Not very authentic but a quick and easy family meal – My Chicken Biryani

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I love India. I plan to spend time living in India at some point, I love it that much. I have been 3 times and want to go more, I wish it was easier to get there from New Zealand. I also love Indian food. I say that in a generic way but there is only one thing I have come across that I didn’t like, soft idli.

I think cooking anything that might come under the heading ‘Indian’ frightens a few people. You can cook the grand food with all sorts of ingredients and spend a day doing it, you can also change recipes. You aren’t going to insult any one if you use a generic curry powder, find what you and your family like spice ways and work with what you get. I have been cooking my Indian homestyle food for as long as I can remember and lost my fear long ago.

This recipe is not classy and is not at all authentic. It is a good family feed and an easy midweek dinner. It can also be good for using things up like that scraggy chicken breast in the freezer, the ends of frozen veg and the last bit of rice.  It is also a good place to start adding an Indian feel to family meals.

My Chicken Biryani-

  • Servings: 4-6 people
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1 tbsp flavourless oil (canola)

1 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp ground cardamom

1 1/2 tsp ground cumin

1 1/2 tsp ground coriander 

1 large chicken breast ( or 2 small)  in small cubes

1 medium onion, diced

2 garlic cloves chopped

2c chicken stock

1 1/2 c basmati rice

1 1/2 c frozen veg

On a medium heat, heat oil in a wide fry pan with a lid

When hot add chicken and cook until sealed on each side

Add onion and garlic and cook until onion is transparent

Then add rice and give a good stir to coat

Tip stock in and give another stir

Cover, lower heat and let cook for 10 mins (check it has not gone dry a few times, add hot water if it has)

Add frozen veg, stir yet again

Cook with lid off for another 10-15 minutes (add more hot water if dries out)

Serve with cucumber and mint yoghurt, naan or what ever floats your boat.

*makes excellent left overs

STICK TO WRAPS! Slow cooker BBQ chicken in taco’s.

So, Tuesday, or Taco Tuesday as it is commonly known, should not include Slow cooker BBQ chicken unless you plan to shower afterwards. Stick to wraps for this filling or even just have rice and enjoy it as it is. Just don’t do tacos, not even the fancy stand and stuff variety.

Back to the chicken, this is a good keeper of a dish. Not something we would have often but a good one all the same. A nice easy dish to get ready the night before, put the meat in the sauce and turn on as you leave the house. When you get in, shred the chicken and leave to cook a bit more.

This recipe comes from my folder and is dated 2005, I must admit to not knowing the origin of the print out.

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Don’t be fooled, the juice ran everywhere.

Slow cooker BBQ

  • Servings: 4
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2 boneless and skinless chicken breasts

1 1/2 cups tomato ketchup

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon white or cider vinegar

1 crushed garlic clove

1 teaspoon chilli pepper

1 teaspoon coffee granules

Add all of the ingredients to the slow cooker, stir to coat.

Leave to cook for 5 plus hours, shred chicken in sauce about an hour before serving.

Serve with wraps, rice, salad but not TACOS

Monday, We Went Flash-Parmesan Polenta Chips

Last night I posted about my marvellous meal planning and polenta chips being part of tonights dinner. I thought I would share what I learnt and what I will do next time. For this first batch I decided to start with a healthy recipe from the March 2015 edition of NZ Healthy Food Guide. I figured as I always tweak things if we started at a healthy base I could tweak away and know they came from a good place.

This NZ HFG recipe does not contain stock and didn’t have enough salt for our liking. I thought the parmesan cheese might make up for this but this wasn’t to be. I actually only made 2/3 of the recipe below and I would say that would easily be enough for 4.

I will make them again and seek other recipes, we enjoyed having something different with our piece of steak and they did go rather nice and crusty. That word just doesn’t sound right, but that is what they were.

