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

Potato Cakes with Smoked Salmon

Our potato crop has just started so I put these delicious potato cakes on the menu for a light lunch last weekend. They originate in Scandinavia and when we were living in Copenhagen we ordered them quite often in restaurants.

They don’t contain any flour making them gluten free, which is good news for readers who avoid eating wheat and other grains.

500g potatoes
1 small onion, grated (optional)
1 egg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive or vegetable oil to fry
To serve:
Smoked Salmon or Trout
Sour Cream
Snipped chives

Peel potatoes and coarsely grate by hand or using a 0.5cm attachment on your food processor, transferring to a large bowl of cold water as grated. Soak potatoes for a couple of minutes then drain well in a colander. Spread potatoes on a tea towel and roll up. Twist towel tightly over the sink, to remove as much liquid as possible.

Transfer grated potato to a bowl and mix in the grated onion (if using), egg, salt and pepper. Heat ¼ cup oil in a large nonstick frying pan over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches of four, spoon 2 tablespoons potato mixture per potato cake into frying pan, spreading into 3-inch rounds with a fork. Reduce heat to moderate and cook for 4-5 minutes, until undersides are browned. Turn over and cook for 4-5 minutes more. Transfer to paper towels to drain and season lightly with salt. Add more oil to pan as needed. Keep potato cakes warm on a wire rack over a shallow baking pan in a low oven. Leftovers can be reheated in a low oven.

Serve potato cakes with smoked salmon or trout, sour cream and chives and cracked pepper.

Makes 6-8 cakes serving 3-4

Individual Tiramisus

Keeping the weight off becomes a constant battle for most people over the age of forty. Some have to pay attention much earlier and a few lucky ones never have to think about it.

Unless we’re entertaining, I rarely make desserts. Every now and then, however, I think what the hell, life’s too short, especially during this Covid pandemic, when we’re entertaining and going out far less.

When I think we deserve a treat I make individual desserts in small glasses and put them in the fridge for us to eat over a few days. These small indulgences are not so big as to make you feel guilty, but when you feel like something sweet they just hit the spot.

I often think of my Irish grandmother who said to me after Grandpa died at the age of 62 “I didn’t let him have all those English puddings he loved and he died young anyway.” Actually I think it was the smoking rather than the weight that did it. Or maybe a combination of the two.

I have several quick and easy desserts I make in these small glasses and this is one of them. Any plain chocolate biscuits will do. Buy ones which are made with a chocolate mix, such as Arnott’s Chocolate Ripple, not ones which are iced with chocolate. If in doubt Google Arnott’s Chocolate Ripple so you can see what they look like and find something similar.

8 (or 12) un-iced chocolate biscuits, eg Arnott’s Chocolate Ripple
1 cup strong coffee (see note below)
2 Tbs brandy or rum (optional)
1½ cups cream
½ cup cream cheese or mascarpone, at room temp
2 Tbs icing sugar
Cocoa powder

Find 8 small glasses or ramekins which each hold about half a cup or 125ml.

Mix coffee and brandy or rum. Dip biscuits in this mixture to thoroughly soak and put one, or one and a half in each glass. Divide any leftover coffee amongst glasses, drizzling it over the biscuits.

Whip cream and when it holds soft peaks add cream cheese or mascarpone and mix to combine, then add the icing sugar. Divide amongst the glasses, pushing it under and around the biscuits. It doesn’t matter if they break up. Smooth the tops, then cover with sifted cocoa. Refrigerate, loosely covered. I put them in one large dish and cover it with a shower cap.

Makes 8 individual desserts

Note: use brewed coffee, cooled, or a cup of boiling water mixed with a heaped tablespoon of instant coffee, cooled. You could leave out the cream cheese or mascarpone and use more cream.

Asparagus with Smoked Salmon, Poached Egg and Quick Hollandaise

Asparagus goes very well with smoked fish and with eggs. This recipe uses both and ties all the ingredients together with a delicious herby hollandaise sauce, which takes no time at all to make.

