Friday, March 14, 2014

Curried Cauliflower Chicken Pilaf

Curry powder, cardamom and cinnamon, with a kick of cayenne, make this fragrant curried cauliflower chicken pilaf a delicious and easy one-bowl meal for the many busy days when you are short on time.

This recipe is adapted from Patricia Well’s Vegetable Harvest. Amazon affiliate link>

My husband travels a lot on business so friends often ask me if I cook when he’s gone. Absolutely! Since I love to be in the kitchen creating, and I deserved to eat well, even alone, I do cook. I tend to make simple meals, like pan-fried salmon with salad or pasta and broccoli with crispy prawn chilli paste stirred through, which I adore. I buy the paste in Kuala Lumpur when I am there and have it stockpiled; enough to last me till the next visit. This is my favorite brand, but I am sure there must be others, perhaps even where you live.

The dish I'm sharing today fulfills so many of my needs. It’s full of flavor but easy. Served in just one bowl and nothing to cut so I can eat it with a spoon and read my book at the same time. And when it’s just me eating, it is great, dare I say even better, the next day as leftovers.

3 boneless chicken breasts (Approximate weight 4-6 oz or 115-170g each.)
Sea salt
Black pepper
Olive oil
8 ounces or about 225g cauliflower
12 whole cardamom seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 stick cinnamon
1 1/2 cups or 300g long grain rice
2 cups or 480ml chicken stock
Fresh cilantro or coriander leaves or parsley for garnish

Slice your chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces and sprinkle lightly with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Cut your cauliflower up into florets.

Measure out your spices and have them ready in a small bowl. Seriously. Just do it.

Drizzle a little olive oil in a skillet and pan fry the chicken until it is browned and caramelized. Remove it from the pan and set aside.

In a large pot with a tight fitting lid, mix the rice with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Cook over a medium heat for just a few minutes and stir so that the rice is well coated with the oil.

Add in the chicken stock and bring to a boil. If your stock is homemade and unsalted, add in a teaspoon of salt. I had made mine from stock cubes, which are notoriously high in sodium already, so I didn’t add any extra salt.

Add in your measured spices and the cinnamon stick and give it a quick stir.

Add the cauliflower to the pot, along with the chicken. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to simmer.

Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes and then turn the fire off. Leave the pot covered for at least 10 more minutes or until you are ready to serve.

Discard the cinnamon and fluff the rice with a fork, mixing in the cauliflower and chicken.

Warn your family or guests to avoid chewing on a cardamom seed. (Or you can pick these out too, but I didn’t bother.)

Garnish with cilantro or parsley, if desired.


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Monday, March 10, 2014

Bailey's Irish Cream Muffins #MuffinMonday

All that is good and more-ish about Bailey’s Irish Cream, baked in muffins, including a generous quantity of the actual stuff. 

St. Patrick’s Day has never been one of those days we celebrated in our house, despite my Irish roots and a grandmother with the last name of Fleming. As a school child, my memories included coloring shamrocks in class and discussing the patron saint of Ireland and the apparently baseless but fun legend of how he chased the snakes out of Ireland. And pinching people who forgot to wear green. As I got older, St. Patrick’s Day was a good reason to go to a party or have a green beer at a pub, preferably one named Kenneally's or Muddy Murphy’s. But I’ve grown up now and truth is, green beer is pretty unappetizing and it’s been years since I pinched or got pinched, no matter what the attire. Now if I want to celebrate the Irish, I’d rather have a short glass of neat single malt whiskey or some Bailey’s Irish Cream. Or, come to think of it, some Bailey’s Irish Cream muffins. What’s your favorite Irish tipple? Do you celebrate St. Patrick's Day at your house?

2 cups or 250g flour
1/2 cup, packed, or 100g soft brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons or 4 g instant coffee powder (I used two sachets of instant espresso powder.)
1 tablespoon hot water
1/4 cup or 60g butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup or 60 ml whipping cream
3/4 cup or 180ml Bailey's Irish cream
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350°F or 180°C and either grease your 12-cup muffin tin or line it with paper liners.

In a small measuring vessel or cup, dissolve the coffee powder in the hot water.

In a big mixing bowl, mix together your dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

In small mixing bowl, whisk the melted butter, the Bailey’s and the cream with your two eggs and the dissolved coffee.

Fold the liquids to the dry mixture, stopping when they are just mixed. There might be little dry bits and that's okay.  That's preferably to over mixing.

Divide the batter between your prepared muffins cups.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.

Remove from the muffin tin and finish cooling on a rack.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Leek and Zucchini Tarte Tatin

Created in the late 19th century by the sisters Tatin as a special apple dessert in their hotel restaurant, Tarte Tatin gained first French then worldwide popularity when famous 20th-century epicure Curnonsky published the recipe in his 1926-volume “La France Gastronomique.” The original ingredients were simple: sugar, apples and butter for the inside, flour, butter and water for the dough. This savory version is not much more complicated and the fresh vegetables shine.

I’ve spoken here before about the two years we lived in Balikpapan, Indonesia and the limited access we had to a variety of fresh vegetables. Aside from the local greens, I really only remember potatoes and green beans and carrots on offer. I had so taken for granted the well-stocked grocery stores of my youth but those two years gave me an appreciation for what I was missing. And then, because there is a God, we moved to Paris for three years of abundance and gorgeous markets with fresh seasonal produce of every variety. I bought Roger Vergé’s Vegetables and devoured both the sweet stories of his childhood in his father’s garden and mother’s kitchen and the simple recipes that featured all the goodness and light of the vegetables available to me. In short, I fell in love. I look back upon those years as an awakening to the potential of fresh vegetables to nourish with big flavor and beauty. Even though we have lived in several different countries since then with varying degrees of produce available, I’ve always tried to follow Chef Vergé’s instructions to buy the shiny eggplant, the greens that are crisp and vibrant, the firm carrot, the unblemished tomato and, if at all possible, the newly podded pea.

The week’s Sunday Supper theme is Meatless Meals but privately, in my own head, I’ve been calling it Vegetables on Center Stage. I’ve adapted this recipe from one of my new favorite cookbooks, another French one that focuses on vegetables in all their glory, The French Market Cookbook: Vegetarian Recipes from My Parisian Kitchen by Clotilde Dusoulier.  Many thanks to my friend Tammi of Momma’s Meals for hosting this great event, which could not have come at a better time for me. I’ll be visiting my two vegetarian daughters in the United States soon so I know I’ll be pinning a bunch of these recipes to try while I’m there.

10 oz or 285g leeks
If they are more or less the same circumference, that would be good.
10 oz or 285g small zucchini
3 small purple onions (not quite 4 1/2 oz or 125g total weight)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
9 small cherry tomatoes
Olive oil
Sea salt flakes
Black pepper
1 circle of short crust pie pastry (I used this recipe here.)

To serve: 3/4-1 oz or 25-30g Parmesan, freshly grated

Trim the hard green ends and the roots off of the leeks and then cut them into lengths of about one inch or two centimeters long.

Rinse them thoroughly in running water to get rid of any dirt that might be inside, but make sure to keep the pieces whole. Drain the water and set them on a towel to dry.

Add a good drizzle of olive oil to a stovetop pan, preferably one that is also ovenproof,  and place the leeks in the oil, running them around a little to make sure the whole bottom of the pan is oiled.

Rinse and trim the ends off of your zucchini. Cut them into lengths the same as the leeks.

Place them in the pan in and amongst the leeks.

Peel your purple onions and cut them into quarters, making sure to leave a bit of the core at the bottom of each piece. Place them in your pan, core side down, amongst the leeks and zucchini.

Put the pan on a medium fire and cook until the bottoms of the vegetables are beginning to brown. Check a piece of zucchini. It's less likely to fall apart.

Add in a good splash of water and pop a lid on the pan.

Allow the vegetables to steam for a few minutes. When you can poke a fork in the zucchini but still feel some resistance, take the lid off and let the moisture evaporate. Cook for a few more minutes or until the bottoms of the vegetables are nicely caramelized.

Carefully turn them over, trying to keep them upright in their places. I used a combination of a small spoon and tongs to make the turn. If your pan or its handle is not ovenproof, you can transfer the vegetables to a baking pan now. Make sure to oil the new pan and keep the vegetables brown side up.

Preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C.

Add your cherry tomatoes to the pan, placing them around the leeks and zucchini as evenly as you can manage. Sprinkle the vegetables with a little salt and pepper. Remember that you are going to finish this with some grated Parmesan so that will add saltiness as well.

Pull the leaves off of the thyme sprigs and scatter them on top the vegetables.

Top the whole thing with your circle of pastry dough, tucking the sides in down around the vegetables.

Using a sharp knife, cut slits in the dough to allow the steam to escape. This will ensure that your crust comes out of the oven crunchy instead of soggy.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 35-40 minutes or until the tart crust is golden brown.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the crust to loosen it.

Place your serving plate on top of your pan and, using oven mitts, quickly turn the pan over. Replace any pieces of vegetable that stuck to the pan.

Sprinkle liberally with freshly grated Parmesan and serve. I must confess that I didn’t use all the cheese before I took photos because that would have covered up the lovely vegetables. You go ahead and put it all on, unless you are taking pictures.


If you are looking for some great vegetarian options, I’ve got the best list of links for you right here:

Salads, Soups, Stews and Starters
Pastas, Pizzas and Casseroles
Tacos & Everything Wrapped
Other Main and Side Dishes

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