A southern meal

Recently I’ve been trying to eat a bit healthier and exercise more after realising the flab around my waist was getting flabbier. Unfortunately, I have never been one to watch what I eat or go to the gym. In fact, a long time ago I had a cramp whilst sitting watching TV… and since I didn’t exercise and didn’t really know what a cramp was, I thought some artery had burst in my leg….lol

However, I think what’s even harder than trying to exercise regularly is having to eat healthy. That is a real challenge and one which I have already given up. Seriously, who can resist all the deliciousness out there. Just recently I’ve seen a couple of posts from some of my favourite food bloggers on fried chicken and all sorts of yummy southern style dishes. I couldn’t resist but try making some at home.

Since I have never really attempted southern style cuisine before I stuck to some of the basics. Fried chicken and buttermilk biscuits mmmm.

Fried chicken

I don’t really have a recipe or know any secrets to making crunchy shattering batter so for my chicken I just marinated it in buttermilk, dipped it in an egg wash and coated it with seasoned flour. With around 500 grams of chicken I used around 1 cup of plain flour, 0.5 tbsp paprika, 0.5 tbsp garlic powder, dried oregano, ground pepper, salt and a dash of chilli powder. Next time I think I’ll get chicken pieces with the skin on  and might use a wet batter as I found mine lacked crunchiness.

Buttermilk biscuits

Whilst I at least know what fried chicken should taste like, I’ve never even tried buttermilk biscuits before. Recipes online called for plain flour but since I ran out.. self raising had to do. With a food processor it was a cinch to make. I just pulsed 1 cup of flour with 3 tbsp of butter than pulsed through half a cup of buttermilk. The batter is supposed to be extremely wet which makes handling a bit annoying but after folding it a couple of times on a well floured bench I was able to cut out around 6 biscuits. The good thing about these biscuits are they cook quick so after 12 min in 200 degrees oven they were ready. Tasting it, I think they most resemble a scone but also have a texture like shortbread. Together with some milk gravy and coleslaw this made for an unhealthily awesome meal. Just look at all that brown..you know it’s good

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Coq au vin (chicken braised in red wine)

Although the past couple of weeks have been unseasonably warm, it has finally felt like winter where coming out of the shower is like stepping into a fridge. These temperatures are ideal for stews and pots of comfort food. However, recently I’ve felt a bit unmotivated and short of cooking ideas. Thankfully, a very knowledgeable foodie at work suggested a coq au vin. I’ve made a beef bourguignon before and this dish is not that dissimilar with the beef replaced with chicken. However, it is definitely a weekend feat requiring several hours to simmer away until the slightly unctuous meat yields at the touch of a knife.

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Ingredients

  • 1 small chicken
  • 800 ml red wine
  • 2 celery stalks chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 1 carrot chopped into large chunks
  • Handful of plain flour
  • Oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 slice of pancetta or rasher bacon chopped into small pieces
  • Sprig rosemary
  • Couple sprigs of thyme and parsley stalks
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Slightly less than 1 tbsp of tomato paste
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 1 brown onion quartered or 5 pearl onions if you could find them
  • handful of button mushrooms halved
  • Salt and pepper
  • A bit of chopped parsley for garnish.

Roux

  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1.5 tbs plain flour

Steps

  1. Chop up chicken into large pieces, leaving the meat on the bone. When you chop it up follow the joints for clean cuts. There’s another option of deboning the breast and using the carcass for stock.
  2. Bring red wine to simmer and then cool for a bit before placing in the chicken pieces, carrots and celery to marinate. Marinate at least over night then drain reserving the red wine.
  3. Take out the chicken and dry on paper towels before dusting it with flour.
  4. In a pan on medium-high heat, fry off chicken in a bit of oil until browned well.
  5. Deglaze the pan with a little bit of stock and reserve.
  6. In a medium sized pot, on medium-high heat fry off  carrots, celery, pancetta and garlic. Add in the herbs
  7. Place chicken back into pot then add in reserved wine and all the stock.
  8. Season with a bit of salt and pepper
  9. Cover lid and simmer for 2-3 hours.
  10. After finished simmering, take out chicken and continue simmering to reduce liquid.
  11. In a pan on medium-high heat, brown mushrooms and onion.
  12. Add mushrooms and onion to simmering gravy.
  13. In a clean pan, heat butter until foaming stops. Add in flour and mix together to form a paste and cook it through. Cook the roux until it changes to a nutty brown colour.
  14. Add the roux into the gravy and mix together making sure there are no lumps of flour. Keep simmering to let the gravy thicken up.
  15. Add chicken back in to warm up and turn off heat.
  16. Serve up with some mash or beans and garnish with chopped parsley.

