Tahchin – Persian Molded Rice with Chicken, Yogurt & Saffron

Persian Comfort Food - Tahchin

Tahchin is a much loved Persian comfort food but despite it’s popularity and wonderful flavour it’s a recipe a lot of people tend to steer away from as it’s perceived as being difficult to execute well. This is however not at all true and tahchin, I believe, is one of the easier Persian recipes to master. One of the best things about a well made tahchin is the wonderful crunchy crust that encases the rice and chicken, and it’s achieving this golden crust that seems to scare most people off, but even if the crust doesn’t come out quite as crunchy or golden as you would like the taste and flavours of the chicken, yogurt and saffron rice will still be sublime. There’s no real secret to making a great tahchin and a successful outcome has as much to do with method as it does about the cooking vessel used. I prefer to use a deep metal, non-stick, cake tin (not spring form) or a two handled heavy bottomed non-stick pot that is not too deep or too wide. I know a lot of cooks who favour pyrex dishes but I have found you’re more likely to achieve crunchy tahdig-heaven using a metal dish.

Ingredients – Serves 4 generously

 2 cups best quality basmati rice – washed well and soaked in cold salted water for 2 hours
½ teaspoon saffron, ground in a mortar and pestle and steeped in ⅓ cup of boiling water
½ cup dried barberries
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons of butter
Vegetable oil or ghee – oil must be neutral tasting so not olive oil or peanut oil
3 chicken maryland (chicken leg and thigh attached)
3 large onions – 1 roughly chopped and 2 finely sliced
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
Salt
2 egg yolks
1 cup greek yogurt

Method

Place the chicken marylands into a saucepan along with the carrot and roughly chopped onion and 2 teaspoons of salt.  Add enough cold water to just cover the chicken. Bring to a boil over medium heat, skimming any scum from the surface. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer and cook partially covered for an hour, Once cooked remove the chicken, reserving the stock. When the chicken is cool enough to handle remove the meat from the bones, discarding the skin and shred into large chunks.

   

Whilst the chicken is cooking, bring a good size pot of salted water to the boil. Drain the soaked rice and add to the boiling water. Cook, stirring gently, for about 8-10 minutes, or until the rice is almost cooked through but still has a little bite to it. Drain the rice in a fine meshed colander and gently rinse with a little cold water to stop the rice from continuing to cook. Set aside.

Heat a generous amount of oil or ghee in a frypan and cook the onions along with a pinch of salt until they are golden brown and caramelised. Set aside. In the same pan melt a tablespoon of butter and gently saute the barberries with the sugar for a few minutes, set aside. Beat the egg yolks with the saffron liquid then add the yogurt, along with 1 tablespoon of melted butter and a pinch of salt and mix well. Place the rice in a large bowl and add the yogurt mixture and mix throughly but gently until well combined.


Heat the oven to 200C. Butter or oil your cooking vessel well – as stated above I prefer a metal non-stick dish and in this instance I used a cake tin (not spring form). You could also use a deep skillet or a pyrex casserole dish. Add half the rice mixture to the tin. Even it out and press down firmly. sprinkle with half the barberries. Mix the chicken meat with the caramelised onions and a few tablespoons of the reserved chicken stock. Place the chicken mixture evenly on top of the rice. Spread remaining rice on top of the chicken. Again press down firmly. Sprinkle over the rest of the barberries. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Lower heat to 160C and cook for a further hour. Remove from the oven and let it sit undisturbed for 10 minutes before removing the foil and inverting the tahchin onto a large plate. Serve by cutting into wedges.

Tahchin - Persian Comofort Food

Cinnamon Roll Cake

Giant Cinnamon Roll

I’ve called this a cake but it’s probably more accurate to describe it as one giant cinnamon roll. There’s something very addictive about cinnamon rolls – yeasty sweet dough, buttery cinnamon filling and that vanilla frosting that seeps into all those nooks and crannies. If there’s anything more comforting than a cinnamon roll and a cup of coffee I’d like to know about it!

