Jamie Oliver’s chicken challenge

Blackened Chicken and San Fran Quinoa Salad

This week I took the plunge and decided my kitchen needed to get messy. So I tried a recipe from Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals. Oh hells yeah! I decided to bring it.

Did I manage it? Eh…. no.

Now, I love Jamie as much as the next person. His recipes are delicious, no nonsense and always work, but I’m not too sure what he’s at with this everyone-can-cook-faster-than-the-speed-of-light malarkey. Honestly like. I know there have been about 20 bazillion blog posts written about how it’s nigh-on impossible to make any of his meals in either 30 or 15 minutes, so I’m not going to go there again; but I do think it’s a shame he’s made such a rod for his own back. I get the point he’s trying to make: food can be quick, easy and tasty if you’re clever about how you prepare it. However, I think that people in general are pedantic and once they can’t make something in the allotted time limit they will immediately call the whole venture a failure.

Well, this beautiful salad took me longer than 15 minutes to make, and afterwards my kitchen did look like a bomb had hit it; but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it, in fact I urge you to. The mix of flavours, texture, spice and sweetness is incredibly yummie and it’s pretty healthy to boot. It’s definitely one worth waiting for!

Blackened Chicken and San Fran Quinoa Salad

Blackened Chicken and San Fran Quinoa Salad close up

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Holiday-substitute chicken pilaf

Finances feeling a bit tight? Recession starting to bite? If you’re living in Ireland or the States, I imagine you might be able to relate.

Not the Australians, I’m pretty sure the Australians don’t even know how to spell the word recession.

Chicken with coriander and spinach rice

There might be no recession in Australia, but finances are a still a wee bit tight here in Chez Yumbolicious. A large tax bill, coupled with saving for two possible trips home next year, car insurance, wedding presents, vet bills and other BORING stuff mean we’re not going on any exotic holidays this year. Oh well.

So if you’re not going to make it on that dream-trip to South America this year, fear not mes amigos, make this and bring South America to you instead.

Cumin-spiced yoghurt

It a recipe adapted from one of my very favourite books: falling cloudberries by Tessa Kiros; and I am deadly serious, it genuinely tastes like something you’d eat on your holidays in Peru or someplace fierce exotic like that. Coriander, chilli and cumin-spiced yoghurt blend together for a fiesta in your mouth. Sounds pretty good, right?!

Perfect with a cerveza in the back garden.

¡Buen viaje!

Chicken with coriander and spinach rice

Chicken with coriander and spinach rice with cumin-spiced yoghurt

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Creamy, sundried surprise

So it’s time for another pasta surprise; because everyone loves pasta and surprises, hoo-raa!

Pasta surprise is all kinds of super and as yumbolicious regulars will know, it’s one of my favourite things to make.

It’s great because you get to clear out the contents of your fridge; while avoiding the supermarket (always good on a midweek evening) and all in under the guise of experimentation. And the big plus? Well it’s pretty hard to go wrong, but if you ever do, you can nearly always do an emergency rescue job with some cheese and a good grill!

This pasta surprise is veering dangerously towards poshness, but I swear it was a fridge clearing exercise that went exceptionally well. So well in fact, that I committed it to memory and made it again and again and again. And you should too.

Creamy, sundried tomato and chicken rigatoni

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Pad thai challenge

Near where The Fella and I live in Sydney, there is a tiny little place that sells chicken pad thai noodles for $5 a pop. Five dollars? I hear you all shout. Yes my friends, just five, small, shiny little dollars

Needless to say, my frugal Fella thinks this place is the bees knees.

While I don’t mind the noodles from Glebe’s $5 Pad Thai, they’re not outstanding; but then for five bucks you wouldn’t expect them to be. A few weeks back I made the mistake of expressing this opinion to The Fella, who immediately issued me with a challenge. The general gist of which was: well little-miss-food-blogger, if you’re so smart you should make better pad thai for less than five dollars. I accepted the challenge, with gusto.

I’m not going to count this one as a fail. I might not have managed to stick to the ridiculous budget, but I maintain that my noodles taste far better, and that’s what really counts, right?

Chicken pad thai noodles

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Sweet chicken tagine with minted couscous

Like every other person on this planet, I love to travel. It’s funny isn’t it, how people nowadays think of ‘travelling’ as a hobby? Yet another thing we can thank the intrepid Mr. Michael O’Leary for, I guess. Anyways, everyone loves holidays, no surprises there. But I’m the only person I know who picks a destination based on what kind of food you’ll get. Feck culture, I’m hungry.

Paris may have the Musée d’Orsay, but it also has dark and interesting brasseries and a boulangerie on every corner. Yumo! As for Barcelona; yeah, yeah, Gaudí was great, challenged modern architecture like never before, but is it nearly time for paella? I could continue but I may be labelled a philistine, or worse yet, a lush.

Anyway, the point of this is that when I go away, I try to take a cookery course if I can. These types of courses generally include a trip to the local market to buy ingredients, where you can learn, see and smell all kinds of weird and wonderful things. It can be really interesting, however you are likely to come home with a handful of recipes that call for pandan leaves or galangal root or other such exotic items you don’t generally come across in Dunnes Stores.

Not so with my trip to Marrakesh a few years ago. This recipe only calls for things you generally would have at home, or at the very least could easily find in the local shop. And it is de-lic-ious. I was taught to make this by a woman at a riad (I’ve been looking for the website but can’t seem to find it unfortunately). Riads are small courtyard houses, many of which have been converted into amazing boutique hotels. I spent a few hours at the riad, learning all the tricks and tips the cook had to offer. Later that evening, The Fella and I came back to be served our meal by the plunge pool on the roof and feel totally decadent!

Sweet chicken tagine (or tajine) with minted couscous

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Chicken satay pizza

Oh dear, I seem to have created an uber-addictive and calorie ridden tour de force.

Anyone who is on a diet, please proceed with caution. I’m pretty sure this harmless looking snack contains oh, about 79 bazillion weight watchers points per slice. By all means make it, but when the top button of your pants starts to object don’t say I didn’t warn you.

This recipe is from one of The Fella’s cookbooks from back in his bachelor days. It’s a wonder he found a girlfriend at all, given how much he likes this pizza; although I suspect all the faffing about with yeast and dough probably put him off making it too often.

I’ve adapted the recipe and made my own satay sauce, rather then just using a jar. So now I have plenty left over for chicken or prawns or the more traditional satay companions. Satay makes a super interesting pizza sauce and this recipe has actually inspired me to experiment a bit more with what I would consider to be stapes in a recipe.

I would definitely recommend you chuck the diet out the window, go forth and be adventurous with peanuts!

Satay sauce and chicken satay pizza

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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

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Taking back Sunday

I work full time. My dreams of becoming a yummie-mummie and staying home all day baking fabulous cupcakes and rearing my own chickens will just have to wait until I win the lotto. So, sometimes it’s hard to find time to spend in the kitchen. Much as I enjoy cooking, on weekday evenings it can be exhausting and weekends can sometimes be super hectic. Plus I hate cleaning up, life is just too short for cleaning up.

But a few years ago, while flipping through The Guardian, I found a recipe by Hugh Ferning-Whittingdale that changed everything . I duly clipped it out, and boy has it served me well on many a lazy (read hungover) Sunday afternoon. It’s as simple as throwing everything in a roasting dish and popping into the oven, but it tastes as good as if you had slaved over a hot stove for hours. And, there’s very little cleaning up to be done afterwards. Brilliant.

Roast Chicken with Sweet Potatoes


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