Slow decent into madness| Pollo Con Salsa

And so begins the slow decent into end-of-year madness. There’s people to see, parties to attend, shopping to do, and nowhere near enough time to do it all. Why do we do it to ourselves?!

How do you handle this time of year?
Are you a list person?
Did you start buying Christmas presents in June?
Do you promise yourself every year that this will be the one where you’re organised, only to find yourself 3 days out from the big day having a meltdown in Myer? Yeah, no, me neither.

With all the demands on your time that come with this time of year, you’re going to want some recipes that aren’t too taxing on the effort front, right? Right.

This recipe comes from one of my favourite books this year – The Feast Goes On, from The Monday Morning Cooking Club. If you see it, pick up a copy. It’s so full of really comforting recipes, kind of like a food hug, that it will be a book that you go back to again and again. I’m waiting for an excuse to make the insanely magical but also filthy fried cheese pie.

You heard me.

Fried.

Cheese.

Pie.

But until that day, there’s this. A great, family friendly dinner, that’s ready in an hour. This is the kind of thing you’ll find yourself eating weekly for it’s sheer simplicity and adaptability. Throw in whatever’s in your fridge, you can’t go wrong. You’re welcome.

 

Pollo Con Salsa

From The Monday Morning Cooking Club

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large red capsicum, thinly sliced
8 skinless chicken thighs
500ml chicken stock
400g tin diced tomatoes
1 large handful flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

 

Heat the oil over medium heat. In a large heavy bottomed saucepan, then add the onion and cook until soft, stirring, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and capsicum and continue to stir for a further 5 minutes, until the capsicum softens. Scrape from the pan and set aside. Add the chicken to the pan and brown well on both sides.

Add the onion and capsicum back to the pan, then add the stock. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until the chicken is tender. Stir in the tomatoes and parsley, season, then cook for another 15 minutes until slightly thickened.

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Serve with your favourite carb.

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This would be great with rice or mash, but I couldn’t say no to Israeli couscous.

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Everything tastes better when it’s round.

If there’s something that we can all agree on, there is nothing more delicious than pork belly. It appeals on so many levels – it can be roasted all sexy and crispy, or slow braised until it melts. It also works across the entire flavour spectrum, making it completely versatile.

But, let’s be honest, it’s also a little bit done. Everyone, everywhere, has done it to death. 

Enter your new Big Love – LAMB BELLY. It’s all the deliciousness of pork belly, with the additional awesome of lamb! You’re welcome, Kosher eaters.

Let me tell you – nothing makes you feel more cheffy than learning to tie something with kitchen string. Plus, everything tastes better when it’s round, which has been documented by science. Think about it, pizza, Wagon Wheels, scrolls, cheese burgers, doughnuts. You know it’s true. That is why this dish ticks all the boxes.

Crispy Stuffed Lamb Belly

Adapted from Food 52

3 tablespoons oregano, finely minced
1 cup feta, finely crumbled
1 tablespoon olive oil
900g lamb belly, off the bone
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup beef stock

Preheat the oven to 180*c.

Mix the feta, oregano and olive oil in a bowl (I used my food processor) and combine until it forms a paste.

Lay the belly out flat on a cutting board, fat side down.  Spread the feta paste evenly across the belly, leaving a small border around the edge.

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Start at one of the short edges, and roll the belly tightly, then tie every inch or there abouts with kitchen string. Rub the outside with the combined minced garlic, salt and a splash of olive oil.

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Place the rolled roast fattier side up in a heavy bottomed oven and stove top proof dish. Add the wine, stock and juice, cover and roast in the oven for 2 hours.   Increase the heat to 230*c and roast for a further 15 minutes, or until brown and crispy.

Note: As my piece of belly was only about half the size called for in the recipe, it was done in 45 minutes.


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Serve with Balsamic Roasted Tomatoes and a green salad.

What makes food taste better than good?

There are things you can do that makes food taste better. I mean, better than normal.

Slow cooking, for one thing. Having someone else cook for you. MSG and salt. Being hungry – have you ever noticed that everything tastes AMAZING when you’re starving?

I’m personally of the opinion that eating with your hands goes firmly on that list. Think about it! How good are burgers, or pizza? Picnics! Hotdogs! CAKE, BECAUSE CUTLERY BE DAMNED.

Of course, Mexican and it’s various subsidiaries fall into this category too. It’s fun on three levels:

  1. Most of the names are ridiculous to pronounce. Quesadilla what?
  2. Eating with your hands is pretty much mandatory
  3. You get to make it up as you go! Personally, I like cheese and hate guac.

The other thing that’s awesome about Mexican, is that it’s stupidly quick and, if you make it yourself, fresh. Done in 30 minutes or less, this dish wastes absolutely no time getting on your dinner table, leaving you with more time for the important stuff. Like stuffing your face.

Coriander chicken with pico de gallo

Adapted from Good Taste

3 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp dried oregano leaves
1 tsp sea salt flakes
2/3 cup chopped fresh coriander
4 garlic cloves
2 fresh jalapeño chillies, finely chopped
80ml lime juice
2 tbs olive oil
800g chicken breasts
4 tomatoes, seeded, finely chopped
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
Tortillas, warmed

Place cumin, ground coriander, oregano, salt, 1/2 cup chopped coriander, 3 garlic cloves and half the chili in a mortar or blender, and blitz until it forms a paste.

