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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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Fortnightly Meal Challenge #3: Classic Roast Butternut Squash Risotto

Is risotto one¬†of¬†those dishes that absolutely terrifies you? It used to scare the bejeebers out of me, but after a few goes, I’ve discovered its actually REALLY easy. There are recipes where you can just pop your risotto rice straight into a pot of chicken casserole and leave it to do its thing and…gasp….it turns out JUST fine. I’ll post that another time though. Today, inspired by the monthly recipe challenge over at the Modern Home Kitchen, I’ve decided to make a classic autumnal risotto. An oozy risotto is the perfect comfort food for those chilly, misty days. It is also incredibly¬†versatile. Try a fresh pea and mint combination for spring, beans in summer or chicken and mushroom for winter to ward off the sniffles.

For autumn though, and with the challenge ingredient of SQUASH requested by team over at the Modern Home Kitchen, I’ve plumped for a classic roast butternut squash risotto. The beauty of this dish is that you can adapt it to suit what ingredients you have at hand. I strongly recommend teaming it with fresh sage, which works beautifully with butternut. Roasting the butternut causes some caramalisation and you get a super sweet, smoky depth of flavour that you can’t achieve by steaming or baking your squash at a low temperature. I made this to serve two adults, a toddler and a baby so had to tone down the flavours somewhat for the youngsters. We added seasoning and some other extras once I’d dished up for the kids.

Ingredients:

1 litre of stock (chicken or veg stock is great). If you don’t have enough stock, you can always increase it with some hot water

Olive oil

1 butternut squash, skinned and diced into small bitesized cubes. You can also leave the skin on if you like it that way

Fresh rosemary (Sage is also a fantastic option)

A large white onion or 4 shallots, finely chopped

1 stalk of celery, finely chopped

a tablespoon of crushed/chopped garlic

pinch of cinnamon

3 heaped handfuls of risotto rice (I used arborio rice)

a small glass of white wine

A block of parmesan cheese

Method:

Toss your butternut chunks in olive oil with salt, pepper and chopped rosemary and roast for 30-45 at 200 degrees C. Keep an eye on them after the 30 minutes are up and take them out when the edges start to blacken and caramelise.

Put two large pots on your hob. Put your stock into the smaller pot and keep warm on a low simmer. In the¬†largest¬†pot, heat some olive oil, and gently cook the onion and celery. This should take about ten minutes. You want to do this on a low heat so the onion stays translucent and doesn’t crisp up. I like to sweat my onion for the last 5 minutes with the lid on, so it softens up really gently. Once its soft, turn up to a medium heat and add the garlic and stir to prevent burning. Add the cinnamon.

Turn up the heat a couple of notches and add the rice, it should sizzle. Stir until the sizzling dies down and the rice starts to turn¬†translucent. Add in your small glass of wine, keep stirring. Inhale the heady alcohol fumes. Once the fumes start to die down and the wine has been sucked up by the rice, start adding the stock, a couple of ladlefuls at a time. Keep stirring as it gets absorbed. Every risotto recipe I’ve ever read helpfully tells you not to cook your risotto too fast (cooked outside, raw inside) or too slowly (claggy, smooshy risotto) but they don’t tell you how to achieve that. What you want is a moderate temperature. If its bubbling rapidly, your temperature is too high. If it emits about one slow blub every second, then its probably about right. I keep turning mine down until its JUST not simmering around the edge. Keep on with adding a bit of stock and stirring while it gets absorbed. It should take about 20 minutes. The rice grains will suddenly turn big and puffy looking, give it another 5 minutes, then bite into one to check if they’re done right the way through. You don’t need to be a slave to the risotto. I changed Toddler clothes, folded a big pile of laundry and unloaded and reloaded my dishwasher between ladlefuls.

Once the rice is just cooked through, add in your roasted butternut chunks and a splash more stock. Stir stir stir. Some of the butternut will ooze off, and the caramelised bits will stay as they are. Add a good couple of tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan cheese and stir through. Check your seasoning. I usually need to add salt, because my stock is salt free. You can add a squeeze of lemon juice to cut the flavour a little. Garnish with any of butter fried sage leaves (highly recommended), crisp bacon bits, torn parma ham, some fresh rosemary leaves.

Enjoy with a glass of wine in front of the fire.


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Easy Apple and Cardamom Chutney

Well I’ve been trying to¬†whittle¬†down my absolutely enormous bushel of apples. We picked loads from an old abandoned orchard not far from us. We used a couple of kilos along with local wild blackberries to make some absolutely heavenly Apple and Blackberry Jam. I’m also planning Apple & Chilli Chutney and Apple and Ginger Chutney. Today is the turn of Apple and Cardamom Chutney. It is bubbling away on my hob as I write and smells amazing!!!! I’m only making two jars. Once to keep and one to gift. And best of all? The cost is the mere two quid of a Kilner cliptop jar because I had all the ingredients knocking around in the pantry and the apples were free!

