Christmas Eve Smoked Chicken and Mango Salad

This year, Christmas Eve in my house was a busy day of running around sandwiched between two family celebrations. Amid what seemed like countless trips to the supermarkets, an emergency dash to my folks’ house to rescue an esky (cooler) full of perishable food left behind by my sister, and of course, wrapping presents, I was relieved that dinner was already sorted.

About 15 years ago, my parents moved back to Australia after a stint living in the US. Along with all their other stuff, they brought a smoker with them, which gets dragged out at least once every year to smoke chickens, fish and sometimes other goods for Christmas feasts. My sister and I both requested a chicken this year and this is what I had in mind for Christmas Eve.

In addition to the chicken, I had a few ripe mangoes left over from a box I received a couple of weeks ago and some lovely fresh greens purchased at the South Melbourne Market on Monday morning. So I dug out a recipe for a smoked chicken salad that I first discovered a few years ago on the website (a great starting point for almost any kind of recipe you could imagine) and adapted it to suit the ingredients I had.

This is a recipe that is open to a lot of variation—you could add whatever greens you prefer (the original uses iceberg lettuce), choose different smoked meats (duck? salmon? trout?) or even swap out the smoked meat for fresh prawns. It looks great served on a platter, or divided among plates or bowls, and would be just as suitable as an entrée salad as a light main course.

As for this version? It made for a perfectly delicious family dinner on Christmas Eve.

Smoked chicken and mango salad

Smoked Chicken and Mango Salad

Adapted from this recipe

Serves 4-6

1 smoked chicken
2 ripe mangoes
mixed greens
1/2 bunch of fresh mint, leaves torn
1 Lebanese cucumber, thinly sliced
1/2 red capsicum/pepper, thinly sliced
200ml natural pot set yoghurt
2-3 tbs chopped coriander
2 tbs lime juice
1 tbs sweet chili sauce
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Shred the chicken from the carcass. Cut the cheeks off the mango and slice the flesh thinly. Toss salad ingredients together in a large bowl.

Finely chop coriander and mix with yoghurt, lime juice and sweet chili sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer salad to a platter and drizzle with some of the dressing. Serve the remaining dressing on the side.


1. I’m not a huge fan of raw onions, but spring onions (green onions) or thinly sliced red onions would be a great addition to the salad.

2. Use a combination of different greens—I started with a mixture of lettuces, then added baby spinach, rocket/arugula, a little radicchio and snow pea shoots.

3. To make the dressing in a flash, chop the coriander in a mini-food processor, add the other ingredients and whiz until combined.


A homegrown dinner

This is a post I started working on in January, but for some reason I never finished writing it until now. But perhaps it’s a timely one for all of you who live in the northern hemisphere!

Last summer, for the first time ever, we planted potatoes in our garden. We ended up with about 7-8 kilos of potatoes! Pretty good for a first attempt. Our other successful crops this summer included garlic and tomatoes. In fact, we had a pretty good crop of tomatoes, as the weather was unusually and consistently warm for this part of Australia!

Homegrown produce

Browsing through my cookbooks to get inspiration, I came across a Jamie Oliver recipe for chicken, tomatoes and potatoes. Perfect! I played with the recipe a bit, adding garlic and reducing the amounts a little to fit our family a bit better. It’s a fairly loose recipe, easy to adapt to fit your needs.

Chicken dish for collage

It looked delicious, tasted delicious, and was a great way to cook our homegrown dinner!

Crispy, sticky chicken thighs, with new potatoes and tomatoes

Adapted from Jamie at Home, by Jamie Oliver

Serves 4-6

1 kg chicken thigh fillets, preferably skin-on, cut into 3 strips
1 Tbs olive oil
600 g new potatoes
300-400 g cherry tomatoes, large ones halved
1 small head of garlic (or 4-5 cloves), peeled and smashed
Bunch of fresh oregano, leaves picked
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Red wine vinegar
4 Tbs Olive oil, extra

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Boil potatoes until almost cooked. Drain and squash using the back of a spoon or your thumb.

While the potatoes are cooking, season chicken with salt and pepper and rub with olive oil. In two batches, fry in a large frying pan for about 10 minutes over high heat, until almost cooked. To the second batch add the garlic, tossing it with the chicken.

Add back the first batch of chicken, along with the potatoes and tomatoes, and toss to combine with the chicken and garlic.

Pound the oregano leaves and a large pinch of salt with a mortar and pestle, add a good splash of red wine vinegar and about 4 Tbs olive oil. Season with ground pepper and pour over the chicken and vegetables. Toss to mix and transfer to a large shallow ceramic or glass baking dish or a non-reactive roasting tray. Cook in the oven for about 45 minutes until golden.


