Chicken Parmigiana

In Australia, this dish features on the menu in most Italian restaurants, and in a lot of pubs – it’s popular and it’s everywhere.

Map of Australia

It’s so popular there, that once when I made it, it came out in the shape of Australia! Excuse the greasy plate!

Here in Mauritius, we’ve served it to friends (and family from Belfast – hi guys!), and were surprised to find that they’d never heard of it.

And nor do Italian restaurants in Mauritius serve it.

I thought this was curious, so I googled it, and found that it isn’t Italian – it’s specific to countries where there was a lot of Italian immigration – Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and parts of the US.

I’m guessing that it was difficult to find veal back in the 50’s – so the early migrants substituted chicken when making the classic Veal Parmigiana.

And I’m so happy that they did – it’s delicious: a crumbed chicken schnitzel smothered in tomato sauce, covered with grated cheese, and grilled.

It’s usually served with chips or wedges, and a salad. If we have visitors, we substitute boiled baby potatoes tossed in butter and parsley for the chips, as it’s easier to make for a crowd.

I don’t have a real recipe for this as it’s something I just make on the fly, but I’ll do my best.

Tomato Sauce

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 can tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup red wine (optional)
  • 1 bayleaf
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • salt and pepper

Saute the onion and garlic in the oil till opaque, add everything else, and bring to the boil.

Lower the heat and simmer until the liquid has reduced and you’re left with a thick sauce – about 20 minutes. Remove the bayleaf.

Allow to cool a little, and either blend it to get a smooth sauce, or mash it with a fork for a chunkier version.

Blending the tomato sauceNotes:

  • If you’re busy (or lazy!) you can use your favourite purchased tomato-based pasta sauce
  • You can freeze any leftover tomato sauce in ice cube trays, then store them in a freezer bag for future meals

Chicken

If you’re lucky enough to have a butcher that sells crumbed schnitzels, buy some. Or you can ask the butcher to butterfly and crumb some chicken breasts for you. And failing that, you’ll have to do it yourself:

  • chicken breasts
  • salt
  • 1 egg (will crumb 2-3 breasts)
  • a little water
  • plain flour
  • dried breadcrumbs
  • olive oil (or other vegetable oil)

Pressing down with the flat of your hand and starting at the thicker edge of the chicken, cut across horizontally till you almost reach the other side – click here to watch a video on how to do it.

Butterflying the chickenButterflying the chickenOpen it up, and flatten the butterflied breast slightly, by lightly bashing it with a kitchen mallet or a rolling pin – all you’re trying to do at this stage is to even up the thickness a bit – click here for another video (though this seems to be for making paper-thin chicken!).

Butterflied and bashed

The one on the left is just butterflied, and the one on the right has been flattened. I think I just stated the obvious.

Sprinkle each breast with a little salt.

Set out 3 plates – one with flour, one with the beaten egg mixed with a little water, and the third with breadcrumbs.

Dip both sides of the chicken in flour, ensuring it’s completely covered, then repeat with the egg, and finally the breadcrumbs. While it’s still sitting in the crumbs, push down with the flat of your hand to ensure the breadcrumbs stick to the egg wash. Turn it over and do it again.

Flouring the chickenPour enough oil into a frying pan to cover the base of the pan, and place over a medium heat – sprinkle a few breadcrumbs into the oil – it’s ready to go when it starts to sizzle.

Fry the schnitzel for a couple of minutes on both sides until golden brown, adding more oil if necessary.

Frying the schnitzelDrain on kitchen towels.

Putting it Together

  • tomato sauce
  • grated cheddar
  • grated parmesan (optional)
  • chopped parsley for presentation

Place the schnitzels on a baking tray.

Cover with tomato sauce, and cheese.

Ready to grillNote: You can prepare it till this stage, then leave it until you’re ready to eat.

Place the Chicken Parmigiana under the grill (broiler) until the cheese bubbles and starts to brown. Sprinkle with parsley.

Ready to serveIt’s also delicious cold the next day (Alf sometimes has it in a sandwich – I wouldn’t go that far!), but it can easily be re-heated under the grill or in the microwave.

Cleaning your Wooden Chopping Board

This isn’t part of the recipe obviously, but I may as well throw it in – I saw it on the Better Homes & Garden Australia website. It’s especially necessary after cutting chicken on the board.

After washing your board, rub salt all over it. Allow the salt to dry, then rinse the board well, and let it air dry.

The salt draws out moisture and bacteria from the wood, and sterilises it.

They recommend doing it once a month.

