Archive for February, 2014

Summer stew of chicken, zucchini and fennel seed

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

I still don’t cook many meat dishes, and when I make stews they tend to be of the extremely slow-cooked variety. So I was somewhat surprised when I made this stew up, because I had a craving for several of the ingredients, and it worked out exactly as I hoped. It was also super easy and quick. I’m sure I’ll want to revisit this soon so I’m noting it down.

500 g chicken thigh fillets (get them from happy chickens, please)
olive oil
1 large onion, quartered and sliced
1 large or 3 small young carrots, cut into 7 mm cubes
2 sticks celery, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic
1 heaped teaspoon fennel seed
dry white vermouth
~600 ml home-made chicken stock
4 good sized zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 2 cm batons
half a large bunch of English spinach, stemmed and chopped
flat-leafed parsley, finely chopped

Cut each fillet into about four pieces, each piece a bit more than an inch square. Heat a little slick of olive oil in a non-stick pan and add as many pieces of chicken as can fit without crowding. Cook until the chicken is lightly golden, then turn and repeat on the other side. Remove the chicken and set aside, and repeat with the rest of the pieces.

In a large saucepan, heat a little olive oil and add the onion, carrot and celery. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are lightly coloured and softening. Add the garlic and fennelseed, and cook a further two minutes. Deglaze the pan with a small glass of vermouth and let it simmer away.

Add the chicken stock, zucchini, and chicken pieces. The stock should come within a few cm of covering the vegetables and chicken. Bring to a simmer, partly cover, and let simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the zucchini has softened. Add the spinach, stir through, and simmer another minute until it is wilted. Remove from the heat, season, and stir the parsley through.

Serve over couscous, and with green beans or other vegetable on the side.

Serves 5-6.

Claytons worth drinking

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

I’ve stopped drinking alcohol for a bit. I’m enjoying the consequences, in particular better sleep, less uneasiness about my poor liver, and realising that the reason I say endless numbers of entirely inappropriate things to my friends is not because my tongue is loosened by alcohol, but because I am a chronic over-sharer. It’s so much easier to be embarrassment-free about what came out of my mouth the night before when I realise that it’s just my personality, not the wine.

I do love good alcohol on its own merits, but I also like the “I am about to consume something more exciting than tap water” aspect of it too. For the first couple of weeks after stopping drinking I employed various substitutes for that feeling, including eating quite a lot of Frosty Fruits and downing gallons of sparkling mineral water with slices of lime.

I’ve expanded the repertoire since then, and thought I’d list some options I’ve been enjoying here, in case anyone else is in search of non-alcoholic cold drinks to satisfy themselves during this heatwave.

1. In a tall glass, combine the freshly-squeezed juice of a ruby grapefruit, a couple of dashes of citrus bitters, ice, and about 200 ml of soda water. A few mint leaves, scrunched in the hand before adding to the glass, are great but not required.

2. Fever-tree ginger beer is delicious. Much more gingery, less sugary, and in a more sensible bottle size than Bundaberg et al.

3. Tonic water with ice and a dash of elderflower cordial. Not too much cordial, or it will become sickly! Just a little tiny dash.

4. San Pellegrino’s little bottles of chinotto, so bitter and satisfying.

5. Soda water with ice and a dash or two of pomegranate molasses to taste. Sorry if you like sweet drinks; my predilection for sour and bitter tastes is probably becoming rather obvious here.

6. The Australian classic, lemon, lime and bitters. This is easy to make, and the premixed versions are disgusting, so construct your own. Drizzle Angostura bitters around the inside of a glass and twist to coat it a little. Add ice, a dash of lime juice cordial, and top with clear lemonade (preferably something less sweet than the Sprite type).

7. A Gunner: equal parts ginger ale and ginger beer, with a dash of Angostura bitters and a squeeze of lemon juice to taste.

8. Lychee soda, as first encountered by us at the Vietnamese restaurant in South Brisbane we used to go to once a week with friends after climbing. In a tall glass, put a few ice cubes, four or five lychees from a tin, and a dash of the syrup from the tin. Top up the glass with cold soda water. Serve with a straw and a long-handled parfait spoon to eat the lychees.