1. I didn’t skin the tomatoes, but if you prefer, you can blanch them in hot water and then slip the skins off.


Roast chicken with a twist

I’ve been in a bit of a food rut recently. We’ve been busy busy busy and while I’ve been doing a lot of cooking, it hasn’t been super exciting.

But I came across this Neil Perry recipe in the weekend paper yesterday and something about it just appealed to me. I love Asian flavours, and I love roast chicken, so the idea of marrying the two together is just inspired! It’s really easy to put together and tastes fantastic.

Neil Perry suggests serving it with steamed Asian greens. We ate it with homemade fried rice, steamed asparagus and green beans and just picked silverbeet and rainbow chard, sauteed and wilted with garlic and seasoned with a splash of soy sauce and a drizzle of sesame oil.

Lemongrass and Ginger Roast Chicken

Adapted from a recipe by Neil Perry, published in The Age, 20 October 2012.

Serves 4-6

2 stalks lemongrass, white part only, finely sliced
1 Tbs grated ginger
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 eschalots, chopped
1 lime, juiced
1 Tbs fish sauce
1/2 tsp caster sugar
100g unsalted butter, diced and softened to room temperature
1.5 kg free range chicken
olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
sesame oil 

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Using a small food processor, chop the lemongrass, ginger, garlic and eschallots until very fine. Add the lime juice, fish sauce and sugar and blend to a paste. Using a fork, mix through the softened butter.

Gently loosen the skin of the chicken over the breast and legs and push the butter under the skin. Place chicken breast side up in a baking dish. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 1 hour or until the juices run clear when the thickest part of the thigh is pierced.

Rest for 10 minutes before cutting into pieces. Drizzle with sesame oil just before serving.


Gumbo ya ya

It’s Spring in Australia and already I can feel more warmth in the sun’s rays and we’ve been getting some lovely sunshine. In Melbourne we get a long grey drizzly winter, so it’s very welcome. But it’s still not quite there yet, and on a cooler day like today, a warm spicy stew is the way to end the day (and a good way to start the week too).

I noticed a couple of weeks ago that okra is in season right now. It’s not a particularly common vegetable here, and most supermarkets and greengrocers don’t carry it. But it’s a useful vegetable to have around if you want to cook gumbo, the Cajun stew from Louisiana in the USA’s Deep South. When it is sliced up, it exudes a sticky sap-like substance which is cooked away, and it thickens up the gumbo nicely.

I originally found this recipe in Bon Appétit magazine, which I subscribed to for years when I lived in California. It’s not on the Epicurious website, though, so I’m glad I kept this issue.

Gumbo is a dish that takes a while to set up, but then it happily simmers away for a couple of hours while you do other things, like bake cupcakes for your daughter to take to school. It’s a little spicy, so maybe not the most kid-friendly, but it sure is tasty! Serve it over rice.

Chicken and Chorizo Gumbo

Adapted from a recipe in Bon Appetit, November 1992.

Serves 8

12 cups water
1 chicken cut into 4-6 pieces
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
500g okra, sliced
1/2 cup plain flour
500g chorizo sausage, cut into 2cm thick slices
2 400g cans diced tomatoes and their juices
1 green capsicum (pepper), chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp cayenne pepper
large pinch of sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp filé powder

Combine water and chicken in a stock pot or large saucepan and simmer for an hour or until chicken is tender. Remove chicken pieces to a bowl and cool. Once cool, discard skin and remove meat from bones. Reserve 4 cups of the chicken stock.

Heat 2 Tbsp oil over medium heat and cook okra, stirring frequently, until it’s no longer sticky, about 15-20 minutes.

Make a roux by heating the flour and remaining oil in heavy Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring frequently until the roux is a deep golden colour. It should take about 10 minutes.

Add the reserved chicken stock, okra, sausage, tomatoes, capsicum, celery, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, basil, salt and pepper. Simmer, partially covered for 1.5 hours until thickened, stirring occasionally.

Spoon off fat from the surface and then add chicken and filé powder, and simmer for another 15 minutes. Serve over rice.


1. I’ve used chorizo sausage as andouille sausage is not available in Australia. Kielbasa or another spicy smoked sausage could also be used.

2. Making the roux is an important step, so don’t rush it. Keep it moving as it starts to colour so that it doesn’t burn.

3. Filé powder is made from ground sassafrass leaves and can be found at some specialty spice shops. It’s not essential, but it helps thicken the gumbo and adds a delicate flavour.


Almost risotto

I like risotto and rice dishes made with arborio rice, but really, who has time to stand there stirring for 45 minutes? Especially with two or three kids snapping at the heels, whinging about how hungry they are. So I love cooking oven-baked risotto-style meals, which are much easier to put together. These recipes follow the initial steps of risotto-making, but instead of stirring the stock in, one ladleful at a time, it’s added all at once and put into the oven to absorb.

The resulting rice is not quite as creamy as properly made risotto, but stirring in some parmesan and even butter at the end can bring it close.

I’ve found that the trick with these recipes is to make sure the stock is brought to a simmer just before it’s added to the dish. I’ve tried a few variations of these recipes and this seems to be the critical step for making sure the rice cooks properly.

This particular recipe is not a cheesy risotto, however. Instead it has a Spanish influence, with chorizo sausage and smoky paprika. It comes from an Australian Women’s Weekly special issue I picked up last year.

Oven-baked Chicken and Chorizo Risotto

Adapted from Winter Favourites Special 2011, published by The Australian Women’s Weekly

Serves 4-6

4 c (1L) chicken stock
1 Tbs olive oil
2 chorizo sausages, sliced thinly
500g boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2-3 cm chunks
3 small onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large red capsicum, sliced thinly
2 c arborio rice
2 tsp smoked paprika
3/4 c dry white wine
1/2 c coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 180C.

Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a saucepan (keep covered so it doesn’t evaporate too much).

Heat 1/2 Tbs olive oil over high heat in a large dutch oven or flameproof casserole dish with a lid. Fry the chorizo until it is browned all over. Remove from dish. If necessary, pour out excess oil so that about 1 Tbs remains.

Add the chicken and cook until golden, stirring frequently. Remove from pan.

Add the remaining olive oil to the pan, and saute the onions and garlic until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the red capsicum and saute for another minute. Then add the rice and paprika and stir for a minute or so, until the rice is coated in the onion mixture and the grains are starting to go opaque.

Pour in the wine and simmer until it has evaporated. Then add back the chicken and pour over the hot stock, and bring back to a simmer. Cover with the lid and transfer to the oven.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, stirring about halfway through. Add the chorizo back to the pan, and stir for a minute or so until chorizo heats back up.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.


1. I used a sweet smoked paprika, but a hot smoked paprika would be nice too.


The whole enchilada

I’ve never made much Mexican food, even though I love it. When I lived in California, there wasn’t much point—I could get superb Mexican food from all sorts of places, ranging from the gigantic burritos available around Berkeley, to the formica-tabled taquerias in San Francisco’s Mission District, and even high end Mexican cuisine. There wasn’t much need to cook it at home, although I would often make fajitas and I learned to make a decent guacamole.

But back here in Australia, until recently, Mexican food was a joke, greasy cliched menus and buckets of acidic margaritas. Even the ingredients were hard to get, unless you wanted Old El Paso taco kits. That’s changed with the arrival of a number of very popular Mexican restaurants and a slowly widening availability of ingredients like chipotle chilies in adobo sauce.

I recently aquired a bag of dried pinto beans, and cooked them up. But what to do with them? I decided to make some chicken and bean enchiladas. The challenge? They had to be kid friendly, as my kids haven’t yet acquired a taste for spicy food. I looked through my recipe books and finally found a recipe that I could adapt fairly easily in Rick Bayless’s book Mexico One Plate at a Time. In the interest of time, I decided to use a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket, rather than cook my own chicken.

And the result? The flavours were there, although more heat would have been nice! I was a bit disappointed at how quickly the tortillas dissolved into the dish, but maybe that’s the difference between Australian store-bought tortillas and homemade ones. Still, at least one kid liked them and I will definitely make them again!

Chicken and bean enchiladas

Adapted from Mexico, One Plate at a Time, by Rick Bayless

Serves 4-6

1 1/2 Tbs olive oil
3 400g cans tomatoes, can use whole, diced or crushed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp mexican spice blend or to taste
2 c chicken broth
1/2 c sour cream
2 c shredded cooked chicken
1 c cooked beans (pinto, black, kidney, borlotti, can be canned or cooked from dry)
2/3 c mild cheese (colby, tasty cheddar, monterey jack)
10-12 corn tortillas
coriander for garnish

Preheat oven to 180C.

