Category Archives: poultry

Persian Chicken Salad

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Persian Chicken Salad
Don’t you feel that lunch is the most “unloved” meal of the day? We are often far too busy to think about what to eat in the middle of the day. The result is we either get an expensive and often unhealthy takeout or eat the same ol’ boring sandwich. In other words, nothing to write home about.

Well, not all is lost and I’ve got an excellent reason for you to get excited about breaking into your lunchbox again. Persian Chicken Salad is a modern update on the timeless classic. This energy boosting salad made with tender and juicy chicken breasts, crunchy vegetables and black smoky olives and seasoned with yogurt and lime dressing and loads of herbs. It’s especially delicious in a wholewheat pita mixed with a bunch of spinach leaves. So fresh and satisfying!Persian Chicken Salad
Eating it in a pita pocket is so appealing to children! Here is your school lunch sorted.
Persian Chicken Salad

Ingredients: (Serves 4)

  • Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts- 3
  • Olive oil ( for cooking chicken)- 1 tbsp.
  • Salt-1 1/2 tsp.
  • Pepper- 1/2 tsp.
  • Plain Greek Yogurt- 1 cup
  • Mayonnaise (I used low fat)- 1/3 cup
  • Dijon Mustard- 1tbsp.
  • Lime juice- from 2 limes
  • Carrots (grated)- 4 medium
  • English Cucumbers (diced)-2
  • Celery (diced)-2 ribs
  • Frozen petite peas (thawed)-1 cup
  • Red Onion( chopped fine)- 1 small
  • Black Olives (halved and pitted, I used Smoky Moroccan Olives but Kalamata Olives will work as well)- 1/2 cup
  • Flat leaf Parsley(chopped)- 1/3 cup
  • Fresh Basil(chopped)- 1/2 cup
  • Wholewheat pitas-4

Method:

1.  Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and brown your seasoned with salt and pepper chicken breasts on both sides  over medium heat until done, about 5 minutes per side, it might take a couple of minutes longer if your chicken breasts are very thick.  Remove from the pan, let it cool until it’s safe to handle and slice crosswise into bite-sized pieces.

2. In a small bowl mix together yogurt, mayonnaise, mustard, lime juice and remaining salt and pepper. In a large bowl combine together chicken, carrots, cucumbers, celery, peas, onion, olives, parsley and basil and carefully toss together with the dressing.

3. Serve in a pita pocket or on its own for a gluten-free lunch. Persian Chicken SaladPersian chicken salad

Thai Noodle Bowl

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Thai Noodle Bowl
“I would kill!!!! for a noodle bowl but the broth would probably kill me with salt”, my sister Lydia texted me about a week ago. Looks like a text of an overly dramatic girl except that Lydia’s health condition is so serious that every single word in that text is pretty darn close to truth. Due to Type I diabetes her kidneys failed a year before she turned 30 leaving her first, fighting for her life,  then being put on a waiting list for a transplant,  then waiting.  Waiting is a tough business but what makes it even worse is her incredibly restrictive diet, sodium being her mortal nemesis.  Asian food, of course, comes to mind immediately when you think of ‘high sodium” offenders, especially if cooked in a restaurant.

As soon as Lydia mentioned her craving, I had a recipe in mind and I was determined to make it delicious and guilt-free! Thai Noodle Bowl is basically a Chicken Noodle Soup with a Thai twist. It takes 20 minutes to prepare and it gets all the flavour from spices and not MSG. If you are an Asian food lover chances are you have all the ingredients in your fridge already. I certainly did but I am also told by my friends my condiment section is out of control.

