Showing posts with label roast chicken. Show all posts
Showing posts with label roast chicken. 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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Thursday, 5 June 2014

Spicy Low-Carb Roast Chicken Soup

Although the picture below shows a few dabs of fresh red chilli, this is delicately spiced and mild enough to offer to kids. I've used restraint because I don't want the spices to overpower the deep delicious chickeny flavours of this soup. The chilli is there to give the soup a finishing kick, but entirely optional.  I often use ready-roasted rotisseried chickens in soups these days because their flesh and skin have a gorgeous melting texture and a salty succulence that's difficult to reproduce in a domestic oven, and they're a world apart from the insipid flesh you'll pull off a chicken that's been simmered in a home-made stock.

Spicy Low-Carb Roast Chicken Soup

It may seem a hassle to make stock using the bones and skin of your supermarket chicken, but this process takes just 30 minutes, and adds glorious depth of flavour. The veggies are seethed at the same time, in a separate pot; after that you'll need just 10 minutes to put the soup together. And dinner's on the table!

If you don't have all the ingredients for the stock, throw in what you do have in your fridge - half an onion, a stick of celery, and so on.

I've used vegetables to thicken this soup (leeks, cauliflower plus a few carrots for colour) and it contains not a grain of starch, making it suitable for anyone on a low-carb or diabetic regime.

I bought the chicken for this soup from Checkers - hot out of a huge industrial rotisserie - and it was plump, juicy and packed with flavour.  My favourite rotisseried chickens, however, come from Woolies.

Spicy Low-Carb Roast Chicken Soup

1 ready-roasted/rotisseried chicken (it helps if it's still warm, as this makes it easier to strip away the flesh)
6 medium leeks (500 g, after trimming)
4 large carrots, peeled
2½ litres boiling water
2 cloves
2 bay leaves
a few parsley stalks
freshly milled black pepper
2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil or butter
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 small head of cauliflower (500 g), trimmed and broken into florets
4 Tbsp (60 ml) cream
½ tsp (2.5 ml) turmeric
½ tsp (2.5 ml) cumin
½ tsp (2.5 ml) mild curry powder
½ tsp (2.5 ml) chilli powder
a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

To garnish:
finely chopped or sliced fresh red chillies [optional]
fresh parsley or coriander

Pull the rotisseried chicken into big flakes, leaving
some golden skin behind if you fancy it.
Tear all the flesh away from the chicken, pull it into large shreds, place in a bowl and cover.  (If you like chicken skin, cut away the breasts whole and slice diagonally into strips so each piece has a covering of golden skin). Put all the skin and bones into a large pot. Scrape out any golden-brown jelly or juices that have collected in the chicken's packet and add to the pot.  Turn on the heat and gently fry the bones and skin for a minute or two.

Prepare the leeks by trimming off the dark-green upper parts and making a long horizontal slit three-quarters of the way through their lengths.  Fan out the ‘pages’ of the leeks under a cold running tap and rinse away any grit hiding in the outer leaves. Set aside.

Add one leek and one carrot, each cut into thirds, to the pot, and pour in 2½ litres boiling water.  Now add the cloves, bay leaves and parsley stalks and season generously with milled black pepper.

Bring the stock to a fast boil, skimming off any foam as it rises, cover with a tilted lid and cook over a medium heat for 30 minutes, or until the carrot pieces are very soft.  Turn off the heat and let it sit for five minutes.  Using a large spoon, lift away and discard any fat.

While your stock is boiling, gentle sauté the leeks and carrots
in a separate pan.
While the stock is boiling, slice the remaining leeks and carrots.  Heat the oil or butter in a separate large pot (I use my wok) and gently sauté the veggies for about 4 minutes, or until the leeks are just beginning to soften. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Now place the cauliflower florets on top of the leeks and carrots, and add 4 ladles of boiling stock from the other pot.  (It's okay if the cauliflower is poking up above the water line - the steam inside the pot will cook it.)  Cover with a lid and simmer at a brisk bubble for 15 minutes, or until the carrots are very soft.

