Thursday, August 28, 2008

Paella to the rescue

Yesterday was spent fervently cleaning out the pantry, which is a slide out pantry that hasn't "slid" for quite some time, due to it's state of disarray, and fearing that everything is going to fall out onto my head. It's quite amazing, and rather embarrassing, what you find when you do make this effort. Half opened packets of this and that, still usable, but not visible. I found 4 cans of sweetened condensed milk of all things. I would use this ingredient once every blue moon, so why did I have a cache of it? No idea. I also had lots of half opened packets of rice. Obviously the rice container was too hard to reach on previous occasions, so another packet was opened. The only way I was going to get this job done properly was to empty everything out, check the use by dates, reorganise into labelled containers, then sit back and smile at my lovely, orderly pantry. And it was a great exercise in finding out exactly what I had stocked. Clearly the glut of rice made my decision of what to cook for dinner a whole lot easier.

Chicken and Chorizo Paella

3 tablespoon Olive oil

1 Red bell pepper deseeded & sliced

200 gram Mushroom sliced

2 cloves Garlic chopped

600 gram Chicken breast sliced into bite sized pieces

200 gram Chorizo sliced

700 gram Tomato skinned & chopped

1 tablespoon Lemon rind grated

1 tablespoon Rosemary chopped

¼ tsp Saffron (soaked in a little hot water)

2 tablespoon Parsley chopped

500 gram Arborio rice

3 cups Chicken broth

200 gram Peas

1 pinch Salt to taste

1 pinch Black pepper to taste

Lemon wedges to serve


Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes

1. In a saucepan, heat the olive oil until warm. Stir-fry the red pepper, mushrooms and garlic for 3 minutes. Remove & set aside.
2. Add a bit more oil to the saucepan and add the chicken and chorizo. Stir-fry for 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.
3. Add the tomato, lemon rind, rosemary, saffron mix and parsley to the pan, and stir. Top with the rice, chicken, chorizo, red pepper, and mushrooms. Pour over the stock and simmer until the rice is cooked. Do not stir or cover. Add a little more stock if necessary.
4. Once cooked, scatter with peas, remove from heat, cover with a lid, and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
5. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Serve warm with lemon wedges on the side.

Quick, nutritious and only one pot to wash. My day wasn't spent in vain.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Taste and Create XIII- Pure southern comfort

Dianne, from Dianne's Dishes, my Taste and Create partner for this month, spent her childhood in the U.S. south, so I thought I'd try some real southern food in honour of that. What could be more southern than fried chicken (Maryland of course) and Hushpuppies? I always thought that Hushpuppies were a brand of shoe up until now, but these fried cakes of cornmeal are so light and fluffy, they certainly don't resemble anything like an old boot.

I was unsure whether the polenta that I substituted for the cornmeal was suitable, guessing that cornmeal is perhaps a bit finer, but they were still really good with a nice crisp outer coating. A bit of leftover chopped parsley was thrown in for good measure and flavour.

The chicken, after an overnight marinate in buttermilk, was sensational. The seasoning of the flour mixture with vegetable bullion powder and garlic powder produced a flavour that even the famous Colonel would be envious of. I used my deep fryer to cook the chicken, finishing it off in the oven to crisp up even further. I reckon it's the best darned chicken I've ever had and I'll definitely be making it again, real soon.

So thank you Dianne for introducing real Southern Food into my cooking repertoire. We all loved it.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Never smile at a crocodile

Wondering where I've been lately? Certainly not in the kitchen, but definitely working up a sweat when these fellas were jumping just feet from my face. This guy is just one of 3,000 saltwater crocs inhabiting the Adelaide River in the Northern Territory of Australia, so it's not the best place to go for a paddle. Interestingly, I learnt that "crocodile tears" are actually real and not just a saying that parents would use on children when a tantrum was thrown, and real tears were nowhere to be seen. Crocodiles are sprinters, at a speed faster than any racehorse, but if they sprint for more than 100 metres, the lactic acid builds up in their bodies, to a deadly level, and they expel these acids through their tears, to avoid death. They can also see in colour, so if you happen to find yourself in croc infested waters wearing a bright Hawaiian shirt, get it off real quick, or say your prayers.
Crocodile is a white meat, high in cholesterol and protein, but low in fat, with a delicate flavour (so I'm told!!) Light tropical fruits such as paw paw or banana compliment crocodile meat well. Surprisingly, it is best cooked from a frozen state, as during the thawing process most of the moisture runs out decreasing the flavour. It should be cooked for two minutes on either side and then allowed to stand for a few minutes. There is no need to use a large number of ingredients, other than herbs or spices. If frying, always use butter or olive oil, as these will not interfere with the unique flavour. Do not use margarine as the hydrogenated fats can emit an unpleasant flavour and prevent you from using other dairy products such as cream in the recipe. Keep it plain and simple. Farmed crocodile meat is a growing industry in Australia, however I'm not really adventurous enough to try it. Gotta keep tabs on the cholesterol levels, right?