Shandong style chicken

I’ve always thought deboning meat was a finnicky and complicated procedure best left to professionals. However, since learning how to debone a chicken thigh from youtube, I’ve felt empowered…. Seriously, when I laid out that thigh meat with no bones attached I felt like I had performed magic. So naturally, I turned to the whole chicken as my next deboning project. Thankfully, these days you can learn just about anything from youtube and deboning chicken is made easier with videos like this.

Deboned chicken is perfect for a dish like shandong chicken which speeds up the frying time and prevents greasy fingers :P. I’ve had different variations of Shandong chicken in restaurants with some serving the chicken crispy while others steamed the chicken post frying. However, vinegar is the one element which should be present in all recipes. For my recipe, most of the flavour comes from the seasoned batter and the punchy vinegar dressing.

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I ran out of spring onions from the garden for the garnish so the picture looks kind of plain, but I promise it tastes better than it looks.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken boned (I kept the thigh bone in place). Chop into large pieces.
  • 3 tbsp self raising flour
  • 3 tsp spicy bake mix seasons. It looks like this. If you don’t have it don’t worry
  • 3 tsp five spice powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 tsp ginger ground
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3-4 tbsp oil
  • Water
  • Oil for frying
  • Green onion sliced roughly
  • 1 red chilli sliced roughly

Vinegar sauce

  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • half cup chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp black vinegar from asian grocery
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • Salt

Steps

  1. Mix together the flour, seasons, five spice, salt, white pepper, ginger ground and sugar.
  2. Add in oil tablespoon by tablespoon until a very thick paste forms
  3. Slowly add in 1 tablespoon of water at a time, mixing it in until the mixture resembles something like a thin pancake batter.
  4. Heat oil in pan/wok at around 2 cm height on medium-high heat.
  5. Pat dry the chicken and coat in batter.
  6. Slowly place chicken into hot oil. Fry in batches
  7. Fry on one side for 4-5 minutes and flip and fry other side for 4-5 minutes. Time of frying depends on cut of chicken. Thigh takes longer than breast.
  8. Drain and place on paper towel. Keep warm in oven
  9. To make sauce, heat a pot with brown sugar until it starts turning into caramel
  10. Add in chicken stock.
  11. Add in soy and vinegar and taste.
  12. Season with salt, taste and pour out into serving bowl.
  13. With a little oil from the frying, quickly fry off green onion and chilli pieces for ~1min. Take out and reserve.
  14. Serve chicken and garnish with green onion and chilli. Spoon as much vinegar dressing onto chicken as preferred.
  15. Enjoy!

Note: You can use the chicken carcass to make a stock and using the fried chicken oil, you can boil some chicken flavoured rice.

Chicken Ballotine

Yesterday was mothers day in Australia…and for those regular readers, you know what that means… Another opportunity to cook up a storm!! It’s becoming quite a pattern now, every special occasion has been accompanied by an elaborate meal. I’ve always believed that cooking is better than buying a gift, but I have a feeling that soon any positive event will be an excuse to practice my culinary aspirations.

This time, I decided to go with a ballotine. I’ve been wanting to make it for a while. The medallion of meat and textural filling just looks so fancy and fit for a special occasion. Some of the websites even said that it wasn’t too hard……

o what lies…

This was the most technical dish I think I’ve ever attempted. What was supposed to be dinner ended up being a late night supper at 9:30….However, I have to say that it was quite delicious, but then again, I don’t have prosciutto wrapped chicken everyday.

Recipe

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 maryland cuts of chicken

Chicken mousse

  • 500g chicken breast chopped roughly into cubes
  • 5-6 button mushrooms sliced roughly
  • Knob of butter
  • 3 sprigs of thyme- leaves stripped off
  • 1/4 cup parsley leaves- chopped finely
  • Scant handful of shelled pistachio nuts
  • Thickened cream
  • Salt and pepper

To assemble

  • 6 prosciutto slices
  • Baby spinach leaves. Snip off the longer stems
  • Cling wrap
  • Cooking twine

To finish off

  • 2 Litres chicken stock
  • 2 Litre of water
  • Bowl of ice water
  • Knob of butter

