Chicken with Coconut Pilaf

We recently hosted a 60th birthday dinner on a balmy summer’s evening, for a friend who follows a gluten-free, dairy-free diet.

Watermelon and Feta squares went down well with drinks on the verandah, then we started the meal with Gin-Cured Salmon with Kewpie Mayonnaise and Pickled Grapes and finished with Big Mary’s Mexican Bombe. I replaced the dairy cream with Organic Coconut Whipping Cream, made by The Tender Table and sold in some specialty shops. With six candles, one for each decade, this dessert doubled as a birthday cake.

For the main course I served this chicken dish which was given to me by my daughter’s friend Mel over a decade ago. Mel is a fabulous chef and now makes special cakes to order in Canberra.

A chicken supreme is a boneless breast with the skin and first section of the wing left on. If you’re not sure what it looks like watch this video. There’s a shop in a nearby shopping mall that specialises in chicken. They didn’t have supremes on display, but the butcher knew what I wanted and prepared them for me.

Chicken:
6-8 chicken supremes (boneless breasts with skin & first piece of wing attached)
Grated rind 1 lemon
1-2 small red chillies, very finely chopped
2 Tbs finely chopped coriander
2 Tbs olive oil
S and P
Pilaf:
2 Tbs  butter (or olive oil to keep it dairy-free)
2 cups basmati rice
1 x 400ml can coconut milk or cream and about 2 tins water
Juice of 1 lime or half a lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Salad:
2 cups beansprouts
2 cups coriander leaves – broken off, not chopped
2 cups Vietnamese mint leaves (or ordinary mint)
2 cups purple basil leaves (or ordinary basil)
Dressing:
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs vinegar
To serve:
toasted shredded coconut

Trim any untidy bits off the chicken and if you think they look a bit too big, remove the fillets and keep them for a stir fry another day. Mix the chicken with the marinate ingredients and leave for several hours, or overnight if possible, in the fridge. Arrange chicken on a shallow baking tray (lined with baking paper if liked) and bake for 25-30 mins at 180°C, or until cooked and tender. Be careful not to overcook it, or it will be dry.

For the pilaf melt butter, add rice and stir to coat. Add coconut cream or milk and stir over low heat until the rice starts to thicken. Add water, lime juice, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then cover tightly and cook on a very low heat until liquid has all been absorbed. You may need to add slightly more or less water, so don’t add it all at the beginning and see how it goes, stirring and adding more if necessary. You can also do the rice in a rice cooker, just putting all the ingredients in together and adding a bit more water towards the end, if necessary.

Remove any stringy bits from the beansprouts. For the salad dressing, heat vinegar and sugar in a small pan, bring to the boil. Boil for a minute then cool. Mix all the salad ingredients together and at the last minute add the dressing, mixing gently using your fingers, so you don’t bruise the leaves.

To serve, divide rice among six serving plates. Place chicken on rice, top with the salad and finally the toasted coconut. I used large dried coconut from Aldi, stirred in a dry frying pan over moderate heat until lightly browned.

Serves 6-8

Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Crust

This recipe was given to me by my friend Barbara and I’ve made it twice over the holiday period. I’ve added a little dressing to the salad and served the chicken sliced on top, rather than mixed through the salad.

1 cup roasted peanuts
¼ cup red curry paste
1 cup coriander leaves, loosely packed
1/3 cup coconut milk
700g to 1kg chicken breasts
Salt to taste (if using salted peanuts you can leave it out)
Salad:
1 or 2 cucumbers depending on size (400g)
1 cup bean sprouts
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
Dressing:
1 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Garnish:
Thinly sliced red chilli (optional)

Preheat oven to 180°C. Place peanuts, curry paste, coriander and coconut milk in food processor and process to form a slightly chunky paste. Spread on both sides of the chicken breasts and arrange on a baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until cooked through – test with a knife.

Halve cucumbers lengthwise and remove seeds with a small teaspoon, then slice. Mix salad ingredients with dressing and arrange on serving plate. Slice chicken and arrange on top. Garnish with the chilli.

Serves 4-6

Substitutions: use cashews instead of peanuts. Any curry paste will do.

Teriyaki Burgers

Serve these tasty burgers as a mid-week family dinner, with or without French fries, and I guarantee you will be asked to put them on the menu on a regular basis.

There is no doubt that homemade French fries (or chips as we call them) are much tastier than bought ones. However, if I made them on a regular basis I would be twice the size, with or without Covid. So I keep a packet of bought chips in the freezer to zap in a hot oven and serve with steak, burgers and fried fish. Just a few, mostly for Matthew, which always puts a smile on his face. Using frozen fries makes this a very quick meal, but if you want to make your own please do.

