Chicken and Leek Gratin

My friend Franca raved about this Chicken and Leek Gratin by Annabel Langbein so I couldn’t wait to try it. It lived up to its reputation and got a big tick firstly because it’s delicious and secondly because it’s quick to make.

Chicken and Leek GratinCreamed Leeks:
2-4 leeks, depending on size
3 Tbs butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper ½ cup cream
Chicken layer:
8-12 boneless skinless chicken thighs
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs fresh or 1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp salt
Crust:
2 cups sourdough breadcrumbs (left quite chunky)
2-4 cloves garlic
1 cup chopped parsley
3 anchovies
1 tsp fresh rosemary
Grated rind 1 lemon
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
50g butter

Wash, trim and chop the leeks, using all the white and a bit of the green part . Heat butter in a medium frying pan and cook leeks for 5-10 mins or until softened. Add the cream and season to taste. Spread leeks over the base of a buttered ovenproof lasagne-type dish.

For the chicken layer, if liked cut each chicken piece in two then mix with remaining ingredients and arrange over the leeks.

For the crust, make the crumbs first in a food process then add the remaining ingredients and pulse a few times to chop and combine, but don’t over-do it. Spread over the chicken.

Recipe can be made ahead to this stage and kept in the fridge for up to 24 hours, covered or out of the fridge for an hour or two. Allow to come to room temperature.

Cook in a preheated oven at 180°C for 50-60 minutes or until nicely browned and chicken is tender when pierced with a skewer.

Serves 6-8

Quick Chicken Satay

Everyone loves chicken satay and this recipe can be made in no time with ingredients you probably have in the pantry. It’s easy to halve for two or three people.

The first time I made this the washer upper complained that the frying pan was very difficult to clean, because of the honey. A week or so later I was chatting to a friend about the virtues of using non-stick baking paper to line an oven tray when you’re baking salmon or chicken, so there’s nothing to wash up. My friend said this trick also works when you’re cooking something in a frying pan.

So I tried it and it works. Just cut a circle of non-stick baking paper to fit the base of the pan and cook the satays on top. It doesn’t affect how they brown and the pan is so much easier to clean. No complaints from the washer upper this time.

DSCF11481 kg lean chicken thigh meat
Marinade:
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbs oil
2 tsp turmeric
1 Tbs honey
½ tsp salt
Sauce:
¼ cup peanut butter
¼ cup Thai sweet chilli sauce
1 tsp fish sauce
2 tsp soy sauce
1/3 cup tinned coconut milk (shake can first)
To serve:
Steamed rice
Lime or lemon wedges
Sliced red or white onion and cucumber

Cut chicken thigh into cubes. Mix marinade ingredients and add chicken. Leave to marinate for at least half an hour. Meanwhile, soak 16-20 short wooden bamboo skewers in warm water.

Thread chicken cubes onto skewers. Heat a large non-stick frying pan or griddle pan and cook satays for a minute or two on all four sides, until cooked through and browned.

Meanwhile mix all ingredients for sauce. Serve satays with the sauce, steamed rice, sliced onion, cucumber and lemon wedges.

Serves 6

Three Easy Chicken recipes made in a Slow Cooker

I found a recipe online for a really easy chicken recipe made in a slow cooker. Basically you cut up some boned and skinned chicken thighs, put them in the slow cooker with a few other ingredients, cover and cook on high for five hours. And that’s it.

So following this basic idea I developed three variations. Perfect for busy people – this one’s for you Fiona.

Three Easy Chicken recipes made in a Slow CookerSweet and Sour Chicken
1kg chicken thigh meat, trimmed and cut into 1 inch (2-3 cm) cubes
2 cups tomato passata or sauce for pasta
1 can pineapple cubes, drained
2 tsp sugar
1 onion, finely chopped
1 Tbs grated or finely chopped ginger
1 red capsicum (pepper) cut into 1 inch (2 cm) squares
1 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs tomato paste
Salt and pepper to taste

Satay Chicken
1kg chicken thigh meat, trimmed and cut into 1 inch (2-3 cm) cubes
½ cup peanut butter
1 Tbs brown sugar
1 Tbs soy sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 can coconut milk
1 onion, finely chopped
1 chicken stock cube
Fresh chilli, finely chopped, to taste (optional)
Juice of half a lemon or one lime
Salt and pepper to taste

Mexican Chicken
1kg chicken thigh meat, trimmed and cut into 1 inch (2-3 cm) cubes
1 jar Mexican salsa
1 Tbs soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
1 clove garlic, crushed
Fresh chopped chilli, to taste (optional)
Juice of half a lemon or one lime
Salt and pepper to taste

Garnishes
Thinly sliced spring onions for the Sweet and Sour – serve with rice
Chopped peanuts and coriander for the Satay – serve with rice
Diced avocado & red onion, grated cheddar for the Mexican – serve with wraps or tortillas

To serve
Steamed rice, wraps or tacos

Place chicken and chosen sauce ingredients in slow cooker, stir. Cover and cook on High for about five hours, stirring once or twice during cooking time. Check seasoning.

