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Chicken Oregano on the BBQ – just need the sunshine and you could be anywhere in the Med!

12 Apr

The first time we had this chicken dish was in Rhodes in the Spring.  I had just retired and we had rented a Villa for a month.  We cooked it on an old tin BBQ in the garden and I don’t think food ever tasted better.  Since then we have cooked it over and over again.  It is such a simple recipe and it never fails, unless of course you burn the chicken before it is cooked in the centre. Jamie Oliver has a top tip for BBQing chicken that prevents this. Butterfly the joint (pare the meat away from the bone so it is exposed).  The bone is then able to conduct the heat so that the chicken is cooked through without running the risk of having a burnt outside while the middle is still raw.  Works every time for us!

Before I share the recipes I am reminded of a great evening we spent with friends in Aegina.  I am sure I have mentioned Aegina before, and no doubt will do again.  It is, without doubt, one of our favourite Greek Islands.  Marc and Jane have a lovely house just outside of Aegina town and they had invited us to stay with them for a few days.  On this particular evening we were going to have a BBQ. Marc had made his own BBQ out of half an oil drum, a sight many that have been to Greece will be familiar with. He confessed that he was not very good at lighting the BBQ and that he always started early as it usually took umpteen attempts.  I can still see Terry’s face when he watched him prepare the charcoal, and Marc’s face when Terry took over the proceedings and lit the BBQ first time.  Marc was amazed and promised undying gratitude for the lesson.

The chicken has been marinating in the fridge for 3 hours and is now ready to be cooked.  All we need now is for our neighbours to arrive and let the party begin! Here are the recipes.

Chicken Oregano                                                 Serves 4

  • 8 chicken portions (Drumsticks and thighs) skin on, butterflied (see above)
  • 120 ml/4 fl oz olive oil
  • 120 ml/4 fl oz dry white wine
  • 2 tbsp. dried oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  1.  Arrange the chicken portions in a large shallow dish. 
  2. Mix all the other ingredients together well then pour over the chicken.  Cover and refrigerate for 2 – 3 hours, turning occasionally.
  3. Half an hour before you are ready to eat, remove the chicken from the marinade and cook on an oiled BBQ rack or under a preheated grill for about 30 minutes, turning occasionally, until the chicken is golden and cooked through and the skin is crisp.  Serve the chicken immediately.

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Cardamom butter chicken – absolutely delicious.

23 Mar

This is a fantastic curry, fragrant and creamy and not too hot.  It suited my palate perfectly.  A large number of cardamoms are used in the recipe so here is a little information on this aromatic spice.

  • Cardamom is the dried, unripened fruit of the perennial Elettaria cardamomum. Enclosed in the fruit pods are tiny, brown, aromatic seeds which are slightly pungent to taste.
  • Throughout the Arab world, Cardamom is one of the most popular spices, with Cardamom coffee being a symbol of hospitality and prestige.
  • The spice is also very popular in the Scandinavian countries where it is used more extensively than cinnamon.
  • Cardamom is one of the oldest spices in the world, and the most popular spice in ancient Rome was probably cardamom. It is the world’s second most expensive spice, saffron being the most expensive.
  • In the Canterbury Tales, cardamom is “the spice of paradise.”
  • A member of the ginger family, cardamom can be traced as far back as the 4th century.
  • It makes appearances in famous written tomes like The Bible and The Arabian Nights.
  • The spice has been used as a form of bartered currency in India for centuries, and now is cultivated in roughly half a dozen exotic locations across the globe.
  • Most closely associated with Indian, Middle Eastern, and Scandinavian cuisine, cardamom has had many uses throughout its long life. Its enticing aroma was said to have been used as perfume by the Greeks and Romans, while the Egyptians used it to freshen breath. The spice is more commonly used in the complex curry and masala dishes of Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine. Scandinavian cookery uses it in baked goods such as pastries and breads, while Turkish and Arabic cuisines throw it in with pilafs and other flavorful rice dishes. The spice adds dimension to pickles, and to a surprising array of beverages including Russian liqueurs, various mulled wines and punches, Indian and Moroccan sweet drinks, and Arabic coffee.
  • Cardamom blends very well with other spices and is therefore found in numerous spice blends, including Moroccan ras el hanout (cardamom, cassia, mace, clove, cumin, rose petals, etc.), Middle Eastern zhug (cumin, cardamom, garlic, chilli), and Indian garam masala (cumin, coriander, cardamom, pepper, clove, mace, cinnamon, etc.). (Courtesy of Foodreference and Professor’s House websites)