Remove the lid from the pot containing the veggies and place a colander on top.  Pour the hot stock through the colander and press down on the bones with the back of a spoon.  Retrieve the carrot and leek pieces from the colander and add them to the soup.

If your second pot isn't very big, you can pour everything back into the rinsed-out pot in which you made the stock.

Blitz to a fine purée using a stick blender or liquidiser.  If the soup is too thick, thin it to the desired consistency with hot water.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Stir in the cream, turmeric, cumin, curry powder, chilli powder and nutmeg,  and simmer for 5 minutes. Now add the chicken strips - reserving some for the garnish - and cook over a gentle heat for another few minutes, or until the chicken has heated through.

Serve with finely chopped red chilli, plenty of milled black pepper and a scattering of parsley or coriander.

Serves 6. 

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Sunday, 8 May 2011

Home-Made Baked Spring-Roll-Pastry Cones with Delicious Fillings

I've always loved making interesting little bites for parties and other happy gatherings, and consider this the most exciting and interesting of all cooking challenges.

Home-Made Baked Spring-Roll-Pastry Cones with Delicious FillingsSmoked-Salmon 'Roses' with Cottage Cheese, Lemon, Capers, Baby Mustard Greens and Chives

Making ten or twelve platters of beautiful, fresh, zingy bites for a party is finicky work and takes many hours and a lot of planning, but there's little to beat the satisfaction you feel when you watch your guests fall like starving puppies on the food, emitting yaps of delight at every mouthful.

For several months now I've been thinking about how to make a small savoury cone. I love the clever and simple design of an ice-cream cone: it's easy to hold, lovely to eat and imbued with all sorts of good seasidey childhood memories. So why not, I thought, serve little 'bouquets' of food in crisp pastry cones? They can't slip out of your fingers, or slither off a plate, and you can grab two or three at a time without having to put down your glass of wine.

Home-Made Baked Spring-Roll-Pastry Cones with Delicious FillingsClockwise, from top left: Smoked Salmon Dip with Green Peppercorns; Roast Chicken with Baby Corn, Guacamole and Marjoram; Hot Chicken Curry with Rice, Chutney and Yoghurt; Guacamole with fresh Coriander.

I abandoned ordinary puff pastry and phyllo pastry almost immediately, because the first wasn't firm enough to hold its shape and the second was too delicate and temperamental. Spring-roll pastry, which you can buy in any Chinese food store, was ideal, but I couldn't figure out how to mould it into a perfect cone that could be baked. In the Forties and Fifties, you could buy tin moulds for cream horns in any kitchen shop, but these are a rarity nowadays. After experimenting with cardboard cones of various designs (all of which were failures) I found the solution: commercial ice-cream cones, wrapped in foil.

I expected the cones to collapse in the heat of the oven, but they didn't, and I've found that you can reuse the same foil-wrapped cones up to three times before they disintegrate.

Rolling the pastry around the cones and removing the moulds is, I have to warn you, fiddly, and takes some practice, but once you've got the hang of it, you can easily turn out several dozen in under an hour.

The pastry cones stay perfectly crisp for 24 hours (in fact, some of the left-over cones I made were still crisp after three days). Store them, once they're completely cool, standing up in a bowl, and covered with netting to keep insects away. (If you're living in a humid climate, store them in a cake tin or large lidded container.)

If you're adding a semi-wet or soggy filling to these cones, they should be filled no more than 10 minutes before you serve them. Dryer fillings (for example, smoked salmon or roast chicken) can be added an hour or so before. Fill the bottom part of each cone with torn green leaves (such as rocket, or cos or butter lettuce) that have been thoroughly dried. Don't use a watery lettuce such as iceberg, which will make the cones soggy.

If you're anxious about the cones becoming soggy, take them out of the oven four minutes before the end of the baking time and, using a pastry brush, paint beaten egg all over the inside of each cone. Return them to the oven and bake for a further four minutes. This will 'waterproof' the insides.

