Saturday, 5 January 2019

Polenta Crusted Chicken with Lemon, Sage White Wine Sauce

I really wanted to try the Creamy Butternut Squash Polenta from Once Upon a Chef, but no one else was interested, so I used my cornmeal to make a crunchy crust for the chicken breasts I had. I'll have to try the polenta another time.

I also saw the fresh sage in the fridge, and the lemon in the fruit bowl, and decided to use them somewhere. As I went along organizing the breading for the chicken, I thought about using them for a sauce, instead of putting everything into the crust.

Good idea! We opened a bottle of unoaked Chardonnay which worked perfectly in the sauce, and was a nice pairing with the meal.

The last of a bag of orzo, and the remaining asparagus became the side dish for the chicken, along with a bit of olive oil and grated Parmesan.

Cut four boneless, skinless chicken breasts on a slight diagonal into 2 or 3 pieces, and set up for the first bowl you will need flour, seasoned with salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

In the second bowl, whisk together:

1 egg
1/3 cup milk
Zest and juice of half a lemon
Pinch each of salt and black pepper

In the third bowl, combine:

1/2 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Bread the chicken pieces by dredging them in the flour, shaking off the excess and then dipping them into the egg wash.

Allow the excess to drip off, and then coat the chicken with the cornmeal-breadcrumb mixture.

Place onto a baking sheet and chill if not cooking immediately.

Cut the remaining lemon half into 8 wedges, and set aside along with 10 - 12 fresh sage leaves and 4 cloves of garlic, that have been peeled.

This is for the sauce.

In a smoking hot pan, using olive oil, brown the breaded chicken on both sides.

Remove the browned chicken and place it onto a rack, on a baking sheet and place into a 375F oven to finish cooking.

Reserve the pan for the sauce.

While the chicken is baking, the sauce can be started. I like to add the butter just before serving, as a butter sauce can separate very easily if it gets too hot. Heating the base of the sauce up just before serving, and then whisking in the butter helps prevent this, and gives you a sauce that is the right temperature.

Before starting the sauce, wipe the excess grease and breading that may have fallen off the chicken out of the pan, using paper towel.

Heat the pan and when it is hot, add the lemon wedges and fresh sage leaves.

Cook, stirring often, over a medium high heat, until the lemon starts to caramelize.

Stir in the garlic, minced and cook for about 30 seconds, being careful not to burn it.


1/4 cup dry white wine (I used an unoaked Chardonnay)

Allow the wine to boil until it reduces by half.

Just before serving, heat the sauce base until simmering, then whisk in:

2 tablespoons cold butter, a small piece at a time

Remove the sauce from the heat as soon as the butter has melted, and the sauce has emulsified.

Taste and season with salt and pepper. I chose to strain out the sage leaves and lemon wedges.

Remove the cooked chicken from the oven.

Rest for 5 minutes before serving.

I served the chicken with orzo and asparagus, tossed with olive oil and Parmesan. Drizzle the sauce over the chicken, or pass it at the table. The chicken is crunchy on the outside, and moist and tender on the inside and the acidity of the sauce balances everything out nicely.

  • Other herb options include fresh rosemary or thyme. The herbs can be added to the cornmeal and breadcrumbs instead of, or as well as, the sauce.
  • When browning the chicken it is important that the pan is very hot, as the chicken will brown quickly, and absorb less oil than if the pan is cooler. You also get a nice, crisp, golden crust!
  • This chicken can be made as chicken strips, simply by cutting the chicken into strips instead of larger pieces.
  • The sauce is a nice extra, but can be omitted if you like.
  • We had chicken leftover, and sliced it thinly for crispy chicken sandwhiches and wraps the following day.
  • This crust can be used for prawns, fish, chicken thighs or pork.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Smoky Chicken, Corn and Rice Soup

Sometimes when I cook rice, I cook a bit extra with the aim of making chicken fried rice, or stir fry, but this time I used it to make soup. I had no potatoes to add to my soup as a thickener, so I used the cooked rice I had instead.

I wanted to make soup to serve with the left over gougeres (cheese puffs) I had left from the night before. 

The corn added sweetness but also acted as a thickener, and some of it was kept whole and added at the end, along with the diced chicken. I rubbed the chicken with smoked paprika and ground cumin, to add a touch of heat and smokiness.

My husband was a bit skeptical about the rice in the soup, but went back for a second helping, and ate some for lunch the next day...

On a plate, combine the spices:

1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

Cut the chicken breasts into strips, and rub all over with the spice mix.

