My Favourite Chicken Dish adapted from Jamie Oliver

I love Jamie Oliver – his recipes are simple, don’t take long to make and dfull of flavour. I accept the man is a cook rather than a chef but for me that’s just perfect for everyday meals and most of the basic entertaining I do. l always use chicken thighs with the skin on as they go all crispy and delicious. I serve with mashed potatoes and a green salad or steamed greens. The next day I shred the remaining chicken, squeeze out the garlic cloves and mix up all the leftovers in the pan to make a wonderful ‘sauce’ for pasta. 

Serves 4-6.


8 Chicken thighs with skin on plus 4 plum chicken legs
2 punnets cherry tomatoes
1 bulb garlic, separated into unpeeled whole cloves
1 large red chilli, finely sliced
1 generous bunch basil, leaves picked and stalks finely sliced
1 can cannellini beans, drained
sea salt and cracked black pepper
olive oil
mashed potatoes to serve


  1. Place chicken pieces skin side down in a single layer in a large casserole dish. They should fit snugly. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper, then turn and sprinkle the skin side with salt and pepper.
  2. Now scatter basil leaves, cherry tomatoes, whole unpeeled garlic cloves, chilli and basil stalks over the top of the chicken.
  3. Mix around a bit so that most of the tomatoes and basil are at the bottom with the chicken resting on top. Drizzle with olive oil.
  4. Place in a 180 degree C oven for 45 minutes. Move chicken around so that skin will brown and crisps up evenly. Place in the oven for another 30 minutes.
  5. Add the drained cannellini beans and mix around. Finish off in the oven for 15 minutes while finalising the mash.
  6. Eat with steamed greens or a green salad.

Bianca’s Spiced Nuts

Bianca has always loved nuts and believes every drink should be served with nuts …. or olives. When she was living in the USA she discovered these delicious nuts, often served warm. Let’s revolutionise Australia by adopting this delicious concept. Bianca recommends almonds and pistachios here. To double the recipe, adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and bake the nuts on 2 baking sheets, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. 

Orange-Cardamom Spiced Nuts

Bianca recommends almonds and pistachios here. To double the recipe, adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and bake the nuts on 2 baking sheets, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. 

Makes 3-4 cups

  • 1 large egg white
  • 1.5 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pound(500g) unsalted nuts
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position. Heat oven to 300 degrees F.
  • Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Coat with cooking spray.
  • Whisk egg white, orange juice, zest, vanilla extract, and salt in large bowl.
  • Add nuts and toss to coat.
  • Drain in colander thoroughly, 4 to 5 minutes. 
  • Mix sugar, ground cardamom, and pepper in large bowl. Add drained nuts and toss to coat.
  • Spread nuts evenly on prepared baking sheet and bake 40 to 45 minutes until dry and crisp, rotating sheet halfway through baking time.
  • Cool completely. Break nuts apart and serve.
  • Nuts can be stored in airtight container for 3 weeks.

Butter Rum Glazed Nuts

These are my favourites.

Makes about 2 cups

  • 2 cups raw walnuts or pecan halves
  • Warm Spice Mix
    • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
    • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • Rum Glaze
  • Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Line rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper and spread nuts in even layer;
  • Toast 4 minutes, rotate pan. Continue to toast until fragrant and colour deepens slightly, another 4 minutes.
  • Transfer cookie sheet with nuts to wire rack.
  • For the spice mix: While nuts are toasting, stir together sugar, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice in medium bowl; Set aside.
  • For the glaze: Bring rum, vanilla, brown sugar, and butter to boil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking constantly.
  • Stir in toasted nuts and cook, stirring constantly with wooden spoon, until nuts are shiny and almost all liquid has evaporated, about 1½ minutes. 
  • Transfer glazed nuts to bowl with spice mix; toss well to coat. Return glazed and spiced nuts to parchment-lined cookie sheet to cool.
  • Can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Jamie’s Puttanesco Pasta

I love this dish – not sure what makes it quite so good. It could be the tuna or the addition of all the parsley, stalks and all, or perhaps it’s just that the cinnamon provides such an unusual finish. It’s also one of those dishes you can throw together anytime as all the ingredients can be found in a standard pantry.

