Avocado Chicken Salad

Serves: 4

There was debate about whether this recipe should be typed up.

Not because it isn’t great or super healthy, though because it is just a bit too simple. It’s almost not a recipe.

(Plus Natalie had never had bacon and coriander and wasn’t sure if they went together, not withstanding that they obviously do because the whole salad tastes amazing.)

Anyway, it was the boys – Oliver and Tom – that pushed me to type this up. They loved the salad and wanted it somewhere so they could make it for their kids one day.

Make it fun like we did and put the ingredients in separate bowls: let people make their own unique salad, toss with the lime juice and olive oil and enjoy.

How good is healthy!

Ingredients

2 chicken breasts, grilled and shredded
2 ripe avocados, pitted and diced
1/2 cup corn, grilled and hulled
1/4 cup red onion, minced
4 rasher of bacon, chopped and fried
2 tbsp coriander leaves
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. In a large bowl, add the shredded chicken, avocado, onion, corn, bacon and coriander.
  2. Drizzle with the lime juice, olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss gently to combine.

(Tomato, cucumber and black beans would also compliment this salad.)

Brussel Sprout Salad with Bacon, Apple and Buttermilk Dressing

Serves: 4

As far as slaws go, this is a total winner.

You’ll reach for more and more.

Served along-side really anything that benefits from a slaw – chicken, pork, whatever – it is just wonderful.

Our favourite party trick is serving salads at BBQs that blow people away.

With little effort, this slaw is definitely part of that party trick and one I would commend to you, any night – or BBQ or lunch or whatever – of the week.

Don’t be fooled. It is excellent.

Enjoy.

Ingredients

2 tsp olive oil
4 bacon rashers (about 280gm) rind removed and roughly chopped
12 large Brussels Sprouts
3 golden shallots, thinly sliced
2 Granny Smith apples, cut into matchsticks
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 bunch chives, finely chopped to serve
Shaved Parmesan to serve

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat, add the bacon and fry, turning occasionally, until crisp: 6 – 8 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
  2. Shave Brussels Sprouts with a mandolin into a bowl. Add a good pinch of salt, shallots, apples and half the lemon juice. Toss to combine and set aside.
  3. Whisk together the mayonnaise and buttermilk, remaining lemon juice and season: drizzle over the salad and toss well. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
  4. Scatter the bacon, chives and Parmesan. Season again and serve.

Adam Liaw’s Chicken Veloute Stew

Serves: 4

I am a big fan of Adam Liaw.

Since Masterchef fame, he has stepped it up big-time.

His Twitter account is very funny, he writes recipes for Fairfax Media and others, he travels extensively to cook and he serves up some really good dishes.

His food is obtainable and he writes ordinarily (in a good way) about it so that mugs like us can really feel his sentiment towards it… and the background to it.

This recipe is a really comfortable one and you only need to glance down the ingredients to know why.

You keep layering the vegetables and in the end, you have a whole dinner, starting with your chicken and ending with your broccoli and beans.

It is a Sunday-night sort of thing and with a bottle of red, some music and the lights down, it really is a great way to end the weekend.

Nat and I speak from experience!

(Note: the original recipe called for chicken wings… we are a breast and thigh family only, so I have updated the instructions below to reflect how we did it. Plus a few small changes to how the vegetables were prepped.)

Ingredients

8 chicken thighs, sliced
100gm butter
2 cups button mushrooms, halved
4 thick rasher bacon, cut into lardons
1 brown onion, sliced
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 liters chicken stocks
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs thyme
1/2 small cabbage, roughly shredded
3 carrots, chopped
1/2 head broccoli, separated into florets
Handful of green beans, tailed
100ml pouring cream

Method

  1. Heat a little of the butter in a large saucepan over a medium-heat. Fry the chicken thighs until well browned though not yet cooked through; set aside. In the same saucepan, fry the mushrooms until well browned and set aside.
  2. Add the bacon and fry until browned, then add the onion and remaining butter and cook until the onions soften.
  3. Add the flour and cook, stirring for 3 minutes until a roux forms. Add the wine and chicken stock, a little at a time, stirring constantly to remove any lumps from the roux until you have a thick sauce. Season with salt and (white) pepper. Add the bay leaves, thyme, cabbage and carrots, reduce the heat to a simmer, then cover and cook for 20 minutes.
  4. Add the sliced chicken thighs to one section of the pot. Add the mushrooms to another section. Simmer for 5 minutes, then add the broccoli and beans in their own sections. Simmer for a further minute and then taste and adjust for seasoning.
  5. Pour the cream over the stew and serve.

