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Food, general thoughts, food…

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Chilli Pork with Basil and Coconut cream

I finally got around to using some of those little chillies that randomly grew in my patch. They are still happily growing and producing bundles of hot little morsels of pain ready to use in the kitchen. Last year they were quite mild, this year they seem to have come into their own and give quite a punishing kick if you happen to stick a raw one on your tongue to test the heat. I, of course, know this by experience. They also sting like nothing else when you get them in your eyes, also by experience (I can’t be trusted in the kitchen). Who knew that washing my hands with soap and a scrubbing brush twice would have no appreciable effect on the eye watering properties of chilli?

They do add a real pizazz to a meal though so I think I will try to keep them in my cooking and definitely try to keep them out of my eyes.

Chilli Pork with Basil and Coconut cream
Serves 4

2 Tbls oil
1 onion, chopped
1 Tbls finely chopped chilli
1 red capsicum sliced
500g pork tenderloin, cut into strips
1 cup shredded basil
2 Tbls fish sauce
1 Tbls finely chopped lemongrass
1 cup coconut cream

Heat oil in wok. Add onion, capsicum and chilli, stir fry for 3 mins.
Add pork and cook for further 4 mins. Add basil, fish sauce
And lemongrass and cook for 1 min. Stir in coconut cream.
Heat through and serve with rice.


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Bacon Wrapped Pork Fillet

I was fortunate a while back to procure a large amount of pork fillets on special. I stocked the freezer with them and have been cooking them this way and that for the past few months. The recipe (found here at the gourmet garden) gave me the idea for the recipe below which is very similar to the original. The only changes are the use of fresh herbs rather than packaged ones and I never peel my potatoes, also I just stirred the flavourings through the potatoes, I didn’t feel like mash.

It was all fabulous.

Bacon Wrapped Pork Fillet

500 g pork fillet
12 slices bacon
1½ Tbls fresh Parsley minced
½ Tbls Garlic minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Cracked pepper

1 kg starchy potatoes, cut into 2 cm chunks
2 Tbls Basil pesto

Combine parsley, garlic, pepper and mustard in a bowl.
Butterfly the pork fillet.
Stuff with the mustard mixture then wrap pork with bacon one rasher at a time, overlapping the ends.
Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan.
Cook each side of the pork slowly until light golden brown.
Pour 100 ml of water into the pan, cover and let it cook on low heat for 15 minutes.
Turn the heat off and let the fillet rest in the pan for 5 minutes before cutting it into 1.5 cm slices.

Meanwhile, cook potatoes in a large pot of boiling salted water for 15 minutes or until tender.
Drain potatoes well and stir through butter, salt and pepper.
Stir in the Basil pesto.


Balsamic Chicken with Tomato

This meal was rich, the balsamic brought out the flavour of the tomato in a grand way. That said I would have just been happy to eat the chicken and onion cooked in the pepper and garlic salt, that was good just as it was, the onions were amazing.

Of course I used chicken thigh fillets and my lovely daughter helped out by chopping them up prior to cooking to make it easy to distribute between the 3 of us. The finished dish was lovely with a real zing from the vinegar. I teamed it with rice to sop up the juices and green beans.


Balsamic Chicken with Tomato
Makes 6 servings

6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (or thighs)
ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon garlic salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
410g can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Season chicken breasts with ground black pepper and garlic salt.
Heat olive oil in a medium skillet, and brown the onion and seasoned chicken breasts.
Pour tomatoes and balsamic vinegar over chicken, and season with basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme.
Simmer until chicken is no longer pink and the juices run clear, about 15 minutes.

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Oven Fried Chicken

Last night was an attempt to placate fussy eaters that don’t like vegetables, most of whom were suffering from a cold. Not the easiest bunch to please.
I ended up with Oven Fried Chicken legs and cheesy mashed potatoes. Yes, I do leave the skins on my potatoes, I like it that way, it provides a nuttiness in flavour and a texture to the mash. I just added a good handful of cheddar to the potatoes as I mashed them to add something to further tempt my audience. Of course this would have been much improved (in my opinion) with the addition of a vegetable or two but you do what you can to tempt those unlikely to eat, I’ll have vegetables next week.

The chicken was tasty, my first attempted meal with my new ‘Old Bay Seasoning’ posted recently. It has a particular flavour that is unusual but not unpleasant to my palate. I guess it is a combination of the bay leaves and all spice, neither of which are regularly used in a lot of my recipes.

I really like the yoghurt/breading thing. It is quick and simple and a lot tidier than flour/egg/breadcrumbs.

Oven Fried Chicken

9 drumsticks
1 cup plain yogurt

Breading ingredients:
1 Tbls Old Bay seasoning
1/2 tsp Creole seasoning
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1 cup flour
1/8 tsp pepper
dash cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp dried sweet basil
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Coat baking sheet vegetable oil spray.
Toss all breading ingredients in plastic bag to mix well.
Dip chicken in yogurt, then in breadcrumbs.
Spray the chicken lightly with vegetable spray.
Place on baking sheet.
Bake at 200C for 40 minutes, turning after 20 minutes.