Serve with steamed rice or tacos or wraps.

Serves 4-6

Roast Chicken with Jerusalem Artichokes and Lemon

The Jerusalem artichokes from our veggie garden are ready to use, so I went through some cookbooks looking for new ways to use them. This easy and delicious recipe comes from Jerusalem by one of my favourite chefs, Yotam Ottolenghi and his partner Sami Tamimi.

I’ve made a few slight adjustments. The original recipe uses fresh tarragon which I didn’t have, so I used marjoram which grows profusely in our garden and doesn’t get hit so early by the frost. It worked well. If you don’t have any saffron add a couple of teaspoons of turmeric. Ottolenghi says to peel the artichokes but it’s such a fiddly job we just scrub them and trim off any black bits.

If you don’t have Jerusalem artichokes substitute parsnips, pumpkin, sweet potatoes or ordinary potatoes.

500g Jerusalem artichokes
8 chicken thighs, skin-on, trimmed
Juice of 1 lemonDSCF1116
12 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
12 shallots, peeled & halved lengthwise
1 lemon, halved lengthwise & sliced thinly
1 tsp saffron threads
¼ cup olive oil
¾ cup water
1½ Tbs pink peppercorns (optional – see note)
1 Tbs fresh thyme leaves or 2 tsp dried
2 Tbs fresh marjoram or tarragon, chopped
1 to 2 tsp salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
To serve:
Extra chopped herbs
Extra lemon juice

Scrub and trim the artichokes, then cut into even chunks about 2cm thick. Place in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 mins, drain. Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix well with hands. Cover and leave to marinate for 1-2 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 220°C. Tip chicken and marinade into a rectangular roasting tin (mine is non-stick) and spread out evenly. Cover with foil and roast for half an hour. Remove foil, baste chicken with the juices, then roast for a further 15 mins or until cooked and nicely browned.

Serve garnished with some extra chopped fresh herbs and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Serves 4

Note: pink peppercorns are not really peppercorns at all (look them up on Google if you’re interested). You can buy them in specialty shops such as The Essential Ingredient. They go well with smoked salmon, Gravlax, chicken and fish dishes.

Chicken and Zucchini Burgers with Creamy Sauce

This recipe is adapted from one by Israeli-born Yotam Ottolenghi. He uses turkey mince. I used chicken mince, but you could also use pork or pork and veal mince. He pan fries them, then finishes them off in the oven. I just pan fried them. I also increased the cumin and added the pine nuts for a bit of crunch.

This is a good way to get reluctant kids to eat some green vegetables. Any leftover burgers are delicious cold for lunch.

Chicken and Zucchini Burgers with Creamy Sauce500g minced chicken, turkey, pork or pork and veal
2 small or one large zucchini (courgette), coarsely grated
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 egg
2 Tbs finely chopped mint
2 Tbs finely chopped coriander
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp ground cumin
2 Tbs pine nuts
1 tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
Oil for frying
Sauce:
½ cup sour cream
½ cup thick Greek yoghurt
1 tsp grated lemon rind
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 clove garlic, crushed
1½ Tbs vegetable or olive oil
1 Tbs Sumac (see note below)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients for sauce in a small bowl and refrigerate until serving time. Mix all ingredients for burgers (not the oil) in a large bowl. Form into about 8 burgers or 16-18 large meatballs.

Heat some vegetable oil in a large frying pan and cook the burgers in two batches for 5-6 minutes each side, or until nicely browned and cooked through.

Serve burgers hot or cold with the sauce.

Serves 4

Note: Sumac is a Middle Eastern spice mix. If you don’t have any use 2 tsp dried cumin and 2 tsp dried coriander instead. If preferred use 1 cup yoghurt for the sauce and leave out the sour cream.

Lemon Crumbed Chicken

This delicious chicken recipe is one I’ve had for decades. It comes from a time when nobody worried about cream and butter. If you want to cut down on the cholesterol and calories just leave out the sauce. Having said that, what’s half a cup of cream between four people?

The recipe is easy to halve for two people and makes a perfect mid-week dinner served with a salad. Kids will probably like it without the sauce and in fact chicken breasts are so big these days you might find once you’ve sliced them here’s enough for more than four servings, especially a couple of small kids.