You can use either one or two sheets of pastry for each cone. Single-sheet cones are more difficult to make, but are beautifully light and delicate. Double-sheet cones are more robust, and suitable for heavier, wetter fillings. For extra flavour, sprinkle finely grated Parmesan and some salt and pepper between the layers.

As there are bound to be some failures the first time you try this, I suggest you make 16 foil-covered moulds to allow for duds.

To serve the cones, arrange them upright in narrow-sided bowls or vases, or in individual shot glass or (as I've done in these pictures) in tea glasses.

Party food: Home-Made Baked Spring-Roll-Pastry Cones

To make 12 cones, you'll need:
a pack of spring-roll pastry
a large roll of heavy tin foil [aluminium foil]
a box of ice-cream cones
vegetable oil
a little beaten egg

Heat to oven to 180ºC. Take the pastry out of its plastic packaging and wrap it in a slightly damp tea towel.

Place the roll of tin foil on your counter. Using a pair of scissors, cut 12 square pieces of tin foil (to measure out the squares, fold a bottom corner of the foil up to meet the top edge of the foil strip, as you would do if you were making an origami square).

Take the first square of  tin foil and lay it on the counter. Place an ice-cream cone on its side, narrow end  pointing towards you, on the right-hand edge of the foil square. Pick up the edge of the tin foil and roll the cone in an arc to the left, gently squeezing the foil against the cone to enclose it completely. Twist the top open end, as if you were twisting the end of a Christmas cracker, and then gently prod the twisted end down into the wide end of the cone. You'll use this 'handle' to pull the mould out of the pastry casing; make sure it's a big, sturdy twist of foil, or it will break off. Repeat this process with the remaining eleven cones.

Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper.

Lay a piece of clingfilm or greaseproof paper on the counter and smear it with a light film of vegetable oil. Sprinkle with a little salt (and pepper, if you like). Place a sheet of spring-roll pastry on top, and sprinkle with a little more salt. If you're making double-sheet cones, place another sheet of pastry on top, and brush again with oil. Brush a stripe of beaten egg, using a pastry brush, across the bottom edge of the pastry square (the edge closest to you). Now wrap the mould in the pastry in the same way you wrapped it in foil: place a foil-wrapped cone, narrow end facing you, on the right-hand edge of the pastry sheet, half a centimetre away from the bottom edge. Fold the bottom edge of the pastry over the thin end of the cone, then pick up the right edge and wrap it firmly around the cone as you roll the cone in an arc to the left. Stretch the pastry a little, tucking it under as you go, or you won't get a tight wrap. Press firmly on the the egg-washed edge to seal the cone. 

Now trim the top open edge of the pastry with a pair of sharp scissors to that it protrudes 5 mm above the tim of  foil-wrapped mould.

 This takes some practice to get right, but do persist! Don't worry if there's a little gap at the thin end of the cone.

Place the pastry cone, seam side down, on the lined baking sheet. Repeat this process with the remaining 11 cone moulds.

Bake the cones at 180ºC for 12-15 minutes, or until they are crisp and golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a minute or two. Grasp the twisted end of foil in one hand, and the pastry cone in the other, and gently pull the foil-covered mould out with small yanking movements. If you can't get the mould out, gently snap away any rim of pastry overlapping the mould.

Place the cones on a drying rack and allow to cook completely.

See my notes above for storing and filling filling the cones.

Makes 12. Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Feeding a crowd: North African Chicken and Couscous 'Everything' Salad

Expecting a crowd this festive season? Here's a bountiful salad crammed with deep flavours, interesting textures and the sunny, spicy flavours of North Africa.  It's the first recipe in a series I'll be running between now and Christmas, containing my favourite crowd-pleasing dishes.

