Monday, 28 September 2015

Spanish Style Chicken Thighs with Tomatoes and Garbanzo Beans

When I made this chicken, I made enough for two meals, and froze one for a timesaver another time. Once all the vegetable chopping was done, it was quick to put together, but I won't ever say no to having a ready made meal in the freezer.

The last 2 carrots, half a zucchini, a red pepper, half an onion, some chicken stock and half a can of tomato paste were the basis of this dish. I chose the Spanish style as I had a lot of paprika, some canned tomatoes and garbanzo beans, and the spiciness of it appealed to both me and my daughter. I realised that this also allowed me to ise up some more of the dry sherry that I bought for a recipe, and hardly ever use.

Get the chopping out of the way...

1/2 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1/2 zucchini, quartered and sliced
1 red pepper, cut into 1/2" chunks
4 green onions, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced

Set the vegetables aside until needed.

On a plate, combine:

2 tablespoons Spanish paprika
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 tablespoon dried oregano


12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

in the spice mixture, coating all sides

Heat a large heavy bottomed pan. Add some olive oil. When it is almost smoking hot, add the chicken, and brown one side, allowing a golden crust to form before turning it to do the same on the other side.

Remove the chicken and set aside while you start cooking the vegetables.

In the same pan, but on a low heat, add the vegetables and a bit of olive oil if needed to prevent sticking. Season with salt and pepper.

Cover, and cook on a low heat until the vegetables start to soften slightly, about 10 minutes.


1/4 cup tomato paste

Cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes.


1/4 cup dry sherry

Cook, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove all the lovely browned bits. This is where all of the flavour is.

Return the browned chicken to the pan.

Drain and chop:

1 x 28oz can of roma tomatoes

Add these to the pot.

Add enough chicken stock to cover the chicken and vegetables.

Bring it to a boil; turn it down and simmer, covered, for an hour.

Drain and rinse:

1 can of garbanzo beans

Add half of the beans to the pot.

Continue to simmer, uncovered, until the chicken is fork tender. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Serve the chicken over rice. This served 3 people, with enough left for another 3 servings.

  • I used a combination of white and green onions because when I started to chop the vegetables I found that I only had 1/2 onion, which wasn't enough. I do think that red onion would be nice in this recipe, as it is slightly milder.
  • Other vegetables to consider using include: artichokes, green peppers, eggplant, olives, potatoes or squash.
  • Add some frozen green peas just before serving.
  • If you have chicken thighs with the bone in, allow extra time for cooking. If the skin is also on, you might want to consider removing will crisp up nicely, but when the liquid is added the skin will lose its crispiness and develop a less appealing texture. 
  • Serrano ham or chorizo (fresh or air dried) can also be added. Dice it and cook it after the chicken has been browned. Add the vegetables to the pan and continue with the recipe.
  • I am the only one in the family that likes saffron. If this was not the case, I would have added a bit to the rice. This adds a lovely yellow-orange colour, as well as that distinctive taste. Saffron is very expensive, but only a very little is needed.
  • This can be made with chicken drumsticks; pork or beef cuts that are suitable for stewing; prawns...these can be added back to the pot just before serving as they don't take long to cook.
  • Water can be used if you have no chicken stock. The sherry can also be omitted; red wine could be used instead.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Chipotle Pumpkin Seed Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Blue Cheese Potato Cakes

This dinner shows what you can do when you have to use what is in the kitchen...after a long day at work, I didn't feel like shopping for produce, and had to use what was available, which wasn't much. There was some leftover blue cheese mashed potato, which I turned into potato cakes. A medley of vegetables...broccoli, asparagus, zucchini, carrots and red pepper made good use of the small amounts of each that were in the fridge.

I used some pumpkin seeds and breadcrumbs to crust the pork tenderloin, adding some chipotle pepper for heat and searing it in a really hot pan before roasting it, which gave a crunchy outside and juicy inside, with a hint of heat from the chipotle peppers. This balanced well with the blue cheese that was in the mashed potatoes.

