Sunday, 30 November 2014

Chicken,Bacon & Mushroom Stew

Lately, I am trying to cook things that are easy and that I can freeze for heat-and-eats during the week.  After working a 15-hour day Monday to Friday, the last thing I want to do is come home and start a dinner from scratch.  This is one of those perfect recipes, that can be made in bulk and frozen. I take it one step further and also cook a huge pot of rice, portion it into sandwich bags and pop them in the freezer as well. Mid week dinners are easy in our home!

I like to use chicken thighs for this recipe cause they a soft and juicy.  You could take a whole chicken and portion it into 8 pieces if you prefer.  Any flavoursome mushrooms can be used - just not white button ones - they have no flavour and are chewy.  Pancetta can also be used if you prefer to that of smoky bacon, just make sure you use nice thick chunky cubes.

Chicken, Bacon & Mushroom Stew

Serves 4

1.5kg chicken thighs, skin removed
2 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp olive oil
200g thick smoky bacon, cubed
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
200g brown chestnut mushrooms, quartered
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup white dry white wine
1/2 cup cream
1 Tbsp parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp dried tarragon
Salt & pepper to taste

Place flour in a plastic bag and season with salt & pepper.  Add chicken pieces.  Tie the bag tight and shake wildly so flour coats the chicken evenly, then set aside.  Add half the oil to a deep pan and heat on medium.  Add chicken and brown evenly on all sides, then remove and set aside.

Add remaining oil to the pan and saute, bacon, onion, garlic and mushrooms until brown.  Remove from pan and set aside. Add stock and wine to the pan and scrape all drizzle off the bottom.  Return chicken and cook covered for 25 minutes.

Add the bacon, onion, mushroom mix, cream, parsley, tarragon, salt and pepper and simmer uncovered for 8 minutes until reduced and thickened.

~ Michelle ~


Saturday, 29 November 2014

Roasted Mint Shoulder of Lamb with Potatoes

Roasting a big piece of meat has never been as easy as this and with only 7 ingredients - one of them being the meat and the second potatoes!  Life to too short to have tough, overcooked lamb, this not one of those times.

This #Eatloveplaywithfood recipe has been inspired by my favourite Australian Chef, Donna Hay, who makes cooking look as easy as it is to breath. I generally shy away from a "big-meat' cook as I don't do them very well ... until now.

Instead of using a led of lamb, which can be quite expensive this time of year with the holiday season upon us, I have used a de-boned shoulder of lamb.  This some-what cheaper cut came out perfectly. Also what I like, is there is no need for a 'one-on-one; appointment with your local butcher, as you will be able to find it already de-boned and lightly tied straight off the shelf of your local supermarket.

For two us, I work on 800g,  but quite frankly go big or go home - as any left-overs are fantastic for sandwiches the following day.  Cooking times need to be adjusted pending size but you can safely work on 30 minutes at 200'C (400'F) for every 500g of meat.

Roasted Mint Shoulder of Lamb with Potatoes

Serves 2

4 big potatoes, quartered
Olive oil
4 stalks fresh rosemary
2 large cloves garlic, smashed
800g shoulder of lamb, de-boned and rolled
1/4 cup mint sauce

Preheat oven to 200'C (400'F). Place potatoes in a deep baking tray, sprinkle with a little oil and salt and toss coating evenly.  Place a rack on top of the tray.  In the centre place the rosemary in a single layer.  Add smashed garlic on top.  Place lamb on top of the rosemary and garlic.  Lightly salt and pepper to taste.  Cook 30 minutes for every 500g of meat.

For the last 15 minutes of the cooking time, remove the lamb from the oven.  Baste generously with the mint sauce and pop back into the oven for the last 15 minutes.  When done remove and wrap in foil for 5 minutes to draw.

The potatoes will be cooked and delicious as well as the juices of the meat have dripped over them during cooking.

~ Michelle ~  Eatloveplaywithfood

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Luxury Spicy Paella

Paella is a delicious marriage of seafood, meat, spices and vegetables and is arguably the best-known Spanish dish outside Spain. 

What better way to warm up than with this easy to make and fantastic family dinner that goes a long way.  What I enjoy the most is that you can make it as humble or luxurious as you like.  With the holiday season approaching, I enjoy a few special additions like Saffron and huge crab claws - not my usual throughout the year, believe me.

The three best known paella are Valencian paella, seafood paella and mixed paella, but there are several others as well.  Valencian paella is believed to be the original recipe and consists of rice, green veg, meat ... either chicken or rabbit, snails, beans and saffron, rosemary and lemon.  Seafood paella simply replaces the meat with seafood and omits the beans and green veg.  Mixed paella (my favourite)  is a free-style combination of all, which this recipe certainly is.