Steps

  1. Debone the chicken. I had to learn this first and found this video quite helpful. Trim off the sinew and any fat. Save the latter for roasting your veges.
  2. Lay out the deboned chicken pieces and pound under some cling wrap until it is somewhat flattened.
  3. To start on the mousse, heat butter in pan on medium heat and saute mushrooms until browned and cooked through.
  4. Place mushrooms and chicken breast into blender and blend until really fine.
  5. Whilst blending on high, slowly add in cream until a thick paste is formed.
  6. Fold nuts and herbs into mousse mixture. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Season the boned chicken then lay it out flat. Evenly place the baby spinach on top of the meat as the first layer of ballotine.
  8. Using your hands shape some of the mousse into a sausage shape and place it lengthwise on top of the spinach and chicken. Leave an inch of space between the mousse and the edge of the chicken.
  9. Roughly using your hands again, roll up the chicken into a log. Try to keep it as tight as possible without having the filling spill out. Do the same steps 7-9 for the other piece of chicken
  10. Stretch out three layers of cling wrap and lay out 3 slices of prosciutto lengthwise along cling wrap.
  11. Place one roll of chicken across the prosciutto near the bottom of the clinwrap.
  12. Slowly grab the cling wrap and roll the prosciutto around the chicken. Use your hands to squeeze tight the ballotine as you roll. Also, make sure the cling wrap doesn’t get wrapped into the ballotine and stays on the outside. Twist off the ends like they do in lollies. Repeat steps 10-12 for the other chicken roll.
  13. Using twine, tie off the ends tightly. You can also tie up the ballotine 2-3 times in the middle to make sure the glad wrap doesn’t come apart in the stock. However, make sure its not too tight as the ballotine expands while cooking.
  14. Bring stock  and water to boil in a pot large enough to fit ballotines. Place in ballotines and turn heat down to a simmer. Simmer for 45 min.
  15. Take out chicken after cooking and plunge into ice water.
  16. Remove chicken from cling wrap after cooled in water for a while.
  17. Heat butter in pan on medium heat until it stops foaming and has turned slightly nutty brown
  18. Place in ballotine and brown the outside, basting it with the butter as you turn them.
  19. After browned a bit, place on chopping board and cut into medallions for serving.

And that’s it. All that is left is to hope that the inside is cooked through…

As if that wasn’t complicated enough, I decided to bake a dauphinoise and roast off some turned carrots in chicken fat. Unfortunately, with the amount of cooking and tasting involved, by the end of it, I wasn’t really that hungry but at least they enjoyed it.

Here’s some evidence of my kitchen marathon

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Chinese new year dinner

I don’t remember when Chinese new year became such a mainstream event in Australia but this year feels extra noticeable. I’m sure it’s been celebrated every year but I see that even the banks have decided to decorate their offices with copious amounts of Chinese advertising. I guess with every other festival, holiday etc., Chinese new year is another great commercial opportunity…however, it is also a good reason to catch up with friends and family around food.

For our Chinese new year dinner this year, we aimed to make dishes that were simple and quick to prepare. Having started full time work this year, I have come to realise the true meaning of tiredness* and the value of weekends after emerging from a 2 day uni schedule. Thus, I did not want to spend a precious week night slaving away in the kitchen.

Two dishes that I turned to on the night were wasabi beef and drunken chicken. Both take minimal time to prepare and taste delicious. With the wasabi beef, I resorted to velveting the meat with baking soda to eliminate any sinewy chewy bits. I’m still unsure whether this is a good idea as it feels like I’m altering the texture of the meat. However, it tasted alright in the end and went well with some wasabi mayo.

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Here’s the recipe

Ingredients 

  • 700-800 grams scotch fillet or other similar cut
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • Just under 1 tbsp wasabi paste
  • 1.5 tbsp soy sauce
  • 0.5 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp chicken stock powder
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 2-3 leaves iceberg lettuce sliced thinly

Wasabi mayo

  • 0.5 tbsp wasabi paste
  • 2.5 tbsp mayonnaise (i used whole egg im sure most are fine)
  1. Slice beef into 0.5-1 cm thick bite size pieces. Cut across the grain.
  2. Mix in the baking soda making sure it touches all the meat. Rest for 15-20 minutes
  3. After resting wash thoroughly. Very thoroughly… you don’t want an aftertaste of baking soda with your wasabi
  4. After drying and removing as much water as possible from the beef, mix in all the other ingredients with the beef except for oil and lettuce leaves. Let marinate for at least half an hour
  5. Heat oil in pan/wok on high heat. Scatter beef around the pan/wok and don’t touch. You don’t want to release the juices and end up stewing the beef.
  6. Fry for around 1 minute then mix around letting the other sides of the beef get some charring.
  7. Keep frying for around 4-5 minutes then taste one piece to see whether it needs any salt/sugar/pepper
  8. In the mean time of cooking, you could quickly lay some of the sliced lettuce nicely around your dish. It’s a bit kitschy but a bit of green looks better imo.
  9. After your beef is done dish out and place on top of lettuce.
  10. Mix the mayonnaise and wasabi paste together and serve. Enjoy!

