Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Chicken Kiev, 100th post and a Give Away

~A Dash Of Flavour ~

~ 100th Post ~

I realised while I was typing this recipe up for tonight's dinner that it was infact my 100th post since starting up "A Dash Of Flavour". This little blog started off as a dabble here and there but when I found out that there was such a huge community of "Foodies" out there doing what I loved to do - cook! People blogging about food and cooking techniques, sharing comments and experiences, encouragement and help my little blog has grown into my daily obsession! Just ask my family. If I am not reading about a certain food, we are talking about it, sourcing the ingredients and then of course, they have to wait until the photo has been taken before they can even begin to eat their dinner.... lol!!

So firstly I would like to thank all those that I have come to know, all those that posted comments, those that have offered support and help since I started.

Secondly, in true milestone tradition and like many have done before me I would like to offer my "1st Give Away" to celebrate this 100th post. So here is what my giveaway consists of 5 Australian Women's Weekly Mini Cookbooks. These are jam packed with lots of recipes, many of which I would love to try after having only a quick scan through each one - can you tell I don't really want to give these away? LOL!!

The Australian Women's Weekly (AWW) is an institution in itself here in Australia, a monthly magazine that covers all aspects of life - current topics, celebritities, beauty, fashion, health and of course cooking. The AWW have released countless cookbooks and seasonal magazine specials on Christmas Cooking, Winter Cooking, etc. To be honest I own quite a few, okay a lot, of AWW publications. So in trying to find something "Australian" to offer you all as I am proud to have quite a lot of overseas readers I could not go past offering these.

All you have to do for your chance of receiving these cookbooks is stop by my blog, post a comment introducing yourself and describe one of your favourite local foods (food from your region). I will choose the winner who's local dish intrigues me the most. Your comment must be received by Monday 6th July 2009 by 12pm EST (don't forget that's my time here Down Under!!) Good luck!

Thirdly, we had better take a look at the meal that is starring in this 100th post.

Chicken Kiev is a popular dish here and there are many variations offered, such as a Cordon Bleu which has a ham and cheese filling. But for my family, traditional is the best and that's what we had.

Whilst it is easier to buy them premade in the supermarket they are in no comparison to that of making them yourself. Although a little fiddly and time consuming they are well worth the effort.
The best thing about these is cutting the chicken parcel open and watching the garlic butter ooze from the pocket. My family judge the kiev on the amount of ooze each experiences so I have to admit to adding extra butter to ours. I also found it easier to roll the butter mixture into a log, freeze and cut into discs when ready to assemble the kiev.

Chicken Kiev
(recipe adapted from Symply To Good To Be True #4)
Serves: 4
Points per serve: 6

50 grams low fat butter
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon parsley flakes
4 x skinless chicken breast fillets
2 eggs
1 cup dried breadcrumbs
cooking spray

In a small mixing bowl beat the butter, garlic and garlic together. Refrigerate until mixture is hardening and then place onto a large piece of cling film, forming a log. Roll up, secure both ends by twisting and freeze until required.

Using a mallet flatten chicken fillets. Remove garlic butter mixture from freezer and cut into 4 discs. Place a disc in the centre of the fillet, fold up edges and roll the fillet up over the filling tightly, ensuring the parcel is well sealed. Secure with two toothpicks (more if required). Continue with remaining fillets.

In a bowl large enough for each kiev beat egg. Place breadcrumbs on a seperate plate. Coat a chicken kiev in the beaten and then roll in the breadcrumbs until completely coated (Note: you may not use all the egg and breadcrumbs). Place on a plate and continue with the other chicken kievs. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180 deg C.

Coat an oven tray with foil and spray with cooking spray. Place the chicken kievs on the tray and coat with cooking spray. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Braised Pickled Pork

Up until coming across this recipe on an episode of Better Homes and Gardens I cannot even remember ever having eaten pickled pork let alone attempting to cook it myself. Both Noel and I loved the idea of cooking something.

It seemed very easy to prepare and was another slow cooker recipe so it was definately up our alley. Needless to say it wasn't long before we tried it and I must say it has been a regular meal in our house ever since.

Although we enjoy this meal I have to admit the first time we cooked this recipe we found it very salty due to the pickling/curing process used by the butcher. Now we actually soak the peice of pork in a saucepan full of cold water (ensure meat is fully covered) overnight and drain well prior to cooking. This reduces the content of salt in the meal considerably.

Braised Pickled Pork
(recipe source: Better Homes and Gardens)

Serves: 6
Points per serve: 4.5

1 kilogram pickled pork
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 carrots, peeled and chopped into 2.5cm pieces
1 stick celery, finely sliced
1 red onion, diced
6 cloved of garlic, skin removed
1/2 bunch fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
10 black peppercorns
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup red wine
3 cups chicken stock

Heat olive oil in a large heavy based pan. Add the pickled pork and brown well on all sides. Remove and set aside.