Cinnamon rolls are a bit of a labour of love to make. Not that they are difficult but there is a fair amount of time spent waiting for the dough to prove and rise. But all that rising makes for the lightest and softest dough, so be patient as it’s well worth the wait. Once your roll is out of the oven the only thing you need to do is decide is if you’re going to pull it apart, slice it or share it.

Ingredients  adapted from Sally’s baking addiction

Dough
½ cup milk
¼ cup water
3 tablespoons butter
2⅓ cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 package instant yeast
1 egg

Filling
3 tablespoons butter, very soft
1 tablespoon cinnamon
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
¼ cup sugar

Glaze
1 cup icing sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch salt

 Method

Place the milk, water, and butter in the microwave and heat until butter is melted let the mixture cool until it is just hot to the touch, add the yeast and let sit for 5 minutes. Pour into bowl of stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.

Pour the flour, sugar and salt into butter mixture and mix. Add egg and mix for a few minutes. If dough is very sticky, add a drop more flour. Shape dough into ball and place into an oiled bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm spot for an hour. Meanwhile, combine the filling ingredients (excluding the butter) and grease a 9-inch round pan.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle about a 1/4-inch thick. Spread softened butter evenly all over dough, including edges. You can put the butter in the microwave for a few seconds till it gets to an almost melted stage to make the spreading easier. Sprinkle filling evenly on top of dough.

Using a pizza cutter, slice dough (vertically – the long way) into 6 even strips. Loosely roll up the first strip and place it into the center of the greased pan. Wrap/coil the next strip around the roll in the center (don’t roll it into itself like you did the first strip), starting at the spot where the previous coil ended so you achieve the look of one continuous spiral. Repeat with the rest of the strips. The spiral should fill up almost the whole pan at this point.

Preheat oven to 180C. Cover and let rise again in a warm spot for 1 hour, till the dough puffs up nicely and spreads to fill the whole pan. Bake 25-30 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool, then drizzle glaze over cake. To make the glaze, whisk together all the ingredients and drizzle over cake.

Giant Cinnamon Roll

Oven Baked Chicken Parmigiana Sliders

Chicken Parmigiana Sliders

I think you could put anything in the middle of a bread roll and it would taste great and one of my favourite sliders, apart from the usual burger of course, is chicken parmigiana. Parmigiana is delicious as is but put it in the middle of a bun and it tastes even better. This is a great make ahead family meal that’s a real crowd pleaser.  I like to bread my own chicken and make my own tomato sauce but if you are stretched for time, you can of course buy good quality pre-crumbed chicken from your butcher or poultry shop and use a premium tomato sauce from a jar. All the ingredients can be prepared beforehand, then just assemble the sliders at the last minute and bake. The smell wafting out of the oven as they cook is fabulous and you just know they are going to taste amazing – the bread comes out all crispy and garlicy (yes, that’s a word) and the tomato sauce and cheese are nice and bubbly. All you need in terms of a side is a salad.

Ingredients – serves 6 

12 slider buns – or 6 dinner size bread buns which is what I used
800g (approx) crumbed chicken schnitzels (breast or tenderloins) shallow fried  – basically you want enough chicken to generously cover each bun
2 cups tomato pasta sauce, home made or a good quality sauce from a jar
2 cups grated Mozzarella cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Method

Preheat oven to 180C. Place the bottom half of the slider buns in a greased casserole dish that will hold them snuggly. Place the cooked chicken evenly on the bottom buns and then cover them in sauce. Combine the mozzarella and Parmesan cheese and sprinkle it over the sauce. Place the top buns on the sliders. 

Chicken Parmigiana Sliders Chicken Parmigiana Sliders

Chicken Parmigiana Sliders Chicken Parmigiana Sliders

Melt the butter and mix the garlic powder until it is thoroughly combined.  Pour the melted butter over the buns and then sprinkle with Italian seasoning. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 15 minutes, then remove the foil and continue baking for another 15 minutes, or until the tops of the rolls a crispy and the sliders are hot and bubbly.

