26 Jan 2015

Lemon and Herb Infused Chicken with Crispy Potatoes and Honey/Red Wine-Glazed Figs


Wow that title is a bit of a mouthful, isn't it?


This recipe is something that I whipped up mid-week after thoughtfully staring into the fridge and pantry.

I added the fig at the last moment (really just because I realised I had some fresh figs lying around).



Yummy yummy yum

Serves 4.

You will need:


4 chicken thighs (I always cut off any additional fat I can see)
10 baby chat potatoes (to be halved)

Mixed herbs
1/3 cup lemon juice
4 figs
1/2 cup of red wine
4 tsp of honey

Seeing as I still had some lemon juice left over from my sorbet adventure, I added about 1/3 of a cup to a mixing bowl along with a sprinkling of mixed herbs. I also added some freshly crushed garlic and mixed it in together.




I parboiled some baby chat potatoes and shook them in the saucepan with a tablespoon of duck fat (as per this past post). I then added sea salt crystals.

And then add them to the dish to cook in the oven.





I put the dish into the oven preheated at 180 degrees celcius.




Hmm... maybe not such a good idea for both chicken and potatoes to be in the same dish. All the juices mixing with the potatoes preventing the potatoes from becoming crispy.





There we go!


This is what I should have done in the first place!



I would leave them in the oven for at least 45  minutes, remembering to spoon the sauce over the chicken to prevent the thighs from becoming dry. They also need to be turned once.

I took the figs and cut them into quarters before spooning honey onto them along with the red wine. I let them under the grill on the top shelf of the oven to cook. It only takes 5 minutes before they are ready!












23 Jan 2015

Tart Lemon Sorbet



Yum!


I went shopping the other day and I found these super cute retro ice cream containers. So I thought "What a fabulous idea. I can make sorbet!"

In high school and university, I used to make lemon sorbet all the time. I am not really sure how I came up with the method. This time, I had a little trouble trying to remember what I used to do.


Totes cute


So I took 3 massive lemons that I found at a market earlier in the morning.


They were a lot larger than the photo would leave you to believe

Then I squeezed the bezeebers out of them!! I used an old school squeezer that I found as you can see. 


Et voilà!!

These lemons made about 1 1/3 cups of lemon juice (not as juicy as they would have made me believe!) Apparently, these ones were mostly rind!


Lots of rind
Grate about two tablespoons of lemon zest finely. I am a big fan of zest in my sorbet. If you are not, you can leave it out completely.



I boiled about 1 litre of water on the stove. As it was heating up, I added 250 grams of caster sugar and stirred the mixture as it melted.  I let it rise to the boil for just over 5 minutes and then placed it into a plastic container to cool in the fridge. I used this one because it is  rectangular hence easier to get at with a fork whilst freezing.


Lunchbox will suffice



You will need to leave the mixture for at least an hour to cool. 


Meanwhile, the next step is to take two eggs and separate the whites into a bowl. 


Then using a whisk, mix until the egg whites form a stiff appearance. This takes some time if you are using your hand. Otherwise if you have a mixer, it will be much more efficient! After a time, I added about 1/2 cup of caster sugar.


Get ready for some muscular arms!

Then gradually fold in the egg white mixture into the container.


I left the container to freeze for a couple of hours, then I took a fork and 'smooshed' the contents together again. Then I put it back into the freezer.



After another couple of hours, I transfered the sorbet into the retro ice cream container.
And returned to the freezer, where I left it overnight.


Filling up the container


And here is the result the next day!

It has a delicious tart lemon flavour that I would be tempted to indulge myself eating all day long if I could.


I am hoping to try this again with another mix of fresh fruit to try to perfect the method!




I decided to serve the sorbet in these awesome classic champagne glasses. I looooove glasses like these. All the glamourous stars from the 1930s-1940s Hollywood  films drunk from them....  am summoning up visions of Bette Davis

Ah, oh there you go, I couldn't resist...


A young Bette Davis in 'Of Human Bondage' Amazing performance by Bette. There is one scene where she goes completely psycho. So great! Ha! Photo credit: www.thefilmexperience.net
And Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant in Alfred Hitchcock's 'Notorious' Photo credit: www.filmnoirblonde.com


Digressing again... *classic film nerd coming out* but I would recommend those films in a heartbeat.




Note: As I seemed to have not remembered exactly what I used to do, I kind of just went along with whatever I thought would do (ha! typical). The sorbet was not as solid as I wished it to be though I was not trying to go for the creamy type of sorbet either.

-Addit 23/1/15 Scrap that. It is perfect now!




If you end up with sorbet that does not seem to set very well and is more of a liquid, you can serve it as a granita or better yet, serve it as a cocktail! Just add some spirits. And maybe try your sorbet again later!

