Welcome to the first of a new weekly series! The Chef and I will see me cook a recipe from my cookbook library. It could be a dinner, maybe a breakfast or something sweet, the idea being to a) use my cookbooks more thoroughly and b) show how a recipe plays out for a normal human.
This week I’m (finally) cooking from Jamie’s 15 minute meals. Yes yes, we all know the drill, 15 minutes when you have a staff working for you but my attitude is less the amount of time it takes you and more cooking with fresh ingredients and trying recipes you otherwise wouldn’t. This didn’t take me 15 minutes but it definitely took me less than 30. Probably closer to 20.
All my normal eaters ate it and loved it. Even the lentils. Jasper, the not normal eater, ate and loved the chicken. Small mercies. Jamie serves it with a warmed loaf of bread to soak up the juices and I strongly urge you to do the same (I wasn’t going to bother but thought, no, do as the recipe says). It rounded out the meal beautifully. Next time I’d probably use some pita or flat breads.
Things I did differently:
I used an extra tomato and was glad I did
He seasons the chicken with 1/2 tsp cayenne, I used about 2 tsp of smoked paprika instead
I used streaky bacon instead of pancetta and fried it off separately after cooking the chicken whereas he adds it to the pan of the almost cooked chicken. Streaky bacon is the short bit of the bacon, my Woollies stocks the D’Orsogna brand variety of it and stocks it in the meat section of cured meats, not with the other bacon (for reasons I am yet to understand).
His recipe uses a bunch of asparagus that he cooks off with the chicken at the same time as the pancetta, I didn’t do this.
Spiced chicken with bacon & spinach lentils
Adapted from Jamie Oliver, 15 Minute Meals
The Chef and I – Jamie Oliver’s spiced chicken with bacon & spinach lentils
A delicious health dinner of spiced chicken with lentils, spinach and yoghurt
2 sprigs rosemary
2 x 400g tins of lentils
200g baby spinach
1 tsp red wine vinegar
4 heaped tbsp natural yoghurt
4 x skinless chicken breasts
2 tsp smoked paprika
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 handful fresh thyme (or other fresh herb of your choice, tarragon would work nicely)
6 rashes streaky bacon
Peel your onion and carrot and blitz in a food processor with the rosemary
Put a glug or two of oil in a fry pan with high sides and start sauteing
Get a really large sheet of baking paper out on your bench. Scatter over a generous amount of salt, pepper and the paprika. Rub into the chicken all over (if you’ve been generous there’s enough for both sides and a good rub into the chicken).
Fold the baking paper over the top of the chicken (I told you it needed to be a big sheet) then get a rolling pin and bash it to about 1.5 cm thick. (I didn’t do it thin enough so it took longer to cook for me)
Get another fry pan on with a glug of oil then add the garlic cloves, the herbs and the chicken. Fry for about 4 minutes on each side until nicely golden and cooked through.
Back to the veg in the other pan, add the two tins of lentils with the water they’re in (ie don’t drain them) and the tomatoes which you’ve chopped up roughly (I just blitzed them to chunky in my little mini blender as I’d already using it for the onion and carrot. Put the lid on and leave to simmer
Roughly chop the spinach in the food processor – you don’t want it pulverised so just pulse it until it’s shredded but not moosh. Add to the lentils with the red wine vinegar.
Lift the chicken out of the pan, you might need to give it a wipe down before cooking the bacon and then fry off the bacon.
Put the lentils into a wide lipped platter (it’s runny so don’t go and use some flat platter contraption) and dollop over the yoghurt, give it a little swirl through.
Cut the chicken up on an angle and place over the top then put the bacon on top of that.
My favourite season, winter, is finally here. It couldn’t arrive fast enough after an unseasonally warm autumn and the hideous February/March Months of Humidity show. My silence here is the antithesis of what has been going on in real life. Yet another phase of mental instability has befallen me and it has basically been taking all my energy to keep it together for my own health, Chef and the boys.