To the same pan add the carrots, celery, red onion, garlic, thyme, bay leaves and peppercorns and cook for 2 - 3 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan to capture the pan juices. Add tomato paste and red wine, stirring to combine for 1 minute.

Slow cooker: Place the pork in the slow cooker dish, top with wine mixture and add chicken stock. Cook on high for 4 - 5 hours or on high for 7 - 8 hours.

Stove Top: Return the pork to the pot with 3 cups of chicken stock. Simmer for 2 hours.

Served sliced with the vegetables from the pot.

Raspberry Meringue Ice Cream

One thing I really do need to make more of is dessert!!

Honestly we are not really a dessert family only because over the years I haven't made that many desserts and therefore my family do not expect it.

But sometimes when I make a dessert and it's a nice on there is somewhat of a frenzy around the dinner table, you know the type of frenzy seen only when feeding animals that haven't been fed for awhile.

I decided to make or should I say mix up an icecream dessert that I had also seen on the Weight Watchers Forums. Quite easy as it is a recipe that calls for pre-made icecream and shop bought meringues so as far as effort and time, this dessert was perfect.

Raspberry Meringue Ice Cream
(recipe adapted from Newchick)

Serves: 10
Points per serve: 2.5

1 litre tub Light Vanilla Ice Cream
300 grams raspberries, thawed if using frozen
50 grams meringue shell, broken into pieces
fresh berries to serve, optional

Line a 1 1/2 litre loaf tin with baking paper. Leave ice cream out to thaw to room temperature.

When thawed, place ice cream in a bowl and stir lightly with a wooden spoon. Reserve some raspberries to place on the bottom of the loaf tin before stirring the remaining raspberries and meringue pieces into the ice cream liquid.

Place the reserved berrieds on the bottom of the tin. Pour mixture into the tin and place back in the freezer until solid.

When ready to serve, turn onto a platter and decorate with the fresh berries and additional crumbled meringue. Slice and serve.

Bean and Vegetable Cups

For a quick snack or lunch, these Bean and Vegetable Cups really fit the bill! Not only are they easy to make but they are tasty and very filling.

The ones that I have made today are perfect for vegetarians but as with a lot of our dishes, the filling can be changed and adapted to suit everyone. I have in the past added bacon, ham or shredded chicken but they are just as nice the way these are.

As with using different fillings any sliced bread can be used, I have used multigrain as that's what I had on hand but white is just as delicious.

Bean and Vegetable Cups

Makes 12
Points per serve: 2.5

cooking spray
12 slices multigrain bread
1 x 440g tin baked beans in tomato sauce
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1/2 red capsicum, diced
1/2 green capsicum, diced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons dried oregano
freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup grated tasty cheese

Preheat oven to 180 deg C.

Spray a large muffin pan with cooking spray.

Remove crusts from bread slices and using a rolling pin, roll each bread slice individually until about 5 - 7mm thin. Press each slice into the muffin pan ensuring that the sides are evenly balanced, thus forming a cup or a basket.

In a bowl add the beans, shallots, capsicum, tomato paste, oregano and pepper mix together to combine well. Spoon mixture into bread cups. Sprinkle with tasty cheese.

Spray tips of bread with additional cooking spray. Cook in oven for 15 - 20 minutes or until cheese has melted and is golden.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Red Lentil and Vegetable Soup

One of my favourite things to cook is soup, believe it or not. I have to say I much prefer homemade soups over the canned or packet varieties especially when the soup is packed with healthy ingredients. Soups are a recipe that once all the ingredients are prepared and you have starting cooking they can generally be left to simmer away without too much fuss or drama.

Another reason I love cooking soups is that there really aren't any boundries to the flavours and textures you can produce. This soup is a classic example. It all started with a recipe that was put forward on another forum for Tomato, Celery and Lentil Soup. Now instead of being turned off by "celery" in the title, indicating it would be a dominant flavour, which would not be a hit with my family at all, I modified it to suit us and now I have a huge pot full that will make some delicious filling lunches over the weeks to come.

Just as I adapted this recipe to suit my household, you could add any vegetables to this dish, literally whatever you have on hand. The herbs and spices could be changed also to suit your tastebuds, for example ground cumin, ground coriander, thyme, rosemary, etc. Once you have a base, such as tomato in this recipe, as I mentioned you can literally add anything to it you like even meat.

Red Lentil and Vegetable Soup

Serves: 12
Points per serve: 1

cooking spray
1 leek, finely sliced
2 teaspoons crushed garlic
2 carrots, finely diced
1 red capsicum, finely diced
2 x 440 gram tins diced tomatoes
8 cups water
2 tablespoons vegetable stock powder
1 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon chilli powder (or to taste)
400 grams dried red lentils, rinsed and drained
3 medium zucchini, finely diced
200g baby spinach leaves
freshly ground black pepper

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Saute the leeks and the garlic until tender. Add carrots and capsicum and continue to saute for a further 4 - 5 minutes.

