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

EQ Grilled Chicken Salad

My friend Dawn can’t eat gluten or dairy products, so the Gluten and Dairy-Free Grilled Chicken Salad at EQ Cafe and Lounge in Deakin caught her eye when we had lunch there recently. I decided to join her. It was delicious, not to mention healthy, so I was inspired to have a go at making it at home.

Goji berries are native to Asia and have recently become available in dried form in mainstream Australian supermarkets. The cheapest I could find were from Aldi, which sells 150g of Organic Chinese goji berries for $5. There is currently no clinical evidence that these berries are going to lower your cholesterol or cure you of anything, but they do add a nice splash of red to this salad. Substitute diced red capsicum or halved cherry tomatoes if you don’t have goji berries.

Quantities are approximate. I bought a 120g pack of rocket from Aldi and used about two thirds in the salad and one third in the pesto.

About 80g rocket, washed and spun dry
1 cup finely shredded red/purple cabbage
1 endive (witlof) cut into 1cm wide lengthwise strips
16 sugar snap peas
¼ cup dried goji berries
¼ cup red wine (or if preferred use water)
¼ cup hazelnuts, lightly toasted
200-250g chicken tenderloins trimmed and dried on paper towels
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Rocket pesto:

1 small clove garlic
About 40g rocket, washed and spun dry
2 Tbs pine nuts
2 tsp lemon juice
100 ml olive oil (approx)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Lemon Vinaigrette:
2 Tbs olive oil
2-3 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp honey (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place vinaigrette ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake.

Place red wine in a small saucepan and heat to boiling point. Add goji berries, turn off the heat and leave to cool, then drain thoroughly.

Make pesto by placing all ingredients except oil in food processor. Process for 30 seconds, then gradually add the oil with the motor running, until you have a thick pouring consistency.

Mix the rocket and red cabbage with the lemon vinaigrette. In two shallow salad bowls arrange the salad in layers. First the rocket and red cabbage, then the endive, sugar snap peas, goji berries and hazelnuts. Brush chicken with oil, season, then grill or pan fry until golden brown on both sides and cooked through. Slice each fillet into 2-3 pieces, arrange on top of the salad. Drizzle the salad (especially the chicken) with the pesto – you won’t need it all.

Serves 2 as a main course

 

Chicken Lady Chicken

While living in Paris for four years I noticed several differences in the shopping, eating and cooking habits of the French, compared with ours.

They generally don’t stock up on food in big supermarkets. Living in an apartment, as almost everyone does in big cities like Paris, makes getting groceries from the supermarket into your home a real challenge. With limited parking and, for some Parisians, no elevator, it’s much easier to shop at the local markets every few days. Buy what you need, eat it fresh, then go and buy more. Little trolleys on wheels are perfect for shopping this way. An added deterrent to buying up big is that most Paris apartments have tiny kitchens with limited cupboard and freezer space.

I reckon one of the reasons many French women stay slim is that they don’t eat a big meal every evening. Several svelte French friends told me that during the week their husbands went out for a three course lunch and were quite happy with something very light in the evening. Women who work do the same. So as I was heading home to cook our main meal of the day, they were going home to have “un petit yaourt” or “une tartine” – a slice of toast with something on it.

I also noticed that the French don’t get stuck into baguettes and French cheeses quite the way we do. I’ve watched lithesome French friends make one slice of baguette last through several courses, used as required to push food onto their fork. When the cheese course, which is served before dessert, arrives they take only a small sliver of each. French cheeses are marvellous, but they are high in calories and cholesterol.

The French also tend to be more abstemious when it comes to wine consumption, as we noted when we cleared up the empties after a dinner party for mainly French guests and compared it with the week before when we had hosted mainly Aussies.

While they regularly eat out, our French friends like to entertain family and close friends. With the limitations of a small kitchen and an equally small oven, dessert often comes from the local patisserie. With such a wonderful array to choose from, why bother cooking? There are of course exceptions. I have several French friends who make wonderful cakes and desserts, using recipes inherited from their mothers and grandmothers.

Food markets pop up all over Paris in regular spots, once or twice a week. The twice-weekly market in Boulevard de Grenelle was less than five minutes walk from where we lived. Every Wednesday and Sunday from seven in the morning until lunch time the market sells fresh fruit and vegetables, cheese, meat, fish and more to a bustling crowd of mostly French customers.

On Sundays the rotisserie chickens and roast potatoes sold at the markets are popular to take home for lunch. Today’s recipe comes from well-known cook and food writer David Lebovitz who has been living in Paris for over 20 years. He managed to persuade the chicken lady at his local market to part with her delicious recipe. Hence the name Chicken Lady Chicken. He uses the marinade for one chicken, but I found it’s enough for two. She uses white wine but I think red wine or even sherry is a good substitute.

