Grandma’s Rice Doodle

The sun is beating down swift rays with highs of thirty degrees this week. So I hope to be creating and introducing quite a few beautiful dishes for lunches, dinners, sides and snacks – ideal for any more heat waves over the summer months.

This is a lovely rice salad from my Grandmother’s repertoire that I found handwritten on a little slip of paper tucked away in the back of a book about French provincial cookery. Almost like a simple salad-version of a special fried rice dish, this little plate looks so pretty and has such subtle flavouring it’s lovely hot or cold.

Ingredients:
A cup of rice (long grain is better for this recipe)
1 tsp. turmeric powder
1 spring onion
Leftover roast chicken (or cooked prawns are a nice alternative)
1 Green pepper
½ cup of raisins
Chopped walnuts
A handful of grapes
Fresh parsley

Method:
Steam the rice until cooked and allow to cool a little before tossing the turmeric powder to stain the rice a soft yellow colour.  Finely chop the spring onion and pepper and toss into the rice along with the raisins and pieces of roasted chicken.

Garnish with halves of grapes, fresh parsley and the chopped walnuts.

Fusion Roasted Poussin

The weekend – I love how it rallies around my work-addled mind and fills it with food-driven temptations. So of course at the end of a weekend is the customary Sunday Roast.

For a change to the usual roasted chicken, I decided to roast poussins – small spring chickens. These are tender young birds full of flavour, that actually offer themselves well to a barbecue  maybe with a little marinade of lemon, thyme, and olive oil or garlic, chilli, orange and oil. But today the winter sunlight is cutting through the cold blue sky and everything is covered in a crisp sheet of frost. Not the weather for barbecues. So I shall be roasting my poussins in the oven.

I grew up with a lot of chinese additions to english recipes. Here is my take on adding some interesting chinese flavours to a classic bird roast (a chickens for this recipe would be fine). The dark marinade makes the skin crispy and moorishly salty which is a great match to the moist and full-flavoured meat inside.

Ingredients:
2 poussins
An orange
Ground white pepper
Salt
2 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp Five Spice
Handful of fresh chives
Half a cup of sherry
1 tbsp sunflower oil

Method:
Start by pre-heating the oven to 190°C.

Finely chop the chives and place in the bird cavities. If you feel daring try placing them between the meat and skin, you will have separate the skin from the breast meat at the top of the crown between the two drumsticks. Be vary careful not tear the skin.

To make the marinade, zest the skin of half an orange into a bowl, but don’t discard the orange. Add the five spice, ground pepper, soy sauce and sunflower oil then combine together with a quick stir. Then rub the marinade all over the bird. Place the orange halves into the bird cavities (including the orange skin is fine).

Set the poussins on a roasting tray and divide the sherry by tipping half, into each of the cavities – don’t worry if it drains out a little into the tin.  Add a final sprinkle of salt over the skin. Roast in the oven for 40 minutes.

Serve with roasted sweet potatoes or new potatoes, and some dark green vegetables like steamed spinach or even a raw watercress and radish salad.

Chicken, Red Cabbage and Kale Stuffed Conchiglioni

In an attempt to experiment with more vegetables, here is a healthy starter, full of anti-oxidants and high in iron and other minerals in the kale and red cabbage. Not two of the most interesting veg – but the punch of garlic and the smooth cheese sauce balances out the slightly bitter qualities of the kale and the sweet red cabbage gives added crunchy texture.

Ingredients:
1 chicken breast
Kale
1/4 head of red cabbage
2 shallots
4 cloves of garlic
10g salted butter
10g plain flour
1/2 pt milk
50g cheddar cheese
About 40 Conchiglioni shells

Start by preheating the oven to 180°C.

Fry together the garlic and shallots in a small amount of oil until soft. Dice the chicken breast into small pieces and add to the mix, along with finely sliced red cabbage and kale. Stir together, cook until the chicken is cooked through and draw off the heat.

Melt the butter in a pan and stirring the flour in to form a smooth paste. Remove from the heat and stir in the milk.  Once consistent and smooth, return to the heat, melt the cheese into the sauce. The result should be a runny but smooth cheese sauce.

