water than is specified on the packet, so it is of the same stiff consistency as proper mash. You can also used tinned butter beans as an alternative to mash - here's my recipe for easy tuna fish cakes with beans.

Comforting Fish Cakes with Moroccan Flavours

2 cups (500 ml) cooked flaked white fish
olive oil, for frying
a small onion, peeled and very finely chopped
2 tsp (10 ml) crushed fresh garlic
2 tsp (10 ml) finely grated fresh ginger
2 cups (500 ml) mashed potato, at room temperature
1 extra-large free-range egg
½ tsp (2.5 ml) cinnamon
1 tsp (5 ml) finely grated lemon zest
1 tsp (5 ml) ground coriander
1 tsp (5 ml) good quality paprika
2 tsp (10 ml) cumin
4 Tbsp (60 ml) finely chopped fresh parsley
salt and milled black pepper
5 Tbsp (75 ml) flour, for dusting

To serve: 
lemon wedges or finely chopped preserved lemons
a cool dipping sauce, such as a mixture of half-and-half mayonnaise and yoghurt, or this lemony mixture, or a vibrant chermoula-style dip


Heat the oven to 160 ºC.  Carefully sift through the flaked fish with your fingertips to remove every small bone, then place the fish in a large mixing bowl.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and add the onion. Fry for two minutes, until it just begins to soften, and then stir in the garlic and ginger. Cook for another minute, then tip this mixture into the bowl containing the fish.  Don't cook the onion mixture for too long - the onion should retain a slight crunch, and the garlic and ginger should be heated just long enough to remove any raw burniness.

Add all the remaining ingredients apart from the flour and mix well, using your hands.  Season to taste with salt and milled black pepper.

Comforting Fish Cakes with Moroccan Flavours
Shape the cakes by rotating them quickly and lightly between the
palms of your hands.  It helps to flour your hands!
Pinch off pieces of the mixture - the size is up to you - and roll them into balls. Now flatten the balls and shape them into neat cakes by rotating them between your palms, as shown in the picture, left.  It helps to flour your hands while you're doing this.

Put the flour onto a plate and lightly roll each cake over in the flour. Shake well to remove any excess - they should be lightly dusted.

Heat 3 Tbsp (45 ml) of olive oil in a large frying pan, over a medium-high heat. Fry the cakes on both sides, in batches, placing them in a circle around the edges of the pan, as shown in the picture below.  (Arranging the cakes like this allow you to flip them over in the order in which they were placed in the pan.)
Comforting Fish Cakes with Moroccan Flavours
Always fry small cakes in a circle, so you can flip them over in the
order in which you put them in the pan

They are ready to flip over when the underside is golden brown and crusty.  Place the cooked fish cakes in the oven to heat right through while you fry the rest.

Serve hot with lemon wedges or chopped preserved lemons, and a dipping sauce of your choice.

Makes about 30 small fish cakes, or 15 bigger ones. 



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Sunday, 3 July 2011

Double-Craggy Garlic Bread with Herbs, Lemon and Peppered Cream Cheese

Garlic bread was one of the first eating sensations of my childhood, and I hold it personally responsible for my life-long addiction to both garlic and melted butter. It's not something I make often (I make weak stabs at keeping my family's diet wholesome), but I do think this great classic of the Sixties and Seventies needs to be given the respect it richly deserves. I've called my new version 'double-craggy' because the bread is sliced in a grid formation, and I've done this - licking my lips as I slice this way and that - in order to maximise the surface area to be basted with garlicky, herby butter.
 
Double-Craggy Garlic Bread with Herbs, Lemon and Peppered Cream Cheese
Double-Craggy Garlic Bread with Herbs, Lemon and Peppered Cream Cheese
The first time I tasted garlic bread was when I was six or seven, at a birthday party, and I have never forgotten that first heavenly bite. Our friends, the Spences, lived not far from our house, near Swartkop in Muldersdrift, some 30 km north of Johannesburg. Situated close to the famous Sterkfontein Caves and the Cradle of Humankind, Swartkop is a twin-peaked hill that was a distinctive feature in a landscape of rolling golden grassland, or veld. It probably has townhouse developments gnawing at its lower slopes nowadays - I haven't been there for years - but when I was a child, it was the closest thing to a mountain I'd ever seen. In our family, it was always called 'Bosom Mountain'.

