Omelette

We brightened today's morning with our first omelettes.

2 eggs were whisked up with a fork. We added salt and pepper and a dash of heavy cream.

Then we sautéed  a good handful of veggies in our cast iron skillet with a bit of olive oil. We used small tomatoes, fresh basil, and spinach.

We removed most of the veggies and replaced them with a chunk of butter and added the eggs. As the eggs were hardening, we shredded plenty of Parmesan cheese on top of them. Then we placed the sautéed veggies on one half of the forming omelette and folded it over.

Oh my! These things melted on our tongues with no remorse. Only good can come after such a breakfast.

Peanut Chicken Stew à la Idris Elba

So we went all Hollywood today and made the favorite dish of actor Idris Elba. At least that is what Jamie Oliver claims in his Comfort Food cookbook. Well. We also changed it up a little. Since the girls had declared an indefinite moratorium on eggplants we used zucchini and squash instead. On top of it we took it easy on the hot chiles. So we are not sure if Idris Elba would recognize this, but we had some good fun in the kitchen nonetheless. Surely he won't mind. As a warning up front, this took several easy hours, perfect for an ice day in the Carolinas, where everything comes to a screeching halt, when a single snow flake falls.

It all started with a whole chicken. A free roaming happy chicken, of course :).

We were asked to cut it up pre-cooking, so we sharpened our knife and got to it. 

Wings, drumsticks, thighs, breast meat, and all other chunks we could find. We tried to keep the bones and skin on as good as we could.

Then we sprinkled the meat with about 2 teaspoons of ground coriander, 1 teaspoon of sweet smoked paprika, half a teaspoon of red pepper, salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. We slathered the spices all over, covered the chicken, and placed it in the fridge for more than 2 hours.

2 hours before dinner time we heated the oven to 400F and roasted the chicken for 45 minutes.

Next we cut up 3 zucchinis, 3 yellow squash (the recipe asks for 2 eggplants), 1 big onion, and 1/4 of a habanero pepper (the recipe suggests 1 Scotch bonnet pepper, which we understand basically peels your skin off just touching it; we'll try that when our pallets have adjusted to such torture).

We cooked all that with some olive oil for about 30 minutes.

Then we took 4 vine tomatoes and chopped them up quite roughly.

recipe for whole chicken healthy stew
Now we stirred into the veggies 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, added the chicken, loosened and added with a dash of water the remaining bits from the roasting pan, tossed in the tomatoes, and covered it all with 3 cups of chicken broth. We brought it to a boil and let it simmer for an hour. About half way through we added 1 tablespoon of smooth peanut butter.

In the meantime we prepared a pot of brown rice. (1.5 cups of brown rice in 3 cups of boiling water with 2 minced cloves of garlic, a bit of olive oil and a dash of salt, turned to the lowest setting for about 45 minutes.)

idris elba jamie oliver ghanaian peanut chicken stew
While we were waiting we prepped a spicy pickle. We chopped up half a big red onion and 1 and 3/4 of habanero peppers.

idris elba jamie oliver ghanaian peanut chicken stew
We mixed them up with 4 fresh bay leaves, 1 teaspoon of fine sugar, a dash of salt and 8 tablespoons of red wine vinegar.

We also trimmed a few handfuls of okra and fried them up in our cool cast iron skillet till they looked roasted and a tad crunchy.

idris elba jamie oliver ghanaian peanut chicken stew
And then, we let all of that glorious Yummy descend gently into our bowls. Rice, Chicken Stew, Okra, and hot pickle for  the adventurous types. Oh my. It was drop down delicious. The meat was super tasty and tender and the pickle with its vinegar added the perfect note. If this was anything close to what Idris Elba's mother used to make him than he sure was one spoiled lucky boy. :)

Bean Stew

They literally call this a "single pot" in Germany. A "Eintopf". Check out how easy something like this goes. You'll have to trust us on the deliciousness. It took about 45 minutes. Most of it was watching something simmer.

The first into the pot were 6 slices of bacon, chopped up, with a dash of olive oil. When we got it to be nice and crunchy we removed it and drained the grease. 

In the meantime we had sliced 1/2 a big onion, 2 cloves of garlic, and the stalks of a handful of basil leaves. They were next with a little more oil. We used the opportunity and loosened the bacon bits at the bottom of the pot. We gave this a good eight minutes.

Then we added 4 chopped vine tomatoes and 2 cans canellini beans, rinsed and drained. Then we added 2 cups of water, brought it to a boil and let it simmer for 15 minutes.

We fished out some lose tomatoe skins and added 4 more tomatoes; these being quartered. We gave it all another 15 minutes.

Last but not least we added the basil leaves, a handful of freshly greates Parmesan, salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar.
To serve everybody got to sprinkle the crunchy bacon and more Parmesan over the stew, as well as a little olive oil. We also had a loaf of crunchy ciabatta at the ready. 
Oooooooooh yes. Good healthy bean stew by the spoonful. 

Fish & Chips

We have been living in the American South for over 15 years. The Deep-fry Belt of everything; and only now managed to try deep-frying something. And of course we chose British Fish and Chips. Go figure.
We leafed through the pages of Jamie Oliver's Comfort Food to figure this out. It took us about an hour. Fish and Chips and Tartar Sauce. All from scratch. And we mean scratch. We even made a basic mayonnaise. We kid you not.
We should say at this point that we ignored the first and probably most important rule about deep-frying: do this outside. Our house intensely smelled like a fast food joint for a good day or so. Also, what is one to do with all that frying oil afterwards? We'll take any good suggestions.

But fun it was. Here we go. First we cut 1.5 pounds of white fluffy cod fish into small pieces. We salted them well, covered them up, and stuck them into the fridge for an hour to have some moisture drawn out.

Next we made mayonnaise. We whisked up 2 egg yokes and 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard and then slowly added 1 and 1/4 cup of olive oil. Drip by drip, continuously whisking. It took a good 15 minutes or so. At the end we added 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar to loosen it up and adjust the taste. Lastly we added a little salt. We think that the taste of the olive oil was most prominent and that using a especially smooth and tasty one would be worthwhile.

We took half of the mayonnaise and turned it into a tartar sauce. We finely chopped up 1 tablespoon of capers, 5 baby cornichons, 2 anchovies, leaves of 6 parsley sprigs, and the zest of 1 lemon. It all got mixed into the mayonnaise. We stuck our fingers into it and added lemon juice and salt till we liked the taste.

Next we cut 2 pounds of potatoes into sticks, keeping the skin on for the "Chips".

We put a pot onto the stove and emptied a bottle of sunflower oil into it. I am sure we'll try out different kinds of oil in the future. We got it to a medium heat to parboil the potatoes for about eight minutes or so. 

We retrieved them from the oil with a slotted spoon and then really cranked up the heat.

Now we prepared the batter for the final act. We mixed a 3/4 cup of flour with 1/2 a teaspoon of baking powder and a good portion of an Indian Pale Ale until we had a smooth but gooey batter. In a separate bowl we put more flour. Now we dragged the fish cuts through the flour, shaking off any lose dust, and into the batter, slathering them well, without any dripping.
Now we dunked 3 to 4 pieces and a handful chips into the raging oil, one portion at a time, serving them piecemeal. Each time we fished the potatoes out first and tapped them dry with a towel. We simply watched them turn the right color to time the right extraction point. Next came the fish.

We served them as you should. In newspaper. We made sure to use the day's print for extra freshness. That way you get food and something new to read while you wait for more. Oooooooh yummy. A good and greasy scrumptiousness!

Chicken Stew

This must be the lazy cook's chicken stew. An easy 45 minutes of simmering. See for yourself:

We chopped up 1 large onion, 3 cloves of garlic, 2 celery stalks, 3 carrots, and  2 bell peppers.

All that we cooked in a bit of olive oil for about 5 minutes.

In the meantime we peeled and cut up 1.5 pounds of yellow potatoes and then added them to the veggies.

Then we added 2 quarts of chicken broth and a little salt, brought it to a boil and let it simmer for 15 minutes.

We cut up 1.5lb of assorted chicken parts and 1 zucchini and added them along with

1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard, a little dried basil, dried sage, and dried thyme leaves. We brought it back to boil again and let it simmer for another 15 minutes.

At the end we removed a handful of potatoes, smashed them up with a fork, and added them back to thicken the soup. A little salt and pepper to taste.

Voila.

Stir & Fry

Not knowing what our two guest girls, Emery and Claire (in the middle and on the left), would eat or thumb their noses at, we decided to all cook together. The hope was that working on it would make it easier chomping on it. An easy 20 minute stir fry was our best hope. To be on the safe side we got a small pot of salted water going for corkscrew pasta. In advance Papa had cut up 3 pork chops, 1 red pepper, and 1 green pepper into bite size chunks. There were also a couple of handfuls of trimmed sugar snap peas and 2 minced cloves of garlic.

The girls were completely stoked and ready to get cracking after quick decisive encouragement from Lily.

We began by cranking up the heat underneath a large pan and adding a couple gluggs of olive oil. Everybody got a turn. Then we chucked in the meat (Claire: "Afterwards, wash your hands. Raw meat has a lot of bacteria, Emery."). We stirred it and fried it till it looked good. While we watched the meat, we nibbled on the veggies. (After washing our hands.)
 

Then we added the lot to the meat and fired it for another five minutes or so. We touched it up with a little salt and soy sauce. We kept nibbling to ensure the perfect extraction point. The same with the pasta. We fished out a few pieces and let everybody declare them perfect before removing them from the stove and through the sieve.

That was it. Nice and easy and super fun. And a big success. Everybody had seconds, some thirds, and Claire announced: "I really don't like cooked veggies, but these are so juicy! (Chomp)!"

Pork Chops, Beans, and Mashers

We tried this fun and easy recipe for a dinner with pork chops, green beans, and mashed potatoes. Best part about it was that we got to use our new aquisition, a battle tested cast iron skillet.

First we got the veggies prepped. So we peeled and chopped 3 pounds of yellow potatoes, placed them in a pot, covered them with water and added a teaspoon or so of salt.

We also washed and trimmed 1 pound of green beans.

Next we took 4 pork chops with bones and smothered them with mustard and Demerara sugar.

We also poured 2 cups of veggie broth into a pot and added a couple of rosemary sprigs.

Now every thing was ready to turn on the stove. For real for real. We started all four burners and turned the oven to 350F. In one pot we got water to boil, in another the potatoes, in a third the broth. On the fourth burner we placed that cat iron skillet, got it nice and hot, added olive oil, and placed the pork chops in it. We seared the meat from both sides. For maybe ten minutes or so.

Then we shoved the skillet, meat and all, into the oven for another ten minutes.

When the water was boiling we added the beans for just about 6 minutes.

Shortly before dinner we added 2 tablespoons of butter, salt, and pepper to the broth. We also added the juices from the skillet and

put it all through a sieve for a sauce.

The only thing left were the potatoes. We drained them and mashed them up with more butter, heavy cream, salt, and a couple handfuls of Parmesan to taste. That was it: Green beans, mashed potatoes, sauce and pork chops

Oooooh yes. Goodness on a plate. A good mouthful of heartwarming comfort.