North African Chicken and Couscous 'Everything' Salad
I'm such a fan of big, generous salads, those wonderful meals-in-one that you can prepare in advance and dish up in gargantuan portions to the festive hordes. And let's face it: not many who live in the Southern Hemisphere feel like sitting down to a rib-sticking hot meal in the sultriest days of December. (Although, because I and two of my three sisters are married to men from England, Wales and Scotland respectively, we always pull out the stops and come together on Christmas Eve to produce a ham, a turkey with several stuffings, and the obligatory roast spuds, gravy, minted peas, bacon-wrapped chipolatas, and so on.)

But back to salads. Over the past  few decades, salads have become simpler, fresher and lighter -  my own idea of a perfect salad, for example, is fresh, peppery rocket and watercress dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and Parmesan - but there are times I miss the abundant salads we ate as children and teens in the Seventies & Eighties.

This was the age of the square-meal salad, when a Proper Salad contained a bewildering salmagundi of ingredients: all the usual crunchy greens, plus bacon, cheese, avocado, nuts, seeds, peas, mushrooms, pasta, tuna, chicken, olives, onion rings, boiled potatoes, anchovies, and so on. And if that wasn't enough, a salad of this sort was topped with croutons, parsley, chives, a garlicky dressing and home-made mayonnaise - everything, in fact, but the kitchen sink.  It usually came in a big perspex-like bowl (which grew cloudy over time) or a shining wooden salad dish, with carved salad spoons to match.

North African Chicken and Couscous 'Everything' Salad
I quite often make salads like this for my family, using a shop-bought roast chicken and anything I find lying around in the fridge and store cupboard.  My kids call it 'Everything Salad' because it contains, well, everything.

Here is my 'everything' couscous and roast-chicken salad, which has a Moroccan/Tunisian feel, with a bit of the nearby Mediterranean thrown in for good measure. The recipe is easily doubled, or even tripled, and it's very versatile, because you can add just about anything you please.

Please don't feel hesitant about combining ingredients that you wouldn't normally put together: for example, the recipe below contains roast tomatoes and fresh orange juice and Turkish apricots, three things I usually wouldn't put in the same dish, but they are all bought together by a peppy, citrussy dressing containing all the deliciously perfumed flavours of the region.

Obviously, you will need to use common sense when adding extra ingredients: tinned tuna, for example, or  prawns, or bacon or avocado will not work here. But I would have no problems adding any or (in the spirit of things) all of the following: raisins or sultanas, feta cheese, pine nuts, toasted sesame and sunflower seeds, preserved lemons, fresh orange wedges, pitted black olives, roasted peppers, pomegranate seeds, and so on.

This is a long  recipe, but do take your time over it, because it is the wonderful aromatic stock created while the chicken is roasting in water and flavourings that gives the couscous a special depth of flavour. Also, roasting the chicken this way results in flakes of perfectly tender flesh that you can't achieve by, say, poaching chicken breasts in stock. You will need to buy very fresh spices, and do try to get your hands on dried mint, which has a flavour quite distinct from that of fresh mint.

This salad improves upon standing for an hour or two, but add the coriander, parsley and toasted almonds just before serving. Serve at room temperature.

North African Chicken and Couscous 'Everything' Salad

For the chicken and stock:
a large free-range chicken, trimmed of all excess fat
1 carrot, thickly sliced
a stick of celery, sliced
6 parsley stalks (reserve the leaves)
10 peppercorns
2 bay leaves
3 whole cloves
a large, unskinned onion, quartered
half a lemon
2 cloves garlic, peeled

For the spice paste:
1 Tbsp (15 ml) cumin seeds
2 tsp (10 ml) coriander seeds
1 tsp (5 ml) flaky sea salt
1 tsp (5 ml) black peppercorns
4 fat cloves garlic, peeled
1 large red chilli, chopped, or 2 tsp (10 ml) chilli flakes (to taste)
the finely grated zest of a large lemon
1½ tsp (7.5 ml) ground cinnamon
6 Tbsp (90 ml) olive oil