Cook the over sized pasta shells (Conchiglioni) in a pan of salted water until al-dente. Drain and stuff each shell with the chicken and vegetable mix. Lay in rows in a oven-proof dish, and pour over the cheese sauce, covering all shells equally. Finish with grated cheese.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until the top is golden.

Roast Chicken Bake

This is a quick fix recipe for one of those I’m-a-bit-stumped-as-to-what-to-have-dinner-tonight moments in life.

Ingredients:
2 large  potatoes, diced
Roasted chicken (boneless)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic
A sprig of thyme
3 – 4 large leaves of Spring greens (or 1 leek/cup of spinach)
Salt and pepper to taste

50g mild Cheddar cheese, grated
30g  plain flour
1/2 cup of milk
30g butter
grated nutmeg

Par-boil the diced potatoes in some salted water until they are soft enough to run a knife through easily. While the potatoes are boiling, fry the onions and garlic, adding the spring greens and take off the heat when softened. If you are using spinach, then it doesn’t need much cooking – it will cook through enough in the oven.  Stir in the roasted chicken (and spinach) and season with salt and pepper to taste.

To make the sauce, begin with a béchamel base by melting the butter in a pan and stirring the flour in to form a smooth paste. Remove from the heat and keep stirring as you mix in the milk. Once consistent and smooth, return to the heat, melt the cheese into the sauce and finish with some grated nutmeg.

Now all the components of the bake are ready to bring together. Put the chicken filling into an oven proof dish and pour over the cheese sauce. Scatter evenly over the top the the diced potatoes. It doesn’t matter if some stick up more than others, these bits will catch the heat and give a characterful golden crispy texture on the topping.

Place in the oven on 200°/gas mark 6 for about 25 mins until the potatoes are a happy golden colour. ~

Chicken Liver, Port and Thyme Paté

Paté: a simple starter, a party nibble or a lavish snack – have it as and when you please. This recipe is a wonderful addition to the Christmas and New Year food list over the festive break.

Ingredients:

800g chicken livers
120ml Ruby Port
100g unsalted butter
2 shallots
2 cloves of garlic
salt and pepper for seasoning
1 bay leaf
Fresh thyme
Sprig of Rosemary
Orange zest
2 eggs
100ml single cream
100ml clarified butter

Chop the shallots and garlic as finely as you can. Fry gently in a of pan melted butter, until soft. Stir in the bay leaf, three springs of thyme and rosemary. Then lower the heat and pour in the port and simmer very gently on a low flame for ten minutes.
Add the livers and fry until brown with a pink centre. Do not over cook them, as this will make the livers difficult to pass through a sieve later and ultimately make the texture of the paté grainy. Take the pan off the heat and allow to cool. Crush the livers with the back of a fork to start the smoothing process and mix in the eggs and cream. Then using the back of a spoon, push the livers and port reduction through a sieve. The resulting mixture should be smooth with a rosy-grey tint from the pink livers and port. You may think it does not look all together appetising at this moment but don’t worry.

Pour the paté into six ramequins and cover each tightly with a bit of foil. Place the ramekins in a warm water bath – use a roasting tray and fill with hot water to half way up the ramekin height.

Place carefully in a preheated oven on 160° for 30 mins. Then remove and allow to cool.

Clarifying the Butter:

In a thick based pan, melt 175g of unsalted butter very, very slowly. Do not be tempted to stir it. Just watch the butter sink into itself and the liquids will begin to separate. Be careful as the butter may spit.

Skim off the white pieces – these are milk solids. What is left is a clear golden liquid; the clarified butter. Allow it to cool.

Pour the butter over the surface of the cooled paté in the ramekins. A thin layer 1/2 cm will do. Sprinkle the surfaces whole peppercorns, orange zest and fresh thyme leaves. Then place the pots into the fridge to allow the tops to harden.

This is great dish to make up in advance. Keep chilled for a couple of days to bring out the best of the flavours.