February 28, 2010

Thai Crème Brulée

Have you tried crème brulée before? Have you tried a good crème brulée before?…If done right, it can be one of the most memorable desserts! The flavour, aside of the cream and vanilla one, it’s up to you. But the texture, oh!the texture (I know, I am a bit obsessed about the texture of dishes…in fact there was another dessert I wanted to share with you, but didn’t get quite the texture I wanted, so it will have to wait)…it literally melts in your mouth, it is sooo soft, so creamy. You’ll just have to try it and you’ll see I don’t exaggerate a bit!
This combination for crème brulée I learned from I chef I worked with. I never got the exact recipe, but I’ve adjusted the ingredients to get to the flavour I remember and finally love! If you like classic vanilla, try this refreshing twist. The flavour of the subtle lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and lime rind go in perfect marriage with the vanilla bean.
The recipe is straight-forward, the preparation of the infused cream is simple but the key-point, what determines the outcome (of that texture I’ve highlighted enough) is knowing when it’s cooked. There is a very fine line between done and over-cooked or split. At least, that’s my experience. I’ve seen so many recipes that suggest oven cooking temperatures of 160ºC, 140ºC or even 180ºC! Well, if you want to make sure you don’t trespass the safe zone, I believe it should be cooked at 100ºC, 120ºC at maximum. The truth is that my oven thermostat, and I hate it for that, goes from 100ºC straight to 150ºC, so I cannot do much testing in between that range, but whenever I’ve tried 150ºC it just doesn’t come out right. I’m making emphasis on this because cooking at 100ºC takes it’s time…but I simply think, it is well-worth it. If you want to see for yourselves, here’s my recipe…

Thai Crème Brulée
(for 7 ramequins filled with about 80ml)
500 ml of heavy cream (35% fat content)
80g granulated sugar
1/2 of a vanilla bean
2 lemongrass stalks bruised
4 kaffir lime leaves
rind of 1/2 a lime (peeled)
1 tsp grated ginger
pinch of salt
6 medium egg yolks

Bruise the lemongrass stalks with the back of a knife to allow them to release their flavour and split open the fourth of vanilla bean (cut lengthwise) to release the seeds. Here’s my bruised lemongrass, I wish you could smell it!
Place all ingredients except the yolks, the lime juice and the gelatin leaf into a medium saucepan  and bring slowly to a boil.
Watch it! otherwise if may overflow from the pan! Remove it from the heat and let it infuse for at least 30 minutes. What I do to infuse the cream is to cover the pan with cling film (use double if it’s too hot and makes a hole), that way all the flavours concentrate. If you want you can prepare this part ahead, and let the cream sit overnight for the flavour to develop.

Preheat the oven to 100ºC (or 120ºC if you want to check…I think it’s a safe temperature, otherwise I wouldn’t tell you…but I can’t use it!!)
Reheat the cream, add the lime juice and strain it with a strainer that is thin enough to leave the grated ginger behind but let those wonderful vanilla seeds go through. Do not throw away the vanilla pod! Wash it and reserve it for other uses, for instance, the most common is to place it with a cup of sugar in a closed container and in a few days you’ll have vanilla sugar!