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Add half of the olive oil and lime juice. Season with pepper to taste. Pour the marinade into a bowl, then add the chicken, rubbing the marinade in well. Set aside for 10 minutes.

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Toss together the tomato, onion and what’s left of the garlic, coriander, chili, lime juice and oil in a bowl; set aside.

Heat a splash of oil in a frying pan on high, then add the chicken and cook for a few minutes each side until cooked through. Slice thinly, then serve with the tortillas and pico de gallo.

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I might be wrong, so please correct me if I am, but I’m pretty sure you could even blitz up the marinade, coat the chicken and then throw it into ziploc bags to be frozen.

Did I just make this super easy dinner even easier? Uh, I think I did. YOU’RE WELCOME.

Get steaked

March.

Is anyone else really looking forward to this month?

  • First things first, there’s the cool weather change which I’m welcoming with open arms. Jumpers! Knee socks! 
  • The State Election. March 9, AKA this weekend. VOTE. 
  • Eat Drink Perth – A spectacular Perth food festival. Check here, herehere and here for details
  • The return of not only Doctor Who, but also Game of Thrones (nerd alert!)
  • EASTER. The festival of chocolate and long weekends!
  • St Patrick’s Day! WEAR ALL THE GREEN!

Writing all these things down makes me realise just how busy I’m going to be… Ugh. I love all the things that I have on, but I’m a bit of an introvert so I don’t always love being run off my feet.

I’m a known lover of comfort food, and this is one of my current favourites. This is a really easy way to level up what is essentially steak and salad. Throw in some crusty bread to mop up the oil and juices, and hell, you can eat without cutlery. Who doesn’t love less dishes?

I know the oil stuff sounds a little fiddly. It’s not, really. You could also just steep the garlic and rosemary in oil for a couple of hours, tasting occasionally. Alternatively, you can buy flavoured oils from good food stores, which pretty much takes out all of the work. I see no problem with this.

Balsamic Roasted Tomatoes

From BBC Food

400g cherry tomatoes
2 garlic cloves , chopped finely
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar 

Heat the oven to 180C.

Cut a cross into the bottom of each tomato. Toss the tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and balsamic vinegar together in a small roasting dish. Roast for 20-25 minutes.

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Garlic-Rosemary Steak

From Bon Appetit

3/4 cup plus 7 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1/4 cup rosemary sprigs
4 steaks
Sea salt, freshly ground pepper
6 large garlic cloves, sliced

In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat 3/4 cup of oil and the rosemary for a couple of minutes or until it bubbles. Set aside to steep for a couple of hours, then strain and discard the rosemary. Set aside.

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Rub the steak with 1 tbsp oil, and season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a pan over high heat, and quickly sear the steaks on both sides then set aside to rest for 10 minutes.

Add the remaining 4 tbsp oil and garlic to the pan, turning to cook until the garlic is brown but not burnt. Strain the oil into a bowl and discard the garlic.

Slice the steaks against the grain. Heat the remaining 2 tbsp garlic oil in the pan until it shimmers. Add half of the steak and turn once, cooking until done to your liking. Add 1 tbsp of the rosemary oil and toss. Set aside. Repeat with the remaining oil.

Season the steak with sea salt and more oil if you like.  Serve on a platter with the roasted tomatoes and crusty bread.


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As fate would have it…

Some meals are like serendipity.

It’s been a long weekend. Sadly, not in a ‘I’ve had 4 days off’ kind of long weekend; it’s just that I haven’t stopped yet. Between birthdays and dinners, markets and movies, rugby and one seriously large puppy play date… I barely had a minute to stop and realise it’s completely pouring with rain outside. Perth’s first day of serious rain all year. It was gorgeous.

My first stop on a Saturday is always the Subiaco Farmers Markets for my week’s shopping. I love getting advice from the farmers as to what they like best, or product recommendations for anything I plan on cooking.
Stopping to see The Beef Guy, I was quickly sold on some beautiful, slightly fatty mince. I didn’t have plans for it but just couldn’t say no.

As fate would have it, Saturday afternoon brought a delivery from Urban Locavore. This month’s box features some gorgeous fresh pasta from Golden Ravioli. My impulse beef mince was quickly becoming a cold weather feast of classic comfort food – bolognese.

Simple Spaghetti Bolognese

1 tbs olive oil
20g butter
2 brown onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
500g beef mince
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 cup red wine
2 x 400g cans diced tomatoes
1 tbs dried oregano
3 dried bay leaves
375g  spaghetti

1) Cook onion and garlic in the oil and butter in a large saucepan, stirring, for 3 minutes or until onion softens. Add the mince, breaking up any lumps, for 5 minutes or until the mince changes colour.

2) Add the tomato paste, wine, tomato, oregano and bay leaves, and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring from time to time, for 1 hour or until sauce reduces and thickens. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

3) Cook the pasta to packet instructions. Drain

4) Divide the spaghetti among bowls and spoon over bolognese sauce. Grate over the parmesan and serve immediately.

My life is over.

On Wednesday night, one of my life-long-held dreams came true in spectacular fashion.

I had the opportunity to attend a dessert degustation at the utterly spectacular Restaurant Amuse in East Perth with 8 of my delightful foodie friends. It was an evening beyond compare, and everything I could have wanted from such an experience.

A rundown of the delights on offer include:

Caramel parfait in a white chocolate and wasabi shell
Chimay Blue 2011 sorbet, barley foam with a pretzel and salted cashews
Gin and tonic jelly with a drunken sponge, encased in a marshmallow with lime zest
Lychee three ways: as a mousse, a gel and freeze dried; served with coconut pastry creme banana puree and Gin Gin finger limes

10 tomato varieties as a sorbet with verjuice and balsamic pebbles with hyssop
Bee pollen milkshake with honeycombe crunchie
Hay custard, fresh blueberries and blueberry syrup with cocoa and coffee crumbs with hay smoke

Beetroot sponge, pistachio parfait, crushed milk biscuit and raspberries
Deconstructed Snickers – Chocolate and peanut butter mousse, coated in caramel with nougat ice cream
Apricot souffle with vanilla anglaise
Coffee macaroons with a baileys filled truffle

Let me tell you now. I like sugar. I can handle sweet things that people with more brains that me shirk from.
I have never been so sugar drunk in my life. The sugar hangover the next day… Headaches, an unquenchable thirst, salt cravings… Basically the worst come down you can possibly imagine. I sat at my desk, head in my hands, and wanted to die. I’d do it all again tomorrow. Yes. All 11 courses. 

But what does one do, once they’ve completed their immediate life goal? Seriously, I’m not kidding. This was one of my life goals. Don’t judge me, I could have happily died after that.

Well, life goes on. After that horrendous day at work, I still had to come home and cook dinner.  A dinner that attempted to start correcting the food choices I’ve been making.

Full of vegetables, eggs and with a little bit of salty chorizo to balance my laden palate, this did the trick.

Roasted vegetable and Chorizo Fritatta

Adapted from Taste

Ingredients
6 eggs
1 cup roasted vegetables roughly diced – I used mushrooms, cherry tomatoes red onion and garlic
1 chorizo sausage, sliced
Handful of grated cheese
Handful of baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup shredded basil leaves

1. Placed the diced vegies in a baking pan, toss with oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in a pan at 200*c until they begin to wilt, 15 to 20 minutes.

2.In a non stick, oven proof pan, cook the sliced chorizo until done.

3. Add the vegetables and spinach to the pan with the chorizo and spread them out evenly.

Whisk eggs in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add the eggs to the pan and cook on low until they have almost set.

4. Sprinkle the shredded cheese and basil. Place the pan in a pre-warmed grill and cook for 3 or 4 minutes.

Slice into wedges and serve.

P.S. For a better run down of the evening, and much better photos, have a gander at the lovely jujichews. She makes awesome hats out of the fancy cloth napkins. True story.

Hummus is yummus. Yeah, I said it.

Arrrrrrrggggggh.
It’s happened to all of us at one point or another.
You promise to make something for an event. A party, office morning tea, whatever. And then life, well, it does what it does, and gets in the way. Something happens, you get busy, you forget.

And then you have a mild panic attack at 9pm on a Monday night, because you remember what you’ve promised. You realise the shops are closed, and you can’t just bring in a platter of cheeseymite scrolls as you have a reputation to uphold.
Bollocks.
If you’re lucky, you’re one of those cooks that peers into your cupboard, finds 4 ingredients and brainstorms a glorious, fuss free treat for the masses.

I am not one of those cooks.
At best, I was in trouble. At worst… Lets try not to think about that.

I flicked through a couple of my favourite food blogs, hoping for inspiration. Turns out, the Food Gods were smiling upon me this day. A recipe appeared that was not only fast and delicious, but made from things I already have? This stuff only happens in my wildest dreams!

Hummus.
Let’s be honest, is not pretty. It is, however a crowd favourite, delicious, and good for you. It’s also stupidly simple.
You got a can of chickpeas? You got yourself a gym a dip.
Throw in some sun-dried tomatoes, and you’ve just kicked it up a notch. Simple genius.

Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus

Adapted from ecurry

Ingredients

450g tinned chickpeas, drained
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil
1/4 cup olive oil + 2 tablespoon more
3 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, lightly toasted (optional)
3/4 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt
Red chili flakes (optional)

Roughly chop sundried tomatoes. Reserve the oil and use in place of regular olive oil if you prefer (gives additional flavour, yum!).
Combine all of the ingredients for hummus except for the oil, in a food processor. If you are using chilli flakes, add them here.

Process mixed to a smooth consistency, slowly add the additional 1/4 cup of oil in a steady stream. If it looks a little dry, add a splash of water.

Add salt to taste, and pour over the last of the oil. Serve with crackers, bread, vegetables… It’s hummus, serve it with whatever!
Store in a clean, air tight container.