Place the leftover mashed potatoes into a bowl. Add:

2 green onions, finely chopped
1 egg
a pinch of salt and pepper

Mix to combine, and add in:

1/4 cup flour.

Mix to make a soft dough.

On a plate, combine:

1 cup flour
1 teaspoon dried chipotle chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Using an ice cream scoop, place balls of potato dough onto the plate of spiced flour.

Gently press the balls down to form cakes, making sure both sides are coated with the flour.

Heat the oven to 375F. Have a baking sheet ready for the potato cakes. Heat a non stick frying pan, and add some olive oil.

Cook the potato cakes until both sides are golden brown and crispy, placing them onto the baking sheet when they are done.

Place the potato cakes into the oven and bake alongside the pork.

To make the crust for the pork, grind:

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds


1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon dried chipotle chili powder
1/2 teaspoon roasted garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

On another plate, whisk:

1 egg
Juice of 1 lime

Cut the pork tenderloin into 3 equal sized portions.

Using the flour leftover from coating the potato pancakes, set up a breading line for the pork.

First coat each piece in the flour, then into the egg wash and lastly into the pumpkin seed-breadcrumb mixture, making sure each piece of meat is well coated.

In a very hot pan, using some olive oil, sear the pork on all sides, creating a crispy golden crust.

Immediately place the pork into the oven to finish cooking.

Remove the pork from the oven and allow it to rest for 5 minutes before slicing and serving it.


  • Leftover mashed potato that is thicker rather than loose and creamy works best for the cakes. If the potato you are using is looser, either omit the egg entirely, or use only the yolk. Chill the dough well before forming and cooking the cakes.
  • Mashed sweet potatoes, yams, butternut squash or parsnips could also be used.
  • By adding chopped fresh herbs or grated cheese to the potato you will elevate the flavour of your leftover potatoes.
  • Spices added to the flour can also add a lot to the pancake. Try smoked or sweet paprika, cayenne pepper, ground cumin, onion or garlic powder.
  • If you wish to add crunch to the potato cakes use breadcrumbs, cracker crumbs or cornmeal to coat the potatoes before pan frying them.
  • I chose to cut the pork into individual portion sizes before crusting it, as I wanted everyone to get as much of the spicy, crunchy crust as possible. I was cooking for 3, but this recipe can be multiplied to suit the number of people you are feeding.
  • The pumpkin seeds can be changed to any type of nut or seed you like...pecans, peanuts, cashews, sesame seeds. If you are using smaller seeds such as sesame seeds, be aware that they will burn easily and would be better off going straight into the oven to roast.
  • I usually use milk with the eggs when I am breading, but saw half a lime in the fridge and used the juice from that instead. Next time I would add some lime zest to the egg wash to emphasize the lime flavour, which is  a nice contrast to the heat of the chipotle peppers.
  • To increase the heat and flavour of the chipotle peppers, add some of the adobo sauce from canned chilies to the egg wash.
  •  Instead of pork tenderloin try boneless pork chops, chicken breasts, veal cutlets, turkey breast fillets, halibut or salmon.
  • The pork can be crusted ahead of time, and kept in the fridge, or it can be frozen, well wrapped, until needed. The potato cakes can be made ahead and kept in the fridge before coating with flour and cooking; they do not freeze well. Potatoes develop a rubbery texture when frozen, and I have found that mashed potatoes tend to release a lot of liquid and develop an unappealing texture.
  • Leftover pork, if you have any, can be used in sandwhiches or wraps, added to salads or risotto.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Corn Soup with Crab and Avocado

I have been thinking about corn and crab soup for a while now, but haven't been able to find fresh crab meat anywhere. This has been driving me crazy, and making me want it even more! Finally I found some, and at $100/kg, had to make do with less than I had planned on using...but adding avocado solved that problem.

My initial idea for the soup came about because I found a bag of frozen corn, unopened, in the freezer and decided to use some of it up. By the time I actually got to make the soup I had some leftover mashed potato and Parmesan rinds to use as well.