1 or 2 1.5kg (3 lb) chickens
Marinade:
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1½ tsp salt
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs lemon juice
2 Tbs wine or sherry
1 Tbs soy sauce
2½ tsp harissa, Sriracha or other chilli paste
2 tsp Dijon or other mustard
2 tsp honey

Remove backbone from the chicken(s) by cutting along each side with a pair of poultry shears. Place chicken breast side down on cutting board and press hard with the heel of your hand to flatten it out as much as possible, then repeat on the other side. Loosen the skin a bit with your finger so the marinade can get in under the skin.

Mix all ingredients for marinade and pour over the chicken(s), rubbing it in and pushing it under the skin. Marinate for 1 to 2 days in the fridge, covered, turning from time to time. Levovitz does this in a plastic bag, but I used a shallow dish.

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Place chickens in a roasting pan breast side down. Cover loosely with aluminum foil then place a heavy weight on top. I used two bricks, one for each chicken. Lebovitz cooks his chicken for a total of 45 mins but I think it needs a bit longer. Roast for half an hour, then remove the brick(s) and foil and turn the chickens over, basting thoroughly. Roast for a further half hour or until chickens are well browned and cooked through.

Carve the chicken(s) and serve with roast potatoes and a salad.

Each chicken serves 4-6

Caramelised Chicken Kebabs

 

If you like sticky Asian chicken dishes you’ll like this one. I used less than half the amount of sugar in the original recipe (which I thought was a bit over the top) and it worked well.

1.2 kg skinless, boneless chicken thighs
2 Tbs Asian fish sauce
1 Tbs brown sugar
1 Tbs lemon juice
Glaze:
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 Tbs Asian fish sauce
3 Tbs lemon juice
2 Tbs rice vinegar
1 Tbs honey
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbs grated fresh ginger
To serve:
2 Tbs white sesame seeds
2 Tbs black sesame seeds
2 Tbs flaked almonds
Thinly sliced spring onions, or chives
or chopped parsley

Cut chicken into 2.5cm (1 inch) chunks. Mix with the fish sauce, brown sugar and lemon juice and marinate for an hour or two.

Place all ingredients for the glaze in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil then simmer for a few minutes to thicken.

Thread chicken onto 8 bamboo skewers which have been soaked in cold water. Cook on a grill or BBQ for about 8 minutes, brushing regularly with the glaze, or until cooked through. Cook for about 2 minutes on each of the four sides.

Place sesame seeds and almonds in a dry frying pan and stir over moderate heat for a few minutes or until golden.

When kebabs are cooked place on serving dish and brush again with the glaze. Sprinkle with the sesame seed mixture and the spring onions or herbs. Serve with steamed rice and a cucumber and onion salad.

Serves 4

Parmesan Chicken with Asparagus and Lemon

Asparagus season is here again and I’m always on the lookout for new ways to use this delicious vegetable.

Making an asparagus bed is a long term project. The bed can’t be used for anything else and for the first two years experts advise you resist picking and let the asparagus die down. The plants need to concentrate on establishing deep roots. But if you have the space an asparagus patch is a very worthwhile investment in time. Once up and running it will continue to produce asparagus every year for up to 20 years. Harvesting where we live in eastern Australia starts some time in October and runs for a month or two. Cut the spears just below the level of the soil with a sharp knife when they’re about six inches or 15cm long.

There is nothing quite like home-grown asparagus, but if you don’t grow your own, take advantage of local asparagus available in Australian supermarkets now. The rest of the year it’s mostly imported from South America.

We like our asparagus served hot with melted butter or cold with vinaigrette or mayonnaise. It’s also delicious roasted in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper or sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and grilled.

This week’s recipe teams it with chicken and Parmesan. If you have a big enough tray put the chicken and asparagus all on one and serve from the tray, to save washing up. I had to use two.

For the chicken:
2 large chicken breasts (3 if smaller)
2 Tbs flour
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbs finely chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tsp grated lemon rind
2 Tbs melted butter
2 Tbs lemon juice
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 lemon, thinly sliced
For the asparagus:
About 500g asparagus spears, washed and trimmed
1 Tbs melted butter
1 Tbs olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven 180°C. Line a large shallow baking sheet with baking paper. Place flour in a bowl. In a second bowl mix the panko crumbs, Parmesan, parsley, salt and pepper. In a third bowl mix the lemon rind, butter, lemon juice and garlic. Cut the chicken breasts into thick strips. Coat with flour, then the garlic/lemon mixture and lastly the panko crumbs. Place on prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with any leftover panko mixture over.

