chicken

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I’m keeping it honest + simple today (actually I’m anxiously hovering over the publish button because my photos are crazy casual, oh my gosh) with a few photos illustrating one of my favourite dishes at a child; salt dough chicken. My mum only prepared the dish a few times but the spectacle of taking a chisel to a dough-encrusted bird was enough to retain those happy, tasty memories until today. Did anybody see those nerdburgers on #mkr prepare their salt-crusted trout? I’m pretty sure they were doing it wrong; this is how to do it right. The Women’s Weekly Cooking Class Cookbook taught me how. It states… “This is one of the renowned dishes of the Orient.”

*tugs collar*, yikes. Well, to pay homage to, um, “the Orient” as well as retaining my delicate Australian-wog sensibilities I’ve prepared the chicken by shoving lemon and rosemary up its arse then brushing the bird with kecap manis (can be substituted with soy sauce and sugar). Wrap your beloved chook in foil and salt dough and bake for four hours. It’s like cooking a chicken inside an oven inside an oven inside an oven (inception chook). Crack open your make-shift oven for a meal of melting-off-the-bone chicken. Delicious, noble, comforting bird; you’re the best.

The other day my mum said something very interesting; “why has ‘communal eating’ become such a fad lately? It’s like all of a sudden people decided it’s nice to eat together”. NICE ONE MUM. I lack the eye for refined plating as dishes upon dishes, complete with mismatched tongs, served in the centre of the table for all to enjoy has been the norm for as long as I can remember. Individual plates with perfect towers of food were never commonplace in my upbringing and this chicken dish respects this mentality by being so deliciously ugly it cannot possibly be transformed into a fine dining work-of-art. Do your best to transfer it out of the salt dough (that sucker’s gonna crumble) and let everybody dive in and grab their favourite piece. It’s how we’re meant to enjoy food.

Since this dinner was made for my family last night the luxury of taking my time with staged photos was nonexistent with a hungry audience present; as aforementioned here are some honest (read: dodgy) snaps from a tasty dinner in the Dimou household. Recipe follows after the jpg assault.

Salt Dough Chicken
(based on Beggar’s Chicken from the Women’s Weekly Cooking Class Cookbook)

1 whole chicken
1 lemon
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
2 sprigs rosemary
3 tbs kecap manis
Salt
Olive oil

Salt dough
1.5kg salt
6 cups plain flour
2 1/2 cups water

1. Pre-heat oven to 250°C. Combine all salt dough ingredients and knead until dough comes together and set aside.
2. Prepare baking tray with parchment paper and aluminium foil (or both to be safe like I did). Quarter lemon and onion, roughly crush garlic and place in cavity of the chicken. Brush with kecap manis and sprinkle with salt. Place chicken on foil that’s been brushed with olive oil and wrap tightly in a couple of layers. Roll out salt dough, one half at a time, and wrap the foiled chicken. Wet your fingertips to smooth over and fill any gaps.
3. Bake in the oven for one hour, turn down heat to 170°C and bake for another 3 hours.
4. Remove from oven. With a chisel and hammer gently tap away at the salt dough until you’re able to carefully extract the chicken (warning: SUPER HOT). Place on serving platter and enjoy.

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Chicken + Corn + Egg Soup

Back in July I posted this chicken, corn and egg soup recipe. LOLOL, right? Besides the obviously thoughtless styling please allow me to explain my revisiting of this post. I’m in my third year of university (Bachelor of Digital Media) and for my final project I’ve (foolishly?) proposed to design and photograph my very own cookbook. It’s pretty exciting. Here’s a working cover:

Playing the role of both chef, stylist and photographer really takes its toll to the point I’ve been flailing and shouting about never wanting to be a photographer anymore, ever. However I must always keep in mind this is all for the greater good despite the fact I’ll never be able to sit and enjoy my lunch without having spent an hour taking photos of it for the next seven months. Most entries you’ve seen this year will be compiled in my book so THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH to everybody who has offered kind and constructive words re: photography. Keep it coming. And don’t get afraid to get nasty; I’m used to getting my butt kicked at uni so if you see something you don’t like please go nuts with it.

Chicken + Corn + Egg Soup

On to the food; my prior entry explained this soup came about whilst I was very, very ill but this time around I’ve spared a little more effort to transform this into a more graceful dish (using real stock this time, not the supermarket type! Wow!); someone on Pinterest even mentioned I should probably have chicken pieces in here, so thanks for your feedback! I have delivered. This should serve around four friends.

Chicken + Corn + Egg Soup
(an original recipe)

1L chicken stock (please refer to this recipe)
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbs ginger, minced or finely grated
2x 420g cans creamed corn
1 tbs soy sauce
2 eggs
1 tbs corn flour
Salt and pepper, to taste
Chopped shallots, to serve

1. Prepare chicken stock as per these instructions. Once drained and cooled remove chicken from the bones, lightly shred and reserve for later.
2. In a medium-sized pot sizzle the ginger in sesame oil until fragrant. Add the stock, creamed corn and soy sauce and stir to combine.
3. In a small bowl combine cornflour with equal part water and stir until dissolved. Pour into soup and stir – this works as a thickening agent.
4. In another small bowl whisk the two eggs. Slowly pour in them in ensuring the soup is hot so they cook almost immediately. This will create a lovely, light weave of egg throughout your soup.
5. Ladle out in bowls and adorn with a generous pinch of shredded chicken reserved from earlier. Garnish with chopped shallots and cracked pepper.