Mix the stock powder with the water and add to the saucepan along with the tomatoes, oregano, chilli powder, red lentils and stir to combine thoroughly. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour or until the lentils are cooked. Stir in the zucchini and cook for a further 15 - 20 minutes or until tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Prior to serving add the spinach leaves, stirring until wilted.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Braised Lamb Shanks with Red Wine and Cranberry Sauce

Winter is officially here and making itself known to us - mind you we think it is cold in Melbourne but compared to some places in the Northern Hemisphere it is relatively mild in comparison!! I travelled to Finland, Sweden and Canada during their winter months and experienced your "cold" during my younger and single days and I remember the snow, the sleet, the frost and the frozen wind quite vividly even to this day.

One thing I do love about winter is casseroles, stews, thick hearty dishes that warm you while you consume and fill you to contentment. Our slow cooker always gets a good workout this time of year as well and tonight's meal was no exception.

Lamb shanks never fail to please around our table especially when they are tender from the slow cooking and paired with a beautiful sauce. Using red wine as a sauce base always accompanies red meat well and the added sweetness from the cranberry sauce just put the "icing on the cake" so to speak. These two flavours together with a hint of rosemary and tomatoes made this dish was delicious.

Of course of side was good ol' mashed potato. It's a shame I didn't have a nice fresh crusty loaf of bread, a bread stick or some crusty rolls... they would have mopped up the juice just as nice if not better than the potatoes! mmmmmm!!

Braised Lamb Shanks with Red Wine and Cranberry Sauce

Serves: 8

2 tablespoons plain flour
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 lamb shanks, french style
cooking spray
8 carrots, peeled and cut into 2.5cm lengths
2 onions, sliced
1 cup red wine
1 x 220 gram jar whole berry cranberry sauce
6 cups water
2 tablespoons beef stock

Mix together the flour, salt and pepper and place in a plastic freezer bag. Add lamb shanks and toss in the flour ensuring that the shanks are completely covered.

In a large non-stick fry pan add oil and heat over a medium - high heat. Add the shanks, cooking in batches if required. Cook until sealed and browned all over, turning frequently, approximately 5 minutes. Remove from pan and place in slow cooker. (Clean out the pan if the flour has burnt.) Add the carrots to the lamb.

Spray the same pan with cooking spray and saute the onion until golden. Add the red wine, cranberry sauce, water and beef stock powder, stirring until completely combined. Bring to the boil, remove from heat and pour over the lamb shanks and carrots.

Cook in the slow cooker for 4 hours on high heat and 6 - 8 hours on low heat.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Veal Medallions and Baby Potatoes with Creamy Sun-dried Tomato Sauce

This dish sounds quite complex but is actually quite easy, in fact I had forgotten how easy it actually was!! Not to mention how flavoursome it is with the creamy sun-dried tomato sauce complimenting the veal.

Now the easy part to this dish starts with using sun-dried tomato pesto from a jar instead of fussing around with sun-dried tomatoes and processing them into a puree ... can it get any easier?

Yes it can, this recipe calls for tinned baby potatoes also!! I however didn't have the tinned variety so I used baby chat potatoes which I peeled and boiled to tender but do not overcook.

Veal Medallions and Baby Potatoes with Creamy Sun-dried Tomato Sauce
(recipe source: WW Quick Eats)

Serves: 4
Points per serve: 5.5

4 x 125g lean veal steaks
4 shallots, chopped
2 tablespoons sun-dried tomato pesto
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon chicken stock powder
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, finely sliced
2 tablespoons light cream
2 x 410 g cans baby new potatoes, drained and halved or quartered

Coat a pan with cooking spray and heat. Cooke the veal until browned and tender. Do not overcook. Set aside.

To the same pan add the shallots, pesto, wine, stock, water and herbs. Bring to the boil, remove pan from heat and quickly stir in the cream.

Add the potatoes and return the veal to the pan. Reheat, without boiling, until potatoes and veal are heated through.

Vietnamese Chicken Curry

I am going to let you into a little secret love of mine... nothing romantic, not a fettish, just something simple I love to experience whenever I read a cookbook or a cooking magazine!!


I love it when you turn over a page and there is a dish looking at you that you just want to eat right there and then. You know that dish, that meal, that looks so good you know it must taste good even without reading the ingredients. That picture that remains in your memory for ages and one that you think about cooking over and over again!

There you have it, do you ever felt the same?

This happened when I first bought Noel the cookbook, Essentials of Slow Cooking, for his recent birthday. Firstly I have to say that all of the photos in this book are amazing but this one just caught my eye and I have been thinking of making this recipe since April.

WARNING: My photo will not have this affect on you!!! LOL!!