Creamy, slightly spicy, with nice chunks of crab and avocado it was better than I had imagined it would be, and definitely took care of my craving!

Start off by roasting a jalapeno pepper over the flame of a gas burner.

Allow the skin to blacken and blister before turning it to do the next section.

When the whole pepper is black, place it into a small bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap.

This allows it to steam as it cools, which in turn helps to start lifting the charred skin away from the flesh of the jalapeno.

Cut the jalapeno in half lengthwise, and being very careful not to touch the seeds, scrape them out of the pepper and discard them.

Dice the pepper and set aside.

In a large heavy bottomed pot, heat a drizzle of olive oil and add:

2 cups frozen corn.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until the corn starts to caramelize.

Set aside 1/2 cup of corn.


1 medium onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced

Cover the vegetables and cook on low heat until the carrots start to soften.

Season with salt and pepper.


1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 of the jalapeno
3 sprigs of fresh thyme

Cook for a couple of minutes.

Along with some Parmesan rinds, add:

2 cups chicken stock
2 cups water

Bring the soup to a boil, and then simmer until the carrots are tender enough to squash with the back of a spoon.

Stir in:

2 cups of mashed potato

When the potato is well incorporated, remove the soup from the heat.

Puree and strain the soup, so that you have a thick, smooth liquid.

Return the soup to the heat, and add the reserved corn to the pot.

Adjust the thickness to your liking by adding milk to the soup.

Heat over a low heat until the soup is hot right through. Taste and adjust seasoning.

In a small bowl, combine:

100g of fresh crab meat, rinsed
1/2 avocado, diced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
salt, pepper and lime juice to taste

Divide the crab and avocado mixture between 4 soup bowls, making a small mound in the centre of the bowl.

Carefully ladle the hot soup over the crab and avocado.

Garnish with some fresh chives and serve with
bread ( I made Focaccia with Caramelized Onion and Rosemary , using roasted garlic and chopped fresh basil instead of rosemary and onions).

  • The jalapeno pepper can be roasted in the oven. Have the broiler pre-heated and very hot. Place the jalapeno pepper on a baking sheet and place it under the broiler, as close to the heat as possible. Keep an eye on the pepper, turning it as needed. Proceed as above by placing it into a bowl and covering it before peeling it.
  • As jalapenos can have different heat intensities, it is important that you taste the pepper you are using before adding it to the soup. Adjust the amount accordingly, also keeping in mind how much heat you like in your food. My pepper was very hot, and some of us are not too partial to a lot of heat, so I used only a quarter of the pepper. Remember, it's always easier to add more than it is to take away the heat from adding too much!
  • The heat in the jalapeno is from the capsaicin which is in the seeds, as well as the ribs of the peppers. If your skin comes into contact with this, it will burn! The best way to prevent this is to wear gloves while handling the peppers. The second best thing is to be very careful when handling the peppers, touching the seeds and ribs as little as possible and washing your hands very well with hot water and lots of soap immediately after. 
  • Cooking the corn first to caramelize it will emphasize the natural sweetness of the corn. If you have fresh corn on the cob, grill it instead, and when it is cool, remove the kernels from the cob and use them to make the soup.
  • I used half chicken stock and half water as I had 2 cups of stock available. Only water, or vegetable stock can be used instead. 
  • Whipping cream can be used to replace the milk for a richer soup.
  • Whole potatoes can be used if you have no leftover mashed potatoes. Peel and dice the potatoes and add them after the chicken stock starts to boil. Allow them to cook along with all the other vegetables, and then puree everything together. Use 1 - 2 potatoes, depending on the size.
  • The crab can be omitted, or it can be replaced with shrimp, bacon or chicken.
  • The soup can be made ahead and kept in a sealed container in the fridge for a couple of days. It can also be frozen.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Chicken Sandwhich with Apple, Onion and Bacon Relish

I had promised to make onion rings for dinner over the weekend, and what better to have with onion rings than a burger or sandwhich? I chose the sandwhich option; this gave me the opportunity to use up some fresh spinach and one of the 3 apples that had lost their crunch!

