Memories of Florence – Tuscan Chicken

A few years ago my husband and I met up in France where I was travelling with a girlfriend and we had a very romantic trip through Italy. It was a wonderful trip from which I hold many lovely memories but my most enduring memory is the stunning  Italian scenery and my catch cry of “beautiful” whenever I gazed upon the incredible views.

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Beautiful Tuscan Hills

We stayed in the old part of Florence for several days, visiting the galleries and the churches and enjoying many a good meal. Aron enjoyed a traditional Florence Steak and it was here he started his Tiramisu ‘crawl’!

I loved the terracotta rooftops, the vista from the Duomo and the food markets, to name just a few highlights. Of the food we ate there I particularly enjoyed a chicken dish I had one night in a small trattoria close to where we were staying near the Uffizi Gallery.

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Chicken dish in Florence 2012

I recreated this dish on my return home and this is my version of that special meal I enjoyed that hot summer evening in Florence. It is based on Chicken Cacciatore or ‘Hunters Chicken’, with the lovely herbs, juniper berries chilli and olives which form it’s base. It is light but full of flavour & it’s also such an easy dish to make. 

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Tuscan Chicken

What food inspiration have you taken back home from your holidays? 

Bon Appetit

Kathryn πŸ‘©β€πŸ³πŸ’™

Tuscan Chicken
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 15 mins
 

A rustic country chicken dish 

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Chicken, Farmstyle
Servings: 4 people
Ingredients
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic pealed and cut in half
  • 8 chicken drumsticks
  • 1 tbsp Fresh Sage leaves
  • 1 tbsp Fresh Rosemary striped from stem
  • pinch Chilli flakes
  • Tuscan Seasoning 1 tsp sea salt, 1 tsp fresh thyme, 1 tsp fresh rosemary, 1 garlic clove, pinch chilli flakes, 1 tsp juniper berries - all ground in mortar and pestle
  • 1 cup Dry White Wine
  • 3/4 cup Black Olives Pitted
  • 1 tbsp Tomato Paste
  • 420g Tin crushed tomatoes
  • 180g Artichoke hearts Cooked - jar or tin
  • 1/2 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/2 cup Water
Instructions
  1. Heat half (1.5 tbsp) of olive oil in heavy based pan

  2. Add the onions, whole cut garlic, sage leaves and rosemary. Cook until fragrant but not coloured. 

  3. Add chilli flakes stir through and remove the mixture from the pan

  4. Season the chicken with the Tuscan seasoning

  5. Add the remaining oil in the pan (1.5 tbsp) 

  6. Over a low to medium heat brown the drumsticks

  7. Return the onion mix to the pan with the chicken 

  8. Increase the heat, add the wine to the pan and cook until reduced.

  9. Reduce the heat and add the tomato paste, olives, crushed tomatoes, balsamic vinegar & artichoke hearts.

  10. Add the water and cook for 30 mins over a low heat until chicken is cooked through

  11. Check seasoning and adjust to taste

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Very ‘Moorish’ – Chicken & Apricot Tagine with Saffron Cous Cous

The cuisine of the Maghreb region, an area of northwest Africa which runs across the Mediterranean Sea, is distinctive, unique and delicious. Food from this area has influenced food of countries just across the Mediterranean, i.e. Spain, but has also been influenced by the food of countries in Europe, specifically France & Italy. The cooking methods vary between the countries of this region, Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia, but the flavours are very shared. Dishes from this region use spices, herbs, vegetables, grains, meat & fish; saffron, cumin, cardamon, cinnamon, ginger, paprika, corriander (cilantro) and preserved lemons to name a few. This is a rich and perfumed cuisine & nothing makes the kitchen smell quite so exotic than a tagine simmering on the stove. The tagine is a dish named after the cooking vessel, made of clay, in which it is made and I’ve have never been disappointed by any slow cooked ‘stew’ or tagine which I’ve made.