A few years ago Noel and I would not have even considered making this dish as we were not big fans on coconut milk based anything let alone main meals.... nothing against coconuts as we both like shredded coconut etc but there is just something about the milk that we have disliked. But as we mature, and as our tastebuds are changing over the years, we have recently enjoyed a few meals that have been centred around using coconut milk.

The flavours in this dish are quite intense from the lemon grass and ginger. There is a little heat in the taste but it is by no means as hot as a vindaloo!! Like many curries of South East Asia, the Vietnames curries show a strong tropical influence, evident with the use of coconut milk as the primary cooking liquid.

Vietnamese Chicken Curry
(recipe adapted from Essentials of Slow Cooking)

Serves: 4

cooking spray
8 skinless chicken chops (bone in chicken thighs)
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 shallots, finely sliced
3 tablespoons Madras curry powder
1 tablespoon firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
freshly ground black pepper
2 lemongrass stalks, trimmed and cut into 2.5cm pieces
2.5cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 4 slices
1 cup chicken broth
1 x 420ml can lite coconut milk
2 tablespoons fish sauce
3 carrots, cut into 2.5cm chunks
1 sweet potato, approx 375grams, peeled and cut into 2.5cm chunks
3 tablespoons finely shredded fresh basil
Coat a large frying pan with cooking spray and heat over a medium - high heat. Working in batches cook the chicken thighs until nicely browned on each side. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add the garlic and shallots to the pan and saute over medium - high heat just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the curry powder, brown sugar, chilli flakes, pepper, lemon grass and ginger. Saute until the spices are fragrant and well blended with the garlic and shallots, also about 30 seconds. Add the chicken broth and deglaze the pan, stirring and scraping up the browned bits on the bottome of the pan with a wooden spoon. Stir in the coconut milk and fish sauce, bring to the boil.

Add the chicken thighs, carrots, and sweet potato to the slow cooker. Cover with the coconute milk mixture. Cover and cook until the for 3 hours on high setting or 6 hours on low setting. Chicken and vegetables should be tender.

Transfer the chicken, vegetables and sauce to a warmed platter. Garnish with the basil and serve with steamed rice if desired.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Spaghetti Bake

I was planning to cook good ol' Spaghetti Bolognaise tonight as I know that there is never any complaints from the Murray clan when it is placed in front of them but it is nice to always try something new especially when it is a dish that several of my online friends have made and encouraged me to try.

When I originally came across this recipe in one of the Symply To Good To Be True cookbooks, book 5, I knew that we would be trying it at some stage (but hadden as yet got around to doing so) and that I would be a winner considering my children's love of Lasagne and Macaroni Beef or to be totally honest anything with pasta in it!! And no, we do not have italian blood anywhere in the family tree!!

As per usual, a few ingredient changes nothing major except for increasing the herb quantity and adding more vegetables into the dish. I am big fan of "hiding" vegetables where and when I can. Isn't that what all good mam's do? Although in saying that I am proud that both my children eat lots of vegetables even brussel sprouts!

Spaghetti Bake
(adapted from Symply To Good To Be True #5)

Serves: 6 large or 8 average
Points per serve: Large - 7
Average - 5.5

300g spaghetti
cooking spray
2 teaspoons crushed garlic
1 brown onion, diced
500 grams very lean beef mince
2 carrots, peeled and grated
1 red capsicum, diced
1 green capsicum, diced
200g mushrooms, sliced
2 x 400g cans diced tomatoes
3/4 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon chicken stock powder
2 teaspoon dried basil
2 teaspoon dried oregano
freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
3/4 cup low fat grated tasty cheese

Preheat the oven to 180 deg C.

Cook pasta following instructions on the packet, drain and leave to one side.

Coat a large frying pan with cooking spray, saute garlic and onion for 1 minute. Add mince and combine, cooking until browned and cooked through. Add carrot, capsicum and mushrooms. Cook for 3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, stock powder, basil, oregano and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to the boil then reduce to a slow boil cooking for a further 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Fold the cooked spaghetti through the mince mixture until well combined. Pour into a large lasagne dish that has been coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle top with combined cheeses and cooked in oven for 30 - 40 minutes or until cooked through and cheese is golden and bubbly.

This dish overall didn't take that long to get into the oven and then only 30 minutes cooking time. But it didn't take that long to disappear especially with hubby and son having two serves each!! LOL!! Definitely a "cook again" recipe in our house or a keeper as some of you call these types of recipes!!

Marinated Steak with Mash

If you want a quick, tasty mid week meal this may as well be it.
The marinade for this steak is slightly sweet, slightly asian but all the right qualities for a marinade, to the point that no other sauce is needed on or with your steak.

I have to apologize for the very busy and messy photo. Sorry - not very professional of me I must say ... but I was so hungry that I cut into my steak and then realised that I hadn't taken a picture of it but at least you can see that I am having my vegetable intake, serving it here with the mash, carrots, chargrilled capsicum slices, roasted baby vine-ripened tomatoes and baby spinach leaves - must say I try and sneak baby spinach into a lot of my meals as I love it!!