Anyway, the Spences lived just under Bosom Mountain, in a big house thatched with shiny grass the colour of a lion's pelt. Malcolm Spence (who died this year, at 73) was an interesting and clever man who - according to his obituary - had the distinction of winning the 400m bronze medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics,  in what has been billed as 'one of the greatest sprint races of all time'. Malcolm apparently didn't like to talk about his triumph, but on this occasion I remember him showing all the kids a jumpy black-and-white movie of his famous sprint (projected onto a white bedsheet nailed to the wall, which was how we watched movies in those days). After that, we watched an old and terrifying film about a sabre-toothed tiger that lived in a cave. Petrified, I crawled under a blanket and stuck my thumb in my mouth, vowing never to go to a birthday party at the Spences again.

But all was made right when Naomi Spence called us to the table. She'd made three or four loaves of garlic bread, tightly wrapped in foil and packed with garlic, chopped fresh curly parsley and lashings of farm butter. There was a cake too, strewn with little silver balls, and iced Marie biscuits with hundreds-and-thousands, and orange-skin wedges filled with red jelly, but all these delights paled when I tasted the garlic bread. I ate a lot of it, and threw up on the back seat of the car on the way home. This may have been the bumpy farm road, but it was probably the butter.

I can't eat garlic bread without remembering that party, and here's my attempt to recreate a special food memory. I've used a flat-topped, poppyseeded potbrood here, but any big loaf of good, fine-textured white bread will do. Don't worry if stalagmites of bread fall off when you've cut it in a grid pattern: tie everything loosely together with a piece of string or raffia, and remove the string just before you serve the bread.

Double-Craggy Garlic Bread with Herbs, Lemon and Peppered Cream Cheese
A fabulous crowd-pleaser for a braai.

Double-Craggy Garlic Bread with Herbs, Lemon and Peppered Cream Cheese

a large, circular loaf of bread, a day or two old
1 cup (250 ml/250 g) salted butter
8 large cloves garlic, peeled and finely grated
the finely grated zest of a lemon
1 cup (250 ml) chopped fresh herbs (parsley, rosemary, oregano, rosemary, thyme, or whatever you have to hand)
freshly milled black pepper
125 g pepper-crusted cream cheese or goat's milk cheese

Heat the oven to 190 ºC. Place the loaf of bread on a board. Using a very sharp serrated knife, cut the bread, to within a centimetre of its base, into thick (2 cm) slices. Now turn the loaf the other way, and cut across the slices to form a grid. Take your time about this, and use quick, light, sawing motions, pressing the slices you've just cut firmly together.

Melt the butter in a pan set over a medium heat (or in your microwave oven) and stir in the garlic, lemon zest, fresh herbs and pepper.

Squeeze the base of the loaf gently to splay out the 'fingers' of bread and, using a pastry brush or a turkey baster, liberally coat each finger of bread with the flavoured butter.

Brush the top and sides of the bread with more melted butter. Tie a piece of string or a strand of raffia firmly around the loaf. Put the bread on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Cover lightly with a sheet of tin foil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for a further 10 minutes, or until it's beginning to crisp and turn golden. Take the loaf out of the oven, and crumble the peppered cream cheese over and around the 'fingers' of bread. Bake for a further five  minutes, or until the cheese is hot and just beginning to bubble.

Serve immediately.

Serves 6-8 as a side dish.

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Thursday, 18 November 2010

Book Review: Ramsay's Best Menus, plus I make Gordon's Italian Meatballs

When Aletta Lintvelt, Food24's new food editor, asked me to review a cookbook from Kalahari.net, it took a split second for me to choose the new Ramsay book. I'm a great fan of Gordon Ramsay's, you see, and I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to cook a dish from his latest book.
Gordon Ramsay's Italian Meatballs
I had the chance to see the world's most famous chef in action last year at the Cape Town Good Food and Wine Show (read about this event here, and about why am a Ramsay admirer) and thoroughly enjoyed his presentation. I recall him cooking a sticky chicken dish of some sort at the demo, and that's the first recipe in the book I tried. I didn't like it at all. But more about that later.

Click here to read my review on Food24 and to find out what I thought about Gordon Ramsay's meatballs.
   Gordon Ramsay's Italian Meatballs

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Friday, 30 April 2010

Pot-roasted Chicken "Stewp" with Herbs, Garlic and Bacon; and the food blogger's lament

First the chicken, then the lament. I love stews, and I adore soups, so why not a "stewp", I thought? Why not pot-roast whole chickens and vegetables with a lot of liquid, so you end up with fall-apart chicken pieces in a lake of rich aromatic gravy?

