Chicken Livers with Fennel, Quinoa, Hazelnuts & Mushroom Purée

This recipe is from a book called Savour: Salads for All Seasons by Peter Gordon. The recipe was shared by an online cooking friend in Germany called Michael.

Having made it I think the quinoa is optional – you could easily leave it out – and I have increased the amount of mushroom purée because I don’t think there was enough for four. With the quinoa this makes a light but satisfying main course for 4 or it would serve 6 as an unusual starter. If you don’t have fresh sage or tarragon feel free to substitute other fresh herbs.

If you like chicken livers you will love this. If not please delete!

2 heads fennel, trimmed and thinly  sliced downwards
2 cloves garlic, crushed
8 fresh sage leaves, shredded
1 Tbs olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Generous ½ cup quinoa, cooked and drained (optional)
Mushroom Purée:
20g butter
1 tsp grated ginger (I used a bit more)
250g mushrooms, sliced
1/3 cup creme fraîche or thick sour cream
Sour Cream Sauce:
1 Tbs fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
1/3 cup creme fraîche or thick sour cream
Chicken Livers:
40g butter
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
500g chicken livers, trimmed and halved
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup skinned and toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 190°C. Keep some of the fennel fronds to garnish. Mix fennel slices with garlic, sage, oil and season to taste. Tip onto a shallow oven tray lined with baking paper and spread out. Bake for 30 mins or until golden, stirring halfway through. Mix in the cooked quinoa (if using) and keep warm.

Meanwhile for the mushroom purée, heat butter in a frying pan and add the ginger and mushrooms. Cook, stirring from time to time, until soft and mushrooms are starting to brown. Tip into food processor (don’t wash the frying pan), add the sour cream and blitz. Season to taste and keep warm.

For the sauce, in a mortar and pestle, pound the tarragon leaves with a pinch of salt, then mix in the sour cream.

For the chicken livers, place half the butter in the pan where you cooked the mushrooms and add the onion. Cook, stirring until soft and starting to caramelise, then tip them out. Add remaining butter to pan and cook the livers, stirring, for about 3 minutes or until all the pink bits have gone brown. Return onions to pan and cook for a further minute, stirring. Add vinegar, nuts and season to taste.

To serve, divide mushroom purée between 4 warm serving plates, spreading it out into a neat circle. Top with the fennel mixture, then the chicken livers and any pan juices and finally top with the sour cream and tarragon sauce. Garnish with fennel fronds.

Serves 4

Marti’s Smoked Salmon Lunch

My friend Marti who lives in Paris served a delicious cold lunch when we were visiting, the centrepiece of which was smoked salmon.

It was such a good combination I made a note of what she served, so I could repeat it for one of my Spanish conversation lunches. It’s a great way to serve a crowd with minimum fuss. Marti managed to fit everything apart from the potatoes and the cottage cheese on one fish platter. I have a similar dish, but unfortunately mine is smaller so I had to put the salad, eggs, avocado and tomatoes in another dish.

Quantities will vary according to how many people you’re serving.

Sliced Smoked salmon formed into rolls
Garnish such as onion rings, capers, pink peppercorns
Lemons cut into wedges
Avocados cut into quarters
Mache or rocket or other small lettuce leaves
Soft hard boiled eggs, cut into halves
Cherry tomatoes
Baby new potatoes
Knob of butter, snipped chives
Cottage cheese
1 small onion, finely chopped or spring onions
Baguettes (home made or bought) or any nice crusty loaf and butter

Cook the potatoes and mix with butter and chives. Place in a serving bowl. Mix cottage cheese with onion or spring onions, finely chopped and place in a small bowl. Slice bread. Arrange everything on serving platters.

 

Tandoori Marinade & Tandoori Chicken Salad

This marinade is great for chicken, fish or lamb you are going to cook on the barbecue. It’s also a main ingredient in Tandoori Chicken Salad. The marinade keeps for up to a week in the fridge.

Buy a cooked chicken and the remaining ingredients at the supermarket and you have a quick and easy meal for the warmer weather. Quantities are flexible.

300ml plain Greek-style yoghurt
1 knob fresh ginger, size of a walnut
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
2 Tbs oil
1 tsp hot English mustard
1 Tbs lemon or lime juice
1 tsp turmeric
2 Tbs peanuts, cashews or pine nuts
1 tsp Garam Masala
2 Tbs fresh coriander
2 Tbs sweet chilli sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed

Place all ingredients in food processor and process until smooth. Keeps in the fridge for about a week.

Makes about 2 cups

Tandoori Chicken Salad

3 cups cooked chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup thinly sliced spring onions
3 cups bean sprouts
1½ cups finely sliced celery
1 cup roughly chopped coriander
1-2 cups cooked small pasta (optional)
1-2 cups Tandoori marinade (see recipe above)
To serve:
Lettuce leaves
Thin slivers of red capsicum or red chillies

Mix all together, adding more salt if necessary. Use as much marinade as you need to moisten everything. Serve in a mound on lettuce leaves, garnished with red capsicum or chilli.