If you are going to use the gelatin leaf, I most often do, hydrate it first in cold water, dry it and add it now to the hot liquid. It is obviously not strictly part of a crème brulée recipe, but I think it’s a reassurance so that it sets better. It will not affect texture negatively at all, as for a super-soft pannacotta you use 2 for 500ml cream, but if you want to be able to turn it out and have a bit more consistency while creamy, it’s good to use it.
In another bowl break the yolks (many recipes whip them with the sugar, but I find it’s not necessary, plus it creates foam which we don’t want and by adding the sugar to the infused cream, with the pinch of salt, bien sûr, you can taste it! so, you can decide if you like it as it is or you’re more of a sweet tooth and want to add a bit more to your preference).
Now add slowly some of the cream while whisking with a wire whip (I’ve had to look up this word in english!), so it doesn’t cook the yolk and then incorporate the rest also whisking softly.
Strain again into a measurer or a container that will be easy to pour it from.  Place your ramequins into a tray that has about 5 cm high sides as you’ll be filling it with water. I usually place a kitchen linen on the bottom so the ramequins are not in direct contact with the tray. Harold McGee, the molecular gastronomer, who has a wonderful book, more like a Bible, I really recommend titled “On Food and Cooking”, mentions that this can backfire as no water circulation in the bottom can bring it to a boil and thus rock the cups around. It has never happened to me…so I keep doing it, but you don’t need to. And pour the cream amongst the ramequins.
I like to remove the little foam that floats on top, as if you don’t, it will set and the texture is not as smooth and sometimes it burns as you caramelise the sugar. I use a blowtorch and with a quick pass through it pops all the bubbles…Do you see them?
This one has little, so it’s optional to do it, but if you get a good layer of foam, it will be better to get rid of it or you’ll think you’ve got crème, when you’ve really got set bubbles!
Now, boil enough water to fill the tray to at least half-way up the ramequins. It’s better to pour it once you have the tray in the oven…to avoid accidents!
So, place the tray in your oven, pour in the water and wait…Mine took about 1 1/2 hours. I use rather high ramequins, filled to about 4.5 cm, so this will evidently take longer than a brulée ramequin than is about 3 cm high. Also, the material of the ramequin affects how it cooks. It the same water bath, I placed some crème brulée in porcelain ramequins, some in glass and some in metal  ones. The metal ones after the same amount of time were less cooked than the other two. So, here’s the complicated part, you have to keep checking. Also, that’s why it’s safer to use a low temperature to cook, that and that little over 80ºC the custard splits!
Check after 1 hour, for sure it won’t be done before, then keep checking at about 10 minute intervals or less when you are really close. The crème should be set on the sides but if you tilt it, it should still be slightly wobbly in the centre, but almost done. It will continue to cook off the oven. This is where you learn from practice, but once you get to identify when it’s right, you’ll get it right never mind the mould you use!
Once it is done, remove from the oven and let it come to room temperature in the counter. When it is cold, you can place in the fridge (covered so it doesn’t absorb funny smells, I put them inside a tupper that fits them all or in two) and let it rest overnight…for the magic to work!
The next day you will have deliciiioooousss crème brulées that are so creamy, so tasty, you’ll want to reminisce in each spoonful! Now time to burn the tops to get that crunchy caramel layer that contrasts perfectly with the soft interior it guards.
I use granulated sugar and burn it with a blow torch. I think it’s what works best, at least for me. I’ve tried using demerara, in fact it’s traditional in the recipe to use “cassonade” a refined brown sugar. But, I’ve tried it and seems to burn to easily with the heat from the blowtorch. Try what works best for you, that is what caramelises without burning. This is how much I put in to caramelise:
If you use a blowtorch, my advice is to keep it at a medium-low flame, not too close into the sugar and don’t stop in one spot, use a circular movement to slowly melt the sugar and then caramelise it. If you’ve put too little and you want a thicker layer, no problem, add a bit more sugar, sort of evenly distributed and repeat. If you haven’t got a blow torch try placing the brulée under the grill and keep checking so it doesn’t burn (in fact I read that for brown sugar, the grill or salamander method works best).
And now…enjoy!!!!!!!!!!It’s been a long time, but you’ll see it’s worth it!
Just to show you, I mentioned I used some metal inox moulds (those used for flans). I once read about Gordon Ramsay turning out his brulées and then caramelising them. I loved the idea, because I think the presentation of a panna cotta is much nicer and it allows you to introduce more elements in the plate, like a sauce or some fruit. So, with this recipe, having cooked the brulées enough and I managed to turn mine out!
I just heated the sides of the mould with the blowtorch, or do it turning it upside down under running hot water or over a pan of hot, hot water and immediately place in a dish, just where you want it (because it is so creamy, you won’t be able to move it around) and push it down, as if you were going to throw it to the floor, holding both the mould and plate together, and you’ll hear it being released. And then just caramelise as usual (and with a brush or serviette remove excess sugar on the plate. Here’s how it looks…isn’t it a nice way to present it?
And here’s how creamy it is…
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February 21, 2010

Sensuous…Imam Bayildi



I hope you like aubergines as much as I do, because here’s another aubergine dish for you! As you can probably tell, I really like them…if they are cooked to bring the best out of them, that is! I think aubergines can either have the most delicate flavour and, like I mentioned in the previous post on baba ganouj, a meltingly soft texture, or they can be like a piece of cardboard or dry sponge with a rather bitter taste.

