My favorite summer chicken recipe

I could barely wait for the summer to begin so that I could share this wonderful dish with you. I first tasted this classic Chicken Marbella dish many years ago, when my boss, at the time, made it for a work gathering, and I was blown away. She shared the recipe with me back then, and I haven’t let go of it since. Adapted from The Silver Palate cook book version, this is the perfect summer Shabbat main course. Why, you may ask. It’s because this chicken tastes best when it’s at room temperature, and not hot. So this is one less dish for you to squeeze onto the hot plate.

What I love about the taste of this chicken is that it’s far more delicious than the sum of its parts. Ingredients include capers and green olives, neither of which I am fan. But in this dish, these flavors combine beautifully with the dried prunes, garlic, herbs, white wine and brown sugar to ensure that you are serving a winner every time. The most important part of this dish though, is its marinading time. It must sit overnight in the marinade. This way, all the flavors really permeate the meat and make the chicken exceptionally delicious.

CHICKEN MARBELLA

Chicken Marbella

Ingredients

2 chickens cut up into 8 pieces each (then I always ask the butcher to cut the breasts in half again so you have 4 pieces of breast meat per chicken)

10 cloves of garlic crushed (you can add more if you feel like it)

2 tablespoons dried oregano

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

1 cup pitted prunes

1/2 cup pitted green olives with some of the juice

1/3 cup capers with some of the juice

4-5 bay leaves

Brown sugar to sprinkle over the chicken before cooking (about half a cup)

About 1 cup white wine

How to do it

1. In a large bowl combine the chicken pieces, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives and juice, capers and juice, and bay leaves. Mix through well so all the pieces are coated with the marinade. Cover and marinate overnight in the refrigerator (whatever you do, don’t skip the overnight marinading process!).

2. The next day…pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F).

3. Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray. Arrange the chicken pieces in a single layer and pour the marinade over. Sprinkle each chicken piece with a little brown sugar and pour the white wine around the pieces.

4. Bake for about 45-50 minutes, basting every now and again with the marinade. After around 45 minutes, check to see if the breasts are done using a fork to make sure there’s no pink in the center. If they are done, remove them from the baking tray and set aside. If they aren’t done, cook till they’re done, but don’t let them dry out – another 5-10 minutes. Return the dark meat pieces to the oven and carry on cooking for another half an hour or so, basting the chicken. When the dark pieces are done (the meat from the legs starts coming away form the bone and clear juices run from thigh pieces pricked with a fork in the meatiest parts, remove from the oven and leave to cool down.

5. Serve at room temperature. The chicken can be frozen and thawed, but make sure you leave enough time for the chicken to reach room temperature after thawing.

Serves about 10.

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Back with an easy, tasty summer mousse dessert

With apologies for my absence, I am back with something sweet.

Summer is the time for those delicious desserts that you serve nice and cold from the fridge. But it’s also the time when you don’t want to spend too many hours in the kitchen. I was given this recipe for a vanilla chocolate mousse dessert years ago, and I never get tired of it. With easy ingredients and the option of making it parev, it’s a winner. I usually make this diary, as it uses milk and cream, but substitute the milk and cream with soy milk and non-dairy cream, and this recipe will work just as well. The crowning glory here is the chocolate mousse, which is a classic parev favorite, so  this dessert will stay tasty, whether you’r making it dairy or parev.

Vanilla Chocolate Mousse Dessert

VANILLA CHOCOLATE MOUSSE DESSERT

Ingredients

250 g (9 oz) vanilla petit beurre cookies

2 cups very strong, hot coffee

1½ packets of instant vanilla pudding

1 cup whipping cream or non-diary cream

200g dark chocolate

1 cup milk or soy milk

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

Break up cookies to fill in the spaces for the base

4 eggs separated

How to do it

1. Dip petit beurre cookies in the hot coffee and line the bottom of a large round baking dish or glass dish (about 28cm/11 inch diameter) with one layer

2. Beat the cream until is just starts to thicken. Then add the milk and whisk in the vanilla pudding powder until smooth. Pour over the biscuit base.

