Semester 2 – Stocks, Sauces & Soups. French Onion Soup.

 In week two of this lesson block the tasks included making, Brown Chicken Stock, Cream of Chicken Breast Soup, French Onion Soup, in which we used the frozen Brown Beef Stock made in lesson one, and Demi Glace, which required us to make an Espagnole Sauce. Now that all sounds pretty straight forward, but there is a lot more to it than meets the eye, and doing it when dosed up on cold and flu medication and feeling less than par added an extra dimension. Also included in the second class was some revision of week one, plus some other learning studded throughout the class, as Chef Robyn, like Chef Troy, enjoys teaching & sharing as much knowledge as possible.

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Semester 2 – Lesson 2

As I shared with you last week, we have moved to becoming totally and independently responsible for what we cook and serve, what steps need to be done and in what order. Where as Chef is there to demonstrate, guide and provide new information as required, the expectation is that students come prepared for the lesson, meaning recipes are reviewed prior to the class to ensure basic knowledge of what ingredients and resources are required, what is involved in the preparation and cooking and, if really motivated, what the finished dish should look like (hello Google & Utube!). As we move through this semester greater responsibility will be expected of us as we stand solo at our separate workstations & stoves. I am loving this ….


Kitchen 10 – each of us have our own stove

Given that a Demi Glace can take a minimum of two hours, we started on the Espagnole Sauce which forms the basis of a demi glace. First off was getting the gravy beef, mirepoix (carrot, onion, leek and celery), and bacon in the oven to roast off. Espagnole Sauce is simply a ‘brown sauce’ meaning the protein (in this case beef) and vegetables are browned and a brown roux is used as the thickening agent. The ratio for a roux for sauces is, 25g unsalted butter, 25g plain flour to 250 mls liquid (in the case of Espagnole it’s beef stock). The base sauce is made by making a brown roux to which is added tomato paste and wine and then the beef stock (gradually). To this the browned beef and vegetables are added and all is let to slowly simmer and do ‘it’s thang’ until sufficiently reduced. You may have to add more beef stock as you go, the important thing is to continually taste to ensure the right balance is maintained. When the flavour and consistency is right, the meat and vegetables are strained off and the sauce returned to the pan for further reduction and seasoning. All going well, the result will be a glossy sauce which leaves a coating on the metal spoon and tastes out of this world. Chef supplemented our beef stock with some pre-prepared veal stock which certainly kicked our demi glace up a notch! We combined our sauces, clearly marked and dated it, adding “Please don’t touch” and set it aside in the freezer for a later class. I hope the added ‘please’ ensures it is still there when Chef goes looking in a few weeks.

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Beef, bacon and Mirepoix – the base of the demi glace

Whilst the meat and vegetables for the Espagnole Sauce were browning in the oven we made the French Onion Soup. I had only just made this soup a few weeks ago (recipe below) and where as the dish we made in class was delicious, I preferred the recipe I made at home which includes garlic and white wine. The must have croutons were a feature of both versions of the dish and I did like the addition of finely chopped parsley to the finished dish made in class. As we continue through the course I am looking forward to my presentation improving, given I have always been a bit of a ‘rustic’ cook my dishes could do with some refinement.


The lovely Bellinda making croutons for the soup

To make the Brown Chicken Stock, which like the demi-glace, was frozen for future use, we needed to bone a chicken. I enjoy these technical tasks and am delighted that we’ll have more opportunity to learn more later in the semester when we do poultry and fish.  Once the wishbone was removed, I jointed the chicken, reserving the breasts and the skin (crisped up in the oven for garnish) and cooked the legs and the carcass with the mirepoix until golden.

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Naughty – Crispy chicken skin

The Cream of Chicken Breast soup made for a nice lunch (we’d been going since 7.30am). The chicken breasts were steamed in the oven whilst we made the veloute. As shared last week, veloute is made using a blonde roux, but rather than making it on the stove, this week, after making the roux and adding the stock, we covered the sauce with a cartouche & placed the saucepan in a low oven to allow it to cook out & develop more intense favour. When ready we simply added cream, seasoning & finely chopped tarragon to the soup, ladled it into a heated bowl, placed sliced steamed chicken breast in the centre & garnished with the roasted chicken skin and tarragon. What’s not to like?