I think I started liking aubergines after my mom started preparing an aubergine dip which we used to call “aubergine caviar”…because before she brought that recipe home, I recall she made another dish that was sort of an aubergine pudding set with eggs…with a grayish colour that already made it look unappealing and which was a warning for it’s taste! Sorry mom, you know how much I hated it! So, to me it can be heaven or hell.

This delicious dish, originally from Turkey, I discovered in a blog before I even visited that country and tried some traditional recipes. And the truth is that although one of the things I liked most of turkish gastronomy is how well they cook aubergines and the variety of dishes in which it is used, I continue to like the way of preparing this dish I learnt from that…Greek…Blog! Here’s a little adapted recipe, though the method is the same, but to read the original recipe go to Greek Gourmand.

One last word, Imam Bayildi is a vegetarian dish filled with a tomato sauce, but you can adapt this recipe to your taste filling it with your favourite bolognese sauce  or any thick tomato-based  sauce. I love to twitch the recipe and add some crumbled greek feta and sliced roasted pepper… So, I encourage you to experiment changing the filling to make it the dish that best suits your liking!


Imam Bayildi

(for 3 medium-large or 4 small aubergines)

1 Kg of aubergines ( I used 3 medium size, but you can use 4 smallish ones)

400g of onion

~250g of tomatoes or tomato purée

2 garlic cloves

pinch of grated nutmeg

pinch of black pepper

pinch of lemon rind

pinch of salt

~400 ml of olive oil

~30g breadcrumbs or panko (japanese super crunchy bread crumbs)

1 tsp parsley for decoration

Wash the aubergines and dry them and make one first incision across each eggplant lengthwise, starting from just underneath the stem, up until just before the end, in order to leave it attached from both ends but cut in half. See below:


Then, repeat the same at a 90º angle to end up with the aubergine cut in 4 but attached at both ends.

Open the aubergine from each cut and salt it generously. As was common practice before when aubergines were more bitter, some recipes recommend to leave the aubergines in a salted water bath for about an hour. But I find it is not necessary. It’s up to you if you find it improves taste to your particular eggplants.

If you’ve left in a salted water bath, pat dry well.

Heat up at medium heat (in my induction that goes from 1-11, I use 7) the olive oil in a pan that will fit all aubergines, even if they seem tight, that’s ok, as as they cook they’ll become really soft and fit better. Fill it up with the oil ( I know you may think it’s a lot of oil. It is, but I find this works better than using less oil and turning the aubergines all the time. Also, I’m lazy when it comes to frying and then cleaning up the pan, but I assure you that the resulting texture is worth it!  Plus, it’s not wasted. As soon as you’ve finished you can strain it and leave it for any other uses. I always keep my strained used oil tupperware near the hobs for whenever I need to fry).

Place your aubergines and fry them until soft. Depending on  how much the oil covers them, turn them once to do the two halves or 4 times for each fourth. This will take about 10 to 15 minutes. Adjust the heat if you need to, the aubergines should soften without barely browning. You’ll see how the skin will appear wrinkled and they’ll be really soft if you try to lift them up.














When they are ready, remove them on to a strainer to let excess oil drain.


Now, look at that texture I keep going on about, it’s butter-soft…


Place in an oven tray or pyrex with one of the incisions facing upward, as that is where you’ll place our filling.


Now onto the filling. Cut the onions in fine brunoise and sauté with about a tablespoon of olive oil at medium low heat until it becomes really soft.


Then add the grated garlic and let it cook a bit, don’t let it brown!

Blend the tomatoes and strain them to get just the pulp and add that in. Increase the heat and let the tomato cook off until you can see the oil separating, that means it’s lost all it’s water and it’s caramelising. Now season to taste with the salt, black pepper, nutmeg and lemon rind (you could omit this, but I love the fresh taste it brings into the dish, even though it’s less than half a teaspoon).


Fill up your aubergines with the tomato sauce .


Dust the tops with bread crumbs. I use panko as it results in a crisper layer once roasted or fried.

