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.
You know those moments when you are on the verge of making a bad choice? You know, when you’re searching the fridge and the cupboards trying to find that sweet treat you just know you can’t afford right now?
It’s not like you have been depriving yourself. You look back on the week and you’ve been out for dinner, you’ve had a glass of wine – maybe even a small piece of cake during the latest work birthday function in the tea room.
But, you’re not satisfied – you still want something more. Something naughty.
It’s the old case of the devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other – that moment where you have to choose between the apple and the cupcake.
This photo represents pretty clearly how I feel a lot of the time. Two choices – one decision. Which way will I go?
Well, the other day my culinary creativity gave me a break. A compromise sprang to mind with the few measly ingredients I had on offer. Apple, brown sugar, yogurt, pine nuts and shredded coconut. The result? A delightful sweet treat, which took two minutes to nuke in the microwave – but left me feeling like I had made a pretty good choice while getting the sweetness my body seemed to crave.
Here’s how I did it. This makes one portion – just for you, during your moment of need. No, it’s not chocolate cake – but it’s a little emulsion that I think will make you, and your waistline, quite content 🙂 Hmmm now, what shall I call this little beauty?
- 1 granny smith apple, core removed and cut into large, bite-sized chunks
- 1 tsp of brown sugar
- 1 heaped tbs of your favourite yogurt, I used vanilla
- A few pine nuts, or whatever nuts you like – or leave them out if you don’t have any
- 1 tbs of shredded coconut
Pop the apple and brown sugar in a microwave safe bowl. Cover with cling film and microwave on high for two minutes. Obviously it depends on your microwave – but this left my apple just soft, but not mushy. If you like it mushy – cook for a little longer.
Once cooked to your liking, remove from microwave and top with the remaining ingredients.
Finally, sit on the coach and devour!
As I said, it’s not chocolate cake – but it’s sweet, warm and comforting.
Compromise … I love it!
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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Leftovers can be a blessing – or totally evil!
They are terrific when you are inspired – there’s so many yummy things you can make. Mexican chicken soup is a prime example of that – I will get to that in just a second.
But, leftovers can be so bad! If they are unhealthy – like leftover cake or some other dessert – you can find yourself feeling obliged to eat these things so they don’t go to waste.
I have had that exact issue over the past week. I don’t want to see food go to waste – but my waistline doesn’t need it either, especially after the indulgence of my birthday weekend. If you missed that post – you can read up here. I ranted about the importance of this sort of food being consumed in “moderation” – I’m not doing well with that right now!
So, while I need to get on a better track with my eating – and give the leftovers away – I am proud to say that my exercise has been going well since making my departure from personal training two weeks ago. It was a big move, and I wasn’t sure how I’d go – but I have managed to walk to, from – or both ways – to work at least three times a week. It’s a good 35-minute power walk each way. I have also been walking on weekends as well. My back has been treated and is also feeling much, much better. This weekend I am heading back to the gym and I’m really looking forward to it.
I feel focused and happy with what I am doing … now to tighten up on the food intake! Why can’t things just be perfect!
Anyway, speaking of perfect – that is a word I would use to describe this soup. It’s a cross between Mexican tortilla soup – and chicken soup. It’s spicy, sour and creamy all at the same time and while the ingredients may seem a little strange – I can promise you – it’s a taste and texture sensation and your taste buds are going to LOVE it! I’m giving you the recipe for chicken – but I actually used leftover turkey on this occasion. It was really nice. This is a meal in a bowl. Nothing else is required.
Mexican Chicken Soup
- 4 large ripe tomatoes, cut into quarters
- 2 large garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- 1 brown onion, peeled and cut into quarters
- olive oil
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 kashmiri chillies (available from Asian and Indian stores), seeds removed
- 4 cups of good quality chicken stock, plus more water, if needed
- 1 avocado – cut onto chunks
- 4 heaped tbs of soft, creamy fetta cheese
- 4 heaped teaspoons of light sour cream
- 3 small tortillas (flour or corn), cut into strips
- 1 store-brought roast chicken (or you can cook one yourself) removed from the bone and shredded
- 1 good-sized lime, cut into quarters
Heat a non-stock frypan to a high heat and add a little olive oil. Add the tomatoes, onion and garlic to the pan and allow to cook until everything has some good colour. The bits of brown and black add wonderful depth of flavour.
Place in a food processor along with the kashmiri chillies – or use a stick blender and whiz everything until it’s lovely and smooth. Transfer the tomatoey paste to an oiled, medium-sized saucepan. Bring it to the boil and simmer gently for about five minutes. This enhances and improves the flavours.
Add the stock, bring to the boil again and simmer for 10 minutes on a gentle boil.
Meanwhile – heat your grill. Place the tortilla strips onto a non-stick baking tray (so you don’t need to use any oil). Cook under the grill until they are lovely and golden and crispy. This will only take a few minutes – so please make sure you keep an eye on them!
Once your soup has been simmering, add the shredded chicken.
Stir well and bring back to the boil. You just want to reheat the chicken. Taste the soup at this point and season with salt and pepper. Don’t be afraid if you feel like the soup is a little bland. The accompaniments will make it just right. Promise!
Now it’s time to assemble!
Ladel the soup into four large bowls, making sure each person gets their share of chicken. Add a small amount of tortillas to each bowl, leaving some for garnish. Divide the avocado and fetta between the bowls. Add a teaspoon of sour cream to each bowl and finally garnish with the leftover tortillas. Drizzle a little lime juice over each bowl and garnish with the wedge, just in case your guests would like a little more sourness.
Finally – put your head over the bowl and start scooping!!
Weird ingredients, I know – but for me, this soup was a revelation! I had never tasted anything like it before. Traditionally, a Mexican cheese is used, which I haven’t been able to source. But, fetta is recommended instead and works wonderfully. They also traditionally call for passilla chillies. I have never been able to find them, so I use kashmiri instead and they are wonderful. Not too spicy – but just enough! Normally cream is used with this soup – but I use light sour cream to cut back on fat and the tortillas are generally deep-fried. Once again, I have baked to cut back on fat – and I think it works just as well. I didn’t like the oily texture from the deep-frying.
I really hope you give this one a try. It’s wonderful for lunch – and a bowl for dinner certainly won’t leave anyone hungry.
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