Archive for the ‘Chicken’ Category

The pressure’s on in Hong Kong, when it comes to food, as so much of it is so expensive, particularly meat and fish which we buy imported from Australia or the US. If you mess up a roast chicken, hard I know, that’s twenty quid down the drain. Apparently much of the local stuff is full of pollutants, or hormones, or who knows what. It’s a shame because hunkered down beneath the skyscrapers, the banks and the big-brand mega stores are thriving markets. The classic one to go to for food is in Wanchai, east of the financial district, near the immigration department. I went there yesterday morning early to catch the good stuff and was the only Westerner in sight. Sadly they see the blonde giraffe coming a mile off and prices double. At the flower stall I asked the price of some lillies and was told $25 per stem (about £2), the Chinese customer next to me asked in an audibly shocked voice ‘$25???’ and I’m pretty sure the stall holder said, ‘no, no, not for you’ so we moved on.

I let my helper do the bulk of the shopping just pointing out stuff I like the look of or need. She haggles, squeezes fruit and veg with a trained eye and checks the scales before they weigh them, which it wouldn’t have occurred to me to try. She announces certain things ‘no good’ and we move on to the next stall. There is a sort of flick of the chin which means ‘OK I’ll take it’ which I must learn to perfect. Everything looks clean and abundant; there are stalls with simply heaps of bok choi, pak choy, choy sum – they all appear the same to me but some are better for stir-fries, others for dumplings, some for fish. There are stalls of incense, medicine, loo rolls, nuts, clucking chickens, rose petals… I have so much to learn. Never more so than when staring at a tank of live fish. Again I defer to my helper who looks each fish in the eye and pronounces it ‘maybe good’. If they have any damage to the scales around their mouth, they have been nosing the sides of the tank for a while and are ‘old’. She can’t imagine buying a fish fillet in a plastic tray – how would you know how fresh it was? We bought a fish, again expensively, which I didn’t see die, it just appeared in a plastic bag of ice. We ate it steamed with ginger, spring onions, coriander and soy sauce and it was delicious. Apparently you can taste the pollution from the Pearl River delta in the delicate flesh of the fish but I honestly couldn’t. I will try buying fish online, as I’m sure there’s truth in the rumours of metal pollution, but it’s so much more fun to buy like this.

I didn’t see any alligators on my trip to the market so substituted (Australian, imported) skinless chicken breasts for this recipe, you can also use pork loin or prawns. It’s from Jamie Oliver’s ‘Jamie’s America’, the inspiration for this recipe coming from Louisiana. The bright colours and sharp salsa appealed to me as the weather has been cloudless and warm after weeks of grey and cold. Judging from the popularity of the the sweet potato gratin featured on this site it should be a hit, it is heartwarming and comforting. It’s also really easy and requires very little preparation. Do marinate the chicken for as long as you can, I definitely felt it made a difference. I didn’t see any green tomatoes, but had a punnet of cherry tomatoes in need of eating so used those. I didn’t deseed them and Jamie was right that it made the salsa a bit wet. Over to you on whether you can be bothered…

Cajun chicken with sweet potato and salsa

Serves 4

4 sweet potatoes (approx 200g each), wrapped in foil

750g alligator tail, chicken breasts or pork loin, cut into 1cm thick slices

For the cajun marinade:

1 level tsp cayenne pepper

1 level tsp paprika

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

a small bunch of fresh oregano, leaves picked [I didn’t use any]

a small bunch of thyme, leaves picked

1 fresh bay leaf, spine removed, leaf torn into pieces [I used a dried one]

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp wholegrain mustard

For the salsa:

3 spring onions, trimmed and very finely chopped

1/2 a fresh red chilli, or to taste, deseeded and finely chopped

2 green tomatoes, finely chopped

1 red tomato, deseeded and finely chopped

a small bunch of fresh curly parsley, finely chopped

2 tbsp cider vinegar

6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Start by making the marinade. Whack [so Jamie to say that] the cayenne, paprika and a pinch each of salt and pepper into a pestle and mortar with the fresh herbs and grind them together. Add your garlic, olive oil and mustard and grind again – the oil will help all the flavours come out. When you’ve got a thick treacly paste, transfer it to a large bowl and toss your pieces of meat in it until they are completely coated. Cover with clingfilm, then pop the bowl into the fridge and leave for at least 20 to 30 minutes or, if you really want those flavours to do their work, for a few hours or even overnight.