For the salad:
2 large, shining aubergines (see Cooks' Notes, below)
olive oil (see recipe)
600 g ripe cherry tomatoes
3 cups (500 g) couscous (see Cooks' Notes, below)
1 punnet snow peas, sliced
12 Turkish apricots, coarsely chopped
1 cup (250 ml) pitted green olives
a tin of chickpeas, drained
a bunch of fresh coriander (about 40 g) [cilantro]
a bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley

For the dressing:
the juice of a large lemon
the juice of an orange
1½ tsp (7.5 ml) ground cumin
1½ tsp (7.5 ml) sweet paprika
½ tsp (2.5 ml) chilli powder (or more, to taste)
2 tsp (10 ml) dried mint
1 tsp (5 ml) finely grated lemon zest
a pinch of cinnamon
6 Tbsp (90 ml) olive oil

To top:
extra parsley and coriander
100 g slivered almonds, lightly toasted until golden brown
a little powdered cumin and paprika

North African Chicken and Couscous 'Everything' Salad
Heat the oven to 160º C. (If your oven is not fan-assisted, preheat it to 170º C.)

First make the spice paste. Heat a frying pan and toast the cumin and coriander seeds until fragrant. Place them with the salt and peppercorns in a mortar and grind to a powder (or put them through a spice- or coffee- grinder). Now add the garlic cloves and the chilli and pound to a paste. Stir in the lemon zest, cinnamon and olive oil.

Put the chicken into a large, deep roasting pan. Take one heaped tablespoon of the spice paste and, using a spoon, smear it inside the chicken. Put the carrot, parsley stalks, peppercorns, bay leaves, cloves and onion into the pan. Fill the pan with water to a depth of two centimetres -  or deep enough so that the water just touches the tip of the pope's nose. Make sure that the water level is well below the open cavity of the chicken, so that the stock doesn't flood into the chicken during cooking and wash out the spice paste.

Take another tablespoon of the spice paste and, using your hands, smear it all over the skin of the chicken, extending it down to a centimetre above the water line. Squeeze the half-lemon all over the top of the chicken, then push the squeezed-out half into the cavity, along with the two garlic cloves.

Set aside while you prepare the aubergines. Remove the stalks and cut them into neat 3-cm chunks. Place these on a separate baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Now add a heaped tablespoon of the spice paste and, using your hands, toss well to coat. Season with salt. Place the chicken in the oven, on the top shelf, and the baking sheet with the aubergines on the lower shelf. Set the timer for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, take the aubergines out of the oven and add the cherry tomatoes, mixing together with your hands so the tomatoes are well coated in spicy oil. (Add a little more olive oil if the aubergines seem dry.)

Place the vegetables back in the oven and cook for a further 20 minutes, or until the tomatoes are just beginning to collapse, and the aubergines are soft. Remove the vegetables from the oven, cover with foil and set aside.

Continue roasting the chicken for another 35-40 minutes, or until it is cooked through. (Note: the total roasting time for the chicken is 1 hour 20 minutes, for the aubergines 45 minutes, and for the tomatoes 20 minutes.)

Remove the chicken from the oven, cover the dish and allow to sit until cool enough to handle. Carefully lift the chicken from the stock, making sure not to spill any of the cavity juices into the stock. Put the chicken into a large shallow dish and tilt it so that the juices run out. Cut off the breasts, with their skin, and slice into neat pieces. Pull away all the remaining chicken flesh and tear into bite-size pieces. Discard the bones, fat and non-crispy skin (or keep for making stock). Turn all the chicken pieces over in the juices, cover, and set aside to marinate while you finish making the salad.

Strain the stock left in the roasting pan into a bowl and leave to settle. Discard all the stock vegetables and flavorings. Skim any excess fat off the top of the stock. Measure the stock into a bowl, adding enough hot water to bring the quantity up to 4 cups (1 litre) in total.

Place the dry couscous in a very large mixing bowl and pour in 800 ml of the warm stock. Do not stir. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and set aside, undisturbed, for 20 minutes. After this time, taste a grain of couscous. If it's at all gritty in texture, add a little more warm stock, and leave to stand for another ten minutes. Using a fork, fluff up the couscous to separate the grains. (See Cook's Notes, below).