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Cream of chicken soup with crispy chicken skin

Much like last week, the pace of lesson two was fast and what needed to be covered allowed no time for a break. I don’t expect this will change going forward (which I don’t mind at all) and next week, in addition to the the sauces planned, Chef is adding Hollandaise Sauce to the lesson. It was serendipitous that recently I received a copy of Michel Roux’s “Sauces –  sweet and savoury” from my father, you might understand that it has become my new bed time reading in preparation for class.

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A great gift from my dad

Bon Appetit

Kathryn 💙👩‍🍳

French Onion Soup
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 20 mins

This recipe is from a lovely book I picked up on a 'bargain bench' years ago; 'Cooking French'. No author is credited but it's a Canadian publication published in 2006 by Murdoch Books. I think I have cooked everything in this book ...and this one most of all. 

Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: French
Servings: 4 people
  • 50 gm unsalted butter
  • 750 gm Onions finely sliced (approximately 6 large onions)
  • 2 cloves Garlic finely chopped
  • 45 gm Plain (all purpose) flour
  • 2 litres Brown beef stock (approximately 8 cups)
  • 250 ml White wine
  • 1 Bay leaf (dried)
  • 2 sprigs Fresh Thyme
  • 8 slices Toasted baguette
  • 100 gm Gruyere Cheese - grated
  • 1 tbsp Parsley finely chopped (garnish)
  1. In a large thick based saucepan melt the butter

  2. Add the onion and gently cook, low and slow for approximately 25 minutes. Stir occasionally and cook until the onions are soft and have started to caramelise (not burn).

  3. Off the heat, add the garlic and the flour and stir for 2 minutes. 

  4. Replace pan to the heat and gradually add the stock.

  5. Add the wine and bring to the boil.

  6. Reduce the heat so as the broth is simmering and add the bay leaf and thyme. Cover and simmer over a low heat for 25 minutes.

  7. Slice the baguette, butter and toast under the grill (broiler). Once toasted sprinkle with the cheese and return to the grill to melt the cheese.

  8. Taste and adjust the seasoning as required.

  9. Ladle the soup into warm bowls, top with 2 slices of the gruyere croutons and a sprinkle of prepared parsley.

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Semester 2 – Stocks, Sauces and Soups. Black Bean & Roasted Capsicum Soup

I am back from semester break having been assessed as ‘competent’ in the courses covered in semester 1. The class has graduated to one of the big kitchens, Kitchen 10, where we each have our own stove and single bench space. For the next few weeks class P1182 has a new chef, after which time Chef Troy will take over. The pace is definitely kicked up a notch and I must remember to have breakfast, as today the first break I had was 3pm (we are not in Kansas anymore). No complaints though, I couldn’t be happier!

Semester 2 – Lesson 1

Over the next three weeks we will be working on stocks, sauces and soups. Stocks form the foundation of sauces and soups and the ‘saucier’ is considered to be one of the most valuable of the station cooks in the kitchen. It is the quality of the stocks and sauces which  turn a good dish into a great dish & they are simply indispensable.  In this first class we were required to individually make a White Chicken Stock, a White Fish Stock, and a Fish Veloute sauce. We made two dishes, Poached Whiting with Parsley Sauce (using the Fish Veloute sauce) and a Chilled Carrot, Orange & Corriander Soup. As a class we also made Brown Beef stock which is to be used in a future lesson.

Bones a plenty

My new bench – kitchen 10

Even though I have been making stocks forever, there is always so much more to learn. There are some simple basics to follow; the ratio is 10 parts water (100%), 5 parts bones (50%) and 1 part vegetable (10%), the size of the mirepoix (diced onion, leek, carrot & celery) is dependent on how long the stock will be cooked, for a brown stock roast the the mirepoix as these go with the roasted bones & White Fish Stock has no carrot in the mirepoix.

Once the stocks were made attention was turned to the making the soup, filleting and poaching the whiting and making the Fish Veloute sauce. The whiting were tiny…. Chef joked that we really needed the grandparents of these tiddlers! Being so small made it more challenging than usual (and I find filleting fish a challenge already) and as this dish will be included in my end of semester assessment, I will need to practice my filleting over the next few weeks. A good tip regarding cleaning & filleting fish is, scale from tail to head and fillet from head to tail.