Serves 4.

500g dried spaghetti
225g can quality tuna(like Sirena) in oil
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon capers
30g anchovies
1-2 chillies, finely chopped or 1t sambal oelek
1 bunch parsley, stalks finely sliced and leaves chopped
8 black olives
1 tin finely chopped tomatoes or about 1 cup passata
1 lemon, zest and juice

  1. Cook pasta until al dente.
  2. While it’s cooking, saute anchovies, garlic, chilli and parsley stalks in a little of the oil from the tuna.
  3. Add tuna, olives, capers, lemon zest and passata and cook over low heat till nice and thick.
  4. Just before serving add a good pinch cinnamon, lemon juice and all the chopped parsley.
  5. Toss through cooked spagetti and serve with parmesan and a green salad.
  6. Enjoy with crusty bread.

Roast Apple and Broccoli Soup

This sounds delicious … it’s pretty ugly but has wonderful flavour. Stay tuned to updates as I experiment with it. It’s here so I can find the recipe. 

Serves 8.

3 Granny Smith apples(each about 100g), peeled and cored
1 piece Broccoli, approx 300g
1 bunch sage, half of the leaves roughly chopped
4-5 sprigs thyme
6 cups vegetable stock
40g butter for serving
Micro herbs, edible flowers to serve

  1. Heat oven to 200 degrees C.
  2. Place apples on a paper lined tray. Be generous with the paper as the apples create like a sticky toffee. Drizzle apples with a little olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Add thyme sprigs and 1 tablespoon of the chopped sage to core, over and under apples.
  3. Trim base of broccoli and place whole in baking dish adjacent to apples. Drizzle with a little olive oil and season well with salt and pepper.
  4. Place both baking trays in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. The apples should be tender and collapsed. The broccoli will still be firm but tender. Cool slightly then roughly chop and set aside.
  5. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan. Add remaining chopped sage and cook 3-4 minutes. Now add roast apple and broccoli and cook for a further two minutes.
  6. Now add the stock, bring to the boil, turn to a low simmer and simmer for 3-4 minutes.
  7. Whiz in a blender until smooth, reheat over a medium heat and season.
  8. Meanwhile melt butter in a frypan over medium heat. Add whole sage leaves and cook 2-3minutes until butter begins to brown.
  9. Pour soup into bowls, drizzle with sage butter, top with micro herbs or edible flowers if using and season if required.

Steamed Rice

Seems simple. However, I didn’t like rice and didn’t eat it at all until I was well into my thirties. It’s difficult to cook something that you don’t enjoy eating – it just doesn’t work.  I used to struggle along trying different methods of cooking rice and the family patiently ate the various concoctions that landed on the table. One day, in desperation at yet another unsuccessful attempt, I asked my 14 year old son, Sven, for help.  This recipe reflects what he told me.  I follow his directions exactly without any deviation and the rice is almost perfect. Thank you, Sven.

Serves 3-4. Cooking Time: 20 minutes.

1 cup quality Basmati rice, I like Tilda
1.5 cups cold water
saucepan/pot that is 17.5cm wide with a tight fitting lid.

  1. Put the rice in the correct sized saucepan. Wash the rice by covering with cold water, swirling around then draining carefully (use a large sieve) without losing any of the grains. Wash the rice three times or until the water is clear when being swirled. This step can be omitted but the rice will not finish up as fluffy at the end.
  2. After draining carefully add 1.5 cups cold water to the rice in the saucepan.
  3. Cover saucepan with a tight fitting lid.  There must be no gaps else the steaming process will not work.
  4. Bring water to the boil over a rapid heat. As soon as the rice comes to the boil turn heat to the lowest setting possible and steam for EXACTLY 10 minutes. Try not to open the lid during this time. Ensure the stove is not off but just a very low heat allowing conetnts to steam without boiling too rapidly.
  5. After 10 minutes, take off the heat. If you are new at this, you can lift the lid to take a quick peak to ensure the rice is cooked and all the water has evaporated. (If the rice is hard you cooked over too high a heat and boiled the rice rather than steaming it. If there is still wate you probably had the heat off or it wasn’t boiling when you turned the heat down so it needs more time.)
  6. Now stand for 10 minutes at room temperature. DO NOT REMOVE THE LID.
  7. Fluff with a fork and eat. Perfect.

