The stinking rose. Garlic. I love it. The smell. The taste. The versatility. I also love chicken Kiev. And what better way to showcase garlic than to make a delicious garlic butter to fill crumbed chicken breasts?
Now if you are going to take the time to make your own garlic butter, start with good Australian, preferably organic garlic. AND make sure you use a great butter. I’m a little bit crazy about Pepe Saya Australian cultured butter (you can read more by clicking on the link). So, take a pestle and mortar and add your peeled garlic cloves (two to five depending on the size of the cloves and how garlicy you like your dinner!), a handful of parsley leaves, the zest of a lemon and a generous pinch of salt to the mortar. The salt creates friction so that you can pound the ingredients more easily. Grind everything to a smooth paste and then work in some room temperature butter.
Next to fill the chicken breasts. Holding the chicken flat and keeping your fingers straight on top of it, with a long thin knife, stab a hole in to the thickest part of the chicken. Move the knife from 9 o’clock to 6 o’clock and then up to 12 o’clock (this instruction assumes a right handed cook). Try and keep your knife in the same place where you made the first incision. You only want to make the opening inside the breast bigger and not the initial hole.
Now using your index finger, push the green, garlicy butter inside the chicken. Again, try to keep the hole that you are stuffing the butter in small so that the butter has the best chance of staying inside the chicken whilst cooking.
Now crumb the breasts and chill until the butter has had a chance to firm up before you cook the Kievs. Enjoy.
I bought this beautiful bunch of carrots from Berry markets on Sunday. Of all the vegetables there, they caught my eye because of their playful colours, long fingers differing shades of the red end of the rainbow spectrum with bright, bushy green tops. I believe that food must be visually appetizing, as well as appealing to the taste buds in order to fully satisfy hunger.
I cooked the carrots en papillote, or, in parchment. This method requires you to bake your chosen foodstuff in tightly sealed baking paper. I placed the carrots in the middle of a large piece of baking paper and added a glass of white wine, some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to my package. I folded the piece of paper in half so that the vegetables were contained within it and the crimped the three remaining sides shut. I baked the parcel in the oven for 30 minutes.
This dish is great if you take it to the table and open it there so that the aromatic steam is released in front of diners, for that extra little bit of theatre.
Feel free to add fresh thyme, lemon or orange zest, a drizzle of honey or some cumin seeds to customize your carrot parcel.
Take one whole salmon, some aluminium foil and a dishwasher. That’s tonight’s dinner. Unconventional and slightly theatrical.
When I worked in Scotland cooking for fly fisherman on the River Spey, world famous for its salmon, I heard a rumour that you can cook a whole salmon in the dishwasher and I have been dying to try it ever since. Tonight is the night!
The theory goes that a dishwasher’s temperature never rises above 70 degrees and a full cycle lasts about an hour, so the salmon gently poaches and the resulting fish is moist and perfectly cooked. Add some simple boiled potatoes and beautiful spring vegetables and you have an impressive meal, with little fuss.
Stuff the salmon with slices of lemon, some parsley stalks and few peppercorns. Lay the fish on a sheet of baking paper and wrap it up like a parcel. Next, encase the wrapped salmon in aluminium foil, sealing all the edges to prevent any water getting in. Repeat this process just to make sure that the salmon is watertight.
Place the triple wrapped fish parcel on the top shelf of the dishwasher and set it on its longest cycle.
Enjoy a glass of wine and prepare your chosen accompaniments while the salmon cooks.
Native to Persia (modern day Iran) the pomegranate is today widely used throughout parts of the Mediterranean, Middle East, African, India and even Northern and Southern America. The fruit bears seeds cased in deep ruby membranes called arils, and these can be eaten whole. The arils are easily removed by cutting the fruit in half and then holding half the fruit in your hand, cut side facing down, and hitting the back of it with a rolling pin. Do this over a deep bowl and be prepared to get splattered!
To me pomegranates evoke a sense of luxury and mystique, of late night bazars heady with spices and of magic carpet rides. I think that their inclusion in any dish imparts jeweled decadence. A little bit of fun and something away from the norm.
As Christmas is coming, the recipe that I’m going to share is for my version of jeweled rice, which would make a fantastic feature on any festive family lunch table, perfect with turkey, ham or salmon.
In a bowl mix…
2 cups cooked, chilled brown rice
1 pomegranate, deseeded
handful chopped dried apricots
handful chopped pistachios
handful toasted, chopped blanched almonds
handful spinach leaves
To make the dressing, slice 1 onion and fry in a generous amount of olive oil. While frying add 1 tbs ground cinnamon, 2 tbs ground coriander, 1 tbs ground cumin and 1 tbs ground cardamon. When the onion is soft add 1 chopped garlic clove and cook until fragrant. Add the contents of the pan to the rice salad along with the juice of an orange and 2 tbs apple cider vinegar.
Mix thoroughly so that all the salad ingredients are coated with the dressing.
I bought this beautiful bunch of kale from Mrs. Brown’s organic stall (every Saturday) outside their shop in Mona Vale. Kale, a member of the cabbage family, is a nutritiously dense vegetable. It has an earthy, slightly bitter taste and lends itself as the starting point to many dishes, including soups, salads, pastas and side dishes.
The cold spell has influenced my decision with what to make with my bunch of kale. I’m going to make a gratin and serve it with slow roasted pork belly for a quick to prepare mid week meal.
Begin by making a thick white sauce, seasoned generously with white pepper, whole grain mustard and grated nutmeg. Next cook the kale and to preserve all of it’s nutrients and minerals, it’s best to steam the leaves. Shred them, pack them into a steamer and cook for three to five minutes. Once cooked, add them to the white sauce and mix thoroughly so that the greens are coated with sauce. Transfer the mixture to an oven proof dish and bake for about half and hour.
You could season the white sauce with lemon zest and serve the gratin with roast chicken or even crumble some blue cheese into sauce and partner the bake with steak or roast lamb.
Capers are edible flower buds with a distinctive, sharp, bitter, almost medicinal flavour. They impart an unusual tangy element to any dish and are great partnered with fish, think tartare sauce, and steak, where they cut through the meaty richness.
For some reason they have been on my mind all day, so on my way home I bought a jar as the starting point for tonight’s dinner. It’s better to buy capers preserved in salt rather than vinegar as they have a superior taste. Capers are often found in Italian cuisine, so a pasta dish seems like natural choice… with the addition of olives, anchovies, garlic, chilli, parsley, lemon zest, eggplant and tomatoes…
Who am I kidding though? I didn’t come up with this combination entirely by myself. It’s my version of pasta alla puttanesca, or roughly translated, tart’s pasta, a dish that became popular in the 60s. As I understand it, this dish is so named because of its bold flavour combination that is loud and shouts, eat me with a large glass of red wine!
A friend gave me two heads of radicchio yesterday. How I love this bitter, deep ruby vegetable. A member of the chicory family and native to Italy, this colourful leaf with white veins withstands grilling, which reduces its bitterness, but it is equally, if not more so, enjoyable eaten raw.
I decided to pair finely shredded raw leaves with roasted potatoes, chopped parsley and caramelised onion for a delicious salad. The earthy, starchy potatoes counteract the bitterleaves, the parsley freshens the dish and the caramelised onions impart sweetness to round the whole thing off.
Enjoy with any cut of barbequed lamb.