Back to the Chicken

I hope you try it – it’s much easier than it sounds, especially if you can buy ready-made schnitzels.

If you do, let me know how it went.

Bon appetit!

Forming Tart Cases the Easy Way

Our friends are having a “Christmas in July” party today, and I offered to make fruit mince pies, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to show you this clever technique I saw on TV years ago.

The usual method involves rolling out the pastry (which can stick to the counter or rolling pin, and tear), cutting out rounds, then trying to fit them into the muffin tray (usually resulting in more tearing), and trying to remove folds in the pastry.

No more! Me to the rescue!

You need a wooden pestle:

PestleRemove the pastry from the fridge and let it come to room temperature.

Cut it into strips, then into cubes:

Cubed pastryRoll them into balls of a similar size:

Balls in flourRoll the balls in plain (all-purpose) flour, and put them into the muffin tray:

Ball in muffin trayThe flour will stop them from sticking.

Dip the pestle into flour, shake/rub off the excess, or dip the palm of your hand in flour, and use it to coat the pestle with flour:

Floured Pestle

Floured HandPress down on the dough, turning the pestle slightly to push the dough up to the top of the muffin tin.

Forming the caseForming the caseIf you have problems getting it even, you can press the balls flat until you get the hang of it:

PastryIf you break one, just remove the dough, roll it back into a ball, dip it in flour and start again.

It’s very quick  and gives you very evenly-shaped and -sized cases.

Shaped casesFilled casesCooked Mince Pies

Toasted Muesli

Over the last few months, I’ve been buying different brands of muesli, searching for one I like.

Some have been so-so, one tasted like chopped-up cardboard, another was stale, and none have been particularly nice.

They’re also expensive, especially when they get thrown out for the birds to eat!

So after a little research, I decided to make my own.

I prefer toasted muesli to raw muesli, and I like the idea of choosing which fruit and nuts to add.

Most toasted muesli recipes have anywhere between 2 tablespoons to ¼ cup of oil added. The oil however, shortens the shelf-life (I suppose it goes rancid), so although I added 1 tablespoon of oil to the first batch I made, I decided to omit it from the second batch, and didn’t notice a difference in either taste or texture.

Basic Muesli

  • 2 cups rolled oats (oatmeal)
  • 1 cup (80g) flaked almonds, or chopped nuts of your choice
  • ½ cup shredded coconut
  • ¼ cup honey

Preheat the oven to 170°C, and line a baking tray with baking paper or foil.

Mix the dry ingredients together.

Heat the honey in the microwave for 30 seconds, or until runny. Add to the oat mixture and stir till well combined.

Pour onto the baking tray, level out, and bake for 10-12 minutes, stirring a couple of times so that it toasts evenly.

Keep an eye on it as oven temperatures vary – it’s ready when it’s golden brown.

Cool completely – it will become crunchy as it cools.

Extras

To the cooled basic muesli, add:

  • 1/3 cup ground almonds, or other meal (hazelnut, linseed etc)

and as much or as little as you like of:

  • dried fruit (sultanas, apricots, goji berries, apples, cranberries etc), chopped into small pieces, where necessary (a little goes a long way)
  • seeds (pumpkin, sunflower etc)

Mix it all well, and store in an airtight container.

After tasting the first batch, you can adjust the amount of honey to either increase or decrease the sweetness of subsequent batches.

To my first batch, I added sultanas, currants, and cranberries (because that’s what I had), and added sultanas, apricots, and apples to the second batch (because that’s what I like).

If you don’t have an oven, you could try toasting it in a heavy-based frying pan over a very low heat – you’d need to stir constantly so that it doesn’t burn. If you try this, please let me know how it goes.

I don’t know that you’ll save a fortune, but it certainly tastes a lot better than store-bought, and you can tailor it to suit your palate.

I think it’s delicious, and am never buying muesli again.

Sorry little birds!

muesli

Thai Chicken Mince, Chilli Poppers, Lemon Drizzle Cake

I’m going to post three recipes in a row.

Why?

Three reasons:

1. I haven’t posted anything for the last two weeks, so I think I’m allowed to post excessively

2. The first two recipes, I’ve been asked for by lots of people

3. And the third, I just found the other day, and it’s easy and delicious.

That’s why!

Plus I’m still lazing around and recovering from our flight back from Perth, so I haven’t been up to much – getting old sucks!

Thai-style Chicken

I made this for our New Year’s Day party.

The chicken was supposed to be served in wonton cups – you spray/brush wonton wrappers with oil, push them into mini muffin tins and bake them.

