Confit of Chicken or Duck

Many readers will have tried confit of duck, a popular dish served in restaurants. This traditional French way of cooking poultry works just as well with chicken. Confit meat almost falls off the bone and is packed with flavour. Great for entertaining as most of the preparation can be done ahead of time. It’s also good for anyone who has trouble chewing because the meat is so tender.

Traditionally confit is made using duck or goose fat, but olive oil works well and can be kept and reused several times. When the oil has cooled pour it through a sieve, discard the bits (or in our house, mix into the dog’s dinner) then pour it into a large jar with a lid and refrigerate. It will separate into three layers – jelly at the bottom, then fat, then olive oil. Next time you make confit, use the top two layers – the oil and the fat – adding more olive oil as required. You can also use this oil and fat to make the most delicious roast potatoes. Use the jelly to enrich gravies and stocks.

8 chicken or duck pieces (about 1 kg) (I used 4 chicken Marylands)
2 tsp salt
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp dried thyme
Olive oil

Trim chicken or duck of excess fat. Chicken Marylands cut in two or left whole (as in the photo) are ideal. Place in a dish. Add the salt, garlic and herbs and rub in well using your hands. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or over night for flavours to penetrate.

Rinse the chicken/duck pieces and pat dry with paper towels. Place in a baking dish just big enough to fit them in a single layer and pour over enough olive oil to just cover. Bake covered for three hours at 120°C. When cool, carefully remove chicken/duck from the oil – keep the oil – see above. Refrigerate chicken/duck pieces until needed, covered. They will keep in the fridge for several days.

To serve: heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and cook the chicken or duck pieces, skin side down, until crispy. Turn over and cook the other side, or put the pan into a hot oven for a few minutes to heat the meat right through. If you have an air fryer cook the pieces for 8-10 minutes at 200°C which is what I did and gives a fantastic all-over crispy finish. If liked, serve with a sweet and sour sauce such as plum sauce.

Note: If you prefer Asian flavours, use soy sauce, garlic and ground star anise or Chinese five spice for the marinade, instead of salt, garlic and herbs.

Serves 4

Malaysian Spicy Chicken

I prefer chicken thighs to breasts, both the texture and the flavour. Malaysians always use thighs to make their famous satays with peanut sauce, which we ate often at the street stalls when we were posted to Kuala Lumpur in the 1980s.

This quick and easy Malaysian recipe also uses chicken thighs. Serve it with steamed rice and a crunchy cucumber, onion and coriander salad, perhaps with some halved cocktail tomatoes added. Warm roti bread also goes well.

1 kg boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Marinade:
¼ cup tamarind paste
2 Tbs honey
1 Tbs vegetable oil
1 Tbs grated ginger
1 tsp five spice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp curry powder
½ tsp cardamom
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Garnish:
Fresh lime wedges
1 red chilli, sliced on the diagonal
Fresh chopped coriander
½ cup crispy fried shallots (available from Asian shops and some supermarkets)

Combine marinade ingredients, add the chicken pieces, trimmed if necessary and halved or left whole. Mix well then cover and refrigerate overnight, or for at least a couple of hours.

Preheat oven to 180°C. Arrange chicken pieces in one layer in a shallow baking tin and cook for 30-40 minutes, turning once, until browned and cooked through.

Transfer chicken to a serving plate, drizzle over any liquid from the pan and garnish with the limes, chilli, coriander and fried shallots. Serve with rice.

Serves 4-6

Mum’s Chicken Curry

When I was growing up in the UK in the sixties, Mum used to make a chicken curry, using leftover chicken from the Sunday roast.

We were a family of five, so it’s hard to imagine there being any leftovers from one chicken, but meat was expensive and servings were small. Dad did the carving and gave everyone their modest ration. You were expected to fill up on veggies.

