Easy Chicken with Pesto

Jamie Oliver has a lot of recipes where you arrange all the ingredients in a shallow baking tray, stick it in the oven and Bob’s your Uncle. He calls them tray bakes.

This recipe was inspired by that idea and by the fact that I still have quite a bit of pesto which I froze in ice cube trays last summer. I want to use it before summer starts and the fresh basil in the garden is ready to use. Frozen pesto is useful in winter to spread on pizza bases (instead of tomato), to mix into pasta dishes or to garnish soups

This recipe really is easy, quick and delicious. The first photo shows the dish ready to go in the oven and the second one ready to serve.

1 kg boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 cup baby tomatoes
½ to 1 cup pitted olives, black or green
About 10 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
½ to ¾ cup pesto (home made or bought)
125g creamy goat’s cheese or feta
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra Virgin olive oil
A few sprigs of thyme (optional)

Preheat oven to 180°C. Trim chicken thighs and cut them in half. Arrange in one layer in a shallow baking dish tin. Arrange the tomatoes, olives and garlic evenly, tucking them in between the chicken pieces. Put blobs of pesto and small chunks of cheese evenly over the dish, season with salt and pepper, add a few small sprigs of fresh thyme (if available) and drizzle with some olive oil. Bake for 45 minutes, turning chicken over halfway through the cooking time.

Serve with couscous, rice, mashed potatoes or crusty bread, to soak up the juices and a mixed salad.

Serves 4

Variations: use chicken drumsticks or thighs with bones and skin.

Maple-Glazed Chicken with Prosciutto

Food writer and restaurant critic Jill Dupleix has been contributing to the Australian food scene for several decades.

This is one of her recipes, slightly adapted. The original version uses a mixture of two tablespoons each of maple syrup, miso and soy sauce to brush onto the chicken before baking. It’s quite a salty mixture and I found I had far too much, so when I made it the second time I used half. I also omitted the garnish of deep fried vermicelli noodles, which I don’t think is necessary. Depending on the size of your prosciutto slices, you will need one or two per serving. You can get away without tying the bundles with kitchen string, but they’re less likely to burst open if you do.

6 large chicken thighs, skinless and boneless
4 spring onions, all the white and most of the green
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbs olive oil
6 or 12 thin slices prosciutto (or rindless streaky bacon)
1 Tbs miso paste
1 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs maple syrup
To serve:
1 spring onion
Mashed sweet potatoes
A green vegetable such as peas or brussels sprouts

Trim chicken thighs of any excess fatty bits. Place chopped spring onions, garlic and oil in food processor and process until chunky-smooth. Place prosciutto on work surface, slightly overlapping if you’re using two. Place a chicken thigh on top. Spread each one with some of the spring onion mixture, then roll up, placing the join underneath and tie with a piece of kitchen string. Place chicken rolls on a baking tray lined with baking paper. If liked, prepare ahead to this stage and leave in the fridge for up to a few hours.

Preheat oven to 180°C. Mix miso paste, soy sauce and maple syrup and brush over the rolls. Bake for 25-30 mins or until cooked through. They will take slightly longer if they’ve been in the fridge prior to cooking.

To make the garnish, cut spring onion into 4 cm lengths, then into very thin strips. Place these in a bowl of iced water so they curl. Serve each chicken roll on a nest of mashed sweet potatoes, either whoile or sliced, garnished with the spring onion curls and green peas.

Serves 6

Vietnamese Roast Chicken

If you’re bored with the usual roast chicken, try this easy alternative with Vietnamese flavours.

Instead of cooking it in the oven you could use a barbecue. If you prefer boneless, skinless chicken pieces it will also work, though the chicken might be a bit dry, so I suggest you add a tablespoonful of oil to the marinade. Leftovers are nice cold or reheated for lunch next day.

6-8 chicken thighs, skin on, bone in
Marinade:
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup Asian fish sauce
¼ cup palm sugar or brown sugar
1 Tbs grated fresh ginger
2 tsp Sambal Oelek (or other hot chilli paste)
Juice of 1 lime or ½ lemon
1 tsp finely grated lime or lemon zest
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbs finely chopped coriander (including some of the stalks)
Garnish:
Lime wedges
Coriander leaves
Steamed rice

Mix marinade ingredients and pour over chicken pieces in a dish. Mix well then cover and marinate for 1-2 hours at room temperature or overnight in the fridge. Turn chicken over from time to time.

