Roast Chicken with Lemon & Herbs

Roast Chicken with Lemon & Herbs

Photography by Darren Bester

 

In my top 5 favourite meals of all time … Roast Chicken is definitely up there!  I remember as a child, as I’m sure we all do, finding the wish bone and then finding someone to snap it with, the winner received the honour of making a wish.  I took my wish making very seriously.  Still today, very little comes close to a roast chicken just out the oven, with its crispy skin and tender meat, throw in some of my Mom’s famous roast potatoes, some veggies and gravy and I am one happy lady!  I’m a leg & thigh kinda gal … so if you ever round at my house for dinner and I offer you the leg & thigh … you can be sure that I’m a fan of yours. This recipe has served me well for years, the lemon and herb combo bring a freshness to the roast without compromising on the crispy skin.

Yield: 4

Ingredients:

1 large free Range Chicken

2 large handfuls of fresh Rosemary & Parsley, chopped

1 lemon, halved 

2 extra sprigs of Rosemary for the cavity of the chicken

Coarse Salt & Black Pepper

Couple of glugs of olive oil 

Method: 

Remove chicken from the fridge half an hour before cooking & discard packaging.  Pat dry with some carlton towel and set aside in a safe place

Preheat the oven and roasting tray to 190ºc

Pull up the skin at the tip of the chicken breasts, being careful not to tear it.  Separate the skin from the meat of the breast bone by using a sharp knife to cut through the little bit of tissue holding the two together in the middle.  Mix together the mixed herbs with some salt and a small dash of olive oil and then stuff into this pocket you have created, spreading it down and all around this side of the bird.  Pull the skin back to where it was to ensure none of the flesh is exposed as this will dry out during cooking.  Put the lemon halves (removing any visible pips) and the Rosemary sprigs into the cavity of the chicken.   Use cooking string to tie the legs of the chicken together, to help keep the stuffing inside the bird.  Rub the chicken generously with olive oil, salt & black pepper.  Remove the roasting try and add a few glugs of olive oil before adding the bird and roasting for plus minus 70 – 80 minutes. 

Chicken is cooked when the juices from the thigh run clear. 

Cooks Note: Use whatever herbs you have handy – I’ve tried many combinations by simply using what I had available and haven’t had a disappointment yet.   Remember, all ovens are different so start checking your bird from around the 60 minute mark.

 

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Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon…

Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon…

Ever seen the movie Julie & Julia? A foodie must see… Where the main character, Julie aspires to cook all 524 recipes out of the great Julia Child’s recipe book, within 365 days. She blogs about her journey and all the recipes as she goes along, earning herself a lot of followers and media attention, resulting in a reporter wanting to run a story on her. Julie is so excited and decides to make Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon for the interview.   This dish requires up to 4 hours of stewing and when Julie oversleeps and burns the first batch, my heart broke for her at the prospect of having to start from scratch.

Experiencing a cold winter in the Southern Hemisphere at the moment, this king of all stews, seemed like just the meal to conjure up a few weeks ago, and that’s exactly what I did… having started rather late in the afternoon, I opted to serve it the following evening instead. Always a good idea with a stew, because that old wives tale about stews and curries always tasting better the next day is 100% true! Leaving the food over night, allows all the flavours to mingle, fall in love and hold hands, resulting in love at first bite!   Don’t eat this alone, it’s a master piece worth sharing with a few good friends and a (few) good bottles of wine !

Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon

Yield: 6

Ingredients: 

150g streaky bacon

3 tbsp olive oil

1.4kg lean stewing steak cut into 2 inch cubes

1 chopped carrot

1 chopped onion

1 tsp salt

28g flour

¼ tsp pepper

700ml good quality red wine

1tbsp tomato paste

570ml brown beef stock

2 cloves mashed garlic

1/2 tsp fresh thyme

A crumbled bay leaf

18 to 24 small onions, brown-braised – see recipe

450grm baby button mushrooms, sautéed – see recipe

Method:

Remove rind and cut bacon into lardons (sticks, 1/4 inch thick and 1½ inches long). Simmer rind and bacon for 10 minutes in 1.4 liters of water. Drain and dry.

