Miso Creamed Kale with Shiitake Mushrooms – A Great Side Dish for the Festive Season

A Fantastic Thanksgiving Side Dish - Miso Creamed Kale with Shiitake Mushrooms
If you’re looking for a new side dish to grace your Christmas table, or a great side dish for any meal for that matter,  then this is a recipe you’re going to want to try. Ten years ago the word umami was something only the Japanese were familiar with but now it’s become part of our common food language and is basically used to describe food that has a moreish savoury taste, with some people referring to it as the fifth taste after salt, sweet, sour and bitter.  This dish is packed full of umami  thanks to the inclusion of miso, soy and mushrooms. I was expecting the kale to have a slightly Asian slant to it but it actually didn’t at all – the miso just comes across in the same way as, say anchovies would in a sauce, you can’t pick they’re in there but you just know something very tasty is going on. The cream mellows things up a bit and the shiitake mushrooms add a nice meatiness to the kale. You could pair this with anything from steak to roast turkey or chicken and it would also work well with salmon. Next time I might serve it on it’s own with a fried egg on top for a meat free main course.

Ingredients – Serves 4 as a side dish   Adapted from Food 52

3 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
large shallot, thinly sliced
cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 large bunch kale, stems removed, roughly chopped
250g shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps sliced thickly
tablespoon soy sauce
¼ cup dry vermouth, you can substitute with white wine
½ cup cream
tablespoon white (shiro) miso, or more to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Place 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. When melted, add the shallot and garlic. Cook over low heat without letting the garlic and shallots colour, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the kale and continue to cook for a few more minutes until wilted. If it won’t all fit in the pan, just add what’s left after it’s cooked down a bit.

Meanwhile, in a small pan set over medium-high heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the mushrooms and cook until softened and cooked through, about 5 minutes. If the mushrooms become too dry, add another tablespoon of butter. Stir in the soy sauce, cook another minute and turn off the heat.

        OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  

Once the kale is wilted and soft, increase the heat to medium high, add the vermouth or wine and cook until it’s just evaporated, about 1 minute. Add the cream and miso, stirring until completely incorporated. Reduce heat to medium and cook about 2 more minutes until the sauce reduces slightly and tightens up the around the kale. Taste for seasoning, add salt and pepper if you like (but don’t forget the mushrooms have soy sauce). Gently stir through the mushrooms and serve hot.

A Great Thanksgiving Side Dish - Miso Creamed Kale

Veal Cutlet Parmigiana

Ultimate Veal ParmigianaParmigiana here in Australia is a bit of an iconic dish. There isn’t a pub bistro worth it’s salt that doesn’t have this retro classic on its menu. I can totally understand the allure – what’s not to like about a breaded piece of meat covered in an Italian style tomato sauce and lots of cheese! But like all such dishes there are the great, the good and the very mediocre. There aren’t too many ingredients in a Parmigiana so it’s important to use the best quality items you can. In this recipe I’ve used a veal cutlet which makes it a little more “fancy” but I also find the meat to crumb ratio is more satisfying on a thicker piece of meat. The tomato sauce also plays a starring role, so the extra step of making your own is worthwhile. Now onto the cheese. I like to use a mixture of fresh mozzarella, buffalo if I’m feeling flush, and parmesan. If you want to make this ahead of time you could have the meat breaded, the sauce made and the cheese sliced but I would only assemble it just before baking. As far as side dishes go I like to continue down the retro route with some spaghetti. You can serve it plain, with some extra tomato sauce stirred through it or as I’ve done here, make a fonduta of butter, cheese and some cream – hey, I never said this was going to be a lean meal!

Ingredients – Serves 2

2 veal cutlets
1 cup bread crumbs – I like to use half fresh and half panko
A pinch of chilli flakes
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, divided
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
½ cup flour
1 egg, lightly beaten with a little milk
Olive oil
1 medium size ball fresh mozzarella, or about 10 bocconcini, sliced thinly

Tomato Sauce – makes more than you need but freezes well
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
¼ cup diced pancetta or speck
2 cloves garlic, minced
A pinch of chilli flakes
2-3 medium size, ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
½ cup tomato passata
1 teaspoon tomato paste
½ teaspoon sugar
A pinch of dried oregano
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Method

To make the sauce, place a saucepan over medium heat and add the olive oil. When hot add the onions and pancetta along with a pinch of salt and cook until lightly golden. Add the garlic and chilli flakes and cook for another couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook stirring for a few minutes until they start to break down a little. Add the passata, tomato paste, sugar, oregano and a good pinch of salt and some pepper. Stir well and bring to a simmer. Partially cover and cook on low heat for at least 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Set aside to cool.

