It's Spring, I don't care what the weather says....
There is a storm bearing down on Auckland as we speak. Not just any storm mind, according to weather reports this is the "largest storm in the world". Maybe it's because I come from a small country, but that kinda title impresses me. We could entirely do without it, especially those poor souls in Christchurch painfully trying to maintain normality in their broken (though not bowed) city. But as usual Mother Nature dishes it out, and in this case it's a super-size serving. So it would seem no gardening for me this weekend......again!
As you can see my little greenhouse isn't exactly filled with an abundance of seedlings. If I'm honest the ones that are there came courtesy of my sister Liz..........I know, pitiful. Linda Hallinan would be ashamed .I have a big girl crush on Linda, I even took my mum to see her garden when she opened it to the public, Mum was most impressed, although perplexed as to why I can be so interested in vege gardening, yet so ordinary at it. It is a mystery. Every time I put my garden gear on it rains, and I am a soft fair weather gardener.......I did brave a bit of rain to pick my freesias you can see at the top of the page. I love freesias, the smell in the house makes me happy, and they look so pretty in a wee jar.
I do have one edible crop I am harvesting at the moment, and that's broad beans. They send a shiver down my sister Annie's spine, but I think that is memories of farty fat beans, boiled with the gray horrible skin left on, grim indeed. Fresh beans, picked while still about fingernail size, don't need peeling, and can be cooked or eaten raw in salads, or smashed up with peas, mint and feta cheese , oh yummy!
You must excuse the container, when Mr Lawn Mowing And The Odd bit of Flower Gardening But The Veges Are Your Area and I moved in before Xmas, the garden was mainly a rockery at the front, and not much else. Containers are my solution until I can organise my raised beds, and these obsolete Auckland City Council recycling bins fit the bill nicely, even if they don't look terribly attractive....
Last nights supper was supposed to be Grilled Chicken with pesto and coleslaw. I even made my tangy creamy buttermilk dressing, then discovered the fridge had partially frozen my cabbage, not happy! Even worse, it had also dealt to my basil, leaving just a few sorry leaves unblackened......clearly plans had to change. Instead I came up with grilled buttermilk chicken, potatoes baked in duck fat (not nearly as decadent as it sounds) and a fab green salad with pine nuts and fresh broad beans. It was divine, and I feel I really achieved the almost impossible, making a skinless boneless chicken breast tender and tasty. After that there is clearly very little I cant do, and I shall be offering my services to the UN forthwith......
I still have dressing for a weekend coleslaw, so don't worry, I will share that recipe next post, it is a goodie.
Firstly, take your chicken breast, and pop it in a plastic bag, or between two pieces of baking paper. Bash with a rolling pin, to flatten the breast. It will then cook much more evenly. One of the reasons breast can be so tough is by the time you have cooked the inside of the thickest part, the edges are dry and chewy. I had four chicken pieces, so I flattened all four, and left the other two in their bags in the freezer. Being thinner they will also defrost much faster.
For the marinade, mix together:
1/2 cup buttermilk (despite the name, this is actually a low fat product, you could also use plain yogurt)
Grated zest of a lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
Half a chopped chili
1 tsp rosemary finely chopped
Pour this all over the chicken and leave to marinate as long as you like, even an hour will make a difference.
For dressing the chicken after cooking, I made a Basil oil. I took my sad little pile of rescued basil leaves, tore them roughly into pieces, and covered with a little EV olive oil. Let that sit for a while and the oil takes on a delicate basil flavour and fragrance.
While the chicken is marinating, I sliced a couple of Agria potatoes into rounds about 1/2 cm wide, and tossed them in a tablespoon of melted duck fat. I know this sounds decedent, but duck fat is amazing with spuds. I buy it in tins, and decant it into a glass jar, which lasts in the fridge for months and months. Use it for roasting potatoes and you will see what I mean....if you don't have any, or don't want to use animal fats of course olive or plain oil would be fine. Place the potatoes in a layer on a baking sheet and put into an oven heated to 180C for about 45 mins, until they are crispy. I like to serve them sprinkled with parsley
For the salad, I used glorious fresh greens from my vege box delivery and added in some peeled carrot strips, toasted pine nuts and fresh broad beans straight from the pod, then dressed the whole thing with olive oil and a splash of this amazing Chardonnay vinegar. I know, the price is horrific, but it is so wonderful I ekk it out, nothing could taste bad with this splashed all over it........
To cook your chicken, wipe off all the marinade and brush sparingly with oil. I know this seems a little wasteful, but a wet piece of meat will never brown up nicely, and that brown char is where you get a lot of flavour. The marinade has done it's job now anyway.
Season your meat, then either grill, or as I do, use a griddle pan, heated until nearly smoking. Grill each side until it is really well browned, which will also mean the meat will not stick. When it feels firm to the touch it is cooked, so don't keep cooking it just in case! Removed to a warm plate, and let the meat rest for a couple of minutes. Serve it splashed with your basil oil, and a squeeze of lemon juice. The acid in the buttermilk/yogurt tenderizes the meat, ensuring it remains juicy while cooking, try it for yourself, very yum.
I was very excited this week to have a mention on Ele Ludemann's great blog Home Paddock and in her discussion of Food Blogs on the Critical Mass show with Noelle McCarthy on Radio New Zealand. If you would like to have a listen here is the link, the food blog portion starts at about 3.05 minutes. I would do this regardless as I love writing about food and 'stuff', but it is rather nice to hear people appreciate what you do:)