Preheat your oven to 200C/400F/gas 6 and pop your foil-wrapped sweet potatoes in to roast for about 1 hour. When they’re nearly ready, make your salsa. It’s lovely and fresh, with the right amount of heat, crunch, herbiness, acid and salt to bring it all to life. Put all your salsa ingredients into a bowl, with a good pinch of sea salt to bring out the flavour of the tomatoes. Give it all a good mix.

When the sweet potatoes are ready, take them out of the oven but leave them in the foil so they stay warm. Put a large pan or wok on a high heat and get it ‘screaming’ hot. Quickly but carefully add your pieces of marinated meat and let them cook for a few minutes on each side so they get some nice colour.

Unwrap your sweet potatoes and put them on plates. Score them down the middle, then gently squeeze them so they pucker up. Serve your lovely cooked meat on top, and cover with a few spoonfuls of fresh salsa. And that’s it – beautiful meat, soft sweet potatoes and fresh lively salsa!






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I’m a big fan of Australian cooks and their whole approach to food. They don’t seem to have any major hang ups about what they’re eating and are less about showing off than simply feeding friends and family. Having said that, they have certain natural advantages over us like a great climate, wonderful produce and massive bbq’s. I once stayed with some Aussies in Sydney who used their barbecue as an extension of their kitchen. It was on the balcony outside the kitchen door and dishes would be cooked on both the hob and the range outside. Quite a revelation for an English girl used to waiting an hour for the charcoal to be hot enough…

This recipe comes from Bill Granger and his book ‘Feed Me Now’ (Quadrille, £20) a great title to include on this blog and well worth dipping in to for simple recipes you can rustle up in no time. This dish is SO easy. Appropriately I made this when an Aussie friend came round for dinner when the husband was out. She arrived just as I was bathing and feeding my little girl so she ended up helping out with the cooking while I put her to bed. Gotta love that ‘can do’ attitude…

You may be thinking there’s nothing particularly interesting about baked chicken, and this is a really simple recipe, but what made it a little different to me and stops everything from drying out, was adding the stock, tomato paste and balsamic vinegar. The end result was a little sticky, not dry at all, and finished in one sitting.

Baked chicken with lemon, potato and green olives

Prep time: 10 mins Cooking time: 50 mins

Serves 4 [I sort of halved the ingredients for 2, less potatoes and chicken but probably similar amounts of the rest]

1 kg roasting potatoes, such as Desiree

1 red onion, peeled and cut into wedges

75g green olives

1 lemon, sliced

50g pancetta, cut into strips

2 bay leaves

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

120ml chicken stock

1 x 1.7kg chicken, jointed

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

chopped flat leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Cut the potatoes into chunks and place in a roasting tin or oven proof dish. Scatter over the onion, olives, lemon, pancetta and bay leaves. Stir the tomato paste and balsamic vinegar into the chicken stock, then pour over the potatoes. Lay the chicken pieces on top, drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 50 minutes or until the chicken is golden.

Transfer the chicken pieces to a warm plate, cover with foil and set aside to rest in a warm place. Increase the oven setting to 220C/Gas 7 and return the roasting tin or dish to the oven for 10 minutes or until the potatoes, onion and lemon slices are well coloured.

Place the chicken back on top of the potatoes, scatter over some chopped parsley if you like, and serve.



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Well the little babe has arrived and my goodness she is cute. Which is lucky as she does cry quite a lot due to wind (apparently) and also hates being bathed, having her nappy changed, getting bored, being tired and so on. I’ve been experimenting with finding the source of her wind and have been told to stick to a diet of ‘bland food’ – not great for someone who loves to eat. Apparently the main culprits of her misery are brassicas, broccoli, tomatoes, dairy, chocolate, citrus fruits – most things that are in season now. Its not easy and I am beginning to think that actually nothing I eat makes any difference whatsoever, she still has wind whether I stick to meat and potatoes or not. I’m just hoping this phase will soon pass.