Parmigiana Sauce

To make the veal, place the breadcrumbs on a large plate with the pinch of salt, chilli flakes, half of the parmesan cheese and the parsley and mix well to combine. Place the beaten egg and milk in a large shallow bowl and the flour on another plate. Season the veal well with salt and pepper. Place the cutlets first into the flour, shaking off any excess, then into the milk mixture and finally into the bread crumbs, making sure to press down well and cover both sides generously. Place a large non stick skillet or frypan over medium-high heat and add enough olive oil to cover the base. When the oil is hot add the veal cutlets and cook until each side is golden brown. Remove and set aside.

Veal Cutlet for Parmigiana Veal Parmigiana
Veal ParmigianaBest Ever Veal Parmigiana

To assemble the dish: preheat the oven to 180C. Place the fried cutlets onto a baking sheet and top each one generously with the tomato sauce. Then lay the sliced mozzarella over each cutlet making sure to cover the entire area. Finally sprinkle over the remaining parmesan and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is melted, golden and bubbling.

Veal Cutlet Parmigiana

Nigel Slater’s Roasted Eggplant with Cream & Thyme

Nigel Slater's Roasted Eggplant with Cream & ThymeCombining eggplants (or aubergines) with cream shouldn’t really work, it’s not one of those natural food pairings and if anyone other than Mr Slater had suggested otherwise I would never have tried it. I’m so glad I did though because this is one of the best eggplant dishes I’ve made and it’s such a nice change to pair eggplant with something other than the usual tomatoes!. The eggplant is finely sliced and gently fried until it is just soft and ever so slightly golden. A sliced onion and some garlic are also softened and the two are layered in a baking dish with thyme before being doused with cream and Parmesan. The dish is then baked until it’s golden and bubbling. The result is a wonderfully savoury and flavourful dish which still manages to be quite subtle and mellow. This would be amazing with roast lamb but to be quite honest it’s so good that I could eat it as a meal on its own with just some crusty bread and salad.

Ingredients – Serves 4 as a side dish  Adapted from Nigel Slater’s Tender 

1 large or 2 medium eggplants/aubergines
2 medium onions
olive oil
2 good-sized cloves of garlic
Thyme – a few bushy sprigs
300ml cream
½ a cup of freshly grated Parmesan

Method

Wipe the eggplant and slice it in half lengthways. Now cut each half widthways into slices about the thickness of a pound coin (any thicker and the elegance of the dish will be lost). Put the slices in a colander and sprinkle them with salt, leaving them for about 30 minutes. Don’t miss this step out – it is to stop them drinking too much olive oil.

When the eggplant has relaxed (each piece will go a bit floppy) peel and thinly slice the onion and cook it in a little olive oil over a medium heat till it has softened, but stop before it colours. Peel and slice the garlic and add it as the onion cooks. Lift out the onion and garlic and set aside.

Put more olive oil into the pan and add the rinsed eggplant. You will have to do this in batches. As each slice starts to colour, turn it over, then when all are lightly golden – though far from brown – drain them thoroughly on kitchen roll (essential if there is not to be too much oil in the finished dish).

Nigel Slater's Roasted Eggplant with Cream & Thyme

Layer the eggplant and onions in a shallow baking dish, scattering salt, black pepper and thyme as you go. Pour the cream over the eggplant. Evenly sprinkle over the Parmesan and bake at 180C  for 40-45 minutes until bubbling and lightly browned here and there.