Chicken Parmesan Sliders

Chocolate & Hazelnut Cake with Espresso Ganache

Best Ever Chocolate Dessert - Chocolate & Hazelnut Cake with Espresso Ganache

As you can see from the Christmas decorations in the background this was a cake I made for a pre Christmas dinner we hosted. I love the combination of chocolate and hazelnut and try to sneak ground hazelnuts into a lot of cakes I make. This particular recipe is quite interesting as the base of the cake is meringue which is pre-baked and then topped with a chocolate cake batter before being baked again. It has the consistency and texture of a torte rather than a regular chocolate cake which elevates it into a sweet worthy of dessert. Once the cake has been topped  with the chocolate expresso ganache it needs to be chilled in the fridge, so it’s a great make ahead dessert for a dinner party. The topping of fresh raspberries not only looks great but they pair brilliantly with the chocolate.

Ingredients – Serves 10-12  Adapted from Australian Gourmet Traveller

6 large eggs, separated
330gm caster sugar
180gm hazelnut meal
20gm Dutch-process cocoa, sieved
160gm softened butter
250gm dark chocolate (55% cocoa solids), melted
30ml espresso-strength coffee
300g raspberries for top of cake
Espresso ganache
160ml pouring cream
20ml espresso-strength coffee
180gm dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), finely chopped
20ml chocolaté liqueur, optional

Method

Preheat oven to 180C. Whisk egg whites and a pinch of salt in an electric mixer until soft peaks form (3-4 minutes). Gradually add 165gm sugar, whisking until stiff and glossy (3-4 minutes), then fold in hazelnut meal and cocoa. Meanwhile, line base and sides of a buttered 25cm-diameter springform cake tin with baking paper, spoon hazelnut meringue mixture into prepared tin, smooth top and bake until a skewer inserted withdraws clean (15-20 minutes), then set aside.

Beat butter and remaining sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until pale and creamy (4-5 minutes), then add yolks one at a time, beating well to combine. Stir in melted chocolate and coffee, then pour onto meringue and bake until centre is firm (25-30 minutes). Refrigerate until firm (2-3 hours).


Espresso Ganache Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Espresso Ganache

For espresso ganache, bring cream and coffee to the boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat, remove from heat, add chocolate and liqueur, stir until smooth. Pour over cake, smooth top. Refrigerate until set (1-2 hours). To serve, remove cake from tin, remove paper and serve topped with raspberries.

Best Ever Chocolate Dessert - Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Espresso Ganache

Pulled Pork for a Crowd – Perfect Party Food

New Years Eve Party Menu - Pulled Pork

Now that Christmas is over and the turkey and ham leftovers in the fridge are finally starting to subside it’s time to start thinking about New Years Eve and if you’re planning on having a  New Years Eve party or any gathering where you want crowd pleasing food that’s a cinch to prepare then this pulled pork recipe is for you. The other bonus of this recipe is that it can be prepared well in advance, even days before, and then reheated just before serving – entertaining doesn’t get much easier than that! The pork is seasoned with a dry rub and left to marinade overnight. It’s then slow cooked for quite a few hours (relax, it’s all hands off work and you won’t need to do a thing while it bakes). By the end of the cooking time the meat is meltingly tender and can be shredded with ease before being coated with a simple homemade barbecue sauce. You can make this as spicy or as mild as you like – the recipe below includes chipotle chillies but you can leave these out if you are catering for a crowd that involves children. One note on the cut of pork – this is best made with any kind of cut from the shoulder as it can stand up to the long cooking time without drying out.  I was able to find some rolled boneless pork shoulder that had a layer of crackling on top, which I crisped up separately at the end of the cooking time, and chopped up to serve as a crunchy little addition to the soft meat, something I can highly recommend! I recently made this for a friend’s birthday and it went down a treat. For a party I think the easiest way to serve this is with soft buns, coleslaw and maybe a couple of other side dishes like corn on the cob or potato salad.  The quantities below feed a lot of people but if there are leftovers it freezes well and you can use pulled pork as taco fillings, for nachos or even with eggs in a jazzed up huevos rancheros.

