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

Salted Caramel Pots de Creme

As we were about to fly out of Los Angeles I was browsing through cookbooks in the airport bookshop and came across one published by a restaurant in LA called Gjelina. Some of the recipes made my mouth water, so a visit to this restaurant is definitely on the “to do” list for next time.

Salted Caramel (or Butterscotch) Pots de Crème is one of Gjelina’s signature dishes and everyone says they’re to die for. As with all good recipes, word has got around and there are now several different versions online. Before attempting to make them I read through several variations, as well as numerous comments from readers who had tried them. The variations included different amounts of egg yolks and cream, how long to cook the desserts to ensure they set and whether to serve them with whipped cream or crème fraîche. Our verdict is that they are nice with either, so it’s up to you.

This dessert is sweet and sinful but OMG it’s good.

75g butter
½ cup brown sugar
600ml cream
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla essence
3 egg yolks
Caramel:
½ cup sugar
6 Tbs water
To serve:
Whipped cream or Crème fraîche (or sour cream)
Maldon salt flakes

Preheat oven to 165°C. Melt butter and brown sugar then let it bubble over moderate heat for 3-4 minutes. Swirl pan occasionally and watch it doesn’t burn. Whisk in the cream slowly with a balloon (hand) whisk. Return to the boil, stirring then add the salt and vanilla. Whisk egg yolks in a mixing bowl then pour in the hot cream mixture, whisking all the time. Strain through a sieve and pour into 6 small ramekins or coffee cups.

Place ramekins in a baking dish or pan and pour boiling water to come halfway up. Cover with foil then bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until set but still slightly wobbly. Cool then refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight, covered.

Caramel: Place sugar and water in a pan and heat until dissolved. Cook over moderate heat, swirling the pan from time to time, until whisky-coloured. Pour a little caramel on top of each dessert, tipping so it covers. The caramel will set hard and you need to serve the desserts soon afterwards. If you do this stage ahead of time and put the desserts back in the fridge the caramel may become chewy. Actually it’s quite nice but much harder to eat chewy toffee than hard caramel in polite company! So I suggest you add the caramel topping close to serving time..

Serve the pots de crème with whipped cream or crème fraîche or sour cream and a few flakes of Maldon salt flakes.

Serves 6

Individual Black Forest Trifles

In 1915 Josef Keller, pastry chef at the Café Ahrend in Bad Godesberg in south-west Germany, invented the Black Forest Cake, using a local liqueur made with sour cherries to produce a distinctive flavour. His winning combination of chocolate and cherries went on to become famous around the world.

Here I’ve used the same ingredients to make a quick and easy dessert, layered in a glass. For an authentic flavour it’s worth investing in a bottle of cherry brandy, but a dash of ordinary brandy or your favourite liqueur will do.

I wanted to decorate each trifle with a fresh cherry, but tried three supermarkets and there wasn’t a fresh cherry to be had, it being mid-winter here.

You can also make this trifle in one large glass dish.

Chocolate cake (bought or homemade)
Cherry jam (I used Hero’s Black Cherry)
Preserved cherries in a can or jar (I used a 680g jar of Aldi’s pitted Morellos)
2 heaped tsp arrowroot
Cherry brandy or brandy (optional)
Chocolate Ganache:
350ml cream
50ml milk
200g dark chocolate (I used Cadbury’s Old Gold 70%)
To decorate:
250ml cream, extra
Fresh cherries
Grated chocolate

Slice cake horizontally and fill with a generous layer of cherry jam, then stick the two halves back together. You will need a third to half a jar of jam. Cut slices or chunks of cake and arrange a piece in 8 glass tumblers. If liked, drizzle each with a tablespoonful or two of cherry brandy or brandy.

Place cherries in a saucepan with most of the juice and heat to boiling point. Mix arrowroot with the rest of the juice until smooth, then add this to the cherries and cook, stirring, until thickened. Spoon cherries over the chocolate cake.

Place cream and milk in a small saucepan. Add chocolate, broken into squares, then heat to boiling point, stirring until chocolate has completely dissolved. Spoon chocolate ganache over the cherries and shake glass to spread evenly. Desserts can be made ahead to this point and kept in the fridge, covered, for several hours or overnight.

Whip extra cream until soft peaks form, then place a large dollop on each trifle. Decorate with a fresh cherry on its stalk (if available) and some grated chocolate.

Serves 8

Variations: Use fresh pitted cherries, stewed with a little sugar, in season. Use milk chocolate instead of dark. Use a different red fruit jam. Arrowroot is available in the cake ingredients section of the supermarket.