The recipe was in the June edition of Good Food.  Here is a link to it on their website

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http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2220652/cardamom-butter-chicken

Chilli chicken and broccoli noodles

2 Mar

DSCI0598I cannot tell you how wonderful this dish is.  Not only is it delicious but it is quick and really easy to make.  I was a bit concerned when I saw I had to add sugar to the sauce but it gave a wonderful caramelised finish to the dish. Never again will I be phased or put off trying a savoury recipe that has sugar in the ingredients.

I would not normally make Chinese food if I am having guests for dinner as I’ve found recipes can be hit or miss and also because all the cooking is done when the guests are there so it can be quite stressful. I might make an exception for this one though as you can blanch the broccoli and noodles in advance as long as you warm them through properly before you serve.

The one change I would make to the dish is to cut the chicken thigh meat into smaller pieces, perhaps about 1 inch, as it was difficult to know when they were cooked through when quartered. Mind you, keep an eye on them as you don’t want the chicken to dry out and many, including myself, have a habit of over cooking chicken to make sure it is cooked properly.

Here is a link to the recipe.  Serves 2

http://www.olivemagazine.com/recipes/chilli-chicken-and-broccoli-noodles/4020.html

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Chicken Balti – a low-fat version for the health conscious!

11 Feb

Curries sometimes have a reputation for being high in fat due to the ghee in the ingredients.  This Chicken Balti dish is just the opposite!  I got the recipe from one of my Good Food magazines, made it ahead and then ate it when we came back from the pub on a Friday night.  A perfect end to the evening!

There is an area in Birmingham called the Balti Triangle.  I have only eaten there once but it was a truly memorable experience.  the Balti Triangle is an area of Birmingham in Sparkhill, Balsall Heath and Moseley bounded by sections of the Moseley Road (A435) and the Stratford Road (A435).  I am sure my friend Sheila is probably an expert on all the restaurants there, she loves curries so much! 

Did you know that The “Birmingham Balti” could soon have its name protected by an EU scheme, if a bid by the Birmingham Balti Association (BBA) is successful. The BBA say the Birmingham Balti originated in the city during the late 70s, when curry chefs started to make their dishes lighter, healthier and served faster to suit Western tastes. If the Birmingham Balti is successful in gaining EU Traditional Guaranteed Status, restaurants with Birmingham Balti on the menu will be annually inspected to ensure they meet the correct curry criteria.   Here are a few other bits of trivia on Birmingham Balti:

  • A true Birmingham Balti must be served in the same thin steel bowl it is cooked in over a hot flame, as it is this “Balti” bowl that gives the dish its name.
  • The purpose of the Balti dish is to keep the curry hot after it has been cooked over a high heat.
  • As well as keeping curry sizzling, the metal Balti dish retains all the dish’s flavours. The curry should then be scooped up and eaten with a naan bread instead of using cutlery, in a traditional fashion.
  • The high heat method of cooking Balti is thought to have stemmed from Western customers’ expectations to be served their meal quickly.
  • While ghee is the traditional cooking ingredient used on the south Asian sub-continent, the use of vegetable oil in Birmingham Baltis is stipulated as a key unique feature in the BBA’s application to EU.  This makes it a much lighter, fresher curry.
  • Another requirement is for all meat to be “off-the-bone” to allow it to be cooked quickly over the hot flame
  • Pre-prepared generic commercial curry pastes and powders are not used and not permitted in any true Birmingham Balti.

Here is a link to the recipe on the Good Food website, along with the usual slide show of when I made it.

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2220666/healthier-chicken-balti?countView=false

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Chicken in wine – quick, incredibly easy and sooooo tasty!

17 Dec

I love this dish.  You just throw everything into a shallow dish and pop it in the oven.  How easy is that!  The flavours are incredible and it went immediately into my Husband’s Top Twenty!  We had it for a quick evening meal one day and I served it to friends for a Sunday lunch after being out all morning.  Perfect!

You hear so much about illness linked to raw chicken etc.  I thought I would see what I could find out and hopefully provide some useful tips.

