Recipe: Chicken Stock

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I always used to find making your own stock a huge hassle, and it still takes me a while to get psyched enough to spend hours tasting and adding ingredients. But when you’ve got bones from a leftover meal hanging around, it just seems wasteful to throw them away. Then I discovered the joys of a Dutch oven. Hallelujah! So here’s my recipe for a basic, European-style chicken stock.

Ingredients – makes 2L stock

Bones from one whole chicken, or any amount of bones you have to hand. I normally use about 750kg of bones and leftovers for this. You could even use leftover chicken meat for this, though I’d say that’s better kept for an amazing cold sandwich!

Leftover chicken skin, or wings/neck clipped by your butcher. Mine trims it down for me, so I keep these bits and any extra skin he trims off.

Vegetable peels (save these up over a week or two, mostly from onions, garlic, carrots and other soup-y vegetables)

2 large onions, sliced

1/2 head garlic, roughly chopped

6 sticks celery, roughly chopped

3 large carrots, roughly chopped

Fresh herbs of your choice – I normally use bay, thyme, oregano and a little parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

 

In a large saucepan (or Dutch oven), start by caramelising the chicken skin over a low heat. Extract all the fat, and this lends a wonderful flavour to the entire stock. Throw in all the scraps of skin and once they’re crisped, you can either leave it in or snack on them!

Add the chicken bones to the fat, to caramelise them as well. You could alternatively roast the bones in your oven with the vegetables, but this way you keep all the flavour in one pan. The bones should sizzle nicely, and when you smell the flavour getting deeper, add the vegetable peels and the vegetables as well, and sauté for a minute or so.

Add enough cold water to completely cover your bones and vegetables – in my pan, it’s about 3L. Add an extra litre of water than the amount of stock you want at the end, so there’s enough room for it to cook down and absorb all the flavours. The important part is to keep your bones completely submerged, so adjust amounts accordingly.

Bring to a boil, and turn it down to a simmer. At this point, you’ll start seeing some scum appearing at the top – just use a slatted spoon to get rid of it. This should ensure that your stock is clear and free of impurities, since the congealed proteins rise to the top along with unnecessary fat.

Keep it at a simmer, and keep pouring the scum out. Add the herbs once you’ve got rid of most of the scum, and keep the stock at a simmer.

Check it regularly for seasoning – about every 15 minutes, but add the salt only when it’s about 90% done. For some reason, adding salt too early can make stock too bitter, so I’ve found this is the best way for me to do it. Add herbs, vegetables and other seasonings as you’d like at this point.

Tip: I flavour stocks for different cuisines at this point, adding soy sauce and Shaoxing rice vinegar for a Chinese stock; lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and palm sugar for a Thai stock; chillies, oregano and pepper for a Mexican broth, etc. Experiment with your favourite cuisines and flavours to customise your own stock!

Once it’s almost ready, add the salt and taste it one final time. When you’re happy with it, pass it through a fine sieve and then leave it to cool completely. It should be clear and shiny, and taste like a dream. You can either use it immediately, or freeze it for later (be sure to label it with the date and the type of stock). Enjoy!

 

 

 

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Recipe – Tortilla Española

I had my family over for brunch this weekend, for my dad’s birthday (I’m more than a little obsessed with brunch) and I put out a Spanish-themed spread. The key feature was a Spanish tortilla. We had a rather disappointing one about a month ago, without any potatoes so it was basically an omelette with nice things in it. Nothing wrong with that, but it made me really crave the Real Deal.

One of my favourite parts about brunch, besides having people over obviously, is preparing and planning the menu for it. I did as much preparation the night before so I could just roll out of bed, tidy the flat and get the last bits together. I learned this recipe from the head chef of the hotel we stayed in during a staff retreat to Spain a few years ago. We all took a sangria-fuelled tapas cooking class, which was as amazing as it sounds.

The key, I discovered, was in the onions – cooked extremely slowly, in minimal oil or butter, and for a long time, so they release their own juices and become an incredibly soft, sweet, caramel brown. And, as the chef taught us, ‘no fear’ when it comes to the flipping. Let it be known that I cannot even flip a crepe to save my life, so this was going to be a challenge.

The potatoes should be slightly cooked, just enough that when they’re assembled in the tortilla and cook further, the end result is layers of thinly-sliced, cooked potatoes which still hold their shape.