It’s best to be cautious on timing the first time you make the sauce. Microwave ovens vary and it may only need 10 or 12 seconds on High in yours.

10-12 spears asparagus
4 slices smoked salmon
2 large eggs
Quick Hollandaise Sauce:
2 egg yolks
3-4 tsp lemon juice
pinch of salt and cayenne pepper
60g butter, melted
1 Tbs chopped fresh tarragon (optional)
To garnish:
Pink peppercorns (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil

Trim and wash asparagus and place in a frying pan. Add cold water to cover, then turn on the heat, bring to the boil and cook for 3 minutes or until al dente. Drain on paper towels then arrange on two heated serving plates. Meanwhile poach the eggs and make the sauce.

Arrange a poached egg and two slices of smoked salmon on each serving of asparagus. Garnish with the sauce, a few pink peppercorns, if using and a drizzle of olive oil.

Quick Hollandaise Sauce: place egg yolks, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a heatproof bowl and whisk with a balloon whisk to combine. Whisk in the hot melted butter, then zap in the microwave for 14-15 seconds on High (no more or the egg yolks will scramble). Whisk vigorously to combine, add the tarragon and serve.

Serves 2

Pumpkin and Leek Frittata

Frittata is a quiche without the pastry. Delicious straight out of the oven and leftovers make a tasty lunch the following day.

1 kg butternut pumpkin, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
2-3 leeks depending on size, white part only, sliced
6-8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbs fresh chopped thyme
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 eggs
1½ cups cream
½ cup grated parmesan
1 cup ricotta or cream cheese (optional)
Chopped parsley to garnish

Preheat oven to 220°C. Place pumpkin, leeks, garlic, thyme, oil, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix well. Spread out on a shallow baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake for 25-30 mins or until cooked and starting to brown. Meanwhile whisk eggs, cream and parmesan in a bowl and season.

Tip vegetable mixture into a non-stick frying pan with an oven-proof handle. Choose one measuring about 28cm in diameter. Pour the egg and cream mixture evenly over the vegetables, then if using put blobs of ricotta or cream cheese all over.

Bake for 25 minutes or until puffed and golden. Garnish with parsley.

Serves 4-6

Chargrilled Zucchini with Avocado Hummus

I recently spent a few days in hospital. As I ate the unimaginative, tasteless hospital food I watched the SBS food channel and made notes. This is one of the delicious recipes I wrote down which we had for lunch today. Why can’t hospitals do better?

6 zucchini (about 1kg) halved lengthwise
1 clove garlic, crushed
Finely grated zest and juice 1 lemon
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
3 Tbs dukkah
Lemon wedges, chopped parsley and olive oil, to serve
Avocado Hummus:
2 ripe avocados
½ cup tahini
1 clove garlic, crushed
Finely grated zest and juice 1 lemon
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the Hummus, place all ingredients in food processor and process until smooth and creamy, stopping halfway to scrape down the sides. Heat a large chargrill until hot and cook the zucchini halves, without oil, for 3 minutes each side, or until charred and cooked through.

While zucchini is cooking mix garlic, lemon zest and juice, oil and seasoning in a large bowl. Add the cooked zucchini halves and toss gently. Pile onto a serving platter and scatter with the parsley. Finish with dollops of avocado hummus, a sprinkling of dukkah, a drizzle of olive oil and the lemon wedges. If liked make half the recipe which serves 2.

Serves 4

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.

Crushed Carrots with Pistachio Pesto

I adapted this recipe from one by Noor Murad. She uses fresh coriander as the green herb in the pesto. I used mint and am confident that basil would work equally well. You could even use a mixture of fresh herbs. This recipe raises the humble old carrot to amazing heights. Serve as a side dish or as part of a buffet.