Best lamb Side Dish - Nigel Slater's Roasted Eggplant with Cream & Thyme

Crab Carbonara

Ultimate Carbonara - Crab CarbonaraThe Roman dish of spaghetti carbonara is one of the most adored pasta dishes in the world and rightly so. It has all the elements that make for perfect comfort food – a silky cheese laced sauce, salty pancetta and of course pasta. This version whilst not really traditional in that it incorporates crab meat, is still authentic in its execution i.e. it is made with pancetta, eggs and cheese – no cream please! The inclusion of crab meat makes this carbonara a little more special which is great if you’re entertaining and want to take things up a notch. Carbonara is normally served with spaghetti but in this instance I used linguine which I think works well with the crab. Whilst I love a traditional carbonara this crab meat version gives a nice little twist to a much loved classic without ruining its integrity.

Ingredients – Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup diced pancetta
2 shallots, very finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 whole eggs, lightly beaten, if you would like to make it slightly richer add an extra egg yolk
1 cup freshly grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
¼ cup finely chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
300g crabmeat
½ a large lemon, zest and juice
500g linguine or spaghetti
A generous knob of butter

Method

Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan or skillet over medium-low heat. Add the pancetta and sauté just until beginning to turn golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the shallots and garlic and sauté until the shallots are golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside.

Pancetta for Carbonara Pancetta for Carbonara

Whisk together the eggs, Parmesan, parsley, salt, and pepper (be generous with the pepper) in a large bowl. Add the crab meat, the lemon zest and juice and stir to combine.

Crab Carbonara Mixture Crab Carbonara

Bring a large pot of well salted water to a rolling boil. Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and return the pasta to the pan. Immediately add the sautéed pancetta and the egg mixture. Add the butter, then toss the pasta quickly and thoroughly to make sure all of the strands are coated and that the ingredients are well combined. Serve immediately

Best Ever Carbonara

Lidia Bastianich’s Veal Scaloppine Bolognese

Lidia Bastianich's Veal Scaloppine BologneseFor me one of the most exciting things about cooking is finding a recipe or a technique that I haven’t encountered before. Who would have thought there’s an Italian veal recipe out there that is executed so differently from the usual scaloppine style dishes. The title would have you believe that the veal is accompanied by some sort of meat ragu but the reference to Bolognese is not about the world-famous sauce but the capital city of Emilia Romagna where this dish hails from. The veal in this recipe is lightly coated in flour and egg (no breadcrumbs) before being quickly flash fried. The veal slices are then laid out in a shallow baking tray and topped with a few spoonfuls of a rich prosciutto and Marsala based sauce. Now this is where it gets interesting – the whole tray is generously covered with thin shavings of parmesan, which gratinates over the top while it bakes in the oven, creating a lovely crispy coating on the veal. It’s vital for the cheese to be shaved and not grated as it won’t melt in the same manner and you won’t achieve the same crispy finish. As you can imagine the final result of tender veal and crispy cheese is delicious. This is a great recipe for feeding a large crowd as you can fit quite a few pieces of veal on a large baking tray and of course make more than one tray if you need to. All the elements can also be prepared in advanced then quickly assembled and baked just before serving which makes it ideal for entertaining.

Ingredients – Serves 6   Adapted from Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy by Lidia Bastianich

12 very thinly sliced small veal scallops, or 6 larger size ones cut in half. Make sure the veal is pounded well
Plain flour for dredging
3 large eggs
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 tablespoons butter
150g prosciutto, thinly sliced, cut in ¼ inch strips
½ cup dry Marsala – imported Italian Marsala is best
½ cup dry white wine
1 cup hot chicken stock
150g piece of parmesan cheese

Method

Heat the oven to 200C and arrange a rack in the middle. Spread the flour on a plate and dredge each piece of veal in the flour, coating both sides. Shake off the excess and set aside. Beat the eggs with a pinch of salt in a wide shallow bowl.  Place 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 3 tablespoons of butter into a large skillet or fry pan (I like to use non-stick), and set over medium-high heat. When the butter begins to bubble, quickly dip the veal pieces, one by one, in the eggs, let the excess drip off, then lay them in the skillet. Fit in as many scallops as you can in one layer.

   

Brown the scallops on one side for about a minute, then flip and brown the second side for a minute, then transfer them to a plate. Repeat with remaining veal pieces, adding a little more of the olive oil for each batch. When all the scaloppine are browned, arrange them in a baking pan – a shallow baking sheet is perfect, overlapping them if you need to so they fill the dish in an even layer.