Marinated Steak with Mash
(recipe source: WW Simply The Best 2005)

Serves: 4
Points per serve: 5.5

1 teaspoon ginger, grated
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons kecap manis
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons tomato sauce
4 lean beef steaks (140g each)
4 medium potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
½ cup skim milk
2 teaspoons reduce fat butter
salt to taste

Combine the ginger, garlic, kecap manis, brown sugar and tomato sauce in a bowl. Add the steaks and marinade for 20 – 30 minutes.

Meanwhile steam, boil or microwave the potatoes until very tender. Drain and then mash together with the milk, butter and salt. Keep mash warm while you cook the steaks.

Heat a char-grill pan or frying pan or barbecue until hot. Spray with cooking spray. Remove the steak s from the marinade. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes on each side, brushing with excess marinade or until cooked to your liking.

Serve with the mash and salad or vegetables of your choice.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Crumbed Pork Schnitzels

Before I start this post of for Crumbed Pork Schnitzels I need to have a little brag.

To my surprise, yes it was a surprise, this blog A Dash Of Flavour was listed on this week's "Finest Foodies Friday" which is on The Foodie Blogroll. OMG, since finding out I haven't stopped smiling and telling who ever will listen!

Anyway this is quite a quickie post as there isn't much bragging to do about schnitzels, whether they are pork, veal, beef or chicken. Generally you would you a very thin cut of meat or pound to desired thickness, crumb and fry. Simple, what could be better?

Better you ask? Better would be a Parmigiana topping, an Acopulco topping or what ever you fancy but that's a story for another day. Sorry!!

Schnitzels are quick and easy to prepare especially as your bench resembles a process line, having everything in order to complete the necessary steps is the key. I also like to chill my crumbed schnitzels for 30 minutes in the fridge to ensure the crumbs stick.

Pork Schnitzels

Serves: 6
Points per serve: 4

6 lean pork schnitzels or pork steaks pounded thinly
2 tablespoons plain flour
salt and pepper
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups of breadcrumbs of your choice
cooking spray

Ensure that the beaten eggs are in a bowl big enough to dip the meat into and the breadcrumbs are on a plate large enough for the meat to lay flat.

In a plastic freezer bag place flour, salt and pepper shaking quickly to combine. Add pork schnitzels, seal bag to secure and shake to ensure the flour completely covers the pork.

Dip each schnitzel in the egg and then cover with breadcrumbs, patting to ensure they are covered completely both sides. You may need to turn over and check other side. Put on a large plate or platter. Continue with remaining schnitzels. If you need to layer your schnitzels on the plate place a piece of baking paper between each layer. Cover with cling film and chill for 30 minutes.

Heat a large frying pan over a medium to high heat and coat with cooking spray. Add schnitzels and cook for 2 - 3 minutes or until golden brown. Before turning over, spray uncooked side with a little more cooking spray and then flip. Cook for a further 2 - 3 minutes or until golden brown. Do not overcook or schnitzels will be tough. Serve immediately.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Braised Chicken with Tamari

You have probably guessed by the multiple posting today that I have been flat out lately and although we have actually eaten dinner each day I haven't been able to blog about it. But as I mentioned just in my last post of Fragrant Pork Meatballs and Rice One-Pot I am in love with this month's edition of BBC Australian Good Food. Here is another recipe that I found in this magazine, and yes I have adapted it to suit us.

I have to be totally honest and say that the picture of her dish caught my eye as soon as I found it. The plating made it look so inviting, as do most asian dishes that have been presented well. Upon reading the recipe, the ingredients also took my fancy as all of our family are quite fond of any Asian style cooking.

This recipe belongs to Kylie Kwong, who I am sure most of you have heard about. She is a regular contributor to this magazine and as soon as I get hold on a new issue I can't wait to see what recipe she has put forward each month. Kylie Kwong is a fourth generation Chinese Australian and a prominent Australian television chef, author, television presenter and restaurateur based in Sydney. To date Kylie has released 5 books, all of which share her love of cooking and explore many different facets of Chinese culture and cuisine.

Braised Chicken Wings with Tamari according to Kylie was a dish her mother used to make once a week when she was growing up. A simple to cook, easy to prepare and delicious family meal made affordable by using chicken wings.

Although eating anything with your fingers is classed as "good" I used skinned drumsticks plus they are not as fiddly to eat as chicken wings plus there is more meat in the offering. They took a little longer to cook than what the chicken wings would have but that is totally understandable.

The sauce was delicate yet complexed. I was worried that using Tamari (somewhat similar to Soy Sauce) in both the marinade and the sauce would have been overpowering but it wasn't. Using fresh ginger and garlic gave it a kick and I don't think you could or should use the pre-crushed jar version of these ingredients in this dish.

