Chicken Curry with Cauliflower and Chickpeas

c1Years ago we were invited to dine at a friends home. I remember it vividly. It was winter. Cold and dark. A crazy snowstorm. We were contemplating canceling but decided to brave the storm. The idea of someone cooking for us trumped staying home. Dinner was a casual affair. We were all crawled up on the sofas around the fireplace the entire duration of the evening. Blankets and pillows all around. Great music, lots of candles and one of the best currys I have ever had. 

Our friend told me that she didn’t have a recipe but just winged it. So, that’s what I did too. I’ve made it many times since then. Mostly on cold winter nights. Spiciness level vary slightly depending on my mood but the whole point of a good curry is to warm you up – Make you sweat a little. You get ready for the next bite with a smile on your face, thinking, this, is good. 

Stay warm out there. Remember. Spring is just around the corner…ish.

Jens

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12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

2 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion

4 garlic cloves

2 cups chickpeas

4 cups cauliflower florets

2 1/2 cups coconut milk

2 cups chicken broth

4-6 tbsp curry paste

1 1/2 tbsp cumin

2 tbsp ground coriander

1 1/2 cups green peas

1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped

3-4 tsp salt

Black pepper

Finely chop the chicken thighs. Sauté in the olive oil over medium-high in a large cast iron pot heat until browned. No need to have the chicken cooked all the way through at this point. Remove the chicken and set aside. Leave leftover oil and liquid in the pot.

Finely dice the onion and garlic cloves. Add to the same pot along with chickpeas and cauliflower florets. Sauté over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the coconut mill, chicken broth, curry paste and coriander as well as the chicken. Bring to a simmer. Cover and let simmer for 30 min. Stir occasionally. Pull off the heat and stir in the peas and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper.

Let sit for 5-10 before serving with cooked rice or cous cous. 

Garnish with fresh cilantro, green onions and hot peppers.

This is also a great vegetarian option for a dinner by excluding the chicken and using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. c3 c4 c5

Gruyere Stuffed Arancini with Spicy Tomato & Basil

a6“What are the odds of me leaving to go to the city to help our friend move, while you stay here and deal with the tasting room?” I asked Bruno a few days before a busy August weekend. After an unexpected all clear and green light, I quickly made firm plans with Natalie – our good friend in great need of a moving partner for the weekend. Two long days and sore backs later, I popped open a  bottle of our sparkling pinot noir. We toasted work well done on her balcony while watching the Toronto skyline and sunset. 

Magical. 

“Let me take you out for dinner” she said. “Where do you want to go?”. 

I told her to choose a place I hadn’t been before. As you all know, I love food and I love eating. So, needless to say, I was very excited when we walked through the door of Gio Rana’s Really Really Nice Restaurant, known coloclially as: The Nose. Such a marvellous place! Italian all the way. Small plates, perfect for sharing, which I found difficult – much too delicious to share. One of the dishes was arancini. Stuffed, deep fried rice balls, served with an oh so tangy yet sweet tomato sauce. Finger licking good.

In September my parents came over for a three week visit. A few days in Toronto is always a must on their list. “Let’s go somewhere we’ve never been before” they said one evening when discussing what to do for dinner. I instantly knew where to go. Back at The Nose we ordered one of most things on the menu – the arancini being one of them. Watching my parents share these rice balls was a joy. Talk about kids in a candy store. I recently decided to make them myself. I started with the tomato sauce. The key to good tomato sauce is time. Let it simmer and simmer. And simmer. 

Heaven.a5

Tomato Sauce:

3 cups plain tomato sauce

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped 

2 tbsp finely chopped basil

1/4 cup maple syrup.

1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar

1/4 cup onions, finely chopped 

2- 3 tbsp sambal oelek

1/4 cup red wine

1/4 cup water

 

Risotto:

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice

3 cups chicken broth

1 tbsp oregano

2 tsp freshly grated ginger

Salt 

Pepper

 

2 whole eggs, lightly beaten

150g Gruyere cheese 

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

Sunflower oil

Add all the ingredients for the tomato sauce in a pot. Bring to a boil, then let simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally. I let the sauce slowly simmer until the Arancinis are fried and ready to be served.

Prepare the rice by adding all the ingredients for the risotto in another pot. Bring to a boil then let simmer over low heat, covered, until al dente, stirring occasionally. Add more chicken broth if needed. It needs to be sticky, not too wet when done in order to roll the balls properly. When cooked, set aside to let cool. 

Cut the cheese into 15 equal size squares. 

Add the beaten eggs to the rice. Mix well. 

Grab a small handful of rice and place it in the palm of your hand. Take a piece of cheese and place in the middle of the rice. Enclose the cheese in the rice, creating a ball. The ball should be 1 1/2″-2″ diameter. Set aside on a plate. Repeat with the rest of the cheese then carefully roll the balls in the breadcrumbs until well covered.