  • Packages of chicken should feel cold to the touch, and should be among the last items you select before checking out.
  • Packages of chicken should be wrapped in plastic bags to prevent leakage onto other items in your grocery cart.
  • Once you’re home, you should immediately place your chicken in a refrigerator that maintains a temperature of 4C or 40F or colder, and use it within 2 days. Otherwise, it should be frozen at -18C/0°F.
  • The correct way to thaw frozen poultry requires planning ahead for the time required to thaw it in the refrigerator. Whole chickens may take up to 2 days to fully thaw in this way, while boneless breasts should thaw overnight.
  • Once the product thaws, it should be kept in the refrigerator no more than a day before cooking it.
  • The only way to kill food-borne pathogens is by thoroughly cooking the food.  Always cook chicken well and never serve it ‘pink’.

Here is the recipe.  I served it with New Potatoes and asparagus.

Chicken in wine                           Serves 4 (easily halved)

  • 4 chicken breasts, boned and skinned
  • 150g bacon lardons
  • 12 shallots, peeled
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes (optional, leave out if you don’t like the heat, although it is relatively mild)
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • 250 ml dry white wine
  1. Preheat oven to 240C/220C fan/gas 9.
  2. Arrange chicken breasts in a shallow baking dish.  Scatter with the bacon lardons, shallots, thyme, rosemary and chilli flakes.  Season and drizzle with olive oil then bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove from oven and pour wine into dish.  Return to oven and continue cooking for another 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and golden brown.

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Chicken traybake – delicious meal in one pan

27 Nov

DSCI0438I love one pot meals, although a green salad would go nicely with this wonderful chicken dish.  It is incredibly easy to make, in fact, the first time I made it I was in a hurry as I was late back from an appointment and had a friend coming over in just over an hour but it was prepared and in the oven cooking well before she arrived.

I made mine in an oven-proof glass dish. I find the ingredients have less of a tendency to burn and you can put the dish on the table from the oven so everyone can help themselves.

Inspired by the classic Italian pasta sauce, chicken thighs and new potatoes are flavoured with bacon and tomato in this easy one-pan meal

Here is the recipe.  I found it in a Good Food magazine. Here is the link to it on their website.

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/amatriciana-chicken-traybake

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Whole curried poussins stuffed with a keema rice stuffing – stunning!

22 Oct

This dish looks and tastes spectacular.  It is perfect for a dinner party as it can be prepared ahead up to the step 8 then lay the tomatoes on top and cook for 30 minutes to finish off before serving.  Remember though, that the Poussin do need to be marinated overnight before starting the cooking process.  The stuffing is made with some Keema Curry (see favourites) and I serve mine with Balti Potatoes (see favourites).  It is like having an Asian Sunday lunch.  Fantastic!

I remember the first time I made this.  My brother and his girlfriend were coming to stay for the weekend and we planned to go to a local Country Show on the Sunday.  I used a whole chicken for the recipe on this occasion and set the oven timer so it would cook while we were out, ready for the final stage on our return.  The wonderful smells met us at the door and the flavours were indescribable.  The only problem I had was carving the bird.  It was really tender and falling off the bone so dishing up was a bit messy.  It was my husband who suggested using Poussin instead of a whole chicken.  It worked perfectly.

Whole curried Poussin                                    Serves 2 (easily doubled)

  • 2 Poussin
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 inch piece of root ginger, chopped
  • 4 fl oz natural yogurt
  • Juice of half lemon
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • salt to taste
  • small handful chopped fresh coriander
  • 1-2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 8 oz Keema Curry
  • 8 oz plain cooked rice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1  brown cardamom
  • 2 cloves
  • 4 peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  1. Blend the onion, ginger, yogurt and lemon juice in a processor until smooth.  Add a little water if necessary to make a thick pouring consistency.  Put the Poussin in a shallow dish and coat, inside and outside, with the yogurt mix.  Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge to marinade overnight.
  2. Grind the bay leaves, cardamom, cloves and peppercorns to a powder then mix with the Keema Curry and cooked rice to make the stuffing.  Refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. When the Poussin have marinated heat the oil in a large, ovenproof skillet with a lid.  Remove the Poussin from the marinade, reserving any marinade left over, and brown them on all sides.  This will take about 15 minutes.  Remove from the pan and cool, leaving the oil and any marinade in the pan for later.
  4. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.
  5. When the Poussin are cool, stuff with the rice stuffing.
  6. Add the garlic, chilli, coriander, cumin and turmeric to the pan with any remaining marinade and salt to taste.  Simmer gently then add about 1/4 pint of water slowly, to allow it to thicken between additions.
  7. Return the Poussin to the pan and spoon over the sauce.  Cover and bake in the oven for about 1 hour, basting every now and again.
  8. Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle the Poussin with coriander.  Cover the breasts of the Poussin with the tomato slices.  Return the pan to the oven, uncovered, and continue to cook for a further 30 minutes or until the tomatoes have formed a dry crust.  Skim off any excess oil from the sauce and serve the Poussin with the sauce.