Braised Chicken with Tamari
(recipe adapted from BBC Australian Good Food)
Serves: 6

12 chicken drumsticks, skin removed
or 12-16 chicken wings (approx 1.5kgs)
1/4 cup peanut oil
1 large brown onion, sliced
4 spring onions, cut into 10 cm lengths, plus
extra finely sliced to garnish
7cm piece of ginger, peeled and cut into
thin matchsticks
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1/3 cup shaoxing wine (chinese rice wine)
or dry sherry
1/3 cup tamari
1 cup water
finely sliced red chilli, to garnish
sichuan pepper and salt mix, to serve

Tamari marinade:
1/3 cup shaoxing wine (chinese rice wine)
or dry sherry
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons tamari
1 tablespoon cornflour
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sea salt

Combine marinade ingredients. Add chicken and toss to coat. Cover and chill for 30 minutes.

Heat oil in a wok on high until the surface shimmers slightly. Add brown onion, spring onion, ginger and garlic and stirfry for 1 minute. Cook chicken drumsticks, reserving marinade in batches until browned.

Add shaoxing wine, tamari and reserved marinade. Stir fry for 30 seconds. Return chicken to the wok. Reduce heat to medium and add 1 cup water. Cover and simmer for 10 - 15 minutes, turning once or twice, until just cooked.

Place chicken in a deep platter or bowl. Spoon over remaining sauce and garnish with the chilli and extra spring onion. Serve with sichuan pepper and salt mix and plain steamed rice, if you like.

(Tip) to make sichuan pepper and salt mix, dry roast 1/4 cup sea salt and 1 tablespoon sichuan peppercorns in a pan on medium heat, until peppercorns pop. Cool and grind.

Fragrant Pork Meatball and Rice One Pot

Not only do I have an obsession with purchasing cookbooks, but I have the same healthy obsession with purchasing cooking magazines. My new all time favourite being "BBC Australian Good Food" which never fails every month to be crammed full of great recipes. Of course July's issue is no different. After reading it several times, cover to cover, I have dog eared the pages containing recipes that I am definitely testing on my family.

The first recipe that caught my attention is this one, Fragrant Pork Meatball and Rice One-Pot. To give you an idea of how good I find this magazine the other recipes on my "to cook list" are Cajun-spiced Chicken with Beans, Glazed Meatloaf, Ross Dobson's Steak and Onion Casserole, Creamy Ham and Mushroom Bake, and Kylie Kwong's Braised Chicken Wings with Tamari, just to name a few.

The concept of this dish and making the meatballs could not be any easier. In fact I was impressed and somewhat surprise as it's a technique that I have never used before. The simple act of taking a sausage and squeezing the insides out to form small meatballs was terrific. This recipe called for pork sausages but I am sure any flavour sausage would work just as well.

Fragrant Pork Meatball and Rice One Pot was quick to prepare, easy to cook and went down a treat. The house was definitely fragrant during the dish being cooked and the taste was smooth yet full of flavour. I did make some minor changes, as usual for me. I didn't have thick pork sausages (4) that the recipe called for so I used thin Italian Style pork sausages and also added some carrot, capsicum and zucchini to the recipe to bulk it up and ensure that we were getting our intake of vegetable also. I don't think these changes or additions made any drastic change in the outcome of the dish. Next time however I will use a low fat style of sausage in an attempt to make this dish more weight loss friendly.

The main thing overall, the kids loved it and once again I can "cook it again"! Even though once again I am showing you a really bad photo of the dish.

Fragrant Pork Meatball and Rice One-Pot
(recipe adapted from BBC Australian Good Food)
Serves: 4

8 thin Italian pork sausages
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 small carrot, finely diced
1/2 red capsicum, finely diced
1 zucchini, grated
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
3/4 cup long grain rice
3 1/2 cups salt reduced vegetable stock
1 x 400g can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup roughly chopped coriander

Cut one end off each sausage. Squeeze sausage meat from skins and roll into small balls.

Heat oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Cook meatballs, turning frequently, for 5 - 6 minutes or until browned and cooked through. Remove from pan.

Reduce heat to low and cook onion, garlic and carrot for 3 minutes or until softened. Add capsicum, zucchini, cumin and coriander, stirring for 1 minute, until fragrant. Stir in rice and cook for a further 1 minute.

Pour in stock and tomatoes. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until rice is tender. Return cooked meatballs to the pan and season to taste. Simmer for 2 minutes or until meatballs are heated through.

Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with coriander and serve with crusty bread, if you like.

Braised Garlic Chicken

I have come across this recipe a few times on several blogs and upon reading the ingredients knew that I would be cooking this dish especially due to my love of garlic and this recipe uses a lot. Four whole heads of garlic might sound excessive, but as it cooks the garlic mellows and thickens, adding depth of flavour to the pan juices that are served over the chicken.

