Monday, 29 August 2016

TexMex Fried Rice

Sometimes when I have a recipe idea in my mind, it doesn't quite turn out the way I pictured it, which is always a disappointment. Other times it turns out better than I could have imagined, and this was one of those times.

There was a container of leftover rice (why I cooked so much, I have no idea),  6 chicken tenders, two thirds of a red pepper, a soft tomato and another half tomato, half an onion and some cooked corn on the cob all needing to be used. I bought a couple of andouille sausages, and turned it all into a quick, easy and very tasty fried rice. This had just the right amount of crunch, spice and heat all tempered with the grated cheese and diced avocado that were used as a garnish.

If you don't have any rice, cook enough to give you 6 cups. A general rule of thumb for white rice is that it triples in volume when it is cooked. Allow the rice to cool completely. Even better, cook the rice the day before, as cold rice stir fries better than hot rice.

Remove the sausage meat from the casings, and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as it cooks. I used:

2 andouille sausages

When the sausage is about two thirds cooked, add:

6 chicken tenders, cut into 1/2" pieces

Add the vegetables:

1 1/2 fresh tomatoes, diced
2/3 red pepper, diced
1/2 medium onion, diced

Cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes.

Stir in the spices:

1 tablespoon Mexican chili blend
1 teaspoon ground cumin, heaped

Cook for another 5 minutes, or until you smell the spices.


6 cups cold cooked rice

Continue to cook over a medium high heat, stirring often to prevent the rice from burning.

After 5 minutes, add in the corn:

1 1/2 cups of corn kernels

Taste and adjust seasoning.

Continue to cook over medium high heat, stirring often until the rice and corn are hot. Remove from the heat and serve, garnishing with grated Cheddar and diced avocado.

  • I used Basmati rice, as that was what was leftover from a previous meal. Any longrain rice can be used...white or brown, converted or Basmati. 
  • Cold rice is better for stir frying than warm as the grains are easier to keep separated, and you are less likely to end up with a plate of mushy rice. If you are cooking rice, plan ahead and make enough for another meal. It will keep in the fridge for a couple of days, and half of the work is done.
  • I actually wanted chorizo, but there was none available at the store, so I chose andouille. It is still full of flavour, but has a bit less heat than chorizo. It is typically used in Cajun cuisine. Mexican chorizo is fresh and Spanish chorizo is dried. Any of these, or even Italian sausage can be used.
  • When I cooked the sausage I started it on a low heat, and allowed the fat to render and then used that for cooking everything. This eliminated the need for added oil, and also kept the flavour from the sausage in the dish. If you have leftover sausage  that is already cooked, dice it and then using a bit of oil to prevent sticking, cook it and proceed with the recipe.
  • The chicken can be omitted if you like; leftover chicken can also be diced and added. Pork or prawns can be added as well.
  • The spice blend I added has a lot of flavour and a reasonable amount of heat, so I only added salt and pepper right at the end, after tasting everything. Keep in mind that sausages can also be salty, and in a case like this it's best to go carefully. I only needed to add a tiny bit of salt to my dish at the end.
  • If you have them available add black beans, cilantro, minced jalapenos or chipotle chilies.
  • Frozen or canned corn can be used. I had some corn on the cob that had been boiled; I cut the kernels off and used them in the fried rice. Grilled corn on the cob would be great, adding a smokiness to the dish.
  • Other garnished to think of are chopped green onions, chopped cilantro, sour cream, sriracha or salsa passed at the table.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Baked Flatbread with Peach Compote, Grilled Chicken and Arugula

I used Naan bread as the base for all the bits and pieces that were sitting in the fridge after a weekend of entertaining...caramelized onion that I forgot to use, asparagus, two peaches that just weren't juicy enough to eat alone, arugula bought for turkey burgers, goat cheese and two chicken breasts.