The apples were turned into a sweet, smoky and slightly spicy relish with the addition of red onion and peppered bacon. I used chicken tenders instead of chicken breast, and added smoked white cheddar to finish it off.

Start the relish by dicing:

1/2 red onion
1 apple, peeled and cored
4 strips peppered bacon

In a saucepan, over a low heat, cook the bacon until the fat starts to render.

Turn the heat up to medium and cook until it starts to crisp.

At this point you can add the red onion and apple to the pot. Cook until the apple and onion start to soften, stirring often to avoid sticking.


1/2 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
pinch chili flakes

Turn the heat to low, and add:

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup apple juice

Continue to cook over a low heat, stirring often and adding apple juice as needed during cooking.

I used about 1/2 cup apple juice in total.

When the apples and onions are soft, and the juice has all cooked away, continue to cook until the onions and apple have caramelized, and you have a dark, golden, sticky compote.

Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.

Lightly season:

 8 chicken tenders with salt and pepper.

Cook with a bit of olive oil, until they are just cooked through. The chicken will be cooked again when the sandwhich is baked, so be careful not to overcook it.

Remove the chicken from the heat, and allow it to cool before dicing it.

Now it's time to assemble the sandwhiches. Start by turning the oven to 350F and having a baking sheet ready.

Lightly butter 4 ciabatta buns.

Spread some mayonnaise on one side.

Spread a quarter of the relish onto the other side.

Divide the diced cooked chicken between the sandwhiches, and place on top of the relish.

Add some grated smoked white cheddar to the other side of the buns.

Place the sandwhiches into the oven and bake until everything is heated through, and the cheese is melted and bubbling.

Remove from the oven.

Finish the warm sandwhich off by adding fresh spinach.

The crispy bread and crunchy spinach, the warm chicken and gooey cheese, the sweet and smoky relish all combine to make a delicious sandwhich.

  • This recipe made 4 sandwhiches. I used ciabatta buns, which have a crunchy crust and a dense, tender crumb inside. Of course,you can use any bread or buns you want, just try and stay away from bread that is too soft to handle the filling, or breads that have too many flavours added to the dough...these will compete with the compote. Good breads include sourdough and baguette.
  • The compote can be multiplied easily, and will keep for a few days in a sealed container in the fridge. It can also be frozen.
  • Thinly sliced fennel can be added to the compote. If you add fennel, omit the fennel seeds.
  • Pear can be used instead of apples if you like.
  • The bacon can also be omitted if you want a vegetarian compote. Increase the amount of apple and onion, and as the saltiness of the bacon won't be there, make sure that you season the compote well.
  • The bacon I used was applewood smoked bacon, and the outside of the slices were coated in crushed black pepper. Any bacon can be used, as can pancetta. Maple smoked bacon will add a lovely sweetness to the compote.
  • I crushed the fennel seeds with my knife. You can use a mortar and pestle, or place them in a spice grinder. Another spice option with a similar licorice flavour is aniseed.
  • The smoked cheddar added to the smokiness of the bacon in the compote. You don't have to use a smoked cheese...other cheeses that will compliment the compote are goat cheese, blue cheese, brie, white cheddar.
  • My original idea was to use 2 chicken breasts and slice them in half to make 4 thinner pieces which would be grilled. The chicken could then be topped with sliced cheese before placing it all onto warm, grilled buns. I had to use chicken tenders as I had no chicken breasts.
  • The compote can be used as an accompaniment to any grilled or roasted meat, such as pork, chicken or duck; added to sandwhiches; served with baked ham; served with grilled fish such as seabass or halibut; used to finish off a cheese platter.
  • Thinly sliced roast or grilled pork can be used instead of chicken for the sandwhich. Turkey can also be used...perfect for those Thanksgiving or Christmas leftovers.