Easy Duck Confit #Cassoulet

This is comfort food at it’s best. There are so many variations on the traditional cassoulet and in France there is much debate as to it’s origins and many towns that claim it as their creation.

Carcassonne in the South of France is one that claims it as their own most fiercely and it is featured on almost every tourist restaurant in the old Castle town. The traditional versions of course require days of preparation and cooking.

My version speeds up the process using now widely available products that replace the need for making your own duck confit or cooking beans for hours. (yes, I use canned beans and lentils!!) I have also tried to cut down the calories by removing as much fat as possible by cooking the meats separately first, before combining into the finished dish.

I use brown lentils as well as beans which absorb the cooking liquids faster and help to “combine” all the ingredients and sauce together in the end result.

Preparation time: 1.5 hours Cooking time: 35 minutes, serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 pre-made Duck confit Marylands (leg and thigh cutlets) in Australia I use Luv A Duck brand available in good butchers.
  • 1 carton of pre-made oven roasted Coles Pork belly bites – or similar pre-cooked pork belly squares
  • 2 Toulouse or other garlic and herb pork sausages
  • 1 can cannelini beans
  • 1 can brown lentils
  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 carrot diced
  • 8-10 cherry tomatoes halved
  • 6 cloves of garlic finely diced
  • 2-3 stalks of celery diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1.5 cups of chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup or so of Panko or fresh breadcrumbs for topping
  • 1/4 cup Pumpkin seeds for topping
  • Black pepper
  • Salt

Method

1. Pre-heat oven goes 180 degrees Celsius.

2. Take duck confit from package and place on baking paper lined oven tray, along with the 2 sausages. When oven is hot, roast for 35 minutes until duck is warmed and sausages are just cooked. Halfway through the cooking time, add the halved cherry tomatoes cut-side up into the roasting pan.

3. While duck and sausages are in oven, fry pork bites in a non-stick pan over medium to high heat for 15 minutes until golden brown on all sides. This will also render a lot of the fat from the pork belly. Place fried pork belly on paper towel to absorb as much fat as possible.

Using Pre-cooked pork belly cuts down the time…check your local supermarket for a product like these Pork Belly bites.

4. Prepare vegetables if you haven’t done so already. Dice garlic, onions, carrots and celery. Drain cannelini beans and lentils and keep in separate bowls.

5. Remove duck and sausages from oven, reserving the fat and cooking juices in the pan. Place duck on paper towel to rest. Reserve cherry tomatoes in seperate bowl. Slice sausages into pieces and keep aside.

6. Throw out all but 1 tablespoon of the pork fat in the frying pan, add the reserved duck fat and cooking juices from cooking the duck and sausages.

7. Heat pan juices in frying pan and add garlic, cook for a minute or so until starting to just turn colour, add bay leaves, onions, celery and carrots, salt and pepper… and cook until softened and starting to caramelise. (Don’t forget Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius again if you turned it off)

8. Add thyme, cannelini beans, sausage slices and half a cup of hot chicken stock and simmer for 5 minutes, add lentils, pork belly, and another half a cup of stock and simmer for a further 5 minutes.

9. Put the base mixture into a snug casserole dish. Place cherry tomatoes throughout the mixture, and then the duck maryland right on top. Add 1/2 cup of stock to just come to the top of the mixture.

Place duck right on top and only put just enough stock to come up to the top of the base mixture.

10. Sprinkle breadcrumbs and pumpkin seeds on top to from a crust, avoiding covering the duck.

Super crispy but still juicy duck confit with a delicious hearty bean, lentil, pork and sausage base and crunchy breadcrumbs and pumpkin seed topping.

11. Cook in oven for further 35-40 minutes until breadcrumbs and pumpkin seeds are golden and crispy. (Check a few times to see that consistency of base is to your satisfaction ie not too watery, not too dry. Add extra stock if necessary) Allow to stand for 5 minutes, then serve garnished with parsley and with zesty lemon and rocket salad and crunchy bread. Ps, I cut the Maryland’s into halves to make 4 serves.

Moroccan Chicken B’stilla #chickenpie #Morocco with Carrot salad

This is another excellent dinner party dish which is easy to make but takes a bit of preparation. If you are cooking for more than 4 people, then it’s easy to double this recipe to make 2 pies at the same time.

The combination of the chicken cooked in Moroccan spices, icing sugar almonds and lemon zest is mouthwateringly divine.

I cook carrots in with the chicken to make a carrot salad at the same time to serve with the B’stilla. The carrots cooked in the chickeny liquid are delicious when zested up with citrus and ginger flavours. The recipe is at the bottom here.

B’stilla or Pastilla? The real thing in Fes.

The best B’stilla we had was a pigeon version in Fes made with homemade filo pastry at a restaurant called Dar Tajine tucked away in the heart of the Old Médina. https://www.dartajine.com. Dinner there cooked by Salaheddin the Owner and Chef was a really memorable experience – it felt like we were in his home for a family dinner. In Fes they call B’stilla “Pastilla”.

My recipe uses chicken and store-bought filo pastry but tastes pretty delicious as well.

RECIPE

Preparation time including marination:4 hours Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken large thigh cutlets with bone in and skin on
  • 8 large sheets of filo pastry
  • half a bunch of parsley
  • Half a bunch of coriander
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic smashed to a paste
  • 1 teaspoon saffron fronds
  • 4 teaspoons ras el hanout (Moroccan spice mix)
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tablespoon of cinnamon powder
  • 3 tablespoons of icing sugar
  • 1/4 cup of flaked almonds
  • 4 tablespoons of melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1.5 litres of boiling water
Freespiritfood.net B’stilla

Method

1. Place saffron fronds in 1/4 cup of just boiled water and allow to steep. Remove filo pastry from freezer to allow defrost for 3.5 hours.

2. In a seperate bowl mix garlic, ras el hanout, lemon juice(not the zest), salt, saffron and saffron water olive oil and mix well

3. Place chicken thigh cutlets in a big bowl and massage the ras el hanout mixture into the chicken. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Marinate for at least 2 hours.

4. Strip the leaves from the parsley and coriander. Keep the stems separately to leaves.

5. Peel and chop the carrot and onion into large chunks.

6. Put the onion, carrots, parsley and coriander stems into a large pot, add boiling water, then chicken. Bring to a boil, then simmer chicken for an hour, skimming from time to time.

7. Check carrots during this time and remove from the cooking liquid and place in a bowl after about 30 minutes when they are tender.

8. Remove chicken from the cooking liquid and place in a bowl or plate and allow to cool.

9. Carefully strain cooking liquid into a saucepan and boil it until the liquid is reduced to about 1/4 cup.

10. Shred chicken into a bowl using your fingers, removing the bone and skin. (I wear gloves to do this.)

11. Chop parsley and coriander leaves and add to shredded chicken., along with the lemon zest, 1/2 the cinnamon, the flaked almonds,and the reduced cooking liquid to moisten the chicken.

12. Mix the rest of cinnamon with 2 tablespoons of icing sugar.

13. Pre-heat oven goes 180 degrees Celsius.

14. Line a baking sheet with baking paper and place one sheet of filo pastry flat on it, the brush with melted butter. Add another sheet of pastry on top, brushing with butter and repeat until you have 7 sheets of pastry on top of each other to form the base.

15. Dust the base with some of the icing sugar mixture, then pile chicken mixture in the middle to form a flattish round heap.

16. Sprinkle rest of icing sugar mixture over the top of the chicken. Add an extra sheet of pastry folded in half over the top of the chicken. Then fold over all the pastry from the bottom to form a neat package using melted butter to seal it all together as you go.

15. Turn the parcel over, add a small decoration like a heart cut out of pastry to the centre if you like, brush with melted butter. Place in hot oven and cook for 30-35 minutes until pastry is golden brown.

16. Allow to rest for a while, then lay kitchen string across the package to create a ceasing, sprinkle plain icing sugar over it all, carefully remove string and voila your perfectly presented B’stilla is ready to serve. If you have a doily you can sprinkle the icing sugar through this to create the pattern. If that’s too hard just sprinkle the whole thing with icing sugar!

17. Slice and serve with carrot and green salad.

Carrot Salad

Ingredients:

  • Carrots cooked in chicken cooking liquid
  • Handful of chopped parsley leaves
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • Juice of half an orange
  • 1/2 finger length of fresh ginger julienned into strips

While the B’stilla is resting, heat your carrots for 1 minute in a microwave,

Add the rest of the ingredients to the carrots, mix through and serve with B’stilla and a crisp green salad.

Secret Garden brunch at Daisy Green #daisygreen #london

Reliving memories of my recent trip to London as the city rolled towards the COVID-19 shutdown last month…it was a slightly surreal visit to one of my favourite cities but filled with nice memories that will stay with me,

I found this delightful cafe called Daisy Green in Portman Village, on the corner of Seymour st and New Quebec St, just behind Oxford st.

Turns out it’s part of a group called the Daisy Green collection described on their website as:

“The Daisy Green Collection brings relaxed and buzzing Australian food and coffee culture to London. Through individually designed cafes and restaurants, the Collection creates iconic spaces which quickly become local destinations and meeting points for surrounding residents and visitors.”

Downstairs at Daisy Green Portman Village

The Portman Village cafe has been designed by UK street artist, Shuby, into an Alice in Wonderland esq outdoor/indoor garden.

I managed to quench my craving for a real Australian coffee or two and enjoyed delicious avocado on toast, with a sprinkling of paprika, chives and a squeeze of lemon, and a side of real bacon!

I would have been one of the last customers prior to the shutdown, but I sincerely hope the cafe and Daisy Green collection come through the other side of the pandemic to flourish once more.

Nur Marvellous Moroccan Cooking Class #fes #nurrestaurant

So glad we made it to Morocco last year for a wonderful week in the Médina of Fes, and then visiting Rabat and Casablanca. It might be a while until we return now, so the closest we’ll come will be trying out some of the recipes we learnt at Nur Restaurant Cooking school with celebrity chef Najat Kaanache.

Najat was trained in Europe at restaurants like El Bulli and is quite a character, passionate about her restaurant and teaching others. https://najatkaanache.com

Najat welcomes us into the kitchen when we arrived at the restaurant for our 4 hour cooking marathon and explained the courses we would be cooking. She then handed over to her Assistant Chef to guide us through the actual hands-on experience as she had to zip to support a young friend who was in the selections for the Moroccan Soccer team!

Assistant Chef at Nur …our teacher for the day
The menu and courses we cooked!

We began by making a Moroccan spice paste which would be the base for a number of the dishes and salads. Then quickly moved onto making the Mafrouk or Moroccan flatbread from scratch.

Najat shows us the basics of making Mafrouk

We prepared the vegetables for 7 vegetable couscous and learnt how to “massage” and make couscous, grilled eggplants and peppers over the open gas flame, made a fish tagine, cummin carrots .

It was a busy few hours even with two helpers. We were the only people booked in as we had chosen a private class. This was excellent as we got to ask questions and get really hands-on, but then we had to eat it all ourselves as well!

Rubbing the couscous
Grilling peppers over the gas 🔥 flame!

Fish tagine with lemons, red capsicum and tomatoes with spice paste
Our chicken and 7 veg couscous

It was a great experience and the food tasted very authentic even though we had cooked it! The recipes were also all easy to recreate at home which we will now be doing to relive our memories as international travel seems like a thing of the past or a long way into the future right now.

Our fabulous Moroccan feast!

#Delicious #Indian dinner #Trishna London #b4covid19

Had a delicious dinner at Trishna In Marylebone on my recent, Pre-COVID-19 shutdown, trip to London.

Their servings were also super generous. The soft shell crab and crabmeat entree was divine and very creative.

I had the 3 course dinner special lamb curry and it came with naan, dhal, spinach and baby corn, and rice. The food reminded me of some of my recipes like my Dhal!

Sadly I was so filled up by this stage, I couldn’t fit in the delicious so7nding desserts! I hope they survive the shutdown so I can go back when London re-opens and I can get there again!

Marvellous Mudbrick Vineyard #waiheke #aukland #nz

Had a delicious lunch at Mudbrick Vineyard on Boxing Day after catching the ferry from Auckland on a beautiful day. Scenery and views from Mudbrick Vineyard across the harbour to Auckland are divine as are the vegetable and herb gardens and landscaping in general.

All makes for a stunning setting for lunch.

The menu has a really interesting selection of food with a focus on fresh, local ingredients and the NZ wine is lovely. Servings are very generous ..we tried the charcuterie board, shared antipasto, beef shin, steak, whole flounder and roasted octupus…but there were ten of us! Take a group so you can try more. See photos below.

Loved our visit and highly recommend you try it if in NZ anytime soon.

Kingfish with orange chilli and sesame seeds

Shared antipasto plate – enough for 3 people

Charcuterie board with fillets and terrines
Whole flounder
Delicious roasted octupus