The chicken breasts were easy. I made a marinade with the last of the plain Greek yoghurt, some fresh rosemary that had been picked and not used, and fresh garlic. They were then grilled, along with the asparagus. The peaches were more of a challenge, as they tasted great, but were dry instead of juicy.

I turned them into a compote, along with Balsamic vinegar, orange juice and some spices. This became the item that pulled everything else together.

Using a bit of olive oil, cook:

1/2 medium onion, minced
1 cinnamon stick, halved
2 cloves
2 cardamom seeds
pinch of chili flakes

Cook until the onions soften slightly, and the spices start to release their aromas.


3/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoon honey

Bring to a boil.


2 ripe peaches, peeled, pit removed and diced

Bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low and simmer until the peaches are tender, and the majority of the liquid has reduced, leaving a thick and chunky compote.

Taste and adjust the honey and vinegar to suit your preference.

 Set aside to cool.

Make the marinade for the chicken by combining:

1/4 cup plain Greek yoghurt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons olive oil

Spread a piece of plastic wrap on the counter, and place 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts on top.

Add the marinade and make sure the chicken is well coated on both sides.

Wrap the chicken with the plastic wrap, and place in the fridge for about 4 hours.

Remove the chicken from the plastic wrap and cook on a hot, oiled grill until fully cooked.

Allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes before thinly slicing.

Grill the fresh asparagus at the same time as the chicken is cooking.

Heat the oven to 350F, and have the Naan bread ready on a baking sheet. I used 3 plain Naan breads.

Divide the peach compote between the 3 Naan breads, spreading it evenly.

Spread the caramelized onion over the peach compote. I used:

1 medium onion, thinly sliced and caramelized

Add the grilled asparagus. I used:

6 spears per Naan bread

Divide the thinly sliced chicken between the three Naan breads. There was some leftover, which was used for sandwhiches.

Lastly, sprinkle crumbled soft goat cheese over the top of the chicken.

Place the Naan breads into the oven until everything is heated through, and the goat cheese has started to melt and colour. Remove from the oven, place a Naan bread onto each plate and top with arugula that has been lightly tossed in either oil and lemon juice, or a vinaigrette (I had some leftover Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette that I used).

  • This meal was amazing, allowing me to use up so much. Every layer of the toppings was inspired by something in the fridge, even the use of orange juice and honey in the compote.
  • The Naan bread was in the freezer. Any flatbread can be crust, panini, focaccia.
  • Other fruits that would work include apricots, pears, apples, figs.
  • The spices are up to you, I used what I have and what I like. Fresh grated ginger would be a nice addition; so would aniseed or star anise.
  • Apple juice, wine, brandy or liqueur are all reasonable substitutions for orange juice.
  • The compote can be made up to five days ahead and kept in the fridge. It can also be used as a condiment for grilled or roasted chicken, pork or fish, or served with cheese and crackers.
  • If you don't have arugula, use spinach, baby kale or mixed greens. It is a light salad that balances everything out, adds freshness and colour. As I mentioned, I dressed mine lightly with Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette, but any vinaigrette, oil and vinegar or oil and lemon juice will work. The salad can also be omitted if you like.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Lemon Buttermilk Tart

This has always been one of favourite tarts, and sadly, one which I haven't made for a while. I was marinating chicken in the same buttermilk marinade used in the post Bacon Wrapped Chicken Breasts, and made a mental note to use the rest of the buttermilk.

One thing I want to use it for is a batch of Corn and Zucchini Pancakes. Then I remembered the lemon buttermilk tart, which also allowed me to use up some white chocolate and fresh raspberries. This tart received rave reviews, with everyone having multiple pieces...literally! It is super easy and quick to put together and can be kept in the fridge for up to three days, if it lasts that long!

Start off by making the shortbread press pastry I used to make the Hazelnut Pear Tart . Line a 10" tart shell with a removable bottom, and bake it until it is set and starting to colour slightly, about 11 minutes at 350F. Remove from the oven and cool.