Finally place in a 180ºC preheated oven for about 40 minutes. Check at 30 minutes to make sure the tops are not too brown (oven temperatures are not always what they display to be!). And that’s it! Now if you can wait to eat it the next day, I think it improves in flavour as they all blend in and also the texture of the aubergine is better.

Ah, you can eat everything!! I mean the skin can be eaten as well, unless right off the oven you find some bits are still a bit dry (if you leave it rest overnight, it softens)…so, all but the stem!

If you like, before serving sprinkle some chopped parsley for decoration, but it tastes equally good without!


Here’s a cross-section shot, to show you how the sauce blends into the aubergine:


Try it and tell me if you like aubergines or not!


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February 14, 2010

Smoky…Baba ganoush



Bābā ġanūj, baba ghannoush, baba ganouj…I’ve had trouble deciding how to write it’s name properly. Since it’s a pronunciation translation, I suspect they’re all correct. In any case, it’s the name that designs a meltingly soft-textured smoky aubergine dip in Syria and Palestine. Apparently, the same dish is named Muttabal Betinjan in the rest of Middle-Eastern countries. I read the reason for this was that the translation for it’s name was “flirtatious and vicious”, due to it’s texture.  It was popular belief that if mothers fed their daughters with this dish they would acquire the same attributes and find a husband and keep him! But further research into the name has led me to a closer translation: “spoiled father”…meaning anyone who tries it will be spoiled by it’s incredible texture and how good it is!! So, please: BE SPOILED!

To me there are two keys to a good baba ganouj. The first and probably most important one is the SMOKY flavour…In order to get that, you have to use a cooking method that burns the skins completely to impart that smoked taste. Ideally you should cook the aubergine directly over hot embers. Otherwise, if you have gas hobs, directly over the flame. But, as at home I have neither, I’ve come up with the closest alternative that gives you excellent results: a hot, hot griddle! I’ve tried with the oven to it’s maximum setting, but it does not get the smoky flavour…But if you decide to do it this way, PIERCE the aubergine first (I also had an accident with this and the aubergine exploded after 40 minutes of roasting as if it were a bomb!).

Key number two is the texture. The ingredients have to be slowly blended with a mortar and pestle to obtain that characteristic melt-in your mouth texture. So, please, DO NOT use a blender or processor…If you haven’t got a mortar and pestle you could improvise with a potato masher, a bottle or simply with a fork…it will be much better, believe me!

Finally worth a mention, you obviously need to choose a good aubergine. Choose a firm aubergine that is shiny and has the skin intact, that is, no bruises or scratches. Usually smaller aubergines are better and have less seeds, so better go for two small ones than a huge one.

So, let’s get on with it!


Smoky…Baba Ganouj

(enough for just two small serving plates…so,make more!)

1 medium aubergine (the one I used was 350g, so use equivalent)

1 small garlic clove (or half of a medium one)

~30g Tahina paste (I use Al-Rahib, lebanese brand)

~10g of lemon juice (1.5 tsp)

~15g mild olive oil or a more neutral vegetable oil

pinch of salt (I use smoked salt to intensify the taste)

For serving:

1 tbsp of parsley finely cut

a pinch of hot paprika

a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Preheat a griddle to a very high setting (in my induction the highest setting is 11 and I set it to 10….you want the skin to get charred, burnt to impart the flavour and the aubergine to cook and get butter soft inside).

Place your washed aubergine and keep turning it, as if it had 4 sides, once each side is completely charred. Mine took 1 hour…but I’ve done this in other hobs and it has taken less time, about 40 minutes. I think this induction once it warms it doesn’t keep heating to full power, it sort of maintains (if you understand what I mean). Anyway, check that your aubergine is almost burnt on all sides and that it is very soft to the touch. Don’t worry if the skin breaks and some juice starts coming off, it’s normal, it will (the only problem is the washing up later!)This is how mine looked…if your skin gets darker…better!


Place it over strainer as it will “bleed” it’s juices. I’ve got to tell you most people discard them, they say they are bitter juices. Well, I don’t agree, I think it’s a smoked elixir. I remove them to make a thicker dip, but I set them aside in case I want to make it runnier. So, if you like smoky, you’ll want to keep these…you could even add them to another dish to impart that flavour…Up to you!



Peel the aubergine making sure to scrape off all the meat attached to the skin…you can’t waste any of it! it’s full of flavour!look at the caramelised colour the meat gets.