In the meantime, make the dressing. Place the remaining spice paste into a bowl, add all the remaining dressing ingredients, and whisk well to combine.

Now assemble the salad. Put a quarter of the aubergines, tomatoes, chickpeas, snow peas, olives and apricots to one side, for topping the salad. Gently mix the remaining three-quarters into the couscous. Pour three-quarters of the dressing over the salad, add the coriander and parsley and toss very thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper, if necessary (this salad needs more salt than you would think).

Tip the couscous salad onto a very large platter, letting it fall into a loose volcano shape. Scatter the reserved aubergines, tomatoes, chickpeas, olives and apricots over the top. Pile the chicken pieces around the edges of of the dish.  Drizzle the remaining dressing all over the couscous and chicken. Scatter the toasted almonds, and some more coriander and parsley, all over the salad, and dust generously with cumin and paprika. Serve immediately.

Serves eight.

Cooks' Notes
  • You can salt the aubergines to remove any bitterness if you like, but I don't find this necessary when using young, fresh aubergines.
  • I always make couscous using warm (not boiling) stock, and I never cook it or steam it, but if you're not confident about this method, follow the instructions on the packet, using the stock you've made instead of water. The amount of liquid that your couscous will absorb depends on the brand you're using. If you find you've added too much liquid, drain the couscous in a large sieve for a few minutes.

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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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Friday, 11 April 2008

Quick, thick chicken soup for kids, using the remains of the roast

My goodness, but it's a palaver making a proper chicken soup. The concocting of the stock, the cooling of the bird, the plucking of the meat, the chopping and frying of the onions and other veg, the liquidising-in-batches of scalding liquid, and the dozens of dirty bowls, pots and sieves involved ... it just doesn't seem worth the bother, no matter how heavenly and heartwarming the result.

But I feel I have an obligation to make chicken soup for my family, the same creamy, thick, luscious, nutmeggy essence of chicken made by my own mom and her mom before her. Besides, it took me eight years to convince my daughter to eat soup, and Mom's Chicken Soup is the only soup she'll eat. Every time I put a picked-out chicken carcass on the stove to make a stock (which is generally once a week) she races into the kitchen, shouting 'Oh, goody! Chicken soup!'.

Here is a quicker version that omits the tiresome chopping and sautéing of veggies, and involves only a large saucepan, a colander, a big bowl and a liquidiser. It doesn't have the complex flavours of a properly made chicken soup, and it's thickened, I blush to admit, with flour, but I promise this is a passable version of the real thing.

Quick, thick chicken soup for kids

the leftovers of a roast chicken, excess skin and fat removed
1 large onion, peeled and cut in half
3 large carrots, peeled
a few sticks of celery, or a handful of fresh parsley, or both
2 bay leaves
5 black peppercorns
4 Tbsp (60ml) flour
4 Tbsp (60 ml) butter
1½ cups (375 ml) milk
juice of half a lemon
½ tsp (2.5 ml) freshly grated nutmeg
salt and milled black pepper
a dash of fresh cream (optional)

Put the chicken, onions, carrots, celery, parsley, bay leaves and peppercorns in a large saucepan, add just enough water to cover the ingredients, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer over a gentle heat for an hour and a half, or until the stock has reduced slightly. Place a colander in a large bowl and tip the stock, bones and vegetables into the colander. Allow to drain for five minutes.

In the meantime, make a white sauce. Heat the flour and butter in the same saucepan in which you made the stock. Allow to bubble for a minute or so. Using a balloon whisk, whisk in the milk and continue stirring briskly until the mixture begins to thicken alarmingly. Immediately remove from the heat.