DSCF08584 chicken breasts
¼ cup lemon juice
½ cup dry white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 Tbs vegetable oil
2 Tbs seasoned flour
1 egg beaten with 1 Tbs milk
½ cup dry breadcrumbs or Panko crumbs
2 Tbs ground almonds or cashews
1 tsp dry oregano
2 Tbs finely chopped parsley
1 Tbs finely grated lemon rind
1 Tbs grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs oil, extra
2 tsp flour, extra|
½ cup cream
1 Tbs chopped parsley, extra
4 wedges of lemon

Hammer out the thicker part of the chicken with a meat mallet so breasts have an even thickness, then marinate in lemon juice, wine, oil, S and P for 2 hours. Make the ground nuts by whizzing them in a food processor. Mix breadcrumbs with ground nuts, oregano, parsley, lemon rind and Parmesan. Drain chicken, keeping marinade. Coat in the lightly seasoned flour, then the beaten egg and lastly the breadcrumb mixture . Press on well and if there’s time refrigerate until ready to cook.

Heat butter and extra oil in a non-stick frying pan over moderate heat and cook chicken on both sides until golden brown and cooked through. This will take about 7-8 minutes each side. Remove from pan and keep warm. Add extra flour to the pan and stir to cook. Add marinade and simmer for 1 minute, then cream and heat but don’t boil. Slice each chicken breast into 5-6 slices and arrange on serving plates. Spoon sauce over chicken and garnish with extra parsley and lemon wedges.

Serves 4

Moroccan Chicken

This is another great recipe from Delicious magazine, with a few slight changes and variations. A perfect mid-week dinner, with some leftovers for sandwiches.

The original recipe uses 2 Tbs of Ras el Hanout – a Moroccan spice blend available in some specialist shops. But it’s not difficult to make, so I have explained how to do this. Don’t worry if you’re missing one of the spices, just add something else.

In the salad the original recipe uses freekeh – an ancient, but now new and trendy grain. I used pearl barley instead. You could also substitute burghul (cracked wheat) or couscous. The second time I made this dish I served the chicken and onions on mashed sweet potato instead of the grain salad, which was also very tasty.

Costco sells two small punnets of fresh pomegranate seeds for about $10. Freeze them in ice cube trays, then you can whip a couple out to garnish dishes like this and add a splash of colour.

Moroccan Chicken

1.5kg whole chicken
2 Tbs Ras al Hanout (see below)
1 tsp salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs olive oil
2-3 large onions, peeled and very thickly sliced
Grain salad:
1 cup barley
1 can lentils (or cook some dried lentils)
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup pumpkin or sunflower seeds, or a mix
2 Tbs capers, rinsed and drained
½ cup dried cranberries, raisins or sultanas
1 cup coriander leaves, finely chopped
1 cup flat parsley leaves, finely chopped
½ cup mint leaves, finely chopped
Dressing:
2-3 Tbs lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
To serve:
2 Tbs pomegranate molasses (see below)
Thick Greek-style plain yoghurt
Seeds from 1 pomegranate (optional)
Rocket salad

Pre-heat oven to 180°C. Rinse and pat chicken dry with paper towels. Mix Ras el Hanout with the salt, pepper and the 2 Tbs oil and brush all over the chicken, both sides and inside. Place onion slices in a roasting pan and sit chicken on top. Roast for between an hour and a quarter and an hour and a half, or until juices run clear when thickest part of chicken thigh is pierced with a skewer. After about 40 mins of cooking, turn chicken over and about 20 mins before it’s ready, turn it back over again. When you turn the chicken, move the onions around a bit so they don’t burn. Add about ¼ cup of water if they’re starting to burn and stick.

Meanwhile cook barley in boiling salted water for about 30 mins or until al dente. When almost cooked add the drained lentils. When barley is cooked drain both and place in a bowl. Add remaining ingredients. Mix dressing ingredients and mix with grains.

When chicken is cooked brush all over with Pomegranate Molasses then cover loosely with foil, turn off the oven and leave it in there for 10-20 mins or until you are ready to serve. The chicken will continue to cook, resulting in meat that is almost falling off the bone, but we liked it that way.

Carve chicken into portions and serve with some of the onions on a bed of grain salad. Top with a dollop of yoghurt and some pomegranate seeds and serve a rocket salad, dressed simply with a little olive oil and lemon juice, on the side.