And to prevent the tortilla from getting too heavy, move the egg mixture around a little before it sets, allowing more air into it. We were also taught that there’s no sense in keeping it neat and clean – no need to layer the potatoes and onions either. Mix it all up, cook it in a pan, abandon fear and keep flipping it. Easy. Ahem.

Recipe!

4 white onions, halved and thinly sliced

2 medium potatoes, sliced about 0.5 cm thick

5 eggs

200ml milk or cream

salt and pepper to taste

Slowly cook the onions for as long as you can, in a frying pan or the oven, in just about enough oil to prevent them sticking, and with the tiniest pinch of salt to encourage the juices to come out and cook the onions. When they’re a beautiful caramel and almost jam-like, remove and allow to cool. You could do this the night before, as I did.

Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl, and heat a frying pan with a little olive oil and butter. When it’s medium-hot, add the mixture and shake the pan to make sure the potatoes are flat.

Here’s another ‘secret trick’: use a spatula to move the mixture around a little, creating swirls and whirls at the bottom of the pan. This gets air into the tortilla and helps keep it nice and light.

When the bottom is cooked and the top starts to cook, it’s time to flip. No fear. No fear.

No fear.

No. Fear.

Stop hyperventilating, you’re going to be fine.

Invert a plate over the pan, and quickly and with a fluid and confident flick – DO NOT CLOSE YOUR EYES – flip the tortilla over. It may be messy, but just roll with it. Apparently it’s all part of the fun, and you can reshape the thing anyway. Don’t wince. It’s going to be OK.

Use your spatula to make sure all the tortilla is actually in the pan, and round out the edges for the trademark tortilla look. When both sides are a beautiful golden brown, it’s ready to eat.

One of the great things about a good tortilla is that it’s great hot or cold. I served it with a green salad and tangy citrus vinaigrette, which cut through the creamy richness of the tortilla.

Enjoy!

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Recipe: Anna’s Moelleux au Chocolat

Earlier this week, a new colleague joined our team from Brussels, so I thought it only fitting that her welcome cake be French (as is she), made with Belgian dark chocolate. Enter moelleux au chocolat, the greatest chocolate cake in existence.

I didn’t time myself, but from start to finish it lasts roughly one ‘Gilmore Girls’ episode – so roughly 40 minutes. I also have a tendency to keep rewinding funny scenes, so make it a clean hour to account for Lorelai Gilmore’s fantastic wit and timing…

Anyway. The cake.

I bought some beautiful dark chocolate – 80% – from Leonidas in Brussels, using beans grown organically in Ivory Coast. I accidentally kept munching on chocolate as I cooked. Part of the chef’s perks, I guess.

I’ve seen many recipes where it’s made in a sort of soufflé tin, and that’s lovely too since you get an extra gooey centre. But I much prefer moelleux au chocolat baked in a cake tin, so it’s almost brownie-like in consistency, and this way is a lot more communal. Plus, I don’t have that many soufflé tins.

The batter was enough for one and a half tins, so I had a smaller portion alllllllll to myself. This is best served warm, straight out of the oven or reheated just before heating.

200g dark chocolate – at least 70%

200g butter – cold, cubed. I used lightly salted French butter, so if you use unsalted be sure to add half a teaspoon of salt

225g sugar (if you have measuring cups like I do, it’s a lot easier since you need a cup of each!)

5 medium eggs, at room temperature

1 tbsp cornflour or plain flour

Optional: 1 tsp ground coffee, or 1 espresso

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a bain marie. You could do this in a microwave of course, but I find this is a much better way to control the temperature, and a much better way to temper the chocolate. Add the coffee, if you’re using it, at this point.

When both have melted, and while it’s still warm, beat the sugar into the chocolate and butter. Leave for about five minutes – this isn’t intentional. I got completely distracted and had to control my hysterics because Rory Gilmore was losing her shit at her therapist. I cannot get enough of the way she says ‘coffee cart’!

When the mixture has cooled a little, beat the eggs into the mixture one at a time.

Carefully fold in the flour, and then tip into cake or pie tins.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for about 20 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Try and resist cutting into it right away, but definitely enjoy as soon as possible!

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Recipe: Swiss Chard Rolls with Satay Dipping Sauce 

I made these last night for dinner and despite my skepticism that they’d be filling, they were just perfect!

I saw a few recipes for similar rolls on Pinterest, but none that I really loved, so I thought I’d just add my favourite fillings.