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Saffron and Spices

Where as lamb, beef, goat, seafood, legumes and vegetables are most commonly the base of a tagine, there are many recipes which also include chicken, which I think also goes Β well with dried fruit, nuts & preserved lemons which also feature in this style of cooking. My tagine sits on the stove (because it’s pretty), and like anything we see day in & day out, it sort of blends into the background, but last Friday when wondering what I would make for dinner, I just happened to ‘see’ it. Β This was the start of a weekend kitchen journey to that part of the world.

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Tagine

What I love about this cuisine is that as long as you use the ‘basic’ ingredients, pretty much anything goes. I adapted a recipe I picked up from a cooking class I did at one of the Gewurshaus stores, the herb and spice merchants. There are several beautiful shops in Melbourne and Sydney & they have the most fabulous and varied spices and blends of spices from around the world, which can also be purchased online. You could make your own spice blend/s from the high quality single spices, but their Moroccan Souk Spice mix is simply perfect for this type of cooking, containing cumin, corriander, salt, garlic, cayenne pepper, cassia, turmeric & cardamon. With the Chicken Tagine (recipe below) I served Saffron Cous Cous, from the same class, which has in it cooked broad beans, toasted almonds and of course saffron. When making cous cous, the ratio of fluid to grain is important, 2 cups of stock (or water depending on the recipe) to 1.5 cups of cous cous. Simply rub a few tablespoons of olive oil into the cous cous, seasoned with a pinch of salt, ensuring all the grains are coated. Add heated stock in which a pinch of saffron has steeped & cover the bowl until all the stock is absorbed. Once ready add the broad beans and almonds, some corriander (or parsley) and a few tabs of butter. You can also add some diced preserved lemons ( I make my own and always have a jar in the fridge) or lemon zest if you don’t have any preserved lemons on hand.

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Home-made preserved lemons

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Chicken & Apricot Tagine with Saffron Cous Cous

I wanted to continue to explore these flavours and over the weekend I did just that, creating a few dishes which gave more than a nod to North African cuisine. The Scampi with Moroccan Pearl Barley was delicious, and easy, if you are interested let me know and I will blog the recipe. I was looking for Langoustine but Sydney Fish Markets only had Scampi….only.. …haha…they are delicious!!

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Scampi

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My Moroccan Scampi & Pearl Barley

I had some Duck Maryland in the freezer and the idea of making a rub with saffron butter, herbs and spices, came to mind. I served the finished duck, which was first pan cooked and then finished off in the oven, with some sides from one of my favourite cookbooks by Christine Mansfield, “FIRE”. The Cauliflower & Pinenuts and Smoked Eggplant with roasted Cherry Tomatoes went perfectly well with the Spiced Duck…again simple but tasty.

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Saffron Butter

I throughly enjoyed my culinary trip to North Africa and will return… I like the idea of Pastilla so that might be the next dish.

Bon Appitet

Kathryn πŸ‘©β€πŸ³πŸ’™

 

Chicken and Apricot Tagine
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
50 mins
Total Time
1 hr 5 mins
 

Frangrant Chicken served with cous cous 

Course: Main Course
Keyword: Chicken, Dried Appricot, Spices, Tagine
Servings: 4 people
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp Gewurzhaus Moroccan Souk Spice A blend using of ground cumin, corriander,sea salt, garlic, cayenne pepper, cassia, turmeric & cardamon
  • 1 Onion medium dice
  • 3 cloves Garlic minced or crushed
  • 1/2 cup Slivered almonds
  • 750 gm Chicken thighs trimmed and cut into pieces
  • 400 mls Water or Chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp Saffron threads
  • 1/2 cup Dried apricots diced
  • 1/2 cup Lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp Parsley chopped
  • 2 tbsp Corriander (Cilantro) chopped
  • 2 quarters Perserved Lemon skin diced
  • 2 Chillies deseeded and finely diced
  • 3/4 cup Green Olives deseeded
  • pinch Salt to taste
  • pinch White Pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. In a tagine or a heavy based casserole/dutch oven, add the oil, onion, half the almonds & spices. Cook until the almonds start to take on colour.