Ingredients – Serves at least 30 but can be scaled down easily and freezes well

8 kg pork shoulder, free range if possible – I used 4 x 2kg pieces of boned and rolled pork shoulder
6 onions, roughly sliced
a few drops liquid smoke – optional

Dry Rub
⅔ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons salt
½ tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons mild chilli powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoon dried oregano

Barbecue Sauce
3 tablespoons vegetable oil – I used the fat that I skimmed from the cooked pork
2 medium onions, finely diced
6 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 cups tomato ketchup – I use Heinz Organic
1 cup water
2 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ cup cider vinegar
6 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoon canned chipotle chiles in adobo – optional
1 teaspoon chipotle chilli powder – optional, or replace with mild Mexican chilli powder
6 tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 tablespoon honey
A few drops of liquid smoke
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

The day before you plan to cook the pork mix all the dry rub ingredients together and divide evenly between the pork pieces and rub all over the skin, massaging it in well. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate over night. To cook the pork, bring it to room temperature and preheat the oven to 150C. Place the sliced onions into the bottom of a large roasting pan that will comfortably hold the meat. I had to use two pans and if you do this just divide the onions amongst the pans. Unwrap the pork and place on the onions. Add enough water around the meat to come about half an inch up the side of the pan. Cover the pork loosely with some scrunched up baking paper then cover the roasting tins tightly and securely with foil, you want to make sure as little steam as possible can escape. Place in the oven and bake for 5 hours. Check the pans halfway through to make sure there is still some liquid in the pan and it’s not drying out.

Oven Baked BBQ Pulled Pork Oven Baked BBQ Pulled Pork

After 5 hours remove the baking paper and foil and cook for a further hour. At the point you can take the pork out of the oven and cover it again and let it cool. When it’s cool enough to handle remove the crackling (if you have any) and set it aside – it won’t be crisp and you will need to crisp it up under a hot grill for a few minutes. Shred the pork using 2 forks or your hands, which I find easier. Skim as much fat as you can from the pan juices and reserve if you wish to use it in your bbq sauce. Place the shredded meat back into the baking pans and mix to coat it with the onions and pan juices.

To make the barbecue sauce, heat the oil or pork fat in a large sauce pan and fry the onions along with a pinch of salt until very soft. Add the garlic and fry for another couple of minutes. Add the tomato ketchup and water and bring to a boil then simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredient and stir well to combine. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for a further 10 – 12 minutes.

Oven Baked BBQ Pulled Pork BBQ Sauce for Pulled Pork

When the barbecue sauce is ready add it to the shredded meat a few ladlefuls at a time and mix in after each addition to make sure all the pork is nicely coated. Any left over sauce can be served on the side or poured on top of the pork. The pork can be cooked ahead of time, even a couple of days earlier, and coated with the sauce and kept refrigerated until you need it. To warm it through just bring it to room temperature and place it covered in a preheated oven for about 30 minutes.

Best EVER Chocolate Chip Cookies

Best EVER Chewy Cafe style Chocolate Chip Cookies

I know the title of “best chocolate chip cookie” is a big call but I stand by the statement. If you love chewy cafe style chocolate chip cookies then this recipe is one you’re going to want to try. My family devours these and I have not used any other method since I tried this recipe. These cookies are simple to throw together but I will point out a couple of important steps. Firstly, don’t skip resting the dough in the fridge before forming and baking. This helps give the cookies their lovely chewy texture. It’s also a good idea when you roll the cookies not to make perfect round ball shapes. I like to roll a heaped tablespoon into a ball then separate it in half and lightly squidge them together. This allows some of the chocolate chips to peek through and sit on top of the cookie which makes for better eating.  Lastly, don’t over bake them. Test a couple in your oven and see how long it takes for them to be at the just golden stage. In my oven this takes 12 minutes. At this point the cookies are way to soft to be able to remove from the baking sheet, but just let them sit for about 5 minutes and then you can carefully (because they’ll still be a soft) transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. If you over bake you’ll end up with crispy rather than chewy cookies which is not what we’re after. This recipe yields a lot of cookies but they last for a week or more in an airtight container and you’ll be surprised at just how quickly they disappear!