To make the Marsala sauce: Wipe out the skillet, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in it, and set over medium heat. Scatter in the prosciutto strips, and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes or longer, until crisped on the edges. Pour in the Marsala and white wine at the same time, raise the heat, and bring to a rapid boil. Cook until the wines are reduced by half, then pour in the stock, heat to the boil, and cook for a couple of minutes more, stirring, until the sauce has amalgamated and thickened slightly.

   

Remove the pan from the heat, scoop out the prosciutto strips, and scatter them over the scaloppini in the baking dish, then pour the sauce all over the meat, moistening the scaloppine evenly.

To make the gratinato: shave the chunk of Parmesan with a vegetable peeler – don’t grate the parmesan (see note above), dropping thin wide flakes of cheese over the scaloppine, making sure that all the veal is evenly covered. Set the baking dish in the oven, and bake for 20 minutes or so, until the gratinato is nicely browned and very crisp (rotate the dish in the oven to ensure even colouring).

Remove the dish from the oven and, with a sharp knife or a spatula, cut around the scaloppine and lift them out, one or two at a time, with the topping intact, onto a platter or dinner plates. Drizzle the pan sauce around the scaloppine – not on top-and serve immediately.

Lidia Bastianich's Veal Scaloppine Bolognese

Mini Deep Dish Pizzas

Muffin Tin Deep Dish Pizzas
When I first purchased my muffin tins I naively thought that I would use them to, well make muffins but as it turns out I’ve used them for everything but. I’ve whipped up mini quiches using won ton wrappers and cinnamon rolls using puff pastry and I’ve even used them for roasted potato stacks. So just when I thought there surely couldn’t be any more inventive uses for this humble tin I stumbled across these mini deep dish pizzas, made in, you guessed it – a muffin tin! These would be great for a drinks party or as a substantial canapé for when you’re going to head straight from drinks to the main course. They’re totally delicious and can obviously be made with a whole array of different fillings, one of our favourites being this pepperoni one. If you can purchase ready made pizza dough these are super easy to throw together but they’re so good it would be worthwhile making your own dough.

Ingredients – Makes 12

200g fresh pizza dough – store bought or home made
1 cup pizza sauce, I like to make my own but you can use a good quality ready made one
12-14 baby boccancini cut into thin slices
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Handful of black pitted olives, sliced
100g pepperoni sliced thinly and if large cut into quarters

Method

Pre-heat oven to 220C. Oil the cavities of the muffin tin with some olive oil. Roll out the pizza dough until it’s quite thin then using the bottom of a can or a cookie cutter cut out 12 circles. Take one circle and using your hands stretch the dough out as much as you can without getting any holes. Place it into the cavity of the muffin tin and spread it out so as it covers the base and at least a third of the sides. Repeat with remaining dough.


 Mini Deep Dish Pizzas

To assemble the pizzas place a few slices of boccancini on the dough (putting the cheese down first will prevent the dough getting soggy). Add 1-2 tablespoons of pizza sauce then top the sauce with a few slices of olives and pepperoni. Sprinkle some grated parmesan over the top and bake for about 20 minutes or until they are golden and the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Mini Deep Dish Pizzas

Italian Style Roast Chicken & Potatoes or Posh Chicken & Chips

          Italian Style Roast Chicken & Potatoes Italian Style Roast Chicken & Potatoes

It never ceases to amaze me how many different methods there are for roasting a simple chook. Fast, slow, stuffed, marinated – the list goes on and on, and just to add to that list here is my new favourite. Italians have a way of roasting a chicken which is pretty simple and basic but what sets it apart is the way the potatoes are roasted in the same pan, soaking up all the chicken juices and fat and becoming not only wonderfully crisp but really flavourful. The chicken is stuffed with a lemon and some sprigs of rosemary and anointed with a good slathering of olive oil. It’s left to roast on its own for a while before the potatoes are introduced. They get a little more oil and a good stir around in all the lovely juices in the pan. It’s then back into the oven to finish roasting by which time the potatoes will be lovely and golden as will the bird. Simple but oh so good or as they say in Italy, bellissimo!