Let’s get these bad boys side-by-side; here’s a comparative image from August 2011 to now illustrating a significant improvement of styling and photo editing. Funny how I used to think the photo on the left was the bees knees:

… and in another year’s time I’ll probably be looking back at these photos having a solid laugh too (in fact I’m already finding reasons to dislike them – I’m still clumsy with dark coloured backgrounds). At least it’s comforting to know there’s always room for growth and improvement, right?

PS. On a completely unrelated note – does anybody here use Instagram? Since it’s now available for Android I’ve completely jumped aboard, let’s be friends! My username is bananasoiree.

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Two Leek + Two Garlic Soup

To cut a long and possibly annoying succession of stupid anecdotes short; my weekend, this recipe and this post has been inspired by three things:

  • An enforced philosophy of shopping at farmers’ markets far more frequently and making as much as I possibly can from scratch,
  • Wanting to create my version of Campbell’s “Potato and Leek” soup in a can, my former comfort food as a broke student living out of home (eugh), and
  • Discovering a life beyond LEEKSPIN.

Two Leek + Two Garlic Soup

Needless to say this weekend was rather wholesome (with the exception of my frolicking around humming the Leekspin tune); riding my bike around yearning for the organic and simply homemade. And yes, a year ago I would often pine for Campbell’s Leek and Potato soup from a can, undeterred its goopy nature retaining its cylindrical shape as I attempted it pour it from the can into my little pot. It was like something from a cartoon.

Two Leek + Two Garlic Soup

Now, if I do say so myself, this leek soup is spectacular; so fragrant and naturally creamy. The garlic is present and rounded but in no way pungent so don’t be afraid to rock two whole bulbs. It’s one of those dishes where the ingredients truly speak for themselves. Whole roasting garlic bulbs is an absolute joy, as is preparing an aromatic chicken stock from scratch. Please note the stock recipe below will make around twice as much as you actually need for this soup; this stuff is golden and whether you refrigerate it for a week or freeze it for months you will always, always find an opportunity to use it. But, as usual, I digress. This recipe, aside from the extra stock, will serve 4 people who aren’t afraid to get their garlic on.

Two Leek + Two Garlic Soup

 

Two Leek + Two Garlic Soup

2 leeks

2 whole garlic bulbs

1L chicken stock (instructions below)

650g potato (around 4 medium sized)

100ml cream, plus more to garnish

1 tbs butter

Olive oil

Salt

A few slices of prosciutto (optional)

 

Chicken stock (makes twice as much as you need, around 2L)

1kg chicken wings (around 10)

2½ L water

2 large onions

3 sprigs thyme

2 bay leaves

10 peppercorns

2 tbs salt

 

For the stock (can be made a day ahead)

1. Cut onions in half leaving the skin on. Place all ingredients in a large pot and bring to the boil. For the next 15 minutes skim the scum that rises to the top with a ladle. Once it has cleared, turn down heat to a lower setting, pop on the lid and allow to simmer for 4 hours.

2. Strain chicken, onions and aromatics from the liquid. This stock can be kept in fridge or freezer until ready for use.

 

For the soup

1. Pre-heat oven to 200°C. Remove the ‘tops’ of the bulbs of garlic with a horizontal slice so that the cloves inside are exposed. Drizzle with olive oil, wrap in aluminium foil and place in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove, allow to cool and, with a firm hold of the base of the bulb, squeeze the soft, caramelised garlic into a small bowl. If you want to use prosciutto as a garnish, place the slices on a tray and bake for 10 minutes.

2. Remove the tops, or the darkest green leaves from the leeks. Slice the stalks in half and wash well (because leeks have many layers  there may be plenty of dirt and soil in there). Finely chop into small pieces.

3. Peel potatoes and roughly chop into 2cm cubes.

4. Heat butter and a drizzle of olive oil in a large pot. Add chopped leeks and stir until softened, around 10 minutes. Add the litre of stock, the cubed potatoes, the soft garlic and a teaspoon of salt. Combine, bring to the boil then reduce heat to medium. Cover and allow to simmer for 30 minutes or until the vegetables have softened significantly.

5. (The burn mark on my hand says be wary of this step!) In batches, pour the soup into a blender and process until smooth. Alternatively use a stick blender straight in the pot. Return to the pot on low heat and add cream.

 

To serve

1. Spoon ladlefuls of soup into a bowl. Add a dollop of cream, a piece of prosciutto and garnish with cracked pepper.

Two Leek + Two Garlic Soup

Served with some homemade malt and wholemeal bread this meme-inspired soup is absolutely one of the nicest dishes I’ve recently made. Do try it! I’m so excited by this recipe I wish I could personally deliver a bowl to every single person I know.

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Chicken + Apricot + Ginger + Rosemary Tagine

One pot. Tender meat. Stone fruits, spice and honey. There a few things more delicious than a spicy chicken tagine.