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HFG Parmesan Polenta Chips -

  • Servings: 4
  • Print

2 cups of milk

2 cups of water

1 cup instant polenta

1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Line a 16 cm x 26 cm baking tin with baking paper,

Pour milk and water into a saucepan and bring to the boil,

Reduce the heat to low and slowly add the polenta, keep stirring,

Keep stirring and Cook for 6-7 minutes until thick,

Stir in parmesan cheese and parsley,

Tip into the baking tin and smooth,

Cool to room temperature and then place in fridge fro at least 30 mins,

Preheat oven to 200

Turn the set polenta out on to a clean chopping board and cut into thick chips,

Put the chips on to a  prepared baking sheet and spray with oil,

Bake for 30 min or until golden, turning halfway through.

Dinners this week-a run down to help keep me sane and reduce waste .

My recipe folder-going back to 1997.

My recipe folder-going back to 1997.

I always plan our dinner before we go shopping, I am not the kind to stick to the list completely and will swap things in and out depending on what be on sale for the week. I also look for things that can be used over several dinner, like a family bag of salad. Recently on the New Zealand’s own Campbell Live Show there was a segment on food waste and it got me thinking about how good we have got at not throwing food away.

Back in the day, when we were young and childfree, we were terrible. When I think about the things we threw away I want to hang my head in shame. Not saving the half of the Indian takeaway for the next day was one of our worst moves. All that wasted curry and rice. Bad, or what?

So, how did we get better? We started to use the freezer more, planned dinners and shopped weekly. We also stopped doing one thing, buying all the things. There now has to be a reason to buy something. It isn’t about money saving, it is about use. With eating out, we started going out at lunch time and having a full meal. On the rare occasion we do get a take away we either share one dish or save it for the next day.

If you want to read a few more ideas have a look on the Facebook page- Love Food Hate Waste.

This weeks meal plan-

Monday-Steak with polenta chips

Tuesday- Slow cooker BBQ chicken in taco’s

Wednesday- Broccoli pesto pasta- didn’t happen, we had Tomato sauce and 5 minute bread instead.

Thursday- Beef mince chilli ( Miss Muffin will have a toned down version)

That is far as I have gone this week, I am out on Friday so I am pretty sure the other two will have bacon!

Panko Pork Patties, Try Saying That Really Fast

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Last week I was lucky enough to get a Black Box. This is a box full of goodies and after you receive it you fill in a survey and post on their Facebook page about the products. In this box there were Obento Panko Bread Crumbs, I love panko bread crumbs and considered doing the usual chicken strips. I then remembered there was some ethically farmed pork mince in the freezer and half a jar of satay sauce in the fridge , my dinner mind got working. I must confess the satay sauce was the Singapore Signature Range bottled sauce. With the sauce I stirred some vegetables and added the same and cooked for around the minutes.

I loved the Obento Panko Bread Crumbs, they are a decent sized crumb with a good texture.

In the photo above I have added some chilli and back pepper to the grown up mix after crumbing the girls patties.

Panko Pork Patties-

  • Servings: 4 people
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1/2 cup panko crumbs

500g ethical pork mince

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 tsp grated ginger (I freeze a root, grates easily)

1 tablespoon BBQ sauce or Sweet chilli 

1 egg lightly whisked

Salt and pepper to season

For coating 1 cup panko breadcrumbs

Non-flavoured oil for cooking 

Add all of the ingredients (apart from the  cup of panko crumbs and oil)  and mix well .

Make into small patties, roughy a tablespoon of mixture for each patty.

Place on a lightly floured covered plate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. The mix will be slightly soggy.

When you are ready to cook place the last cup of panko crumbs in a shallow bowl and lightly press  patty into the mix until covered on both sides.

Heat enough oil to just cover your frying pan, heat and add patty.

Cook gently until brown.

Serve with rice

A Perisian Inspired Feast.

I did a Wellington Foodies thing with the lovely Susan from My Persian Feast. After this I decided I had to have a dinner party with a Persian influence. I also went for a Ottolenghi angel knowing the ideas would blend well. As usual, I spent many hours planning, culled the menu and got sensible. I even took a day off to cook on the Friday. I had a happy day off dancing, cooking and eating mixture. I did the usual subject- bread and dips. I also made Ka’ach Bilmalch. They are somewhere between a cookie, bagel and bread roll. They are rather moorish, as was the Tahini Dip that goes along side this recipe. You can find the recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Taminmi’s book Jerusalem. If you are interested enough to read my post, you need it any way. Photo 16-08-14 4 20 08 pm The main event was Chicken with Summer Fruit. I did this in the slow cooker, it was on all day making the house smell lovely. It was wonderfully different and went down very well. I used a mix of chicken cuts and I browned the meat under the grill to do it in one bulk lot.  The slow cooker was on all day and I turned it down to low at about 3pm. We ate around 7pm. Photo 16-08-14 4 20 31 pm This is the recipe Susan from My Persian Feast emailed me. Chicken with Summer Fruit 

This is a sweet and sour dish with hint of spice. I usually make this dish with lamb in slow cooker and change the fruit depending on what I have at home. Dried fruit such as cranberries, barberries, plum (hard to find) and raisins are good to use for this recipe.

Chicken with Summer Fruit-

  • Servings: 6-8
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6 Chicken thighs, skin removed (any part of chicken is fine)

1 Large onion, finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

12 Apricots

1 cup dried cherry, wash and soak in water for few hours (Countdown/ Moore Wilson’s)

3 table spoon Pomegranate molasses

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon chilli flakes, fresh or powder is fine

salt and pepper

Vegetable Oil

Rub the chicken pieces with little turmeric and black pepper.

Heat a frying pan, add oil and brown the chicken.

Transfer to a casserole dish and pour 2 cups of boiling water over the chicken.

Simmer for about 30-40 minutes (for slow cooker-  brown chicken add to slow cooker, carry on with recipe and add the ingredients as follows below, add ingredients to slow cooker)

In the same frying pan sauté the onion until softened.

Add little oil if needed. Add garlic, turmeric, chilli and cinnamon, stir well.

Add fruits and Pomegranate molasses cook for few minutes

Add the mixture to chicken and cook for another 20 minutes/ or 6-8 hours in slow cooker

Add more boiling water if needed

Taste the sauce after 10 minutes if its too sweet add more pomegranate molasses and if its too sour add 1 tablespoon of brown sugar or honey.

Serve with Persian style saffron flavoured fluffy rice, garlic yoghurt and baby spinach. Nooshe Jaan!

I also used her recipe for Smokey Aubergine Dip  ( Mirza Ghasemi)

2 medium aubergines

5 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 cup chopped canned tomatoes or 5 tomatoes, skin removed and chopped (not the Italian tomatoes, cheap can tomatoes are the best. The acid from normal tomato will bring freshness to dish)

Generous amount of olive oil Chilli powder optional ( I added a fresh red chilli too)

1 teaspoon turmeric salt and pepper

  • The best way is to cook aubergines whole over an open flame (either on a barbecue or over a domestic gas stove) on low heat until the skin blackened and the flesh has softened right through to the centre.
  • Alternatively, to bake them, Place the aubergines in a roasting tin and roast them whole in the oven 40-45 minutes.
  • Remove the skin and mash the with fork
  • In a frying pan sauté chopped garlic until soft. Add turmeric and stir
  • Add the mashed eggplant and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring thoroughly.
  • Add chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper to the mix, stir well and cook for further10 minutes over medium heat.
  • Serve warm with crusty bread and garnish with chopped parsley and olive oil.

And my new favourite salad, I doubled this. Marinated Feta Cheese (Noon-o-Paneer)

75 g feta cheese, cubed
1/4 cup walnut, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon spring onion, chopped
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon nigella seeds (got these in a local Indian Store)
Add walnuts to a glass jar or small container, add enough water to cover the walnuts. Soak walnuts for 6 hours or overnight in the fridge. Rinse and discard water.
In a small bowl combine olive oil, herbs, spring onion, lemon juice, chopped walnuts and nigella seeds.
Stir until well mixed.
Add cheese cubes and toss very gently to coat.
Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.
And… drum roll…..
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And lastly, I made- Walnut and Almond Crescents ( Ghottaab) you can see them on the left of my mega platter. They were lovely and would go rather well with coffee.
In the middle is the very interesting Baklava Cake , it does not have pastry and is rather like an India sweet. I loved it, husband was not sure.
On the far side is a Dish magazine Cherry Tart, I soaked the cherries in rosewater to keep with the theme. I wanted to do something familiar and it was good too. All up, this was a lovely meal and we had a great evening,

Wonderful Wednesday

One of the things my lovely little mummy taught me was how to cook. I don’t remember actual lesson but watching and soaking it all up. When I left home to go university I really realised how much I had learnt. When I became a mum myself I knew that teaching my child to cook was a valuable lesson. I haven’t given Miss Muffin lessons but I have encouraged afternoon tea to be in our kitchen/dining room and done prep for dinner as she eats. We have our best conversations at this time too. A few weeks ago I decided it was time to step right out the kitchen and leave her at 11 years old to do a meal by herself. This was a big thing for me but I did it, she has been producing lovely meals every Wednesday I am one of those annoying people who comes up with nicknames for things and people (hello Magic Lady and Gin). I decided that we would call this meal, Wonderful Wednesday. It was a good name to choose, we really are having wonderful Wednesdays. Miss Muffin decides by Monday night what we are having so I can get any ingredients when I shop on a Tuesday. She has so far got most of her recipes from her own kids cooking books and I hope to move her on from these as she gets more confident. I think Sophie Gray’s books will be the next step. Here are a few photos to show you my girl and her food- The first week we had Kung Fu Panda Meatballs from the Countdown website. They were good and I loved her presentation. Kung Fu Panda meatballs. The next week it was a Yellow Chicken Curry, was good too. Wonderfulwed2 And tonight we had Sausage and Pepper Stir Fry. wonderfulwed1 Can’t wait to see what the next Wonderful Wednesday brings. Well this Wednesday we had a Chicken Curry, fresh curry paste and everything. It was lovely and she was a star in the kitchen again. chickcurry

It is Wednesday again, how did this happen?

Tonight she made a meat lovers pizza from scratch and did really well. It was lovely and she did the base by hand, it tasted great. Another proud moment for me and Mr Muffin. Miss Muffin took the lovely artistic pizza photo too.


Miss Muffin has decided to recook all of these dishes and get confident over the next couple of weeks.

This week she did the meatballs again and apart from them all rolling on the floor ( 3 second rule), she did great.

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Chicken pie- thanks Nigella

Look at that, mmmm.

Look at that, mmmm.

This pie is a good pie. I am only going to give you the recipe for the filling as it is up to you what you do with it. We have it with just a puff pastry top and it is good, so good. You can also vary the vegetables you add, for some reason chicken goes so well with sweetcorn and that is what we often have.

I have seen several recipes for similar pie filling on the internet, some of them are so complicated and have odd ingredients. This is no fancy pie but a robust, tasty and proper pie. If you know how to make a white sauce you are most of the way there anyway. It is that simple.

The recipe I use as a guide is in Nigella Lawson’s How To Eat. It is in the back under baby food and on page 488. I am doing a blog post so I always have the recipe available.

Chicken Pie filling

Heat oven to 180°C

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 chicken stock cube 

1 tblsp flour

300 ml milk

125grm veg ( I use frozen sweetcorn or frozen mixed veg)

200 grm cooked chicken (1 large breast is enough for us, poaching is a quick way to cook it and it shreds easily)

Melt butter and add stock cube/ granules mix together to make a kind of paste

Stir in flour and cook until a light brown in colour

Off heat stir continuously and slowly add the milk

When smooth put back on the heat and cook for around 10 minutes, stir occasionally

Add chicken and veg, mix all together.

If you are doing it my way –

Place filling in a pan dish and top with defrosted puff pastry, prick all over and brush with milk

Bake for around 35-40 mins or until pastry is brown and you can see the filling bubbling.


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Dinner party- Indian slow cooked beef, Chocolate Tart and Chewy Orange and Almond Cookies

Just can not turn it around.

Just can not turn it around.

The dinner party-

I decided to have a dinner party on a Friday. I planned all the ‘making life easy’ moves and ensured I wouldn’t have too much to do when I got home from work at 3.00pm. I, of course, still ended up on my feet until dinner was served at 6.30pm.

The menu was Indian themed.

Nibbles were bhuja, popadoms and Indian frozen snacks (cooked of course)

The main-
Pakistani “old clothes” beef curry (nihari)
Cumin Potatoes
Cauliflower and tomato curry
Naan bread

The pudding –
Chewy orange and almond cookies.
Chocolate macaroon cake

The slow cooker beef was a bit of a gamble, but one that paid off. Beef and Indian food are not usually a match but in the north of the country beef is eaten. This sounded appealing and like a Indian version of pulled pork. It worked and was very tasty and lovely. I would recommend any Indian food/ slow cooker fans to get the book it came from as it gives a real idea of how to get flavour into the meal and quantities needed.

The Indian Slow Cooker: 50 Healthy, Easy, Authentic Recipes
By Anupy Singla

Pakistani “old clothes” beef curry (nihari)
2 medium yellow onions, peeled, cut in half, sliced
2 lbs beef brisket, trimmed of fat
1 2-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and cut into chunks
10 cloves garlic, peeled
1 heaping tsp ground (powdered) ginger
4 green or white cardamom pods
3 bay leaves
1 4-inch cinnamon stick
1 Tbsp garam masala
2 Tbsp ground fennel
1 Tbsp ground mild (red) chili pepper
2 pinches ground nutmeg
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black salt (or substitute kosher salt)
1/2 cup canola oil
Place the onions in a 4- or 5-quart slow cooker, and set the meat on top. In a food processor or mortar and pestle, grind the ginger and garlic to a paste, and add it to the slow cooker.

Add the remaining ingredients and drizzle the oil over everything; no need to mix! Cook on LOW for 9 hours (after 5 hours, turn the meat), until the beef falls apart.

Remove the meat to a bowl, and shred it with two forks. Return the meat to the slow cooker and toss with the sauce. Serve with naan or over white, brown or basmati rice.

My main adaptation was, I drained the juices off the meat into a saucepan. I shredded the meat and placed back in the slow cooker with some of the juices to cook for a further 40ish minutes.

This dish was really, really tasty. It was different from the normal India food but I would certainly make it again.

Not a pretty picture but had a pretty taste. Full of flavour.

Not a pretty picture but had a pretty taste. Full of flavour.

Now to talk about my favourite bit, PUDDING.
I did 2 choices but we all had both.
With the tart I left out the coffee liqueur and substituted the hazelnuts for ground almonds. This was one impressive pudding and easy to do. I made the base the night before and then did the chocolate mousse as soon as I got in from work. I will be making this again.

So, so good. look at that base. Gluten free too.

So, so good. look at that base. Gluten free too.

Chocolate Macaroon Tart (GF)
2 x #6 egg whites
¼ cup caster sugar
50 grams hazelnuts, finely ground
¾ cup desiccated coconut
¾ cup icing sugar, sifted
½ teaspoon ground ginger
Chocolate Mousse
½ cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
pinch sea salt
200 grams dark chocolate, 62% cocoa, finely chopped
50 grams butter, diced
2 tablespoons liqueur, I used a coffee liqueur
¾ cup cream, softly whipped
24 cm spring form cake tin
Grease the cake tin and line the base and sides with baking paper.
Preheat the oven to 170°C fan bake.
Whisk the egg whites and caster sugar until thick and glossy.
Combine the hazelnuts, coconut, icing sugar and ginger then fold into the egg whites in two batches.
Spoon into the tin and smooth the top.
Bake for 20 minutes until firm to the touch and a pale golden. Cool completely.
Mousse: Put the water, vanilla, sugar, oil and the salt in a small saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Take off the heat and immediately add the chocolate and butter. Leave for 1 minute then whisk until smooth and shiny. Stir in the liqueur, transfer to a large bowl and leave to cool. Fold in ½ of the cream then gently but thoroughly fold in the remaining cream, stopping as soon as it is combined. Don’t over mix or the chocolate will go grainy.

Pour the mousse over the base and very gently shake the tin to settle it in an even layer. Decorate the edges with extra shaved chocolate if desired then chill for several hours until firm.

To serve: Remove the sides of the tin and carefully peel off the baking paper. Remove the tart from the base and transfer to a serving plate. Serve well chilled straight from the refrigerator topped with fresh raspberries. Serves 8-12

I have made these next biscuits several times. I was directed to the recipe by a fellow almond lover, Micky. It took me a while to make them and they are now requested fairly frequently. They are mouth wateringly good. The recipe is from Chelsea Sugar, use their ingredients, they are quality.

The yoghurt is a sneaky preview sample, boy, it is good.

The yoghurt is a sneaky preview sample, boy, it is good.

Chelsea Sugar Chewy Almond Orange Biscuits – Gluten Free
2 cups ground almonds
1 cup Chelsea Caster Sugar
finely grated rind of one orange
2 egg whites, beaten to soft peaks
1 heaped Tbsp honey, warmed
Chelsea Icing Sugar to dust
Preheat oven to 160°C.
Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
Dust this with icing sugar.
Mix all ingredients to a thick paste.
Sieve a layer ofi cing sugar onto the work surface and roll small balls of the mixture in the icing sugar to coat well.

Press down on the trays leaving plenty of room to spread. (Biscuits just need to be pressed down slightly not flattened out with a fork as you do with other biscuits).

Bake for 15— 18 minutes then cool on a wire rack— store in an airtight container.

Not sausages again ?

Sometimes I shop out of habit. Having staples in the freezer is a necessity really as I work school hours. Sometimes these staples need using up and the light bulb moment just doesn’t come. After going through every one of my normal backups, I just couldn’t settle on an idea.

Google was the place to go and I got cornmeal in my head. I found a recipe on another blog  and played around with that until I had something to fit our 3 sausages and 3 people. It would easily serve 4 as I have a portion for lunch tomorrow.


Grease a loose 20cm bottom flan/ pie tin

Heat oven to 180 (I used fan bake on the new oven)


1 tablespoon olive oil

2 onions thinly sliced

3 sausages, skin removed and cut into 2cm long bit

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/2 tbsp brown sugar


2 eggs

1/2 cup milk (will need less is eggs are large)

50 grms cheese (mixed tasty cheddar and Parmesan )

120 grms cornmeal

salt and pepper to taste


Heat olive oil, add onions and give them 3 or 4 mins

Add sausage balls and stir

Carry on cooking until lightly browned

Sprinkle with balsamic vinegar and brown sugar

Stir until coated and leave to brown nicely


Mix eggs and milk in a bowl

Add the rest of the ingredients

Stir, you should have a thick batter that will keep a bit of shape

Tip into greased tin and make an indent and push sides up to a bit of a crust

Put filling on middle

Bake for 25-30 mins until golden

Us grown ups loved it, Miss Muffin found it rather cheesy. We concluded it was a good one for our grown up radar and would be great with a few jalapenos added. The crust was lovely and different. It would be great for using up bits of left overs such a roast veg.

Hope you enjoy.