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Delicious Coconut Lime Chicken

While those of you stuck in the northern hemisphere are preparing all sorts of comforting, warming treats for your cold Christmas season, those of us down south are sweltering and on the hunt for light and refreshing meals. I am absolutely missing the cold and misery and snow that makes Christmas so wonderful. A hot and summery Christmas just seems so wrong somehow, even though I spent 26 years growing up in South Africa with hot Christmas days. My six years in the UK taught me one thing. Christmas is MADE for cold weather! All those lovely warm wintery spices…..yummy! They just don’t work quite as well in summer. And while I’m resigning myself to a truly lovely Christmas day spent having a fresh fish barbecue on the beach, my heart will really be with friends and family thousands of miles north and 12+ hours behind us, enjoying a truly festive meal. Enjoy it everyone, I will be wishing I could join you all!

But back to the truly dreadful weather down here in Auckland. Its been an absolutely perfect 21-24 degrees with nary a drop of rain ALL week. Its been quite depressing stuck in the office on these perfect days, but thankfully the weekend is here again. I will be making an excuse to work a few days a week from our office on the north shore over the next few weeks, just so that I can enjoy the sea view and lunchtime beach runs on offer there. I feel like a total slob when I work there. Virtually all of my colleagues based in the enviable beach office run/walk/cycle or kayak in to work. Then they all go for a lunchtime run, followed by a 500m swim out to the bouy in the bay and back again. Then its a race up the two flights of stairs to nab the shower with the best water pressure and back to the grindstone. What an awful place to work. I don’t know how I cope at times!

Needless to say, such exertions require some calories, and one of my favourite summertime dinners is this sublime coconut and lime chicken. Its essentially a mild thai curry and really delicious. You can add loads of veggies, and serve on rice, couscous or quinoa. It works particularly well with sweet peppers or brocolli. You can use chicken breast, but this is absolutely heavenly (and unfortunately marginally less fabulous for the waistline) made with boneless, skinless chicken thighs. I searched Pinterest (as you do) for the perfect recipe, and although I kept finding some fabulous PHOTOS of this dish, nobody seemed to have the smarts to post a link to the actual blog! Much searching later, I found the original coconut lime chicken recipe, and what a fabulous recipe it is too. Don’t read the My Kitchen Escapades Blog too much, because you’ll never leave your kitchen, her recipes are amazing! ūüėČ

Coconut Lime chickenIf you have the time, leave this to marinade overnight and take the time to really reduce the sauce by simmering gently until you get a lovely thick, oozy curry sauce. That said, its also delicious with an hour of marinading and is ready to eat before your rice has a chance of cooking.

Ingredients (To serve 2 adults and 2 smallish kids):

  • 8-10 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 standard tin of coconut milk
  • 2 limes
  • 1 and half teaspoons of ground coriander
  • 2 tablespoons reduced salt soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons mild curry powder (I use garam masala)
  • A pinch of smoked paprika
  • 1 red chili, chopped
  • a big handful of fresh coriander leaves (cilantro for those of you in the USofA)
  • Chopped/sliced veggies of choice.

Method:

  1. Chop the chicken thighs into 3 or 4 pieces each
  2. In a large Tupperware with a tight sealing lid mix the coconut milk, the zest and juice from one of the limes, the coriander, soy sauce, sugar, curry, paprika and chili
  3. Add the chicken pieces, seal the Tupperware and give it a good shake. Leave for anything from an hour to a day IN THE FRIDGE, shaking when you can. The longer this marinades, the better, although obviously don’t leave it so long that it goes all dodgy. Don’t be like a friend who left this on the counter all day on a 35 degree C day (that’s like 98 in F I think). She wondered why it smelt a bit dodgy afterwards. Hmmmm.
  4. When you’re starting to get hungry, get your rice on the go, oil and heat up your grill pan to medium. Drain the chicken pieces, retaining the coconut sauce.
  5. Grill those chicken pieces, adding the veggies when they’re virtually done. Saute the veggies for a minute, then add the coconut sauce to the grill pan and simmer until the sauce thickens up a bit. Season to taste.
  6. To serve, spoon over the rice, and THE most important part, squeeze over some fresh lime juice from the remaining lime and add lots and lots of fresh coriander leaves. Sublime. Best enjoyed al fresco with some chilled white wine.

Just a note here, you can add as much or as little chili as you like. I leave it out entirely for some people who don’t like spicy food and add loads extra when serving for my hubby who enjoys his “Thai Hot!”

 


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Honey and mustard chicken with tarragon

WOW, over a month since my last post!!! Huge apologies everyone. To be honest, I’ve been struggling to find the time to even cook, never mind photograph my meals and write about them.