You will need:

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Set aside until needed.

In a heavy bottomed pan, on medium high heat, cook:

1 cup frozen corn kernels
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pinch of salt and pepper

Cook until the corn starts to colour slightly.

Remove the corn from the pan, reserving the pan for making the soup.

In the reserved pan, cook the seasoned chicken strips. Add a drizzle of olive oil if needed to prevent sticking.

Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside to cool. Reserve the pan.

Heat the pan again, keeping it at a low heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil, and cook until softened and starting to caramelize:

1/2 large onion, diced

When the onions are softened and golden, add:

4 - 5 garlic cloves.

Cook for another couple of minutes.


3 cups chicken stock.

Bring to a boil.

Stir in:

the cooked corn, reserving 1/2 cup
1 1/2 cups cooked rice

Simmer until the corn, onions and rice are fully cooked and soft.

Remove the soup from the heat and puree until smooth, using a hand blender.

Strain through a fine mesh strainer, and return to the pot.

Reheat the soup, over a low heat. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add more chicken stock if needed, to achieve the right consistency.

Add in:

the reserved 1/2 cup of corn
the cooked chicken, finely diced

Serve the soup, garnished with grated cheese if you wish. I also served it with warm cheese puffs, left over from the previous night.

  • The amount of chicken that I cooked was a bit too much for the soup, so I used about half and saved the rest for another use.
  • Increase the spiciness by adding chipotle pepper, ancho chili or cayenne pepper to the spice blend.
  • I forgot about the rice absorbing more liquid while cooking in the soup, and had to add extra chicken stock to thin the soup out. The rice can be halved, with one half being added at the end along with the chicken and corn.
  • If you would prefer to use potato, add one large potato instead of the rice.
  • Leftover roast chicken, or turkey, can be used instead of cooking chicken breast. It can also be omitted.
  • I used smoked white cheddar, but any cheese can be used. Diced avocado, chopped green onions can be added as a garnish as well.

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Pesto Potato Bread

Leftover mashed potato and a couple of tablespoons of pesto turned into two very tasty loaves of bread...

Using mashed potato in bread keeps the dough soft and light, and it makes the best toast, other than sourdough, in my opinion.

Adding in the last 2 tablespoons of my basil, spinach and arugula pesto gave hints of garlic, basil and peppery arugula, but the bread was not overpowered by the pesto. It was perfect for sandwhiches.

In a small pan, heat until just warmer than body temperature:

1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons olive oil

Pour the warm milk over:

1 1/2 cups mashed potato

Whisk to combine.

Whisk in:

2 tablespoons pesto

Whisk in:

1 egg

Set aside until needed.

In the bowl of a stand mixer dissolve the yeast in warm water:

1 tablespoon dried yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water

When the yeast has started to bubble, add the potato and milk mixture, along with:

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Mix to combine.

With the mixer running on low, add the flour 1 cup at a time, until you have a soft dough.

Continue to add flour until the dough is slightly sticky, and forms a ball around the dough hook.

I used between 5 - 6 cups of flour.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead by hand until smooth and elastic.

Form the dough into a ball and place into a lightly oiled bowl to rise. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place.

When the dough has doubled in size, knead lightly and cut into two equal pieces. Form into loaves and place into 2 lightly greased bread pans.

Leave to rise until the dough is even with the top of the pans.

Heat the oven to 350F.

Brush the tops of the loaves with water and bake for 45 minutes.

The loaves with be crisp and golden on top, and sound hollow when tapped.

Immediately tip the loaves out of the pans and leave to cool to room temperature before slicing.

  • If you do not have leftover mashed potato, boil potatoes in lightly salted water and then drain, reserving the boiling water. Mash the potatoes, measure out 1 1/2 cups and use the reserved water instead of milk.
  • You can use all water instead of part milk.
  • Consider using wholewheat or oat flour for the first 1 or 2 cups of flour.
  • If you have more pesto, you could roll the dough halves into 12" X 18" rectangles, spread the pesto over the dough, sprinkle some cheese over the pesto and roll it up to create a spiral. Bake these as loaves in the pans, or cut into 2" lengths, place cut side down in an ovenproof dish and bake (cinnamon roll style).
  • No pesto...add chopped fresh herbs; grated cheese; fresh or roasted garlic; olive tapenade or caramelized onions.
  • The loaves can be frozen once they are baked and cooled.