It’s incredibly fresh-tasting, light and healthy, but also felt like I was eating proper food! The dipping sauce helped a lot with that. I wanted to create a fusion of the fresh Mediterranean flavours I love and the complex layers of Indonesia, and this matched so well! The tartness boldness of the dip was a perfect contrast to the clean, fresh rolls.

This is technically raw food, which is much better for health, especially for a dinner, but it tastes a lot more substantial than some of the other raw food you normally see.

It’s a bit fiddly to fill the rolls properly and roll them up well, and I discovered that my filling may have been a bit too liquidy, so next time I’ll add more couscous or vegetables.

Here’s what you need to make about ten rolls (enough for dinner and a snack the next day):

10 Swiss chard leaves, stems still intact

1 cup cooked couscous

3 small radishes, julienned

1 medium carrot, julienned

1/2 cup hummus

2 tomatoes, with the seeds removed (keep these for a sauce or soup), finely diced

1 small red pepper, finely diced

50g soft goats cheese (I used some from a ring of goats cheese coated in pepper)

2 purple spring onions, finely sliced (greens included)

1 tsp salt

1 fresh chilli, finely diced

For the dip: 

2 tbsp peanut butter. This is roughly what I had left in my jar, so I just mixed everything in there and there was loads of dip leftover!

1 tbsp kecap manis (or soy sauce)

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

2 tsp sambal oelek

1 tsp sugar (ideally unrefined cane sugar)

Mix all the ingredients together, and adjust to taste. It should have quite a bold, tangy flavour. You may need to add a little hot water to the dip to loosen it up a bit, depending on its consistency.

 

Start by separating the leaves from the main stem of your Swiss chard. You’ll still need the stalk though, so keep that intact. Ideally, all the leaves would be quite large and free of holes, but I got these at the farmers market so no such luck. At least the bugs that chomped on these have good taste.

Bring a saucepan full of water to the boil, and reduce to a simmer. Blanch the leaves for about two minutes each, with the stems outside the water so you can use them as a handle. Gently remove them once the leaves are soft and pliable but still a beautiful dark green, then gently place on a plate, smooth side down, spreading out the leaves fully.

As you can see, I had a bit of a leaf lottery, but I practiced on the intact leaves and then moved to the Holy (get it…) ones.

While you’re doing this, mix all the ingredients for the filling in a large bowl. You can leave it in the fridge for a while if you’d like, in case the couscous is still warm. It should all be cold when you fill the leaves.

The filling should hold together, but almost have the consistency of mashed potatoes, to make sure the rolls hold their shape. Add more dry ingredients to get the right balance.

When you have it ready, place about a tablespoon and a half of your filling at the base of a leaf, and slightly trim the stalk. Bring the sides of the leaf in, then the stalk, and gently roll towards the tip of the leaf.

To keep the roll intact, I kept the rolls tip-side down as I made the batch, then turned them over for presentation’s sake when I was ready to eat.

Once it’s all ready, you may want to return it to the fridge to allow it to set a little bit more, but they’re basically good to go.

Enjoy!

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Spiced Strawberry Coulis

We had some friends over for brunch this weekend so I took the chance to push the boat out while making something surprisingly easy – ricotta pancakes! I made a spiced coulis to go with it, which took more time than I thought but was so worth it! The ricotta helps keep the pancakes light and fluffy while also providing bags of flavour – which the lemon zest and juice added to. Combined with a star anise-cinnamon strawberry coulis, this was a surprising hit! It took about an hour from start to finish but that included frequent breaks to chat and make tea, so here’s the recipe.

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Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

1.5 cups (192g) flour – I used a combination of wholemeal and plain white

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

pinch salt

1 cup (250ml) milk

3/4 cup (250g) ricotta

3 large eggs

2 tbsp butter, melted

zest and juice of one lemon – roughly 1/4 cup (60ml)

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and set aside. At this point you can also add any powdered spices like nutmeg or cinnamon, which is delicious in the winter.

In a medium bowl, mix together the wet ingredients except for the lemon (easiest with an electric whisk.) The more air bubbles you get in, the fluffier your pancakes will be.

Mix the lemon juice and zest in with the wet ingredients and stir in to the dry ingredients to combine. Don’t over-mix. Leave to sit for about 10-15 mins.

