Thursday, 27 January 2022

Mediterranean Chicken Marbella Traybake

"The whole is greater than the sum of the parts."
Aristotle

 This delicious chicken dish is beloved by many of us here in Australia, but was actually created in the Silver Palate food store, which opened on New York's Manhattan Upper West Side 35 years ago. The store was started by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, who cooked fresh each day, embracing a passion for simple good food. That is still the commitment of the Silver Palate Kitchens today. I make this dish quite regularly, and always have the bottled ingredients on hand in my pantry and cellar, just in case. 

This is an uncomplicated recipe, which has you in and out of the kitchen in no time, but brings maximum flavours to your dining table. It is a great recipe for people who either don't have much time to prepare and cook or who don't consider themselves to be great cooks. It is a simple matter of mixing most of the ingredients in a large covered bowl the night before to marinate, and then popping it all with a couple of extra ingredients in the oven the following day or evening 50 minutes before it is to be eaten. We all need uncomplicated recipes like this in our repertoire, which still deliver magnificent flavours. 

This recipe has become famous and a firm favourite with many, standing the test of time because of the distinctive Mediterranean flavours and colours of the prunes, olives and capers. It is very versatile, allowing it to be cooked in the slow cooker, the oven, or eaten as a leftover cold dish, or even as an appetiser. I promise you this is a cinch to make, and never disappoints, however please don't scrimp on the prunes, the olives or the capers and choose a nice white wine to add, and then drink the rest.

This dish reminds me of the famous Aristotle Quotation 2370 years ago: " The whole is greater than the sum of the parts". 

Chicken Marbella

Ingredients:

16 chicken thighs or mixed chicken portions,  to feed 8 people,
(Or buy a whole chicken and chop it up into portions, a cheaper option) Approx 1 1/4 kilos or 2 1/2 pounds of chicken pieces (Allow at least two chicken pieces per person.)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup  brown sugar
2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves, or ideally use fresh equivalent if you are growing  it
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup good quality dry white wine or chicken broth
1/4 cup or 2 tablespoons of good quality red wine vinegar
2 dried bay leaves
1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives
1/2 cup pitted prunes
1/2 cup roasted bell peppers drained, and coarsely chopped (this is an optional addition to the original classic recipe)
1/4 cup or 2 tablespoons capers, with a little bit of juice
1/4 cup or 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, finely chopped for garnish



Marinate the chicken:

  1. In a large bowl, mix the olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice, bay leaves, oregano, salt, pepper, garlic, and vinegar. (All the ingredients except the wine and the brown sugar.) Add the chicken and stir to coat. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and refrigerate overnight to marinate until you are ready to cook.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180 deg. C. or 350 deg. F.
  3. Arrange the chicken in a single layer in a shallow baking dish and spoon the remaining marinade over it evenly.  Pour the white wine over the chicken pieces, and sprinkle the chicken pieces with the brown sugar.
  4. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting the chicken pieces frequently with the pan juices, until cooked.
  5. With a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter. Pour over enough pan juices to serve, and sprinkle generously with parsley. Any extra pan juices can be passed around in a sauce boat. Or for serving you can adopt the rustic approach which I quite like, and bring the baking dish straight from the oven to the table and serve from the dish.
  6. Serve with couscous or brown rice or a selection of salad and fresh vegetables.
I am reposting this recipe, with a couple of fresh new photos, as it has been requested by friends. The quantities can be easily adjusted to cater for a couple, a family, or to feed 10 people or more. I have also cooked this one for a Christmas dish and a birthday dish, as the ingredients and presentation place it easily into the celebratory category. How good is that? This dish can also be served cold or taken on a picnic. Cool to room temperature in the cooking juices, before transferring to a serving platter.

Here in Queensland and indeed throughout Australia, tennis players and fans are very excited about the Australian Tennis Open Grand Slam Tournament which has been playing out over the last couple of weeks at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Victoria. Ash Barty, a Queensland girl from Ipswich in our home state, is the first Australian woman in just over 42 years to make it to the Grand Final, being played this Saturday night on Rod Laver Arena. We are all very excitedly looking forward to the Barty Party, and we will certainly be quietly partying here as we watch Ash play. The Men's doubles is also an all Australian Grand Slam Final being played on Saturday, with the Special Ks (Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis) playing the M&M's (Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell.) They will be playing in front of a very excited crowd. Mr. HRK and I attended the Australian Open many years ago, and it was an amazing event, the place to be in January in Australia. We're looking forward to returning there again one day. Meanwhile, the Barty Party is the big ticket item this Saturday for us, and the matches should be televised internationally for all the tennis fans in the Northern Hemisphere. Apparently Netflix have been filming the games as well. Is there a Series coming up? Have a great weekend folks.

Warmest wishes,

Pauline xx






Thursday, 13 January 2022

Braised Beef Oxtail with Asian style flavours, and cooked in the Pressure Cooker

 

This Braised Beef Oxtail dish, tasting of typical delicious Chinese flavours is on constant rotation in our kitchen.  If you enjoy Asian style cuisine you will love this dish. Oxtail was a budget cut of beef which appeared quite regularly as a stew at the dinner table when I was growing up, however it is absolutely transformed here with this remarkable combination of flavours. It is finger lickin' good. This dish brings restaurant standard food into your own home, at a time in history when we are reverting to eating more at home to keep safe from catching Covid19.

As my regular readers know, I live in the Queensland Tropics, and we're in the middle of a very hot Summer. So it's the pressure cooker to the rescue for this very tasty meal. I crave for dishes based on Asian flavours sometimes, particularly in Summer. We pressure cooked and braised the meat as it was a very hot day and the modern Pressure Cooker is the most efficient and coolest way of cooking this type of meal.  However slow cooking would work just as well for folk in the Northern Hemisphere. This is the kind of dish where you eat what you can with your knife and fork and then you just have to pick the bones up in your fingers and eat every last little morsel that you can find tucked away in the bones. It's a keeper and perfect for a family meal. Please take my word for it, it's a cinch to make.