Serves 4-6

Notes:

Ras al Hanout: An Australian tablespoon = 20 mls and a teaspoon = 5 mls. So to make 2 Tbs of spice mix you need 8 tsp of ground spices. Mix together 1 tsp of each of the following: cumin, coriander, paprika, ginger, cardamom or fenugreek and turmeric. Then add ½ tsp each of cloves and nutmeg. And ½ to 1 tsp chilli powder, to taste. For kids you may prefer to leave the chilli out altogether.

Pomegranate Molasses: a sweet and sour sauce from Morocco available in some specialist shops. If you don’t have any either leave it out, or substitute 1 Tbs Thai Sweet Chilli sauce or honey mixed with 1 Tbs balsamic vinegar.

Variations: instead of serving chicken on grain salad, serve it on mashed sweet potato or pumpkin (add butter, S and P).

Chicken Biryani

I watched Rick Stein make this on his TV programme about India and decided to give it a try. We’re not big meat eaters, but we prefer to fill up on protein and vegetables rather than carbs. So I cut the 600g of rice in Steins recipe down to 400g and increased the chicken meat from 600g to one kilo.  If you prefer to use the original recipe you can find it online.

This recipe serves 6-8 and is perfect for entertaining. We didn’t have guests coming which meant there were delicious leftovers to reheat and serve later in the week. I found it easier to mix the saffron and rosewater into the rice rather than sprinkling it over the layers as Stein does. If you don’t have any rosewater don’t worry – the flavour is very subtle so just leave it out. I’ve added a teaspoon of sugar as I always do with savoury sauces, especially if they contain tomato.

A Biryani is supposed to be dry with separate grains of rice. If you prefer more sauce don’t do the final layering in the casserole. Instead boil the rice completely, then drain and serve in one dish. And stop cooking the chicken when there’s more sauce left and serve it in another dish. Alternatively serve the Biryani with another curry which has lots of sauce, such as a vegetable curry.

When we lived in Copenhagen we had an Indian housekeeper called Rajan. He was always telling me that the two steaks or chicken pieces we were having for dinner would feed his family in India for a week. Having inherited my mother’s War mentality I hate to see good food go to waste, so I’m pretty frugal and good at using up leftovers. But by Rajan’s standards all Westerners are wasteful. He would often rock his head from side to side and say “Madam very wasteful”.

Once we had a reception for several hundred people and I needed lots of coriander for one of the dishes. That week the supermarket only had it growing in pots so I bought eight. When Rajan saw me throwing the completely denuded plants into the bin next day he was horrified. Unbeknownst to me he rescued them, took them to his room and kept them on the window sill. It was the middle of winter and far too cold to plant them outside. Two months later in walks Rajan clutching eight flourishing coriander plants, a big smile on his face. It was a real “Ta da” moment, so I made all the right noises and told him how wonderful he was. He was very pleased with himself, this incident being further proof that Madam was indeed very wasteful.

Rajan and I spent many happy hours working together in the kitchen and putting the world to rights. He was often difficult to understand, especially when discussing India-Pakistan politics or cricket, so I usually found it easier just to agree with him. I tried on several occasions to get him to call me Mrs Peek, but he would always reply “Yes Madam”.

Chicken Biryani400g basmati rice, soaked in cold water for an hour
Marinade:
1 cup plain thick yoghurt
2-3 green chillies (mine were 10cm+ long so I used 2)
1 tsp chilli powder (I substituted a rounded tsp of Sambal Oelek)
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 heaped Tbs grated fresh ginger
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 kg boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut in halves
Fried Onions:
1 cup vegetable oil
3 medium onions, thinly sliced
Remaining ingredients:
10 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick, broken
5 cardamom pods, bruised with a rolling pin
2 bay leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
100g clarified butter or ghee, melted
Pinch saffron soaked in 4 Tbs warm milk for 15 mins
2-3 tsp rosewater
To garnish:
A handful of dry roasted cashews and/or pistachio nuts to garnish
A handful of raisins (not in Stein’s recipe but in many others)
Fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Mix chicken with marinade and put aside for an hour or more. Drain rice and cook in plenty of boiling salted water for 5-7 minutes or until just tender but still firm. Put aside to drain. Heat oil in a wok or large frying pan and cook the onions for 10-15 mins or until golden brown and crispy. Drain on paper towels.

Remove all but 3 Tbs oil from the pan. Keep the rest of the oil for another use. Cook the whole spices for a minute then add the chicken and its marinade, the tomato and salt and cook, stirring and turning the chicken from time to time over a moderate heat for 20-30 minutes, or until chicken is tender and liquid has mostly disappeared. Stein says to add a splash of water to the sauce if it starts to catch before the chicken is cooked, but I didn’t find this necessary.