The Sunday roast rotated: chicken, beef, lamb, pork and back to chicken again and produced the protein element for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday’s main meal. After removing the chicken meat to make a curry on Monday, the carcass went into a pot with some sliced leeks, carrots, potatoes, onions and stock to make a hearty soup for Tuesday. Leftover lamb or beef was usually made into rissoles or a shepherd’s pie.

Mum’s curry wasn’t a proper Indian curry, but we didn’t know any better. Special events in our family were often celebrated in a Chinese restaurant rather than an Indian one. If you grew up in England you might recognise my Mum’s curry, because she wasn’t the only Mum who made it. Anglo-Indian recipes were passed around amongst the officer’s wives who had been posted to India and subsequently became quite popular in England during Victorian times. Grandpa was in the Army and although they were never posted to India one of her Army chums had taught Nana to make this curry, as well as an Anglo-Indian kedgeree which she passed on to Mum.

Occasionally I buy a cooked chicken at the supermarket when they’re half price and make Mum’s curry, with a few tweaks. She used curry powder, while I use curry paste. Fresh ginger, chillies, garlic and a few ground spices, plus a couple of handfuls of fresh spinach, mixed in just before serving, are also good additions. Mum sometimes added a handful of raisins or canned pineapple cubes, but I don’t.

Once the chicken has been added the curry only needs to heat through, so be careful not to overcook it. Side dishes are optional, but go down well, especially if the curry is a bit spicy. This will depend on how much curry paste you use and whether or not you add fresh chilli. Side dishes also make the curry go further. Mum was an expert at making a small amount of meat feed a family.

1 Tbs butter or ghee
1 Tbs vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic
3-4 Tbs curry paste (your favourite or whatever you have on hand)
1 Tbs finely grated or chopped fresh ginger
1 fresh green chilli, finely chopped (optional)
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 400g can tomatoes, including juice, chopped
½ a 400g can coconut cream or milk (optional) or ½ cup water
1-2 tsp sugar, to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Leftover roast chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces (half a kilo or so)
A couple handfuls baby spinach leaves, or larger leaves, shredded (optional)
To serve:
Chopped fresh coriander
Side dishes:
Steamed rice
Fruit chutney
One or two sliced  bananas mixed with shredded coconut
1 small diced cucumber mixed with plain yoghurt
Diced tomato and onion
Naan bread, warmed

Steam the rice and prepare the side dishes.

In a large deep frying pan heat the butter and oil and cook the onion and garlic, gently, until soft but not browned. Add the curry paste, ginger, chilli and ground spices and cook, stirring over low to moderate heat, for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes and coconut cream/milk or water and simmer the sauce for a few minutes while you wait for the rice to cook. Add sugar and seasoning to taste.

Add the chicken a couple of minutes before serving and, if using, the spinach. Don’t overcook – serve as soon as the chicken is heated through, adding a little more water if necessary. Garnish with coriander and serve with steamed rice, naan bread and side dishes. If you add the spinach you can skip the coriander if you like, as you have some greenery.

Serves 4-6

Note: adding about half a 400g can of coconut milk or cream to the sauce is optional, but it does make it nice and creamy. Freeze the unused half to use another time.

 

Peanut Chicken with Rice

This tasty family recipe takes almost no time to prepare. Serve with a salad or green vegetable.

If anyone has a peanut allergy, use cashews.

1 kg chicken thighs with skin and bone (see note below)
1 cup long grain rice
2½ cups water mixed with a chicken stock cube
½ cup peanuts (or cashews)
½ cup Hoisin sauce
2 Tbs rice wine vinegar (or balsamic vinegar)
½ cup water or white wine

Trim chicken pieces of any excess fat and place in a bowl. Preheat oven to 180°C. Place rice, water and crumbled stock cube in a baking dish and stir to combine. Cover with foil and bake for 30 mins.

Meanwhile place peanuts, Hoisin and rice wine vinegar in food processor and process until fairly smooth. Scrape into the bowl with the chicken and mix well.