6 hamburger buns, halved and toasted (I used brioche)
Quick pickled veggies (see below)
Mayonnaise (preferably Japanese Kewpie, but any will do)
Lettuce leaves
French fries, homemade or bought
Teriyaki chicken:
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
3 Tbs plain flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp oil
¼ cup soy sauce
2 Tbs Mirin (or substitute vinegar)
2 Tbs sake or dry sherry
1½ Tbs sugar

Make the quick pickled veggies at least a couple of hours before eating. They will keep for up to a week in the fridge.

Mix salt and pepper into flour and use to coat the chicken, shaking off excess. Heat oil in a large non-stick frying pan and cook chicken for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until golden. Mix the soy sauce, Mirin, sake and sugar and add to the pan. Cook, stirring and spooning the sauce over the chicken and turning them until the sauce has thickened and reduced and chicken is nicely glazed. Toast the burger buns. Be careful if using brioche buns as they can easily burn.

To serve, spread some mayonnaise on one half of each burger bun, then top with lettuce, some pickled veggies, a piece of chicken and the other half of the bun. If liked, serve with French fries, either homemade or bought, cooked according to the package directions,

Serves 6

Quick pickled veggies: finely slice or julienne 1 zucchini (or a Lebanese cucumber), 1 carrot (or a small red capsicum/pepper) and 1 onion (or half if very large), either red or brown.. Add ¼ cup vinegar, ¼ cup sugar, 1 tsp salt and enough water to just cover them. Make at least 2 hours before serving. Keeps for a week in the fridge.

Sweet and Sour Pork or Chicken

Growing up in the UK, the only foreign food we were exposed to was Chinese, bought as a takeaway for special occasions, or when my mother was too busy to cook. Occasionally we went to a Chinese restaurant to celebrate one of my parents’ birthdays. Sweet and Sour Pork was always one of the dishes we chose.

This Chinese food was not very authentic, but at the time we loved it. In some parts of Britain Chinese restaurants served chips with everything, in order to keep the locals happy. Maybe they still do.

When our kids were growing up they loved the Sweet and Sour Pork I made at home, although they preferred it made with chicken. The recipe works well with either and I make it when I feel like a bit of nostalgic comfort food. The original recipe came from the Australian Women’s Weekly Chinese Cookbook.

500g lean pork or boneless chicken thighs
1 Tbs soy sauce
1 egg yolk
1 Tbs cornflour
1 red capsicum
1 green capsicum
1 medium onion
3 canned pineapple rings
½ cup cornflour, extra
Vegetable oil for frying
2 cloves garlic
Sauce:
3 Tbs vinegar
3 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs tomato ketchup
4 Tbs water
½ tsp salt
2 tsp cornflour

Mix soy sauce, egg yolk and cornflour. Add chicken or pork cut into 2.5cm cubes, cover and leave aside while you prepare the other ingredients. Seed peppers and cut into 2.5cm squares. Peel onion and cut into eighths, then separate into slices, cut pineapple into cubes.

Add extra cornflour to chicken or pork and mix well. Heat about 2.5cm oil in a wok or large frying pan and fry chicken or pork pieces for 4-5 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Drop them into the hot oil one at a time. Remove and drain on paper towels. Pour off oil, leaving about 1 Tbs. Add crushed garlic, peppers and onion and cook over high heat, stirring, for 3 mins. Add chicken or pork, pineapple and the sauce and stir until it thickens and boils. Serve with plain boiled rice.

Serves 4-6

Filipino Chicken Curry

This quick and easy curry is not too spicy, making it ideal for a family meal which includes kids.

It reminds me of the simple curries my mother used to make using ready-made curry powder, rather than all the different spices. Serve with steamed rice and chutney.

1 kg boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbs curry powder or paste, or to taste
1 can coconut milk
1 can tomatoes (diced or whole)
1 Tbs sugar

Cut chicken into 2cm chunks and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large frying pan and gently fry the onion and garlic for a few minutes until soft but not brown. Add curry powder or paste and the chicken and continue to fry, stirring, for 2-3 minutes or until chicken is starting to colour.

Add coconut milk, tomatoes (chop them if they aren’t already) and sugar. Simmer for 20-30 minutes or until chicken is tender and sauce has thickened. If the sauce is getting too thick before the chicken is ready add a small dash of water. Serve with steamed rice and chutney.