Thai Noodle Bowl
Ingredients: (Serves 4)

  • Oil- 1 tbsp.
  • Sesame Oil- 1 tbsp.
  • Onion, diced- 1 medium
  • Celery, diced- 2 ribs
  • Garlic, minced- 4 cloves
  • Lemon grass (I used a pre-made paste from a tube)- 1 tbsp.
  • Chilli powder- 1 tbsp.
  • Dried Chilli flakes- 1/8-1/4 tsp. (to taste)
  • Low-sodium Chicken Broth, pre-made or your own- 6 cups/1.5 litre
  • Canned Crushed Tomatoes- 1 cup
  • Chicken Breast, diced into bite size pieces- 2
  • Fish Sauce (Nam Pla or Nuoc Mam)- 3 tbsp.
  • Cilantro/Coriander leaves- 1 cup
  • Chow Mein Noodles or any other Asian noodles or even spaghettini- 125 gr.
  • Spinach- 150 gr
  • Lime juice- from 1 lime

Method:

  1. In a large pot heat both oils, then add diced onions, celery, minced garlic, lemon grass paste, chilli powder and red chilli flakes and cook until soft over medium heat for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the broth, tomatoes, chicken, fish sauce, cilantro leaves and bring to a boil, simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the noodles to the pot and cook according to package directions, mine took 5 minutes.
  4. Once the noodles are done, stir in spinach leaves and lime juice and take off the heat.

If you think chicken noodle soup is boring and reserved for sick days you will change your mind after trying my recipe.  Thai Noodle Bowl is a vibrant with a hint of spice dish that tastes even better than your favourite restaurant can deliver while you know all the ingredients that went into it.

Thai Noodle Bowl
{Note} The recipe was adapted from Food and Wine Magazine “Quick from scratch one-dish meals”cookbook.

Rosemary Lemon Chicken and Potatoes

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Rosemary Lemon Chicken and Potatoes
Another school year announced itself with the arrival of true British weather-rain, rain and more rain. I am writing this while grieving our canceled park plans and listening to the heavy rain drops pounding on the roof of my conservatory. The message is clear-summer is over.
However, there is a silver lining in all of this. Cosy blankets, great books and delicious autumn food.
Roasted Rosemary Lemon Chicken and Potatoes is a one pot type of dish that never disappoints. The easiest yet the tastiest thing to throw together- no marinade, no countless dishes, everything prepped and done within an hour and, because it uses the cheapest parts of the chicken like thighs and legs, is also economical. No wonder it earned a permanent place on the menu in our house!
Ingredients:

  • Potatoes (halved or quartered_-1 lbs
  • Chicken legs and thighs- 6-8
  • Chestnut/Crimini Mushrooms (optional)- 8-10
  • Lemons-2
  • Garlic cloves-3
  • Rosemary- 3 sprigs
  • Olive oil- 3 tbs.
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

Preheat the oven to 450F/250C

On the cutting board chop up rosemary leaves roughly. In a mortar combine chopped rosemary, garlic, a pinch of coarse salt and 1 tbsp of olive oil and bash it all together with a pestle until you have a paste, then add the rest of the olive oil and the juice of the lemons, reserve the lemon halves.

Arrange the chicken pieces, potatoes and mushrooms on a baking tray and spoon the rosemary mixture on top making sure it covers chicken and potatoes. Stick the lemon halves wherever you have free space on the tray, they will infuse more flavour into the dish.

Rosemary Lemon Chicken
Roast in the oven for 35-45 minutes until the chicken is golden brown and the juices run clear. Halfway through the cooking baste your chicken and potatoes with the liquid at the bottom of the pan.

Rosemary Lemon Chicken and Potatoes
The recipe was adapted from Minimally Invasive.

Rosemary and Thyme Infused Roast Chicken and Potatoes

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Rosemary and Thyme Infused Roasted Chicken and Potatoes
As much as I love all types of food from every corner of the world the ultimate comfort food for me will always be Roast Chicken and Potatoes. This taste of childhood and the aroma that comes from the kitchen when mom is making a special dinner is something that cannot be easily replaced by the exotic flavours of Thai curry or sushi, at least not for me.

Fortunately, cooking a roast chicken is much easier and quicker than is assumed and doesn’t have to be reserved for special occasions. This recipes I am sharing today was our weekday meal, and I do have a day job and not much time or energy to fuss around in the kitchen after I get home from work. What I also love about this meal is it only requires about 15 minutes of hands-on time and the rest of cooking is done in the oven without your involvement.

