Sunday, April 27, 2008

Chicken Tagine with preserved lemons and olives


Pre-cooked artwork


The plate is a canvas


Truly Moroccan. A mixture of flavours melded into one. With each individual mouthful, a new taste experience unfolded. Chermoula is now one of my favourite marinades, and I will be using this particular version for many years to come. Served with couscous and homemade Turkish bread, a perfect meal for a rainy, cool Autumn evening. Truly Moroccan, totally divine.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

Chermoula Marinade

2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
1/2 preserved lemon, rinsed and thinly sliced
2 onions, chopped
½ birds eye chilli
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp ground cumin
salt
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander, stems and leaves
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, soaked in a little water
1/2 cup olive oil
2 bay leaves, torn in half

1 whole chicken, size 10 or 12 (or a mixture of pieces such as drumsticks and thighs, bone in)
1 tomato, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 large potatoes, cut into wedges
1 onion, sliced
1 tomato, sliced
150g pitted green olives
1 bunch fresh coriander, chopped
1 cup water
1 preserved lemon, cut into 6 segments.


DIRECTIONS

1. Marinade: Process all ingredients together in a food processor until finely chopped and thoroughly combined. Leave for 30 minutes before using. Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to seven days.

2. Wash and dry the chicken and remove backbone, wing tips and any excess fat. Cut into pieces. Rub all over with ½ of the chermoula marinade and refrigerate overnight or for at least 2 hours.

3. Combine the tomato and onion with a little more chermoula and spread into the base of the tajine (this will prevent the chicken from burning on the bottom).Arrange chicken pieces in the centre of the tajine on top of tomato mixture. Coat potato wedges with chermoula and arrange around chicken. Top with onion slices, then tomato slices and olives in between the potato wedges.

4. Mix chopped coriander with remaining chermoula and water. Pour over mixture. Decorate top with preserved lemon wedges.

5. Cover tagine with lid and cook on a very low gas heat for 45 minutes. Do not stir or lift the lid during the cooking process.

Watch a video of the simple preparation technique used to make this dish.

Trackie Daks, Ugh Boots and a well stocked pantry

An impromptu invitation, quite late in the afternoon yesterday, inviting friends to come over for dinner and a game of cards, left me in a slight panic. Why do I open my mouth before thinking? Time and time again I put myself in this situation. I was tired, the house was in a complete mess, I couldn't be bothered sprucing myself up to go to the supermarket (trackie daks and Ugh boots is not a good look in public)...why do I do this to myself?

The critics in my family, and there's quite a few of them, have often made fun of my well stocked pantry, and still "not a bloody thing to eat" in it. Well, there is, if you're willing to take the time to actually PREPARE something, I always tell them.

At least the finger food dilemma was solved with these great rice paper rolls, made with Light Chilli Philly, a can of crab meat (from the pantry) and coriander from the garden.


Simple and delicious, followed by Chicken, Preserved lemons and olive tagine, with a side of sage and onion couscous. The dinner was a hit, the boys opened a can of beer each, and the girls opened their can of whoop ass. Sorry guys, maybe we'll teach you how to win 500 one day. And I was still in my trackie daks and Ugh boots. Good friends couldn't care less.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 8 round (21cm-diameter) rice-paper sheets
  • 160g sweet chilli light cream cheese (Kraft Philadelphia brand)
  • 1 x 170g can crabmeat, drained (or you could use small cooked and peeled prawns)
  • 1 celery stick, trimmed, halved crossways, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed fresh coriander leaves
  • Soy sauce, to serve

Method

  1. Soak a rice-paper sheet in a shallow dish of warm water for 10 seconds. Drain on paper towel and transfer to a clean work surface.
  2. Place the cream cheese in a medium dish. Spread 2 tsp of the cream cheese along the centre of the rice-paper sheet. Top with 2 tsp of crabmeat, a few pieces of celery and coriander. Fold in the ends and roll up tightly to enclose filling. Repeat with the remaining rice-paper sheets, cream cheese, crabmeat, celery and half the remaining coriander.
  3. Place rice-paper rolls on a serving platter. Sprinkle with the remaining coriander and serve with sweet chilli sauce.
Margot, from the UK, and author of Coffee and Vanilla is hosting Kalyn's Kitchen Weekend Herb Blogging this round.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Bread Baking Day #9 - Oats



Whilst I can't bring myself to eat a bowl of porridge for breakfast, I can definitely sit down to some hot buttered toast, and this bread, Sesame and Honey Oatmeal Bread is going to be one of my favourite breakfast treats from now on.