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Chicken with peppers and olives

24 Sep

DSCI0299I am in the process of trying to use up food in the freezer so I can defrost it for the summer.  I also had some baby peppers left in a huge bag I bought recently so I decided to try to make a dish that combines the two.  The result was really tasty and healthy too, not bad for using up leftovers etc.  Here is a bit of chicken trivia.

  • According to the National Chicken Council, more than 1.25 Billion Chicken wing portions (more than 100 million pounds) were consumed on Super Bowl weekend in 2012.
  • In Great Britain over three-quarters of all waste from chicken production is used to generate electricity.
  • Our modern domesticated chickens are all descendants of the red jungle fowl of India and Southeast Asia. They have been domesticated for at least 4,000 years.
  • 4,000 years ago the Egyptians built brick incubators which could hold 10,000 chicks at a time.
  • In 1980 about 10% of a chicken’s weight was breast meat. In 2007 chickens were about 21% breast meat.
  • In 2007, 95 percent of commercial restaurants had chicken on the menu.
  • The average domestic laying hen lays 255 eggs per year.
  • It takes about 4 1/2 pounds of feed for a chicken to produce a dozen eggs.
  • In 1950 approximately 80% of chickens were ‘free range’, by 1980 only 1% were ‘free range.’ Today it is back up to 12%.
  • Broiler-fryers, roasters, stewing/baking hens, capons and Rock Cornish hens are all chickens.
  • Chicken skin colour varies from cream-colored to yellow. Skin color is a result of the type of feed eaten by the chicken, not a measure of nutritional value, flavor, tenderness or fat content. Colour preferences vary in different sections of the country, so growers use the type of feed which produces the desired colour. (Food reference.com)

Here is the recipe                                 Serves 2 but easily doubled and sauce is ok for 4

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 chicken breasts, skinned and boned
  • 1 red and 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 100 ml dry white wine
  • 250 ml chicken stock
  • 10 olives
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper
  1. Dry the chicken breasts and season on both sides with salt and black pepper.
  2. Heat a large frying pan or wok and add the oil.
  3. Fry the chicken in the oil until brown on both sides. Remove and set aside.
  4. in the same pan add the peppers and onion and stir fry for 4 minutes until starting to soften but not changing colour.
  5. Add the wine to the pan and cook for 2 minutes to burn off the alcohol, then add the tomatoes with a pinch of sugar and finally the chicken stock.  Mix and season well.
  6. Return the chicken and olives to the pan and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
  7. Serve with vegetables and potatoes or pasta or rice.

 

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Chicken curry – my Son’s favourite

8 Jun

I love to experiment with curry recipes but if I ask my son what he wants me to cook for him I would bet that 99% of the time he would choose this chicken curry recipe.  I can’t remember how long I have been making it, must be 35 years at least.  I have shared it with my best friends and I dread to think how many times between us we have made it over the years.  I suppose that is credit to the fantastic recipe and the fact that it appears to be failsafe.  If you want a curry for a dinner party and know it will turn out well then this is the dish for you.  I have even made it the day before, chilled quickly and left refrigerated until the next day, so I can get ahead for a stress free dinner with friends.  If anything the flavours improve with keeping!

The recipe comes from a book called ‘Complete Indian Cookbook’ by Michael Pandya.  It was the first cookery book Terry ever bought me (a hidden agenda there I think).  The writing on the page for this recipe is almost obliterated by splashed of curry and spices, a great testament to a well used and love recipe!