Our household has been incredibly busy and¬†topsy-turvy¬†this last month. Just before Christmas, our visa for New Zealand was approved and we decided to pack up and go as quickly as was humanely possible. We are off in less than a month now, and still need to clean all our camping gear, road bikes, hiking boots, get rid of clutter and prepare the house for the packers who arrive in just 2 weeks today…AARRGGHHHH!!!! After that, we are heading over to France on a road trip to visit friends and enjoy a last week of European skiing. I can’t wait. I’m absolutely rubbish at skiing, but I enjoy every second of it. Fortunately after years of face plants onto tarmac while wearing skates in my youth and from the back of a horse over jumps (onto grass luckily) I have a disturbing lack of fear of falling onto snow or ice, which probably helps a little.

My most exciting kitchen news was that…………………..(no, sorry no Kitchen Aid stand mixer, yet)……………….I finally finally got a couple of Le Creuset enamelled cast iron pots. My beloved deep, slope sided frying pan (its not really a wok) finally gave up the ghost after 6 years of loyal, almost daily use. It wasn’t the fanciest pan to begin with and has been heavily abused by me and a number of house guests over the years. I decided to replace it with something a little more exciting (and pretty) and persuaded my long suffering spouse that I want NEED cast iron of the enamelled kind. He nearly baulked at the price, but I was very persuasive. I am now the proud owner of a Le Creuset large shallow casserole, and large oval deep casserole pot. Needless to say I spent many days in discussion with my trusted chefy friend L making my selection.

SnowTo christen the shallow casserole, to provide some comfort from the recent snow, and as a stress relief from all the packing I made some roasted honey and mustard chicken pieces with tarragon. The tarragon is optional, but I like how just a little breaks the honey mustard taste a little. I added some veg to mine, and we ate it served with rice. It will work just as well with mashed potato, or couscous though. You can use smooth mustard of any variety (I recommend against the radioactive yellow American style hotdog mustard though, sorry USA bloggers), but whole grain is fabulous. If you are in the UK, DO try this with Tracklement’s Beer Mustard. You will love me (and them) forever.

Honey Mustard ChickenIngredients (serves 2 adults and 2 hungry kids):

One onion, finely chopped

6 crushed/chopped garlic cloves

A large heaped tablespoon of whole grain mustard.

Two tablespoons of runny honey

4-6 chicken leg/thigh pieces, skin and bone intact

2 cups of assorted chopped veg (I used diced carrot and courgette)

Pinch of dried tarragon (or a teaspoon of finely chopped fresh will be great)

Half cup of boiling water.

Method:

Preheat your oven to 160 degrees C

Saute the onion in an oven proof pot, before covering and leaving to sweat gently for 10 minutes until soft.

While the onion is sweating, mix the honey, mustard and tarragon together, and use it to coat the chicken pieces.

Add the garlic to the onion and lightly cook a little more.

Remove the onion/garlic from the pan, turn up the heat and brown those chicken pieces. They don’t need much because you will be using the oven to crisp them up later.

Return the onion and garlic to the pan, add your veg and boiling water.

Put the lid tightly onto the pot, and place in the oven and cook slowly for an hour.

Remove the lid, turn the chicken pieces so they are all skin side up and cook for a further 15 minutes in the oven so that the chicken skin can brown up. This is really easy thanks to the sugar in the honey.

The chicken meat should be moist and tender thanks to the hour of slow steaming in the lidded pot, and you still get the crisp skin, double bonus!

Enjoy served with whatever you like.

 


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Fake Pesto = Popeye Pasta sauce for kids

I love a fresh basil pesto pasta. But basil pesto sort of sucks without the parmesan cheese if you’re dairy free like me. And then, much as I know basil is rammed full of healthy goodness, I’m always quite keen to add a few more veggies into anything I serve up to my kids. Plus some kids seem to hate the taste of basil, unfortunate little souls, and this is a good way to introduce the taste a little more gently. Enter fake pesto sauce. I whipped this up in mere minutes and the kids wolfed it down even more quickly.

I keep vast quantities of this frozen in little cubes in my freezer as a quick pasta sauce for my kids. Its pretty versatile and works brilliantly if you half and half it with a béchamel sauce, stir through some scrummy cheese and shredded chicken or tuna. You can even use it for a pasta bake. Or as a puree for a really small baby, or as a base for a pasta sauce for adults.

Green pasta sauceIngredients:

1/2 a finely chopped onion

A couple of cloves of crushed garlic

2 medium courgette, grated

A large handful fresh spinach (or a few cubes of the chopped frozen variety)

A big sprig of fresh basil leaves (optional if your kids can’t stand it)

Method:

Sweat the onion in a little olive oil in a covered pan until very soft and full of flavour. Add the garlic and saute for a minute. Add the green veg and  cook gently until everything is well softened before blitzing with an immersion blender, liquidiser or food processor.