Serves 4

Five Favourite Sandwich Fillings

Everyone likes a good sandwich made with good quality bread and a tasty filling. When offered a mediocre sandwich – the sort you get in hospitals or on planes – I would sooner say no thanks.

I don’t eat a lot of bread, so when I do it has to be worth it. While I’m usually a grainy bread kind of person, I think some sandwich fillings go better with white bread. Egg sandwiches for example. For those who are gluten-intolerant there are quite a few gluten-free options available in supermarkets and bakeries.

These are my five favourite sandwich fillings. They’re not OMG, amazing, wow recipes. Just old-fashioned  fillings I’ve been making for decades to serve at weddings, christenings, funerals, birthdays and other gatherings. Put a plate down at a party and see how fast they disappear. I haven’t put quantities because it depends on how many sandwiches you’re making.

The salami sandwich is a bit more rustic and harder to eat delicately while continuing to make polite conversation, so it’s probably best reserved for family lunches. I have a few more favourite fillings – rare roast beef with cold roasted veggies, smoked salmon with cream cheese, capers and onion and prawns with mayo and lettuce. But these five are the ones I make the most. For the family leave the crusts on the bread. To make them daintier for entertaining cut them off and cut the sandwiches into fingers, triangles or squares.

Homemade mayonnaise is a staple in our fridge.  I use it instead of butter when making sandwiches and it forms the base of other delicious sauces such as Seafood and Tartare. But if preferred, butter the bread before filling the sandwiches. All the fillings are mixed except for the Salami and Cheese, which is layered. Garnish the plates with some fresh herbs or nuts. In the tuna photo the bread has been lightly toasted.

Tuna
Canned tuna, drained
Finely chopped celery
Finely chopped red onion
Enough mayonnaise to bind (preferably homemade)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Salami and Cheese
Sliced salami
Sliced Swiss cheese
Rocket Leaves
Sun dried tomatoes
Red onion, thinly sliced (optional)
Mayonnaise to “butter” the bread

Curried Chicken
Cold roast chicken, diced
Fruit chutney, chopped a bit if too chunky, bought or homemade
Finely chopped spring onion or chives
Enough mayonnaise to bind (preferably homemade)
Curry paste or powder to taste (mix into the mayo)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Chicken and Walnut
Cold roast chicken, diced
Finely chopped celery
Finely chopped walnuts
Finely chopped spring onion
Enough mayonnaise to bind (preferably homemade)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Egg and Chive
Hard boiled eggs, roughly mashed with a fork
Finely snipped chives (lots) – use scissors
Enough mayonnaise to bind (preferably homemade)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

 

Spinach Dip in Cob Loaf

This is an old-fashioned recipe from the 1970s which still works today.

450-500g round Cob loaf, plain or covered in sesame seeds
250g cream cheese, at room temperature
300ml sour cream
1 packet French Onion Soup Mix
250g frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed
Chopped fresh herbs

Preheat oven to 170°C. Remove 3-4 cm from the top of the loaf. Remove the bread from the centre of the loaf leaving a 1.5 cm edge. Cut this into pieces suitable for dipping and cut the “lid” up also.

Mix cream cheese with sour cream, onion soup mix and spinach. Fill the bread shell with the dip and place on a baking tray. Place the bread pieces all around in one layer. Bake for 20-30 mins or until bread pieces are golden and the top of the dip is also golden. If bread pieces are ready earlier than dip remove them from the oven.

Serve while warm, garnished with the chopped herbs.

 

Pasta with Pesto and Avocado

After all the rich food of the festive season you’re probably ready for some simple but satisfying recipes to please the whole family. This pasta dish hits the spot.

500g pasta (shell or penne)
2 ripe avocados, roughly mashed
1 cup pesto (preferably homemade)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
To serve:
Grated parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil

Cook pasta until al dente. Drain then mix in the avocados, the pesto and salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with parmesan cheese and a drizzle of oil.

Serve with a simple green salad.

Serves 3-4

Layered Fruit Jelly

This dessert can be made with fresh or frozen fruit, or a mixture of the two and is popular with all ages. Quantities will depend on the size of your mould. Mine holds 1½ litres and I used raspberries, mangoes, blueberries and kiwi fruit.

1-2 cups green fruit, such as seedless grapes or cubed kiwi
1-2 cups purple fruit, such as seedless purple grapes or blueberries
1-2 cups cubed orange fruit, just as mango or peaches
1-2 cups red fruit, such as raspberries, stoned cherries or strawberries
2 packets of jelly mix (I used yellow but you could use red or orange)
1 rounded tsp gelatine powder

Layer the fruit in the jelly mould, starting with a layer of green fruit, then purple and so on until the mould is completely full of fruit. My jelly mould holds 1½ litres or 6 cups. The jelly will fill in the gaps.