Preheat oven to 230 degrees

Sauté the bacon in the oil over a moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. Reheat casserole dish until fat is almost smoking before you sauté the beef. Dry the beef, it will not brown if damp. Sauté a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil & bacon fat unit nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the bacon. In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the sautéing fat if any remains. Return the beef and bacon to the casserole & toss with salt & pepper.   Sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly.

Place casserole uncovered in the middle of the preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to oven for 4 minutes more. (This browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust).   Remove casserole, & turn oven down to 170c.

Stir in the wine and enough stock so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs & blanched bacon rind. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Cover the casserole & place in lower part of pre-heated oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers very slowly for 3 to 4 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions as follows:

Ingredients: 

18 – 24 peeled baby onions

55grms butter

1 tbsp oil

145ml brown stock / red wine or water

Salt & pepper to taste

1 medium herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, 1/2 bay leaf, and a few sprigs of thyme tied in string)

Method: 

When the butter and oil are bubbling in the frying pan, add the onions and sauté over a moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling the onions about so that they will brown as evenly as possible. be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect to brown them uniformly.

Pour in the liquid, season to taste, and add the herb bouquet. Cover and simmer slowly for 40 – 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but retain their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet. Leave onions aside until called for later in the recipe.

Now sauté your mushrooms as follows:

Ingredients: 

30ml butter

1 tbsp oil

450grm button mushrooms, washed, well dried

Method: 

Place the frying pan over a high heat with the butter and oil. As soon as you see that the butter foam has begun to subside, indicating that it is hot enough, add the mushrooms. Toss and shake the pan for 4 – 5 minutes. During this the mushrooms will at first absorb the fat. In 2 to 3 minutes the fat will reappear on their surface, and the mushrooms will begin to brown. As soon as they have browned lightly, remove from the heat. Leave aside until called for later in the recipe.

When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve placed over a saucepan. Wash out the casserole & return the beef and bacon to it. Distribute the cooked onions & mushrooms over the meat. Skim fat off the sauce & simmer sauce for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 570ml of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. if too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of stock. Season to taste.

Pour the sauce over the meat & vegetables. Cover the casserole & simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Basting the meat & vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve in its casserole with a side of your choice, I like to serve with silky smooth mash potato… hmmmm YUM!

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Steak Pie

Steak Pie

 

My Mom-in-law is a fantastic cook, we are always excited when we are invited round for lunch or dinner at Mom & Dad’s house. It’s always a big family affair, with all the siblings and their spouses and their children chatting away and laughing… I’m always impressed by how cool and calm my Mom-in-law is and how she manages to feed so many people a delicious meal, without even breaking a sweat… I still have a lot to learn!

Fresh off the plane from Greece we were welcomed home with a family dinner of roast pork with all the trimmings … Hubby and I were in heaven, the food in Greece was lovely but never the same as food from your home country and never nearly as delicious as home cooking made with love by a Mom! So Mom’s Pork Roast is a firm favourite, so is her Roly-Poly pudding (worth every inch it adds to your waist line) and her yummy steak pie rounds up my top 3 from her extensive repertoire.

Her steak pie recipe comes from a Royco Recipe Book which I have had the pleasure of borrowing (when I asked for her famous pie recipe) and the wear and tear of the book plus the dated illustrations inside, attests to the notion that a good recipe will stand the test of time. Years have come and gone and my Mom-in-law is still making this delicious pie, now so am I, and hopefully after giving it a bash, you will add it to your collection of trusty recipes too!

It is amazing that with just these few ingredients, the end result is so meaty and delicious, I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t tasted it for myself first. Be sure to read ‘Cooks Tips’ at the end of this recipe for my pointers before you get cooking!