To freeze, portion out into ice cube trays, cover till cool, then freeze. Once these guys are frozen solid, you can flip them out of the tray into a ziplock bag. They will keep for roughly 3 months in the freezer.


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Easy Easy Rosemary Pull-Apart Bread

Nothing knocks the socks off dinner guests like home made bread. The wonderful taste of fresh bread is just so much scrummier than anything from a shop. Add to that the “straight out the oven” warmth and you’re onto a winner. An added bonus, as well as wowing your guests, most bread is actually ridiculously easy to make

This bread is one of those super easy types and will impress even your most severe critics. I even got it right in an oven not my own,¬† always a risk when baking. Its also pretty adaptable. You can mix and match your flours, although don’t go more than 50% wholewheat or you may end up with a brick rather than a loaf. You could replace¬†the¬†rosemary with caramalised onions or thyme and grated parmasan, drool! You can bake this as a standard 2lb loaf, solo rolls, plaited loaf, the options are endless. The olive oil adds flavour and moistness as well as helping the loaf to last a little longer. Good luck with that though, mine lasted all of 30 minutes, followed by requests for, “More please!” and that is no exaggeration.

Using just seven ingredients, and a fair amount of hands off time,¬† I’ll explain how to make this so that you can still go out for the day and have it ready to pop in the oven for dinner.

Ingredients:
600g bread flour. I used a mix of half strong white bread flour and half a whole wheat malted seed flour. You can use whatever mix takes your fancy,  as long as roughly half is strong and white.
1 sachet of dried yeast (roughly 7g or a rounded teaspoon)
1 rounded tablespoon sugar (or honey)
A large pinch of salt (also have a course salt grinder on hand)
A tablespoon of fresh rosemary leaves chopped (dried is also fine)
Olive oil
380ml of warm water (about a cup and a half)

Method:
First thing in the morning, put the flour and salt into a large bowl. Make a well and tip in the sugar and yeast. Add the water and start drawing the flour into the center. At first it will seem like you don’t have enough water and then,¬† you may end up with what seems like a just too wet dough as it all comes together. Add more water or flour right at this beginning stage until you get one ball of dough that’s slightly sticky.

Knead for a good 10 minutes to develop the gluten. There are some great videos on You Tube for kneading techniques for slightly wetter bread dough. Don’t be tempted to add more flour unless it’s really not holding its shape. The dough will lose its stickiness as the gluten develops.
Once the dough starts feeling nice and elastic,¬† do the window pane test to check that it stretches thin rather than tears. If you’re happy with the gluten development,¬† form it into a ball and leave to rest on the counter.

Scrape any chunky bits out of the original mixing bowl (it must be a large bowl with room for the dough to more than double in size. Add a swirl of olive oil to the bowl and make sure it coats the base and sides. Add in your dough and flip it over once or twice so it’s all coated in olive oil. Cover with oiled cling film and pop into the fridge. Go to work, or the beach in our case.

When you get home in the early evening,¬† take the bowl out of the fridge and leave somewhere to come to room temperature. I did this while I fed the kids. An hour later,¬† get the dough out of the bowl,¬† it should have more than doubled in size after 8 hours in the fridge. Gently flatten it on the counter. It may feel pretty rubbery if still cold,¬† that’s just fine. Sprinkle the surface with rosemary and coarsely ground salt. Fold into thirds. Flatten gently and repeat twice more. Form into a sausage shape and cut into 9-11 equal pieces.

Shape each piece into a roll. There is a great video here on You Tube to show one way to do it. Place each of the rolls into a pre-greased, 28cm round cake tin. Once all the rolls have been crammed into the tin,  sprinkle on some more rosemary and sea salt before gently covering with some oiled cling film and placing in a warm spot to prove. An hour and a half should do it. Get those kids bathed and into bed.

Heat your oven as hot as it will go (260 for mine) and place an empty baking tray on the bottom rack. If you have a baking stone,¬† pop that on the middle shelf. If you don’t,¬† a Pyrex dish sans lid that will fit the cake tin will also work well. I did mine with neither and it turned out just fine. Boil your kettle.

Once the oven is nice and hot you need to do two things really quickly before GENTLY closing the oven door again. 1) pour the kettle full of water into that nice hot baking tray on the bottom shelf (be warned it will be very steamy) and 2) slide your bread in its cake tin gently onto the middle shelf. Close that door gently. Turn the oven temperature right down to 180. Bake for 30 minutes. Do NOT open the door.

After 30 minutes,  take out the bread,  turn straight out onto a rack and leave to steam while you get your soup poured into bowls etc.

Serve on a chunky wooden board and pull apart to get your piece. Delicious with a thick smear of butter or with soup. Enjoy! !!