Cous Cous

Rather than dousing everything in a variety of spices tonight I’ve opted for a different blend of flavours by marrying ginger with rosemary; a herb normally too pungent for chicken, but in this dish it is subtle, fragrant and wonderfully fresh. The beauty of this meal, and every variation of it, is that you can prepare it earlier in the day, pop the entire pot in the fridge and then re-heat it over the stove when you’re ready! It was also a nice opportunity to pick some fresh rosemary from the garden; our new plant being a recent gift from some family friends. This recipe will serve 4 people.

Rosemary Plant + Apricots

Chicken + Apricot + Ginger + Rosemary Tagine

1 kg chicken thigh fillet (8 pieces), sliced

3 tbs olive oil

1 large onion, diced

1 long sprig rosemary – 1/3rd finely chopped, the remainder cut in half

40 g fresh ginger, minced

2 red chillies, finely chopped (and de-seeded for the sensitive)

2 cinnamon sticks OR 1 tsp freshly ground ginger

2 tsp ground corriander seeds

3 tbs honey

200 g dried apricots, cut in halves

1 x 400 g can cherry tomatoes

Salt

 

Simple couscous

350 g couscous

1 tbs olive oil

Salt

 

To serve

Bunch of corriander

Handful of pinenuts

1. Prepare a tagine or heavy-based casserole over medium-high heat with olive oil. Add the onion, rosemary, ginger, chilli, cinnamon and corriander seeds and stir until fragrant.

2. Add the chicken pieces and cook until golden brown.

3. Add the honey, dried apricots, rosemary sprigs, cherry tomatoes and salt and stir to combine. Cover your tagine/pot with the lid and allow to simmer for 15 minutes or until chicken has cooked through.

4. Remove lid and continue to simmer until the liquid has reduced to a sticky glaze (around 20 minutes).

5. To prepare the couscous pour grains into a heat proof bowl and (just barely) cover with boiling water. Add oil, salt and quickly cover with plastic wrap. Allow to sit for 10 minutes to absorb the water. Remove plastic and fluff the grains with a fork.

6. To serve place chicken tagine and couscous in separate, large dishes. Adorn with chopped coriander and pine nuts

 

Chicken + Apricot + Ginger + Rosemary Tagine

Thank you, Morocco – where would our tastebuds be without you?

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Chest infection. Fever. Missing hours of class spending my days looking ugly and coughing my lungs out in bed. Welcome to my pyjama-clad week! Thankfully there comes a time in every illness however where one finally musters the strength to tear off the snuggie of oppression and eat something that isn’t dry cereal. My friends, it’s soup time.

I’m never an advocate for the “quick ‘n’ easy” recipe however I was in dire need of warmth and nourishment. For this recipe I would always suggest using homemade chicken stock and fresh ginger, however when you’re struggling to breathe the Campbell’s “Real Chicken Stock” sitting in the back of your cupboard begins to look mighty tempting. Forgive me, soup lords, this will never happen again!

Depending on your serving size this will feed anywhere between 4 and 8 people (or alternatively one very sick girl over the course of a few days).

 

Chicken + Corn + Egg Soup

(an original recipe)

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tbs ginger, minced

1L chicken stock

2x 420g cans creamed corn

1 tbs soy sauce

2 eggs

1 tbs corn flour

salt + pepper to taste

1. In a large, heavy based soup pot sizzle your ginger in sesame oil until fragrant.

2. Add the chicken stock, creamed corn and soy sauce and stir to combine.

3. In a small, separate bowl whisk your eggs. When the soup begins to boil slowly pour in your egg mixture. This will create a lovely, light weave of egg throughout your soup.

4. Again in a separate bowl combine corn flour with an equal part of water and combine well until it forms a loose paste. Slowly pour into your soup whilst stirring – this works as a thickening agent.

5. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Now if you’ll excuse me – I’m off to see how many episodes of Curb your Enthusiasm I can watch before I fall asleep out of antibiotic-induced exhaustion (my current record is one and a half).

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Welcome to the most versatile dinner you’ll ever meet. Brought to you by my impromptu dinner tonight you can use this in salads, tacos, um, salads…

Okay, maybe it’s not that versatile but it’s deliciously simple. Get some Donna Hay philosophy up ya.

Lime + Oregano Chicken Salad 

(an original recipe)

250 g sliced chicken thigh

1 tbs dried oregano

1 lime

salt

1 tsp olive oil

1 tsp crushed ginger

1 baby cos lettuce

1 tbs labna*

*natural greek yoghurt is fine as a substitute

1. In a bowl marinate your chicken with the oregano, salt and juice of one lime. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

2. Place oil in a small pan and allow to heat up until smoking. Place ginger and chicken pieces carefully without allowing any juice to enter the pan – this is so the chicken brown and chars. After the chicken shows some colour pour in marinade and stir until cook entirely – this should take less than 10 minutes.

3. Remove chicken from heat. Line a small bowl with baby cos lettuce leaves. Place the chicken and adorn with a generous spoon of labna.

Inspired by my last post you can even make miniature san choi bao. Awww!

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