Did I tell you a while back about the friend who told me that I was one of those who has background noise – an unending stream of thoughts going through my head all the time with very little if any rest? Any task is completed while my brain races through not just what has to happen next but what is happening this afternoon, what is happening with the boys, politics, world affairs and oooh what’s that over there. It was a revelation. I thought everyone had that. Don’t they? Apparently some don’t! Apparently some can just wash up and just be thinking about the washing up. Isn’t that amazing? Imagine being one of them. I remember once, early in Chef and my relationship when we were driving along. I asked him what he was thinking and he replied “nothing”. I was floored. How could that be!? He asked what I was thinking about and I rattled off a number of things including a project at work, what we were having for dinner and how on earth a solution to the Bosnian crisis was ever going to be reached.
In the last month, after a couple of episodes of breakthrough severe crippling anxiety attacks and a generally low unshifting mood, we have been tweaking my head meds with what I would term “extremely limited” results. My standard unrelenting internal dialogue not only changed gears but upgraded from a family wagon to a maserati which I was not handling through the bends let alone down the straight.
The physical side-effects hit first this time – the locked jaw, the weird metallic taste in my mouth, the tension through my shoulders, the poor sleep.
And then the internal monologue not only ramped up to a belting speed, the content headed in a whole new direction. That was when I knew it truly wasn’t going well*. Instead of the thoughts focusing on the functional with the occasional dalliance into the woeful state of the political landscape it becomes a swirling storm of greys and black brewing to the perfect insanity storm.
It is so strange when it starts. Initially – and where I have been for the last few weeks – I can see it happening and engage cognitive therapy techniques with a dedication usually reserved for my procrastination at cleaning the bathrooms. It’s like I am totally cut off from my body, like a TV producer sitting in the production booth feeding instructions to the presenter – laugh now, intervene here, cuddle now, put the washing on, vacuum, stop yelling, start yelling, cook dinner. All of that interspersed with TRY HARDER, YOU’RE USELESS, YOU’RE FAILING AS A PARENT/WIFE/FRIEND/DAUGHTER, YOU’RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH.
It is exhausting in a way I can not adequately describe. At the moment I know those dark yelling whispers are nonsense but I can feel them wearing me down until I succumb to their beat. A discussion with my psychiatrist this week had a new plan of action in place which I have taken a step further. The agitation has reduced by about half. The resting state of panic eased. My sleep has improved, the locking of my jaw ceased and my sense of helplessness ebbed.
Curiously this has all happened by me weaning off an anti-depressant, increasing my mood stabiliser and resuming the anti-psychotic.
In the midst of all this my GP thought we should test my thryoid levels again. Despite ramping up my thyroxine dose in February I was still barely scraping it in to the normal range. Of course Hashimoto’s impacts mood, libido, anxiety and agitation. I can’t tell you how much I feel like my body hates me (maybe it’s retaliating for *). Wanna swap?
* When I first started to see the disc herniating chiropractor he said I had virtually no body awareness. I went to object when it kind of dawned on me that he was right. I have a pretty poor opinion of my body so I tend to try and ignore it as much as possible. It helps that I have 500 children to focus on instead of the fact various parts of me are hurting/not working/breaking down.
Anyway, this post wasn’t meat to be that long about my malfunctioning brain. It was meant to be about chicken noodle soup.
Do you know I’ve never made it? I KNOW. My friend Beth has one which I used as a bit of a guide for what follows here. There are a couple of steps here so I wouldn’t say you could do all of it when you get home after work, but you definitely could do it over two nights and get two dinners out of it – Hainanese Chicken one night (recipe to come I promise) and chicken noodle soup the next. Or, cook the chicken on a Saturday afternoon and make the soup that night as I did. Whatever you do, just make it.
Chicken Noodle Soup
The stock and chicken
One organic chicken
5 slices of ginger
5 unpeeled cloves of garlic
The white parst of a bunch of shallots/spring onions
1 tbsp salt
finely sliced green parts of the shallots/spring onions
1 carrot, diced
1 stick of celery, diced
1/2 bunch coriander, chopped
60gm approx of egg noodles/angel hair pasta (you know how it comes in dried rounds? I used two and a bit)
Optional: some finely grated ginger and finely chopped garlic as per Beth’s.
Optional: fresh chilli – finely chopped, sprinkled in at the end
To cook the chicken and make the stock
Give the chicken a good wash and then put the ginger and garlic cloves in its cavity.
Put it in a largish pot* of water, breast side down, with the salt and shallot ends in there (you don’t need to slice these up) and bring it slowly to the boil.