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Classy Leek and Potato Soup

At the moment I’m lucky enough to be sitting overlooking the sea. We’ve dragged ourselves down to the Isle of Wight for a family holiday, and its definitely been worth the trip.

My lovely friend (and cousin-in-law) and I are sharing the cooking duties. Actually competing for them, because the kitchen here is amazing and we both enjoy it. We are spoilt with a walk-in pantry, extra wide range cooker, every utensil we’ve ever desired (except for a Kitchen Aid) and the most fabulous prep butcher’s block on wheels. The butcher’s block is a little OTT but we ‘re enjoying it anyway.
Emily’s speciality is fish. And the fish here is super fresh. In London you can get day old fish if you know where to look. Here we have made friends with the owners of the local fishing fleet and buy it minutes old and eat it hours old. Amazing!!!
I’m not very good with fish, but as the weather is truly pants, I’ve been sticking to hearty staples. I’ve also been trying to do justice to the amazing kitchen by giving them a little something extra now and then.
First up, a very old fashioned leek and potato soup!


With simple dishes, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of making them boring. I gave mine the xfactor with one teeny tiny tweek. Remember my post a few weeks back? Sometimes it’s a good idea to cook with wine! Well I drank a glass of white wine and braised the onions with it too. Delicious. I also snuck it an extra onion and loads more garlic than I normally would. Some classy garnish and the family were blown away. I dished it up with home made tear-apart rosemary bread, fresh from the oven. I’ll post the bread recipe another night.
Ingredients:
For 6 adults I used
2 extra large white onions chopped
2 tablespoons crushed garlic
1 generous glass of decent white wine
4 large potatoes cut into small pieces.
6 small fresh organic leeks chopped (you could use 2 extra large ones). Set aside some neatly sliced rounds from the green ends
Roughly a litre of hot home made chicken stock (or vegetable stock if you’re going vegetarian/vegan)
Some splashes of olive oil
Salt and pepper
Roughly half a cup of cream (or almond milk if going vegan)

Method:
Heat a large pot with some olive oil to a medium heat. Add the onions, stir quickly, clamp on the lid and turn down the heat. Sweat the onions for a good 10 minutes until they’re translucent and soft. Add the garlic and turn up the heat. Once sizzling, add your wine and keep stirring until the fumes have mostly burned off.
Pour in half your stock and all the potatoes. Add enough of the remaining stock to just cover the spuds. Clamp on the lid and simmer for 10 minutes. If you’ve cut yours into big pieces, they may need a little longer.
Once the spuds are just soft all the way through, toss in the leeks, keeping some nice green slices aside for garnish. cover the pot again and simmer for another 10 minutes. You want the leeks to be soft but still green. There is nothing worse than grey soup!
Remove the pot from the heat and blitz with an immersion blender or in a liquiser. Season to taste. Stir through a half cup of cream or almond milk and pour into bowls.
For a swanky presentation, swirl through a small amount of cream or the almond milk, add a drizzle of decent olive oil, a crack of black pepper and a sprinkling of raw leek slices. Enjoy with fresh crusty rolls or my rosemary pull-apart bread. Bon appetite.


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Spinach and Caramelised Onion Omelette

My spouse has worked at home a lot this week. While he’s happy to forage for himself, he does tend to eat random things I’ve set aside for dinner for the kids. Annoying.com. So yesterday, in the spirit of good housewifeliness, I decided to make him a cooked lunch. Aren’t I lovely! I got to have some too, lucky me.

I had a glut of eggs. I made the mistake of ordering a box of 15 eggs, twice in a row. Then I didn’t bake anything requiring eggs. So¬†omelette¬†it was!

Ingredients:

4 large fresh eggs

1/2 an onion, chopped

A couple of tablespoons of good quality balsamic vinegar

A large handful or two of fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped

Some olive oil for your pan

Method:

Put your non stick pan onto a medium heat with a small splash of oil

Cook your onions till softened, then deglaze with the balsamic until they’re all sticky and¬†caramelised. Remove from the pan.

Wipe your pan over with some paper towel and put it back on a medium heat (you might want to add a drop more olive oil and wipe it all over the pan so it’s very lightly coated)

Lightly beat your eggs into a cup, add a splash of cold water and season to taste.

Pour half the egg mix over the base of your pan. Use a spatula to move the egg around and cook slightly before leaving it to finish off undisturbed.

Scatter half the onion and half the spinach over one half of your¬†omelette. If you’re lucky, like my spouse, you might even get a few big blobs of cream cheese added to yours. Goats cheese would be equally yummy.

Once the spinach is just starting to wilt, fold the omelette in half  and slide onto a plate. We enjoyed ours with toasted seeded sour dough.

What are your favourite toppings/inserts for omelettes?