Preheat oven to 210°C. Place a rack over a baking tray to catch the drips. You can line the tray with baking paper to make washing up easier. Drain chicken (discarding marinade) and arrange on the rack. Bake for 35-45 mins or until cooked through when tested with a sharp knife.

Transfer to serving platter, garnish with lime wedges and coriander and serve with steamed rice.

Serves 4

 

Chicken Teriyaki

This chicken recipe is easy and delicious. Perfect for a family dinner but also perfect for a BBQ with friends – just double the quantities and arrange on a large serving platter, with the rice underneath and the chicken arranged over the top.

The spring onion slices in the photo are huge because they’re from the garden and everything seems to grow huge at the farm! Any leftovers are good cold.

 

8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 1kg)
Marinade:
½ cup soy sauce
½ cup sugar
1 Tbs grated fresh ginger
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cinnamon stick
1 Tbs lemon juice
¼ cup water
To garnish and finish:
Extra water
1 Tbs cornflour
Thinly sliced spring onions
Toasted sesame seeds
Steamed rice

Place trimmed chicken pieces in a heavy-duty sealable plastic bag. Place all ingredients for marinade in a saucepan and heat until sugar has dissolved, then cool. Pour into bag with chicken, close the bag and leave in the fridge overnight. Best to put the bag into a bowl just in case it leaks.

Drain chicken and set aside. Pour marinade through a sieve and discard the cinnamon and other bits. Place marinade in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Mix cornflour with 2 Tbs extra water and add to the marinade, stirring until sauce thickens. Sauce should be the consistency of heavy pouring cream. If it’s too thick add a tablespoon or two more water.

Preheat a grill or BBQ. Lightly brush chicken on all sides with the sauce and cook for 4-5 mins each side, or until cooked through and nicely glazed. Reheat sauce.

Slice chicken and serve on a bed of steamed rice, drizzled with some sauce and garnished with spring onions and toasted sesame seeds.

Serves 4

 

Chicken Breast with Lemon and Capers

Looking for something tasty to serve mid-week? This easy recipe is one you will probably make again and again. It’s easy to halve the quantities if there are only two of you. Adding extra butter to the sauce at the end is very French and decadent, so if you’re worried about cholesterol by all means leave it out.

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/3 cup plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
2 eggs, beaten
1¼ cups Panko breadcrumbs
60g Parmesan cheese, grated
25g butter
1 Tbs olive oil
½ cup dry white wine
2 Tbs lemon juice
2 Tbs drained capers
50g butter
2 Tbs finely chopped parsley

Hammer out the chicken breasts a bit with a meat mallet to an even thickness. If the breasts are huge, trim some off and keep for another meal – a stir-fry for example. Place seasoned flour, beaten eggs and Panko crumbs mixed with grated cheese in three separate shallow bowls. Coat each chicken breast first in the flour, then the beaten egg and lastly the crumb mixture, patting it on firmly.

Heat the 25g butter and olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the chicken for 5-7 minutes each side, or until golden brown and cooked through. Check with a sharp knife if you’re unsure. Remove chicken from pan and keep warm while you prepare the sauce.

Wipe out frying pan and add the wine and lemon juice. Cook for 2-3 minutes over moderately high heat, until reduced by about half. Add capers and the 50g butter cut into smaller bits, stirring constantly, until butter has barely melted. If sauce splits add a tablespoon of cold water and stir briskly until it emulsifies again. Add parsley, season to taste and spoon over the chicken. Serve with a green vegetable.

Serves 4

Las Vegas Country Club Salad

The Las Vegas Strip in Clark County, Nevada USA is famous for its hotels and casinos, many of which have amazing architecture and lights.

But there’s more to Vegas than the Strip. Normal people live normal lives in the rest of the town. They go to work or school and rarely go to the touristy area. We recently visited two cousins who live in Las Vegas proper, where they both work as lawyers. It was great to catch up and to cross the nearby Grand Canyon off our bucket list. We splurged and went by helicopter and it was indeed an amazing experience.