Ingredients:

500g of peeled and cored apples chopped into small chunks

1 large onion cut into small wedges

150ml red wine vinegar

300g soft brown sugar

3 heaped teaspoons of ground cinnamon (you could also use sticks)

The seeds from 8 cardamom pods

4 bay leaves

100g sultanas

Method:

Chuck all the ingredients except for the sultanas into a large pot, bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add the sultanas and continue to simmer and switch on your oven to sterilise your jars (if you’re not using the dishwasher to sterilise them) for 15 minutes.

Your chutney should be nice and broken down and thick at this point and ready for bottling.

I’ll be enjoying this with crusty made bread and pate, although I’m sure it will go brilliantly with cheese or pork as well.

 


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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?


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Leek and Sweet Potato Soup

Thankfully the rain is on hold today. The leaves are definitely on the turn now, and the trees are starting to look rather more thin and yellow than green and plump. With Toddler at nursery and no real reason to go out for a tortuous walk some fresh air, I thought I’d stay in and make some soup for lunch. My favourite quick and easy soup is good old leek and potato soup. Sadly I didn’t have any potatoes to hand. I did have sweet potatoes though, and a quick browse of the WWW revealed an¬†abundance¬†of recipes that weren’t particularly inspiring. So I opted to make it the way I always do, but switching around when I put in the potato, as sweet potatoes cook really quickly. I did find a version with loads of chilli which looked fabulous, but as I was serving this up to two smalls, I thought I’d better forgo the spiciness.

My sweet potatoes were white inside today! I haven’t seen these since I left South Africa six years ago. I’m so used to the bright orange ones that these came as quite a surprise. Presumably, the orange variety will give a more¬†orangey¬†coloured soup. This variety made it look remarkably like I’d used plain old potatoes.

Ingredients (soup for 2 not very hungry adults, a toddler and a baby):

1 extra large leek sliced

2 shallots chopped

1 extra large sweet potato chopped into smallish chunks (mine was white today, normally they’re that super duper carroty orange)

garlic (I used around 3 cloves but we LOVE our garlic in this house)

2 cups of hot stock (I used home made veggie stock)

Seasoning

Method:

Heat your pot with a lug of olive oil in the bottom. Add in shallots, turn down the heat and clamp on a lid and sweat the shallots for 5-10 minutes till soft.

Add in the leeks and garlic, turn up the heat and give a regular shake till the leeks start to soften.

Add your stock and sweet potatoes, bring to a simmer, cover and leave for roughly 10 minutes. You can check when its ready by squishing the sweet potatoes.

Blend the whole lot up in liquidiser or straight in the pot with an immersion blender. Season to taste

Serve up into bowls, swirl in some cream, or olive oil, or coconut milk and add a fresh crack of black pepper.

We enjoyed ours with home baked seeded sour dough bread. Hope you enjoy yours too!


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Fortnightly meal challenge #2: Apricot Glazed Chicken

 

I seem to be stuck on chicken dishes at the moment. Once I’ve resigned myself to properly cold and wintery weather I’ll start getting more into red meats.

For my second meal challenge, I decided to try something quick but delicious with my chicken pieces that my kids would also enjoy. Apricot and chicken is a match made in heaven and I remember eating loads of different combinations of the two as a child. Apricot casseroled in apricot juice, or with whole apricots was pretty typical. The glaze for this chicken includes mayonnaise, and usually onion soup mix, which I opted to forgo as it tends to be laden with salt. The sugar in the jam will cause the skin to blacken, just keep an eye on things to ensure it doesn’t actually burn, particularly if your oven runs quite hot, like mine.

The spouse demolished his, and had seconds. The toddler demolished his and had seconds too! The baby spent ages sucking away on her big strip of chicken and cried when it was finished! I didn’t have seconds, but would have if I’d had the space. That’s what you get for sneaking in a pre dinner cookie!

Ingredients:

Chicken pieces with skin on (I used drumsticks and thighs, but any will do. You could also do this with skinless chicken pieces)

Smooth apricot jam

Mayonnaise

To coat 6 drumsticks and 4 thighs I used 3 large tablespoons each of the jam and mayonnaise

Method:

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C

Mix your mayonnaise and jam together

Place your chicken pieces into an oven proof dish. I like to get them slightly spaced apart rather than tightly packed to ensure they get nice and sticky all the way around. Make sure they are placed yucky side up, then smear half the jam mix onto your chicken. Cover with foil and bake for roughly 30 minutes. Turn the pieces over so they’re nice (skin) side up and coat with the remaining jam mix before baking for a further 20 minutes uncovered.

I also removed the chicken from the roasting pan and deglazed it with some boiling water and reduced it for a sauce.

We served ours with brown rice, peas and steamed green beans. Not particularly exciting, but child friendly. They would also be lovely served with a warm lentil salad. Nom nom nom,