Pot-roasted Chicken "Stewp" with Herbs, Garlic and Bacon
Flavoured with wine, garlic and good smoked bacon cubes, this makes an excellent one-dish family meal. There are a couple of steps in this recipe that require a bit of effort: One, pushing some fragrant herby stuffing under the breast skin and, two, browning the chickens on all sides before they go into the oven. After that, all you need do is kick the dish into the oven and forget about it.

Now the moan. (I called it a 'lament' in the title of this post only because I'm trying to cover my dainty behind: recently, in a presentation at the South African Food Bloggers' Conference, I advised bloggers never, ever to complain or whinge in a blog post.)

Anyway: many food bloggers will agree that having to take photographs of food can be  pain in the neck. It's not that styling and photographing your own food isn't fun - it can be hugely rewarding, especially when you've learned a few basic tricks (necessary if you have an elderly camera, as I do), and the winning picture looks just beautiful.

The problem is finding the time - and getting the time of day right.

Here's why: food needs to be photographed in natural light (a flash is the kiss-of-death to a plate of food), and that usually means taking the picture in cool morning light, or at the very least before noon. If you're going to photograph really freshly cooked food, you have to get up early in the morning to cook it. And who has time to do that? Not I, said the little red hen. This blog isn't my job, and my early mornings are gobbled up by school lifts and making of lunch boxes. It's only once I've done a morning's work, and all the afternoon's school lifts and child-admin stuff, that I can hit the kitchen, and by that time the light is too yellow and low-slanting to take a good photograph (the photograph on this page is a good example). So, a few choices: keep some of the food aside to reheat and photograph the next morning, or cook-and-snap on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Neither approach is ideal: the former results in sulky-looking food, and the latter in sulky-looking family members.

And, having said that, I'm actually one of the lucky ones, living as I do in the southern hemisphere where the light is clear and brilliant for most months of the year. At the Food Bloggers' Conference, my pal Jeanne Horak-Druiff of Cooksister! (a South African living in London) had us in stitches as she described her frustration at having to take photographs of her beautiful food on dismal winter evenings. Jeanne set up a special mini-light-box-cum-studio in her conservatory, but was repeatedly defeated by air so arctic that the hot food steamed up her lens.

Why, you may ask, bother to post a photograph at all? Well, the truth is that a food blog without photographs is like a cartoon without illustrations. No matter how original and mouth-watering your recipes, and how brilliant your writing, no one will pay your blog much attention unless it is lavishly illustrated with food photographs. Okay, they don't need to be as perfect as food-magazine pictures (the food-blogging community, competitive as it is, can be very forgiving), but they do, at the very least, need to be sharp, bright and good-looking.

So what's the point of my moan? Nothing, really, except to commiserate with all those other food bloggers who labour in their kitchens to produce excellent recipes, and then decline to post them because they haven't had a chance to take a photograph, or because they took a pic that looks like something the cat sicked up.

If it's any consolation: none of the world's most esteemed food writers take publishable pictures of their own food. I've never seen Gordon, Nigella, Jamie or Nigel with a camera in their hands. They have professional photographers to do this, expert cooks to make the actual dish, and stylists to scatter the parsley and toast the pine nuts. They have home economists to work out the measurements, and editors to tweak the grammar. You, my dears, do this all on your own, and that's what makes your blogs amazing.

On the subject of food photography, please take a look at the work of Nina Timm of My Easy Cooking, who is the reigning queen among South African food bloggers when it comes to photography and food styling. This is the standard of food photography that I aspire to.

But back to the stewp.

This recipe uses two chickens, but you can easily halve the recipe. Do take the trouble to drain off excess fat, as instructed in the recipe, or you will end up with a greasy gravy. You need nice, thick, smoked pork rashers for this dish - watery supermarket bacon will not do. Ask your butcher.