  2. Add the garlic

  3. Add the chicken pieces, saffron, half the apricots and season with salt and pepper. 

  4. Add the water (or stock if using) and cover and simmer for 45 mins until the chicken is soft and tender.

  5. Stir in the lemon juice, parsley, corriander, preserved lemons, remaining apricots and olives. Cook for another 5 mins. 

  6. When ready to serve sprinkle the remaining almonds and some extra chopped parsley.

  7. Serve with cous cous

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Family visits – Chicken with Pesto & Mushroom

It has been a busy few weeks catching up with family and friends, which always means a fair bit of driving. My lovely daughter was home for a quick visit from LA presenting a great opportunity for a family gathering and to enjoy some tasty pinwheels.  These are a favourite in my house and a great standby, you can make them in advance and have a roll in the freezer to bake when needed.

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Buttery Pinwheels

A dear friend returned from a six week adventure in North America, Spain & Portugal. Her return naturally warranted several phone calls and a dinner at her place to catch up. She made a fabulous Asian glazed Pork Belly, which she promised me the recipe, but unfortunately we were talking so much that I didn’t even think of taking a photo… the crackling was fantastic! From Lisbon she brought me a beautiful hand painted tile, which I will use as a trivet, in my favourite colour combination of blue and white. My home grown Myer Lemons look gorgeous against the colour of the tile. The small flyer which came with the tile was so poetic; it stated that it was in Lisbon that, ‘the tile abandoned the intimacy of palaces and churches and flowed into the streets as decoration, making Lisbon a paradise of facades, patterns, colours and light’. ☺ I am very grateful for the kindness of my friends, only recently the sister of another friend brought me back from her trip to Italy, a fantastic bread bag to store my homemade sourdough; it works a treat and the sourdough stays fresh for days!

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There was the quick(ish) trip down the Hume Highway to visit Dad, taking with me a few meals to tide him over, which I posted last week. By way of an update to that post, Dad rated my Lamb Shank and Pearl Barley soup as,”over 100%”, which I guess means I’ll be making him another batch soon. It is so cold where he lives that a hot bowl of thick hearty soup is like a jumper for your insides. A few people have asked me for the recipe so I may post it in coming weeks.

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Hearty Lamb Shank & Pearl Barley Soup

Finally, we made a quick weekend dash to our Nations Capital to check in on my lovely mother who was recovering from a nasty procedure. I also took her a batch of the soup (did I tell you I made A LOT of soup!). Even though it’s over 3 hours each way, it’s always a pleasure to visit Mum. We took the opportunity for a brief catch up with my cousin & to go to the Fyshwick Markets where I bought some amazing eschalots and pretty onions from Wiffens Greengrocers. Look at the size of the eschalots compared to the ones generally on offer at my greengrocer! There is so much variety and excellent quality at these markets, and now during Truffle season you can also pick up fresh A.C.T grown truffles! temp.jpg

It was lovely being with Mum in her kitchen, she wanted to show me a new recipe she has been making, she is really good at cooking the egg for this very tasty prawn fried rice. On the way home we stopped off at the cosy SOME CAFE at Collector…my favourite Allpress coffee is on offer here as are lots of hearty comforting dishes from locally sourced produce. It’s a destination rather than a drive through location but at 11.30am on a Winter Sunday the joint was jumping, mind you it was 2 degrees outside and they had a couple of open fires on the go… need I say more?

The downside of a weekend away is what needs to be done when you get home to prepare for the week ahead, so a quick but wholesome evening meal was a must. This one is a variation of a pasta dish I make. Making use of some fresh pesto I made for later in the week and using some button mushrooms and chicken I already had in the fridge meant that dinner was ready in no time. I served it with brown rice, but pasta or even some kind of mash would do just fine.

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Pesto & Mushroom Chicken

Bon Appetit

Kathryn πŸ‘©β€πŸ³πŸ’™

Pesto & Mushroom Chicken
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
25 mins
Total Time
35 mins
 

A quick dish which doesn't compromise on taste.