Ingredients: 

  • Whole Chicken- 3-4 lbs.
  • Rosemary and Thyme, or Parsley- 2,3 sprigs of each
  • Garlic-3 cloves
  • Lemon-1
  • Potatoes- 2 lbs
  • Salt and Pepper- to taste
  • Olive Oil-1 tsp.

Rosemary and Thyme Infused Roast Chicken and Potatoes

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 350F/180C.

Rinse your chicken under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Set aside. Chop up the herbs, peel the garlic cloves and slice them. Make little slits all over the chicken with the tip of your knife and slide the garlic slices into them. My mom always did that with all of her roasts. This step allows the meat to get a delicate flavour all the way through and not just the surface.

Prick the lemon with a fork and put it inside the cavity along with the half of the chopped herbs and a clove of sliced garlic.

Rub the surface of the chicken with a tbsp. of olive oil and the other half of the herbs. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Put in the oven in a large roasting pan and set your timer for 1 hour.

While the chicken is cooking, get your potatoes ready. I used new potatoes which I usually don’t peel. Wash the potatoes and cut them in half lengthways. Put them in a pot with salted water and bring them to a boil, continue boiling for 7 minutes, then drain in a colander, cover with a lid and set aside.

When the timer for the chicken goes off take it out of the oven, baste it and scatter potatoes around it. Dip a pastry brush in the fat that collected in the roasting pan and brush the potatoes with it. Put it back in the oven for another hour, checking from time to time making sure that your potatoes are roasting evenly and turning crispy on the outside. I have discovered that nothing does a better job of achieving that crispiness than the copious amount of chicken fat! Beauty!

Rosemary and Thyme Infused Roast Chicken and Potatoes
Serve your chicken and potatoes with any vegetables in season. I served mine with broccoli.
I also discovered some frozen baby Yorkshire puddings in my freezer so I threw them into the mix because my kids love them, we do live in England, and when in Rome…you know the rest. The baby Yorkies were great with a wonderful Russian Mushroom Gravy I adapted from Natasha’s Kitchen blog. The recipe she shares is found here. It’s very traditional in Russia and I hope it becomes one of your favourites as well. Check it out, it’s really worth having a different gravy recipe up your sleeve!Rosemary and Thyme Infused Roast Chicken and Potatoes

Paella Valencia and More Memories of Days Past

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Paella Valencia
How often do you look at your life and feel contemplative about the course it’s taken- decisions made, places visited and lived and food eaten? I seem to find myself reminiscing quite often as our life keeps charging forward with so many changes which leave me feeling desperate to hold on to every fun memory we’ve ever had. Those moments, of course, were often created around a meal. If the memories are really special wouldn’t you want to re-create them?

This post is about one of those great memories which incidentally includes our good friend Paella Valencia. Although it is a friend now and shows up regularly for dinner at our house 10 years ago when Brad and I decided to go for a little getaway for our 2nd wedding anniversary neither of us ever heard of Paella. Here we were really excited to have a proper mini-holiday like two grown-ups, the feeling we promptly lost upon our check-in into a beautiful Victorian mansion Bed and Breakfast. Our first and definitely last stay in a B&B. We just couldn’t escape the feeling like two teenagers staying at their spinster aunt house but also paying handsomely for it.  For the duration of our stay we were trying to avoid the all hearing ears of our eccentric and ever so curious hostess but alas we were lacking much needed ninja finesse to be successful. Venturing out to a fancy restaurant we had a voucher for made us feel even younger and more out of place. After surveying the menu for a couple of minutes we quickly realised that the place was far out of our price range even with the discount we were clutching in our hands. Well the decisions was made quickly. We simply ordered the  only item we could afford-the foreign sounding Paella Valencia and tap water.

That was my first introduction to the Spanish staple. It was delicious yet simple and achievable at home. No wonder it’s been the country’s hero among the peasants for generations and many consider paella the national dish of Spain. It gets its beautiful yellow colour from saffron, the world’s most precious and expensive spice. The dish is as tasty as it is gorgeous- vibrant yellow rice punctuated with the colourful bits of red chorizo, pink shrimp, black mussels and green peas!