Ingredients – Makes 20-24 cookies  Adapted from Host the Toast

2 cups + 2 tablespoons plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons corn flour
½ teaspoon salt
180g butter, melted and cooled
1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
½ cup white sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1½ cups dark chocolate chips

Method

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, corn flour, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat together the cooled melted butter and the sugars with a hand mixer for about one minute. Then, add in the eggs and vanilla extract. Beat until just combined.

Slowly add in the dry ingredients and mix briefly, just until there are no flour clumps left. Fold in the chocolate chips. Cover and refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes to an hour. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and preheat the oven to 160C, making sure you have the racks in the middle to the top half of the oven.

Scoop a heaped tablespoon of cookie dough – about the size of a ping pong ball,  at a time and roll into balls. Then, tear the balls in half by pulling gently on both sides. Smush the two halves together again, but this time have the lumpy, torn sides face upward. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, making sure the cookies have space to spread.

Best EVER Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Best EVER Chocolate Chip Cookies

Bake for about 12 minutes, rotating half-way through, or until the cookies have spread out and the edges are golden, but the center of the cookie still looks soft and just slightly under-cooked. Let cool on the baking sheets until the cookies are firm enough to remove. Every oven is different, so I recommend starting with just one or two cookies on the tray to see what baking time works best for you. Repeat with remaining batches, until all cookies are baked.

Best EVER Cafe Style Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Arroz Caldoso – Spanish Seafood & Rice Soup

Spanish Seafood & Rice Soup - Arroz Caldoso

I have been on the hunt for a good arroz caldoso recipe ever since I saw Anthony Bourdain eating a bowl of it in one of his No Reservations episodes, probably one based in Spain as that is where the recipe originated. I couldn’t find too many recipes online for arroz caldoso but I got enough of a basic idea to create my own version. I like my arroz caldoso to be quite thick, almost stew like or resembling a very soupy risotto. As with most soup recipes the quality of the broth has a huge impact on the final dish so making your own stock from scratch is non-negotiable. You can use any mixture of seafood you like but my preference is for prawns, squid and firm white fish fillets. This is a light but very tasty meal that would make both an excellent starter or main course served with some crusty bread.

Ingredients  – Serves 4 as a main course

For the stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 bay leaf
pinch of saffron
1.5 litres best quality chicken or vegetable stock
Large piece of meaty fish bones
Heads and shells of 8 prawns
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of chilli flakes
1 large tomato, chopped

For the Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 prawns, heads and shells on so as they can be used in the stock – see above
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, diced
3 large tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
400g squid tubes, cut into bite size pieces
400g of firm white fish fillets cut into 4-6 chunky pieces
400g la bomba or arborio rice
½ teaspoon of mild smoked paprika
Pinch of saffron
Salt and pepper
¼ cup finely chopped parsley

Method

To make the stock, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and when hot add the onion and carrot and fry for a few minutes until lightly coloured. Add the prawn shells and heads and cook stirring and pressing down hard on the shells to release their flavour. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil, skimming any scum as it appears. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 40 minutes. Strain the stock and discard the solids.

Stock for Arroz Caldoso

To make the soup, heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the onions and garlic along with a pinch of salt until fully cooked and soft. Add chopped tomato and cook on low heat for 15 minutes. Add paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, a few grinds of black pepper and the tomato paste. Stir well and cook for another minute.

