This recipe is fantastic because it’s very balanced – it has protein, veg and carbs – and best of all, it’s absolutely delicious and freezes extremely well.
Chicken with Rataouille and Risoni
- 1 large eggplant, cut into 2.5cm pieces
- 2 large zucchinis, thickly sliced
- 1 red capsicum, halved, thickly sliced
- A good drizzle of olive oil
- 8 large chicken drumsticks
- 2 cups Italian tomato pasta sauce (or you could make my marinara sauce, click here for the recipe)
- 1/3 cup dried risoni pasta
- 1/2 cup basil leaves, chopped
Preheat oven to 240°C. Place eggplant, zucchini and capsicum in a large roasting pan. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and some salt and pepper and use your hands to toss the vegies and ensure all the vegies are lightly coated. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes or until light golden.
Meanwhile, heat a heavy-based saucepan over high heat. Add a little olive oil and cook the drumsticks in batches, turning occasionally, for 5 minutes or until light golden (you could use thigh fillets as well, if you like). Return all chicken to saucepan. Add pasta sauce. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in risoni. Cook, covered, for a further 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Do keep an eye on it to make sure the risoni doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
Stir in roast vegetables and basil. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve or transfer to containers for freezing.
This recipe is so easy and simple, but the roasting of the vegetables really adds a lovely depth of flavour. I know some people would like to use breast chicken for this. However, I really urge you not to, I think it would really take away from the flavour.
Back in the “olden days” nobody ate the shank part of the lamb, unless you were poor, because everyone seemed to believe the “cheap cut” wouldn’t taste good.
As I have learnt more and more about food over the years, I have come to the realisation that food today has benefited so much from the methods poor people, even many hundreds of years ago, used to use to not only make their food taste good, but also preserve it.
Take this as an example – many peasants in Italy could not afford to buy cheese to put on their dishes – so they ground their stale bread into crumbs, toasted them with a little olive oil (you can infuse them with other flavour too, like garlic and rosemary) and scattered them on top instead. If you haven’t tried this – it’s a definite must. It doesn’t taste like cheese, of course, but it’s a perfect alternative. It gives a beautiful texture to the dish with the crunch of the bread crumbs, but it also adds an excellent nutty flavour.
Meat really is no different. People with little money would take the pieces of the meat that no one else really wanted, like the lamb’s shank, and cooked them slowly – to make what would otherwise be tough meat, very tender.
Nowadays, lamb shanks are the “in” thing. Long cooking makes it melt-in-your-mouth – just incredible. Sadly now that demand has risen, the shank is no longer cheap – but well worth the money and the time to cook them.
I’m totally obsessed with Moroccan flavours at the moment – I think that’s why I came up with this. As soon as it comes to the boil, the smell of cinnamon, cumin and other spices just fills the house. So amazing!
Lamb shanks with cumin and paprika
- 4 frenched lamb shanks
- 1/3 cup of seasoned flour (salt and pepper)
- 3 tsp Moroccan spice blend
- 2 tsp of paprika
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 zucchini, diced
- 1 red capsicum, cut into thick slices
- 5 button mushrooms, cleaned and thickly sliced
- 1 400gm can of chopped tomatoes
- 2 cups of beef stock
- 1/2 cup of chopped parsley
Pre-heat your oven to 150 degrees (c)
Place flour and salt and pepper in a large freezer bag. Put one shank in the bag and toss it around until coated with flour. Repeat for all shanks.
Heat a few good glugs of olive oil in a large, heavy-based pan until it’s hot. Cook the lamb shanks on all sides until they are browned, but not cooked. The browning process is about increasing flavour – not cooking.
Remove the lamb shanks from the pan and add a little more oil, if required. Add the onion to the pan, with a pinch or two of salt and pepper and sweat for about 2 minutes.
Add the garlic, Moroccan spice blend, paprika, cumin and cayenne to the pan and turn the heat down. Stir the spices for a minute or two, or until they start to release their flavour. Don’t let them burn, or they’ll go bitter.
Now add the canned tomatoes, stock, zucchini, mushrooms and capsicum and return the shanks to the pan. Cover, bring to the boil and then once boiling, place in the oven.