In a mortar, place the clove of garlic and a bit of salt…like I said I use smoked salt. I have maldon, but any smoked salt is good…


Then, add your aubergine and mash it up. When it is a bit broken up, add the tahineh and integrate it. Add the squeeze of lemon juice and finally the oil. I use an olive oil that is not extra virgin because I don’t want anything that will hide the subtle smoked taste. If you have that is a mild flavour, use that, if not choose any more neutral vegetable oil…or you could even omit this step, but I think it adds texture. Now, taste it and adjust to your liking salt and lemon juice. It should look like this:


This one is quite well mashed up, if you prefer you can leave the aubergine a bit more chunky. As you like, both are delicious.

Now to serve just place a mountain on a dish and with a spoon spread it as to leave some grooves that will be filled with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Add a pinch of chopped parsley in the middle or scatter to your liking and some hot or smoked paprika. It’s also good with a pinch of cumin powder. And get ready to get spoiled!


And please use one of these to not leave anything behind!


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February 7, 2010

Chickpea, saffron and spinach stew


I love chickpeas, in any texture or recipe..be it just soaked as in falafel, cooked to butter-soft consistency and made into a dip like hummus or stewed with various ingredients to flavour them. There are infinite recipes for chickpea stews…Why should you try this one? Because it is AMAZING! It is fairly easy to make, it is super tasty and comforting for this winter season! It uses basic ingredients, plus, it is an all-in-one dish, that is, nutritionally very complete.


Photos don’t make it justice, I think. I’m still (I hope to improve with time) not a very good photographer. So, I can assure you that I’m not like those professional food stylists who can make food look better than it really is. I just try to make a tasty dish that I feel happy with the results (and Linguini approves of), and then go on to try to get decent enough pictures that can reflect how visually attractive it is and particularly, the texture it has. I hope I manage to do so, but if not, give this simple comforting recipe a try, I think it won’t disappoint you!



Chickpea, saffron and spinach stew

(enough for 6 generous servings)

For cooking the chickpeas:

     400g of chickpeas


     1/2 onion

     1 large carrot or 2 small

     2 cloves of garlic (slightly crushed)

     2 bay leaves

For the “sofrito”:

     200g onions (I used 2 small)

     1 clove garlic

pinch of salt

     2 large ripe tomatoes (about 400g)

1tsp of sugar

     2 tbsp of olive oil

For the “majao”:

     1 clove garlic

pinch of salt

     1 pinch saffron

     20g stale (or fresh) bread cut into 1cm slices

     5g pine nuts or hazelnuts

100ml olive oil for frying the bread


     200g fresh spinach leaves (if baby-leaf better)

     4 hard-cooked eggs


Start the night before by soaking the chickpeas in SALTED BOILING water that is 3 times their volume, as they will double. So place in a bowl big enough to allow for that.

The next day just strain them and place in a pressure cooker (you could do without, but they come out perfect in no time this way) and heat up water in another saucepan, salt it and add it to the chickpeas. It should just cover them, one finger above them. (They’ve already grown and we want to leave in all the cooking liquid, so we don’t need more than that).

Add the peeled half onion, the garlic cloves, the bay leaves and the carrot peeled and sliced into rounds 1/2 cm thick. If the carrot is big, cut in half lengthwise first.

Now bring to a soft boil. You will see foam forming on top. You want to get rid of all that before you close your pressure cooker. Some people put all in, close it and bring it to a boil, but all the impurities that are building up on top (yes, that foam) you don’t want it to get mixed up with your yummy dish. It’s not going to kill you, but I like to remove it. So with a ladle remove all the foam, then you can close your pressure cooker.


I know, it’s not a beautiful photo, as the heat was steaming up the lenses, but so you get an idea of what I mean…

I have a “super fast” pressure cooker (at least that’s how they call them here, I guess it’s the same elsewhere) so when it gets to the mark, I leave it for 25 minutes, remove it off the heat and let it cool down. If you use a normal one, I think it’s double that time, but you should check.