  

Add squid and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the strained stock and bring to a simmer. Add rice and cook on a gentle simmer for 10 minutes. Add fish and cook for 5 minutes. Then add prawns and cook for a further 5 minutes. By this stage the rice and seafood should be perfectly cooked. Check for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Served garnished with parsley.

Spanish Seafood & Rice Soup - Arroz Caldoso

Roasted Plum & Yogurt Pavlova – Yep, No Cream!

Light Thanksgiving Dessert - Roast Plum & Yogurt Pavlova

I’m not pretending by any means that this Pavlova is healthy, it does after all contain one cup of sugar but it would be a lot more calorific if it was doused in the usual way with lots of whipped cream. Instead this version uses thick Greek yogurt which gives the Pavlova a lovely tang. You could substitute plain yogurt for vanilla, coconut or a fruit flavour such as passionfruit. My favourite thing though about this Pavlova is the roasted plums adorning the top. Plums when they are roasted have amazing flavour, sweet and sharp with a wonderful deep red colour. The roasting syrup from the plums is then liberally drizzled over the Pavlova just before serving along with some chopped pistachios. This would be a delicious light, and gluten-free, dessert for Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Ingredients – Serves 6  Adapted from Heinstirred

For the Meringue
4 egg whites
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup castor sugar
2 teaspoon corn starch
2 teaspoon white vinegar

Roasted Plums & Sauce
6 plums, halved and stoned (less ripe plums will hold their shape better)
4 and 1 tablespoon honey
¼ cup water
pinch of salt

Yogurt Filling
2 cups full fat plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons icing sugar
2 tablespoons sauce from the plums
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Garnish (optional)
A handful chopped pistachio nuts

Method

for the meringue: Preheat oven to 220C. Place baking paper on a baking tray and by using the bottom of a 22cm round cake tin or a 34cm x 11cm rectangular flan dish, draw the outline of the base on the paper. Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar and salt until stiff peaks form. While the beater is still running add the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time until all the sugar has been mixed in and the meringue is thick and glossy. Sift the corn starch over the mixture, add the vinegar and mix well until combined.

Roasted Plums for Pavlova

Scoop the mixture onto the drawn lines and shape the meringue within the drawn lines, making the edges higher than the middle of the meringue. Place in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 150 degrees C and bake for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to 120 degrees C and bake for another 45 minutes. Switch the oven off and let the meringues cool inside the oven. Once cool, turn the meringue over and carefully remove the baking paper and place in a serving dish.

For the roasted plums: Preheat oven to 200C. Take 8 prettiest halves and place in a deep roasting dish. Drizzle with the 4 tablespoons of honey. Pour the water onto the bottom of the pan. Roast the plums for 20 – 30 minutes until cooked. Chop the remaining plums into chunks. Place in a small pot with the remaining 1 tablespoon honey, water and salt. Simmer for about 15 minutes (keep an eye on it and stir regularly) until the plums have cooked down and disintegrated. Cool and pass through a sieve to get a smooth sauce. Check the sweetness of the sauce but remember the meringue is very sweet.

For the yogurt filling: Mix the yogurt with the vanilla, sugar and syrup. To Assemble, spoon the yoghurt mixture on top of the meringue. Place the roasted plums on top. Drizzle with the sauce and sprinkle with the pistachios.