Heat a heavy-based skillet to medium-high heat and melt a little butter. The batter should be quite thick, but liquid enough to pour from a ladle to the pan with ease, so add a splash of milk if it’s too gloopy (a highly technical term, gloopy).

When air bubbles appear on the surface and the bottom turns a beautiful golden brown, turn it over and cook for a further few minutes. Serve warm with a berry coulis or maple syrup (or hell, serve with both!)

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Spiced Strawberry Coulis 

1 cup (250ml) water

1 cup (128g) sugar

2 cups (400g) strawberries, quartered

2 star anise

1-2 sticks cinnamon

In a medium saucepan, heat the sugar, water and spices together until the sugar dissolves. Continue heating until it bubbles gently, then reduce the heat to let the spices infuse. Remove them once the syrup is flavoured to your taste – it took me ten minutes – then add your strawberries. Cook on a high heat until the berries break down a little, then reduce the heat and keep stirring it at a simmer. It will slowly thicken as the berries become softer and softer. Once it’s reached the thickness you like, remove from the heat and strain into a jug or pour into a jug with the berries – which I did, to make life easier. Serve at any temperature because this is delicious!

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Herby Goats Cheese Twists

I love pastry. Flaky, golden, crispy pastry. I also love sharp, tangy, fresh, crumbly goats cheese. I recently had both of those in the fridge at the same time, so I decided to combine them to make a little snack. Who doesn’t find they need a little pick-me-up after work, while they make dinner? And who secretly wishes it could be smothered in beautiful cheese?

Mmmm cheese.

So I decided to make some herby goats cheese twists, to keep in a Tupperware box and slowly and carefully polish off over the course of a week. Let it be on record that this was my intention. I made 20 twists for the two of us to share over the course of a week. That’s plenty, I thought. Besides, both cheese *and* pastry are filling so we’re hardly going to want to stuff our faces before our lovely dinners, right?

They were gone in 2 days. Did I mention these things are damn good? Well, they are. Damn. Good. Make double. Freeze half if you have some restraint. If not, just go nuts, no one will know.

Ingredients

1 cup soft goat cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese grated
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp paprika
2 packages frozen puff pastry defrosted but still quite firm
Egg wash made by beating 1 large egg with 2 tbsp water

340g pack of ready-made puff pastry, defrosted but cold and firm. (Take them out of the freezer, leave in the fridge for a day to get rid of any ice/water, and that’s plenty of time.)

1 handful finely grated Parmesan (or grana padano if it’s the end of the month and you’re itching for payday!)

60g soft goat’s cheese – this can be a mix of French, Danish and Welsh goats cheese. Ask your supermarket’s deli, or your favourite deli, for recommendations of light, tangy, sharp soft goats cheese.

Optional: small handful of sharp, extra-mature cheddar cheese, grated. This should give a nice contrast in texture to the soft goats cheese, so feel free to even use a matured, hard goats cheese.

2 tsp dried oregano

Small handful of fresh oregano and thyme

1-2 tsp paprika or chilli powder

Fresh black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 200C and line a baking tray with paper.

Mix the goats cheeses, seasoning and herbs together in a bowl, until it’s soft and whipped thoroughly. It should be very easily spreadable and as light as you can make it.

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Roll out the puff pastry to about half its thickness, so it’s longer and wider. Cut it in half widthwise.

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Using a butter knife or a sandwich spreader, spread the goats cheese-herb mixture over half the pastry, going all the way to the edges.

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Sprinkle the hard cheese, if using, over the soft goats cheese, and ensure it’s evenly spaced.

Carefully place the other half of the pastry on top of the half with the cheese on it, and press down with your fingers on the edges.

Place on a tray or chopping board and put it in the fridge for about 15-20 minutes to allow the pastry to firm up some more and allow the cheese to set a little more.

Remove from the fridge and using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, slice the pastry into ribbons roughly 1 inch-wide.

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Holding the ribbons on either side, carefully twist it roughly 3-4 times and place on the baking tray. You can also do this by holding one end on the counter and twisting the other. Arrange the twists on the baking tray so there’s a bit of space between them so they don’t stick.

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You can brush the twists with an egg wash if you like – 1 egg, beaten with 2 tsp water. Return to the fridge for roughly 10 minutes, then remove and put it straight in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until they look beautiful, your kitchen smells like a dream and you can take the suspense no longer.


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Remove, wait until they’ve cooled enough to handle and devour. Enjoy!