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Steak Pie 

Yield: 6

Ingredients:

1kg Stewing Beef cut into 5cm cubes

25 ml Flour

750 ml Water (I substitute with 500ml Woolies organic beef stock & 250ml water)

2 Packets Royco Rich Oxtail Soup Mix (you can use other brands too, I have in the past)

300 grms Baby Button Mushrooms (optional)

Salt & Pepper

Oil for frying

2 Rolls Puff Pastry Defrosted

1 egg beaten

Method: 

In a heavy based saucepan heat the oil until hot and then sear the meat on all sides and in batches. Once all the meat has been seared, return to the pot, sprinkle with the flour and mix to combine. Add the oxtail soup mix and the water / stock and bring to the boil, stirring again to combine.   Once it starts to boil, drop to a low heat and simmer with the lid on for between 1.5 – 2 hours or until your meat is tender and a fork easily penetrates it. Add your mushrooms 20 or so minutes before you estimate the meat to be done. Throughout this simmering process, stir every few minutes to avoid the meat sticking to the bottom of the pot – do not leave unattended for long periods of time. It should be a gentle simmer and not a boil, if it is simmering rapidly when you take the lid off, lower your heat further.  Adjust the seasoning with salt & pepper near the end of the cooking time, as the sauce will continue to enhance the flavour whilst it is simmering away.

Grease a 26cm pie dish or similar

Roll out the puff pastry on a floured surface until it is slightly larger than the pie dish. Then hold it over the centre of the pie dish and unroll it into the dish. Lightly press it into the corners with your fingertips and all the way up the sides of the dish. Trim off the excess with a sharp knife.   Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes – this will prevent shrinkage during baking (You can skip this step if you are pressed for time but try and plan ahead).

Preheat the oven to 180ºc and get the middle oven rack ready

Remove from the fridge and prick the pastry all over with a fork (this is called “Docking”). Cover the pie crust with baking paper or greaseproof wax paper, leaving enough over hang so that you can easily remove the paper once done without burning yourself.

You need to apply weight on top of the paper to prevent the pastry from puffing up, you can use uncooked rice, dried beans or dry lentils for this purpose if you do not have actual cooking weights – pour on top of the paper and place in the oven for 20 minutes.   After 20 minutes, remove the weights and paper and if your pastry is still looking very blonde, return to the oven for another 10 minutes without the weights and paper.

Finally, pour in your steak filling, cover with more rolled out puff pastry, use a fork to push down the sides and cut a small slit into the middle of your pie, to release steam, as its cooking. Decorate by making pastry leaves or use a cookie cutter on pastry cut offs to decorate your pie (Optional). Brush with the beaten egg and bake for 20 – 30 minutes or until golden brown and your pastry is cooked through.

Cook Notes:

  • The meat is the star of this dish, with so few ingredients, there is no-where to hide so buy your meat from a reputable supplier
  • Try to take your meat out of the fridge 30 minutes to an hour prior to cooking – this will render a more tender end result
  • Pat your meat dry with carlton towel before commencing with any cooking – this will help the meat to brown and will eliminate excess moisture in the pot
  • You should hear a sizzling sound when the meat is placed in the pot otherwise it is not hot enough and you will not achieve the browning result required
  • When searing your meat, do not overcrowd the pot as this will result in steaming the meat instead of searing it and you will not create the flavour base required. The searing of the meat, is one of the most important steps to this recipe so don’t rush this process
  • Should your sauce start reducing too drastically during the simmering process don’t be afraid to add more water / stock. At the same token, by the time your meat is tender, if you still have too much liquid in the pot – bring it back to the boil with the lid off for a few minutes to reduce and thicken your sauce to the desired consistency – just remember you need sauce for your pie so don’t over reduce!
  • You can always make your steak and sauce the day before and prepare the pastry the following day.  As with any stew, the flavours really do intensify over time – it is not just an old wife’s tale!
Moussaka

Moussaka

Inspired by my recent travels to Greece and coupled with the fact that aubergines are in season and in abundance at the moment, I couldn’t resist cooking up a Moussaka! It was delicious and so easy to make …

Ingredients:

Yield: 4 – 5

1 Finely Chopped Onion

Olive Oil

4 Cloves Crushed Garlic

1 kg Lamb or Beef Mince

250 ml Good Quality Red Wine

800grms Can Chopped Tomatoes

125ml Good Quality Beef Stock

2 tsp Ground Cinnamon

4 Sprigs of Fresh Oregano (or substitute with 2 – 3 tsp dried oregano)

3 or 4 Aubergines / Brinjals

75grms Butter

75grms Flour

500ml Milk (or more if sauce is too thick)

250ml Grated Parmesan

125ml Bread Crumbs

Salt & Pepper   

Method: 

Slice your aubergines into thin rounds and place in a colander or on a cooling rack and sprinkle generously with salt.  Leave for 30 minutes to extract all the bitter juices (the colander / cooling rack will help the juices to drain away from the aubergines).  