When rice has cooked for half an hour, arrange chicken pieces over the top, skin side up. The chicken should cover the rice in one layer with no gaps. Mix the half cup of water or wine into any marinade left in the dish and pour it over the chicken. Bake for 40 minutes without the foil, or until nicely browned and cooked through – test with a skewer or fork.

Serve with a salad or a green vegetable

Serves 4-6

Note: if preferred use skinless, boneless chicken pieces which will take slightly less time to cook.

Pasta with Chicken, Bacon, Artichokes & Spinach

Roast chickens were half price when I did my supermarket shopping this week. They are always handy to have in the fridge to whip up one or two quick meals.

I used one drumstick and one thigh to fill a couple of wraps for lunch. Onto the wraps I spread some home-made mayonnaise, then topped with the chicken, a few roasted pumpkin cubes with pesto (leftover from the previous night’s dinner), some lettuce leaves, grated carrot and a little Tomato Kasaundi – a delicious curried chutney which isn’t on Café Cat yet, but will be in due course. You could use another chutney. Invented on the spur of the moment, this wrap filling was a winning combination.

In an attempt to follow a fairly low carb diet we don’t eat a lot of pasta – maybe once or twice a month. When we do, I like to make something tasty with lots of additions, so it’s not all pasta. The only thing I had to nip to the corner shop for was the spinach, everything else was in the fridge or pantry. If you don’t have a cooked chicken in the fridge you could pan-fry one chicken breast instead.

250g pasta of your choice
80-100g chunky bacon bits (lardons)
2 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 cooked chicken breast, shredded or chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup artichoke hearts (from a jar or can), sliced
2 cups baby spinach leaves, firmly packed
1/3 cup cream
To serve:
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain, keeping 1 cup of the cooking water, then put back into the pan with the reserved liquid.

Meanwhile cook the chunky bacon bits in a non-stick frying pan until browned and crispy. Remove from the pan. If you like discard the bacon fat but I usually keep it. Add the oil and onion to the pan and cook, stirring often, until soft and starting to brown. Add the onions to the pasta with the bacon, chicken, garlic, artichokes, spinach and cream. Turn on the heat just long enough to heat everything through, stirring. Season to taste.

Serve the pasta topped with grated Parmesan and freshly ground black pepper.

Serves 2-3

 

Crispy Chicken Tray Bake

A perfect dish to serve at a family gathering. Adjust the quantity of ingredients according to how many people you are serving.

Make a big salad and buy some fresh crusty bread to soak up the juices. A tub of ice cream served with this quick and easy chocolate sauce and Bob’s your Uncle, as they say in the classics. Dinner’s served.

10-16 chicken pieces, bone-in, skin on
½ to 1kg small chat potatoes
1-2 large onions, halved then sliced
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
150-200g rindless bacon, chopped
1-2 Tbs chopped fresh thyme (or 1-2 tsp dried)
½-¾ cup chicken stock
150-200ml cream
1-2 Tbs Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
To serve:
Sprigs of fresh thyme

Trim chicken pieces of excess fat. Preheat oven to 200°C. Cut potatoes in half and arrange over the base of a large shallow baking dish or tin. Spread the onions, garlic and bacon evenly over the potatoes. Sprinkle with the thyme. Arrange chicken pieces over the top, skin side up and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes.

Mix stock, cream and mustard and pour evenly over the chicken. Return to the oven for a further 30-40 minutes or until chicken is cooked and crispy and potatoes are tender.

Serves 8-12

Renés Chicken with Pernod

For over two decades, the iconic Omaha restaurant Dixie Quicks drew customers of all ages and backgrounds like a magnet, for good food, acceptance and respect. René Orduña ran the restaurant with his husband Rob Gilmer and it soon became a hotspot for artists, drag queens, musicians and creative types, giving sanctuary and guidance to gay Omahans.