Ingredients – Serves 4

1 whole chicken, about 1.8kg, preferably organic or free range
1 lemon cut in half
6 sprigs rosemary – 3 kept whole and the leaves from the remainder roughly chopped
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
6 – 8 good-sized roasting potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks – I used desiree
6 cloves garlic, peeled and halved

Method

Pat the chicken dry and bring to room temperature. Pre-heat oven to 200C (fan forced). Wash the peeled potatoes well and leave to soak in cold water – this will drain the excess starch from the potatoes making them extra crispy when they’re roasted. Stuff the chicken with the lemon halves and the three whole rosemary sprigs. Drizzle some olive oil onto the chicken and massage it all over the skin. Season generously with salt and pepper. Place the chicken into a roasting tray that is large enough to accommodate both the chicken and the potatoes, which will be added later on. Place in the oven and roast for 30 minutes.

Italian Style Roast Chicken & PotatoesItalian Style Roast Chicken & Potatoes Italian Style Roast Chicken & Potatoes

Just before the 30 minutes is over, drain the potatoes and dry them throughly with kitchen paper. At the 30 minute mark remove the roasting tray from the oven and take out the chicken, tilting the chicken slightly so the juices in the cavity drip back into the  pan. Add the potatoes to the roasting tray along with the remaining chopped rosemary and garlic. Season the potatoes with salt and add a small drizzle of olive oil. Toss the potatoes in the pan ensuring they are well coated with the pan juices and oil. Shove the potatoes to the sides of the tray and return the chicken to the centre. Place the roasting tray back in the oven and cook for a further 30 – 40 minutes or until the chicken is golden and cooked through. Halfway through the cooking time give the potatoes a little toss around. When the chicken is done remove it from the pan and set it aside to rest, again tipping the juices in the cavity back into the pan. Give the potatoes another good toss and spread them out in the tray. Return to the oven and continue to roast while the chicken rests. I found that another 15 minutes was enough for the potatoes to be lovely and crisp but you can cook them for longer as the chicken can safely rest for up to 30 minutes.

Carve the chicken and serve with the potatoes and some steamed greens or salad.

Italian Style Roast Chicken & Potatoes

Authentic Tiramisu

Best Ever Authentic Tiramisu

Tiramisu is a classic Italian dessert comprising of coffee soaked savoiardi (lady finger) biscuits that are layered with a whisked filling of mascarpone cheese, eggs and sugar. It’s totally delicious and addictive and I don’t think there was a date night in the 80’s when this wasn’t ordered for dessert! Don’t be fooled by all the eggs and mascarpone cheese, made correctly this dessert is actually quite light and not overly sweet. I use the word authentic in the title because there are quite a few different methods for making this dessert but the original and classic method doesn’t incorporate any cream, it uses whisked egg whites instead, making the filling much lighter. The other major difference in a classic tiramisu is that the egg yolk and sugar mixture is carefully cooked over simmering water to create a zabaglione (or a sabayon) before the mascarpone cheese is incorporated. The quicker version eliminates this step and I think the final dish suffers for it. So whilst this method does take a little longer to prepare it’s well worth the effort. Tiramisu is great for entertaining as it needs to be made a day in advance for all the layers and flavours to set and whilst this is a dessert normally for the grown ups, as it’s laced with coffee and Marsala wine, I’ve often made it for the family using decaffeinated coffee and no alcohol.

Ingredients – Serves 8-10

500 grams mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
Approximately 40 Savoiardi biscuits (lady fingers), imported Italian ones are best
5 eggs – separated
⅓ cup of Marsala wine – optional, see above
10 tablespoon caster sugar
1 – 1½ cups strong espresso – not instant coffee. If you haven’t got an espresso maker buy a couple of take away long blacks from your favourite coffee shop
Finely grated dark chocolate, optional
Cocoa powder for dusting

Method

Place the egg yolks with 5 tablespoons of the sugar into a heatproof bowl and whisk well to combine. Add the Marsala wine and beat again. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water (don’t let the bottom of the bowl hit the water). Constantly whisk the mixture until it doubles in size and the colour lightens. You want to whisk in as much air as possible, the air combined with the heat will create a thick emulsion. You need to be careful that the heat isn’t too fierce or it will scramble the eggs. Remove from the heat and beat for a couple of more minutes to cool the mixture down.