While the shell is baking, use a vegetable peeler to peel curls off a block of white chocolate. This works best if the chocolate is slightly warm.

Set the curls aside until needed.

Finely chop and melt over a double boiler:

3 ounces white chocolate

Spread the melted chocolate over the bottom of the cooled crust, and refrigerate or place in the freezer until the chocolate is set.

While the chocolate is setting, start the filling, by combining the following in a heavy bottomed saucepan:

3 eggs
3 egg yolks
zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla

Whisk in:

3/4 cup buttermilk
2 ounces melted butter
Juice of 1 lemon

Lastly, whisk in:

1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons flour

Place the saucepan on a medium low heat, and cook, whisking continuously, until the mixture starts to thicken and just comes to a boil.

Remove from the heat and strain to remove any lumps that you may have.

Pour the hot filling into the tart shell, and spread it evenly over the cooled chocolate.

Bake at 350F until the filling is set, but still slightly jiggly when the tart shell is tapped. This took around 16 - 18 minutes.

Remove from the heat and cool before putting it into the refrigerator to chill.

To serve, remove the tart from the tart shell, and garnish with fresh raspberries and the reserved white chocolate curls that you made earlier.

  • The combination of lemon and buttermilk is tart, fresh and clean, and the sweetness of the white chocolate provides a balance.
  • Other citrus such as lime or orange can be used instead of lemon.
  • The filling is smooth and creamy, and is basically a type of cooked custard. It is important that you whisk constantly while cooking it, and keep the heat low to medium low in order to avoid cooking the eggs too quickly and scrambling them instead of emulsifying them with the other ingredients. Straining the cooked custard will also remove any small lumps that may have formed.
  • Blackberries, red or blackcurrants, blueberries or sliced fresh plums or apricots can also be used to top the tart.
  • I used white chocolate for the sweetness, and because I had a piece of it in the cupboard. Dark or milk chocolate can also be used...why not top the tart with some of all three, and use your favourite to line the bottom of the tart shell?
  • The pastry for the shell can be flavoured with zest, spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg, or the addition of ground nuts (substitute 1/4 cup of flour for finely ground nuts).
  • The baked tart does not freeze well, but the tart shell can be lined and frozen, then baked when you are ready to fill it. The baked tart will keep in the fridge for 2 - 3 days.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Deconstructed Grilled Turkey Fajita Salad

This salad was something I came up with when I realised that the package of turkey scallopini I had was very small, and needed to be stretched to feed everyone. The corn on the cob, perfectly ripe avocado and salad greens had me thinking of fajitas. However, with the heat we are having a salad seemed more appropriate. This was what I came up with.

I used the salad greens as a base, tossed with grape tomatoes, avocado, lime juice and olive oil. Then I grilled the corn, red and yellow peppers and turkey, as well as making a cheese quesadilla to serve alongside the salad.

I made a wet rub for the turkey, using jalapeno infused avocado oil, chili powder, lime juice and cumin. This had a nice spicy kick to it, and the sweet corn, buttery avocado and crispy greens contrasted well with that.

Make the wet rub:

1 tablespoon avocado oil
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin

Rub the spice mix all over the turkey, and leave it to sit while you prepare the salad.

Place the salad greens and halved grape tomatoes into a large bowl.

Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over:

2 corn cobs
1/2 red pepper
1/2 yellow pepper

Grill on a hot grill. Remove and cut the peppers into small strips.

Grill the turkey until fully cooked.

Remove and allow to rest for 5 minutes, before cutting into strips.

Assemble one cheese quesadilla for every two people you are feeding.

Place the quesadilla onto the hot grill, turn it off and close the lid and allow the quesadilla to cook, turning halfway. There is enough heat left to warm the tortillas and melt the cheese.

Cut each quesadilla into 8 pieces.