A Light Christmas Dessert - Roasted Plum & Yogurt Pavlova

Richard Olney’s Chicken Gratin – One of the All Time Best Chicken Dishes

Best Ever Chicken Dish - Richard Olney's Chicken Gratin

Many years ago, and by many I mean at least 30, my mother started collecting the Time-Life cook books. There were quite a few in the series, about 30 from memory, with each booking covering one ingredient – chicken, pork, pasta, pulses and grains, etc. These hard cover books were quite expensive for the time but I’m so glad my mother persevered and over time purchased the entire collection. They contain fabulous pictures with step by step guides to quite intricate recipes and in the back there are many more recipes that aren’t showcased with pictures. These were books for serious home cooks and I love them dearly. It wasn’t until recently that I learned the editor of these culinary tomes was a man named Richard Olney. Olney whilst born in America spent a great deal of his time living and working in France and was widely published. One of his classic recipes that has once again seen the light of day, thanks to Food52, is this chicken gratin. If this recipe is anything to go by he must have been a prodigious cook. It is everything one could hope for in a chicken dish. Crunch and texture from the bread crumb topping, perfectly cooked moist flesh and a luscious cheese spiked custard tying it all together. This is one hell of a delicious dish and the best thing is it’s super easy. Try this once and you’ll be making it time and time again.

Ingredients – Serves 4  Adapted from Richard Olney’s Simple French Food

1.2-1.5 kg skin-on chicken pieces, I used a mixture of wings, things and drumsticks but breasts could also be used.
Salt, pepper
30g butter
2 very large handfuls fresh bread crumbs – dried will not work and you don’t want them too fine.
⅓ cup white wine
¾ cup heavy cream
3 egg yolks
100g freshly grated Gruyère
Juice of  ½ lemon – I always leave this out as it tends to curdle the custard – for me there is enough acidity in the wine.

Method

Heat the oven to 200C. Salt the chicken pieces and cook them in the butter over medium heat until nearly done and lightly colored on all sides. Transfer them to a gratin dish of a size to just hold them snugly, arranged side by side.

Cook the crumbs in the chicken’s cooking butter until slightly crisp and only slightly colored — still blond, stirring. Put them aside (don’t worry if a few remain in the pan) and deglaze the pan with the white wine, reducing it by about half.

Richard Olney's Chicken Gratin Richard Olney's Chicken Gratin

Whisk together the cream, egg yolks, salt and pepper, and cheese, then incorporate the lemon (if using) and the deglazing liquid. Spoon or pour this mixture evenly over the chicken pieces, sprinkle the surface with the breadcrumbs, and bake for about 40 minutes or until the surface is nicely colored and the custard is firm.

Best Ever Chicken Dish - Richard Olney's Chicken Gratin

Pizza Crackers

Perfect Party Appetisers - Pizza Crackers

For me this time of year always heralds the start of the festive season – between Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year (not to mention a lot of family birthdays sprinkled around these dates) there’s a lot of entertaining taking place in the next 10 weeks, yep 10 weeks! Having a few delicious appetisers that can be whipped up quickly and easily is very handy and these pizza crackers fit the bill perfectly. I like to make a couple of different types – some spicy with a scattering of salami for the adults as well as plain tomato and cheese. These crackers are made using very thin flat bread or wraps, the thinner the better. The bread is simply spread with pizza sauce, herbs and parmesan before being baked until crisp. These pizza crackers have the added bonus of being super light so even if you eat a fair few, and it’s hard not to, they won’t fill your guests up too much before the meal.

Ingredients 

4 sheets lavash flat bread or wraps, the thinner the better
1
 cup tomato or pizza sauce
3 tablespoons Italian seasoning or a mixture of dried oregano, thyme and marjoram
4 teaspoons sugar, or to taste – the little extra sweetness from the sugar makes these crackers particularly tasty
Crushed chilli flakes, optional
80g very thinly sliced pepperoni, optional
Freshly grated parmesan cheese

Method

Preheat the oven to 200C. Place the bread on a flat surface. Cover with a thin layer of tomato sauce. Using a medium-mesh strainer, sprinkle with the sugar. Then, sprinkle the dried herbs, crushed chilli flakes (if using) and Parmesan cheese. If you are using pepperoni place them on the bread in a single layer before topping with parmesan.

Pizza Crackers Pizza Crackers Pizza Crackers

Using kitchen scissors, cut into squares or rectangles. A pizza wheel would work fine too. Transfer to several baking sheets lined with baking paper. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the flatbread is slightly golden and slightly hardened. Remove from the oven and let cool until firm.