Bake for 10 minutes then remove from the oven and cover with lemon slices. If there’s enough room, place the asparagus on the same tray. If not line a second tray with baking paper. Mix the butter, oil and garlic and brush all over the asparagus, then drizzle the rest over. Sprinkle with the grated Parmesan. Return to the oven for 10-15 minutes or until chicken is golden brown and asparagus is cooked. If liked serve with a drizzle of olive oil. Steamed new potatoes go well.

Serves 3-4

Chicken with Dates

My friend Ferne passed on an idea for a quick canapé to serve with drinks – dates with blue cheese and sesame seeds. Cut through one side of each date, remove the stone, fill with some blue cheese and sprinkle with the seeds. I used a creamy blue cheese from Aldi which comes in a half moon shaped pack and black sesame seeds rather than white. They were delicious and the leftover dates went into the chicken dish below.

 

2 Tbs oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 kg chicken thighs (skinless and boneless)|
1 can tomatoes (chopped if not already)
1 cup water
3 Tbs sherry
1 chicken stock cube
2 tsp cumin
1 cup dates, stoned and halved or quartered
To serve:
Rice, couscous or mashed potatoes
Chopped fresh parsley or coriander

Heat oil in a large deep frying pan and cook onion and garlic gently, until soft. Cut chicken into chunks, discrding any fatty bits. Add chicken to pan and continue to fry, stirring, until chicken has browned all over. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for  10-15 mins, or until chicken is tender, adding a little more water if necessary.

Serve with rice, couscous or mashed potatoes, garnished with the chopped herbs.

Serves 6

Variation: if preferred use about 1.2kg of whole chicken thighs with bone in and skin on or off.

Roast Chicken with Lemon, Garlic, Herbs and Chilli

Looking for a different way to roast a chicken? This easy but delicious recipe uses a combination of flavours that works well. The skin goes crispy thanks to the lemon juice and any leftovers are nice cold.

A loaf of crusty bread and some roast potatoes or boiled new potatoes will pad this meal out (as my mother used to say) and ensure there’s enough for a family of six.

1 whole chicken
¼ cup Extra Virgin olive oil
Juice and grated rind of 1 lemon
1 generous Tbs chopped fresh Rosemary
1 generous Tbs chopped fresh Sage
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
½ to1 tsp chilli flakes, to taste
To serve:
Fresh herbs
Lemon wedges (optional)
Vegetables such as buttered spinach and glazed carrots

Using poultry shears, remove backbone from chicken and discard. Place skin side up in roasting pan and press down hard with your hand so it flattens out. Mix remaining  ingredients and spread over both sides of the chicken, rubbing it in. Leave chicken to marinate for half an hour at room temperature, or up to several hours in the fridge.

Preheat oven to 180°C. Roast chicken for between an hour and an hour and a half. It’s ready when a skewer is inserted into the thigh and juices run clear and skin is crispy and brown. Time will vary according to the size of the chicken. Baste halfway through cooking time with pan juices.

Carve chicken and serve with lemon wedges and seasonal vegetables, such as buttered baby spinach and honey-glazed carrots.

For the spinach, stir fry a packet of fresh baby spinach leaves (or shredded larger leaves) with a knob of butter until thoroughly wilted, then season to taste.  For the carrots, cook them in boiling, salted water until tender, then tip off the water, add a knob of butter and a teaspoon of honey and shake the pan over the heat until glazed. Sprinkle with some sesame seeds – I used black ones.

Serves 6

Notes: if you don’t have fresh herbs use dried, but fresh are best in this recipe.

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

 

 

Roast Chicken with Walnut and Bacon Stuffing

A whole chicken cooks more quickly if you butterfly it. While some supermarkets sell butterflied chickens, it’s easy enough to do it yourself. Cut along each side of the backbone with poultry shears and discard it, then flatten the chicken by pressing it with the flat of your hand.

I hate throwing food away, so whenever I have any stale bread, especially delicious sourdough, I whiz it in the food processor, then tip the coarse crumbs into a plastic bag and keep them in the freezer. They are useful for making stuffing or for topping recipes such as Seafood Mornay, one of my all-time favourites.

This makes a tasty family meal, served with salad, and any leftovers are good for sandwiches next day.

1 whole chicken, butterflied (as described above)
1 cup chunky stale breadcrumbs
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecan nuts
½ cup finely chopped parsley
½ cup diced bacon
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs soy sauce

Preheat oven to 180°C. Place chicken in a roasting pan. Mix breadcrumbs, nuts, parsley and bacon and season to taste. Run your fingers under the skin of the chicken, to separate it from the flesh. Go as far as you can into the thighs and drumsticks, being careful not to break the skin.

Push the stuffing under the skin, spreading it out as evenly as you can. Mix olive oil with soy sauce and brush all over the chicken. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour, or until cooked and nicely glazed. Check by piercing the thickest part of the thighs – juices should run clear.

Serves 4-6