Course: Main Course
Keyword: Chicken, Mushrooms, Pesto
Ingredients
  • 4 Chicken thighs - skinless
  • 200 g Button Mushrooms
  • 40 ml Olive Oil
  • 1 Eschalot medium to large
  • 40g Pesto - preferably homemade
  • 125 ml while wine
  • 125 ml chicken stock
  • White Pepper
Instructions
  1. Trim any fat from the chicken thighs

  2. Peel and thinly slice the mushrooms

  3. Peel and finely dice the eschalot

  4. Heat half the oil in a frypan/skillet and cook the eshalot until translucent. Add the mushrooms and cook until softened. Remove from the pan.

  5. Heat the remaining oil and brown the chicken. 

  6. Add the pesto and the wine and gently simmer until wine is reduced

  7. Return the eshalot and mushroom mixture to the pan and add the chicken stock and season with pepper. Cook over a low heat until chicken is cooked and the sauce reduced.

  8. Serve with fettuccine, rice or mashed potato.

 

 

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Semester Break: One from the archives – Salmon Patties

When I was growing up we ate fish every Friday. ‘Fish Friday’ was not our favourite as my brothers, sister and myself were terrified of getting a bone stuck in our throat, so much so that we gingerly nibbled our fish with our front teeth like mice to ensure a nasty bone didn’t get through. I am not sure why mum or nanna didn’t buy filleted fish, it may have had something to do with balancing the household budget and cheaper cuts meaning a dollar went that much further. However, the one meal we did enjoy on Fish Friday was Salmon Patties…well maybe not my youngest brother who was a tad fussy with his food.

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Salmon Patties

This is the second week of semester break and with my day off  I planned a visit with my dad in his lovely Southern Highlands, about an hour and forty-five minutes from where I live. This gave me an opportunity to take him a few home cooked meals, when you live alone it’s a treat to have someone cook you a meal. Thinking about what he might enjoy, I straight away thought of the old family favourite Salmon Patties which could be cooked in advance, reheated when needed and travels well. Along with the Salmon Patties I took a few servings of a Lamb Shank and Pearl Barley Soup which I made on the weekend. It was one of Nanna’s specialties and I don’t think I’d ever cooked it. Just to make sure I recalled it correctly I confirmed my memory of what wasn’t in it with my sister (absolutely no tomato or potato), and as she said, “I can smell it now!” The past has a strong pull on our hearts at times β˜Ί

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Lamb Shank & Pearl Barley Soup

I decided to share the Salmon Pattie recipe (it’s so easy!) after I posted the picture on Instagram which received heart warming comments about how they conjured up childhood memories (so I wasn’t the only one it seems). The best comment was from my gorgeous girl all the way from LA who said  ” That’s one from the archives! Been a while”πŸ’™

Bon Appetit

Kathryn πŸ‘©β€πŸ³πŸ’™

 

Salmon Patties
Prep Time
1 hr 20 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
1 hr 40 mins
 

An oldie but a goodie!

Course: Main Course
Servings: 4
Ingredients
  • 4 whole Desiree Potatoes - large
  • 3 whole Eschalots Or 1 brown onion
  • 210 grams Tinned Red Salmon
  • 2 tbsp Finely chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup Plain flour
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • 100 ml olive oil
  • 40 grams unsalted butter
Instructions
  1. Peel & cut the potatoes, boil in salted water until cooked through and drain. Pass the cooked potatoes through a potato ricer or food mouli. Set aside in large bowl to cool.  

  2. Finely dice the eshalot (or onion) and cook in 1 tbsp of olive oil until translucent but not coloured. Add to the cooled potato.

  3. Add finely chopped parsley, the salmon and seasoning to the potato and onion mix.

  4. Form the mixture into patties. Depending on size you should be able to make 10 - 12.

  5. Gently coat the patties in plain flour and place on a plate covered in bakers paper. Store in fridge for at least an hour - better if overnight.

  6. Heat half the oil and half the butter in a large non stick fry pan and cook half the patties until brown on either side. Repeat with the remaining oil and butter and patties.