In a large pot, add oil about 2″ deep. Heat until the oil reaches a temperature of 350F. Fry the balls, a few at a time, until golden brown. This will take about 4-5 min. Place on paper towel and sprinkle with sea salt. Serve hot with the tomato sauce. Makes roughly 15 Arancinis. a1a4a3

Tarragon Chicken

tc1Memories. Some of them will bring a smile to our face and some will make us turn bright red. The other day a song by Phil Collins came on the radio. In an instant, I was thrown back 25 years to the 9th grade. A week long school trip in a double decker bus to Paris. I remember killing travel time by listening to this live album on my portable “Walkman” cd-player. Even though I had a proper seat assigned to me, most of the trip I sat in the corner of the spiral stairs connecting the first and second floor of the bus. Not sure why since it wasn’t the slightest bit comfortable and people constantly bumped into me on their way up or down. Maybe it was the quietest spot around. I’m not sure. Either way, it didn’t seem to bother me. I was a serious day dreamer growing up. Part of my brain was always in my own world. I drifted away, gazing out the window, pretending to be attending an amazing live concert by Phil Collins. 

A few hours before arriving in Paris the bus pulled off the road and we all got out in front of what seemed to be a rather non-pretentious and run down gargote. I turned off Phil. Time for lunch. I ordered the special – tarragon chicken. Ridiculously delicious. Chicken cooked with vegetables and broth. A splash of cream and lots of tarragon. What a match. When I got back home I told my parents about the dish and that evening my mom made the Swedish adaptation of the same dish. Very close. She said it’s a Swedish classic. Who knew.

I wonder if Phil Collins likes tarragon.tc3

1 large carrot

1 large onion

1/2 bulb of fennel

1 tbsp butter

2 tbsp olive oil

8-10  skinless, boneless chicken thighs

3 cups chicken stock

3 cloves garlic, peeled

1 bunch fresh tarragon

1/2 cup cream

1/3 cup white vermouth

2 tbsp flour

1 green onion

1 tsp salt

1 tsp white pepper

1/2 tbsp dijon mustard

Peel and roughly dice the carrot, onion and fennel. In a large cast iron pot, melt the butter and olive oil. Brown the chicken on medium-high heat 2-3 min/side. Drain off the fat from the chicken, then add vegetables and chicken stock along with the garlic and half the tarragon. Let simmer for 20-25 min or until chicken is cooked through.

Remove the chicken and drain the broth into a separate pot. Discard the vegetables. On high heat, reduce the broth by half or 2/3. Add cream and vermouth. Mix the flour in a little bit of water and add to the broth. Finely chop the green onion and the rest of the tarragon and add as well along with salt, pepper and mustard. Place the chicken back into the sauce and let simmer for a couple of minutes.

Serve with rice or potatoes. Serves 4-5tc6 tc2tc4

Lobster Risotto

lr3Omelettes, pies and risottos. What do they have in common? Not much you might think. I tend to agree, to a degree. They are however perfect for the ‘It’s time to clean out my fridge’ category. I can’t speak for your fridge but here, there are always leftover vegetables lurking. Take celery for example. Who ever use all the stalks of celery when buying it for a recipe. Most (this one included) call for one, two or three stalks. The rest goes back in the fridge and becomes part of the ‘leftover vegetables’ pile. Even though the base is the same (an omelette is an omelette, pie dough is pie dough, rice is rice), throw in different vegetables or meats and you have a whole new dish every time. Perhaps that’s why I fall back on them quite often. It’s brilliant.

My lobster risotto came about this way and it has become a big favourite. It’s light and the taste of orange makes it summer fresh. Do I even need to mention it goes beautifully with our Golden Russet Cider? Or our pinot noir for that matter. I find the key to a great risotto is to give it a little bit more stock than you think it needs. By the time you bring the dish to the table and everyone sits down to enjoy it, the rice will have soaked up more of the liquid. A dry risotto can make it feel like you are eating sticky porridge. Risotto should not resemble sticky porridge.

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1 carrot

1 shallot

1-2 stalks celery

1 tbsp butter

1/4 cup calvados

2 cups arborio rice

5-6 cups chicken stock

zest of 1 orange

juice of half an orange

1/4 cup finely chopped dill

1 1/2 tbsp fish sauce

200g lobster

200g shrimps (save shells)

2 tbsp butter

1 1/2 tsp white balsamic vinegar

Finely dice (brunoise) the carrot, shallot and celery stalks. In a large sauce pan, sauté brunoise in butter on medium-high heat for about a minute than add the calvados. Let cook for another minute then transfer the vegetables and leftover liquid to a separate bowl. Set aside. 

Peel the shrimps and set aside. Wrap the shrimp shells in cheese cloth and tie with kitchen string. 

In the same large sauce pan, add the rice along with 2 cups chicken broth and the shrimp shells package. Bring to a simmer on medium- low heat. Stir frequently and add more broth when needed. Add the orange zest, juice and dill along with the fish sauce. Let simmer for 20-30 min until rice is cooked through and soft.

Roughly chop the shrimps and lobster meat and add to the risotto. When the shrimps are cooked (turned pink) add the vegetables. Let simmer for another couple of minutes then add the butter and vinegar. Add another splash of chicken broth if you feel it’s too dry. Serve immediately.

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