Cook for 1 1/2 to two hours. Check after 1 hours to see how the meat is progressing. To tell if it is ready – the meat should almost be falling off the bone. Once the meat is cooked, stir the parsley through – this gives everything a really nice lift.
Enjoy with some steamed rice, or cous cous.
If you like all the warming flavours of cinnamon (which is part of the Moroccan spice blend), paprika and cumin, this is a recipe for you. The cayenne gives it a little kick, so if you don’t like it a bit hot, leave it out.
As winter leaves us and spring arrives, what dishes are you sad to be saying goodbye to?
This recipe is from Italian cook Giada De Laurentiis. I love her show Everyday Italian – she makes comforting Italian food – and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t enjoy that!
She’s not a chef, but I have tried many of her recipes and like the lovely Nigella’s – they have always been fantastic! This version is my own – I just can’t help myself but to change a thing or two. Who are your favourite “celebrity” chefs? Who inspires you?
- 8 chicken thigh fillets
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus 1 teaspoon
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus 1 teaspoon
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 red capsicum, sliced
- 1 yellow capsicum, sliced (but you can use whatever colour is well-priced, I know yellow can be expensive)
- 5 strips of prosciutto, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
Season the chicken with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. In a heavy-based pan bring the olive oil to a medium heat. Cook the chicken until browned on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Keeping the same pan over medium heat, add the capsicum and prosciutto and cook until they are browned and the prosciutto is crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, wine, and herbs. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan (these add soooo much yummy flavour and should never be discarded). Return the chicken to the pan, add the stock, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 to 30 minutes.
Add the capers and the parsley. Stir to combine and serve.
This one is even better the next day, after it has been in the fridge and the flavours have had a chance to meld and enhance. Soooo yummy! Give this one a go and let me know what you thought in the comments section below.
Lentils and I have had a love/hate relationship over the years, much like most daughters, including myself, have with their mother. As with my mother Carmela, I used to struggle to get along with lentils as a kid. Maybe there was something about how wholesome they were that turned me off, or maybe Mum has just improved her recipe over the years. They say your taste buds ‘mature’ as you get older too, causing you to enjoy new flavours. I reckon there’s definitely some truth to that too.
Mum would often make this soup during winter, cooking up big batches of it so we would be able to have it as a quick meal during the week. It would often form part of a larger meal (usually with chicken or veal cotolette (snitzel) and salad – an upcoming post) and I would always try to bypass the lentils in favour of the rest of the meal.
However, as an adult I’ve grown to love this meal and now cook up my own batches of it so Matthew and I can take it to work for lunch each day. It’s exceptionally easy to make, freezes really well and is one of the healthiest meals in my repertoire. It’s also very, very satisfying – one of those really hearty soups.
Now, Mum used to soak the dried lentils overnight but I think you can definitely get by doing things this way, or even using tinned lentils if you’re really pressed for time. I’m sure Mum won’t mind me saying that.
And now that I’m older, not only do I make Mum’s soup and appreciate it more, I appreciate her more too.
Mum’s Italian Lentil Soup (Zuppa Lenticchie)
- 375g dried green lentils
- Olive oil
- 2 small potatoes, peeled and diced
- 3 regular carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 brown onion, diced
- 4 celery stalks, trimmed and diced
- 400g tinned tomatoes
- ½ red capsicum, diced
- ½ green capsicum, diced
- 1L chicken stock
- 1tbs ground cumin or curry powder (optional)
- 1tbs chilli flakes (optional)
- Salt and pepper
- Extra water if needed
- Lots of fresh parsley
Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions and lentils and sautee until the lentils are well coated and the onions begin to soften.
Add all the other ingredients, except the parsley, and bring back to the boil. Turn the heat back down and simmer for up to two hours, allowing the ingredients to soften and the flavours to intensify. Remember to stir occasionally and add water as required.
Add parsley at the very end and stir through. Serve with extra olive oil drizzled on the top, cracked pepper and some crusty bread.
Next Monday, I’ll post another of Mum’s recipes, a Sour Cream and Pecan Cake baked with love for my Aunty Josie’s 50th birthday.
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