Now tip half the drained stock into a liquidiser and add the cooked onion, celery, parsley and carrots. Give it a good whizz to process everything finely, then pour the mixture into the milk/flour mixture. Return to the heat and bring to the boil, whisking constantly to disperse any lumps. Once the mixture is thickened and boiling, use the left-over stock to thin the soup to the desired consistency. Pick all the remaining bits and pieces off the boiled chicken, shred with your fingers and add to the soup. Add the lemon juice and a shower of nutmeg, and season well with salt and pepper. Add a splash of cream, if you like (but this isn't really necessary - the soup is quite silken enough without cream). Simmer for another 5 minutes, and serve hot.

Note: The final thickness of any white sauce depends on the strength of the flour. If you find your soup isn't quite thick enough, add a little flour or cornflour slaked with water.

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Monday, 10 September 2007

A million ways to roast a chicken: here's mine

Roasting a chicken really is a no-brainer, and something a 10-year-old child could master with ease. But have you noticed how much conflicting advice there is out there about the best method? Cookbooks and TV programmes boast about having the BEST EVER recipe, one that produces a result far more crisp, tender, tasty and flavoursome than your pathetic attempts at roasting a bird.

My chickens, ready for the oven
Put the chicken on its front. No, put it on its back. Put it on its front, then turn it  on its back. Put it on its side for half the cooking time. Heck, no, stand it up in the oven! Put a can of beer up its bottom! But before you do that, brown it all over in a hot pan then put it in the oven.

Wrong: put it in a roasting bag. Remember to loosen the breast skin and pack in plenty of butter and (freshly plucked) herbs. Or a glug of olive oil. Or drape some bacon over the breast.

Trim off the excess fat, and the pope's nose and wing tips. No, on second thoughts, leave them on so the chicken doesn't dry out.

And what about the cavity? Put nothing it it. Put lime leaves in it. Put half a lemon in it. Boil the lemon first (Jamie Oliver). Or, put garlic in it. Or herbs. Or garlic and herbs. Or, garlic, herbs, and an old bicycle pump.

A bay leaf is essential. NO, it's not! Only rosemary will do. Rosemary? Are you a freakin' Philistine? Only thyme organically grown by Sherpa maidens on the upper slopes of the Himalayas will suffice!

Well, you get the picture.

Here is my method of roasting chicken. It works for me, but I cannot claim it is the BEST EVER.

POSTSCRIPT, 2016: I used to roast chickens at 180 °C, but - oops - in recent years I've had better results with a cooler oven temperature and more time in the oven (see amended recipe below). The longer roasting time allows time for flavour-packed sticky golden residue to form under the chicken, and the flesh remains juicy and tender.

Roast Chicken

1 fresh free-range chicken
vegetables to go under the chicken: sliced carrots, celery, unskinned onions
1 lemon
fresh herbs of your choice (thyme, rosemary, a bay leaf)
fresh garlic, plus a slice of onion
chicken spices of your choice
salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 150° C. Arrange a bed of vegetables the same size as the base of the chicken in a roasting pan. Put the chicken on top, breast-side up.

Cut the lemon in half. Squeeze the juice over the chicken. Put the squeezed-out lemon halves, herbs and garlic into the cavity.

Tie the ends of the drumsticks together. Grind a little salt and pepper over the chicken and dust with spices/seasonings of your choice.

Roast for about two hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut into the thigh joint (the bone should feel very hot,and the drumsticks should move independently of the body when you give them a wiggle). Remove the chicken from the oven, cover loosely with tin foil, and rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.

Serves 4 - 6. 

Now that I've got that off my breast, tell me how you roast YOUR family chicken.

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Monday, 6 August 2007

Roast Chicken with Lime Leaves and Curried Celeriac

It's rich of me to post a recipe with hard-to-find ingredients, considering that not even 4 days ago I was bitching about recipes with exotic ingredients. Well, it just so happened that I had the ingredients on hand.

Why would I even have celeriac in my fridge? Last week I dragged My Significant Other (MSO) off to Impala Fruiterers in Northcliff (out of my way, but arguably the best fruit and veg shop in South Africa) and he fell upon a pack of celeriac with cries of joy. I've only cooked it once in my life, and have avoided it ever since, on the grounds that, with its gnarled whiskery legs, it looks like the creepy Mandrake babies in the first Harry Potter film. But MSO grew up in England, and is the son of a brilliant cook, and rates celeriac up there with blackcurrants, green gooseberries, rhubarb, clotted cream and a juicy Sunday roast with all the trimmings.