This dough uses a slow rise method, so you can prepare it one day, and bake it the next, which definitely fits into my busy schedule of late. But as I had time on my hands yesterday, being a Saturday, I only let this bread "slow rise" for about 4 hours in the fridge. For once my impatience didn't cause any anguish, as the bread was rising rapidly, even in the cooler conditions.

The dough is quite dense, and I thought my KitchenAid was going to have a convulsion at one stage, so I finished the kneading by hand.

The health benefits of oats include lowering cholesterol levels, decreasing the risk of heart disease and cardiovascular disease. Oats are high in fibre and antioxidants. We should all eat more oats!!



Overnight Sesame-Honey Oatmeal Bread
from "The Pleasure of Whole-Grain Breads" by Beth Hensperger

makes 2 9-by-5-inch loaves

2 cups boiling water
1 cup rolled oats
6 tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2/3 cup warm water (105 - 115F)
1-1/2 tbsp (scant 2 pkgs) active dry yeast
1/2 cup honey
6 to 6-1/2 cups bread flour
1/3 cup sesame seeds
2-1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp canola oil, for brushing
1 tbsp honey mixed with 1 tbsp hot water, for brushing

1. In a large bowl using a wooden spoon or in the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the boiling water, oats, and butter. Stir to melt the butter and let stand until warm, about 30 minutes.

2. Pour the warm water into a small bowl or 1-cup liquid measuring cup. Sprinkle the yeast and drop a bit of the honey over water. Stir to dissolve and let stand at room temperature until foamy, about 10 minutes.

3. Add the remaining honey, 1 cup of the bread flour, the sesame seeds, and the salt to the warm oat mixture. Beat for 1 minute, or until smooth. Add the yeast mixture; beat for 1 minute longer. Add the remaining bread flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating on low speed until a soft, shaggy dough that just clears the sides of the bowl forms, switching to a wooden spoon when necessary if making my hand.

4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth, soft, and springy, 1 to 2 minutes for machine-mixed dough and 3 to 5 minutes for a hand-mixed dough, dusting with flour only 1 tablespoon at a time, just enough as needed to prevent sticking. Do not add too much flour or the dough will stiffen up. Cover with a clean towel and let rest on the work surface for 30 minutes.

5. Generously grease the bottom and sides of two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans. Divide the dough into two equal portions. Pat each into a flat, fat oval and fold over to make a loaf with a thick folded seam down the center. Place in the prepared pans, seam side up. Generously brush the tops with canola oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap, allowing for expansion, and refrigerate until the dough rises above the rims of the pans, at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.

6. Remove the loaves from the refrigerator, uncover, and let stand at room temperature for 1-1/2 hours. About 20 minutes before baking, preheat an over to 375 and position a rack in the center of the oven.

7. Brush the tops of the loaves with the honey mixture. (I sprinkled extra rolled oats on the honey, which helps them stick). Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until the tops are light brown and the loaves sound hollow when tapped with your finger. Cover loosely with aluminum foil halfway through baking if the loaves brown too much. Remove from the pans to cool on a rack.




Also, from the same book, I made Minnesota Oatmeal Egg Bread. I can't comment on the taste of this loaf (shown on the left), because my nextdoor neighbour, who has a serious butter fetish, left last night with this loaf under his arm. I only hope the oats have a good effect on his raised cholesterol levels.

Astrid from Food Paulchen is this months host of Bread Baking Day #9, a monthly event founded by Zorra of 1x umr├╝hren bitte aka kochtopf (you can read more about bread baking day here)

Toffee Apple Clafoutis HHDD#19


Childhood memories bring to light many joyous moments, such as receiving my first Teary Deary Doll from Santa, or the feeling of jubilation riding my two wheeler, finally unassisted by Dad, and not crashing into the lemon tree in the backyard. Two memories really stick out though. The first is homemade toffees in patty pans, covered in hundreds and thousands or peanuts, which I could savour all day, wrapped in a handkerchief in my pocket when the sugar fix had wained. The second is autumn apples, Golden Delicious apples, the size of a softball on steroids, the juice running down to my elbows with every deafening crunch. These apples were straight from the orchards in King Valley, and a large box would always be sitting on the table of our back verandah, tempting us every time we walked past.