The soup we made today, a chilled carrot, orange and corriander soup, was very straight forward and served chilled with a quenelle of cream. It was very tasty but I think I would have preferred  a dollop of cream fraiche or sour cream, however there was none on hand. If you are interested in the recipe just let me know and I will post it!

Chilled Carrot, Corriander & Orange Soup

I love soup & cook it a lot in Autumn & Winter, I also order it frequently when dining out in the cooler months. Something rings true about, ‘Chicken Soup is good for the soul’…. my soul is warmed, comforted and nourished by all varieties of soup; chowders, sea food bisques, refined consume’s, spicy Asian Laksa’s and hearty country vegetable and meat soups. Beethoven is quoted as saying, “Only the pure of heart can make a good soup”…which says something about it’s regard. Below are a few photos of some of the soups I have enjoyed making and ordering when out and about over the last few months. I have also included a recipe for a variation I make of a fabulous Lee Bailey soup, Black Bean and Macaroni…. I look forward to the next few weeks and bringing to you a small view to my happy place.

Bon Appetit

Kathryn 👩‍🍳💙

Black Bean & Roasted Capsicum Soup
Prep Time
40 mins
Cook Time
3 hrs 30 mins
Total Time
4 hrs

This is a delicious soup which really is a variation of one of Lee Bailey's from his fabulous book, 'Soup Meals', published in 1989 by Clarkson N. Potter Publishers. I adore his recipes and books and often gain inspiration from them. I did use dried beans, but tinned Black Beans would work although it would not take anywhere near an hour to cook in the stock with the tomatoes. Be adventurous and make your own version. 

Course: Soup
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Servings: 6 people
  • 1 cup Dried Back Beans
  • 2 litres Stock - chicken or vegetable approximately 8 cups
  • 2 Bay Leaves - fresh or dried
  • 2 sprigs Fresh Thyme
  • 65 mls Olive Oil approximately 1/4 cup
  • 1 Onion (large) large dice
  • 2 cloves Garlic finely chopped
  • 1 tin Crushed Tomatoes (@ 400g) drained
  • 40 mls Red Wine 2 tbsp
  • 5 gm Sugar 1 tsp
  • 65 mls Balsamic vinegar 1/4 cup
  • 1 pinch Chilli flakes to taste
  • 1/4 tsp White pepper can use black if preferred
  • 2 Red Capsicums (Bell Peppers) roasted, peeled and cut into medium dice
  • 1 squeeze Lime juice
  • 250 g Cooked Macaroni 1 cup
  • 2 tbsp Parsley chopped medium fine
  1. Place beans in in large heavy based pot and cover with water. Bring to boil and take off the heat, leaving covered for 1 hour

  2. Drain beans and return to pot with 750 mls (3 cups) of the stock. Bring to the boil and then turn down to gentle simmer. Add the bay leaves and thyme and simmer until the beans start to soften, around 1.5 hrs (they will still be firm to bite). 

  3. Whilst beans are cooking sauté the onion until translucent, add the chopped garlic and the chilli flakes and cook for a minute. 

  4. Add the drained tomatoes to the onion mix and stir through. Add the tomato and onions to the cooking beans. Continue to cook until beans are done - if using dried beans about another hour. Ensure to keep an eye on the beans and add stock if required. 

  5. Continue to cook until beans are done - if using dried beans about another hour. Ensure to keep an eye on the beans and add stock if required.

  6. Once beans are cooked, add the wine, sugar, balsamic vinegar, remaining stock, salt and pepper, the balance of the stock and the squeeze of lime juice. Taste and adjust flavours as needs be.

  7. Serve hot, sprinkled with parsley and with a rustic country style bread


Posted in Commercial Cookery, Cooking at Home, Culinary School, Recipes | 7 Comments

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 👩‍🍳💙

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
  • 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
  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

Posted in Cooking at Home, Out & About, Recipes | Tagged , | 7 Comments

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  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.  This was the start of a weekend kitchen journey to that part of the world.

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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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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 👩‍🍳💙


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
  • 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
  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.


Pesto & Mushroom Chicken

Bon Appetit

Kathryn 👩‍🍳💙

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
  • 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
  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.



Posted in Cooking at Home, Recipes | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments