Dreaming of Darina

OK, so I got this book recently and it’s – as we’d say at home – feckin’ deadly! It’s called 700 Forgotten  Kitchen Secrets by Darina Allen, and I recommend that everyone goes out and buys it, immediately.

I know it almost sounds like I’ve been paid to endorse it. Ha! Wouldn’t that be something? No, I’m just really obsessed with it, so much so, I’ve even considered bringing it to read on the train to work in the morning. But, if sales do sky rocket, Darina you can reach me through this blog. And, I won’t want to be paid or anything, a short spell in Ballymaloe will do me just grand, thanks!

Anyways, this book is amazing. It’s full of handy hints, beautiful pictures and great little anecdotes. Reading it makes me want to move home to Ireland and live on a goat farm somewhere on the west coast, making cheese and maybe soap for the tourists. I could keep my own chickens and a cow for milking and maybe even a little hive of bees. Oh, the daydreams I have while trudging through the Sydney underground every morning. Unfortunately, the Fella, having been born and raised here thinks he’s far too cosmopolitan for all that craic. He won’t entertain these notions I have at all, even when I send him pictures of goats being super cute and fun.

So, this post will be the first of many recipes from this fab book. I decided to make creamy chicken and ginger, mainly because I already had all of the ingredients and thus didn’t need to leave the house. But also, it’s just a really interesting recipe. Darina recommends letting the chicken soak in milk for about half an hour before you cook it. The lactic acid in the milk works as a tenderiser; breaking down threads in the meat and making it super soft and delicious. This was just too good an experiment for my super-nerdy-chemist-brain to pass up on, and the result: score! I’m not always a fan of chicken breast, but this was lovely and juicy and tender, and not at all dry or bland. Also, the combination of ginger and cream was something I’d never have put together myself, but it works really well.

Creamy Chicken and Ginger


4 chicken breasts
300 ml of milk
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp chopped scallions or shallots
extra virgin olive oik
115 g (4 oz) mushrooms, sliced
160 ml chicken stock
160 ml heavy cream
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
roux (made up of 8 tbsp butter melted and approx 115g (4 oz) flour cooked together on a low heat for about 2 minutes)
parsley, to garnish

Soak the chicken breasts in the milk for about an hour before you cook it. Dry it well with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.

Heat the butter in a heavy pan until it foams. Put the chicken breasts in the pan and turn them in the butter, but do not brown them. Cover with a piece of parchment paper and the lid and allow to cook on a low heat for 5-7 minutes or until they are just barely cooked.

Meanwhile, on a low heat, cook the scallions in a little butter. Once they are done, transfer to a plate. Then raise the heat and add the olive oil and mushrooms to the pan. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 3-4 minutes. Once they are done remove to a plate with the scallions.

When the chicken breasts are cooked remove them to a plate. Add the chicken stock, cream and ginger to the pan, bring to the boil and thicken by whisking in a little roux. Return the chicken breasts, mushrooms and scallions to the pan and simmer for a further 1-2 minutes. Season to taste and serve with rice or orzo (small rice shaped pasta).

When I live on my farm, I am always going to cook my organic chickens like this, and they will be delish. But until then, this wasn’t half bad either! Thanks Darina – you’ve dispelled all thoughts of dry, tasteless chicken breasts forever.


You might also like:

Roast Chicken with Sweet Potatoes

Posh spring rack of lamb with fennel

Coconut, pak choi and basil broth

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