There is a belief amongst Indian food lovers that the spicy and exotic food makes you sexy and virile, so be warned.  Of course you will have a long way to go before you can beat the claims of Lord Krishna of India.  He supposedly had 16,000 wives and countless casual and serious girlfriends!  I dread to think how much it cost him when they all went shopping for clothes.  Based on this, however, I might increase our curry nights to twice a week in future!

Chicken Curry                 Serves 4 – 6 (depending on the size of the chicken)

  • 100g/4oz ghee (or unsalted butter if you can’t get ghee)
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1/2 oz root ginger, chopped
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 whole chicken, skinned and cut into 8 – 10 pieces
  • 4 tbsp full fat Greek yogurt
  • 300ml/1/2pt hot water
  • salt to taste
  • Chopped fresh coriander or parsley to garnish

Spices

  • 4 cloves
  • 1 x 2 inch piece cinnamon stick
  • 4 black peppercorns
  • 1 brown cardamom
  • 2 green cardamoms
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp hot chilli powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  1. Grind the first five spices to a powder.  Melt the ghee in a large pan and fry the onion with these spices until golden brown.  Takes about 10 minutes over a low heat.
  2. Add the tomato puree, ginger, lemon juice, turmeric, chilli and garam masala and mix well.  Add the chicken pieces and stir until they are well coated in the spice mix.  Cook over a low heat for 15 minutes.
  3. Whip the yogurt then slowly add the hot water, stirring between each addition to prevent it from curdling.  Add the salt , mix then stir into the chicken and spices.  Bring to the boil then cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the chicken is tender and cooked through.
  4. Sprinkle with chopped coriander and serve.

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Chicken Tagine – lovely.

5 Apr

DSCI0322I have only recently discovered the exotic flavours of tagines and I have absolutely fallen in love with them.  Previously I have made Lamb Tagines which are possibly more traditional but when I saw this recipe I decided to give it a go.  It tastes absolutely lovely, fragrant from the spices and preserved lemon but with a hint of sweetness from the dried fruit and the nutty flavour of the almonds. Wonderful!  The only change I made to the recipe was to limit the amount of orange peel to two small strips. I have had a few dishes that have included fresh orange and I have that it can overpower the dish completely and gives it a flavour I am not too keen on.  Of course if you love orange in food feel free to add more of the peel to your liking.

The recipe includes saffron, the most expensive spice in the world.  It is native to the Mediterranean area and most imported saffron comes from Spain. I always buy some when I am there as it is so much cheaper than in the UK.

The ancient Assyrians used saffron for medicinal purposes. The Greeks and Romans used it to perfume their luxurious baths. The bright orange-yellow color also made saffron useful as a dye.

Each saffron crocus flower has 3 stigmas, it takes about 80,000 flowers (240,000) stigmas to make a pound of saffron. It takes an experienced picker about 12 days to pick this many. By the time saffron gets to retail stores, its cost is £450 to £1500 per pound.

In 1444 any merchant caught selling adulterated saffron in Bavaria was burned alive.

Here is the recipe. Serve it with couscous or rice, or maybe even orzo.  It can be frozen but defrost well before reheating.

Chicken Tagine                                              Serves 4

  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • good pinch of saffron
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 6 skin on chicken thighs
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 red onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 inch piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 tbsp flaked almonds
  • 12 dates, pitted and halved if large
  • 2 small strips of orange peel
  • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 4 tbsp fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 preserved lemon, rinsed well, flesh discarded and skin thinly sliced.
  1. Heat the coriander seeds in a dry pan until fragrant. Remove and grind.  Put the ground coriander, saffron, cinnamon and ginger in a bowl and mix well.  Rub the spice mix all over the chicken, put on a plate, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
  2. Heat the oil in a tagine or casserole over a medium heat. Add the onions, fresh ginger, garlic, cinnamon stick and 2 tbsp of the almonds with a good pinch of salt.  Fry until the onions are soft but not browned. Transfer to a plate.
  3. In the same pan, without washing it, add the marinated chicken, turn the heat up to high and sear the skin, turning as it browns. When golden brown all over return the onion mix and pour over enough water to just cover the chicken. Bring to the boil then cover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the dates, orange peel maple syrup and half the coriander. Simmer, uncovered for 20 minutes until the sauce is thick and syrupy.
  5. Serve the tagine on couscous or rice, sprinkled with the preserved lemon slices, coriander and remaining almonds.

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