Our latest feast

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Rioja Chicken

My beautiful friend Bernadette gave me an absolute stunner of a cookbook for my birthday, ABC's Delicious - Love To Eat, and I think I have already read it from front to back a couple of times now.  It's a book covering several cuisines from around the world.  The book's layout is clear and pictures of each dish are enticing and well taken.

I have to be honest, as you can all probably imagine, I am addicted to actual cookbooks.  While the internet makes it very easy to find a recipe, explore new opportunities and pinpoint certain ingredients or cuisines there is nothing like sitting down and flicking through a cookbook - reading the instructions and drooling at the pictures.  I have a bookshelf full of cookbooks - I'm talking about 200+ as I just love them.

Another this I also enjoy is sitting down to a Sunday Roast dinner.  The Sunday Roast is a big thing for me as it's a time when all the family are together.  We are normally all home either relaxing (maybe even recovering from a big weekend) or getting prepared for the new week ahead but we are together.  That's always been very important to me.  It's also something that my parents ensured happened every week extending their hospitality to my aunties and uncles, along with their many friends.  I remember Sunday afternoons with 20 or more people at the table as my father loved being surrounded by people and it was always a case of the more the merrier in the Davies household.

While flicking through the new cookbook I stopped immediately when I cam across this recipe for Rioja Chicken. Rioja (pronounced Ree-OH-hah) is a Spanish style Roast Chicken.  The picture looked amazing and as soon as I read the recipe I knew that was what we were having for our Sunday Roast.  While I knew it wasn't going to be a traditional roast it sounded delicious and my eyes were just fixed on the picture.

A combination of smokey chorizo, garlic, red wine and chillies made this an exotic but well balanced flavour sauce and the chicken was melt in your mouth.  Cooking it covered for 1 hour definitely sealed in the juices along with the flavours.  The sauce was thick and very rich but not overpowering.

I managed to find a bottle of Rioja in Liquourland, which I was surprised about,  If you love the structure of Cabernet Sauvignon but the fruitiness of Grenache then you'll love Rioja .  It's made from Trempanillo grapes, popular here in Australia but originating in Spain.  If you cannot find Rioja then substitute it for what red wine you have.

Served with some roasted hassleback potatoes and steamed vegetables this Spanish take on a roast chicken was perfect.

Rioja Chicken
(Recipe adapted from Delicious - Love To Eat Cookbook)

Serves: 8
SmartPoints per Serve: 14

2.2 kilogram whole chicken
freshly ground black pepper
2 onions, sliced
2 tablespoons crushed garlic
300 grams chorizo, casings removed and chopped finely
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups Rioja or other red wine
2 x 400 grams cans diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons brown sugar
4 bay leaves
4 small dried chillies
1 x 400 gram can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Ensure chicken is rinsed thoroughly and pat dry with kitchen towel. Season with salt and pepper.

Spray a heavy based casserole dish or oven safe frying pan with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook for 2 - 3 minutes until softened and golden (not browned). Add chorizo and cook, stirring occasionally for 3-4 minutes or until starting to crisp.

Add stock, wine, tomatoes, brown sugar, bay leaves and chilli. Stir to combine.

Place the chicken, breast side up, on top of the sauce mixture. Cover with a lid or foil and place in the oven. Cook for 1 hour 15 minutes then carefully remove from oven. Remove lid or foil and brush chicken with some of the sauce.

Return chicken to the oven and cook, uncovered, for a further 45 minutes to an hour or until juice runs clear. Remove from oven.

Transfer chicken to a plate and cover loosely with foil. Set aside.

Place the casserole dish or frying pan full of sauce over a medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for approximately 5 minutes until sauce has reduced and thickened. Add chickpeas and stir through to heat.

Place chicken back on top of sauce and serve immediately.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Broccoli and Bacon Carbonara

Everyone has that one go to dish, right?  You know that one dish that just comes together, is easy and plates up perfectly and more importantly everyone enjoys.  Hubby's dish that always works is Nice Chicken, my mam's is always Shepherd's Pie and mine is Maple Mustard Chicken however the kids will say that it's Pasta Carbonara and the only reason I say this is because everytime I ask them what they would like for dinner I get the same answer - Pasta Carbonara!

