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!

 

 

 

Recipe: Dukka-Marinated Chicken in Laffa, with Baba Ghanoush and Hummus

One of the great things about the weekend is taking the time out to do the lazy, relaxed activities you normally only treat yourself too. Like a morning spent strolling around the farmers market and enjoying a boozy brunch with a friend. Part of my swag from the market was an armful of beautiful fresh mint and parsley, and since I’ve been planning this meal for a few days, I thought I’d try it out this weekend.

I love fusion cuisine – no, really. I love the idea of finding a common ingredient, method or dish found across cultures, and combining that. I love the philosophy behind that, of breaking down the barriers between our cultures. Food can help you see how much we share, rather than what separates us.

Two of my favourite cuisines are Middle Eastern and Mediterranean, and I realise we’re talking about two continents now rather than countries but just go with it. I wanted to create something creamy, fresh and tasty, with layers of flavour.

I enjoy making my own spice mixes, since I find the remade ones contain far too much salt, or the balance isn’t to my taste. Dukka is an Egyptian spice mix, using roasted spices, nuts and herbs ground together. Everyone has their own recipe, but I really enjoy adding extra nuts to mine. I love the crunchiness you can get out of it.

Baba ghanoush is another classic but often ruined, I find, by too much tahini, and nowhere near enough smokiness. I took Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe (because he’s basically a genius) and adjusted it to my kitchen, patience and the availability of certain ingredients. I made the most of having a gas stove to do this, but you should use the grill setting on your oven if you don’t have one, rather than roasting the aubergines. It makes a huuuuuuge difference.

I then marinated some chicken breasts in a spiced yoghurt for around 24 hours. The longer you leave it of course, the juicier they’re going to get. I picked up some thick and fluffy laffa breads from the hummus place around the corner and made the two dips.

I also really love making a meal with lots of elements that can be combined in different ways. Open a packet of chips and those dips are suddenly a fantastic post-work snack. That chicken could easily be served cool with mayo in a sandwich. I did this. The cold chicken is also awesome in a cold salad, with an extra tablespoon (OK, a few tablespoons) of the baba ghanoush and as much rocket as you can stuff into your lunchbox. Yuuuuum

So anyway, here’s the recipe!

For the dukka chicken:

3 tbsp dukka spice mix*

2 medium sized chicken breasts (around 300g)

1 cup yoghurt

2 tsp sumac

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp oregano

2 tsp tahini*

Mix all the marinade ingredients together and season to taste. Add or adjust these ingredients as you like, then add the chicken. I sliced them into long thin strips, so they would be easy to assemble in a wrap, and also quick to cook. Leave to marinate in the fridge for at least an hour, and ideally overnight.

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Tahini:

Dry-roast a cup of sesame seeds in a frying pan, keeping them moving regularly to avoid them burning. When they’re a lovely golden brown, remove and add to your chopper or food processor. Pulse until the oil is released and the mixture comes together well, then slowly add good quality extra virgin olive oil in small portions until you get the consistency you like. Store in an airtight container, at room temperature. The toasting of the sesame seeds and the amount of oil are completely subjective. I like to take the seeds almost to the edge and keep the olive oil minimal, so I get a really well-rounded, bitter sesame flavour.

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Dukka: 

Dry-roast 1/2 cup nuts of your choice (I used a mixture of hazelnuts and pistachios), 1/2 cup coriander seeds, 1 tsp fennel seeds and 3 tbsp cumin seeds until fragrant. Remove and allow to cool slightly before pulsing with 1 tsp black peppercorns, 1 tsp dried mint leaves and 1/2 tsp salt. Then add the sesame seeds and store in an airtight container once cool.

Baba Ghanoush

Over a gas flame, grill two large aubergines, regularly turning them with tongs, or using the stalk as a handle. The best advice I was given about this step – “you’ll think the aubergines are done, because they’re soft and toasty. They’re not, keep going.” The only thing to be aware of is the open flame, and to not let one side overcook. I spent about 15 minutes grilling each aubergine.

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You could then wrap them – carefully, they’ll be burning hot and very soft! – in foil and bake them in a pre-heated oven (200C) for about 25 minutes, just to make sure they’re fantastically soft.

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Remove them from the wrappers, chop the flesh and allow the bitter juices to drain out, using a colander. Depending on how smoky you like the baba ghanoush, you could leave some of the charred skin on. I did! While the aubergine is draining, mix a handful of flatleaf parsley, 2 tbsp tahini, 3 cloves of garlic, a large handful of spearmint and 2 tsp salt in a food processor. Add the aubergines, and lemon juice to taste to balance out the flavours. Scoop into a bowl and add a small handful of mint leaves, thinly sliced.

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To make the sandwiches

The next day, toast laffa or a thick flatbread of your choice in a pan, and grill the chicken. The pan should be hot, and the chicken should sizzle as soon as it hits the pan. When you get beautiful dark brown char marks on your chicken, cook the other side.

Spread the laffa on your plate, and smooth a tablespoon of hummus and a tablespoon of baba ghanoush on your wrap. Using these as the base, layer the chicken on top in one layer, then add crumbled feta on top and any fresh herbs or salad leaves of your choosing. You could also add some more dukka mix or some nuts to give it a great textural contrast. Roll it up and enjoy!

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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!