Paella Valencia
Ingredients:

  • Paella Rice- 2 cups/500 gr
  • Olive Oil-1 tbsp.
  • Saffron- a pinch
  • Onion-1 medium
  • Garlic-2 cloves
  • Flat Leaf Parsley- half a bunch
  • Chicken Stock (homemade or prepared)-4 1/2 cups/1.2 litres
  • Chicken thighs (skinless and boneless)-4
  • Prawns- 1 cup/250 gr
  • Mussels- 1lbs/450gr
  • Chorizo- 250 gr
  • Frozen Peas- 1/2 cup
  • Lemon-1
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Paella ingredients
Method:

I find it helpful to dice and slice everything that needs to be diced and sliced before we start our paella because once the heat is on you will be throwing things in quickly and won’t have the time to do the prep. Chop up your parsley, slice chorizo and dice chicken into bite sized chunks. Also, dice the onion and finely mince the garlic. Heat the chicken stock.

Set a large pan over medium heat and put in the olive oil. Add the chicken, chorizo and parsley and stir everything together. Cook until the chicken is cooked, then add onion and garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes. Add rice, a pinch of salt and saffron and stir everything making sure the rice in coated in olive oil, cook for 3 minutes. I once watched Antonio Banderas cook paella on TV and he said that frying of the rice is what makes paella. Don’t know about you but I trust the man with silky voice and charming Spanish accent.

Now pour in your hot chicken stock and bring everything to a boil, cover the pan with a lid and lower the heat. Cook for 15-20 minutes. When the rice is almost done but still a bit chewy add the prawns, mussels and frozen peas. Cook for 10 minutes longer, stirring occasionally so the paella is not sticking to the bottom of the pan. Squeeze the juice of one lemon and grind some fresh pepper over the paella before serving. Taste to make sure there is enough salt, add more if necessary.

Paella Valencia

Serve with some crusty bread and robust Spanish wine.

Paella Valencia
Paella Valenciana
Note: This recipe was adapted from Jamie Oliver’s “Jamie Does Spain”.

Lime Tequila Chicken Wings

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Lime Tequila Chicken WingsNothing screams “summer is here” louder than a gloriously sunny 3-day weekend and a fired up barbecue. Will you agree with me if I say that absolutely everything taste better when it’s cooked outside? Suddenly simple and everyday foods get transformed into heavenly bites. The images of happy childhood camping days start flashing in front of your eyes as soon as you smell a bit of smoke coming from your barbecue, only now you can also indulge in a margarita. I love a quality margarita, only not the sweet and slushy kind you get in a pseudo-Mexican restaurant but “the real deal-squeezing your own lime juice-on the rocks margarita”. There is something magical in the combination of sour and refreshing lime juice and tequila that goes further than just making a drink great. No surprise, it also works wonders as a marinade for chicken.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken Wings (split in half)- 2lbs
  • Fresh Green Chilli Peppers-2
  • Lime Juice-1/2 cup
  • Lemon Juice- from 1 lemon
  • Lime Zest- from 1 lime
  • Tequila- 1/2 cup
  • Garlic- 3 cloves
  • Cumin- 1 tbsp.
  • Chili Powder- 1 tbsp.
  • Salt

Method:

Put all the ingredients except for the chicken wings in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Put the chicken wings in a shallow dish and pour the marinade over them, cover with a cling film and let the marinade work its magic for at least 5 hours. Grill on the barbecue until a golden crust develops and the juices run clear or cook them in the oven at 450F/250C for approximately 20 minutes.

Serve with grilled corn, Pico de Gallo and corn chips and, of course, don’t forget to toast the arrival of the barbecue season with a homemade margarita. Cheers!

Lime Tequila Chicken Wings
Lime Tequila Chicken Wings
Lime Tequila Chicken Wings

Russian Crepes “Blini”

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Their peaceful life was firmly grounded

In the dear ways of yesteryear,

And Russian blini fair abounded

When the fat Shrovetide spread its cheer. 