Pour the vanilla layer over the cookies

3. Add another layer of coffee dipped cookies on top of the vanilla layer, cover and refrigerate to set.

4. While the vanilla layer is setting, melt the chocolate in a small saucepan with the butter/margarine until smooth. Remove from heat and let the chocolate cool a little.

5. Beat the yolks and carefully add them to the chocolate, mixing well all the time so you don’t allow them to cook.

Stiff egg whites that don’t drop off the beaters

6. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Take a large mixing spoon of the egg whites and carefully fold them into the yolk mixture to loosen it before you incorporate it into the whites. Do not forgo this step – if you do, your mousse won’t be as light and airy as it should be. Then add the yolk mixture to the whites, and fold together carefully until it is all incorporated. Pour the mousse over the vanilla layer and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Naughty, naughty Qantas Pasta

Let’s start the new week on a naughty note.

I very rarely make cream sauces – they’re a little hard on the digestion and extremely hard on the diet, so overall, I don’t use cream when I cook. I make one exception once in a blue moon though.

Three years ago, our family went on a spectacular trip to Australia. Part of our one month down under involved flying around the very large country. The flights were up to three hours long, so when the cabin crew would hand out “food”, which was usually a very pink meat sandwich, I would always decline. On one flight, an insistent flight attendant persuaded me to try the vegetarian option. In spite of my policy to avoid airplane food whenever possible for obvious reasons, I agreed. So imagine my surprise when I started eating my vegetarian airplane pasta and discovered that it tasted really good. I was almost embarrassed to admit to my family that I had eaten food on a plane that I really liked and wanted to eat again!

The dish I was eating had roasted pumpkin, peas and spinach with pasta. I knew that when I got home I’d have to try to replicate it. Eventually, when we returned home from the other side of the planet, I went out and bought what I thought should be the ingredients. I came up with a rather similar version of the dish, which I dubbed Qantas Pasta, as a homage to the airline that managed to serve a dish that not only was edible but also replication-worthy.

QANTAS PASTA OR PASTA WITH ROASTED PUMPKIN, PEAS AND SPINACH

500g (1 lb) fettuccine or penne noodles

Pasta with Roasted Pumpkin, Peas and Spinach

Olive oil

About 400g (14 0z) pumpkin cut into large cubes (about 6-7 cm/3 inches)

About 300g (10 oz) fresh spinach leaves washed and chopped

1 cup frozen peas

4-5 clove garlic thinly sliced or roughly chopped

250 ml (8.5 fl oz) sweet cream (avoid using non-dairy cream as it’s usually sweetened and this will make the dish too sweet.)

½ tablespoon cornflour

¼ cup milk

Nutmeg

Salt and pepper

Parmesan cheese

How to do it

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F)

2. Cover a baking tray with baking paper and lightly grease with some olive oil. Place the pumpkin cubes on the tray and bake for up to an hour or until the pumpkin is cooked through (don’t overcook or it will get too mushy in the sauce) Allow to cool and cut into smaller cubes.

3. Place the spinach in an ungreased large wok or skillet and add some freshly grated nutmeg and wilt over medium heat for about a minute, until just soft. Remove and set aside.

4. Add some olive oil to the wok and on a medium flame, saute the garlic until it just starts to get golden. Add the cream, salt and pepper, turn up the heat and allow to start bubbling. While the cream is heating up, mix the cornflour in the milk until it dissolves completely. When the cream starts bubbling, add the cornflour liquid while stirring the cream. The sauce will start to thicken slightly. Add the vegetables and allow them to just heat through in the sauce on medium heat (about 4-5 minutes) and then remove from the flame and set aside covered.

5. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.

6. Combine the sauce and the pasta and grate some Parmesan cheese over the top before serving. (Try to cook the pasta at the same time as the sauce so the sauce doesn’t get cold and require reheating. If you can’t, then give the sauce a quick reheat before combining with the pasta.)

Serves about 6.