Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Home-style cooking is not just for Nannas

I don't mean to stereotype with that title, insinuating that all Nannas wear frillly aprons over floral frocks and are constantly placing freshly baked pies on their windowsills - I know a good few Nannas for whom cooking means placing a takeaway lasagna on a dinner plate. I just mean that thanks to tv chefs and magazines such as Frankie, baking (as well as sewing, but I'm shit at that so refuse to acknowledge it) has become uber-cool. Either that, or my friends and I are truly getting old/growing up - whichever way you want to look at it. This morning over coffee we discussed a) the chore of doing the groceries b) that we all have shopping lists c) shared recipes that are awesomeness in a dish and are thus are satisfying for husbands after a long hard day at work d) the best places to buy in bulk so you don't have to run to the supermarket every other day (like I do. I have more petrol vouchers than you've had hot dinners). I mean JESUS. But it gets better, after coffee we trotted off to Myer, not to look at shoes like we used to but straight upstairs to the Homewares department. At any rate, whether we are getting old before our time or simply exploring that side of our femininity that previous generations picketed so hard against (for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, no?) there's no doubt that hearty home cooked dinners are hipper than the latest It-bag, and that the yummy smell of baking wafting through the house is more awesome then any perfume even J-Lo could concoct.

Thus, here is a yummy winter casserole-thingy, tried and tested this very evening (with success, especially with my 2 year old). I did have to make a few alterations because Coles were inexplicably out of both garlic and zucchini, but it's a relatively healthy veggie and protein intake:
Mediterranean Chicken Bake*

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 60 minutes
Ingredients** (serves 6)
1 tbs olive oil
6 small (about 600g) chicken drumsticks
6 (about 1.5kg) chicken thigh cutlets
1kg chat (small coliban) potatoes, halved
2 ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
95g (1/2 cup) kalamata olives
2 garlic cloves, peeled, thinly sliced
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves picked
125ml (1/2 cup) dry white wine
Sea salt flakes
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 200°C. Heat the oil in a 3L (12-cup capacity) flameproof, ovenproof baking dish over medium heat. Add the chicken drumsticks and cook, turning occasionally, for 5 minutes or until browned all over. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm. Repeat with the chicken thigh cutlets.

Add the potato to the dish and cook, turning occasionally, for 5 minutes or until golden. Remove from heat. Add the chicken to the potato in the dish and top with tomato, olives and garlic. Sprinkle with rosemary. Pour over the wine. Season with salt and pepper.

Bake in oven for 45 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and potato is tender. Serve immediately.

**I'm a bit of a chicken-racist in that I only eat the white breastmeat, but you can slice up some fillets instead of the thighs/cutlets and it works very nicely. Plus, use less normal potato and subsitute with a bit of sweet potato/carrot/zucchini, and chuck in some bacon and onion before the potato for a bit more flavour, and 1/2 cup chicken stock works instead of white wine if you live in Tassie and can't get grog at the supermarket. Oh, and if you use a much as this recipe suggests you'd be feeding 6 very fat people. I made less than 1/3 and we have leftovers for tommorow.

I have a post coming up about the always delicious Frankie magazine, but this month they published a very simple scone recipe that Charlotte and I tried on the last stuck-indoors rainy afternoon. If you don't mind little floury footprints, handpronts and streaks all over your kitchen, baking is what all the cool kids do after playgroup. Frankie picked the brain of Victoria's CWA president for this recipe, so you know it's hearty:


2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup milk, more as needed
A pinch of salt

Sift flour and salt together - if you dont have a sifter, just stir it around a bit. Admire the little holes that salt makes in flour. Make a well in the middle of the flour, and mix in the milk and cream with a knife (get a grownup to do it if you're prone to stabbing). Stir it til it's all mixed in. Turn the dough onto a floured board or benchtop and knead it gently - don't let it get too sticky. Pat it out to about 2cm thick and cut out squares or diamonds with a scone cutter or knife (I alwasy thought scones were round, so being the true rebel that I am made neat circles with a glass. Hmph.) Bake in a fairly hot overn for 10-15mins, then leave to cool.

Serve with jam and whipped cream, or butter, or Nutella, or whatever you please....add caster sugar, dates or sulatnas for a sweet scone, or cheese, herbs, mustard or curry powder for savoury. Savoury not too crash hot with jam.

For obvious reasons cooking might not catch on with the model set backstage, but that doesn't make it uncool. It's therapeutic and last night Gordon Ramsay was on telly swearing at some butchers as usual, but he inspired me to google for some recipes. **Which admittedly is where I found the Chicken Bake. Cooking: F*** Yeah!

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