Simmer for 25 minutes, scraping off any scum that comes to the surface, then turn off the heat, put the lid on and don’t touch it for an hour.
After the hour pull the chicken out of the pot, place it on a plate and wrap the whole lot tightly in glad wrap.
If any of the ginger or garlic has escaped from the chicken into the water then scoop out now. What you’re left with is the most delicate, perfectly seasoned stock.
You can, if you so wish, chill the stock now and then discard the fat that congeals on the surface.
Once the chicken cools get rid of the skin and shred the tasty chicken. You’ll use some in the soup and have some left over.
To make the soup
Put the shallots, carrot, celery and coriander in the stock with a dash or two of soy and a few drops of sesame oil (go easy on the sesame oil, this is a soup you don’t want to over-power with anything)
Once it’s boiling turn it down and simmer for a few minutes and then add the egg noodles and cook until they’re done (about 8 minutes)
Add the shredded chicken and you.are.done.
* By “largish pot” I use one that holds about four litres.
Sydney summers are a trigger event for me which I attribute to being born in December 1972. It held the dubious honour of being the hottest month on record as well as host to the hottest Australian day on record. That is, until yesterday. Yesterday the national average temperature was 40.3THOUSAND degrees Celsius. At the moment weather forecasters in Australia are talking about a DOME OF HEAT which is COVERING THE ENTIRE CONTINENT. Just writing that sentence caused me to stop, shake out my hands, take a deep breath and reassure myself I am not going to die. (SHE LIES! DEATH IS IMMINENT)
There are not enough words for me to adequately express my comprehensive dissatisfaction with the concept and reality of summer. The word itself is a fine example of latin, greek, gaelic and chinese derivatives coming together as not one of them could generate a word off their own bat to truly describe a three month period that delivered sweat, chaffing and clothing with inadequate skin coverage. It is unacceptable.
As we approach summerhell Australians have a competition to see which broadcaster or media outlet will use the phrase “tinderbox” first. We have a record of savage bushfires which are remembered decades later with a reverence normally reserved for the horse race, remembrance and invasion day. It was Tasmania’s turn last week with more than 100 houses razed and 100 people still unaccounted for. One death is too many due to a bushfire but Tasmania is not a big state. Such loss is profound.
In the midst of our own Hades Day yesterday I somehow mustered energy to make a proper dinner for the first time in what felt like months. I know it hasn’t been months but it occurred to me that about 80% if the boys’ diet in the last month has been Fruit Loops* and 2-minute noodles. As my mate Jane said, palm oil and sugar, the food stuffs of champions.
I instagramed the shit out of because, quite frankly, that’s what I do and if we’re NOT instagraming the shit out of dinner then did we really have dinner at all?
Hot summer nights dinner
A lovely follower @clareanna01 left a message on the pic:
Please tell me that you made this and that you will add it to your recipe list on your blog? It’s been a sh*thouse [isn't that adorable, she did that asterix] couple of weeks down in Tassie and for the first time since last Thurs (when the bushfires started) you’ve made me hungry.
I promised her I’d post the recipes that night and then promptly fell into a codeine induced coma (until I woke up and read from about 1am to 4am because I AM READING AGAIN, thank you Nexus table that I got for my 40th!). Nice work Kim, bring someone traumatised back to the table, make promises and then leave them hungry.
So here we go, a day late but here. A dinner for hot summer nights.
Lime and mint chicken
1kg chicken thighs, cut into strips (depending on how big they are)
1 lime, cut into rough wedges which you then, using your hands, squeeze the juice out of over the chicken and then add the rinds to the bowl
couple of garlic cloves you’ve just smashed with the side of a knife so you can lose the skins
handful of sprigs of mint you’ve roughly torn up or chopped
pinch of salt, couple of turns of the pepper grinder and a few lugs of olive oil
Get your hands in there and smoosh it all together then let it marinate for as long as you’ve got – I gave it a couple of hours in a rare moment of foresight.
Cook on the bbq until done.
I have no idea if this salad is an Australian invention. It smacks of something that Americans would go giddy over and I really don’t want it to be something this country can claim ownership of. It is NOT in the league of the lamington, the pavlova or the ANZAC biscuit although granted it is just as addictive.