While I can say that I didn't dislike this dish I wasn't overly impressed with both it's looks and the flavour. Needless to say it was edible but I believe I choose to cook from a slow cooker recipe was the incorrect move. Most of the other versions of this recipe have been down either on the stove top or in an oven. Oh well this just leaves room for improvement, right?

Speaking of other versions, the first time I even read a recipe for this dish, and that recipe was Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic, I must say it definitely caught my attention, was written almost immediately on my "to cook list" and this version will be the recipe that I will be attempting next time. It's on a magnificent blog, For The Love of Cooking. Please take the time to pop over and visit Pam, the blog's host. Not only is the recipe and the post much nicer, but Pam's photographs actually do the dish some justice unlike mine below....

Braised Garlic Chicken
(recipe adapted from Essentials of Slow Cooking)
Serves: 8

8 chicken chops (bone in thigh fillets) trimmed of excess skin and fat
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
4 heads of garlic
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper. In a large frying pan over medium high heat warm the oil. Working in batches if necessary, add the chicken and cook, turning frequently, until well browned, 7 - 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoon of the fat in the pan. Add the garlic cloves and saute over medium high heat until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Pour in the wine and deglaze the pan, stirring and scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.

Transfer the chicken to a slow cooker. Sprinkle with the thyme and add the galic mixture. Cover and cook until the chicken is tender and opaque throughout, approx 3 hours on the low setting.

Transfer the chicken to a platter and cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Set a fine mesh sieve over a saucepan and strain the pan juices. Reserve a few whole cloves for presentation. Press on the garlic cloves to extract as much liquid and pulp as possible. Bring to a simmer over a medium high heat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer the chicken to a warmed platter and top with the sauce. Serve at once.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Linguini with Spinach, Olives and Chilli Tomato Sauce

There always come a time that I get completely over meat and need to enjoy a "vegetarian" meal. Whether its weekly or over a period of weeks - last night was that night! So with that in mind I immediately thought of this recipe and cooking it.

Since buying this cookbook more than 10 years ago I have always wanted to try this recipe. Especially as the recipe calls for the use of fresh tomatoes to make the sauce instead of passata or tinned diced tomatoes. Yet it was simple but full of flavour. The dish wasn't gluggy or dry as there was plenty of sauce from the fresh tomatoes. The chilli's were noticable but not overpowering. I adore baby spinach any day of the week and using fresh basil in the sauce added a wonderful taste element.

The other reason that this dish was on the menu is that it was part of a group I have joined on the Weight Watchers forums. Ashlea came up with the idea of participating in a cooking class to not only share recipes but to encourage people to try new things whilst on their weightloss journies... I of course thought it was a wonderful idea and also volunteered to offer up the first recipe. As I mentioned I haven't cooked this before so it was good for me too but the fact that it is a very basic recipe to follow made it a perfect choice.

And the verdict - Noel and I both loved it. We will definitely be cooking this again....

Linguini with Spinach, Olives and Chilli Tomato Sauce
(recipe source: WW Simply The Best)

Serves 2
Points per serve 4

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed (or 1 tsp jar)
1/2 brown onion, diced
2 cups ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 - 2 small red chillies, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh basil, shredded
1 teaspoon dried oregano
freshly ground black pepper
40g kalamata olive
1 1/2 cups baby spinach
2 cups cooked linguini (120g dry)

Heat oil, saute garlic and onion until onion is transparent.

Add tomatoes, tomato paste, chillies, basil, oregano and pepper and heat while stirring until tomatoes release their juice.

Add olives and heat until sauce reaches desired consistency, adding a little water if necessary.

Add warm pasta to tomato sauce along with the spinach. Toss until completely combined and pasta is covered with sauce. Serve immediately.

Note: cook pasta to al dente, rinse and drain. When just about to add to sauce warm pasta by rinsing under hot water, drain completely. This helps the pasta to seperate and makes it easier to stir through the sauce.

Mexican Beef with Rice

Mexican Beef and Rice is a favourite recipe not only as it's a quick and easy dish to make but it is full of flavour considering the lack of complex ingredients.

It has often been a quick fix for Noel and I if we are running late and need a fast meal that is not takeaway. As a family we are not a huge fan of takeaway and yes that includes the kids. Thankfully with our ability the kids will often ask for a dish they know we can whip up quickly like Pasta Carbonara, Chicken and Sweet Corn Soup, Sticky Chicken or even toasted sandwiches. Aren't we lucky having children like that??? LOL - they know McDonald's is either a very special occassion or desperation!!

Anyhow, this was the first time our children have experienced this dish as now that their tastebuds are developing and as they adore tacos' etc., I thought it was time to introduce them to it with that this dish would make it on the "quick list" for them also.

And the kids verdict - they loved it!! Woohoo!! In fact there was the comment of "this is better than taco's!!"

Served with a dollop of light sour cream, grated cheese and chopped corinader leaves it was a flavourful somewhat authentic mexican meal.