  7. Keep warm in low oven until ready to serve.

 

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Semester break: Winter Warmers – Pumpkin Risotto

I am on a six week break from Culinary School and have been scratching my head thinking about what I could share with you this week. As Winter has arrived I am making lots of slow cooked meats, lamb shanks & beef cheeks, roasted pork, chilli, pasta, soups & risotto’s. This got me to thinking about a pumpkin risotto dish I created a few years ago.

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Chilli πŸ’™

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Guilt-free Butter Chicken

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Spilt pea and Ham soup

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Home made pasta with mussels

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Roast Pork

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Chicken with grapes

I grew up eating a lot of pumpkin …. all varieties; Queensland Blue, Jap, Butternut and Kent. Whether it was roasted, mashed, mashed with potato, mashed with sweet potato, made into soup or used in a salad, pumpkin has always been a welcome vegetable on my plate. Such was my ‘obsession’ that in the 80’s when working with quite a few Americans, and discovering that pumpkin was somewhat of a neglected vegetable in the States (at the time), it became a personal quest to introduce my American colleagues to this versatile, sweet & humble vegetable. My daughter now lives in LA and informs me that the good old pumpkin is widely available in cafe’s in various dishes.

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The lovely Queensland Blue

A few years ago whilst at a foodie event, being a pumpkin fan (as outlined above), I was delighted to be offered to share in an amazing plate of pumpkin risotto by the young man who was sitting next to me. He was vegetarian and the risotto was to make up for the meat dish the rest of the table was served. It was so delicious that I took out a pad at the table and tried to nut out the ingredients. I can’t say for sure that I ‘nailed’ it, but I am pleased with my version and it’s been well received by family and friends ever since. This is probably one of those dishes which I will continue to adapt and refine as time goes on, and perhaps you will too. I usually use Queensland Blue pumpkin but I think any variety would work just as well.

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Original dish of Pumpkin Risotto

I have made a few versions of the dish, sometimes adding pan fried prosciutto & sometimes not. This is a dish that can be played around with to suit your taste, I was thinking of adding a few toasted crushed walnuts with the parmesan scattered over the top next time.

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First version of Pumpkin Risotto

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With Prosciutto

Bon Appetit

Kathryn πŸ‘©β€πŸ³πŸ’™

Roast Pumpkin Risotto Β – Serves 4

Ingredients:Β 

1. Pumpkin 500g peeled and cut, Red onion 1 skinned and quartered, Olive oil 2 tablespoons, Sea salt to season.

2. Chicken or vegetable stock 750mls, Olive oil 2 tablespoons, unsalted butter 25g, garlic 1 close crushed, French eschalots 2 diced or small brown onion 1 diced, Risotto rice (aborio or carnaroli) 250g, white wine 80mls, Parmesan cheese 50g grated, mascarpone cheese 50g, chopped tarragon or sage 2 teaspoons, if using sage cook several leaves in oil for garnish, white pepper and salt to taste, shaved Parmesan.

3. Optional: pan fried prosciutto and sage leaves

Method:

  1. Roast the ingredients in 1 in a hot oven (200c) until brown and soft – around 40 to 45 mins.
  2. Retain 80g pumpkin to use as garnish to finished dish
  3. Bring chicken stock to boil and use 50ml to blend the pumpkin and onion mixture Β – set aside.
  4. Heat olive oil and butter in a heavy based pan & sweat the onion and garlic until soft but not coloured.
  5. Add rice and stir until well coated.
  6. Add wine and allow to be absorbed
  7. Start adding heated chicken stock one ladle at a time until absorbed. Keep stirring so it doesn’t catch on base.
  8. Test rice if still not quite done, add small amount of boiling water and allow to be absorbed.
  9. When rice is cooked, remove from heat and stir in parmesan, mascarpone, pureed pumpkin and onion mixture, the chopped tarragon or sage and a good grind of white pepper.
  10. Taste and adjust seasoning as required.
  11. Serve on a large serving plate and garnish with reserved roasted pumpkin, parmesan shavings and crispy fried sage and prosciutto (if using).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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