When René died of cancer in 2016 Rob continued to run the restaurant on his own for two years. But it was not the same. “This was Renés restaurant” he said. “He was the catalyst, he was the force.” So after 22 years in business Dixie Quicks finally closed its doors in January 2018.

René gave his recipe for Chicken with Pernod to my cousin Mary Beth who lives in Omaha. It was one of the most popular dishes on the menu and her favourite.

2 large skinless boneless chicken breasts (or 4 small ones)
1/3 to 1/2 cup plain flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tsp butter and 2 tsp oil
1 large shallot or 1 small onion, finely diced
250g tomatoes cut in quarters or cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ to ½ cup chicken stock
½ cup cream (or coconut cream)
½ cup Pernod
To serve
:
Steamed Rice
Finely chopped parsley

Trim chicken breasts, cut each one in half and hammer out a bit with a meat mallet. Season the flour and use it to coat chicken on both sides, discarding any excess. Heat butter and oil in a frying pan which holds the 4 pieces of chicken in one layer. Brown chicken on both sides, then lower the heat and continue to cook until cooked through. Remove from pan.

Add shallots or onion to the pan and cook, stirring over low heat until soft. Add tomatoes and a little salt and pepper. Return chicken to the pan, add Pernod and stir to deglaze the pan. Flambé, shaking the pan until the flames subside. Add chicken stock and cream and cook, stirring and turning the chicken until sauce has thickened and reduced a bit. This will only take a coupe of minutes. Check for seasoning.

Serve over steamed rice, sprinkled with parsley.

Servs 4

 

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.

Chicken in a Pot with Pasta

This delicious one pot recipe comes from one of my favourite no-nonsense cooks, Nigella Lawson. As the chicken, leeks and carrots cook they create a delicious stock which soaks into the pasta. Nigella uses a very small pasta called Orzo or Risoni, which looks a bit like grains of rice. I only had a small amount of Risoni at the bottom of a packet, so I made up the difference with another small pasta.

The recipe will serve at least six. We had it on its own, but you could always add a crusty loaf and a green salad to feed more people. Choose a large heavy pot with a lid which will hold the chicken, with room around it for the vegetables and pasta. Mine is an oval Le Creuset casserole (from the 1970s, when orange was a very popular colour!) which can be used on the stove top as well as in the oven. Nigella uses dried tarragon, but as I have fresh in the garden at the moment I used that.


1 Tbs olive oil
1 whole chicken (1.5 – 1.7 kg)
3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 leeks (the white part and some of the green) sliced
2 large carrots, cut into sticks
Finely grated rind and juice of 1 large lemon
2 Tbs fresh tarragon, chopped (or 2 tsp dried)
2 tsp salt
½ tsp dried chilli flakes (optional)
1L to 1.5L cold water
300g Risoni or other small pasta
6 Tbs chopped parsley
To serve:
Freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 180°C and prepare the vegetables. Heat the oil in a large heavy-based casserole with a lid. Dry chicken with paper towels and place in the pan, breast side down, for 3-5 minutes, or until nicely browned. Turn the chicken over and then add the garlic, lemon rind and juice, tarragon, salt and chilli flakes, if using, filling the space around the chicken. Add enough water to cover the vegetables, but not the browned chicken breast which should be left sticking out of the liquid. Turn up the heat to bring the liquid to the boil, then cover the casserole and place in the oven for an hour to an hour and a quarter, by which time the chicken will be cooked. Add the pasta, pushing it under the liquid and stirring it as best you can.

Cover and return to the oven for 15 minutes or until the pasta is cooked. Remove from the oven and leave to stand for 15 minutes before serving. Mix in some of the parsley and scatter the rest on top. Serve a bowl of grated Parmesan on the side.

Serves 6-8

Note: if you don’t have a casserole dish which can be used on the stove top, brown the chicken breast in a frying pan, then put it into the casserole with the remaining ingredients and add boiling water instead of cold.