Serves 6-8

Japanese-style Ceviche

This delicious recipe was given to me by my daughter Catherine who got it from her chef friend, Tim. Catherine and her husband love raw fish and meat dishes, so they eat a lot of ceviche and carpaccio. If you’ve never eaten raw fish, this is a good way to start as it honestly doesn’t taste raw. The recipe serves 2 as a starter or one as a main, but it’s easy to multiply the ingredients to serve 4 or 8. It’s also very quick to make.

The black sesame seeds add a nice colour contrast and the fried shallots add a bit of crunch. They make a great garnish for all kinds of savoury recipes.

1 portion salmon (about 180g) or use a firm white fish
1 small or half a large avocado, cubed
Zest and juice of 1 lime or ½ lemon
2 tsp sesame oil*
2 tsp Mirin
1 Tbs pickled ginger, finely chopped*
1 spring onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbs Kenko Creamy Sesame Dressing*
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
To garnish:
Black sesame seeds*
Fried shallots*
Fresh coriander leaves
Lettuce leaves
Olive oil (optional)

Remove skin and any bones from salmon then cut into small cubes. Mix with remaining ingredients. Taste and see if it needs a little more lime juice or sesame oil.

Serve immediately on lettuce leaves, garnished with black sesame seeds, coriander, fried shallots and a drizzle of oil. You can leave out the lettuce leaves and the olive oil if preferred.

Serves 2

* sold in Asian supermarkets. For the Kenko Dressing you will need to find a shop that sells Japanese ingredients. If you can’t find it substitute ordinary mayonnaise mixed 50-50 with soy sauce. Not quite the same but it will do.

Rick Stein’s Vietnamese Duck Braised in Spiced Orange Juice

We watched Rick Stein make this dish on a TV cooking show recently. He described it as a Vietnamese take on Duck à L’Orange and said it was easy to make and delicious.  Matthew is not a big fan of duck, but I am, so he felt magnanimous in suggesting we make it.

The recipe calls for a 2.5kg duck but I bought a frozen one from Aldi for $14.99 which was 2.2kg. I also bought a bottle of orange juice with pulp from the same place.

The recipe says to cut the duck into six portions, but you can only get 4 decent portions from a whole duck – two breasts and two Marylands (leg and thigh). I used the wings as well, so I did have six portions, but there’s not much meat on them. A better solution, especially if you’re entertaining and want six decent portions, is to buy six duck portions. If you use a whole duck, remove the portions, then use the carcass to make stock for another meal.

I was left with more than a cup of duck fat which I poured through a sieve into a jam jar and put in the fridge. There’s nothing quite like potatoes roasted in duck fat – see last week’s recipe.

1 Duck weighing between 2 and 2.5kg
Or 6 duck portions
1 Tbs crushed garlic
2 Tbs peeled and chopped or thinly sliced ginger
1 litre orange juice
4 Tbs fish sauce
1 Tbs sugar
5 whole star anise
4 bird’s eye red chillies
2 lemongrass stalks, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 spring onions, finely sliced on the diagonal
½ tsp cornflour

Remove the breasts, legs and wings from the duck so you have four decent portions plus the wings. Heat a large heavy-based frying pan over medium to high heat. Cook the duck skin side down for 5 to 6 minutes until skin is crisp, then on the other side for 2-3 minutes, or until all the fat has rendered off. Once cooked, place in a deep saucepan and set aside.

Pour all but 2 tbsp of the duck fat off and keep it (see Note below). Add the garlic and ginger to the frying pan and cook gently till soft, then add to the pan with the duck. Add the orange juice, fish sauce, star anise, chillies, lemongrass and season with black pepper. Simmer gently for 1 hour and 30 mins.

Remove duck and set aside, skim off any excess fat from the sauce then bring to a boil and simmer vigorously until reduced and concentrated in flavour. Mix cornflour with 1 tsp of water, mix into sauce and simmer for a further minute. Recipe can be made ahead to this point.

Put duck portions back into the sauce for a minute or to and heat through. Serve duck with rice and a green vegetable, garnished with the spring onions.

Serves 4 using a whole duck or 6 using portions

Note: After removing the duck portions from the carcass I had quite a few pieces of duck fat or fatty skin. I put them into a frying pan and cooked them gently until most of the fat had been rendered. I added this to the fat obtained when browning the duck portions and poured it through a sieve into a jam jar.

Asian Green Salad

This recipe was given to me some years ago by my friend Donelle. She made it with Pak Choi but today I decided to use fresh spinach from the garden, because we have copious amounts.

I’m not sure if you can buy packets of crispy noodles everywhere in the world. If you can’t find them substitute crushed corn chips. Just something to give a bit of crunch.

The pomegranate arils weren’t in the original recipe, but they add a touch of colour. Some supermarkets sell these either fresh or frozen. I keep them in the freezer and just scrape out a few as required to sprinkle over the top of salads.