Meanwhile I prepare the “sofrito” (I have found no english translation for it, if there is one, please let me know). It’s basically a sautéed onion with tomato thick sauce. To make it, cut the onions in fine brunoise and the clove of garlic also very fine and add to a small frying pan with the olive oil (it should cover the bottom once warm, so if you find 2 tbsp is too little, add a bit more). Place in medium to low heat to let the onion soften without colouring. It will take about 10 to 15 minutes, just check it’s soft to the bite.

Peel and deseed the tomatoes and cut into roughly small squares (you could purée it too with a blender or a food processor) but I like the bits you can notice in the final stew.

Add to the onion and garlic with a tsp of sugar (I always like to add a pinch of sugar to tomato to counteract for it’s acidity…some need more than a pinch!!:-)). Cook over medium heat, to let the water evaporate and the tomato caramelise slightly. Again, it will take another 10-15 minutes. stir the bottom once in a while, so it doesn’t stick. If it does, lower the heat slightly. It should end up looking like this:


Now take a look at your cooked chickpeas, which will look like they have very little liquid, as shown below. If yours have a bit more, remove some and set it aside in case you want to add it up later. Remove the half onion and the garlic cloves.


They look plain, don’t they? that’s because the magic hasn’t yet started! Now the transformation begins…

Add the “sofrito” and already you get this:


Now prepare your “majao” (which is spanish for “mashed up” with a mortar and pestle)

First, fry the bread slices in a small frying pan with 1/2 cm oil to cover. Warm the oil and test a little piece of bread crumb to test if it’s warm enough. It should colour to a golden colour without browning too much! don’t let the oil smoke! Do one side first, as heat should get to the centre, then turn over and let it fry on that side. Remove onto some absorbent paper.

In the mortar, add the garlic clove (if it’s really big, use half and remove the germ that runs through the centre), add a pinch of salt and the saffron and pound to a smooth paste.

Then, add the pine nuts or hazelnuts (this time I used hazelnuts, but I usually use pine nuts, slightly toasted)and again pound very well to a smooth paste.

Finally add the fried bread and pound again. You should obtain this:


Add all of it to the chickpeas and return to medium heat. You want it to thicken a bit (the nuts and the bread will transform the liquid into a thicker sauce).Five minutes should be enough, just be very vigilant as the nuts tend to stick to the bottom, so stir one in a while the bottom, avoiding to break the soft, soft chickpeas!

And finally, add 4 hard-cooked eggs, cut into small pieces (I place them in warm water and bring to the boil. For medium-size eggs, 12 minutes simmer should be enough to cook them. Then, plunge them into ice-cold or cold running water immediately to cool down, so the yolk stays bright yellow and doesn’t get that ugly grayish around the edges).

And in a wok-sized pan add a drizzle of olive oil and place to medium-high heat. When warm, add the spinach and cover the pan,  it will take about one minute, just keep turning once in a while. When ready, add straight to your chickpeas. Season with salt a pepper to taste…

And now get ready to try your delicious stew!!They always say (and it’s true) stews are always better the next day. But I can assure this one is good straight off the pan!!!

To serve, I like to drizzle a bit of extra-virgin olive oil, and…



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February 1, 2010

Mediterranean Chicken Sauté


Last week a colleague from work told me how she makes “pisto”, a spanish ratatouille but basically without aubergine and the “herbs de provence”. I like ratatouille better, I must admit, but I liked her method of cooking it. I generally start sautéing the onions and some garlic slowly and add each ingredient, one at a time, once the previous one is done. But she told me…these are her words: “onions and peppers are very fussy! they don’t like to be sautéed with other ingredients, so you must do one, take it out and then cook the other”. It sounded a bit more time consuming, but if the result was worth it, I thought I ought to give it a try. So over the weekend I went shopping and bought the ingredients I needed.

It was wednesday and still hadn’t had time to make the ratatouille. In fact. I had a busy week, so Linguini had been preparing dinner every day. I thought it was about time to HALT and take a little time to prepare something comforting for that night. I looked into the fridge and saw the completely forgotten veggies awaiting to be used! But when I thought about the ratatouille I decided to postpone it and instead use that idea but quicker way to use up the vegetables and add some “meat” to the dish to make it a more filling “plato único” (that is, just one dish meal). I had some frozen  chicken breasts…perfect!