20 Jan 2015

Learning French In France




After a whirlwind trip to Paris with my dad as my 21st birthday present from my parents, I decided that I wanted to live there once I graduated from university. I think I was wandering around the cobblestoned streets of Montmartre when the idea popped into my head. I mean "Pourquoi Pas?"


I had studied French for a time during high school. So that meant that I was totally prepared for life in France, right? Don't be absurd! I barely remembered how to get further than introducing myself and perhaps ordering a baguette.


So when I got home to Australia, I enrolled myself directly into French language classes through the Alliance Française in St Kilda. After all, I remembered participating in the AF's yearly French poetry competition at my high school much to my utter dismay and horror of being centre of attention in any way, shape or form.

The St Kilda AF is located in the beautiful Eildon mansion and they have recently opened up another AF in the CBD.


I spent one year studying French before I shipped myself off to gay Paree. The AF Melbourne co-ordinator was able to arrange my homestay and courses in Paris before I arrived. I was met at the airport by my French family and honestly the 'ol system was so rattled that I was almost completely mute due to shock. I was not in Kansas anymore. 

My family did not speak a word of English, with an old Harrap's French-to-English dictionary being a nightly companion at the dinner table. And I was delighted to be able to expand my repertoire in the language of gesturing. You know. The really exaggerated gesturing. A good background in playing charades would have been an advantage. The cutest example was when I asked my host mother what "coucou" meant and she went behind the doorway, then poked her head out calling "coucou!!!" resulting in a tirade of energetic laughter from everyone. 

There are also some funny sounds that the French make in certain situations such as "hop!" (the 'h' is silent) used in combination with other words to make "hop la!" "allez hop!" then there's "hein?" and "tak!My ultimate favourite: the raspberry.  It means "I don't know" or "no idea".
Hearing these sounds for the first time staying with the family was quite (read: incredibly) amusing having absolutely no understanding of why they were making those random noises. Then I would speak to my other friends also doing homestays, "What on earth do those mean?! Why do they make farting noises with their mouths?!" in our collective confusion.

For more hilarious explanations, I found another webpage with audio examples. It made me laugh, especially the "growl".  It screams with the spirit of la greve. It's all soooooo accurate!



I spent the first month on a homestay with a French family


It was steep learning curve. That was probably the best situation for making the most progress in a foreign language and I learnt French the most swiftly during that time. they were very supporting of me learning the language and would tell their sons and visitors not to talk to me in English so that I could adapt. But it was not such a great experience only for the language and learning about France. It was more of a mutual sharing of cultures.
But it was a fabulous experience- it remains one of the best things I have ever done. 
My host family helped me settle in to French life, how to buy a monthly transport pass, suggested French movies to watch from their collection, which exhibitions/museums would be great for me to see and ask for advice about the eye-opening adventure that is apartment searching in Paris.  In exchange I told them about my life in Australia, growing up by the beach, shared photos of my chien fou, parents and friends. 



The close proximity of the dictionary!


I have kept in touch and visited my host family many times since (once with my mum who was visiting), as well as participating in some of their milestone celebrations (such as my host father's 50th birthday), which has been wonderful.

I definitely recommend a homestay if you are a younger traveller in your 20s. If you are older, you might prefer the alternative options such as the serviced apartments.

The classes in France are very different to in Australia. For one, no longer is the mutual language English. So you need to speak French. We asked the teacher how on earth do they teach the complete beginners who don't know numbers or how to say their names and she replied with "a bit complicated but a lot of arm gestures!"
Your class is also a huge mixture of nationalities from all over the world. It was truly overwhelming for me to meet and have so many people of different countries represented in the same room.

See: Alliance Française Melbourne - Learn French In France for more information if you are in Melbourne and interested in classes or organising a stay in France. There are many locations other than Paris such as Lyon, Bordeaux, Nice and more.


It has a blurb on studying at the Alliance Française in Paris and homestaying with a French family by yours truly, which I discovered one day a few years ago when perusing their website :-)


And AF de Paris for the website of the school in Paris for an idea of the courses and housing options besides homestay.


My homestay house


Fro more information on France, visit the All Things France page.





Practicalities:

Alliance Française Melbourne

51 Grey St 
St Kilda 3182

and 

Level 13, 55 Collins St
Melbourne 3000



Alliance Française Paris

101 Blv Raspail
Paris 75006




12 Jan 2015

Duck With Raspberries




This is a recipe that is taken and re-worked from a French recipe for Canard Aux Framboises that I found in a book one time a few years ago.







Ingredients


4 x 200g duck breasts
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 tsp demerara sugar
250 ml (1 cup) red wine
170 ml (2/3 cups) creme de cassis
1 tblspn cornflour (cornstarch or arrowroot)
250g raspberries



Score the duck breast through the skin and fat, but not deep enough to the meat. See below.
  



Heat frying pan and fry the duck breasts (skin side down) until the skin is brown and the fat runs out. Remove the duck from the pan and remove the remaining fat in the pan.








In a separate bowl, combine cinnamon, salt and demerra sugar.


Sprinkle this mixture over the duck breast skin. Then press it into the skin adding some black pepper. Reheat the frying pan and replace the duck breasts with skin side facing upwards.






Cook for 15-20 minutes. Be careful here as depending on the thickness of the duck, you may need to leave them cooking significantly longer at a lower heat. It is desirable that the breast is 'rose' but ensure that it is not undercooked. Remove the duck and leave to rest on the bench.




Mix wine and de cassis in a jug. Pour 1/3 of a cup of the mixture into a small bowl and mix with cornflour and then return to the jug.




Again pour out the excess fat from the pan leaving approx 2 tablespoons. Reheat the pan and pour in the sauce. Simmer for 2-3 minutes whilst stirring until the sauce thickens.

Add raspberries and continue to simmer for another minute or so. Then serve the duck breasts on a plate and spoon over the sauce and raspberries.

Here is the finished result at Christmas time.


9 Jan 2015

French Apricot Chicken




A meal for the colder days of the year.


A little recipe for something I have grown up with.



Ingredients (serves 4)

Four chicken thigh fillets (skin off)
One large brown onion
1 packet French onion soup mix
400mls apricot nectar
2-3 tsp seeded mustard
2 cups optional fresh or canned apricots (drained well)
Ground pepper and salt to taste









Brown onions in a saucepan or casserole dish with a dash of extra virgin olive oil.





Add boneless chicken thigh fillets to sear in the stove top.


Mix French onion soup mix, apricot nectar and a tablespoon of seeded wholegrain mustard in a separate bowl.



Add sauce mixture to cover the chicken as pictured below.



 Usually, I also add fresh apricots that have been halved. Canned apricots can also suffice.





Place dish in oven that has been preheated to 180 degrees celcius. This is how the chicken is braised. 




Leave to cook with intervals of turning the chicken fillets and covering with the sauce. Make sure it is covered as this ensures that it retains the flavour. It also prevents the chicken from becoming dry.






Serve with a side such as mashed potato, which I have blogged about here.




Note: On this occasion, I did not use the apricot halves, only the nectar though would recommend using them!


4 Jan 2015

How To Cook Sticky Rice... Properly!





I was taught how to cook rice the "Korean way" with medium grain white rice by some Korean friends that I met who were travelling through Australia.

They had stayed at my uncle's accommodation business in rural South Australia as tourists and he spoke to my mum about seeing us when they got down to Victoria. And then they stayed at our house in Melbourne for a couple of weeks.

We have remained friends for several years now and I have met up with them (there are three: two sisters and a brother) in Korea (Seoul and I travelled also to Busan on one occasion) numerous times on my travels since 2010 to the present. My mum has also had the opportunity to meet them again when she was visiting me in Europe as a stopover.

Their friendship has truly been invaluable.



Yes, I do love anecdotes. So anyway...




As we did not have a rice cooker at the time my friends were staying with us, we used a normal saucepan for the "Absorption Method".




Firstly, you need to wash the rice. Add however much rice you wish to cook (ie. one cup per person) and add water from tap. Position your hand into a fist and using your knuckles and closed fingers move your fist against the rice to ensure that the rice is being cleaned. The starch will be coming out of the rice making it milky. Then you need to release as much of the water into the sink and continue with this process.


Starchy


I tend to wash the rice four times or until the water is clear (depending on how lazy I feel).

  

Once ready, add water to the rice to be cooked. Make sure there is about one centimetre of water above the rice. Not too much otherwise the rice will become soggy. It is not like cooking other types of rice like basmati.


Add the saucepan to the HIGHEST possible setting on the stovetop.


Wait until the water begins to boil and then turn the heat right down to the LOWEST heat and place a lid onto the saucepan. It would be ideal that the lid has a hole or a section for the steam to come through so that the saucepan does not bubble over.

Monitor the rice but it takes about 15-20 minutes. Check the rice is fluffy and sticky. Sometimes, it is nice to continue cooking a little bit longer so that the rice on the bottom is crunchy and golden.


To clean the pot, you can add a little bit of water to simmer on the stove.




If you have a rice cooker, fantastic! It will cook it for you and 'pop' up when it is ready.



Western-style rice cooker


Rice used with my Japanese Curry

I think a rice cooker is an essential item in Korea. The brand used is called "Cuckoo" and they are AMAZING!




IT ALSO COMES IN PINK!
Cuckoo rice cooker from Korea. Photo Source: digiplususa.com



Crystal, my Korean 'umma' who I met in 2013 whilst in Seoul who is posing beautifully with the Cuckoo rice cooker.