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The other dish, drunken chicken, can be prepared the night before and is served chilled so no reheating required. I know that most recipes usually recommend shao xing wine, but recently I tried one prepared using a pickling wine concoction and it was really delicious and aromatic. Here’s a pic of the wine.. it may be found at your local asian grocer

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Here’s the recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 kg chicken wings cleaned
  • 1 tsp salt
  • A tray of ice cubes
  • 500ml bottle of pickling wine
  • 200 ml chicken stock
  • 5-6 goji berries (optional)
  • A bit of spring onion jullienned lengthwise to garnish
  1. Sprinkle chicken with salt and steam for around 15-20 minutes until cooked. Turn halfway. You may want to check at 15 minutes to see whether they are just cooked. They taste a bit dry if overdone
  2. When your chicken is about done mix the ice with a bowl of water (enough to submerge the chicken in). When chicken is done take out and plunge into icy water. This will keep the chicken skin taught.
  3. Mix pickling wine and stock in bowl/pot (one with higher sides).
  4. Place chicken into liquid making sure they are all submerged in the wine mixture.
  5. Chuck in the goji berries
  6. Cover and place in the fridge overnight
  7. When ready to serve take out and arrange on plate and garnish with spring onion. Enjoy!

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Cooking when traveling

Recently I went away with my family to Tasmania, and although we did taste and enjoy a lot of the produce on offer we also cooked a lot of our meals. While the ‘kitchen’ facilities were bare minimum, I did not want to resort to instant noodles, so I set out to cook delicious and efficient meals with minimal wastage.

I found that it was better to stick to around 3 ‘base’ ingredients like couscous, rice, pasta etc.. things that can be easily microwaved/boiled and lend itself to different flavours. Certain ‘star’ ingredients were then bought to accompany each dinner.. local fresh produce of course.

With rice I made

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prawn risotto

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massaman curry

And with couscous I served it with some trevally and prawns

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As expected, Tasmania’s seafood is incredibly fresh and if you know where to go, cheap as well ($7/kilo mussels and $19/kilo trevally). These mussels were tender and their juices combined with a bit of cream provided a mop worthy sauce.

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Although there are seafood outlets in the touristy Hobart wharf areas, the Island Markets in the northern suburb of Moonah offered fresh veges and seafood at a low price.

I think we saved a lot by cooking in our accomodation and were able to spend on other experiences/things. It is definitely an option and I don’t feel like we sacrificed for taste. I think I’ll do the next post on our travels and some of delicious food on offer on Bruny island.

Marsala Chicken

Have you ever tried a recipe without having the slightest clue what the end product should taste like?

A while back I tried making gnocchi and did not know what to expect. My initial thoughts were that they were nothing special.. they tasted like pockets of denser than usual mashed potato. But then I had some ready-made gnocchi from the supermarkets and I realised how much better homemade gnocchi was. Since then, for some wierd psychological reason, I’ve developed a taste for homemade gnocchi and make it now and then.

Like gnocchi, I’ve never had marsala chicken before and decided to give it a go as I had some marsala wine left over from the tiramisu recipe. After scouting the internet for recipes, I distilled it down to several key ingredients: marsala wine, mushrooms, chicken stock, sherry if you have it and parsley for garnish.

ImageWhen I first tasted it, I thought it was a bit sweet and there was an underlying taste of chocolate. I’m not sure whether I used the right Marsala wine, or whether types of marsala wine even exist… I actually know nothing about wine…other than that there’s a white and a red one. But when I ate more and more, I found it to be alright. The mushrooms, onions and the thin savoury crust of the pan fried chicken balances out the sweetness of the wine. I may actually try this one again.

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Recipe

Ingredients

  • about 4-5 chicken thigh fillets (most people actually use breast but thigh was fine for me)
  • 2 tbsp flour (bit more if you run out)
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • Grind of pepper
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 2-3 tbsp oil
  • 1 tbsp butter + another 1 tbsp for later
  • 6 button mushrooms
  • 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • Half an onion sliced thinly
  • Half cup Marsala wine
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • dash of sherry
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parsley finely chopped

Steps

  1. If the chicken fillets are too thick, cover it with cling film and pound it until it is around 1/4 inch thick
  2. Mix flour with oregano, pepper and salt
  3. Coat chicken fillets with flour mixture on both sides and shake off excess
  4. Heat oil and butter in pan on medium to high heat
  5. Evenly place chicken fillets in pan and let cook for around 5-7 min. you can turn the heat down a little if it is starting to burn. If you are using chicken breasts the cooking time would be less. Around 3-4 minutes.
  6. Flip the chicken and cook for another 5-7 min. Just make sure the chicken has developed a nice deep brown crust. Take chicken out when done.
  7. Turn down heat to low-medium and add in extra butter. When melted, place in mushrooms, garlic and onion. Let cook with minimal stirring.
  8. When the mushrooms have browned a bit, add in the marsala wine. If the pan is starting to burn, then add in marsala wine anyways.
  9. Let the initial heat burn off some of the alcohol and then add in the chicken stock, sherry and let simmer for around 2 min. Taste, if it is really sweet, add in some salt and more pepper. Taste again.
  10. Add the chicken fillets back into the pan and let simmer for 8-10 min with the lid covered after 5 min.
  11. Dish out and garnish with chopped parsley.
  12. Serve with rice, mashed potato or pasta.