Puree the tomatoes in a blender or food processor.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan or dutch oven. Cook the onion for about 5 minutes until soft and golden. Add the garlic and the spice blend and stir for 30 seconds or so. Poor in the tomatoes and turn heat up to medium-high. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 15 minutes until tomatoes have thickened to the consistency of tomato paste and darkened slightly.

Add the broth and simmer partially covered for 15-20 minutes, until it has thickened to the consistency of a tomato sugo or passata. Adjust seasoning and stir in the sour cream.

Meanwhile, combine 2 cups of shredded chicken with 1 cup of drained beans. Mix in about 3/4 c of sauce.

Spray or brush the tortillas on both sides with oil and lay out on a baking tray. Heat for 3 minutes or so in the oven, until they are soft and pliable. Remove and wrap in a teatowel while assembling to keep them warm and soft.

Ladle about 1 cup of sauce into a rectangular baking dish. Working quickly, spoon some of the chicken and bean mix into each tortilla, roll up and put seam side down in the baking dish. Pour remaining sauce evenly over the tortillas and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes until cheese is golden. Garnish with coriander and serve immediately.


1. For more heat, roast, de-skin and de-seed a couple of jalapeno chilis and add to the tomatoes before pureeing.


Cheap chinese chicken

We all have our go-to meals, the ones we make often because they are quick, easy and everyone likes them.

One of our family favourites is this tasty chinese-style chicken cooked in the slow cooker. The recipe comes from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufman, and is apparently based on a recipe from a chicken package wrapper.

I’ve tinkered with it a bit, using chinese rice wine in place of sherry or apple juice, and adding some ginger. It results in a deliciously moist chicken, with plenty of sauce. And because it’s a whole chicken it’s easily enough meat for a family.

Serve it with rice and some steamed vegetables for an effortless meal.

Chinese Chicken with Sesame Seeds

Adapted from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufman

Serves 4-6

1 free-range chicken, about 1.5-1.8kg
3-4 spring onions
1/3 c soy sauce
1/3 c brown sugar
1/4 c water
1/4 c shao xing wine (chinese cooking wine)
1 Tbs tomato sauce (ketchup)
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 cm piece of ginger, grated
2 Tbs cornflour
2 Tbs water
2 Tbs sesame seeds, toasted in dry skillet until golden

Rinse chicken and trim off any lumps of fat. Place breast up in a large oval slow cooker.

Trim two of the spring onions and halve lengthwise. Place on top of the chicken.

Combine the soy sauce, brown sugar, water, shao xing wine, tomato sauce, garlic and ginger and pour over the chicken. Set the slow cooker to high and cook for 3.5-4.5 hours until the chicken has cooked through. A thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh should read 85C/180F and the juices should run clear.

Transfer the chicken to a platter and keep warm. Remove spring onions from sauce. Combine the water and the cornflour to make a slurry and stir into the sauce. Cook on high, stirring frequently, for 10-15 minutes until sauce thickens.

Spoon sauce over chicken and garnish with toasted sesame seeds and chopped spring onions.


1. For extra flavour, add 1/2 tsp dried chili flakes to the soy sauce mixture.

2. The skin won’t go crispy, it will stay soft, similar to a poached chicken.

3. The chicken can be cut up, chinese style, or the meat pulled off the bone and served on the rice.


Bill’s green chicken curry

A few weeks ago, we went to a local, and very good, Thai restaurant for dinner with friends. And a few days later, when I asked Matty what he’d like for dinner, he suggested green chicken curry. So I looked around for a recipe that was easy enough to prepare for a weeknight dinner, but “from scratch” enough to feel like I was really cooking. Enter Bill Granger, whose latest cookbook Bill’s Everyday Asian has been gracing my bookshelf (or rather, balancing precariously on my sideboard) since Christmas.

I didn’t play around much with the recipe, other than to swap out some of the veges for what I had to hand, namely some lebanese eggplants and zucchini from our garden. It was not a difficult recipe, and the bonus is that there is enough curry paste to make a second batch.

Verdict—this was a lovely tasting, gently spicy and fragrant curry. Definitely a keeper!

Bill Granger’s Green Chicken Curry

Based on the recipe in Bill’s Everyday Asian.