In the meantime I’m trying to think of what is left when you’ve cut out the above and this has driven me to chicory. This recipe, served last night, received a rapturous reception from the husband and the maternity nurse (1 week left and counting) who was writing it out this morning to take home with her. It is, once again, a Nigel Slater but I’ve got back to his beginnings and this is taken from Real Food. It’s wonderfully easy and though it says to cook for one hour in the oven I did it for half an hour as otherwise we’d have all starved to death. Apart from the babe of course who was well fed and the cause of the delay in the first place.

Chicken braised with chicory and creme fraiche

Serves 3

Prep: 10 mins Cooking: 1 hour [or less]

2 tbsp groundnut oil

a thick slice of butter, about 30g

6 large free range chicken pieces, bone in (drumsticks, thighs, breast)

3 heads of chicory, cut in half lengthways

2 tsp brown sugar

3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped

juice of a lemon

125ml medium-dry white wine

180ml creme fraiche

a few sprigs of parsley, chopped

Heat the oil and butter in a large, deep, heavy casserole, one to which you have a lid. When the butter starts to bubble, carefully put in the chicken pieces – in two batches if you need to – and cook them till they are golden on each side. Try not to move them too often, then you will get a nice browny crust on the skin.

Lift the chicken out of the pan and set aside. If the butter and oil mixture is still in good condition, you can use it for the next bit. If it looks a bit dark, pour it out and add some more, but on no account get rid of the sticky bits on the bottom; that is where much of the flavour is. Put the chicory in the pan, then season with the sugar and some salt and pepper. Let it cook over a moderate heat until the outside leaves start to caramelise and darken and soften – a matter of about five minutes.

Add the shallots and lemon juice, then return the chicken to the pan. Pour over the wine and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for about ten minutes, until the wine and cooking juices have reduced a bit. Spoon in the creme fraiche, season with salt and pepper and stir as best you can so that the juices mingle with the cream. Cover with a lid, then put in an oven preheated to 200C/Gas 6 and leave for about an hour. Move the pieces of chicken and chicory around half way through cooking.

Lift the chicken and chicory out of the sauce with a draining spoon and put in a serving dish. Return to the oven. Add half the parsley to the sauce with a seasoning of salt and pepper and put it over a moderate heat. Let it simmer enthusiastically until it starts to thicken slightly – it should be the consistency of double cream. Add the rest of the parsley, give it a bit of a stir, then pour the sauce over the chicken. Serve with plain, floury boiled potatoes [I did mash] to soak up the juices and some green beans.

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I made this before going on holiday at the end of October and wondered if it was a bit too wintery to serve. Now I’m back and its freezing! Winter at last… We had two friends round when I did this but make it like the recipe says, for four, even if there are only two of you, as it’s delicious again and a good one for emergency suppers defrosted from the freezer. It is the perfect casserole to cook ahead of time, really, but if you’re making it for now it will be delicious anyway – it takes a good hour and the house smells fantastic as it bakes in the oven. I think this has to be served with mash potato but I suppose you could do baked. Some green beans make a good accompaniment.

The credit for this recipe goes to Jill Dupleix. She says that for a really rich flavour, take the time to boil a bottle of wine so that you reduce it by half. I didn’t do this and it seemed rich enough to me. Over to you on what you choose to do. The recipe also calls for ‘button onions’. I didn’t see any in the supermarket and to be honest I’m not sure what they are so I went for shallots. I used the same technique of pouring boiling water over them to peel but still found it a fairly fiddly job and I just made sure I chopped each shallot in half or quarters so they were fairly small. I’ve put a few comments in square brackets [ xx ] where I did something differently or didn’t agree with the recipe in some way. 

Coq au Vin

Serves 4

Prep: 30 mins Cooking: 1 hour

1 x 75cl bottle red wine or 1/2 bottle for a lighter flavour

4 large chicken thighs

4 chicken drumsticks or 2 chicken breasts

some seasoned plain flour, to dust

3tbsp olive oil, plus extra for frying button onions

50g butter

2 fat cloves garlic, chopped

2 sprigs fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

1 sprig fresh tarragon or basil

1 medium onion, diced

150g lardons or streaky bacon, chopped

300ml chicken stock

200g button onions

300g chestnut mushrooms, sliced or baby button mushrooms

142ml pot double cream

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 180C, Gas 4. Toss the chicken pieces in the seasoned flour [I find it easiest to do this by tipping the lot in a large freezer bag, rather than a bowl where I inevitably get flour all over myself, the kitchen…]. If using breasts, cut each in half [I didn’t as I imagine they’d get a bit tough, bones are needed here I think]. You should have 2 pieces of chicken per portion. Brown the pieces in the oil and butter in a frying pan, adding garlic and seasoning. [I tried adding the garlic and it burnt horribly while I was browning the pieces so I fished them out and started again, adding them to the diced onion and lardons at the next stage instead.]

