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WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER

One of my family’s favourite meals is a roast dinner, the only person who doesn’t enjoy it quite as much is one of my older sister’s, but that’s only because she’s vegetarian so she doesn’t count. ;) A roast chicken is something that gets cooked when everyone in the family is all together – me, my 3 siblings (2 sisters and a brother), and my parents. My dad especially loves it when I cook a roast dinner, his favourite is definitely the whole roast chicken with garlic, lemon and thyme (I think I used a Jamie Oliver recipe).

Chicken is by far one of my favourite meats to cook, for so many reasons! I think my favourite thing is that there are so many different cuts of chicken…breast fillets, wings (wingettes), thigh fillets, drumsticks, Maryland (thigh with drumstick attached). Thigh fillets and breast fillets are good for stir frys, drumsticks are great for easy portioning of meals, Maryland’s look great as roasted and are good for when you’re feeding someone who needs to eat larger portion sizes. If you’re interested in learning how to dismantle a whole chicken Stockman’s Daughter has great ‘how to’ instructions (including a video) for dismantling a chicken. Another reason is that because of the different cuts there are so many different ways to cook it and so many different flavours to work with. I love a good Thai-style chicken stir fry with a tonne of crispy veggies served with coconut rice, or baked marinated chicken wings or drumsticks with salad and chips; barbequed chicken kebabs are a favourite of my young nieces and nephew. It’s definitely a versatile meat and it’s generally pretty cheap too, which when you’re on a budget is fantastic. It was my default source of protein (other than mince, or brown lentils) as a uni student because a bulk buy of chicken (any cut really) would get me through quite a few meals. More recently I’ve been trying to be more sustainable in my cooking and I’ve been looking into how to use a whole chicken. In my search I’ve found recipes for using the carcass or bones to make my own chicken stock, or even bone broth. I’m yet to have a crack at my own bone broth, though I’ve read it’s quite good for your health. If you’ve got a whole chicken and you’re flat roasting it (aka spatchcocked), the backbone you cut out can be used to make a stock or soup, so there’s less waste.

 
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I think it was in November last year (I can’t believe it’s 2016 already!) a friend of mine invited a few people over for dinner and cooked us an amazing roast meal…and you guessed it, it was roast chicken! But it wasn’t any old roast chicken with the usual flavours, it was lemon and macadamia! I’d never had macadamia with chicken before, in fact the combination had never occurred to me so I watched closely as she prepared the chicken – she’d decided on using Maryland’s because there weren’t enough of us to justify roasting a whole chicken and we were a little short on time. As she prepared the meal we spoke about a lot about our favourite meals and shared stories of meals we’d cooked for our friends and family in the past and the meals we were looking forward to cooking them in the future. We both love to cook for the important people in our lives, though I tend to prefer baking desserts and sweet treats. We both felt that the cooking of the meal was a way to show our friends and family that we cared and the opportunities the shared meals gave us to spend some quality time with them. The chicken turned out fabulous and the conversation and time spent with my friends was so refreshing and rewarding, particularly because it was towards the end of the year when things tend to get a bit hectic. I’ve decided to share with you the recipe for the lemon and macadamia chicken. While my friend used Maryland’s it’s fabulous as a flat roasted (Spatchcocked) chicken. I like to serve this with roast sweet potato, carrot, potato, and pumpkin that have been lightly coated in olive oil and tossed in dried or fresh rosemary, and with some blanched (so they’re still crispy) broccoli, beans, and peas.

Flat Roast Lemon & Macadamia Chicken (Serves 6)

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken (approx. 1.2kg)*
  • 1 ½ cups raw whole macadamia nuts, raw roughly chopped**
  • Zest of 1 whole large lemon**
  • ½ large lemon, finely sliced into discs (slice up the zested lemon)**
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Olive Oil

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 220°C.
  2. To prepare the chicken - cut along both sides of the backbone of the chicken with a sharp knife or kitchen scissors, remove the backbone (keep it for stock or soup), turn the chicken over then press firmly on the breastbone with the heel of your hand to flatten it out (or you can ask your friendly butcher to do it for you). Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
  3. Mix together the roughly chopped macadamias and lemon zest.
  4. Using a sharp knife lightly slice along the bottom edge of the chicken and separate the skin from the meat using clean hands (separating the skin from the meat is a little bit gross but the texture and flavour at the end is worth it!). Between the skin and the meat of the chicken stuff the macadamia and lemon zest mixture. Push the macadamia and zest mixture as far as it will go without tearing the skin, trying to get the mixture over as much of the chicken as possible. The result is a very bumpy looking chicken, it might look a bit strange but it’ll taste fantastic!
  5. Rub the skin of the chicken with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover the meatiest parts of the chicken with lemon slices or however you like. Covering the chicken with lemon slices is optional, but it does look good.
  6. Roast in the preheated oven for 30 – 45 minutes, or until cooked through (juices run clear).
  7. Serve on a platter with roast vegetables and steamed greens.
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NOTES:

* If you want to make this for 2 people, instead of a whole chicken you can use 2 Marylands with skin on, ½ cup of macadamia nuts, and the zest of a small lemon (or ½ a medium sized lemon) instead. Roast them at 220°C for 45 minutes.

** If you’re not a big fan of nuts or allergic to them there are plenty of other flavour combinations you could try. Here’s a list of different spices, herbs, and other flavours that work well with chicken…just take the above recipe and swap out the nuts and lemon with the flavours you like best.

  • Herbs: fresh or dried thyme, fresh or dried rosemary, fresh or fried coriander, fresh or dried marjoram, sage, fresh parsley, fresh tarragon
  • Spices & Spice Blends: garam masala, jerk seasoning, dukkah, harissa, chilli powder, herbes de provence, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika
  • Other: lemon, orange, garlic, soy sauce, white wine, honey, ginger, pesto, miso paste, lime, Dijon mustard, brown sugar, pineapple, coconut, nuts – almonds, macadamia, pistachio, cashew

If you’ve never spatchcocked a chicken before here’s a handy instructional video from BBC Good Food - How to flatten (spatchcock) chicken (BBC Good Food)

Hopefully you’re now off to plan your own roast chicken to share with friends and/or family! We’d love to hear what you think of the recipe and any other flavour combinations you love to use on a roast chicken.

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WHERE THE MAGIC IS ….

A few nights ago a friend of mine dropped in after dinner for a glass of wine and a chat.  Usually when guests arrive at my house they fill their wine glasses or their teacups and head to the table on my verandah which is commonly known as the ‘the spot’.  However, now that the weather has turned a little chilly the lounge has become the current entertaining space.

As my friend and I sat chatting he reached over to put his drink on the coffee table and noticed a box of coasters.  The coasters were a Christmas gift, they’re the ones that look like little vinyl records, in ode to my love of music.  He asked why the coasters were still in a box and suggested it might be more ‘user friendly’ to take them out. - don’t you just love a helpful friend!  I hadn’t really thought about it before, but he was right.  I had been keeping them in the box so they wouldn't  look messy but  as a result I’d never actually used them.

This lead to a conversation about keeping things for special occasions and I was reminded of the dinner parties my parent’s had when I was a child. 

My brother and I always picked up on the ‘someone’s coming to dinner vibe’ as the special occasion things made an appearance. A great deal of effort was put into these evenings. The ‘good’ china came out of the cupboard, the silver cutlery got a polish and the timber furniture glistened.

Mum always cooked a chicken and slivered almond dish when people were coming over, which was followed by a sour cream cheesecake.  Tantalizing cooking smells would fill the house (combined with the subtle odor of Mr Sheen).  Specially selected vinyl records were taken from the old fashioned stereo cabinet, and dust was blown from their covers to get them ready for people’s easy listening pleasure.  To this day a Carpenters song or something by Simon and Garfunkel can also take me back to those moments.

I would try not to get in the way while preparations were happening.  Which means of course that I didn’t want to polish the silver or the the furniture.  Instead I would head to the large cane swing chair on the verandah and read a book while waiting in anticipation for the evening ahead.  This was a time when people wore their 'Sunday best' when going to go someone's house for dinner, and they always brought a gift for the host (and sometimes the host's children).

As a child my parent's dinner parties always seemed so exciting and mysterious.  It felt like something magical was happening in those moments.  And perhaps it was.

Now that I'm of an age where I sometimes have dinner parties of my own, I realise that as adults we can get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that we forget to notice the magic.  We can easily forget that having an opportunity to share food and conversation with the people in our lives truly is a special occasion and should be treated that way.  The good china and the polished silver aren’t really necessary ingredients but the connection shared, the atmosphere, the conversation and the food – now that’s where the magic is.

My little vinyl record coasters are now out of their box and proudly scattered across the coffee table just waiting for people to pop in.

 

Magic Sour Cream Cheesecake:

250g packet plain sweet biscuits

150g butter, melted

250g packet cream cheese, softened

250g cottage cheese

3 eggs

1 cup (220g) caster sugar

2 tablespoons cornflour

½ cup(125ml) milk

1 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind

1 teaspoon lemon juice

 

Preheat your oven to 170 (150 fan forced).  Blend or process bikkies until they are the consistency of fine bread crumbs.  Add the melted butter and processes until combined.  Press the mixture evenly over the base and side of a 20cm springform tin.  Place on an oven tray and pop in the fridge for about half an hour or until firm.  While the base is cooling, beat the cheeses together until smooth and then beat in the eggs one at a time.  Stir in the sugar and cornflour followed by the milk , cream, rind and juice.  Pour the mixture into the crumb crust.  Bake in the oven for about 50 minutes.  Let it cool in the oven with the door ajar and refrigerate overnight.  Add a few raspberries on top before serving.

MAGIC SOUR CREAM CHEESCAKE

MAGIC SOUR CREAM CHEESCAKE

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