Assemble the salad by tossing the greens and tomatoes with lime juice and olive oil to taste, gently toss in the sliced avocados and divide between the plates. Give each person half a grilled corn cob, some grilled red and yellow peppers, some sliced turkey and four pieces of quesadilla. Dig in and enjoy!

  • You can grill the turkey and vegetables, and then roll everything inside warm flour tortillas to make fajitas if you wish.
  • If you don't have fresh corn, cook up some frozen corn and toss it with the greens and tomatoes.
  • Plain avocado oil or olive oil can be used in the wet rub; the jalapeno added quite a kick!
  • Instead of turkey, the salad can be made with chicken breast, steak, pork tenderloin, prawns or firm fleshed fish such as halibut or salmon.
  • Black beans can be added to the mixed greens.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Avocado Cream

Even though a ripe avocado was the inspiration for this meal, I wanted to be sure the open carton of orange juice didn't sit in the fridge for too much longer. I used it as a marinade for the pork tenderloin, along with some herbs and spices, and then used the marinade to baste the pork as it grilled.

For me, the best part of the meal was the avocado cream I made to serve with the pork. It was a tasty way to use up an overripe avocado, as well as the plain Greek yoghurt. Smooth, creamy, buttery and slightly tart from the addition of the yoghurt and lime juice, it was also very refreshing.

I made an orzo salad with red peppers, cucumber, grape tomatoes, artichoke hearts, chick peas and fresh spinach. All in all, a great summer night's dinner, eaten outside on the patio.

Start the marinade by combining the following in a large resealable plastic bag:

3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bayleaf
pinch of chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

Add the liquids:

1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lime juice
2 tablespoons avocado oil

Place the pork tenderloin inside the bag, and seal it, squeezing out as much air as possible.

Refrigerate for 6 - 8 hours.

Cook the pork on an oiled grill, turning often, and using the marinade to baste it frequently.

When it is cooked, remove it from the heat and allow it to rest for 5 - 10 minutes, before slicing.

While the pork is on the grill, you can make the avocado cream...

Using a hand blender, puree:

1 ripe avocado
Juice of half a lime


1 tablespoon avocado oil
Pinch of ground cumin
A dollop of plain Greek yoghurt

Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Serve the sliced pork topped with a dollop of the avocado cream; it can also be passed separately at the table. The avocado cream added an extra creamy element to the orzo salad, which had a simple oil and vinegar dressing. It was also a nice complement to the pork, which was hot, juicy and bursting with oregano and garlic.

  • I made this pork a few days ago, served with a salad. I decided to make it again, with the ripe avocado in mind as the sauce for the pork.
  • The pork has a lot of flavour from the herbs and garlic; the orange and lime juices help to tenderize it. By using the marinade as a baste during grilling, you keep the meat moist and juicy, but also help create a nice caramelization on the outside.
  • The marinade can be used for any cut of pork, whole or cubed for kebabs; chicken legs or breasts.
  • Any leftover meat will make a good addition to salads, wraps, sandwhiches or stir fries.
  • For the avocado cream, it is the perfect use for a really ripe, soft avocado. This cream is smooth and creamy, and whipping it with a the hand blender makes it airy, kind of like a mousse.
  • Lemon juice can be used; lime and avocado are a classic pairing.
  • For a creamier, richer taste use sour cream instead of yoghurt.
  • This can be spiced up with the addition of hot sauce, cayenne pepper, dried chiptole or ancho chilies, or even chipotle chilies in adobo sauce.
  • Increase the bright fresh flavour by adding some chopped fresh cilantro.
  • The avocado cream keeps for a couple of days, well covered, in the fridge. The addition of lime juice and oil will helpt to lessen any oxidation that might occur.
  • Add some mashed avocado and chopped green onions, and you can turn leftovers into a quick guacamole.
  • The avocado cream is also a tasty addition to poached egg on toast; wraps; sandwhiches; grilled salmon or scallops; as a dip for canapes.