Salmon Tartare with Orange and Passionfruit

This starter, adapted from a recipe I found for smoked salmon, is delicious and light. If you’re a fan of sushi you won’t be put off by the idea of eating uncooked salmon. It really doesn’t taste raw, but you could always use smoked salmon or Gravlax instead of the raw fish.

The flavour combination of salmon, orange and passionfruit is a winner.

About 750g fresh salmon or salmon trout
2 cups fresh or bottled orange juice
1 tsp honey
Pulp from 4-5 passionfruit
2-3 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh dill
Pink Peppercorns

Remove skin then cut salmon into small bite-sized pieces. Refrigerate while you make the sauce. Sieve the orange juice to remove any pulp. You will need 2 cups after sieving. Place in a saucepan and boil to reduce to about two thirds of a cup. Place in a jam jar with the honey, passionfruit pulp, oil and seasonings and shake well. Adjust the amount of passionfruit pulp and oil to taste.

Mix half the dressing with the salmon then divide among the plates in a pile in the middle. Spoon additional dressing over and around the salmon then garnish with the dill and pink peppercorns. You may not need all the dressing.

Serves 6

Variation: to make a more substantial dish add some diced avocado and serve on a bed of lettuce or rocket leaves.

Note: so-called pink peppercorns are not peppercorns at all. They have a very special, slightly perfumed flavour and can be found in specialty cook shops such as The Essential Ingredient. They go well with any salmon dish.

Pork and Prawn Wontons

I was inspired to make these tasty little morsels after watching a cooking show on TV where one of the contestants made fried wontons.

I  came up with this recipe by combining ingredients from two I found online. It made 26 so I served half one night, fried and half two nights later, steamed. The fried ones were nicer but the steamed ones were probably healthier. I’ve included a photo of both. Wonton wrappers are available in many supermarkets and all Asian grocery stores.

200g pork mince (or pork/veal mince)
100g peeled cooked or raw prawn meat, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 Tbs hoisin or oyster sauce
½ tsp Chinese five spice
2 spring onions, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1 egg white
1 packet wonton wrappers (you will need 24-26)
Vegetable oil for frying
To serve:
Sweet chilli sauce
Snipped chives or sliced spring onions

Mix the mince, prawn meat, garlic, ginger, hoisin or oyster sauce, five spice and spring onions and season. Place a heaped teaspoon of filling on each wonton wrapper. Using your finger put a little egg white along two adjacent edges, then seal the wonton into a triangle. Bring two edges together and overlap then press to seal, as shown in photo.

You can fry the wontons in a deep fat fryer or in a wok where you will need the oil to be a minimum of 5cm deep. Or they can be steamed. If frying cook, a few at a time, for 1-2 mins or until cooked through and golden. Drain on paper towel. If steaming they will take 5-6 minutes. Serve with sweet chilli sauce for dipping and garnish with the snipped chives and a vegetable salad.

Makes 24-26

Tomato and Goat’s Cheese Tart

Semi-dried tomatoes, sold in the deli section of most Australian supermarkets, were the inspiration for this colourful recipe.

If you can’t buy them where you live make your own by slicing some Roma tomatoes in half lengthwise and putting them on a rack, cut side up, over a shallow tray in a low oven (about 140°c), sprinkled with a little salt, pepper and sugar, for 3-4 hours. When they look somewhat shrivelled and semi-dried remove and drizzle with a little olive oil. You don’t want too much moisture left in them or the tart will be soggy.

As we ate this delicious tart we agreed that toasted pine nuts would be a good additional garnish for next time.

1 sheet bought puff pastry
2 large onions, sliced
¼ cup olive oil
2 tsp sugar
good pinch of salt
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
½ cup water
300g semi-dried tomatoes from the supermarket Deli
110g soft goat’s cheese
To garnish:
Fresh basil leaves
Toasted pine nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 180°C. Roll out pastry and use to line a large metal tart tin. Prick all over with a fork then bake blind (without filling) for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

Meanwhile heat oil in a large frying pan and cook the onions gently for about 15 minutes or until soft. Add the sugar, salt and balsamic vinegar and continue to cook, stirring, for 5-10 minutes longer. Add half the water, stir well then continue cooking, stirring often, until it has evaporated. Repeat with the rest of the water. Turn off heat.

Spread onions over base of tart. Top with tomatoes and arrange the crumbled cheese in between. Bake for 25-30 mins or until pastry is golden brown and the cheese and tomatoes are starting to brown.

Cool tart for 10 minutes, then serve garnished with fresh basil leaves (and pine nuts if using) accompanied by a simple green salad.

Serves 4-6

Substitutes: use feta instead of goat’s cheese

 

Vanilla Ice Cream with Toasted Macadamias and Caramel Sauce

I was inspired to create this recipe after eating nut ice cream with caramel sauce at Pomegranate Restaurant in Canberra.