Coconut Curry Lentil Soup

A lovely vegetarian dish I adapted from ‘The Dinner Ladies’ that can be served like a dahl alongside other curries or on it’s own like a soup. I often add a portion or two of diced white fish to cook for a minute or so just before  serving to make a complete meal. It freezes well but tastes best if  you add the kale (and if you’re using it, the fish) when you reheat.  

Serves 4-6.

4-6 kale leaves, chopped
400g tinned chopped tomatoes
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 tablespoons concentrated tomato puree
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, chopped or grated
2 teaspoons each ground cumin and coriander, toasted
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
pinch chilli flakes
1.5 cups red lentils
1 cup coconut milk
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
For Serving: Half bunch coriander, chopped; Lemon/lime juice

  1. Saute the onions, ginger and garlic over a low heat in a little olive oil stirring frequently until soft and sweet – about 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Still stirring add tomato paste, cumin, coriander, tumeric, nutmeg, pepper and chilli flakes.
  3. Add the lentils to the onion mixture and stir through.
  4. Then cover with stock, tomatoes and coconut milk.
  5. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 20-30 minutes unil the lentils are completely cooked and have collapsed into a puree.
  6. At this stage taste for flavour. Add salt, pepper and garam masala if you wish. Now it can be frozen.
  7. Defrost and bring to the boil. Add the kale and the fish if using. Boil for one to two minutes.
  8. Just before serving add chopped coriander, some lemon or lime juice, .

Easy Summer Pea Soup

I have just been discharged from a few days in hospital. Like airlines, the food has improved!!! I so enjoyed the 200ml of soup that came with every meal that I have decided to start making a few light fresh soups that freeze so I can have a cup with each meal at home. This pea soup is an old favourite that I adapted from Robert Carrier many years ago. The ingredients are always to hand, its easy to prepare and tastes delicious. 

250g(1 cup) frozen peas
1 large potato, peeled and sliced
1/2 spanish onion, sliced
4 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock for vegetarian version)
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup cream

  1. Put peas, potato and onion into a saucepan with 1 cup stock and simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. Cool slightly and blend with 1/2 cup of water till smooth.
  3. Beat egg yolks lightly with cream and add to the pureed mixture.
  4. Heat the remaining stock and add the puree. Stir continuously over a low heat until the soup is smooth and thick. DO NOT BRING TO THE BOIL to prevent the egg yolks curdling.
  5. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Note: The puree can be frozen before adding the egg yolks, cream and extra stock. I divide the puree into 3 portions to freeze. To serve, add frozen or thawed puree portion to 1 cup chicken stock and heat. Add 3 tablespoons cream to a lightly beaten egg yolk. Mix a few tablespoons  of the hot ‘pea’ mixture into the egg mixture then add to the soup.  Stir over low heat till thick. Remove from heat before coming to the boil.

Roast Potatoes with Paprika and Lemon

These potatoes are incredibly moreish and you can never make enough. Serve with anything – its great with grilled chicken or fish but goes just as well with steak or a roast. Do yourself a favour and try making it just once.

1.5kg (3lb) chat or other baby potatoes
1.5 Tablespoons olive oil
30g (2oz) Butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C.
  2. Combine the salt, lemon rind and paprika in a small bowl.
  3. Cook potatoes in a saucepan of boiling water for 15 minutes or until tender. Drain.
  4. Place the oil and butter in a large roasting pan. Place in the oven for 3 minutes or until the butter melts.
  5. Add the potatoes and toss to coat. Use a potato masher to lightly crush the potatoes.
  6. Roast for 10 minutes or until the potatoes start to brown.
  7. Sprinkle the salt mixture over the potatoes. Roast for a further 15 minutes or until golden.
  8. Delicious with EVERYTHING.

