Showing posts with label grapes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label grapes. 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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Friday, 8 January 2010

Prickly Pear and Grape Salad with Frozen Rosemary Sugar

I don't know why prickly pears aren't more popular in this country. With their sweet perfumed taste, an elusive mixture of kiwi fruit and watermelon, and their gorgeous nubbly seeds, they are a rare treat in midsummer.

Prickly Pear and Grape Salad with Frozen Rosemary Sugar
My childhood friend Margaret, who lived on a smallholding near ours, introduced me to prickly pears, which grew on a towering cactus behind the barn.  I didn't believe her when she said you could eat the fruit from this plant, with its huge, frightening paddle-shaped leaves, so she put on some gardening gloves and picked a basketful.

She warned me not to touch them:  I did, of course, and later spent hours tweezing the little hairs from my fingertips. The next most important thing, Margaret, aged 8, told me, was that prickly pears should always be served ice-cold, and I have followed this instruction all my life.  I also still use her method of peeling the fruit, using a knife and fork (see recipe, below).

Those pears were a lovely green; these - from my local Pick 'n Pay - are an arresting deep pink that is so intense that my poor cheapie camera broke into a sweat trying to focus on them in poor light (hence the crappy picture).

In this recipe I have combined the pears with with tart, sweet, snappy seedless grapes - coming into high season in the Cape - and a dusting of sugar whizzed up with frozen rosemary needles.  I spied the frozen rosemary while I was rummaging in the freezer for the prickly pears, which I'd put there to cool off, and the combination of sweet pear with a hint of resiny rosemary is just delicious.

Prickly Pear and Grape Salad with Frozen Rosemary Sugar

10 ripe prickly pears [cactus pears]
a big bunch of crisp seedless red grapes
1/2 cup (125 ml) granulated white sugar
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, frozen overnight
the juice of half a lemon

Chill the pears by placing them in the freezer for 45 minutes (or overnight in the fridge). Push a fork into the flesh of each pear to secure it and cut off the top and bottom. Now, using a sharp knife, divide the skin of each pear into four quarters lengthways, cutting about 1 mm deep.

Using another fork, peel away each section of skin, which will come away easily if the pears are fully ripe.  Slice into discs. Halve the grapes and place all the fruit on a chilled platter. Sprinkle with the lemon juice and toss gently.

To make the rosemary sugar, strip the rosemary needles quickly from their stalks (they thaw fast) and place them with the sugar into the small chopping/coffee-grinding attachment on a blender (or use a mortar and pestle). Quickly blitz or pound to a fine dust. Don't worry if a few stray needles remain intact.  Take the dish to the table and serve the 'dust' separately: if you put it on beforehand, it will dissolve into the salad.

Serves 6 as a dessert.

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Sunday, 3 May 2009

A delight from the Greek islands: Kythera-style Yoghurt with Stewed Sweet Grapes

I never, ever, ever, ever, ever eat pudding, but I darn well ate this. Here is a most unctuous and intriguing dessert: sweet, late-season grapes, stewed in a light syrup, and served with a combination of thick, creamy Greek yoghurt and mascarpone.

 Stewed Grapes with Mascarpone & Yoghurt.
This unusual recipe comes from my dear friends Michael and Michele Karamanof, a Johannesburg couple who are superlative cooks.

Mike and Michele first tasted this dish on the island of Kythera, in Greece, this year. 'It's a distinctive dish of this island,' says Michele. 'The recipe uses the very last grapes of the season, which are very sweet, and just beginning to shrivel.'

She adds that the original recipe she and Mike tasted used only thick Greek yoghurt: 'But the yoghurt you get on Kythera is sweeter and richer than South African Greek-style yoghurt, which tends to be slightly sour. So I added a little mascarpone to the recipe.'

Kythera-style Yoghurt with Stewed Sweet Grapes

3 bunches of late-season sweet seedless grapes, such as Sultana grapes
2 cups (500 ml) water
300 ml white sugar
2 cloves
one x 2-cm-long stick of cinnamon
2 cups (500 ml) thick, full-fat Greek-style yoghurt
1/2 cup (125 ml) mascarpone

Pull the grapes from their stalks, rinse well in cold water, and drain. Heat the water, sugar, cloves and cinnamon in a saucepan and heat gently, stirring, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Bring to the boil, tip in all the grapes, and turn down the heat. Cook, uncovered, at a low simmer for an hour to an hour and a half, or until the syrup has reduced by a third. Remove from the heat, set aside at room temperature, and allow to cool completely.

Just before serving, whisk together the yoghurt and the mascarpone. Pile the mixture in a big billowing mound into the centre of a large flat serving platter. Using a slotted spoon, arrange the stewed grapes around the edges of the platter. Pour some of the syrup over the grapes, and splash some of it over the yoghurt mound.

You could dish this into individual pudding bowls, but I think you should do as Mike and Michele did, which was to pass it round the table, with some small teaspoons.

Serves 4-6.

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