So we bought them, and they writhed at the bottom of the veggie bin until I hauled them out and cooked them - and, my, how fantastic they tasted. A cross between a parsnip, a potato and celery, with a deep, flavoury earthiness. Use potatoes or parsnips if you can't find celeriac.

And the lime leaves? I ran out of lemons to stuff up the chicken's backside, so I used the remains of pack of lime leaves I'd bought to make a Thai curry, along with a handful of fresh lemon leaves from my new little lemon tree. The pungent lemon oils infused every morsel of chicken - and from now on, to hell with lemons.

Roast Chicken with Lime Leaves and Curried Celeriac
1 free-range chicken
a large handful of lime leaves, or fresh lemon leaves off a tree, or both (bruised lemon grass might work too)
2 unpeeled cloves garlic, crushed
a thick slice of onion, unpeeled
3 Tbsp (45 ml) lemon juice
1 bay leaf
a glug of olive oil
salt and milled pepper

For the celeriac:
4 large celeriac bulbs
1 Tbsp (15 ml) olive oil
2 tsp (10 ml) black mustard seeds
1 Tbsp (15 ml) butter
4 tsp (20 ml) mild curry powder
1 tsp (5 ml) ground cumin
2 Tbsp (30 ml) lemon juice
salt and milled black pepper

For the gravy:
4 tsp (20 ml) flour
1 glass white wine
1 cup (250 ml) water
1-2 Tbsp (15-20 ml) dark soy sauce, or a few drops of gravy browning (for colour)

Preheat the oven to 200 °C.

Trim any excess fat off the chicken and place in a roasting pan. Crush the fresh lime and lemon leaves to release the fragrant oils, then place in the cavity of the chicken, along with the garlic cloves, onion and bay leaf. Rub the olive oil over the chicken, sprinkle over the lemon juice and and season with salt and pepper. Put the chicken into the hot oven. After 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 180 °C. Roast for an hour to an hour and a half (depending on the size of the chicken), or until the juices run clear when you cut into the thigh joint.

In the meantime, prepare the celeriac. Trim off all the brown and knobbly bits and cut into quarters. Heat the olive oil in a pan, add the mustard seeds and fry over a medium-high until they begin to sizzle and pop. Turn down the heat and add the butter, curry powder and cumin. Now add the celeriac cubes, toss well to coat, fry for another minute or so. Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Tip the cubes into an ovenproof dish and place in the oven with the chicken. Roast until golden brown and tender right through, tossing a few times to coat every piece.

When the chicken's done, remove from the oven, put it on a plate, cover with tin foil or an upturned bowl and allow to rest for 10 minutes while you make the gravy.

Tip the juices in the roasting pan into a soup bowl and allow to settle for a few minutes. Now put about 2 tablespoons of the fat that has floated to the top of the bowl back into the roasting pan, set on a high heat and wait for the oil to get really hot. Add the flour and stir briskly with a fork or flat sauce whisk.

 When the mixture is just beginning to brown, pour in the wine, water and soy sauce (or gravy browning), all the while stirring furiously to loosen any brown bits. If the gravy seems too thick, add a little more water. Turn down the heat so that the gravy bubbles gently. Spoon and discard all the fat off the top of the chicken juices in the bowl and pour the brown juice that's settled at the bottom of the bowl into the gravy, along along with any liquid that's seeped out of the resting chicken. Stir well, season with salt and pepper and keep warm.

Carve the chicken and serve hot with minty peas or a plain green salad.

Serves 4-6

Recipe rating
My rating: 8/10
My Significant Other's rating: 9/10
Teenagers' rating: 7/10
Small-daughter rating: 2/10 ('I'm not hungry and the potato tastes horrible') Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly