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Star of the week: zucchini (supporting roll: chicken)

Star of the week: zucchini (supporting roll: chicken)


A new tradition is born: “Vegetable of the Week”!

The other day, my sister and I decided that we would introduce more vegetables to our own and our family’s diet. Not that we eat unhealthily, but with the weather getting cold and the craving for comfort food  is setting in, it is becoming tempting to see vegetables as colourful decoration on a plate of protein and carb.

So we decided to launch the “Vegetable of the Week”. The idea is that EVERY week we pick a vegetable that we will both prepare AT LEAST ONCE THAT week. Also we will share our recipes with each other so that we can choose to cook the other’s recipe or to prepare a different dish. It’s as simple as that.

This recipe seemed to me to be the perfect kick-off.
You must understand, our pact is not about chewing on more raw carrots, it is about introducing more veg into our regular everyday eating routines. And what better start than a common meat dish that replaces some of the meat with vegetable.

Without further ado……. I present to you …….the first “Vegetable of the Week” (drum roll):
Zucchini (in chicken meatballs)

This recipe ticks all the boxes: it has a fabulously healthy vegetable playing the central role, it is ever so tasty (the zucchini adds amazing moisture to the meatballs), it is quick and easy to prepare and did I already say: it is tasty! A recipe by Ottolenghi (whom I have raved about
before – socca, lentil with celeriac).

You could make this dish using ready-ground chicken mince. But I prefer using boneless chicken thighs and blitzing them in my food processor (chicken breast would also work well, although it has a little less flavour).

There must be an endless amount of side dishes you can serve these tasty little morsels with: some pita bread and a little salad. Add some pulses and fold them into mung bean wraps or go all veggie and prepare some cauli tabouleh and steamed green beans.

300 IMG_4618
Ingredients
(adapted from Ottolenghi’s ‘Jerusalem’and inspired by the blog ‘The Iron in You’)
About 20-25 meatballs

1 large (or 2 small) zucchini (courgette)
1 medium onion, finely
500g organic boneless chicken thighs (or chicken breast or ground chicken)
2 tbs mint (you cannot skip the mint! J )
2 tbs parsley
2 egg whites (or 1 large egg)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp pepper
1 tsp turmeric (optional)

Recipe

  1. Preheat oven to 200C (400F).
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Chop the mint and parsley.
  4. If you have a food processor: use the grating disk to shred your zucchini and onion. Insert the chopping blade. Cut the chicken into chunks and together with the chopped herbs, egg white and seasoning. Blitz just long enough for the mix to come together. Do not overwork.
  5. No food processor: Chop the chicken meat finely. Grate the zucchini and onion finely. Combine with the chopped herbs, egg and seasoning.
  6. Using a spoon drop meatballs onto the baking sheet (the mixture will be rather moist compared to traditional meatballs)
  7. Place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes. Check them once in a while as you want them cooked, but only just done so they stay moist. (Usually they will flatten out a little instead of staying perfect little balls – but believe me: the flavour will make up for that)


Serve with

Some of the health benefits

  • Depending on the size, one meatball has just 28.5 calories, with almost no fat (0.3 grams), just 1 grams of carbs and an outstanding 5.3 grams of protein.
  • Zucchini is one of the very low calorie veg – 17cal per 100g (nutrition and you)
  • It is a very good source of potassium, an important intra-cellular electrolyte. Potassium is a heart friendly electrolyte and helps bring the reduction in blood pressure and heart rates by countering pressure-effects of sodium.(nutrition and you)
  • A source of magnesium which like vitamin C protects your tissues from harmful free radicals. It supports the function of glycosyltransferases, a family of proteins that promote healthy bone tissue development. Manganese also helps your body produce collagen essential for efficient wound healing. Each cup of chopped zucchini boasts 0.22 milligram of manganese. This provides 12 and 10 percent of the Institute of Medicine’s recommended daily intake for women and men, respectively. (livestrong)
  • High in fiber
  • Beta carotene
  • Potassium
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Earthy, rich winter flavours

Earthy, rich winter flavours


It is cold and rainy outside and I am craving comforting food. But none of my go-to dishes from the last months will do – they are all to light and summery.

So on a whim I bought some duck breast. It has a more distinct and earthy flavour than chicken  at the same time it is just as lean and healthy (that is if you remove the skin).

Next I hunted for a recipe. I found one that combined all that I was looking for: rich and nutty flavours – nutritious and healthy ingredients. The result was an amazingly satisfying and soothing meal.

I will confess I have made this dish three times in as many weeks. The first time it seemed a little complex;  with all those pots and pans. But by the third time I was sitting down to eat in little over half an hour.

Ingredients
(Recipe based on the blog savory simple)
Serves 2

1 large or 2 small duck breast
2 shallot (or small onion)
2 cloves of garlic
1 cup of lentils
2 cups of vegetable or chicken stock (twice the volume of the lentils)
1 sprig of thyme (or a pinch of dried thyme)
200g of frozen kale (you can use fresh kale but I will admit I prefer frozen for this recipe)
60ml water
salt, back pepper
250g (chestnut) mushrooms


Recipe

  1. Bring the duck breast to room temperature (about 30 minutes).
  2. Start by chopping the shallots. Slowly fry them in a small pot until translucent.
  3. Once cooked place half of the shallots in a second small pot.
  4. Rinse the lentils and add to one of the pots.
  5. Add the chicken stock to the lentils.
  6. Throw in one whole clove of garlic.
  7. Add the (sprig of ) thyme. Cover and cook until the lentils are tender. About 20 minutes. (The lentils will stay warm for quite a while so there is no need to try and time everything exactly.)
  8. Take the second pot with shallots and add the kale to it.
  9. Mince one clove of garlic and add to the kale. Cover with a lid and cook until tender. 7-10 minutes. Once cooked you can let it stand until the remaining dishes are ready. You can quickly reheat it if necessary.
  10. Heat a frying pan (no oil!)
  11. Score the skin of the duck from left to right and top to bottom a few times into a diamond pattern.
  12. Season with salt and pepper.
  13. Place the duck breast skin side down into the pan and cook on a medium heat for 6 minutes. Turn and cook for another 4 minutes. Wrap the duck in aluminum foil and allow to rest.
  14. Cut the mushrooms into slices. Wipe the fat from the frying pan. Fry the mushrooms quickly until just tender.
  15. Now taste and season the mushrooms, kale and lentils with salt and pepper.
  16. Optional: remove the skin from the duck (as tasty as it is I remove it as I do not want the additional fat).
  17. Cut the duck breast into slices.
  18. Serve by layering lentils, kale, mushroom and duck on a plate.

 

Tender coconut chicken with fresh herbs and a hint of heat

A wonderful little appetizer that is quick to put together but looks stunning on any dinner party table. Lovely for a summer celebration or an Asian feast. This time however it was the third salad I made for my Thanksgiving appreciation of ALL – the sea, the earth and the sky.

Ingredients
(based on a Donna Hay’s recipe from ‘Instant Entertaining’)
Serves 4-6

about 6-8 wonton cups
2 chicken breast
about 1 can of coconut milk
1 chili
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tsp fish sauce
2 tsp Muscovado sugar (or other brown sugar)
35g mint
40g coriander
a few leaves of basil

Recipe
1. Slice the chicken breast down the center into two large thin pieces.
2. Gently heat the coconut milk. Add the chicken and poach 10-12 minutes until tender. Allow to cool.
3. Deseed and chop chili.
4. Combine with lime juice and fish sauce. Set aside.
5. Chop the fresh herbs. Combine the meat, dressing and herbs.
6. When you are ready to serve spoon the filling into the wonton cups.

Tips & Variations
• Instead of serving the chicken in a wonton cup you can also shallow fry a sheet of wonton in some oil, allow to drain and use it as a “cracker”.
• The original recipe uses plaincooked chicken. If I am making this dish from scratch I prefer poaching the chichen in coconut milk – but if you have some chicken leftovers this is a great recipe for using them up.

Chicken Wings Smothered in Raspberry Marinade

Succulent and tasty Chicken with Raspberries.  It takes only a few minutes to make the marinade, yet it tastes and looks as if you spent hours slaving over the stove.

This dish is perfect for feeding a crowd: it can be prepared in advance and you can cook several baking sheets at the same time.

Granted this dish is not light on the sugar – because of the amount of jam this recipe asks for I would suggest using a good jam with no extra added sugar.

 

Ingredients
(from the blog “the Greedy Gourmet”)
Serves 4-6 as a main meal

375ml (1½ cups) seedless (no sugar added) raspberry jam (didn’t find any; so I passed regular jam through a sieve)
80ml (1/3 cup) balsamic vinegar
45ml (3 tbsp) soy sauce
a generous amount of chili flakes
1 – 1,5 kg chicken knuckles (NL: kluiven) or drumsticks (about 8-10)
fresh raspberries
(optional fresh mint for decoration)

 

Recipe

  1. Preheat the oven to 140C/285F.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the jam, vinegar, soy sauce and pepper over medium heat. Stir until smooth. (Optional: marinate the chicken over night.)
  3. Cover a large baking dish with greaseproof paper.
  4. Place chicken and marinade in oven dish.
  5. Bake for 20 (knuckles) – 30 (drumsticks) minutes.
  6. Turn the chicken pieces. Increase the temperature to 180C/350F.
  7. Bake for an additional 20 minutes. Check the chicken regularly and turn if it dries too much.
  8. Let the chicken rest before serving.
  9. Decorate with raspberries and mint.

 

Serve with

Other pink foods for a baby shower (recipes will be posted over the next few days):

Small flavour packed Chicken Meatballs

Chicken meatballs are a lighter alternative for pork or beef meatballs. The challenge with chicken meatballs is getting them moist and full of flavour.

Using thigh meat results in a more juicy result. (Unfortunately I do not have a meat grinder so I take the time to chop mine by hand). The flavours in this recipe are a combination of the light taste of spinach and the powerful punch of feta and fennel seeds. The fennel seeds have a strong anis taste that can easily be overpowering. An alternative is to serve the meatballs with a side like Spelt Yoghurt Flatbread and adding the fennel to the bread.

And a big thank you to my dear friend LS for providing the day-light for this picture – what a fabulous discovery that my birthday gift, a  wake-up lamp, not only makes me wake up gently. It also helps me take pictures of my food when it is dark outside.

 

Ingredients
4 servings

500g (1 pound) chicken thigh meat (you could replace with chicken breast or chicken mince, but typically this will result in dry meat balls)
1 tbsp chopped parsley
3 tbsp finely chopped spinach
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
3/4 tsp fennel seeds
40g (1/4 cup) feta cheese crumbles

Recipe

  1. Chop or grind the meat.
  2. Mix all of the ingredients together and form the meat into balls. 
  3. Lightly coat a pan with olive oil and heat it over medium heat.  Cook the meatballs for several minutes on each side until they are nicely browned.  Then turn the heat to low and cover the pan to allow the meatballs to cook all the way through. Do not cook the meat balls any longer than necessary as they will dry out very quickly.

Tips & Variations

  • Add a little garlic powder


Serve with

 

Simple and Special: Roast Quail


Such a simple dish, yet so impressive. A few quails seasoned with herb butter and roast in the oven . That is all it takes to put a stunning main course on the table.

I served this delicate spring time dish as part of dinner party celebrating lent. (Actually I also served this dish in the middle of winter to celebrate the Christmas season, but let’s keep that to ourselves).

 

Ingredients
(only slightly adapted from the recipe found on the blog zap)
Serves 4


For the herb butter:
40g butter
2 tsp thyme leaves
2 tsp picked rosemary
1 garlic clove
salt, pepper

For the quail:

4 quails, cleaned, rinsed, pat dry
1 lemon
4 sprigs of thyme
2 sprigs of rosemary
(garlic) oil
salt, pepper

Recipe

First prepare the herb butter. You can do this in advance, even the day before.

  1. Finely chop the herbs and garlic.
  2. Mix well with butter.
  3.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Next prepare the quail. It should not sit for too long before being cooked but you can prepare this slightly in advance.

  1. Using your fingers make little pockets under the skin of the quails ‘breasts.
  2. Set about ¼ of the butter t the side. Spread the remaining butter evenly under the skin.
  3. Cut the lemon into four wedges.
  4. Stuff the lemon and herb twigs into the bird. Leave the ends of the twigs sticking out so you can remove them (You can also tie together the herbs with some kitchen string).
  5. Tie the legs together with kitchen string.
  6. Place the quails in a roasting tin. Brush with oil.
  7. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. 

To kook

  1. Heat the oven to 200C (95F).
  2. Roast the quail for about 15-25 minutes the thickest part is 70C (160F). The juices should run clear but the meat is allowed to be a little pink.
  3. Remove from the oven and wrap in tin foil. Allow to rest for about 10 minutes.
  4. Remove herbs and lemon and serve.

Serve with

  • Pea Quenelles
  • Potato Gratin

Eating with your hands is always fabulous. So is assembling your own meal at the table. This makes burritos a great meal for a family dinner or relaxed evening with friends.

Do not fall in the trap of believing that this is a complicated meal for which you need ready made taco seasoning – make your own burrito filling from scratch. It’s simple really.

Chicken Burrito Filling - lean and flavourful

Ingredients
4 servings

1 tbsp olive oil
500g lean ground turkey or chicken (I tend to chop up some chicken thighs)
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small zucchini, diced
1 small red capsicum (bell pepper), diced
200g cherry tomatoes, quartered (or 5 tomatoes, peeled and deseeded)
1/2 tablespoon (smoked) paprika
1/4 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
120 ml water
Pinch of salt

Recipe

  1. Heat the oil in a skillet and brown the meat.
  2. Once browned add onion, garlic, zucchini, capsicum. Cook until the vegetables are tender.
  3. Add tomato, spices and water.
  4. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for about 10 minutes.
  5. Season with salt.

 

Serve with