                                                                                                                                -Aleksandr Pushkin Evgeni Onegin”

These lines are familiar to every Russian and come from one of the most beloved poet of the 19th century Aleksandr Pushkin, someone I was obsessed with from the age of 13 to 15. Yes, you heard me right, completely infatuated with a dead poet whose life ended in a duel, defending his wife’s honour at the same age I am now. So very romantic and tragic-absolutely perfect for an impressionable teenager.  I am sure the life and literary heritage of Pushkin will creep up in my writing again at some point but today’s post is about one of the most celebrated foods in Russian cuisine-Blini, loved enough to be immortalised in literature!

What exactly are Blini (plural)? They are thin, crepe-like pancakes, usually eaten with jam, honey, and sour cream or stuffed with sweet or savoury fillings.

Russian Crepes "Blini"

I have always thought that my mum’s blini were the best I ever tasted. That opinion is probably biased but I stick to it. However, I found the task of re-creating the taste of her blini almost unsurmountable. The main reason is the absence of the recipe. You see most of the Russian women cook without recipes, they just sort of throw things together as they call it “na glaz”, which translates as “by the eye”. There is a famous Russian saying “The first Pancake is always a lump”. You would hear it all the time if a new venture doesn’t work out, someone would look at you kindly and say, “Don’t worry, the first pancake is always a lump” meaning-“it’s still early days, you will eventually figure it out”. Well, the origin of that saying became obvious when I decided to create the recipe. I was hoping to write the recipe that would help to avoid the harsh truth of that famous proverb, the recipe my readers could use and succeed with it. Let me tell you, it was one of the hardest things I ever did. I mixed the batter and fried the first blin. Sure enough, it was a lump that I had to scrap. More flour. Second try was better but still not “it”. More flour. Third try. Sigh and close to tears. In the end, after many, many, MANY adjustments I conquered it and  came up with the version that was the closest to my mum’s.

Her two main secrets were using kefir instead of milk and always frying blini on a cast iron pan. It’s impossible to find kefir in London unless you make your own, which I don’t do so I decided to substitute it with buttermilk. Here is my recipe and I hope you will be brave and try it in your kitchen.

Ingredients:

  • Flour- 3 cups
  • Buttermilk-3 1/2 cups
  • Water-1/2 cup
  • Eggs-2 large
  • Baking soda-1/2 tsp.
  • Sugar-1 tbsp.
  • Salt- 1 tsp.

Method:

In a mixing bowl mix eggs, flour, 1 cup of buttermilk, baking soda, sugar and salt with a whisk. When the mixture is smooth and has no lumps add remaining buttermilk and water. The consistency should be the same as of heavy cream.  Let stand for 20 minutes. You should see small bubbles on the surface of your batter. Preheat your non-stick frying pan on medium heat and grease it with an odourless oil. ( I usually put some oil on a paper towel and rub the frying pan with it to ensure even coating.) With a ladle or a measuring cup pour 1/2 cup of batter in the pan and tilt the pan slightly so batter runs to the edges forming a thin and round crepe. Cook it until batter looks dry, then flip with a spatula and cook for 2-3 more minutes. Remove to a platter. Repeat with the next crepe and continue cooking until the batter is used. Stack the blini on top of each other. Serve with fresh fruit, jam, creme fraiche or sour cream. As much as I try to instil the “Russian-ness” in my children they still prefer blini with whipped cream and maple syrup! I shake my head and say to myself, “They are Canucks not Ruski.” When it comes to food, there are no hard rules. Eat blini with whatever your heart desires!

In Russia Blini are usually enjoyed with butter, jam and sour cream and sometimes caviar although the latter was not very common in my family. My mum often made blini for a late weekend breakfast. She made A LOT and there were always leftovers which she used for lunch the next day. Always wanting to serve a variety of food she would make a savoury filling and stuff blini with it. There are countless options for a filling and today I will share one of them with you.

Chicken and Mushroom Filling for Blini

Ingredients:

  • Cooked Chicken- 450 gr/ 1 lbs
  • Mushrooms-300 gr
  • Onion-2 medium
  • Flat Leaf Parsley- 10 springs
  • Garlic- 1 clove
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Chicken stock-1/2 cup
  • Butter- 1 tbsp.