Ice cream made with glucose (corn) syrup is alleged to be softer and smoother, so I decided to see if it was true. It was one of the best vanilla ice creams I have made with a very smooth and creamy texture. I didn’t use an ice cream machine but you can if you prefer.

4 eggs
1 cup sugar
½ cup glucose (corn) syrup
1½ cups cream
1½ cups (unsweetened) evaporated milk
2 tsp arrowroot
1 tsp vanilla essence
½ tsp salt
1 cup whipping cream (extra)
Caramel Sauce:
½ cup cream
½ cup brown sugar
50g butter
To serve:
Macadamia nuts, lightly toasted then roughly chopped

Place eggs, sugar, glucose/corn syrup, cream and evaporated milk in a heavy-based saucepan and mix well with a balloon whisk. Place over medium-low heat and cook, whisking constantly until you have a custard which coats the back of a spoon. Be careful it doesn’t burn or get too hot. Mix the arrowroot with 1 tablespoonful of water and mix into the custard with the vanilla and salt. Remove from the heat and pour through a fine sieve. Cool then chill in the fridge for several hours or overnight. Whip the extra cream until soft peaks form and fold into the chilled custard.

Churn ice cream in an ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions, then scrape into a container and store in the freezer. If you don’t have an ice cream machine, pour into a shallow container and freeze until almost frozen but not rock hard, scrape into a food processor and process very briefly till smooth, then freeze again.

Caramel Sauce: place cream, brown sugar and butter in a saucepan and heat over moderate heat, stirring till dissolved. Allow to simmer for about 3 minutes then cool and serve at room temperature.

Remove ice cream from freezer and place in the fridge for 15-20 mins before serving, to make it easier to scoop. Serve the ice cream with the toffee sauce and the toasted macadamia nuts.

Makes about 1.5 litres

Variations:

  • use 3 cups cream and omit the evaporated milk.
  • use 8 egg yolks instead of 4 whole eggs. This makes the ice cream richer.
  • If preferred, fold the toasted nuts into the ice cream when you mix in the whipped cream.
  • use toasted walnuts, pecans or almonds instead of macadamias

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

 

Zucchini and Cheese Fritters

Our two zucchini plants have produced a steady crop over summer. There are a number of my favourite zucchini recipes on this blog which you can find under Vegetables in the index, but I’m always looking for new ideas.

The original recipe for these fritters (from Delicious magazine) uses Halloumi cheese, which is what I used and they were delicious. But some of my readers, living in South America for example, can’t buy Halloumi and even Feta is not easy to find. I reckon pretty much any cheese would work and I look forward to readers’ comments telling me what they used.

I would be lost without my Magimix which has a large 0.5cm grating disc that makes quick work of the grating. It didn’t come with the standard attachments – I had to buy it separately – but it’s proved to be invaluable.

About 700g zucchinis (see note below), coarsely grated
1 tsp salt
100g ham (preferably smoked) chopped (optional – leave out for vegetarians)
250g coarsely grated or crumbled cheese (Halloumi, Feta, Goat’s cheese, Cheddar)
2/3 cup self-raising flour
1/3 cup plain flour
2 eggs
½ cup chopped dill (use parsley if not available)
Pinch of dried chilli flakes
1 Tbs olive oil plus extra for frying
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Green Goddess Dressing
1 cup each of mint, dill, parsley and tarragon leaves (see note below)
1 Tbs lemon juice
½ cup sour cream
½ cup thick Greek yoghurt
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
To serve:
Salad leaves and sliced radishes

Place zucchini in a colander with the salt, mix it through with your hand then leave to stand in the sink for half an hour. Squeeze out as much of the liquid with your hand.

In a large bowl place zucchini, ham, cheese, flours, eggs, dill, chilli flakes, pepper and the 1 Tbs oil and mix thoroughly.

Heat a little olive oil in a large frying pan and cook the fritters, 3 or 4 at a time until golden brown on both sides, flattening slightly with the spatula. Drain on paper towels and keep warm while you cook the rest. Add a little more oil for each batch and use about 3 Tbs or so of mixture for each fritter.

To make the sauce, place all ingredients in food processor and whiz till smooth.

Serve fritters garnished with some salad – I used rocket and radishes but you can use anything you have available. Pass the sauce in a jug.

Makes at least 12 fritters serving 4-6

Notes:
I used one large zucchini which weighed around a kilo. I cut it lengthwise into four and then removed and discarded all the seeds. With smaller zucchini there’s no need to do this.

If you don’t have all 4 herbs for the sauce, use more of the ones you have.