In a large saucepan, sweat the onion in 2 – 3 tbsp olive oil, once soft but not coloured, add the crushed garlic and cook for a further minute. Add the mince and fry until nicely browned. Add the wine and stir for a minute before adding the chopped tomatoes, beef stock, oregano and cinnamon. Simmer for approximately 40 minutes and adjust the seasoning with salt & pepper.

Whilst this is simmering, 

Preheat the oven to 180ºc

Prepare the white sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan over a low heat, whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly add your milk little by little, whisking the entire time to avoid lumps. Continue whisking until the sauce thickens, if the sauce becomes too thick, add more milk until you achieve the correct consistency (think of the consistency used in a lasagne). Remove from the heat, stir in the parmesan cheese and season with salt & pepper.  Taste and adjust the seasoning until you are happy with the flavour.

Turn your attention back to the aubergines, dab with carlton towel to drain away any remaining liquid and excess salt.  Coat the aubergine rounds in olive oil and fry in batches , in a non stick pan over high heat for a minute or two before turning and cooking the other side – you want to achieve a nice charred appearance. (If you have a griddle pan, use it).

Layer your oven proof dish with the mince sauce, white sauce and a layer of aubergines, repeat if necessary and end with a final layer of white sauce. Mix together the remaining parmesan cheese with the breadcrumbs, sprinkle on top and bake for 30 – 40 minutes until bubbling and golden !

Serve with a salad of baby spinach leaves, tomatoes, cucumber and feta and a good bottle of red wine 🙂

 

Lasagne

Lasagne

Who doesn’t enjoy a good Lasagne? This one is quick and easy but packs a delicious punch of flavour that will have you returning for more and more and more …

Ingredients:

Yield: 6

For the Mince

1kg lean beef mince

400grms chopped canned tomatoes

2 tbsp tomato puree

600ml beef stock

2 large onions (finely chopped)

2 celery stems (finely chopped)

4 cloves garlic (crushed to a paste)

60ml vegetable oil

1tsp ground cinnamon

2tsp mustard seeds

3 tbsp dried oregano

2 tbsp fresh Italian parsley

250ml white wine

Freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of salt

Cheddar and Mozzarella cheese for topping

Lasagne sheets (1 – 2 boxes depending on the size of your oven dish)

For the Béchamel Sauce 

60grm butter

60 grm plain flour

1 litre milk

55grms parmesan cheese

½ tsp ground nutmeg (optional)

Pinch or 2 of salt and pepper

Method: 

In a deep pot bring half the oil to temperature, add the mince and cook over a medium heat.   While that’s going on, heat another pan, add the remaining oil and gently *sweat the onion and celery for 2 or 3 minutes, before adding the cinnamon and garlic and cooking for an additional 2 minutes before adding all, to the mince pot.

Now add the tomato puree, parsley, oregano, mustard seeds, canned tomatoes, stock and the wine and stir to combine. Bring to the boil and then drop the temperature and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring regularly to prevent sticking to the pot.

Pour boiling water into the kitchen sink and lay pasta sheets – this will par cook the sheets, lessening the required cooking time.

Preheat the oven to 180ºc

To make the Béchamel sauce … Melt the butter in a heavy-based pot over a low heat, then add the flour. Stir with a whisk, and cook gently for 2- 3 minutes to make a white *roux. Slowly pour the cold milk on to the roux, whisking as you do so, and bring to the boil over a medium heat, whisking continuously.