Method:

Melt the butter in the skillet, add the onions and saute over medium heat for 5 minutes, add chopped mushrooms, garlic and parsley and saute until mushrooms are cooked for another 8 minutes. Add cooked chicken, chicken stock and season with salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes. Your filling should be juicy but not too runny.

Once your filling is done, the blini are ready to be rolled. Use 1/2 cup of the chicken and mushroom mixture per crepe and roll in the same manner you would a burrito. Brown them on both sides in a skillet with a little bit of butter or warm them up in the oven at 350 F/180C for 10 minutes. You can have them made and stored in the refrigerator well in advance and warm them up right before serving. Try them instead of sandwiches on a side of a nice bowl of steaming soup. Ah all of this talk of blinchiki is evoking some great childhood memories for me! Enjoy!

Blini with a chicken and mushroom fillingRussian Crepes "Blini"Russian Crepes "Blini"

Coq Au Vin, the Ultimate One Pot Dinner

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Just because I like to cook it doesn’t mean I don’t love shortcuts in the kitchen. Serving delicious food to my family and friends doesn’t always equal hours spent behind the hot stove. I am usually on the lookout for the recipes that are tasty yet simple. This Coq Au Vin (French for “Chicken in Wine”) is one of those dishes that is good enough to serve for a fancy dinner yet doesn’t require much hands-on time. It could be cooked a few hours in advance and then reheated quickly right before dinner. This way you can relax and make yourself look pretty and avoid greeting your guests all red and sweaty. French cuisine is so impressive for its ability to be sophisticated and deeply satisfying and comforting at the same time. Just look at that spread. Who wouldn’t want to sit down to a bowl of flavourful chicken cooked in wine with some crusty bread!
Coq-Au-Vin
The rich taste in this wonderful dish comes from the quality ingredients and a few spices artfully put together. No chef skills required. Have no fear, it’s impossible not to ace it! I have made Coq Au Vin numerous times. It doesn’t get old and it’s always a crowd pleaser. You can guess from the name that wine is one of the main ingredients. I am sure you have heard it before but I will say it again- only use the wine that is good enough to drink. I have tried this dish with a bottle of homemade wine and it tasted good or so I thought. Good but not memorable enough to make it my “dinner special”. It took me a few years before I came back to this recipe but I tried cooking with a decent bottle of wine. That time I saw the magic of Coq Au Vin, the quality that stood the test of time and kept this dish on people’s tables for generations.
Coq-Au-Vin
Ingredients:

  • Olive Oil- 1 tbsp.
  • Pancetta or Bacon lardons (cubed)- 120 gr/4 oz.
  • Chicken thighs and legs- 8-10 pieces
  • Onion- 1 large
  • Carrots- 2 medium
  • Garlic (chopped)- 1-2 cloves
  • Brandy or Whisky- 1/4 cup
  • Red Wine (your choice)-1/2 bottle
  • Chicken Stock- 1 cup
  • Thyme- 8-10 springs
  • Butter- 1 tbsp.
  • Flour- 1 1/2 tbsp for thickening (could substitute for corn starch for gluten-free version)
  • Mushrooms- 250 gr/ 1/2 pound
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Method:

Preheat oven to 120C/250F.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large Dutch oven. (If you have a cast iron pot it’s perfect for it.) Fry your bacon lardons for 8-10 minutes until browned and remove them to a plate lined with paper towel.

Season your chicken pieces with salt and pepper and brown them in the same pot in batches to avoid overcrowding. Remove to the same plate as bacon. You are not cooking your chicken all the way through, just browning on both sides.

Slice your onions and carrots in medium sized chunks and add them to the pot with salt and pepper, cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, add the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer stirring the whole time not allowing it to burn. Add your brandy and scrape all the burned bits to incorporate them into your sauce, now add bacon and chicken with all the juices they collected, pour in your wine, chicken stock and thyme sprigs and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover with a lid and put it in the oven for 40 minutes.

