Lots of our clients are away from home for the first time and in many cases they have limited cooking experience. Cooking for yourself reduces the budget. More importantly though, cooking for yourself means that you can be sure of the quality of ingredients and (sometimes) the source of those ingredients. Home cooking in most cases is much healthier than eating out or grabbing a quick bite on the go. I used to find that I put on weight when I was teaching full-time because I'd either eat in company canteens or grab fatty meals at fast food joints - I just didn't have the time to sit down and eat a healthy lunch. If you have a busy teaching schedule my tip is to cook a meal the night before and take it with you when you teach the next day. Not only is this a healthy option but in a lot of cases food tastes better when it has had time to settle. I'm also going to include some cooking techniques, such as making pizza dough, for those weekends and times when you might just want to eat in with friends instead of heading out for the common starch and salt laden restaurant meals. I also intend to invite clients, other members of staff, friends and fellow expats to add their recipes - please make sure though to add a photo of your dish. Thank you.
I'm going to kick this theme off with a recipe which I came across a LONG time ago and which always brightens me up. It's like a little piece of sunshine on a fork.
Mediterranean chicken casserole
|(click on photo to enlarge)|
4 chicken legs
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium red onion, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 yellow pepper
1 orange pepper
1 thinly pared rind of orange
juice of 1 orange
125mls (half a cup) chicken stock
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
25g sundried tomatoes
1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
50g pitted black olives
salt and pepper
If using a casserole dish then now is when you should preheat your oven.
Saute chicken without fat in a pan over high heat to brown all sides. Transfer to a large pot or casserole dish. Fry onion, garlic and peppers in a pan with olive oil. Transfer to large pot or casserole dish. Add orange juice, orange rind, chicken stock, tinned tomatoes and sundried tomatoes. Stir to combine.
If using a large pot then bring to the boil then simmer for about 1 hour with the lid on or slightly ajar if you want the dish to be with more juice (lid off for less juice).
If using a casserole dish cover with foil and bake also for 1 hour.
Add thyme and olives about 15 minutes before serving. Adjust seasoning.
Serve with crusty bread and fresh salad. Enjoy!
I personally like to cook the first 20 minutes in the pot covered, take the lid off and cook a further 25 minutes (adding the thyme and olives before taking the pot off the heat), and then I transfer the contents to a casserole dish and bake in a preheated oven on 190/200 Celcius for the remaining 15 minutes or so.
|This is how your dish should look in the pot when you have added olives and thyme (click on photo to enlarge)|
It's difficult to write an exact heat to preheat your oven to as oven temperatures vary depending on the performance of the oven which you have. My advice is to always try and cook more like a long distance runner than a 100 meter dash so always cook with the flame rather lower than higher. When I slow bake chicken for example I always set the oven temperature at between 175 and 190 Celcius (approx 350 - 375 Fahrenheit).
Pimp it up:
- use organic chicken (bio). With this recipe I used halal chicken, available from Billa supermarkets.
- use extra virgin olive oil.
- use freshly cracked ground pepper and sea salt.
- SMELL vegetables and fruit before you buy. If your yellow pepper doesn't smell of a yellow pepper then it probably won't taste of a yellow pepper (same applies to your orange in this dish).
- make your own chicken stock by boiling a chicken carcass for about an hour or so.
- go to a Greek or Italian deli and buy fresh olives.
- if you are throwing a dinner party then make sure to plate the food up nicely and remember that the first bite is with the eye.
- serve with a glass of Chianti Classico, or go new school and try it with a Chardonnay or Chablis. With 3 children I can't possibly justify splashing out on expensive wine anymore so I settled with a simple glass of Greek Retsina (half liter = 49 CZK), and this paired well with this dish too.
Hope it helps!
Dobrou chut!/Bon appetit!