To assemble the dish, mix saffron mixture and rosewater into the cooked rice. If you don’t have any saffron, substitute 1-2 teaspoons of turmeric. Place half the clarified butter or ghee and 3 Tbs water in a large heavy casserole with a well fitting lid. A Le Creuset-type is perfect. Spread over a third of the rice, then half the chicken and a third of the fried onions. Repeat with another third of rice, the remaining chicken, another third of the onions and finally the rest of the rice. Keep the remaining third of fried onions to garnish. Drizzle the remaining clarified butter or ghee around the edges of the rice so it drips down the sides and prevents sticking. Put the lid on the pot and place on the stove on a high heat. Lift up the lid to check and as soon as you see steam rising put the lid back and turn the heat to very low for 30 minutes.

Tip the Biryani onto a large serving platter, making sure you scrape up the crispy bits from the bottom of the casserole, as they are particularly delicious. Garnish with the remaining fried onions, the nuts, raisins and coriander.

A side dish of raita – a yoghurt and cucumber dish for which there are plenty of recipes online – goes well, as does a dish of fruit chutney.

Serves 6-8

Sticky Chilli Chicken

You may have noticed that Café Cat has been quiet for the past 3 weeks while I was on a business trip to Chile. This involved catching up with lots of friends – rather too many lunches, dinners and pisco sours – the Chilean national tipple. But life’s too short to avoid occasional periods of over-indulgence!

For some reason jet-lag is always better coming back from Chile to Australia than it is going. Even so, in the first few days after returning from somewhere which is 14 hours behind AEST, I am not at my most creative. So we’ve been eating quick and easy, tried and tested dishes such as this one for Sticky Chilli Chicken. The original recipe came from Donna Hay – I’ve just cut down a bit on the sugar and the soy sauce. It may sound like a lot of chillies, but the end result is not very hot. Any leftovers are nice cold.

Sticky Chilli Chicken1.5kg chicken pieces (I use thighs)
Chilli Sauce:
3 red chillies, seeded and finely chopped
1 Tbs grated ginger
2 cups water
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup sugar
½ cup vinegar
½ cup chopped coriander

Place all ingredients for sauce except the coriander in a deep frying pan which has a lid and simmer for 3 minutes. I use an old-fashioned electric frypan. Trim chicken pieces and remove skin if liked. Add chicken to pan, cover and cook for half an hour, turning from time to time. Remove lid and continue to cook for 20-25 minutes, turning chicken from time to time until the sauce has become sticky and the chicken is well coated. Watch carefully towards the end as you don’t want the sauce to completely dry up and burn. Add coriander and serve with steamed rice.

Serves 4

Roast Chicken with Spaetzle & Burnt Sage Butter

Made from flour and eggs and cooked in boiling water, spaetzle is the German equivalent of pasta. A bit like gnocchi without the mashed potato. If you like making spaetzle it’s worth investing in a spaetzle-making gizmo. They’re not expensive – I bought mine for about $20 including postage from Fishpond.

I first ate spaetzle in Austria as a delicious dessert called Apfel Spaetzle. The little morsels of cooked dough had been stir fried in butter with sliced apples and spices, then doused with icing sugar. It might even have been stuck under a griller as there were some crispy crunchy bits.

It’s looking a bit wilted and sad, but my sage bush seems to be surviving the winter frosts. Although the recipe says burnt butter, it should actually be nut brown rather than burnt.

Roast Chicken with Spaetzle & Burnt Sage Butter1 whole chicken
25-30g butter
2 Tbs chopped fresh sage
Spaetzle:
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1 tsp salt
3-4 Tbs milk

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Roast the chicken for an hour to an hour and a half, depending on size, seasoned with salt and pepper and a knob of butter.

Meanwhile, make the spaetzle. Mix eggs with flour, salt and enough milk to make a sticky mixture. Half fill a large pan with water and some salt and bring to the boil. Push the mixture through an oiled spaetzle maker into the water in batches. Alternatively you can drop small pieces of dough, about half a teaspoon at a time, into the water or push the dough through the holes of a metal collander. When the little dough balls rise to the top they are done. Remove with a slotted spoon to a collander.

When chicken is almost ready, heat butter in a frying pan. Allow it to brown, but be careful it doesn’t burn. Add the sage and cook for a minute or so, then add the spaetzle and cook for another minute, stirring, until they have absorbed the butter.

Divide spaetzle between 4 plates. Carve chicken and arrange on top of each serving. If liked drizzle some of the chicken pan juices over the top. Serve with a steamed green vegetable such as broccoli.

Serves 4