When Bron Marshall (the esteemed winner from last month) announced the theme for Hey Hey it's Donna Day #19 as clafoutis, I was a shattered woman. I'm not normally one who opts for desserts, and thought a savoury clafoutis, maybe baby tomatoes, prosciutto, goats cheese...something along those lines, would satisfy my savoury tooth. This is a popular monthly event founded by Barbara from Winosandfoodies. Check out both of these fabulous blogs.

Finally the penny dropped. Use what is in season. Tomatoes have finished...finito, kaput. Apples rule. So I have combined two of my childhood favourites, apples and toffee to make Toffee Apple Clafoutis.












Preparation Time

15 minutes

Cooking Time

60 minutes

Ingredients (serves 8)

  • Melted butter, to grease
  • 6 (about 1.2kg) golden delicious apples, peeled, cored, quartered
  • 220g (1 cup) caster sugar
  • 80ml (1/3 cup) water
  • 100g (2/3 cup) plain flour
  • 160g (2/3 cup) sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tbs Cointreau liqueur
  • 2 tbs vegetable oil
  • 2 tbs vanillin sugar
  • 500ml (2 cups) milk

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C. Brush a 10-cup (2.5-litre) ovenproof dish with the melted butter to lightly grease. Arrange apple pieces over the base of the dish.
  2. Place caster sugar and water in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until mixture is golden, occasionally brushing down side of pan with pastry brush dipped in water. Remove from heat, allow bubbles to subside. Pour toffee evenly over apples in dish.
  3. Combine flour and sugar in a bowl. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time. Add the liqueur, oil and vanillin sugar. Gradually pour in the milk, stirring continuously, until the mixture is smooth. Pour the mixture over the apples. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from oven and set aside for 10 minutes before serving.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Red Hot Chili Peppers= They're Red Hot

If I were a male, and I've often threatened to come back as one in my next life (the labour ward was one occasion that comes to mind), my prostate would be in perfect health. Why? Because I eat chillies. These little bullets contain capsaicin, which is known to have the ability to make prostate cancer cells commit suicide upon themselves. Chillies also have an anti-inflammatory effect on arthritis, migraines and muscle pain. And quite understandably, they are known as an appetite suppressant - probably because your tastebuds are anaesthetised for a prolonged period of time.

All of the sweating, burning, tears and sniffing may be unbearable for some people, but if you start adding small amounts of chillies to your diet, they become addictive, and you want more and more, or at least I do anyway. I'm sure my body has built up a toleration level, only for that level to be broken next time I try something hotter.

Bring on the heat I say. And with winter starting to creep into my bones, I made sure that I preserved what was left of my chilli plant in the garden, before the frosts come along and take them away from me.

Sambal Oelek, a red chilli paste, is what I made from my "crop". A little goes a long way, so my jar and a half should last me through the winter. My prostate endowed husband can't tolerate hot and spicy food, at least to the extent of gaining any major health benefits from it, so I might just try slipping it into his beer, all for the sake of prostate health of course. Wish me luck!!

Sambal Oelek

Ingredients

  • 1 lb red chillies
  • 5 1/2 ounces garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 5 1/2 ounces tender young ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, thinly sliced (white part only)
  • 6 fluid ounces vinegar
  • 8 ounces sugar
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon lime zest, chopped

Directions

1. Blend the chillies, garlic, ginger and lemon grass in a food processor or mortar and pestle.

2. While processing gradually add the vinegar.

3. Place the pureed mixture into a saucepan and bring to a boil.

4. Reduce the heat and simmer for 3 minutes.

5. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.

6. Add the salt and lime zest.

7. Remove from the heat, cool and bottle in sterilised jars, or if you want to freeze, place in freezer containers or ice cube trays


Used extensively in Thai, Indonesion and Malaysian foods, serve this as a condiment for those who can handle the heat, or use in stir fries and other dishes for flavour and yet again that addictive "heat".

Jai and Bee from Jugalbandi are the hosts of Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging # 128. They are famous bloggers who have their own successful photo event "Click", so if you're a budding photographer, check out their website and fire up your flashes.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Roasted beetroot fattoush, with feta and mint


Whilst not quite salad season anymore, especially this last week, where temperatures have plummeted, snow has been falling on the alps, wild winds have lashed our state, causing several deaths, power outages, and buckets of red dust dumped all over us from the Mallee, I can't go a whole week without at least one form of salad.

This dish is from Bill Granger, a noted Australian chef famous for his scrambled eggs, served at his Sydney restaurant, simply called Bills.