It’s officially called Chang’s Noodle Salad I call it The Bogan Salad because COME ON, the ONLY salad ingredient in this is the wombok cabbage. There are shallots in it as well but let’s face it, that we’re listing that as evidence it is a salad is evidence THIS IS NOT A SALAD. What it is is a vehicle for fried noodles, toasted nuts and a dressing made of a LOT of oil, sugar and some more oil.
Hence, bogan salad.
1/2 wombok cabbages, finely shredded
125g packed slivered almonds, toasted
4 shallots, finely sliced
1 packet Chang’s fried noodles
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
2tbsp soy sauce
2tsp sesame oil
Combine the “salad” ingredients in a bowl
Combine the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake until the sugar is dissolved. Don’t try to see if you can reduce the sugar amounts or the oil, just embrace it for what it is and don’t make it every day.
Combine and eat until your head falls off.
Jamie Oliver’s quick pickled cucumber salad
Now, there’s a cucumber salad in the same vein in both Jamie’s 30-minute and his 15-minute meals books. The 30-minute meal one is better and this is the recipe from that book.
1 telegraph cucumber that you’ve peeled into ribbons using a vegetable peeler
a thumb size piece of ginger, about 2cm – although use less depending on your love of ginger
3tbsp olive oil (I don’t bother with this at all anymore)
1tbsp soy sauce
1tsp sesame oil
fresh red chilli – if you want to
Mix the dressing stuff together – and have a taste – add a bit more soy or lime depending on how it tastes. I tend to hold back on the ginger and then add more if it needs it.
Just before you’re going to sit down to eat, toss the ribbons of cucumber in the dressing and sprinkle with coriander all fancy like.
Check out my buns
Jamie Oliver’s 15-minute meals coconut buns
OK, I have to fess up. Someone posted a pic of these on Instagram the night before and all of the above was made basically so I could make – and eat – these. Offering up these little puppies shifts a pretty tasty but fairly normal dinner in this house to fancy, fancy, fancy, f-fancy. And look, I know I say these things are a snap and those of you less comfortable in the kitchen roll your eyes and say on the inside, like I’m ever going to make that.
You need to make these. They’re not that coconutty which I found disappointing. I suspect it’s because he uses light coconut milk but I’m really just guessing. Next time I am contemplating putting a few drops of coconut essence in as well. We shall see.
Now, Jamie whips the dough up in a food processor which is just madness. I LOVE my food processor but hate having to wash it up with a passion I normally reserve for Mythbusters. It’s a ridiculous avoidance-inducing hatred because really, it’s not that hard to wash up. I think it’s a shape thing. Let’s file this under #notsane and not mention it again.
Basically the dough is a SNAP – very similar to that I use for the spring onion (or shallots) pancakes and you can whip it up by hand in minutes without having to wash up weird food processor bowls and lids with funnels. They’re doughy – you’re going to tear a bit off, whack a bit of chicken on it with a piece of gingery vinergary cucumber and forget that it’s still 38C at 7:30pm.
400ml tin of lite coconut milk
2 tinfuls of SR flour
pinch of salt
Combine everything until it comes together and knead it slightly until it’s smooth. This is not like a bread or pizza dough, I’m talking like a minute or two. In hindsight I probably could have kneaded mine for a minute or two longer but seriously, COCONUT BUNS!
Roll it into a log, cut it into 8 pieces and roll them into balls.
Place each one inside 2 muffin cases then in an Asian steamer – I didn’t have muffin cases so just bunged them in the steamer that I’d lined with baking paper. Worked a charm.
Then steam them for about 7-8 minutes. You’ll know if they’re done by just pulling them apart slightly and seeing if they’re cooked or still doughy.
It actually feels criminal calling that a recipe.
So there you have it. The perfect dinner for hot summer nights.
*only ever purchased in the holidays and this time around conveniently on special. At last count I think we’d gone through eight boxes.
Thursday’s radio spot saw me veer away from the sweets (quelle horror!) to show a steady course to one of my go-to one pan roasts. The big tip here is to have a rare moment of organisation when you buy your chicken pieces. Throw them in a snap-lock bag with the marinade before poping them in the freezer. It means on the night you’re going to have it all you need do is defrost the chicken, toss with the potatoes and roast. As my friend Beth says, BANG.