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Zucchini Timbale

I case you can’t tell from the photo, the recipe of the day was the little zucchini do-dad sitting pretty there with its little garnish of quick tomato coulis, not the deeply marinated steak with Jimmy’s sauce that sits in front. To digress, I have spoken of Jimmy’s sauce before and you should really give it a try. Anyway, back to the zucchini.

This little Timbale (learned something new! Thought a timbale was just a drum, turns out it’s a drum shaped food also) was easy and delicious (my daughter and I ate 2 each!) and done in the microwave to make it a speedy dish also. It’s a great way to use zucchini and I will certainly do it again. The coulis I made with a tin of crushed tomatoes as I abhor peeling tomatoes.


Zucchini Timbales with Tomato Coulis

8 small (500g) zucchini (I used 2 bigger ones, about 600g in all)
300g carton sour cream (used up that carton I bought for the brownies)
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
4 eggs

Tomato Coulis
2 tomatoes, peeled, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons’ tomato paste

Puree zucchini in blender or processor, place in bowl, cook on HIGH 5 minutes, drain well, pressing out as much liquid as possible, place in bowl.
Stir in sour cream, parmesan cheese, basil and lightly beaten eggs.
Divide mixture between 6 individual dishes (1/2 cup capacity), cover each dish;
cook on MEDIUM-LOW 5 minutes. (Mine made 8 of these and took about 8 mins to cook properly)
Turn onto serving plates, spoon Tomato Coulis around each one.
Garnish with slice of zucchini and tomato if desired.

Tomato Coulis: Combine tomatoes, garlic and tomato paste in bowl, cook on HIGH 5 minutes and puree in blender or processor, strain.
(I didn’t process or strain my coulis; I like the chunkier rustic feel)


Fresh greens

I often worry excessively about the green component of our meals. My husband isn’t a massive fan of vegetables of any kind so our meals tend to lean toward the meat and rice end of the spectrum without the addition of too many vegetables. I however, very much enjoy my vegies and incorporate at least a few broccoli florets in my meal even if he is not interested in partaking.

Chopping up this mountain of herbs from the garden for inclusion in today’s meal has made me reconsider my worrying tendencies. We may not get a lot of traditional vegetables in our diet but I’d have to imagine that at least some of accepted proportions would be made up by our somewhat ‘over the top’ herb consumption.

This little lot was predominantly parsley, some spring onions, sage and thyme that was to be part of a white wine marinade for a new rack of lamb recipe. Along with the lemon rind, garlic and some dried rosemary (my plant is still a little small for harvesting) this will all be seasoned with salt and pepper, rubbed into the lamb with some white wine and olive oil and placed in the refrigerator until later this afternoon. It smells wonderful, I can’t wait to start cooking it later.

Meanwhile, looking at the pots, you would never know I’d been harvesting. Things are growing lush and fast right at the moment and there certainly isn’t a shortage of any herbs except, of course, basil. I will harvest another bunch of parsley later in the week and chop it up ready for freezer bags, for those stormy days you don’t want to go outside and harvest (parsley freezes very well)

Currently I have basil, thyme, sage and parsley in the freezer, flat packed in little sandwich bags. Most of these herbs are growing well in the garden but sometimes self-preservation kicks in and I just don’t want to go out in the rain to pick fresh herbs. The freezing also give me an excuse to get out in the garden and harvest when the weather is good, so it is win win for me. Over and above all of that, I just love the way my kitchen smells when I have chopped up a mountain of herbs, the place smells fresh and green and wonderful.


Testing the Frozen Basil

In answer to the burning question ‘how is the frozen basil?’ my answer is Fabulous! This was the perfect recipe to showcase basil and it was a real fingers crossed moment for me when I opened my first packet of frozen basil leaves harvested this past summer from the garden. Happily, although they are bruised and a little miserable looking after being snap frozen (you could never palm them off as fresh leaves) they retain that freshness of taste and scent that basil straight from the garden has. The look was no problem, after it was sliced up and added to the coconut cream sauce, it looked no different than it would have if it was used fresh.

This was a tasty dish with a little heat provided by the sweet chilli sauce. I think you could probably cut out the brown sugar altogether, I put in only a dessertspoon but the result was still quite sweet, the sweet chilli sauce would probably provide enough sweetness in the end or substitute some palm sugar that isn’t so strongly sweet.

Anyway, if you have access to bunches of basil you could certainly do worse than this recipe. It was a little taste of the tropics here in dead of winter. Fabulous!


Thai Basil Chicken
Serves 6

5 chicken thigh fillets
2 Tbls oil
1 large red capsicum, sliced
100g snow peas
1/2 cup shredded basil
1 Tbls brown sugar
1 tbls oyster sauce
1 tsp dried basil
1 tbls sweet chilli sauce
1 cup coconut cream
2 tsps fish sauce

Cut each fillet into bite sized pieces and cook in oil for 4 mins.
Set aside and keep warm. Add capsicum and snow peas to the wok.
Stir fry for 3 mins. Set aside with chicken.
Add remaining ingredients to pan and stir until simmering.
Add chicken and vegetables. Cover and simmer for 10 mins.
Serve with rice.