Once the sauce comes to the boil, lower the heat and simmer gently for about 10 minutes, stirring continuously to prevent lumps forming. Season to taste with salt, pepper (preferably white) and add the nutmeg.   Continue stirring until the sauce thickens to the desired consistency. If it thickens too much, add a little milk, stir through and remove from the heat.   Stir in the parmesan cheese and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Remove your pasta sheets carefully from the water and lay on a clean dish towel, cover with another dish towel to pat dry.

If your mince still contains a lot of liquid, increase the temperature and bring to the boil for a few minutes, to cook away some of the excess liquid. Remember however, that it is a mince sauce so you don’t want to cook away all the delicious sauce you have just spent 40 minutes creating.

To assemble – spoon some of the mince mixture into your ovenproof dish, cover with lasagne sheets, spread over some of the béchamel sauce and repeat the process ending with a layer of béchamel sauce. Top with a mixture of cheddar and mozzarella cheese and bake in the oven for 25 – 30 minutes or until golden and bubbling goodness

Cook Notes:

*Sweat – to sweat vegetables means to cook on a gentle heat to soften but not brown

*Roux – A roux is a common way of starting many sauces. It is a mixture containing equal parts of flour to fat (butter) used to thicken liquids. The longer a roux cooks, the less its thickening ability.

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Curry in a hurry …

Curry in a hurry …

This recipe is a quick fix for a Butter Chicken Curry craving because it can be whipped up in less than 30 minutes, thanks to the store bought curry paste mix … *blush* why mess with a tried and tested formula? Especially if it means less dishes after a long day in the office!

Throw in some homemade or store bought Rotis and you have the perfect week night dinner for a cold winter evening just like tonight!

Butter Chicken Curry 

Yield: 2 big portions with leftovers for 1 lucky lunchbox

Ingredients:

50grms Butter Chicken Curry Paste (I buy the Woolworths aka the Mother Ship’s paste & follow the recipe on the packet)

Oil for frying

410grms chopped canned tomatoes

125ml cream

400 grms chicken breasts

50grms butter

Fresh Coriander and Cashew nuts for garnishing

Method: 

Gently fry the butter chicken curry paste in a little oil for 2 – 3 minutes until it becomes fragrant. Add the chopped tomatoes, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Dice the chicken breasts and add to the tomatoes with cream. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for further 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from the heat and stir through the butter and half the chopped cashew nuts. Season with salt and pepper, garnish with the remaining chopped cashew nuts and fresh coriander and serve with Basmati Rice and / or Rotis.

Roti 

I am far from perfecting the art of making crispy and delicious, melt in your mouth rotis but will keep trying … practise makes perfect after all. You may opt to buy your rotis, a safer and far faster option. If you want to be a bit adventurous and give it a whirl … follow my recipe below which has been adapted based on recommendations received from 2 Roti experts … 1 a pastry chef and the other a hot kitchen chef whose Mother has been rolling out Rotis for longer than I have been alive!

Roti Recipe

Yield: 4 Minimum

Ingredients:

500ml flour

250ml water (more or less depending on how your dough forms)

80 – 100ml soft butter (estimate only – do not be afraid to use more, instead be afraid of the bathroom scale)

Oil for frying

Pinch of salt

Method:

Sift flour and salt in a bowl

Add butter and rub into the flour mixture to form a crumb like consistency

Add the water and knead until an even textured firm dough forms

Cover and leave to rest for 30 minutes

Divide into 4 or more even sized portions and roll out on lightly floured board

Dot / grate with more or less 20mls of soft butter on each portion, fold over so that the butter is on the inside and roll into a sausage shape. Repeat with the other portions

Roll both ends of the sausage shape in towards each other until they meet (the one clockwise and the other anti clockwise)

Cover and rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes

Roll out into a circular shape

Heat a pan with some oil

Place the dough into the hot pan, poke at it with your fingers, coat the top side with a little oil or butter before flipping over and browning on the other side too

Once both sides show brown ‘freckles’ it’s ready to eat and enjoy!

Note: Roti’s freeze well – Once cooked and cooled, wrap in Cling film and freeze, take out a few hours before required and simply warm up in a pan. (I’ve forgotten to take mine out a few hours in advance before and found that even frying from frozen worked well as they are not very thick!