I have to be truthful - it's not my most favourite pasta dish.. I prefer tomato based sauces laced with chilli and bolder flavours to be perfectly truthful however when it comes to risottos - the creamier the better.  But that's another story....

Tonight I decided to try a recipe that both hubby and I thought would not only be different but full of nice flavours.  It's a total spin on Pasta Carbonara with a creamy broccoli and cheese sauce instead the normal Carbonara sauce (which is basically eggs, cheese and cream).  Crispy bacon batons and broccoli florets made for a visually pleasing dish also.

An easy dish to make and was on the table in just under 45 minutes I thought this would of been a hit.  Both hubby and I thought it was nice although we both added crushed chilli flakes to ours, one child thought it was "ok" but main Carbonara lover said it was horrible!  I'm actually thinking if I didn't call it Broccoli and Bacon Carbonara and just named it Broccoli and Bacon Pasta would there have been a different mind set??

Broccoli and Bacon Carbonara
(Recipe adapted from Taste.com.au)

Serves: 6
SmartPoints per serve: 15

500 grams gluten free pasta or pasta of your choice
2 large head broccoli, cut into florets
1 small garlic clove, chopped
70 grams Parmesan, finely grated
1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
300 mls light thickened cream
4 eggs
cooking spray
300 grams short cut bacon, cut into batons
additional Parmesan to serve

Cook pasta in a saucepan of boiling water following packet directions until tender. Drain, reserving 2 tablespoons liquid. Return pasta and reserved liquid to pan.

Meanwhile bring a large saucepan of boiling salted water to the boil over high heat. Add broccoli. Simmer for 4 minutes or until tender crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon. Refresh under cold running water. Pat dry.

Process half of the broccoli, garlic, half the cheese and oil in a food processor until smooth. Season. 

Whisk cream, eggs and remaining cheese in a bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, spray a frying pan with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Cook bacon, stirring, for 6 minutes or until golden. Drain on paper towel.

Stir broccoli mixture, extra broccoli florets and 3/4 of the bacon into pasta. Add cream mixture. Toss until well combined. 

Sprinkle with remaining bacon and extra cheese.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)

Lemongrass and Chilli Larb with Mint Salad

Alex and I are currently researching our family tree.  It's been and still is a very interesting activity not only for me but for Alex also.  We are trying to do both sides of her heritage so she has something to pass on when she is older to the future generations.  I had already started my family - the Davies' and the Lewis' - which has taken me back many generations.  

My blood line is definitely British - a combination of Welsh and English with no real surprises except the odd skeleton or ten in the closest.  However my children believe that I must have a hint of Asian, Mexican or Indian somewhere in history due to the food that I always cook.  Apparently "always" cook which was said in an interesting tone LOL!  To be totally honest, if I traced back and found another nationality I would be truly impressed.

When pregnant on both children I didn't really have any weird and wonderful cravings unlike many ladies - however I did eat Beef Vindaloo Curry (and mind you the hotter the better) like it was going out of fashion.  Every week hubby came home armed with a takeaway from our favourite Indian even detouring on his way home if he wasn't in that area.  Strangely my mother also ate lots of curry when she was pregnant on both my sister and I?  Obviously it runs in the family although I don't think my sister did this.  What cravings did you or your partner have?

Anyhow it's no secret that I really enjoy flavoursome foods and cooking with fresh produce, herbs and spices is my passion.  If I can make it rather than using prepacked packet or jar ingredients I am actually in my element.  Plus it's rewarding making things and experiencing all the flavours coming together.  So many countries have cuisines that truly make your taste buds tingle and your tummy just wanting more.  Thai food has that effect on me - I love the zesty sweetness, saltiness and hotness that comes with combining all the ingredients.  It's all wonderfully balanced and gives you so many flavour experiences in one mouthful.

This Lemongrass and Chilli Larb did exactly that.  Jam packed with lemongrass, garlic, chilli, fish sauce, lime and sugar each mouthful was a flavour explosion.  Served with a crunchy mint salad I was definitely reminded of my time spent in Singapore and of course, of when we go to dine in our favourite restaurant in Springvale and Clayton.  The freshness of the salad complimented the flavours of the Larb.  It's no wonder the Asian cuisines incorporate fresh herbs and salads into most of their meals - it's something that I really enjoy and indulge in quite often.