Maybe I bought them at the wrong shop, I don’t know, but they were covered in a huge amount of flour which I couldn’t scrape or brush off no matter how hard I tried.

I experimented with a few – the flour became really brown but stayed put – when I taste-tested (which I normally never do – this time I had to – they just looked wrong) the flour turned to burnt glue in my mouth, and the crispy wontons cut my gums and tongue to shreds.

Rubbish!

So I made 1970’s bread cups instead.

Never again!

White bread, no crusts – roll it flat with a rolling pin, cut out rounds, push them into mini muffin tins, brush with melted butter and bake at 180C.

Sounds so simple.

Well – whether it’s Mauritian sandwich bread, or it’s the humidity, but no sooner did I flatten them and brush them with garlic butter, they just puffed right back up to normal thickness!

It took me over three hours to make around 150 bread cups. Double and triple rolling. Made no difference – they just went back to their original thickness!

Then once they were cooked, because of the re-swelling, they could only hold about a teaspoon of filling.

A big waste of time, but probably great with different bread or climate.

They did taste good – crispy garlic bread.

The chicken, however, was delicious, so if I made it again, I would go the Vietnamese route – warm spoonfuls of the chicken mix, rolled up in crispy lettuce leaves.

No bleeding gums, healthy, and quick!

Ingredients

500g chicken mince (I zizzed diced chicken breast in the food processor as I haven’t found any good chicken mince here)

2 tbsp vegetable oil 2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 onion, finely diced (not in the original recipe)

A handful of green beans, finely sliced (not in the original recipe)

1 stalk lemongrass, white part finely chopped (I used 2 Kaffir limes leaves instead as I find lemongrass overpowering)

2 tsp green curry paste (not in the original recipe – but adds Thai flavour)

100ml coconut cream

3 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 bunch chopped fresh coriander leaves

Heat the oil in a frypan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken mince, onion, beans, garlic and lemongrass (or limes leaves) and cook for 5 minutes or until chicken is cooked, stirring and breaking up lumps as you go.

Add curry paste and stir through. Add coconut cream, sweet chilli sauce, lime juice, and fish sauce. Cook for a couple of minutes.

Taste and adjust seasonings: fish sauce for more salt, lime juice if too sweet, sweet chilli if too salty, or curry paste for more heat. Add more coconut cream if too dry.

Remove from heat, stir through the coriander.

Easy!

Baked Curry-Chilli Poppers (as opposed to Fried Jalepeno Poppers)

Chilli poppers

Mine did NOT look so good!

I don’t eat chillis, but the second I read this recipe, I wanted to make them.

They sound delicious, and they’re not greasy like the deep-fried version.

I haven’t seen jalepenos here, but hey, Mauritian curry-chillies look similar, so they’ll do!

Click here for the recipe

My Tips

  • If you prefer a milder taste, definitely remove all seeds and membranes with a teaspoon after you’ve cut the chillies in half. And wear gloves.
  • If you’re rolling out your own puff pastry, don’t roll it thinner than 2mm, or it won’t puff up well.
  • Cut one square of pastry first to work out how big they should be – I was in a bit of a rush and cut them all out at once – all too small, so I had to stretch them to fit around the chillies. The pastry ended up way too thin.
  • Brush the pastry with a beaten egg to add colour (I didn’t, and mine were very anaemic-looking!
  • Place your oven tray towards the bottom of the oven as the chilli juices drip down, and the base of the pastry will not cook as fast as the top.
  • If you have left-over cheese mixture, spread it inside a croissant and heat in the oven at 180C for a few minutes – brunch has never tasted so good!

Lemon Drizzle Cake

Click here for the recipe

This has a beautiful soft texture and a sour bite to it. Delicious.

Next time, I’m adding ¼ cup of shredded coconut to the cake mix as I like the lemon/coconut combination.

I’ll then have to add a little more liquid – I might try orange juice. I read years ago that if you add milk to a cake batter, it doesn’t stay as fresh/moist? Could be rubbish of course – will google it first.

The icing looks a little excessive, but it works brilliantly. Keep pouring it on till you’ve used it all up!

Storage in Mauritius has to be in the fridge unless you’d like your cake to turn green within a couple of hours of being stored in an airtight container at room temperature!

However, the cake goes a little hard in the fridge, so about 5 minutes before you want to dig in, cut a slice and leave it where the ants can’t access it!

Bon appetit!

The Best Pizza Dough Ever

I love homemade pizza.