Martha Stewart’s Pea Salad

Serves: 4

We had an amazing Bill Granger Pea Salad last week and inspired, I was looking up pea salads we could serve this week along with some spicy lamb meatballs we we’re having for dinner.

This recipe came up a lot.

I used Parmesan rather than Cheddar and I cooked and then refreshed the peas rather then letting them de-thaw in the salad in the fridge for 4 hours… something you are most welcome to do if you wish.

The reason I’ve typed it up of course is that is a fantastic salad.

So much so that the next day, I did a double batch for a BBQ pool party and everyone loved it. Even kids.

Get onto this!

(Note: we cook our greens in the microwave; a dash of water in a microwave dish and you have crunchy, crisp greens without the need to boil or broil… In typing up this recipe, I haven’t prescribed how to cook the peas and however you do it, enjoy.)

Ingredients

1/4 cup (low fat) egg mayonnaise
1/4 cup (low fat) sour cream
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
500gm frozen baby peas
1/4 cup, packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
60gm, Parmesan cheese, shaved or grated
120gm smoked bacon

Method

  1. Cook the bacon in a large frypan over a medium heat until browned and becoming crispy: around 10 minutes. Drain well on paper towel and then julienne.
  2. Cook the peas until warmed through; refresh in cold water.
  3. Whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream and vinegar in a large bowl; season generously with salt and pepper. Fold in the peas, onion and parsley.
  4. Refrigerate until needed and gently fold in the Parmesan and bacon just before serving.

The Best Spaghetti Carbonara

Serves: 6

Where does one start?

Spaghetti Carbonara is that dish that divides more than any spaghetti dish. Cream or no cream?

Or mine is the best or that is the best?

This is the traditional or this one is even more traditional?

Or that Italians don’t even do Spaghetti Carbonara and it is an invention of the Americans: Italians don’t do pasta like this.

I don’t mind a cream-based Spaghetti Carbonara and how couldn’t you? Anything with pasta and cream – at its best – is amazing.

Though it isn’t traditional in the sense that I cannot find any pasta Italian cookbook of mine that asks for even a touch of cream.

Equally though, I can’t find a Carbonara in any of these books.

Which I think means that Carbonara definitely shouldn’t have cream though it probably isn’t an Italian invention either.

Which leaves us here: what is the best ‘traditional’ Carbonara recipe.

For 8 years straight until he was 18, for his birthday, my middle brother Adrian asked nothing else of me than that I cooked this pasta for his birthday.

This recipe was something my mother would do after a day on our boat and as kids, and it simply never failed to wow us.

After years and years of telling Nat this Carbonara was the best she would ever have, she finally let me make it.

And Nat – and the boys – agreed, this is simply the finest Carbonara that exists.

This truly is the best Spaghetti Carbonara you will ever cook.

And this is from someone that makes a point of ordering every time it is available.

THE BEST.

Ingredients

9 slices bacon, trimmed and julienne
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
5 tbsp butter
½ cup julienned ham (or prosciutto)
12 tbsp grated parmesan
6 eggs, beaten
Salt and freshly cracked pepper
Spaghetti

Method

  1. Brown the bacon and pour off any fat.
  2. Cook the spaghetti.
  3. Add the olive oil, butter and ham and saute for 5 minutes without browning.
  4. Remove from the heat and stir in the parmesan and beaten eggs, Place over the heat only to sufficiently to firm up the sauce.
  5. Season with salt and pepper and pour over the spaghetti.
  6. Serve with more grated Parmesan.

Curtis Stone’s Corn and Bacon Muffins (with Herb Butter)

Makes: 12

I am a sucker for savoury muffins though apart from my popular Spinach and Feta Muffins, it would seem the house has a sweet tooth.

Therefore your decision to cook this particular muffin recipe really will come down to whether you like savoury muffins or are all-in the sweet camp.

If you are like me – and Curtis Stone – you should pass GO, collect $200 and have these baking tonight.

Because if you’re like me, you’ll agree they are really great, savoury muffins.

(Like muffins should be.)

Ingredients

350gm smoked bacon, coarsely chopped
2 ½ cups self-raising flour
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 ¼ cups whole milk
3 large eggs
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 cup fresh yellow corn kernels (cut from a cob)
⅓ cup coarsely chopped fresh chives

For the herb butter
115gm softened unsalted butter
1 tbsp chopped chives
1 tbsp chopped parsley
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200c.
  2. In a large pan, cook the bacon over a medium heat for about 8 minutes until brown and crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to paper towels and reserve the bacon drippings.
  3. Grease 12 muffin cups/tins with some of the reserved bacon drippings.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, salt and cayenne pepper to blend. In a separate large bowl, whisk the milk, eggs and the remainder of the bacon drippings to blend; stir in the bacon, 1 ½ cups of the cheese (leaving ½ cup), the corn kernels and the chives. Stir the milk mixture into the flour mixture until just blended.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the greased muffin cups and sprinkle the tops with the remaining cheese.
  6. Bake for about 18 minutes or until golden and cooked through.
  7. For the herb butter: combine the butter ingredients. Use immediately on the muffins or form into a log on some baking paper, roll and twist and refrigerate.

Jamie Oliver’s Insanity Burger

Makes: 4 big`burgers

A while back, we passed the all important step of understanding that for any burger to be amazing, it has to start with amazing, fresh mince.

Not the variety you get from the supermarket and certainly not the lean stuff you might otherwise use in a mince.

Instead, you need a quality cut of steak (chuck or similar), you need to see it minced in front of you on a coarse grain and you need to cook it within 24-hour.

This and this alone will set you on the path to a superb burger.

There are then plenty of directions and approaches you can obviously take and a fried green chilli burger we cooked last weekend only scratches at the surface of where you can go.

For me however, nailing the quintessential, classic burger was a bit of a must before venturing off in these many possible directions: nailing a burger with ketchup, American mustard and good egg mayo.

I previously typed up Neil Perry’s classic burger as simply that: a classic. And it really is a classic in every sense of the word.

This Insanity Burger then is like taking what is already a classic sportscar and really seeing what you can do with it. Pushing the outer limits of the handling, engine and design.

Hand on heart, it deserves the name Insanity Burger.

Nail this burger and you will have successfully passed Level 1 of the burger game; free to play the next level and start down whatever direction you choose.

Just make sure you get your mince right.

Ingredients

800gm freshly mince chuck steak
Olive oil
1 large red onion, finely sliced
White wine vinegar
2 large gherkins, sliced
4 brioche burger buns, halved
8 rashers of smoked streaky bacon
4 tsp American mustard
Tabasco Chipotle sauce (Woolworths and Coles have it)
4 thin slices of Red Leicester cheese (ditto)
4 tsp tomato ketchup

For the burger sauce

¼ of an iceberg lettuce, finely chopped
2 heaped tbsp egg mayonnaise
1 heaped tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tsp Tabasco Chipotle sauce
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp brandy or bourbon

Method

  1. Divide the mince into four and roll into thick, patties, 2cm wider than your buns.
  2. In a bowl, dress the onion with the vinegar and a pinch of sea salt.
  3. For the burger sauce, combine the ingredients in a bowl.
  4. In a pan over a low heat, cook your bacon to the point of crispiness.
  5. Heat your grill as high as possible, rub your burgers with a bit of oil and grill; after 1 minute flip and brush each cooked side with ½ tsp of mustard and a dash of Tabasco. After 1 minute more, flip and repeat.
  6. Cook for another minute or two and then place two pieces of crispy bacon on top and then the cheese. Grill until the cheese melts; grill the buns at the same time.
  7. To build the burger, add a quarter of the burger sauce to the bun base, add the cheesy burger, a quarter of the onions and the gherkins. Add 1 tsp of ketchup on top and close.
  8. You passed!