One pot wonder
1kg chicken pieces (drumsticks, wings, pieces that are on the bone)
one lemon, cut into chunks
few lugs olive oil
a handful mix of fresh herbs (eg tarragon, sage, parsley, thyme)
4 garlic cloves, slightly crushed but skins still on
one onion, cut into chunks
heaped dessert spoon of dijon mustard
good pinch of salt and a healthy grind of pepper
6 potatoes, cut into wedges
Combine the chicken with the marinade in a bowl or large snap-lock back and combine thoroughly
Marinate for a long as you’ve got – ideally a couple of hours at least
Preheat your oven to 180C
Tip the chicken pieces and potatoes into a baking dish and toss together, add a few more lugs of olive oil if everything’s not getting nicely coated with the marinade. You could probably sprinkle over some more salt and pepper here as well.
Bake for about an hour or until everything is nice and golden with some crispy bits and charred bits and basically a pan of ridiculous goodness.
The boys ADORE sushi. Going to sushi train for us is ex.pen.sive. Up there with yum cha in that they have NO off switch. Still – I reconcile their addiction with the fact they’re relatively easy to make at home and fall into the “really good for you” category.
The unspoken simply expected rule in this house is that I will make fried chicken to go in the rolls. I could pretty much fry anything and the boys would eat it but MY GOODNESS put some fried strips of chicken in front of them and it’s like twilight at the watering hole.
I’ll give you a quite guide to the fried chicken:
- marinate it in some teriyaki or soy and it lifts the flavour very nicely
- get a little station set up with a bowl of POTATO starch (have to have to have to use this – it is THE flour to use when it comes to frying stuff if you want a cripsy outer shell. Yes cornflour will work but it’s not the same), a bowl of lightly beaten eggs, a bowl of your crumb of choice. In the picture below I just used packet breadcrumbs (I know, I know. I even HAD homemade breadcrumbs in the freezer but in this case a fine crumb works best) but they really are in a different league if you use panko crumbs. My local supermarket doesn’t stock them. It irritates me.
- Get your wok all fired up and pour in enough oil to come up the sides and give the chicken room to move once you start cooking. Now here’s another COMPLETE revelation to me thanks to Ruth at Gourmet Girlfriend – Rice Bran Oil. It has REVOLUTIONISED my frying capabilities and basically eradicated my fear of the fry. It has a much higher smoking point which means stuff cooks better in it without burning the outside and being raw inside, I think.
And I must say here – frying is not the healthiest option in the universe, but in making this chicken when I drain the oil out of the wok afterwards it is obvious that the amount of oil absorbed by the chicken is minimal.
- Make a lot of chicken in one go. Yes it is time consuming but it means you will have left-overs for lunches and/or dinner the next day. I file this under ‘winning’.
So, you’ve got your chicken which you’re going to slice into thinner strips and all your other fillings – carrot, cucumber, shallots, baby corn, capsicum, whatever takes your fancy.
4 cups rice
1 litre water
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
4tblsp caster sugar
Mix the rice wine vinegar, caster sugar and salt together and set aside.
Rinse the rice until the water runs clear the place in a saucepan with the water. Bring it to the boil and once you see little tunnels in the rice appear and most of the water is absorbed turn the heat right down, put the lid on and steam for 10 minutes. Then take off the heat, keep the lid on and let it sit for another 5 minutes.
Tip the rice into a shallow tray and pour over the vinegar mixture. Keep turning the rice to ensure it’s all covered and to cool the rice down.
rolled up goodness
So now you’re going to take your seaweed sheet and spread rice over most of the sheet. Leave a small line at the end which is handy for when you roll it up. Don’t be stingy with the rice and don’t overload either – you’ll work it out.
Then choose your fillings and lie them in a row across the rice about 1/3 of the way from the bottom. Don’t go crazy – one single width of each filling if you’re using a variety, a few more if just going with one.
Take the bottom of the roll and then turn over the filling – don’t stress about this step, you’ll be using your fingertips to keep the fillings in place as your palms and thumbs pull the seaweed sheet over them.
You want the roll to be nice and tight so when you eat it it doesn’t fall apart.
But you know what? If it falls apart it is OK. You’ll get more adept at it with each roll.
And there you have it – you made your own sushi! Serve with a little dipping dish of soy, some wasabi, pickled ginger and a cup of delicate Japanese green tea.
Get onto it will you?
OH, other things that you can make to round the meal out: