Sunday, December 8, 2013

Grilled Chicken & Bresaola Salad

I was sent some chicken. Lilydale chicken to be exact. Somehow they knew exactly how bare my cupboard, fridge and kitchen in general was, and perhaps just how hungry I felt. The few edible things I had in my fridge included a few olives, some bresaola, butter lettuce and a sad half of avocado. So I thankfully accepted the chicken, grilled it and practically inhaled this salad. Yes Lilydale sent me chicken but NO this is not a sponsored post or one of those things. I'm posting because of a delicious salad and also because I believe quite strongly in their approach to doing as much as they can to ensure a "happy chicken"and how they are prepared to put their entire product and brand behind it - that means they believe it, and most importantly that they practice what they preach.  You may have read recently that egg producers have been under fire for claiming organic and free range, charging us more for it and basically not telling the truth to consumers for their financial gain - really horrid, underhand behaviour that has an impact on of course on the welfare of chickens and the quality of life provided for them, and us as consumers placing trust in what we purchase from supermarket shelves. Anyway back to this salad. It took five minutes to put together, and the chicken and bresaola with tangy feta and bright cherry toms really was delightful. I added a few additions to the recipe suggestion that came with the chicken - basically the use of bresaola, butter lettuce, avocado, some finely sliced red onion and a quick vibrant squeeze of lemon juice.

2 chicken breasts
2 tbsp olive oil
20g butter
400g cherry tomatoes or mixed small tomatoes
Marinated feta crumbled
Half an avocado, sliced
Small butter lettuce, rinsed, leaves coarsely torn
Quarter red onion, finely sliced
Salt and pepper to season

Squeeze of fresh lemon juice

2 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp balsamic vinegar

Brush the chicken breasts with a little of the oil, season with salt and pepper. Heat the remaining oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and add the butter; cook the chicken breasts for 4-5 minutes each side or until cooked through. Set aside.

Add the remaining ingredients to a large bowl and toss to combine. Slice the chicken and scatter pieces over the top of the salad. Just before serving, combine the dressing ingredients then pour over the salad.

Chocolate Candy Cane Melting Moments

I become pathetically happy at Christmas time; the decorating, eating and drinking frenzy is what I live for. It is actually difficult to explain the sensation of joy I feel by being reunited with the likes of fruit mince, copious amounts of ham, brandy butter, prawns and even sickly sweet candy canes. For a grown up version, I’ve combined the peppermint zing of canes with the perennial favourite – melting moments with a chocolate truffle style filling. I make mine the size of golf balls on steroids, utterly supersized, meaning that after just one you feel quite content. These are surprisingly easy to make, and they'll keep for a couple of weeks without refrigeration, although given the Christmas heat that can often strike, I’d store them covered in the cool just to be safe.

250g butter, softened
75g icing sugar
200g plain flour, sifted
50g cocoa powder, sifted
50g potato flour, sifted*
180g white chocolate, finely chopped
160ml pouring cream
50g candy canes, crushed (plus extra to serve)

Preheat the oven to 180C. Beat the butter, icing sugar and cocoa powder with electric beaters until creamy and thick. Use a wooden spoon to stir in the flours until combined. Knead the mixture gently on a lightly floured work surface until smooth, then cover in plastic wrap and rest for 30 minutes in the fridge. Slice 26 pieces of mixture and roll into balls, flattening the balls with the back of a fork. Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake for 12 – 15 minutes or until crisp. Stand for 5 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack.
For the peppermint filling, place chocolate in a bowl and set aside. Bring cream to the simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Pour over chocolate, set aside to melt chocolate (5 minutes), then stir until smooth. Add peppermint extract, set aside to cool to spreading consistency, then stir in crushed peppermint. Spoon a little of the peppermint filling onto half the biscuits, sandwich with remaining biscuits, set aside to set (15 minutes) before gently rolling in the additional crushed candy cane.

  • Available from health food stores and some supermarkets or alternatively you can use tapioca flour.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Apple cider and fennel roasted pork shoulder

I’m wondering what we did with our pork before it was cooked at a snails pace – long and luxuriously before being pulled into a great big tasty shredded mess of slow cooked goodness. The great thing about this recipe is you can’t get it wrong, just the sort of sentiments we need heading into Christmas and the requirements of putting food on the table. You do need time on your side though as it requires a solid 6 hours in the oven and a few hours before this to dry out (although you can skip this step). You could even put it on the night before and cook it overnight at about 140C if you are the sort who loves a solid bit of pre planning.

My only tip is to ensure you use an apple cider with a good balance of sweetness and acidity. You want it to add to the flavours at play rather than take all the attention like a bully in a schoolyard.

2.5kg pork shoulder, bone in
2 tbsp fennel seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp mustard seeds
2 tbsp brown sugar
Pinch sea salt flakes
600ml cheeky rascal apple cider
600ml chicken stock
4 apples, halved, cored
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled, bruised

Apple slaw
2 green apples, slices on a mandolin
Bunch mint leaves, coarsely torn
2 Fennel bulbs, sliced on a mandolin
1 red onion, sliced on a mandolin
Juice of 1 lemon

Dry-roast the fennel, coriander and mustard seeds in a frying pan over medium heat until fragrant. Crush in a mortar and pestle. Combine with the brown sugar and salt and massage into the pork skin. Refrigerate, uncovered, for the flavours to develop – at least 4 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 200C. Place pork on a rack over a roasting pan, add half the  apple cider and half the stock in base and roast until pork starts to colour (30 minutes). Reduce heat to 150C and roast until tender, adding extra cider and stock as required (up to 6 hours). Add the apples and garlic, carefully stir to combine and continue to roast for 30 minutes or until meat is very tender. Set the pork aside to rest, reserve the apples and strain the juices into a saucepan. Place saucepan over medium heat and reduce for 20 minutes or until a thick sauce consistency. To make the apple slaw, combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss gently to combine. Prepare just before serving for maximum freshness. Slice/shred/pull the pork and serve with pan juices and roasted apples.