Pot-roasted Chicken "Stewp" with Herbs, Garlic and Bacon

2 large free-range chickens
salt and milled black pepper
a small bunch of mixed fresh herbs of your choice: sage, oregano, basil, parsley and thyme
8 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and finely chopped
the zest and juice of 2 small lemons
6 Tbsp (90 ml) olive oil
6 smoked pork rashers (about 180 g; each about 7 mm thick), cubed
3 onions, peeled and cut vertically into eighths
2 sticks  celery, sliced
24 peeled baby carrots (or 10 medium carrots, peeled and cut in half crossways)
3 Tbsp (45 ml) cake flour
2 cups (500 ml) dry white wine
2 thumb-length sprigs fresh rosemary
8 large potatoes, peeled and halved crossways

Heat the oven to 150°C.  Using the flat of your hand, press down firmly on the breasts of the chickens until you hear the breast bones snap. Season inside and out with salt and black pepper.

Strip the herb leaves from their stalks and chop the leaves fairly finely. Place in a bowl and add the chopped garlic, the lemon zest and 2 Tbsp (30 ml) of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. Now make a 'pocket' at the top of the chickens by very gently separating the breast skin from the flesh: slide your fingertips under the skin on top of the breasts, breaking the fine membrane as you go to create a pouch. Take half of the herb paste and spread it evenly under the breast skin of both chickens (reserve the remaining mixture). Pull the breast skin back into place.

Heat another 2 Tbsp (30 ml) of olive oil over a brisk flame flame in a large ovenproof dish (a big cast-iron pot is ideal; a sturdy roasting pan will also do). Brown the chickens all over in the hot oil, turning frequently: this should take between 12 and 15 minutes. Don't worry if they're not evenly golden brown: what's important is that there's a sticky honey-coloured residue on the bottom of the pan.

Remove the chickens from the pan and set aside. Add the cubed pork rashers to the pan and fry for 3 minutes, or until just crisp and golden brown. Remove from the pan using a slotted spoon and set aside.  Drain all the chicken and bacon fat from the pan, but don't wipe it out.

Put the remaining 2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil into the pan, add the onions, celery and carrots and fry over  a medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes, or until the onions begin to colour. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook for two minutes, stirring. Add the wine and lemon juice to the bowl containing the left-over herb paste, stir well, then pour the mixture over the vegetables, stirring briskly to release any sediment and to prevent lumps forming.  Cook the sauce gently for a two minutes, or until thickened.

Place a sprig of rosemary inside the cavity of each chicken. Rest the chickens, breast-side up, on top of the vegetables in the pan, and arrange the potato halves around them. Using a large spoon, baste the chickens and potatoes with the winy liquid. Cover with a lid, or a tight layer of tin foil, and cook at 150°C for an hour and 45 minutes, or until the potatoes are very tender, and the chicken is falling off the bone. Give the pan a shake now and then, and baste the chicken with the juices. Pull the chicken to joints, and serve immediately, in deep bowls, with hunks of bread.

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Friday, 27 February 2009

Two-meals-in-one-go: Roast Orange Chicken Breasts with an Apricot and Nut Stuffing, and Glazed Pork Fillet

My mom used to make a baked orange chicken dish like this when I was in my teens, and I had a nostalgic rush of blood to the tastebuds when I made it again. I've reworked the recipe and added stuffing to make it more interesting (and, besides, my husband likes a bit of stuffing).

This recipe uses a lot of chicken breasts, with the aim of having leftovers for lunch boxes the next day. It's a bit fiddly to prepare the stuffing - leave it out, if you're in a hurry.

Freshly squeezed orange juice is essential - please don't use anything else - and take care not to overcook the chicken breasts. They should be juicy and tender when they come out of the oven.

If you'd like a thicker sauce, reduce the sauce mixture by boiling it for a few minutes on the stove before you pour it around the chicken pieces. I prefer a thinner juice ( please don't make me say 'zhjooo' ['jus'] which has to be one of the most irritating words I have ever heard come from the lips of a waiter or a food critic).

There was plenty of lovely orangey, chickeny zhjooo juice left over, and I used this as a base for making Trish Deseine's lovely Glazed Pork Fillet. This clever recipe - which I saw Trish demonstrating on TV as I was cooking the chicken - poaches a whole pork fillet in a bath of fresh orange juice, soy sauce, fish sauce and ginger; as the sauce reduces, it coats the fillet in a dark sticky caramelised glaze. I managed to snaffle two meltingly tender slices before the family ploughed in, and then the bloody cat pinched the rest off the counter.