The only problem is that the slow braising cuts of meat have become quite expensive at the moment, so the humble oxtail deserves the special treatment that it receives here. This is a perfect meal to enjoy on the weekend, wherever you are.

 Braised Beef Oxtail with Asian flavours

Ingredients:

1 kg beef oxtail, trimmed
1/2 cup (125 ml) Japanese or Korean soy sauce
1/4 cup Chinese cooking wine
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
6 cloves garlic, bruised
12 cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thickly
4 green onions, chopped coarsely
2 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
3 x 5 cm strips orange rind
1/2 cup water
2 green or spring onions, shredded finely for garnish

Let's cook:
  1. Cut oxtail into 4 cm pieces or have your butcher do this for you.
  2. Combine soy sauce, wine, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, chopped green onion, star anise, cinnamon sticks, orange rind and the water into a saucepan and bring to the boil.
  3. Transfer this cooking base of sauces and spices to either your pressure cooker pot or your slow cooker pot. 
  4. Add the Oxtail pieces to the sauce.
  5. Seal the lid on your pressure cooker or your slow cooker and proceed to cook according to the directions for your appliance.
  6. We cooked this in our Pressure cooker which took 25 minutes and in our tropical heat this is the best way to cook at present. 
  7. However using your slow cooker would also produce a delicious result and if I am slow cooking now I take the appliance outside and plug it in on our patio and leave it for 8 hours without heating up the kitchen. However, in the European or American winter, this would be spreading beautiful aromas as it cooks cosily in the kitchen. Bring on Winter in North Queensland. 
  8. Remove the lid. Transfer oxtail pieces to a serving plate, and drizzle with about  a 1/3 cup of the braising liquid. 
  9. Sprinkle with shredded spring onion and serve with Asian greens and rice to soak up the sauce and flavours.
Absolutely delicious

 I sometimes need to follow a recipe when using Asian ingredients, as it can be a fine line between getting it right or messing it up completely and the result being quite the disappointment. I am much more confident with creating an original recipe for Italian, French or even Middle Eastern food than any kind of Asian cuisine. Perhaps that is also why so many people still use  pastes and sauces from a bottle if they feel like an Asian meal. However there is no need with this recipe, as this easy combination of spices gives a perfect result. 

Warm wishes and stay safe everyone. Have a great weekend.

Pauline

Thursday, 6 January 2022

Tropical Sweet and Sour Pork

 

Happy New Year to you all. If you are living in the Northern Hemisphere where it is freezing in parts I hope you are keeping warm, and if you are somewhere very tropical like we are, reaching temperatures of 36-40 deg. C daily, I hope you are keeping cool and well hydrated. At the moment, we are enjoying any outside work, gardening or walking very early in the morning or late in the evening. Thankfully in Australia it's the Summer of Tennis and Cricket, so during the day I can relax watching sport on the television, reading, practicing my piano, sewing, mending, or whatever else takes my fancy. That's how we Summer in North Queensland. 

 It's the time to prepare for another big year, adding important events to the calendar, planning projects, hopefully some travel, and so forth. I am away from my own kitchen for a while, so my cooking right now needs to be simple, tasty and nutritious without too much fuss. Hence this very tasty pork dish, which I made after Christmas using some left over pork from a delicious pork roast. 

 Dear friends, this is such an easy and economical version of Sweet and Sour pork with delicious  flavours, using basic ingredients, and is so simple to put together if you are travelling or just needing to cook a very simple but tasty dish at home. More vegetables such as zucchini, or snow peas can be added if you have them on hand. Because I used curry powder as an ingredient, leftovers tasted even better the following day.

This style of cooking is so much healthier for us to eat when we are in a rush than reaching for a ready made jar of sweet and sour sauce from the supermarket which is full of preservatives,  and tastes much better anyway.

Left over cooked chicken, fresh chicken, or fresh pork can also be used as a substitute for the cooked pork. Just cut  the fresh meat into cubes, fry it until cooked and remove from the pan, and then add to the pan after cooking all of the other ingredients. So easy and fast, this is the way I love to cook in Summer.

This is a sweet and sour chicken version of this dish that I made recently as well. I always add a couple of extra ingredients, depending on what I have on hand. Do you? 



Ingredients:

500 g cooked pork meat, cubed
1 large red capsicum
4 celery stalks
1 400 g can pineapple pieces, or use fresh pineapple if you prefer
1 tin tomato soup
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 finely chopped cloves of garlic

Method:

Lightly fry cooked pork until warmed through and remove from pan. Or if using fresh pork, cube pork pieces in vegetable oil and fry until browned. Remove from pan. 
To the frying pan add chopped vegetables and cook until softened.
Add pineapple pieces and juice.
Add sugar and curry powder.
Return the pork to the sweet and sour mixture and simmer until the dish is slightly thickened.

 Serve with rice or noodles and a green vegetable.

With the rise of covid infections in our communities again, we are limiting how often we shop at the supermarket, and yesterday we noticed once again that some supermarket shelves and refrigerators are empty, and toilet paper shelves are stripped bare, so I'm trying to keep lots more of the staples in my pantry, such as canned foods which can be added to to dishes like this one, healthy grains, beans, and  spices. However, as I always try to cook from scratch with fresh ingredients, I have to admit I also have a very well stocked pantry, quite full of homemade preserves and jams etc. I hope you are all faring well in your homes and feeling refreshed, and enjoying the benefits of a fresh start to the year.

Best wishes for 2022,

Pauline