 Mediterranean Chicken sauté

enough for 3 servings

1 large red pepper

2 small onions

1 medium aubergine

1 medium courgette

1/2 chicken breast (that is, one side only)

olive oil to sauté each vegetable

1 teaspoon of sugar

1 tablespoon of honey 

Black pepper (ideally a pepper mill)



Preheat oven to 220ºC and once ready place your washed red pepper in a tray over enough aluminium paper to wrap it up later. Drizzle a drop of olive oil and season with a pinch of coarse sea salt. (When I make red peppers, I always put in more than needed to keep ready for use for any recipe or just on it’s own with some olive oil and garlic to flavour it!)This will take about 30 minutes. But check how your peppers look. When blistered and almost black on all sides, then take out and wrap in the aluminium paper, so it peels off easily.When cool, peel and deseed separating the segments lengthwise. Cut in half widthwise to then cut into strips.

Meanwhile, slice the onions in julienne. I did all vegetables in a wok I have that is 20 cm diameter in the bottom but it measures 30 cm diameter on top, so it leaves space to stir fry and hold more ingredients when added. So, use a similar pan or one that allows you to later mix all together. Pour oil to cover the bottom and place the sliced onion with a pinch of salt and sauté slowly with medium-low heat so it softens before it starts colouring. It will take about 15 minutes. When very soft and slightly golden, you can, if you have, add a drop of sherry (and serve yourself a glass!) if not, a drop of white wine and the teaspoon of sugar to caramelise it a bit. Give it one more minute, and with a slotted spoon, to leave excess oil behind, place into a fairly big dish (enough to contain all sautéed vegetables) and reserve.


Now, time to stir-fry the courgettes. This is much quicker.  You will have had time to cut it into half lengthwise and then start cutting each half with a slight oblique angle into 1/2cm slices or slightly thinner, if you like. Preheat the pan to medium- high heat this time and add the courgette slices and stir-fry turning the slices from time to time so they cook evenly until slightly coloured and soft. Add a pinch of salt and set aside with the onion using the slotted spoon.

Time for the aubergines. Cut lengthwise into 1 cm slices which in turn you will cut into about 1 cm strips and then into squares. Again, preheat the wok to medium heat and pour some more oil to cover the bottom (the aubergines are like sponges, they will such up oil really quick, but once cooked they start to let go of it. So, add as much oil as you would to sauté the onions and if they exude the excess, you’ll reuse for the next step! ). Keep turning the pan until it is evenly coloured and soft. When it starts to let go of the oil it sucked up, they’re ready. Add a pinch of salt and I like to add some honey or nuoc mau (a caramel sauce used for Vietnamese kho (caramelised) dishes) which I love as it adds a toasted caramel flavour. For an excellent recipe go Here. Again, remove into the dish with the onion and courgette.

For the chicken breast, first cut it in half, so it is not so thick and cooks quicker inside. Then, just season with salt (I use Maldon) and pepper and if you like you can add some herbs like oregano, thyme or rosemary. I added a bit of oregano. Preheat the pan to high heat, add a drop of olive oil and place the seasoned breast. Cover the pan so that it cooks inside at the time it colours outside (the wonderful Maillard reaction).When golden brown on that side, turn and cover again until it is cooked through inside but still juicy. Remove and set aside to cool enough to handle.

Finally, preheat the pan, yes, with whatever was left from cooking the chicken and add a bit of oil and drop in the strips of red pepper. Add salt to taste and when it starts to get a bit of colour, it’s already cooked so just needs to coat in the oil a bit, return all the other vegetables to the pan. Break up the cooked chicken in the sense of the fibers into torn strips and add in with any juices left on the plate. Add salt to taste and a bit more pepper. And…à manger!!!

Serving SuggestionsIMG_7272

In “burritos”: I served plain with some rice on the side, but it is a fantastic filling for some mexican wraps (tortillas) warm or cold.

As a pasta dish: Also you can mix it with some short style pasta.

As a warm salad: I love to toast some thick chapata slices on a griddle until charred and rub softly a clove of garlic to flavour it. Then you break it up roughly (Jamie Oliver’s style) into bite-size pieces and mix it in. Add a drizzle of olive oil and optionally some balsamic vinegar reduction and parmesan shavings) and it’s DELICIOUS!

You can probably think of some other fantastic ways to serve it! let me know how you like it!

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