Once again another simple weeknight wonder that will get your family thinking you have been to a cooking school or that you should be on My Kitchen Rules.  Give it a go and let me know what you and your family think.... 

Lemongrass and Chilli Larb with Mint Salad
(Recipe adapted from Taste.com)

Serves: 6
SmartPoints per Serve: 10 

1/2 cup white rice
cooking spray
1 fresh mint leaves
1 red onion, cut into thin wedges
250 grams bean sprouts, trimmed
1 kilogram lean beef mince
2 teaspoons oil 
1 1/2 lemongrass stalk (white part only), finely chopped
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
4 tablespoons fish sauce
4 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and cook rice as per packet instructions.  Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, combine mint, onion and bean sprouts in a bowl.   Put in refrigerator until required.

Heat a wok over high heat. Spray with cooking spray.  Add 1/2 the mince. Stir-fry for 5 minutes or until browned. Transfer to a bowl, draining excess fat. Repeat with remaining mince.

Add oil to wok. Stir-fry chilli, lemongrass and garlic for 30 seconds. Return mince to wok with fish sauce, lime juice and sugar. Stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add coriander. Cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Serve mince with rice and mint salad.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Tex-Mex Pork with Charred Corn Salad

I am trying to incorporate more salads into dinner - while we do have salad as a side dish there have only been a handful of times where I have actually served up a main salad for dinner.  I have no explanation really as a really tasty salad is quite satisfying that's for sure.  With this summer already being especially warm it is actually a perfect meal - it's still meat and veg after all.

Tonight I had decided on using pork fillets.  Normally one of the family favourite pork meals is 
Chinese Roast Pork which we normally serve with an Asian style salad and rice paper rolls.  This time I thought I would steer away from the Asian flavours and try the family with Tex Mex.

We all love Mexican food in the Murray house so in all honesty this was a no brainer when it came to the flavours.  Can you actually imagine a world without Mexican food and all the vibrant flavours?  I could not that's for sure and I don't think most of my family or friends couldn't either.  Nachos such as Spicy Chicken Nachos, Quesadilas including one of the kids favourites Chicken and Corn Quesadilas and of course Enchiladas (Chorizo and Smoky Beef Enchiladas, Beef and Capsicum Enchiladas)  to name a few are staple in our house including Homemade Taco Seasoning.  Have a look here for more Mexican dishes we have made.

So now for something completely different, a dry rub marinade for the pork fillets that was full of vibrant flavours such as smoked paprika, cumin, oregano and cayenne pepper - it smelt delicious even while preparing.  For something with a lot of fragrance the preparation was very minimal.

The salad itself was quite basic also.  The corn was chargrilled until just browning.  The charring of the corn gives it such a different flavour and texture.  Corn is naturally sweet and the corn was a little crunchy and soft with that flame grill taste.  The combination of the lime dressing and the salad made my tastebuds dance and this combined with the smoky mexican flavours of the pork was fantastic.

Tex-Mex Pork with Charred Corn Salad
(Recipe adapted from Weight Watchers Australia)

Serves: 4
SmartPoints per serve: 4

3 teaspoons ground cumin
3 teaspoons ground smoked paprika
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
480 grams trimmed pork fillet
3 fresh corn husks removed
1 punnet cherry tomatoes
1⁄3 cup fresh coriander, coarsely chopped
1⁄3 cup fresh basil, torn
1⁄2 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
2 cups baby spinach leaves
cooking spray

Combine the cumin, paprika, oregano and pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkle pork all over with the spice mixture.

Lightly spray a chargrill or barbecue with oil and heat on medium heat. Cook the pork and corn, turning, for 10 minutes or until cooked through and browned. Cover pork with foil and set aside for 5 minutes to rest. Thickly slice.

Meanwhile, using a sharp knife, remove the kernels from the cobs. Place in a large bowl with the tomato, coriander, basil and onion.  Toss gently to combine.

In a small jug combine the lime juice, oil, salt and pepper.  Stir to mix well.

Serve pork with rocket and corn salad.

(Click here for a printable version of this recipe)