When chicken is no longer pink mix melted butter with flour and stir in the sauce. Slice mushrooms thickly and add to the pot, taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.  Put back in the oven with the lid off for 10-15 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken.

Serve Coq Au Vin with mashed potatoes and  crusty French bread and of course, a glass of nice French wine. Bon Appetit!
Note: The recipe is adapted from Ina Garten’s Coq Au Vin.French Coq au Vin. One pot dinner for busy weeknights.

Coq-Au-Vin

Duck Confit or Souvenirs de Paris

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Musique, ambiance et souvenirs d’un temps qui ne paraît pas si vieux…

What are your most treasured memories with the one you love? I am so fortunate to have many but last Valentine’s Day I chose to re-create the one from our anniversary trip to Paris. Although we have spent the majority of our happy days in much humbler settings I thought it would be fun to reminisce of a few glamour moments in Brad’s and my life together.

Paris shoot by Ophelia Photography
Photo Credit: Lisa Gratton of Ophelia Photography.

We had to start our meal with some bread, pâté and pickles just the way it was served to us in Paris!

Duck Confit

In order to bring the cozy ambience of the French restaurant we spent an evening celebrating 10 years of marriage I decided to duplicate the menu. Sounds ambitious, yes, but to my surprise and delight, it was easy and fun! When we think of French food, we think of  art, sophistication, finesse, in other words- the height of the culinary profession.  All of those qualities are true, nevertheless, there is also pure and earthy peasant food that is just as authentic, if not more, to the French life which is deliciously gratifying and a cinch to make. Duck Confit is one of those dishes that you can only find on the menu of upscale restaurants in North America, while it’s not at all posh in my part of the world.

Duck Confit
Duck and Roasted Potatoes, there is simply no meal more satisfying in the world for my taste. There are several steps to this dish but each of them is simpler than the next!
Ingredients (Romantic Dinner for 2):

  • Duck legs- 2 big and juicy ones
  • Duck fat- 500 gr.
  • Thyme- 3-4 sprigs
  • Bay leaf- 2
  • Juniper Berries- 4 crushed
  • Garlic- 2 cloves split lengthwise
  • Course Salt- 1 tbsp.
  • Potatoes- 4-5 medium

Duck Confit

Method:

The night before. Rub your duck legs with course salt, put your them in a shallow dish with thyme, bay leaf, crushed juniper berries and garlic, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The day of the dinner. Brush the salt off the duck. Don’t skip this step or your duck might be too salty! Put the contents of the shallow dish you prepared the night before into an oven proof dish and cover the duck legs with duck fat. I am not joking, the duck legs should be completely covered, I mean “swimming in the fat” covered! Let me assure you before you run away screaming, you won’t be eating all that fat and the little amount that will end up crisping up the duck is good for you! You see, “confit” (pronounced “confee”) is a french way of cooking and preserving meat in it’s own fat and was used hundreds of years ago before refrigeration was available. I have seen recipes for tomato confit, pumpkin confit, you name it but all of those things are a misuse of the original meaning of the word.

Back to the recipe. Cook the duck in the oven at 250F/120C for 2 hours. At the end of it your meat should be falling off the bone tender and juicy (and will NOT look appetising) but it’s not done yet!

With a pair of tongs take your duck legs out of the dish and pat the excess fat with paper towel. The last step is roasting your duck legs with potatoes. Arrange the duck in a roasting pan on top of sliced garlic cloves with thickly sliced potatoes, brush a bit of that duck fat on your potatoes, trust me nothing works better on them, sprinkle with additional thyme, salt and pepper. Roast at 400F/200C for 30 minutes or until crispy. (Alternatively, you can pre-boil your potatoes to make sure they cook evenly at the same time as duck but I didn’t.)Duck Confit with roasted potatoes
This recipe is a real gem, so simple to execute with very few ingredients. It produced absolutely matchless results – tender and delicate duck meat with crispy full of flavour skin. I have to admit I am glad that the first time I tried this delicacy was in a restaurant and I had no idea how it was cooked. Once I experienced the heavenly taste of old French country I was determined to do anything to have it again. I can’t say enough to urge you to run to your local supermarket, butcher, duck farmer/friend or whatever place you get your food from and buy a few legs (the cheapest and tastiest part of the bird) to roast. You won’t regret. C’est magnifique!