Tom and Bob both live in houses located in the grounds of the Las Vegas Country Club and we stayed with Bob. Invited to the Club house for lunch on the day we arrived,  I chose this delicious, healthy salad which was so good I decided to try and replicate it on my return.

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Mesclun or small lettuce leaves
12 large slices of tomato
12 spears asparagus
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
1-2 pita breads
Olive oil and grated Parmesan
Paprika
Chicken and Walnut Salad
2 cups cooked roast chicken, diced
½ cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans
2-3 Tbs mayonnaise, preferably home-made
Salt and pepper to taste
Tuna and Celery Salad
2 cups canned tuna, drained
½ cup very finely diced celery
2-3 Tbs mayonnaise, preferably home-made
1 Tbs finely chopped red onion
Salt and pepper to taste
Egg and Chive Salad

2 cups diced hard boiled eggs (about 5 or 6), diced
¼ cup snipped chives
2-3 Tbs mayonnaise, preferably home-made
Salt and pepper to taste

Make mayonnaise then make the three different salads by mixing all ingredients together. Use enough mayonnaise to bind the ingredients together. Refrigerate till serving time.

Split pita breads in half horizontally, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with some finely grated Parmesan. Cut into long pointy pieces then bake at 180°C for 10-15 mins or until crisp and golden. Cool.

Wash and trim asparagus and cook in boiling salted water for about 4 mins. Drain and cool. All of this can be done ahead. To serve, arrange salad leaves on four serving dishes – rectangular ones look good. Then place three tomato slices on each plate.

Find a small rounded bowl, ramekin or measuring cup which holds about half a cup. The diameter needs to be about the size of the tomato slices.

Spray with oil, fill with about a quarter of the mixture and pack down well. Tip out onto a tomato slice. Rinse, dry and re-oil then repeat with the other salads, so each serving has a mound of each. If preferred just dollop it on with a tablespoon.

Garnish plates with asparagus, hard boiled egg slices, a shake of paprika and a couple of pita toasts.

Serves 4

Chicken with Apricots and Sweet Potatoes

This easy recipe is perfect for a mid-week family dinner.

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1 kg skinless boneless chicken thighs
2 Tbs olive oil
2 medium onions, finely slice
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbs grated ginger
1 tsp each ground cumin, paprika and cinnamon
¼ cup fruit chutney such as mango or tomato
½ cup dried apricots, halved if large
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into wedges
1½ cups chicken stock
1 can chopped tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
To serve:
Chopped fresh coriander
Couscous

Trim chicken and cut into 2-3cm chunks. In a large deep frying pan heat oil and cook the onions and garlic over medium heat, stirring often, until soft but not brown. Add the ginger and spices and cook for another 1-2 minutes, stirring. Add chutney, dried apricots, sweet potato, chicken stock and tinned tomatoes. Cover, lower the heat and simmer, stirring often for 20-30 minutes or until chicken is tender.

Sprinkle with coriander and serve with couscous.

Serves 4-6

Crispy Chicken with Herb Sauce

My mother could make a chicken last three days, even though there were five of us in the family.

Roast on Sunday, curried or cold on Monday and soup on Tuesday. Nothing was wasted and the idea wasn’t to fill up on chicken, but on the accompaniments. There were always lots of roast vegetables with the Sunday roast, rice with the curry and herb dumplings and vegetables in the soup. Fortunately those days of austerity are gone.

I’m always looking for new ways to roast a whole chicken and this recipe, where you immerse it in brine overnight, caught my eye. It really does make a difference, resulting in very crispy skin and succulent meat. Serve it with roast potatoes and a green vegetable or salad. The sauce is delicious served with pretty much anything. Yes I know there’s only one lemon in the photo, but we were at the farm (45 minutes from the nearest shop) and I only had two and used one in the sauce!

Crispy Chicken with Herb Sauce

1 whole chicken, weighing about 1.8kg
3 lemons, cut in halves
Olive oil
Fresh herbs to garnish
Brine
3 Litres water
¾ cup salt
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp each coriander and cumin seeds
½ an onion peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs chopped fresh thyme or 2 tsp dried
Herb Sauce
A handful each parsley, coriander and mint leaves
A handful of baby spinach leaves
2 Tbs tahini
100ml extra virgin olive oil
Finely grated rind and juice 1 lemon
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 Tbs water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place chicken on a chopping board, breast side down. Using poultry shears cut along one side of the backbone, then along the other side, remove and discard or keep for making stock. Turn chicken over and press hard on the breast bone to flatten it out.