Monday, 17 December 2018

Baked Chicken Thighs in a Papaya Seed Marinade

Using up papaya seeds may seem a bit over the top to some people, but I really hate to throw out anything that can be eaten! I have used the seeds to make a salad dressing before (see the post

I have never cooked them before, so decided to make a marinade for chicken thighs. The peppery bite the papaya seeds added to the marinade was amazing; I added no extra pepper. 
Some grape tomatoes that were starting to wrinkle, and 12 asparagus spears were in the fridge, so I added them to the meal, and along with some open white wine, turned everything into a baked chicken dish.

Make the marinade by placing the ingredients in a blender and pureeing until smooth. Place into a resealable plastic bag:

Seeds from half a papaya
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, roughly chopped
Pinch of salt


7 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

Seal the bag, removing as much air as possible, making sure that all of the thighs are covered by marinade.

Refrigerate overnight.

Heat the oven to 375F, and have an ovenproof dish ready.

In a hot skillet, using a tiny bit of olive oil, sear the chicken on both sides.

Remove the chicken from the pan when both sides are well browned, and place in the ovenproof dish.

In the same pan, over a medium high heat, add a drizzle of olive oil, and cook until just starting to colour:

12 spears of asparagus, cut into 3"lengths
1/2 orange pepper, diced

Remove from the pan and add to the chicken.

Keep the pan on the heat and add:

a large handful of grape tomatoes

Cook, stirring often, until the skins start to blister.
Add to the chicken, asparagus and orange pepper.

Keeping the pan on the heat, add:

1/4 cup white wine

Cook for 2 minutes, stirring to remove the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Pour the white wine over the chicken and vegetables.

Place into the oven and bake until the chicken is fully cooked. Remove and leave to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

I served the chicken and vegetables over a bed of coconut rice and diced avocado. Make sure to give each serving some of the pan juices.

  • Papaya seeds can be eaten straight from the fruit; they can be used to make salad dressing. They can also be washed, and then dried out in a low oven and ground up to use as a seasoning. The peppery bite that the seeds have is lessened  by drying them.
  • Both the papaya fruit and seeds contain an enzyme that helps to tenderize meat.
  • The chicken thighs can also be grilled, along with the vegetables, and served with a salad. If you grill the meat, save the marinade and use it to baste the chicken while cooking.
  • To make the coconut rice, cook 1 cup of basmati rice with 1/2 cup of coconut milk and 1 cup of water.

Monday, 10 December 2018

Caramelized Onion, Cauliflower and Chick Pea Soup

It's been a while since I've posted, but we have been in the middle of moving back into our newly renovated house, with temporary kitchen facilities for a couple of weeks. Combine that with a vacation, and now a newly stocked kitchen and I haven't really had a lot of bits and pieces to use up!

The odds and ends are starting to happen, and this soup was a way to use up the piece of cauliflower in the fridge and the half can of chick peas in the freezer. My husband does not love cauliflower soup as much as I do, so I decided to add tandoori masala to give it some spice, and a hint of heat. Sprinkling an extra pinch of tandoori masala on top as a garnish was his idea, and gave the soup the finish it needed.

Slightly caramelizing the onions added a bit of sweetness, and the chick peas helped thicken the soup, along with the potato.

In a bit of olive oil, cook until softened and slightly caramelized:

1/2 large onion, sliced (about 1 cup)


1 teaspoon tandoori masala
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Cook until the spices release their aroma, stirring constantly.


3 cups roughly chopped cauliflower

Add enough chicken stock to cover the cauliflower.

Bring to a boil.

When the stock is boiling, stir in:

1 large potato, roughly chopped
1 cup chick peas

Add more stock if needed, to keep everything covered. Turn the heat down and simmer until the potatoes and cauliflower are tender.

Remove from the heat, and puree. I like to use a hand blender.

Strain to remove any remaining lumps.

Return the soup to the pot, and keeping the heat on low, adjust the thickness by adding more chicken stock, or milk to obtain the right consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning.

I served the soup with a pinch of tandoori masala sprinkled on top, which added an extra bit of seasoning with each mouthful.

  • The chick peas can be omitted, but I liked the idea of having them in there. I contemplated adding them after I had pureed everything, but decided against it. 
  • The tandoori masala is spicy and full of flavour, with a vague hint of heat in the background. Think really mild curry powder if you don't have tandoori masala.
  • The onions were caramelized until just starting to become golden. I wanted a bit of extra sweetness, but not a lot of colour.
  • Use whipping cream to adjust the thickness before serving if you want an even richer soup. I used a combination of milk and chicken stock.
  • Serve the soup with warm naan bread if you have any.