Full of iron and other good stuff, this recipe is very healthy!

1 bunch Pak Choy (or substitute spinach or kale)
1 bunch spring onions, thinly sliced (use the white and most of the green)
1 bunch coriander, chopped
¾ cup flaked or slivered almonds (or substitute pine nuts)
1 packet (100g) crispy noodles
Dressing:
2 Tbs lemon or lime juice
¼ cup olive oil
2 tsp soy sauce
1 Tbs fish sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
1-2 tsp grated fresh ginger
Dash of Siracha (or other chilli sauce,) to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs brown sugar
To serve:
Pomegranate arils (optional)

Wash, spin dry and shred the Pak Choy, spinach or kale with a large sharp knife. Place in serving dish with the nuts, which have been lightly toasted in a dry frying pan over moderate heat. Add spring onions and coriander.

Place all ingredients for dressing in a jar and shake well. Mix dressing with salad and top with the crispy noodles. If liked garnish with pomegranate arils and serve immediately.

Serves 4-6

Malaysian Spicy Fried Chicken

I tore this recipe out of one of the weekend newspaper magazines last month. It’s from Billy Law, a Malaysian cook who was on MasterChef back in 2011. I adjusted the recipe to use fewer dried chillies (2 instead of 5) and made a few other slight tweaks – spring onions instead of leeks because that’s what I had.

The result is a delicious, spicy chicken dish which should serve 4, but Matthew and I both went back for seconds and there was less than half left! The method is a bit more fiddly than the recipes I usually post, but it’s worth it. Definitely a keeper.

750g skinless, boneless chicken thighs cut into bite-sized pieces
3cm piece ginger, grated
2 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs mirin
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup potato starch (I used a packet of instant mashed potatoes)
1 egg
Vegetable oil for frying
1 small onion or ½ large one, chopped
2 dried red chillies, sliced
1/3 cup peanuts, toasted
Chopped fresh coriander
Chilli Oil:
¼ cup vegetable oil
5 cloves garlic, halved
2 cm ginger, peeled and sliced
1 leek or 8 spring onions, thinly sliced (use mostly the white part)
1 Tbs dried chilli flakes
Sauce:
2 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs vinegar
1 Tbs cornflour mixed with ¼ cup water

Mix chicken with ginger, soy sauce, mirin and pepper and leave to marinate for an hour. Mix in the potato starch and the egg. Heat about 2.5 cm of oil in a wok and fry the chicken pieces, in 2-3 batches, until golden brown and crispy all over. Remove and drain on paper towels. Wipe out the wok.

For the Chilli Oil, heat the oil in a frying pan and add the garlic, ginger and leek or spring onion. Stir fry until golden then remove with a slotted spoon to a small bowl. Add the dried chilli flakes to the oil and stir for a minute, then pour through a sieve, discarding the chilli flakes and keeping the oil.

Heat the reserved chilli oil in the wok and add the chopped onion. Stir until softening, then add the chillies and the sauce – soy sauce, sugar, vinegar and cornflour mixture – and stir till thickened. Add the fried chicken and the peanuts, stirring to coat for 1-2 minutes.

Garnish with the reserved garlic, ginger and leek mixture and fresh coriander and serve with steamed rice.

Serves 4

 

 

Spicy Korean Beef with Rice

 

This is a good way to use up leftover cooked rice and leftover roast beef. If you don’t have either, cook some rice and slice about 300 grams of raw beef steak into thin strips. Stir fry the beef in the oil for a couple of minutes, then remove from pan, add the vegetables to the pan and proceed according to the recipe.

2 eggs
1 Tbs water
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbs oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 carrot (coarsely grated)
1 red capsicum (pepper) cut into thin strips
2 cups leftover roast beef, cut into thin strips
1 Tbs Korean chilli paste (or substitute Harissa or Sambal Oelek)
3-4 cups cooked long grain rice
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
To garnish:
Chopped fresh coriander
2 tsp black sesame seed

Beat eggs withIn water and seasoning then make a thin omelette in a small omelette pan, using half the oil. Remove from pan onto a plate and cool, then cut into thin strips.

In a wok or large frying pan heat remaining oil and cook the onion, garlic, carrot and capsicum, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes or until softened. Add the beef, chilli paste, rice, soy sauce and sesame oil. Stir fry for a couple of minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning by adding salt and pepper or a bit more soy sauce. If it’s not spicy enough, add a little more chilli paste.

Serve in bowls, topped with the omelette, the coriander and the black sesame seeds.

Serves 3-4