Fattoush is a Middle Eastern dish, using up stale pita bread, and incorporating a mixture of vegetables, usually with the addition of sumac for its bitterness.

This is a warm salad, so I've compromised my salad cravings with warm food comfort.



Ingredients
1 tsp sumac
1/2 tsp coriander seeds, toasted and ground
1/2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
2 medium sized beetroot, raw
1 large or 2 small pita rounds, torn into thumb size pieces
2 tblsp olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
1 Lebanese cucumber, chopped
80 gms of feta cubed (I used my favourite, Persian Feta)
1/2 bunch picked mint leaves
1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley leaves
60 g baby rocket or baby spinach leaves
2 tblsp lemon juice

Method
Preheat oven to 160 c. Combine sumac, coriander and cumin seeds.
Place beetroot on a lined baking tray and roast for 50 minutes, or until tender.
Spread bread on a separate lined baking tray, then toss with extra oil and spice mixture, reserving 1/2 tsp. Bake the bread for the final 5 minutes of roasting the beetroot, until crisp.
Cool beetroot slightly, then peel and roughly chop. Place in a bowl with the bread, feta, mint, parsley and rocket. Add the lemon juice and olive oil, season with salt and pepper.
Toss gently to combine, then sprinkle with the remaining sumac and spice mixture and serve.

Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging is hosted by Kalyn herself this week, and I'm sure there will be a swag of entries from all over the world contributing to this marvelous event.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Slashing and inuendos

Finally!!! I did a worthy slash! However, I'm cringing as I type, because "a slash" in the Australian male vernacular, especially from the yobbo 70's era, is to urinate, and surprisingly Wikipedia even acknowledges the phrase "have a slash", evolving from the Scottish word slash, meaning a large splash of liquid. I can associate with that, as often that's what is on the floor of my bathroom (don't get me started on men and family toilets). I always associated the phrase with visions of guys doing a Zorro type "Z" on the urinal wall, you know, like with the slash of a sword. That's just my warped imagination though. None of this has a thing to do with my slash however.

I'm talking bread. A rye sourdough from my rye starter, flavoured with caramelised onions and caraway seeds. The bread looked as if was cooked before I even put it in the oven!


My previous attempts at slashing have been a long way from acceptable, and I think because the dough was quite dense, this assisted in my result.


I love eating this bread with sliced radishes, or a bit of cream cheese. The flavour is sensational, even if it does take a few days to prepare it.

I adapted the recipe from Peter Reinhardt's New York Deli Rye recipe, using a barm from my sourdough starter, adding the onions to the barm and refrigerating overnight. With this loaf, I refrigerated the final dough overnight as well, not especially to achieve more flavour, I just didn't have time to bake it that day. Artisan bread dough can be very forgiving sometimes.


So to all the Aussie blokes out there, women can slash too!

Peter's Ribs Greek Style

The best part about reading other people's blogs is the response I have when I see a recipe that I must try, do or die. It can either be from an eye catching photo that instantly instills growling hunger pains or from a special ingredient, be it either a clear favourite, or something completely unheard of, which tweaks my curiousity. This latter criteria was the case with Peter M's blog, Kalofagas, Pursuit of Delicious Foods. Peter is a passionate foodie, and a great ambassador of his Greek heritage, pumping out a recipe nearly every day on his entertaining blog.

Ground bay was the spice that started the tweaking, as I'd never seen it before or heard of it here in Australia. Peter vehemently insists that everyone get their hands on some ground bay at some stage in their lives. He promises that you won't be disappointed.


Well, I wasn't going to let a missing ingredient turn me off my pursuit. I had dried bay leaves in my spice drawer(s), and a coffee grinder in the cupboard, which I use wholly and solely for grinding spices. It's only a cheap grinder, and it took a few extra whizzes to get a fine powder-like consistency, but the aroma that came from the previously dead looking leaves was incredible, and I instantly knew that Peter had found a winner. I used approximately 6-7 dried bay leaves to obtain one teaspoon of powder.

Combine it with the other dried ingredients, and voila, the perfect Greek rub for baby ribs. I bet this would be good on lamb too, with the dried oregano in it. Peter served his dish with tzatziki as a dipping medium. Unfortunately, I'm the only tzatziki freak in this household, so roasted tomatoes and pan fried potatoes accompanied this wonderful dish. Efcharisto Peter for introducing such a wonderful flavour into our kitchen. Your rendition of Charcoal Chicken, Churrasco Chicken, is definitely next on my agenda. Yassou.