Place all ingredients for brine in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Cool then place chicken in the brine and refrigerate overnight, covered. Next day remove chicken from brine, pat dry with paper towels, then leave in the fridge on a plate, uncovered, for at least an hour and up to several hours, so the skin dries out. Discard the brine.

For the Herb sauce, place herbs and spinach leaves in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Drain, rinse under a cold tap, then squeeze out all the water, put into food processor with remaining ingredients and whiz till you have a thick green sauce.

Brush chicken and lemon halves all over with oil then place in a roasting pan and roast in a hot oven at 200°C or on a barbecue for about an hour, or until chicken is browned and crispy. Turn chicken and lemon halves over about halfway through cooking time.

When chicken is ready carve and arrange on serving platter with the lemon halves and some fresh herbs.

Serves 4

Chicken and Leek Gratin

My friend Franca raved about this Chicken and Leek Gratin by Annabel Langbein so I couldn’t wait to try it. It lived up to its reputation and got a big tick firstly because it’s delicious and secondly because it’s quick to make.

Chicken and Leek GratinCreamed Leeks:
2-4 leeks, depending on size
3 Tbs butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper ½ cup cream
Chicken layer:
8-12 boneless skinless chicken thighs
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs fresh or 1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp salt
Crust:
2 cups sourdough breadcrumbs (left quite chunky)
2-4 cloves garlic
1 cup chopped parsley
3 anchovies
1 tsp fresh rosemary
Grated rind 1 lemon
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
50g butter

Wash, trim and chop the leeks, using all the white and a bit of the green part . Heat butter in a medium frying pan and cook leeks for 5-10 mins or until softened. Add the cream and season to taste. Spread leeks over the base of a buttered ovenproof lasagne-type dish.

For the chicken layer, if liked cut each chicken piece in two then mix with remaining ingredients and arrange over the leeks.

For the crust, make the crumbs first in a food process then add the remaining ingredients and pulse a few times to chop and combine, but don’t over-do it. Spread over the chicken.

Recipe can be made ahead to this stage and kept in the fridge for up to 24 hours, covered or out of the fridge for an hour or two. Allow to come to room temperature.

Cook in a preheated oven at 180°C for 50-60 minutes or until nicely browned and chicken is tender when pierced with a skewer.

Serves 6-8

Quick Chicken Satay

Everyone loves chicken satay and this recipe can be made in no time with ingredients you probably have in the pantry. It’s easy to halve for two or three people.

The first time I made this the washer upper complained that the frying pan was very difficult to clean, because of the honey. A week or so later I was chatting to a friend about the virtues of using non-stick baking paper to line an oven tray when you’re baking salmon or chicken, so there’s nothing to wash up. My friend said this trick also works when you’re cooking something in a frying pan.

So I tried it and it works. Just cut a circle of non-stick baking paper to fit the base of the pan and cook the satays on top. It doesn’t affect how they brown and the pan is so much easier to clean. No complaints from the washer upper this time.

DSCF11481 kg lean chicken thigh meat
Marinade:
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbs oil
2 tsp turmeric
1 Tbs honey
½ tsp salt
Sauce:
¼ cup peanut butter
¼ cup Thai sweet chilli sauce
1 tsp fish sauce
2 tsp soy sauce
1/3 cup tinned coconut milk (shake can first)
To serve:
Steamed rice
Lime or lemon wedges
Sliced red or white onion and cucumber

Cut chicken thigh into cubes. Mix marinade ingredients and add chicken. Leave to marinate for at least half an hour. Meanwhile, soak 16-20 short wooden bamboo skewers in warm water.

Thread chicken cubes onto skewers. Heat a large non-stick frying pan or griddle pan and cook satays for a minute or two on all four sides, until cooked through and browned.

Meanwhile mix all ingredients for sauce. Serve satays with the sauce, steamed rice, sliced onion, cucumber and lemon wedges.

Serves 6