Crostata – a Taste of Italy

On a recent visit to Italy we explored the countryside of Umbria with it’s authentic renaissance towns in perfect condition still occupied by locals with hardly a tourist in site. We stayed at a romantic AirBNB, Magic Winds, with welcoming hosts who produced the best peaches I have ever tasted from their parent’s farm, heavenly jam made according to Papa’s secret recipe and, for breakfast, Bernadetta and Sylvio produced this delicious Crostata. It’s not particularly sweet and the pastry is bread-like and keeps a few days. We love it for breakfast, afternoon tea or even dessert. We don’t have homemade jam but it’s important to use a quality product like Hanks Apricot Jam or perhaps the Harris Farm Market Blueberry Jam(add a handful of blueberries and some lemon zest to make it extra special). I also think it would be delicious using a good marmelade.

3 eggs
200g butter
150g white sugar
475g flour
1/2 cake fresh yeast or 1.5x7g sachet dry yeast (you need 10g)
2 cups jam(Hanks apricot or Harris Farm Blueberry + fresh Blueberries – optional) or marmelade.

  1. Break eggs and mix yolk and egg whites lightly with a fork in the Kenwood mixing bowl.
  2. Add sugar and beat in Kenwood Mixer with the ‘K’ hook until mixture forms a thick white cream and forms an ‘S’.
  3. Cut the butter into small cubes. Whilst continuing to mix the egg mixture, add the butter to the egg mixture a cube at a time.
  4. Then add flour and yeast slowly, mixing all the time.
  5. Now knead until you reach a homogenous mixture. I use the kneading hook on the Kenwood mixer for a while then finish off by hand.
  6. Place dough in the Fridge at least 30 minutes.
  7. Pull and stretch the dough then place 80% of it in 28cm round baking tin or a 24x34cm rectangular tin. Retain the rest of the dough to make strips for the top. This size pan will result in a bread like consistency. Use a slightly larger pan if you prefer a crispier base.
  8. Spread the jam on the dough in the tin leaving a ½ cm border around the edge free.
  9. Now make strips with remaining dough and layer across in a criss cross fashion.
  10. Bake at 170 degrees C for approximately 30-35 minutes.Buoni appetito!!!

NOTE:  If the base is thin it will have be more crispy like a pastry consistency and if it is thicker it will be more bread like.  Both are nice – it depends on what you are trying to achieve.

Pork with Walnuts

We didn’t often eat pork – mainly cause I didn’t know how to cook it without it tasting dry. One day I discovered this recipe which leaves the meat moist and fall off the bone with a rich delicious sauce. It’s a great winter dish suitable for a dinner party or a delicious treat for the family.

Serves 6-8.

8 lean pork loin chops with the rind removed
2 large onions, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1.5 cups canned pineapple juice
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
3 Tablespoons vinegar
2 Tablespoons soya sauce
1.5 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon curry powder
3-4 strips lemon zest – approx from half a lemon
1 cup chopped walnuts
parsley or chopped sultanas to serve with rice (optional)

  1. Dust chops with flour and brown in a little olive oil. Remove.
  2. Brown sliced onions and garlic over low heat until onions are very brown and add remaining ingredients excluding the walnuts. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for about 5 minutes.
  3. Place pork chops in a casserole dish in a single layer. If using a Le Creuset casserole dish, use the same dish you used for browning to save on the washing up.
  4. Pour onion mixture over top of pork chops.
  5. Cover casserole dish and bake for an hour in a moderate over at 180 C (350 F).
  6. Serve with rice sprinkled with parsley and/or sultanas and extra chopped walnuts.

Fresh Fig and Cardamom Chutney

In autumn when figs are in season it’s time to indulge and make this all natural delicious chutney. You can serve it with anything – its as great with vanilla ice cream as it is with grilled chicken or fish. Do yourself a favour and try making it just once.

Makes about two 500g(1lb) Jars.

1kg (2lb) very ripe figs, stem removed
4 Tablespoons Rice Syrup
1/2 cup brown rice vinegar
2 Tablespoons umeboshi vinegar
1 Tablespoon mirin
seeds from 10 cardamom pods – ground in a mortar and pestle
1/4 cup raisins – optional

  1. Put all ingredients in saucepan and bring to the boil.
  2. Remove lid and cook on low/medium heat for 20-30 minutes until liquid has been absorbed.
  3. Check seasoning and serve or store.
  4. Delicious with EVERYTHING.
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