Remove the pieces to a casserole. Add the diced onion and half the lardons or bacon together with the herbs [and garlic] and saute for 5 minutes till softened. Pour in the wine and stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 2 -3 minutes, then pour over the chicken. Cover and bake for 40 minutes, then remove the chicken breasts if using so they won’t overcook [but i reckon they’ll still be chewy]. Return the casserole to the oven and cook for another 20 minutes until the legs are tender. [At this point I left the casserole to cool and then put it in the fridge until I wanted it later]

Meanwhile, blanch the button onions for a few seconds in boiling water, then drain and cool. Peel the skins. Heat some more oil in the frying pan and saute the onions until golden brown along with the remaining lardons. Set aside. Add extra oil to the pan and saute the mushrooms for about 10 minutes until nicely browned. 

Remove the chicken pieces and keep warm. Strain the sauce into a shallow pan (discarding the onion and bacon, which have given up their flavour) and boil until reduced by half, then stir in the cream and cook for 5 minutes. [ I didn’t reduce by half as if I had I wouldn’t have had any sauce left – I do have a very hot oven tho so my advice here would be to see what you think and how much sauce you want, it was very tasty without having to reduce it much further so don’t worry about that]. Check the seasoning, mix in the chicken along with the freshly cooked lardons, onions and mushrooms. 



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I made this on Thursday night and it wasn’t a very auspicious first attempt. My husband didn’t make it home from work till 9.30pm, said he wasn’t very hungry anyway, ate some, grunted, watched a bit of TV, grunted, and then went to bed. Plus I couldn’t find any tarragon so had to use basil that when cooked just didn’t have the aromatic flavour required, or any fresh thyme, so I had to use dried. Sigh. Plus I couldn’t find a suitable dish for the gratin and I didn’t have any tarragon vinegar so tried cider instead. All in all not a great success but I like the idea of the recipe so have decided to include it. Plus, as mentioned before, if you happen to be living off a glut of courgettes then you can never have too many variations on the theme….

I found the recipe in Australian Gourmet Traveller in 2004, it’s by Kathleen Gandy. It has a few cup measurements instead of grams but I think they are mostly fairly easy to guesstimate equivalents. But I did take the trouble to change every ‘zucchini’ to courgette. 

Tarragon roast chicken with courgette gratin

Serves 4

Prep: 20 mins Cooking: 1 hour

100g soft butter

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

2tbsp chopped fresh tarragon

1tsp tarragon vinegar

1.7kg organic chicken, cut into 8 pieces

125ml dry white wine

For the gratin:

4 courgettes (about 480g), trimmed and thinly sliced on the diagonal

1/3 cup creme fraiche

15g (1/4 cup) day-old breadcrumbs

2tbsp grated parmesan

3 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked

40g butter, chopped

Place butter, garlic, tarragon and vinegar in a bowl, season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, then mash with a fork until well combined. Place the chicken pieces in a roasting pan, then rub tarragon butter all over the chicken and under the skin. Pour the wine into the base of the roasting pan, then roast at 200C for 45 minutes or until the chicken is crisp and golden and just cooked through.

Meanwhile, for the gratin, cook the courgettes in boiling salted water for 5 minutes, then drain and cool slightly. Place the courgettes and creme fraiche in a bowl, season to taste and stir to combine. Transfer the courgette mixture to a 4-cup capacity ovenproof dish or four 1-cup capacity ovenproof dishes. Combine with breadcrumbs, parmesan and thyme, sprinkle over the courgette mixture and dot with chopped butter. Cook the gratin at 200C for 10 – 15 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are brown and crisp. Serve with the roast chicken.

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