Next beat your egg whites with an electric hand mixer or stand mixer until soft peaks form. Add the remaining 5 tablespoons of sugar and beat until fully incorporated and the eggs whites are stiff and glossy. Place the mascarpone into a large bowl and break it up into smaller pieces.  Add a spoon of the zabaglione to the mascarpone and stir it in, this will help to thin the mascarpone out. Fold in the rest of the zabaglione and stir until almost fully combined. Add a scoop of whipped egg white to the mascarpone and beat it in until it’s combined – again this will lighten the mixture and will make it easier to incorporate the rest of the egg whites. Work in the rest of the egg whites, gently folding them in without deflating them, until they are fully combined with the mascarpone mixture.

  Classic Tiramisu Mixture

To assemble the dish, spread about a quarter of the mascarpone mixture on the bottom of a large dish. I like to use a rectangular glass dish. Sprinkle a little grated chocolate over the mascarpone. Place the cold coffee into a shallow bowl and quickly dip a savoiardi biscuit into the coffee for only about a second on each side. Don’t dip them too long, as they go from slightly soft to mushy very quickly. Place the biscuit onto the mascarpone layer in the dish and continue dipping the biscuits until you have a fully covered the dish.

  

Spread another layer of mascarpone and then some more grated chocolate, and keep layering biscuits and cream mixture, finishing off with a layer of mascarpone. Using a small fine sieve coat the top with a nice even layer of cocoa powder. Cover with cling film and refrigerate, preferably overnight but for at least 6 hours. Remove from the fridge about 30 minutes before serving.

Best Ever Classic Tiramisu

Cooking with Le Creuset Series – Chicken with Tarragon & Sherry Vinegar

Patricia Wells Chicken with Tarragon & Sherry Vinegar

For the second post in the Cooking with Le Creuset Series I’ve decided to road test a lidded casserole from their new stainless steel collection. Now when you think Le Creuset and casserole the first thing that springs to mind is their enamel cast iron pans which are famous the world over. Most people are familiar with them and if you’re lucky enough to own one you’ll know they are the sort of pans that last a life time and more – I have friends who have inherited their grandmother’s Le Creuset cast iron pans! I’ve had my large round Le Creuset casserole for almost 20 years and it’s still as wonderful as the day I took it out of the box. So whilst there’s certainly a spot in every good kitchen for a nice heavy cast iron pan or three, there’s also a need for good quality stainless steel pots and pans and it’s these pans that form the back bone of most kitchens. So I was interested to see how Le Creuset’s stainless steel range would perform and I thought it would be good to choose a recipe I would normally use my cast iron pan for and see how it fared in stainless steel.

Le Creuset 30cm Shallow Stainless Steel Casserole

The Le Creuset stainless steel range is made from 3 ply stainless steel with an aluminium core that makes for excellent heat distribution. The aluminium core is actually sandwiched between all the layers from the base to the rim, so no nasty hot spots. The base is also nice and thick so you won’t be scorching food easily. They work on all cook top surfaces and come in a multitude of shapes and sizes. They can also be used both on the stove top and in the oven which is very handy. The stainless steel range is dishwasher safe and my pan came out of the dishwasher nice and sparkly. The 30cm shallow casserole I used is a particularly handy size for all manner of braises and stews and it comes with a lid which makes it perfect for slow cooking in the oven. I pan fried the chicken pieces in the pan before deglazing. The chicken browned beautifully and left a nice caramelisation on the bottom of the pan which translates to amazing flavour in the finished sauce, just one of the reasons why these sort of braises always turn out better in pans that are not non-stick. I couldn’t have been happier with the results!

Searing Chicken in Le Creuset Pan

This recipe for chicken with tarragon and sherry vinegar is a classic French casserole and something you’ll find on many bistro menus. This particular version comes courtesy of Patricia Wells and her wonderful cookbook At Home in Provence. This is the sort of fuss free French cooking that I love – refined enough for the fanciest dinner but so comforting and easy that it’s also perfect for a casual family meal. The chicken can be served with rice, potatoes or just some crusty bread with a green salad being all that’s needed to round off the meal.