Luxury Spicy Paella

Serves 4

250g spicy sausage, cut into big slices
3 tbsp olive oil
4 - 5 chicken legs, large chunks off the bone
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large red onion, chopped
1 yellow pepper, cut into strips
1 green pepper, cut into strips
250g rice/paella rice
750ml chicken stock, home-made is best
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
A good pinch of Saffron
10 ripe small Rosa tomatoes,halved
200g prawns, out of shell in big chunks
1 tin smoked mussels, with sauce
4 crab claws
100g frozen peas
100ml cream

Heat a big flat wide casserole dish.
Fry sausage until brown all over, remove and put aside.
Add oil and fry chicken until golden, remove and put aside.
Add garlic, onions, peppers, and fry until golden.
Stir in rice and cook until pale gold in colour.
Pour in half stock, cayenne pepper, salt, saffron and tomatoes and bring to the boil.
Add sausage, chicken, prawns, mussels and crab claws.
Cover and cook for 30 min carefully, stirring regularly adding more stock if necessary.
3 min before cooking time, remove lid, add peas and cream and stir well, adjust seasoning.
Allow to stand for 5min and serve

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Chicken Thighs with Honey

And just when you thought you have done it all when it comes to cooking chicken, along comes another GREAT recipe to try, and this is no exception!

This is not your typical sweet and sour recipe that offers death-by-sour and tastes like a sauce out of a bottle from your local supermarket.  It is well balanced with low acidity and sweetness, allowing the natural flavours of the chicken to come out, so I don't even call it a sweet and sour chicken, which it is in essence.

I love to cook with chicken thighs, they punch flavour and are juicy, but you can also use legs if you prefer. I also tend to remove the skin, as we are pretty much trying to keep an eye on the waistline. Besides, the saying goes, "you are what you eat" and I don't feel like being skin right now.

Easy to prepare, this recipe is ideal for a quick mid-week dinner with a side salad.

Chicken Thighs with Honey

Serves 2 

500g chicken thighs, no skin
2 cloves garlic, small chop
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup dry white wine
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp honey
2 tbsp butter

Preheat over to 220'C.  Pat chicken dry with kitchen towel and then toss with garlic, salt and pepper in a bowl and set aside.

In a saucepan saute onions for 5 min in a little oil to caramelise.  Add wine, bay leaf, cinnamon and a pinch of salt and cook for a 15 min until onions are most and liquid has evaporated.  Remove the bay leaf and cinnamon stick.  Mix in the honey and butter and stir through.

Place chicken in an oven proof dish and spoon onion mixture over it making sure all is covered well. Bake for about 25 min or until no longer pink and onions have beautifully caramelised.

Enjoy as always ...
~   Michelle ~

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Italian Tangerine Tart

Mandarin, Satsuma, Tangerine or Naartjie, call it what you like, this is a super-easy versatile fruit tart that is gooey and sticky and is just awesome!

As a South African I call this fruit I am using a naartjie which is a word used in South African English that originated from the Tamil word nartei meaning citrus.  It is also known as Citrus unshiu (a seedless and easy-peeling citrus) commonly referred to as a hardy mandarin, satsuma mandarin, satsuma orange, Christmas orange or a tangerine.

This is a fantastic easy dessert to make, especially if you are dealing with a crowd.  It can be made the night before and any fruit can be used... plumbs, nectarines and even apricots work really well. Just make sure you use a fleshy fruit - so no to apples - and one with no seeds in them.  It works well in individual ramekins as well - just adjust your cooking time.  

This recipes calls for a little alcohol which draws the wonderful juices out of the fruit.  I like to use a Tennessee Honey Whiskey as I love its smokey flavour.  Feel free to use a sweet sherry or a fruit liquor, both work just as well.  

Italian Tangerine Tart

Serves 6

400g tangerines, peeled & segmented
2 Tbsp custard powder
1 Tbsp Tennessee Honey Whiskey
1 3/4 cups sugar
125g butter (room temperature)
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 170'c and butter a pie dish .

In a large bowl mix tangerines, custard powder, whiskey and 3/4 cups of the sugar and stir well. Allow it to sit for 15 minutes for the sugar and alcohol to draw.

In a separate bowl cream the butter and remaining sugar until fluffy.  In another bowl combine flour, cinnamon, salt & baking powder.  With the mixer on slow, slowly add the dry ingredients until small breadcrumbs have been formed. Add a tablespoon of cold water and beat for another 30 seconds to form larger, moist breadcrumbs.

Set aside 1 cup of the breadcrumbs.  Tip the remaining crumbs into the pie dish and lightly pat the dough evenly on the bottom and a little way up the side.  You are looking at about 1cm thick. Arrange the fruit in a circular pattern on top of the base and drizzle any fruit liquid that has drawn back over the fruit.  Sprinkle remaining crumbs evenly over the top.  Bake for 55 minutes until the fruit is cooked and bubbling.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Roasted Butternut & Apple Soup

The big surprise with this delicious soup is it is actually a detox soup piled with loads of healthy ingredients and can be enjoyed hot or cold.

Who doesn't love a hearty butternut or pumpkin soup when the rain sets it and temps start dropping. The secret in this recipe - besides the apples - is the butternut that is roasted in the oven.  This allows for it to caramelise which really brings out that lovely sweet flavour.