Carrots:
1 to 1½ kg carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
½ cup water
2 Tbs olive oil
6 cloves garlic, peeled
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp chilli flakes
2 Tbs maple syrup
Pesto:
1 cup tightly packed coriander, mint or basil leaves
¾ cup pistachio nuts, lightly toasted
1 clove garlic
About ½ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Garnish:
½ red onion, thinly sliced
Juice of 1 lime or half a lemon
¾ cup Greek yoghurt

Preheat oven to 200°C. Place carrots and remaining ingredients in a shallow roasting pan. Mix then roast for 30 mins, or until no liquid remains and carrots are glazed, turning once or twice during cooking time. Tip onto a shallow serving plate and crush the carrots roughly with a  fork.

While carrots are cooking make the garnishes by mixing about half the lemon or lime juice with the red onion and the other half with the yoghurt. Also make the pesto by placing all ingredients except the oil in a food processor. Process until chunky, adding the oil gradually through the feed tube with the motor running and stopping halfway to scrape down the sides. Season to taste.

Drizzle the pesto over the carrots, then put blobs of the yoghurt all over and finally the drained onions.

Serves 4-6 as a side dish

Variations: use pine nuts instead of pistachios, a little Harissa paste instead of chilli flakes, parsnips or sweet potatoes instead of carrots

Hot Chocolate Puddings

These hot chocolate puddings can be made and cooked in just under half an hour, making them perfect for a last minute gathering or a family treat. You can also make them up to a few hours ahead and leave them in the fridge until you’re ready to pop them in the oven. There’s no flour, making them gluten free.

125g butter
150g dark chocolate, broken into squares
3 eggs, separated
2/3 cup sugar
pinch salt
To serve:
Cream or vanilla ice cream

If you are going to cook the puddings straight away, preheat oven to 190°C. Place butter and chocolate in a small bowl, cover and zap in the microwave for 1-2 minutes or until melted. With electric beaters, beat egg yolks and sugar until thick and creamy. Thoroughly wash the beaters, then whip the egg whites and salt until they hold soft peaks. Add the chocolate and butter mixture to the egg yolk mixture using the beaters, then gently fold in the egg whites using a spatula. Divide between six ramekins or coffee cups (no need to grease them). They should be about three quarters full.

Bake the puddings for 10-15 minutes or put them in the fridge until you’re ready to cook them. When ready they should be well risen and firm to the touch, but still soft inside. If they have been in the fridge for a few hours they will take 2-3 minutes longer than if they haven’t.

Serve immediately with cream or vanilla ice cream.

Serves 6

 

Lemonade Scones

This famous Australian recipe for scones was invented decades ago by a rural country women’s association. I’ve often wondered what they taste like.

Then the other day a news programme featured a 92 year old lady called Muriel who has been making these scones forever. I decided it was time to have a go.

The recipe uses just three ingredients: self-raising flour, cream and lemonade. Converts swear that once you’ve made these scones you won’t go back to your old recipe which involves rubbing butter into flour and then adding sugar and milk. The milk and butter components are covered by the cream and the subtle sweetness comes from the lemonade. If you go onto Google and type in lemonade scones you will find that there are heaps of recipes and slight variations.

I have to be honest and admit that I didn’t have any lemonade so I used diet tonic water which worked fine. In less than half an hour I had 18 perfect scones to serve with homemade jam and whipped cream. They were as light as a feather and delicious.

4 cups self-raising flour
300ml cream
300ml lemonade (or sprite, Seven Up)
Pinch of salt
Milk to brush
To serve:
Whipped cream
Berry jam (raspberry, strawberry, blackcurrant or blackberry)

Preheat oven to 180°C. Sift the flour into a large bowl (Muriel sifts it three times!) then make a well in the centre and mix in the cream and lemonade, using a knife. When the mixture has all come together, tip it out onto a floured surface. Use your hands to lightly flour any sticky areas and form the dough into a round shape. Lightly pat it to an even thickness of about an inch or 2.5cm. Handle lightly and do not knead. This is not bread dough. Cut out scones using a round cutter, or if preferred, just cut the dough into squares.

Place on a lightly greased baking tray, brush the tops with milk, then bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown, well-risen and cooked.

Serve with whipped cream and jam.

Makes about 18