Duck Confit with Roasted Potatoes

Note: The recipe was adapted from “Jamie Does France” by Jamie Oliver

Turkey And Leek Pie

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With American Thanksgiving and Christmas approaching so quickly it seems only prudent to feature a recipe for “what on earth do I do with all the leftover turkey I hate turkey soup” conundrum. Understandable. Who wants to eat the same meal over and over again. Well, I do. I usually like to eat my turkey dinner at least twice after the big meal but then I have to move on. This year I moved on with this pie. I am Canadian we already celebrated Thanksgiving in October-a perfectly placed holiday in the Canadian calendar.

This recipe is easy, tasty and quick even though it has the word “pie” in it. Let me explain how.

Ingredients:

1 tbsp. olive oil
30 gr. butter
800-1000 gr. leftover turkey meat
50 gr. italian pancetta or bacon
3 leeks (white part only)
3 medium carrots
1 cup/250 ml. leftover gravy
1 tbsp. flour
2 sprigs of each rosemary and thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
prepared shortcrust pie pastry (Pillsbury in Canada or Jus Rol in the UK)
1 egg (optional)
Directions:
Preheat your oven to 375 F/190 C or 180 C for a fan oven.
My dear friends, you were probably expecting some amazing pie crust recipe that was handed over to me by my mother, and to her by her mother and so on but instead I am advising you to use a prepared one. I hope you are not too disappointed but the truth is that when I have a container full of turkey leftovers in the refrigerator that scream-“Use me, I am literally on my last breath”, the furthest thought from my mind is to run to the kitchen and engage in a long and tedious process of pastry  making. Trust me, the flavour comes from the filling, not from the crust. There is definitely time for making your own special recipe but not a week after Christmas!
So where were we? Yes, oven.
In a deep frying pan heat a tablespoon of olive oil and your butter over a medium heat, cook your pancetta with the herbs for about 7-10 min and than add your sliced leek and diced carrots. You can definitely use bacon instead of pancetta if it’s too hard to find or pricey. It’s readily available in England and for a good price, so I prefer it. After your vegetable have been cooking for 10 min and leeks softened add your diced turkey and gravy. If you don’t have enough gravy use chicken stock and thicken it with flour. Cook the mixture for about 10 min until heated through and not too runny. Add more flour if it is!  Taste it and season with salt and pepper.
I really recommend using your leftover gravy because this is where your taste is going to come from. You already spend lots of time building flavour and complexity into it while cooking your Christmas dinner-it’s time to reap the benefits.
Take your filling off the heat and cool it before pouring it into the pastry.
While it’s cooling roll out your pastry or take a little break with a glass of wine!
Line the 9″ deep pie plate with the pastry.
When the meat is cooled enough to handle pour into your lined pie plate with the edges hanging over the sides of the plate. Brush the edges of the pastry with a beaten egg. I used to skip that step and my beautiful pies would come undone in the oven. I like my food to look pretty, so it would frustrate me to no end. The egg is your glue here. Don’t skip this step. I beg you. Pinch your sides of the pie really well and brush the top with the rest of your egg. Also, don’t forget to make pretty slits on your pie to make room for the steam to escape or your pie will explode. Maybe.
As I mentioned earlier, I like my food to look pretty. For the pie you see in the picture I used my turkey cookie cutter on the leftover pastry and cut out a couple of turkeys. Then I appliquéd them on the pie and brushed the whole deal with the egg again.
You know how I begged you not to skip an earlier step? Feel free to skip this one. It’s for food nerds only. Skipping of the last step bares no consequences on the deliciousness of that pie.
Bake your pie for 35 min and serve with whatever you like. In my case it was mashed potatoes and green beans.


PS. This recipe was inspired by Jamie Oliver similar recipe but was tweaked so many times that I can almost claim it as my own.