When choosing your apples, stay away from Grammy Smith as they are really tart and although we want a little acidity to cut through the sweetness of the butternut, they can be too strong.  I like to use Gala or even Honeycrisp apples which offer a milder flavour.

The chilli here is optional, but to be honest with you, it does do wonders and again, cuts through that overall sweetness of the soup... and is beneficial for detox.

Enjoy with a little country farm-style bread
~  Michelle ~

Roasted Butternut & Apple Soup

1.4kg butternut squash
1 large onion, quartered
1/4 cup olive oil
4 large sweet apples (Gala/Honeycrisp) inch cubed, skin on
225g shiitake mushrooms, halved
1 cup celery, chopped
8 cups chicken stock
2 cups apple juice
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp chilli (optional)

Preheat oven to 220'c.  In a large bowl mix butternut, onion and 1/2 of the oil.  Toss well and bake on a baking tray for approx 40 min until squash is tender.  Meanwhile mix apples, mushrooms and remaining oil on a second tray and bake for 15 min until apples are tender.

In a large pot add celery, roasted veg from the two baking trays, chicken stock, apple juice, salt, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, red pepper flakes and simmer for 30 min.  Allow to cool.  In batches blend until smooth in a foo processor.

Finally, simmer for a further 5 min and adjust the consistency if needs be with a little more apple juice.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Pan-Fried Pepper Rump Steak

I believe that the best steaks are served at home, and this is no exception as it is super tender and has an awesome brandy and cream sauce.  

Being a South African, for us it is all about the meat - and pretty much 5 times a week of it!  It might be raining and really cold outside, but that is no excuse for a great steak tonight!  All we need to do is say goodbye to the gas BBQ charred option, and hello to a pan-fry creamy sauce one.  No problem!
This is one of my favourite fast-too dinners where the focus is on a great rump steak. In the British and Commonwealth English, 'rump steak' is commonly called a 'sirloin' in American English. However British 'sirloin' is called 'porterhouse' by Americans.  All very complicated, but I am sure you will figure it out.  You can also use a rib-eye if you like, just cut back on the cooking time by a minute each side.

This recipe is made for one serving of 300g - suitable for one person if you love steak as much as we do.  I served it traditionally with an oven-baked African (Sweet) potato.

~ Michelle ~

Pan-Fried Pepper Rump Steak

300g Rump Steak, 1/2 inch thick
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
5 Tbsp good brandy
125ml lite cream

Pre-heat the oven to 180'C.  Generously smear mustard on both sides of the steak along with salt & pepper.  Allow seasoned steak to rest and draw at room temperature for 15 min.

Heat oil in an oven proof skillet and sear steak on each side for a max of 2 - 3 min, pending how you like your it.   Add brandy a cook alcohol off for a further 1 min.  Add the cream and whirl in the pan around the steak for a few seconds.

Place the skillet in the pre heated oven and cook for a further 2 min (no longer).  Remove from the oven and cover with aluminium foil and allow to rest for 5 min.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Caramelized Mixed Bell Pepper Bruschetta

These crunchy, sweet and tart open bruschetta are delicious anytime as a snack or casual hors d'oeuvre along with some cocktails.

If you cannot find Italian ham, feel free to use a Spanish Serrano ham or similar.  The key is it needs to have a smokey flavour and above all ... be cut extremely thin, almost see-through.  I just love the way the sweetness of the peppers work with the sharpness in the Parmesan, along with the smokey flavour that lingers on the palette.

Garlic or less garlic is the question?  Smearing hot toasted bread with fresh garlic carries a HUGE punch of flavour.  If you are not too keen on garlic, then go easy on the smear.  Believe me, the lightest of garlic rub allows you to taste its distinctive flavour.

This is one of my all-time go-to favourites!

~ Michelle ~

Caramelized Mixed Bell Pepper Bruschetta

Serves 2 - 4

2 Tbsp good olive oil
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 red onion, sliced
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp fresh basil, finely slithered
Salt & pepper to taste
1 baguette
2 cloves garlic peeled and halved
8 slices smoked Italian ham
Parmesan, shaved
Dill for garnish

Heat olive oil in a saute pan on a medium heat.  Add peppers and onion, and cook until soft.  This should take about 8 - 10 minutes.  Sprinkle peppers with sugar and cook for a further 2 minutes to caramelize.  Stir in basil and season generously with salt & pepper.

Slice baguette into 1 inch thick slices on the diagonal and brush lightly with some olive oil.  Place evenly on a baking tray and bake in a 180'c oven for 5 minutes until  lightly browned.  Remove from the oven and whilst still hot, rub one side of the toasted bread with garlic.

Now to dress ... top each slice of bread with a piece of ham, warm pepper mix and a generous amount of shaved Parmesan.  Drizzle the top with a little olive oil and sprinkle with a little fresh dill.  Serve immediately.