And so, I’m forever trawling through cooking blogs and websites, looking for the perfect pizza dough.

I’ve tried lots of them – they’ve been either too thin, too hard, too dry, or too stodgy.

Yesterday, however, my quest came to an end:

Pizza

Courtesy howsweeteats.com

Click here for the recipe

It’s crisp on the outside, and light and fluffy on the inside. And tastes great.

I didn’t use garlic powder (had none) or dried basil (don’t like it). I also had to knead in a lot more flour as it was pretty sloppy.

The best advice I’ve read on making yeast doughs, relates to when you should stop adding extra flour whilst kneading: it’s when the dough sticks to nothing but itself. That is, it doesn’t stick to the workbench or to your hands, but still retains a slight tackiness.

It took me about 10 minutes to mix and knead the dough. It’s very simple to make, and seems pretty foolproof.

I used rapid-rise Instant Yeast so it took much less than 1 hour to double in size. Also, with Instant Yeast, you don’t have to let it sit for 10 minutes to foam up.

Last night, I used a simple topping of oregano garlic butter and grated cheddar cheese, as we were having it as an accompaniment to chilli con carne.

Garlic BreadIt was pretty thick (which was good for a garlic bread style of pizza – but very filling!), so when I make a proper pizza, I’ll halve the recipe, and just press it out more, as we prefer a thinner base with lots of topping.

I’ll also be a bit more careful with the cooking time – it got a little too brown, which meant the garlic got slightly burnt, and so was a little bitter.

But not bitter enough to stop us eating it!

I just had a slice for breakfast – it’s a little heavier than last night, but it’s still delicious.

Pizza slice

I can see a Barbeque Chicken Pizza in our near future – with BBQ sauce, pan-fried chicken, bacon, green capsicum, caramelised onion, and fresh pineapple. And lots of cheese. Mmmm!!

Three Desserts

I’m Australian, so I’m biased, but I love Australian recipes.

I love the way they borrow ideas from different cuisines and come up with something completely new.

These are some of my favourites – and it doesn’t hurt that they’re easy to make!

MANGOMISU

MangomisuClick here for the recipe

I follow the recipe exactly, except I use Philadelphia Cream Cheese instead of marscapone, and I stir a few raspberries and a little liqueur through the cream cheese mixture. Also, I make it as a dessert in a serving dish rather than as a cake.

LEMON MERINGUE CHEESECAKE

Lemon Meringue CheesecakeClick here for the recipe

I follow 2 bits of advice from the Comments section:

  • Add another eggwhite and an extra ¼ cup of sugar to the meringue, otherwise there’s not enough meringue for the volume of cheesecake. Use the same amount of coconut – I lightly toast it.
  • Bake the cheesecake the day before, cool it in a slightly open oven to minimize cracks, and stick it in the fridge overnight.  Don’t worry if there are cracks – the meringue will fill them.

In the morning, make and cook the meringue, and refrigerate the cheesecake for at least 3 hours.

STRAWBERRIES WITH RASPBERRY ZABAGLIONE

This is from the Australian Women’s Weekly Dinner Party Cookbook No. 2 – published in 1991.

I tasted it at a dinner party way back then and bought the book the next day just so I could make this. I still have it. Most of the recipes are pretty dated. But not this one.

Apart from the photo.

Raspberry Zabaglione

Marsala is a sweet Italian liqueur wine, also used in Tiramisu.

I’ve rewritten the instructions, therefore any mistakes are mine.

The zabaglione must be made just before serving – so don’t have too much wine with dinner!

Also, make sure your electric mixer can reach the stove.

Serves 4

2 tbsp Marsala

1 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 punnets strawberries, hulled

Zabaglione

5 egg yolks

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup marsala

125g frozen raspberries

Vanilla ice cream to serve

Combine marsala, sugar and lemon juice, add hulled strawberries, cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to let the flavours infuse.

Thaw and puree the raspberries, and press through a fine sieve to remove the seeds. Refrigerate the puree till needed.

Just prior to serving, divide strawberries and juice between 4 glasses.

Bring a quarter-full pot of water to the boil. Reduce it to a simmer.

Meanwhile, place egg yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl, and beat with an electric mixer for a few minutes until well combined. Add the marsala and the raspberry puree, and mix in.

Place the bowl over the simmering water and beat continuously for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture is thick and creamy. Remove from the heat.

Top the strawberries with a scoop of ice cream. Spoon zabaglione over the top.

If you can, wait a couple of minutes to allow the ice cream to melt slightly.