Mexican Beef with Rice
(recipe adapted from WW Make It Easy)

Serves: 4
Points per serve: 8

1 kilogram very lean mince beef
2 brown onion, diced
1 medium red capsicum, diced
1 medium green capsicum, diced
1 x 440g can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup water
2 cups frozen corn kernels
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
chilli powder to taste
360g long grain rice
1 medium red capsicum, diced, extra
1 medium green capsicum, diced, extra

Heat a non stick frying pan, coat with cooking spray. Add mince, onion and capsicum. Cook until mince is browned. Add tomatoes, water, corn, tomato past, cumin, coriander, paprika and chilli. Mix well to combine and simmer for 10 minutes.

Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Add rice and simmer for approximately 5 - 8 minutes or until rice is almost cooked. Add the extra capsicum and simmer for a further 5 minutes or until rice is just tender. Remove from heat and allow to stand for several minutes. Drain rice.

Serve mince over rice.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Crunchy Hasselback Potatoes

These potatoes are a decorative touch to any dinner... and are especially good when topped with a crunchy cheese mixture.

I must admit though there is quite an art to cutting the potatoes prior to cooking as you need to cut thin slices through the majority of the potato whilst ensuring you do not cut all the way through the potato. I find the easiest way to do this is to place the potato on the chopping board cut side down, place a chopstick either side of the potato and cut. The chopstick will stop your knife from going all the way through and also allows your slices to be the same depth in the entire potato.

We had these potatoes with the Lamb Steak with Sweet Chilli Glaze and they were the perfect accompaniment.

Crunchy Hasselback Potatoes

Serves: 4
Points per serve: 2

4 medium potatoes
cooking spray
2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoons fine breadcrumbs (packaged)

Preheat oven to 180 deg C.

Line a baking tray with foil and spray with cooking spray.

Peel and cut potatoes in half. Place cut side down on chopping board and cut thin slices in the top of the potatoes ensuring you do not cut all the way through (as I mentioned put a chopstick on either side to use as a guide).

Place on the tray and spray with cooking spray. Roast potatoes for 45 minutes.

Combine parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs in a small bowl. Remove potatoes from oven and sprinkle with the parmesan cheese mixture. Roast for a further 15 minutes or until golden and tender.

Lamb Steaks with Sweet Chilli Glaze

Lamb is a favourite meat in our house especially the good old Roast Leg of Lamb (but saying that we love most meats) and I really enjoy lean lamb steaks. They are one cut of meat that I get excited about as they have the ability to become anything and be cooked many different ways. Last night's recipe wasn't an exception.... another different way of serving up this tender cut of meat.

We had menu planned Lamb Steaks with Cheesy Mustard Topping but the kids weren't too fussed about that and by cooking time neither was I. So I opted for another new flavour that I hadn't tested on the family as yet.... and it turned out to be a winner!!

Lamb Steaks with Sweet Chilli Glaze

Serves: 4
Points per serve: 6

1/2 cup sweet chilli sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1 teaspoon crushed ginger
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon tomato sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
8 lean lamb steaks (800g)

Combine chilli sauce, brown sugar, lemon rind and juice, garlic, ginger, paprika, tomato sauce and soy sauce in a large bowl mixing well. Add lamb, toss to coat completely in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat a non-stick frying pan over high heat, spray lightly with oil. Remove lamb from marinade and reserve marinade. Cook the lamb for 3 - 4 minutes each side or until cooked to your liking. Remove from pan to a plate, loosely cover with foil and allow to rest for several minutes.

In a small saucepan bring reserved marinade to the boil, simmer for 1 minute or until thickened slightly.

Serve lamb steaks topped with chilli marinade and Crunchy Hasselback Potatoes.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Chicken Mignon

Now these are a fast and impressive little number to make. Two ingredients, a few toothpicks and voila... a feast fit for a king, oh well for us anyway!!

These little specialities are another of Noel's dishes..... geez he is good!

Chicken Mignon

Serves: 2
Points per serve: 6

2 chicken breast fillets
4 bacon rashers
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 180 deg C.

Remove all visible fat and tenderloin from the chicken breast fillet. Cut down the centre lengthwise.

Remove the rind and visible fat from the bacon rasher.

Roll the chicken fillet into a circle, ensuring you have a smooth top, you may need to manipulate and tuck the chicken. Wrap tightly with a rasher of bacon and secure with a tootpick or two. Repeat with remaining chicken and bacon.

Spray a non stick pan with cooking spray. Fry chicken medallions over a medium heat for 2 - 3 minutes on each side or browned. Transfer to an oven tray coated with foil and bake in oven for a further 10 - 15 minutes or until cooked through. Do not overcook or the chicken will be dry.

Serve immediately.

Note - you may be able to reduce the points by using WW Bacon (or a low fat) but you actually need the whole rasher as a wrapping.