Make up both jelly mixes, using slightly less than the packet says and mixing in the powdered gelatine. My jellies each called for 450 mls of water (half boiling and half cold) which makes a total of 900 mls of liquid. I mixed the two packets with a total of 750 ml boiling water and mixed in the gelatine.

Pour jelly carefully into the mould, filling to the top. Refrigerate overnight. To serve, dip the mould briefly in very hold water then invert onto a large serving platter.

Serves 8-10

Deux Baguettes S’il Vous Plaît

When he was eleven I asked our eldest son James to go into a bakery in a ski resort in France and buy “Deux baguettes s’il vous plaît” while I was double parked outside. I had been round the block twice and there was absolutely nowhere to park.

We sat outside the bakery for what seemed like a very long time with me saying come on you can do it and James saying he really didn’t want to. His more outgoing younger sister wanted him to hand over the money so she could go. But she didn’t need a confidence booster and I wanted him to do it. Eventually James went into the bakery and came out, beaming from ear to ear, one baguette under each arm.

I had completely forgotten this incident until James (now married with kids of his own) reminded me. He says he remembers it whenever he has to do something challenging, like speaking in public.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to use the No Knead Bread recipe to make deux baguettes instead of the usual round loaf you make in a Le Creuset pot. I wasn’t sure if it would work, but decided to give it a go. Well the baguettes were amazing and I’ve made them three times since. Crisp and crunchy on the outside, soft and tender on the inside, the recipe makes two small baguettes or one very large one, which probably wouldn’t fit in my oven.

3 cups plain flour
1 heaped tsp salt
1 Tbs olive oil (optional)
¼ tsp dried yeast
1½ cups very hot water from the tap
Extra flour
Sesame seeds (optional)

Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly with the blade of a knife. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or a tea towel and leave for a few hours. The amount of time you can leave it is flexible and varies a bit according to the weather. In the middle of summer it will be ready to go to the next stage in about three hours, but it’s okay if you leave it longer. When ready the dough will have doubled in size.

Sprinkle extra flour on work surface and scrape out the dough. Using a little extra flour as necessary, form dough into a non-sticky round, then cut in two and form each into a sausage shape about 30cm or 12″ long. Place side by side on a lightly greased oven tray, sprinkle with sesame seeds if liked, then leave aside while the oven heats up.

Heat the oven to 220°C. Bake bread for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown and crisp all over. Cool on a cake rack. Bread freezes well.

Makes 2 small loaves or 1 large

Green Bean Salad

This is an adaptation of a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi called Four Lime Green Bean Salad.

His original recipe (which you can easily find online) is no doubt delicious, but I didn’t have any kaffir lime leaves or Iranian ground lime. I increased the amount of broad beans and peas to make equal quantities of all three vegetables.

A perfect addition to the New Year buffet or to accompany leftover Christmas Ham and Turkey.

500g fresh green beans
500g packet frozen broad beans (or use fresh, shelled)
500g frozen peas
Dressing:
Zest and juice of 1 lime or ½ lemon
3 Tbs olive oil
1 clove garlic
½ cup fresh coriander leaves
½ cup fresh mint leaves
1 long green chilli, deseeded
1 tsp salt
Garnish:
Black sesame seeds
2-3 tsp Za’atar spice mix
A few coriander leaves
1 long green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (optional)

Top and tail beans then cook in boiling salted water for 3 mins. Drain, refresh with cold water and drain again. Cook broad beans in boiling water for 2-3 mins then drain and remove the outer shells and discard. Cook peas in boiling water for 2-3 mins then drain. Place both beans and the peas in a large serving dish.

Place all ingredients for the dressing in food processor and process till smooth. Pour over the beans and mix well. Garnish with a sprinkling of black sesame seeds, spice mix, coriander leaves and, if liked, the extra green chilli.

Serves 6

Substitutions: if you don’t have any Za’atar spice mix, experiment with a few of your favourite spices or spice blends

Cooking for the Festive Season

With just a week left until Christmas here are some suggestions for sweet dishes to prepare ahead or make on the day. There are a few more options including savoury dishes for Christmas and New Year entertaining here.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all my readers a happy holiday season and a healthy, happy and successful New Year.

Traditional Christmas pudding.
Gluten-free Christmas pudding.

Quick individual Christmas puddings.

Traditional Christmas cake

Labneh with Summer Berries.

Raspberry and Peach Trifle.

Berry Meringue Ice Cream Slice.

Pavlova. 

Quick individual “cheat” pavlovas.