Ingredients – Serves 4  Adapted from Patricia Wells at Home in Provence

2 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 free range or organic chicken cut into 8 serving pieces or you can use any mixture of chicken pieces you like, I used thighs, wings and drumsticks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
4 shallots, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
1 head garlic, peeled and cloves left whole
Bouquet garni: a couple of bay leaves, couple of sprigs of fresh tarragon, rosemary, parsley all tied up with a piece of twine
6 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
2 cups best quality chicken stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves, larger leaves roughly chopped
½ cup cream

Equipment Used
Le Creuset 30cm stainless steel casserole with lid

Method

Generously season chicken with salt and pepper. In a large shallow sided pan, combine oil and butter over high heat. When hot, and working in batches, add the chicken skin side down and cook until golden brown on one side. This will take about 5-7 minutes at least and the best way to achieve great colour is to leave the chicken alone and not move it around at all. Once the skin side is golden turn the chicken pieces over and brown a further five minutes on the other side. Keep the heat regulated so the skin doesn’t scorch. When all the chicken is browned, remove to platter.

    

Pour off and discard all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the pan. Add the onions, shallots, garlic and bouquet garni and season lightly with salt. Sweat by cooking over low heat without colouring for about five minutes. Add 3 tablespoons of sherry vinegar to the pan and stir to combine. Return the chicken to the pan and cook covered very gently over low heat, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t catch, until the chicken is cooked through, about 35  minutes. Remove and discard the bouquet garni and transfer the chicken to a platter.

  Patricia Wells Chicken with Tarragon & Sherry Vinegar

Over moderate heat slowly add the remaining 3 tablespoons of vinegar, scraping up any bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, mustard, and half the tarragon and stir to blend. Increase heat to high and bring to boil, cook until sauce is thick and glossy, about 7 minutes. Turn the heat to low and add the cream, stir to blend, the resulting sauce should be thick, creamy, and fragrant. Taste for seasoning. Return the chicken to the pan and spoon some of the sauce over all the pieces. Bring to a simmer and cook very gently until the chicken is heated through. Sprinkle with the remaining tarragon and serve immediately.

Patricia Wells Chicken with Tarragon & Sherry Vinegar

Szechuan Green Beans with Spicy Mince

A Great Asian Side Dish - Szechuan Green Beans with Spicy Mince
This is a great side dish to pair with an Asian meal – I recently served it alongside Chinese Red Cooked Chicken . The fact that it includes protein in the way of minced meat means it’s quite a substantial side dish and can take care of both the vegetable element of the meal as well as  doubleing up as another main, which is handy if you’re feeding a hungry crowd. Traditionally the mince meat used is pork, which I love, but my family don’t so I often substitute minced lamb or beef which also work well. It’s also traditional to keep the meat to a minimum but I tend to veer away from that too and add much more as it’s so darn delicious. You can really make this as spicy or as mild as you like. I personally like it to have quite a kick but when I make it for the family I drop the heat level right down with no ill effect. The main key to this dish is to have your wok or pan screaming hot. You want the beans to shrivel and get some dark spots on them and the mince too should be well caramelised. As with most stir fries make sure you have all your ingredients prepped and ready to go before you start cooking.

 Ingredients – Serves 4-6 as part of a shared meal

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine – you can substitute with dry sherry
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon corn flour
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
1 heaped tablespoon chilli bean paste – available from Asian grocers or substitute with any other Asian style chilli sauce. You can add less or leave it out if you prefer
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
500g green beans, ends trimmed, cut into 2 inch pieces
350g minced pork, you can use lamb or beef if you prefer
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1½ teaspoons toasted sesame oil

Method

In a small bowl, stir together soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, corn flour, white pepper, chilli sauce, mustard and water until sugar dissolves. Set aside.

Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat and when it’s very hot add the oil, swirl the oil around and add the beans. Cook stirring frequently until crisp tender. The skins will shrivel a little and be blackened in spots – reduce heat to medium high if beans darken too quickly. Transfer beans to a plate.

      Szechuan Green Beans  Favourite Asian Side Dish

Reduce heat to medium high and add the mince. Cook breaking it into small pieces, until no pink remains. Add garlic and ginger and cook stirring frequently until fragrant and the meat has been well browned. Stir sauce to recombine and return the beans to the pan along with the sauce. Toss and cook until the sauce has thickened. Taste for seasoning and add salt if it needs it – this will depend largely on the chilli sauce used and  the  intensity of the soy sauce. Remove pan from the heat and stir in the sesame oil. Serve immediately.

Best Asian Side Dish