Roast Orange Chicken Breasts with an Apricot and Nut Stuffing

10 free-range chicken breasts, on the bone, and skin on (thighs would be good too)
a few sprigs of fresh thyme

For the stuffing:
a little olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and very finely chopped
a fat clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
4 slices brown bread
4-5 fresh sage leaves
2 T (30 ml) fresh thyme leaves
a handful of nuts (about 1/2 cup; 125 ml) roughly chopped (I used pistachio nuts, but pecans or walnuts would be nice)
6 soft dried apricots, finely diced
one large egg
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the sauce:
the finely grated zest of one orange
300 ml freshly squeezed orange juice
5 T (75 ml) chicken stock or white wine
2 T (30 ml) honey
2 T (30 ml) good soy sauce (such as Kikkoman)
a small knob (about 2cm x 2cm) fresh ginger, grated
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp (5 ml) ground ginger
1 tsp (5 ml) ground coriander
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Loosen the skin on the top of the breasts by slipping your hand underneath the skin and easing it away from the flesh to make pockets.

To make the stuffing, heat a frying pan and add the the olive oil. Turn in the chopped onion and cook over a medium heat until softened and beginning to turn golden. Stir in the garlic and fry for another minute or so (but don't let the garlic brown). In the meantime, put the bread slices into the jug of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process until fine. Now add the sage leaves and pulse until the leaves are finely chopped. Tip the breadcrumbs and sage into the cooked onion mixture and stir well. Remove the frying pan from the heat, allow to cool for five minutes, then add all the remaining stuffing ingredients. Use a fork or your fingers to combine.

Divide the mixture into ten portions.

Lift the skin away from the top of each breast, and spread a portion of stuffing into the pockets. Smooth the skin over the stuffing and press down well so that the stuffing is evenly distributed. Place the chicken breasts into an ovenproof dish or roasting pan and season with salt and pepper. (Go easy on the salt, as the soy sauce is salty enough on its own).

To make the sauce, whisk together all the ingredients. (You might need to warm the honey so it dissolves easily). Spoon a little of the sauce over each chicken breast, reserving the rest. Tuck a few sprigs of thyme between the chicken breasts, place in the oven and roast at 200°C for 25 minutes, or until the skin is beginning to crisp and become golden brown. Drain off any excess fat by tilting the dish over the sink.

Now pour the rest of the sauce around the chicken pieces and put the dish back in the oven. Reduce the heat to 180°C and bake for another 30-40 minutes, depending on the size and thickeness of the breasts, or until the chicken is cooked through but still tender. (Check by cutting through the thickest part of one breast; if there is not a trace of pinkness in the juices, the chicken is done.)

Serve with Basmati rice, and spoon a little orange sauce over each piece of chicken.

Serves 6, with plenty of leftovers for sandwiches.


Pork Fillet in an Orange Glaze

To make Trish Desaine's recipe, I strained the remaining juices from the roasting pan, to remove the fat that had hardened in the fridge overnight, and added a little more fresh orange juice, garlic and ginger, another 2 T (30 ml) honey, and a glug of fish sauce. I poached the pork fillet (a pork neck would be just as good) gently for the first 20 minutes, flipping it often, and then then turned up the heat to a fierce boil for the last ten or so minutes.


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Monday, 9 February 2009

Creamy Scalloped Potatoes, the foolproof way

Pommes Dauphinoise is one of those recipes that foodies get their knickers in knot about, coming over all authenticker-than-thou, and arguing about cheese and garlic and so on. Maybe they have a point, because this is a tricky dish to get right, especially if you live in South Africa where there are so few varieties of potato, and these are so erratically labelled, that often you can't tell whether you've got a waxy or a floury on your hands until you've actually cooked the darn thing. You can follow the same recipe to the letter ten times and get a different result each time: swimming in liquid or dry as a bone, or curdled to a nasty mess, if you're particularly unlucky.

The way to achieve a perfect, tender result is to simmer the potato slices in cream and milk on your stovetop before you bake them: this way you can adjust the amount of liquid needed before the dish goes into the oven.

I never peel potatoes for this dish, because I think the skins add to the flavour, and, besides, the slices are so thin that any peel just isn't an issue. But go ahead if you're picky. You can add garlic, thyme or a sprig of rosemary to the cooking liquid, if you like, but I think it's perfect as it is.