For the curry paste
1 tsp white peppercorns
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp sea salt flakes
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 lemongrass stalk, white and pale green parts roughly chopped
6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
4 spring onions, roughly chopped
2 tbs coriander roots, washed and chopped
3cm piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
4 green chillies, deseeded and chopped
2 tbs sunflower oil
For the curry:
1 tbs sunflower oil
3 tbs green curry paste
125ml chicken stock
250ml coconut milk
1 anchovy, finely chopped
4 kaffir lime leaves, torn
500g chicken breasts, cut into 2cm chunks
100g green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-3 cm lengths
1/2 tin baby corn
1/2 tin bamboo shoots
100g lebanese eggplant, cut into 1-2 cm rounds
100g green zucchini, cut into 1-2 cm rounds
100g yellow zucchini, cut into 1-2 cm rounds
1 tbs white sugar
2 tbs fish sauce
1 tb lime juice
handful of basil leaves, torn

To make the curry paste:

Heat a small fry pan over medium heat and dry-toast the peppercorns, coriander and cumin seeds for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.

Add to a food processor with other curry paste ingredients and blitz to make a paste.

To make the curry:

Heat oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Fry the curry paste for 2 minutes unti fragrant.

Add the stock, coconut milk, anchovy and lime leaves and cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Add chicken and cook for a further 5 minutes, then add the vegetables, sugar, fish sauce and lime juice and simmer for 15 minutes until vegetables are tender and chicken pieces are cooked through.

Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve with steamed rice.


1. When I make this again, I will pound paste mix in a mortar and pestle before I blitz in the food processor, as I found my machine didn’t do a good job. I ended up transfering the paste to the mortar and pestle for a good pounding to get a good paste consistency.


Chicken and chorizo jambalaya

When I was in my early 20s I moved out of home and across the world. In my first year living in the US, I lived on campus, eating dorm food. And I really really really missed my Mum’s cooking. Even her curries, which I was sure I didn’t like! But it wasn’t until I moved into my first apartment that I discovered cooking.

Before I moved away, I wasn’t much of a cook. I could bake a mean packet cake, and my Dad and I had had a pizza making thing for a while. I could make spag bol, but really, who can’t? And I could make a few other bits and pieces, but nothing special. My limited repertoire quickly wore thin.

So I started looking for other things to cook. One of the recipes I got from Mum early on, scrawled in pencil on a dog-eared piece of paper, was for jambalaya. Jambalaya is a rice-based dish from New Orleans, flavoured with a base of onions, celery and capsicums (bell peppers if you live in the USA) and a liberal dose of Tabasco sauce! I cooked this recipes for years, initially with chicken and bacon, or Canadian bacon in the US, which is a bit more like ham, and eventually using a spicy sausage like kielbasa or even Cajun Andouille sausage.

But eventually I stopped making jambalaya, it just disappeared from my regular selection of meals. We moved back to Australia and I started cooking more south east Asian food. And then I had kids, and my food choices revolved around what I thought the kids might—possibly—eat.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, I was browsing Pinterest, which is becoming a good place to find a recipe. And I came across this recipe. And it reminded me of something I didn’t even know I’d been missing. It’s a one pot meal, and this recipe easily makes enough to feed 6, if not 8, people!

Too bad my kids don’t like it!

Chicken and Chorizo Jambalaya

Based loosely on the recipe posted by The Galley Gourmet, with a nod to Paul Prudhomme, and the addition of tomatoes to make it more of a creole style jambalaya.

2 tbs olive oil
1.5kg free range chicken, cut into 8 pieces and seasoned with salt and pepper
2 chorizo sausages, sliced 1/2 cm thick
2 small (1 medium) onions, diced
2 sticks celery, diced
1 red capsicum, diced
1 green capsicum, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
freshly ground black pepper
2 cups long grain white rice
400g tin crushed tomatoes
3 fresh bay leaves
2 cups chicken stock
2 spring onions, chopped
1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Tabasco sauce

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the chicken pieces, skin side down first, and fry until golden on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. You may have to do this in batches. Transfer to a plate and repeat with remaining chicken if necessary.

Add the chorizo sausage and fry for about 5 minutes until the edges start to go brown. Remove to a plate and pour off all but about 3 tbs of the fat in the pan.

Add the onions, celery and capsicum and saute for about 5 minutes over medium heat until they soften. Add the garlic and saute for about 2 more minutes. Then add the cayenne pepper, thyme, salt and pepper and stir to mix.

Add the rice to the pan and saute until the rice goes opaque, about 3 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, the stock and the bay leaves and bring to the boil. Return the chicken and the sausage to the pan. Then cover and reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes until the rice is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Gently stir the rice, allow to sit for 5-10 minutes and garnish with spring onions and parsley.

Serve with Tabasco sauce.


1. I used jasmine rice as that is what I had in the cupboard. But ordinary long grain rice would be fine.

2. You could happily substitute canned diced tomatoes instead of crushed tomatoes, again, it was what I had to hand.