Spring 2014

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FINGER lickin' chicken!

Chris talking to a chicken Hello again folks and happy springtime

I know you’ve been hibernating all winter pondering the imponderable: which came first – the chicken or the egg.

I know the answer, folks ... and the answer was in the last edition, which you received in the depth of winter.

In the winter edition, folks, I gave you recipes using EGGS! So, yes, eggs came first, not chickens!
You heard it here first!

Each edition, especially recently, you’ve heard me banging on about protein, especially that which is value for money. I’ve given you recipes for mussels, for calamari and for offal.

Now protein is important for the diet. If you’re vegetarian or a vegan, then your choices for protein are much more limited. And then you’re probably more into nuts and cereals, which are very healthy.

Protein is what keeps you and me on this mortal coil (i.e, the Earth).

Whether it’s in eggs, nuts, seafood, meat or whatever– it is, or should be – an essential component in our daily intake of food.

So let’s consider the chook. Now this is real value for money.

A chicken weighing around 1.5 kilos and costing $10 will feed a family of four – that’s $2.50 a serve.

Somewhere in the kitchen I’ve got a recipe book giving 50 delicious chicken recipes ... or is it 500? Who really cares? There is a multitude of ways you cook with chicken. There are a couple of hundred nations in the world and each nation has a couple of hundred chicken recipes. Recipes that are enhanced with rosemary, apricots, citrus, garlic, curry blends ... and other food items we’ve never really thought about. Inside this edition I have a chicken with chocolate recipe.

An old girl I know – yes, Suzy, that’s you! – has a cookbook written by Peg Bracken, an American, 54 years ago which has sold literally millions of copies (four million at last count). It’s called “I Hate To Cook Book”. In that book there’s a recipe for chicken, so simple ... six pieces of chicken rubbed with garlic, salt, pepper and paprika, then covered with a mixed cup of cream and can of cream of mushroom soup, baked in the oven, then dressed with parsley. How easy is that!

Now Peg Bracken, who died in 2007 at the age of 89, had four husbands – not all at the same time, of course, but they must have been well-fed. When she showed the manuscript of what was to become a major bestseller to husband No. 2 he said: “It stinks!” So that was the end of that marriage.

But I digress ... back to chooks!

In Tassie we are lucky to have a variety of poultry growers.
Ask your butcher or check the packaging details to make sure you get what you want – for example, whether it’s a free- range bird, and if it’s been fed hormones. You’re the consumer – you have a right to know exactly what you’re purchasing.

Sitting out the Games

Spare a thought for Tassie’s Tristan Thomas, who was forced out of the recently held Commonwealth Games in Glasgow because of injury.


Tristan was listed to represent Australia in the 400m hurdles and the 4x400m relay, but just weeks before the Games he told Athletics Australia a leg injury, caused by smashing into a hurdle, had not healed in time.


Inside, Tristan tells readers how to turn a negative occurrence into a positive. “Defy the odds,” he says, “and achieve your goal.”

DEFY THE ODDS – achieve your goal

Tristan ThomasDear Brighton

Last time I wrote to you all it was the beginning of winter and bugs in their only year of life didn't know what freezing perils lay ahead.

The other thing I wrote about was the recent setbacks I was having in my own track life, with a collection of injuries forcing me out of a great trip racing in Japan as well as one in the Bahamas a couple of weeks later.

I was disappointed at the time, but at that point I still had a European summer to look forward to, culminating in the Commonwealth Game in Glasgow. Fast forward another month and I was still not healed and it came time to email Athletics Australia and withdraw from the team.

Needless to say, this was a pretty rubbish situation to find myself in. Missing the chance to compete with the best is like doing a full week’s work without a dollar earned as a reward. Even worse though is being stuck at home and going through the painful process of rehab. Frustrating days!

But at some point you have to stop whingeing and get on with achieving your next goal. So many times in life we have thoughts of amazing things that are going to happen and looking forward is a great motivator.

There's nothing more powerful than a person’s dream. Sadly, however, they don't always come true and more often than not it'll be back to that old drawing board and starting all over again.

This isn't all a bad thing though and those who have never had to do
it tough have no idea how great it can be to defy all the odds and achieve whatever goal it is. This is what drives me now.

As I lay there getting the last round of needles to try to fix the injuries I decided I WILL NOT STOP after going through all this without getting a happy ending.

I don't know when it will come ... in life we rarely do, but that's half the fun. You never know what's around the corner and, as I am now finding, there are many unexpected positives that can occur, even when your main goal is on a stand-still.

As I've said, it’s never too late to challenge yourself. I just can't wait to write a column when all is going great and for the first time in this process show that hard work does definitely pay off.

In the meantime, get ready for summer, get those runners out and celebrate by taking the dog for an extra long walk or jog. You may even surprise yourself.

Until next time ... and never listen to a fat lady sing. Tristan

STOCKING up the basis for good dishes

Most dishes are only as good as the stock you use in cooking the dish. The same goes for soups. So let’s make a good chicken stock first.


There are two kinds of chicken stock: light and dark. The ingredients are the same, the only difference is that with the dark stock you toss the bones in about 100 ml of olive oil, place them in a pan and roast at 200C for about 15-20 minutes, turning once or twice until brown.


To make two litres of stock you need:
2 kilos of chicken carcasses
4 litres cold water
3 sticks of celery chopped
2 leeks roughly chopped
2 onions chopped
2 large carrots chopped
1⁄2 head of garlic unpeeled
1 large sprig of thyme


Put the chicken carcasses into a large pot, cover with the water and bring to the boil. Using a slotted spoon, skim off the white scum on the top. Add the vegetables with the garlic and thyme and bring back to the boil. Then reduce the heat and gently simmer for about three hours, skimming the top of the liquid occasionally if necessary to keep the stock clean. Do not allow to boil as this will make the stock very cloudy.


Strain the stock through a sieve lined with muslin cloth and discard all the debris. To remove excess fat from the stock, chill in the fridge and skim off fat. Keep in a jar in the fridge for up to three days or freeze it in 1⁄2 litre quantities and use as required.

CHICKEN in a pot, or with lemon ... or chocolate!


CHICKEN in a pot

2 chickens cut into quarters 1⁄4 cup butter
salt and pepper
1 cup hot chicken stock
1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 
1⁄4cup of water
1 kilo cooked peas
6 medium carrots sliced and cooked
1 small head of cauliflower, broken into florets and cooked
6 small cooked potatoes


Brown the cut chickens in butter in a large dutch oven or casserole dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and paprika.


Cover tightly and cook slowly until tender on top of the stove, adding a little water from time to time.

Remove the chicken when cooked.


Add the hot chicken stock to the pan drippings, stir in the cornstarch dissolved in 1⁄4 cup water. Cook stirring constantly until smooth and thickened. Adjust the flavour with salt and pepper. Pile the chicken in the centre of the pot, surround with the cooked peas, carrots, cauliflower and potatoes. Replace the lid. Reheat for about 10 minutes and serve.


LEMON and olive crispy chicken

4 chicken breasts
lemon olive mixture (see below)
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 medium lemons
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/3 cup plain flour
3⁄4 cup seeded black olives
1 teaspoon ground cumin
4 tomatoes sliced
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
3 teaspoons fresh thyme chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil


Combine chicken, lemon zest and juice and garlic in a medium bowl, mix, cover and refrigerate for about 3 hours.


Drain chicken and pat dry. Coat chicken flour combined with spices and thyme. Heat oil in large pan, add chicken and cook until crisp and brown on both sides. Place chicken on oven tray and cook for about

15 minutes or until tender.


Lemon olive mixture

Cut lemons in half lengthwise, slice thinly.


Heat oil in medium pan, add garlic and cook while stirring until fragrant. Add the lemons, olives, tomatoes and vinegar, stir gently until just warm.


Arrange in a pleasing pattern with the chicken breasts and serve.

CHICKEN with chocolate sauce

2 small chickens, each cut into 4 pieces
1⁄4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion chopped
2 cloves garlic crushed
1 cinnamon stick
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cloves
1⁄2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
1 large red capsicum, sliced
1 cup dry white wine
60g bitter sweet chocolate, chopped


Cut along both sides of the chicken backbone, cut in half between breasts, then cut each half in 2 pieces.


Pat dry and toss in flour.


Heat oil in pan, cook chicken in batches until browned, then drain on absorbent paper.


Add onion and garlic to the pan and stir until onion is soft. Add spices and stir until fragrant.


Return chicken to the pan with the tomatoes from the 2 undrained cans, the sliced capsicum and wine. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.


Remove the lid, add the cinnamon stick and simmer for another 20 minutes or until chicken is very tender and sauce thickens slightly. Add the chocolate and stir in until melted. Remove the cinnamon stick and serve.




SAUTEED chicken breasts

2 chicken breasts without skin
1⁄2 cup flour
1⁄4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs lightly beaten
3⁄4 cup breadcrumbs
1⁄4 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/3 cup melted butter
4 lemon wedges


Season the flour with nutmeg, salt and pepper.


Dredge the breasts lightly in the flour mixture, then in the eggs, then in a mixture of breadcrumbs and cheese. Brown on all sides in the melted butter on medium heat. When done, serve garnished with the lemon wedges and a fresh garden salad.

Roast chicken

Roast chicken is the way to go for most families – it’s so easy to prepare.


You can have it stuffed with a mix of breadcrumbs, finely chopped onions, garlic, herbs (especially parsley, thyme, marjoram and sage) and perhaps some orange zest and panfried bacon pieces. But don’t forget to add the weight of the stuffing when checking the time needed for cooking.


A simple taste alternative for roast or barbecued chicken is to fill the cavity with a mix of herbs and some crushed garlic cloves. The best herbs are fresh rosemary and/or sage. I baste the bird in olive oil, rub in paprika and pepper and spread a few twigs of fresh rosemary on top.


Bake the chook in the oven at 180C, allowing 30 minutes for each 500 grams. Let the bird rest under foil for 15-20 minutes before carving. This will also give you time to crisp up baked vegies and to make a gravy.



The flavours of India

India poultry is quite expensive so it is a delicacy reserved for special occasions. Here are some favourites of mine.


First, the spices

Tandoori chicken mixture

egg-2000To make a tandoori mix combine
11⁄2 teaspoons ground turmeric
3 teaspoons paprika
3 teaspoons garam masala (see below)
11⁄2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 teaspoon chili powder
1⁄4 teaspoon saffron powder


Combine all ingredients in a jar and shake well until combined and use as needed


Garam masala mixture to make at home (or you can buy it)

2 tablespoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon black pepper
2 teaspoons whole cloves
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
11⁄2 teaspoons cardamom seeds
1 cinnamon stick
1⁄2 nutmeg roughly chopped


Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and stir over medium heat for about 2 minutes until fragrant. Blend mixture in a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle until fine. Store in a well-sealed jar and use as required.


Red curry paste

6 red chilies, seeded and chopped
2 medium onions chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons oil
1 grated lemon rind
2 teaspoons shrimp paste
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground black pepper


Blend until you have a smooth paste. Keep in a well-sealed jar and use as required.

Now, the recipes

CHICKEN peanut curry

8 chicken thigh cutlets
1⁄4 cup oil
1/3 cup red curry paste
400 ml coconut milk
1⁄4 cup fish sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1⁄2 cup crunchy peanut butter


Place chicken in a baking tray, brush with oil and bake in a moderate hot oven for about 45 minutes. Drain on absorbent paper.


Heat remaining oil in a medium saucepan, add curry paste and stir over medium heat for about 1 minute.


Stir in coconut milk, fish sauce and sugar and peanut butter. Stir over medium heat until mixture boils and thickens. Add chicken to coconut mixture, stir over medium heat for about 5 minutes until mixture is hot. Serve with steamed rice.


TANDOORI chicken

Two smallish chickens (No.9)
200 g plain yoghurt
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon tandoori mix
60g ghee (clarified butter), melted


Pull the skin off the whole chickens and discard. Cut a few slits into the chicken breasts and drumsticks.


Combine yoghurt, garlic, ginger and tandoori mix in a small bowl and mix well.


Place chickens in a baking dish and brush chickens inside and out with the yoghurt mixture. Drizzle a little ghee over chickens and bake in a hot oven, 220C, for 20 minutes. Turn chickens and bake for another 15 minutes. Turn chickens on to one side and bake for a further 15 minutes. Turn chickens on to the other side and cook for a further15 minutes or until chickens are well browned and tender. Brush chickens with ghee occasionally while cooking. Serve with steamed rice.


SPICY fried chicken

2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 small fresh red chili, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
11⁄2 kilo chicken thighs
15 g ghee (clarified butter)
1 tablespoon oil
1⁄2 cup unsalted roasted cashew nuts
1⁄4 cup water


Combine garlic, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, chili and lemon juice in a small bowl and mix well. Add chicken, mix well in the spice mixture, refrigerate for several hours or overnight.


Heat ghee and oil in a large frying pan, add chicken and cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes until chicken is lightly browned all over.


Stir in the nuts then the water, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes until chicken is tender.


Serve with rice or vegetables.


CHICKEN and almond curry

3 medium onions
1 tablespoon oil
60 g ghee (clarified butter)
1 kilo boned and skinless chicken thigh fillets, halved
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon ground
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
1⁄2 teaspoon chili powder
3 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped or a can of chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon oil, extra
3⁄4 cup blanched almonds
3⁄4 cup plain yoghurt
1⁄2 cup ground almonds
2 teaspoons garam masala
1⁄2 cup chopped fresh coriander


Slice half the onions, chop remaining onions. Heat oil and ghee in a large saucepan, add the chicken in batches and cook for about 5 minutes until chicken is browned all over. Remove from pan add sliced onions and cook for about 3 minutes until onions are soft, then remove from pan.


Add chopped onion to pan with the garlic and ginger, stir over medium heat for about 3 minutes, until onions are soft. Stir in the seeds, cinnamon stick, ground coriander, cumin, turmeric and chili powder, and stir over medium heat for about 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes and tomato paste, bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, adding a little water if needed.


Add the chicken and coat all over, cook over low heat for about 20 minutes.


Heat extra oil in a frying pan, add blanched almonds, stir over medium heat until almonds are golden brown, then drain on absorbent paper. Stir yoghurtand toasted almonds into curry, cover and simmer for 5 minutes.


Stir in reserved onions, ground almonds, garam masala and fresh coriander, stir over medium heat until heated through.


Serve with your choice of rice.


MARINATED chicken curry

1 kilo skinless chicken thighs, halved
1 tablespoon olive oil
60g ghee (clarified butter)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
6 medium tomatoes peeled and chopped or can of chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon sugar
1⁄2 cup of sour cream
2 teaspoons garam masala
1⁄2 cup chopped fresh coriander


For the marinade:

1⁄2 cup plain yoghurt
1⁄2 cup lime juice
1 clove of crushed garlic
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon chili powder
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cloves


Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.


Place chicken thighs in a large bowl. Prick chicken all over with a fork. add marinade, mix well and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight, stirring occasionally. Drain chicken, reserve the remaining marinade.


Heat the oil and ghee in a large saucepan, add chicken and cook over medium to high heat for about 5 minutes until brown all over. Remove chicken from pan.


Add onion and ginger and stir over medium heat for about 2 minutes.


Stir in ground seeds and spices and after one minute add tomatoes, tomato paste and sugar and bring to the boil.


Reduce the heat and simmer covered for about 15 minutes until the sauce is thick.


Stir in chicken, reserved marinade and sour cream, bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer covered for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chicken is tender.


Stir in garam masala and chopped coriander and serve with your choice of rice.

Conjure up some SPRING MAGIC

Is your garden looking a little drab? Could it do with a spring brighten up? If yes, then there are lots of easy-to- achieve tricks that’ll work wonders without costing you heaps.

They’re all ideas tailored to lazy gardeners who’d prefer to be out downing an ale in the backyard than breaking a back pulling weeds or mowing.

Most of them won’t take you much longer than a visit to a local nursery and an hour or so in the garden.


Bloomin’ beauts

Buy a couple of punnets of petunias and plant them in any container you can find. It doesn’t need to be a pot, so long as it contains potting mix and drainage holes in the bottom.

Once they’re going, petunias flower right up to the start of winter. All they need is an occasional trim of old flowers to keep them virile, watering and a slosh of liquid fertiliser every second month or so.

You can do the same with lobelia, marigolds or nasturtiums. All are long- flowering, hardy and perfect for pots.

But don’t get carried away when using potting mix. If you’re careful, potting mix is not a problem – although it can contain legionella organisms that if inhaled could cause illness. So always use gloves and cover your nose and mouth and ensure potting mix is moist to avoid those nasties getting into your lungs.


Pot parade

Get any old pots or containers together and paint them all the same colour. Displayed together in a collection and planted up, it’s amazing how trendy they look.

Even the daggiest old pot or container (but don’t forget drainage holes) will come up a treat in such a collection. And don’t ignore those plastic pots that plants come in.


Cosmos cure

cosmos-400Cosmos (pictured right) is a daisy-flowered annual that can turn boring blank areas into carpets of brilliant colour.

A packet of cosmos seed will set you back a couple of dollars. In return you’ll get a massed display over late spring into summer of zingy, open-faced blooms.

Cosmos comes in pinks, lavenders, whites and crimsons. You can buy it as seedlings but it’s just as easy, and way cheaper, to get as seed and grow it yourself.

Sow the seed in a tray of potting mix (remember the drainage holes) in a sheltered spot, liquid fertilise once the seedlings are up, then transplant them in to a sunny spot wherever you want colour.

When choosing colours for your plant colour-up, go for shades that work with those on the outside of your home.



Old favourite

Good old geraniums, the ones granny grew, rarely fail for spring-summer colour.

They’re as tough as old boots and, apart from a little watering and fertiliser, will bloom for months on end, year after year.

They now come in a mass of different colours and tones – but for best effect grow ones of the same colour in a line of matching pots (one to a pot). Or put a pot with a single geranium either side of your front entrance.

Or in a fancy wall-hanger pot.

It rarely fails.

From time to time you will need to trim them up to keep them compact and free of dead or ugly foliage.

The sneaky part with geraniums is that it’s dead easy to grow more from the ones you bought. You can turn one into many.

Just take a few 25-30cm long cuttings from the end of branches (it’s best to cut just below where a leaf comes out). Snip off all leaves except one or two at the top. Place your cuttings vertically around a pot of moist potting mix or light soil, then cover with a clear plastic bag.

Use one of those cheap plastic mister bottles (from a $2 shop) to keep your cuttings moist. Within a couple of months you’ll have new geraniums you can pot up.