Creamy Scalloped Potatoes, the foolproof way

300 ml cream
2 cups (500 ml) full-cream milk, plus more to top up
half an onion, peeled
a bayleaf
2.5 ml freshly grated nutmeg
salt and freshly milled pepper
8 medium potatoes
4 T (60 ml) butter
a clove of garlic, peeled

Preheat the oven to 170° C. Pour the cream and two cups of the milk into a saucepan. Add the onion,the bayleaf and the nutmeg, and season well with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then turn down and simmer for five minutes. Using a mandolin or the slicing attachment on your food processor, cut the potatoes, skins and all, into very thin slices. Tip the slices into the hot cream/milk mixture (don't leave the slices to stand for longer than a minute or so, as they will turn brown). Now add enough extra milk to just cover the potatoes. Add the butter.

Simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until the potato slices are tender, but still holding their shape, and the liquid has thickened slightly. Remove the onion and the bayleaf, and check the seasoning: you may need to add more nutmeg.

If the potatoes have absorbed a lot of liquid, top up again with milk so that the liquid just barely covers the slices. Cut the garlic clove in half and rub it all over the bottom of a baking dish (no need to grease it; the liquid is buttery enough).

Carefully tip the potatoes and liquid into the baking dish, and give it a gentle shake to distribute the slices evenly. Scatter a few pieces of cold butter over the top of the dish, and bake at 170° C for 30-40 minutes, or until tender and golden on top.

Serves 6.









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Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Potato-topped Celery, Leek and Cheese Pie

It doesn't sound very tempting, does it? Who wants to eat leeks and celery, apart from rabbits and rabid vegetarians? How tempting is a recipe that contains nine vowels of the E variety? But this dish is just delicious, and I urge you to give it a try.

I have frothing fountains of celery growing in the narrow strip I call my vegetable garden, and I've been scratching my head trying to think what to do with all the celery, before it goes to seed. I'm really not mad about the texture and taste of celery, although I do understand the logic of adding a few pared toenails of the stuff to stews, stocks and soups, especially when a few nuggets of crispy bacon are involved. I have about 95 litres of celery soup in the freezer, cunningly frozen in 500-ml zip-lock bags (that's what I did with last year's crop; I even labelled and dated them, Martha-Stewart style), but frankly all they've been useful for is ice-packery when someone's sprained an ankle or walked into a door.

Anyway, this recipe came about because my husband mentioned, out of the blue, that his late mum (a wonderful cook) used to cook whole stalks of celery in a cheesy white sauce.

I had a jugful of the same in the fridge, plus a big bowl of left-over mash, and here is the result. It was so tasty, and even better the next day, when the leeky and celeryish flavours delivered a smart punch to my tastebuds.

Potato-topped Celery and Leek Pie

For the cheesy white sauce
(note: these measurements are approximate; the final thickness of the sauce depends on the strength of the flour. If the sauce seems too thick, thin it down with more milk. )

3 T (45 ml) butter
3 T (45 ml) white cake or bread flour
750 ml cold milk
1 cup (250 ml) grated Cheddar or other sharp cheese
2 tsp (5-1o ml) Dijon or wholegrain mustard
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper

For the pie:

2 T (30 ml) olive oil
4 fat leeks, trimmed, rinsed and finely sliced
8-10 sticks young celery, trimmed of all green leaves and finely sliced
1/2 cup (125 ml) chicken or vegetable stock, or white wine
a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
salt and milled black pepper

For the topping:
2 cups (500 ml) mashed potato, warmed

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

First make the cheesy white sauce. Put the flour and the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Using a whisk, stir briskly until the butter melts, and allow to cook for two minutes. Now tip in a cup or so of the cold milk, whisking well as you pour. When the mixture begins to thicken, add the remaining milk, turn up the heat to its fullest setting, and continue whisking until the sauce has thickened and come to the boil. Turn the heat down to its lowest setting and allow it to bubble gently for another two minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the grated cheese, the mustard and the lemon juce. Add salt and pepper.

Set aside (put a piece of clingfilm or waxed paper on the top of sauce, to prevent a skin forming, if you're making it in advance).

Heat the olive oil in a deep pan or wok and add the leeks and celery. Stir-fry, over a fierce heat, for a minute or so, but don't allow the veggies to brown. Now add the stock or wine, and allow to bubble furiously for a minute. Cover the pot with a lid or a piece of tin foil, turn the heat to its lowest setting, and allow to simmer gently for 10 minutes, or until the celery is just tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Tip the reserved cheesy white sauce into the leek and celery pan and stir well to combine. Tip the mixture into a serving dish, smooth the surface, and top with mashed potato. Brush with melted butter (or peanut-sized bits of cold butter) and bake at 180 C until the potato topping is golden brown.

Serves 6. Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly