Chicken Soup with Chickpeas & Za’atar

It’s October, while we still haven’t turned on the furnace, there’s definitely a chill in the air, and it feels great to wear a sweater.  My sister came over to play cards last night, actually we needed to practice as we’re having a card night with friends later this week, and we haven’t played since the spring.  We played Kings Corners, which is fun, strategic, and frustrating, which for me is the perfect card game.  For supper I decided to make soup in celebration of autumn, along with a simple cheese & veggie flatbread.

I wanted to make Posole, because of a dream I’d had recently.  After explaining to anyone who wanted to hear (in my dream) that a bowl of heated dirt was not, in fact, true Posole, I awoke wanting to make the real thing.  But living on an island, we can’t always go out and buy things like Hominy & the right Chilies. Staring into my pantry, I spotted jars of Za’atar and Sumac, and my brain clicked into place, so I grabbed them as well as smoked paprika and a tin of chickpeas.  With a great chicken stock ready, and a chicken breast in the freezer, I knew that they would come together to make a hearty soup.

The meal started with a small dish of Baba Ghanoush and some sweet potato crackers, along with a yummy Sangiovese. Next up was the soup with the flatbread.  The soup had so much flavour, with a deep broth, full of chickpeas, carrots, and pulled chicken.  Not a huge meal, but an absolutely perfect Card Night supper.

Enjoy making this soup, as it is fragrant and warming, and follows all the methods for a delicious braised meal. Note that the mix I use for Za’atar follows.   Continue reading

Mexican Skillet Chicken

IMG_1185Sometimes a recipe is born simply from a suggestion. While being told about a chicken dish that was enjoyed on a recent trip to Vegas, my mind was clicking away, trying to think about how to prepare a similar dish, having never seen the original, with the description more about how good it was, not really about how it was made. Our conversation wandered along several paths, never returning to the chicken dish. Several nights later I played the “what if” game while cooking what turned out to be the first draft of this very fresh, spicy dish of chicken with a light topping of melted cheese, and topped with fresh tomatoes, avocados, tomatillos, & green onion. Theoretically it should feed four. So far, it has only ever fed two, with no leftovers. Continue reading

Spiced Chicken Skewers

IMG_8329These little chicken skewers are so moist and flavourful, that no dipping sauce is required, or wanted. Served with a trio of summer salads they make for a lovely al fresco meal. The meat is good served cold in a salad the next day for lunch, or using a smaller skewer, and threading on only one piece of chicken, they are great as an appetizer, year round. Continue reading

Coconut Chicken Stew with Basil & Lime

IMG_9606There is something incredibly satisfying about stews, regardless of their country of origin. Pieces of vegetables nestled in a rich sauce, sometimes with meat, sometimes without. Once I discovered the wonderful aspects of Thai red & green curry pastes, I started playing with different versions of stews using coconut milk as a base. I remember a surprise visit of a large family, and making enough vegetable stew to feed us all easily, using a mixture of just the vegetables I had on hand, along with coconut milk and some curry paste. We served it over mounds of rice in large bowls while we got caught up on each other’s lives.

However, a day came when I didn’t have any curry paste in the pantry, so needed to go it alone. Often now, I tend to make this coconut based stew without the curry paste, and have sorted the ingredients out to make a wonderfully flavoured stew.   I’ve shown it here with chicken, but as the option that follows shows, it is completely wonderful as a meatless stew (although it does use fish sauce, so not completely vegetarian). Continue reading

Fried Rice ~ Basic Recipe

IMG_9565_2For several months one year, we had two young women staying with us through the Canada World Youth Program; one was a Canadian university student from Sherbrooke, Quebec, and the other, an economics student from Jakarta, Indonesia. Language was one of the key components to their stay here, as well as volunteering in the community. While I struggled with Indonesian, finding it difficult to separate the words, as the language is so fluid, I did find my high school French coming back to me so quickly. The three of us would laugh, quite often pointing, or drawing pictures to communicate. But slowly it all started to happen. Often just a quick sentence, but the intent was picked up on.

Besides language, food was a huge part of us getting to know each other and our cultures. Our household became used to the scent of rice in all its cooked forms. During Ramadan, the two of them would get up before dawn, and start cooking the early meal. Usually it was a simple assembly of fried rice. A few pieces of garlic, onions, and hot peppers, fried with leftover rice from the evening meal. Other bits of vegetables or meats would be added, and served with sambal oelek and ketjap bentang. This meal would last them right through until the late meal. Our Quebec guest found it very hard to manage the long days of fasting, but did it to experience her counterpart’s religion. Our tiny, Indonesian friend explained to me, that if you eat less, it is far easier to make it through the day, as she watched with glee as our young Canadian friend wolfed down a bagel with cream cheese following her fried rice.

Frying the rice before cooking it (instead of frying leftover rice) gives it a nuttier flavour. The recipe still uses small amounts of vegetable, meats, and egg to make it a complete meal. Be creative with this, as it is a very simple meal, using what is at hand. It can easily be fully vegetarian, or just use the egg if you like. Continue reading