Valentine’s Day Chicken Hearts

Chicken hearts

Valentines Day has never been a favourite of mine. I mean, I love the Lochness Monster, the Tooth Fairy and Donald Trumps hair as much as the next guy but this Valentines-malarky can really go shove it.

This whole saga got me thinking about a Valentines Day recipe that would appeal to my sense of humour (at the very least), instead of over priced roses and the kind of expectation that hangs in the air like smog. And then it hit me – chicken heart skewers like the ones I ate (and loved) in Bangkok.

While on shoot for Girl Eat World, I ate a few things that I usually would not have. I have no regrets about anything except the Balut (17 Day Embryo Egg)  and even that has made for a great “tale from the crypt” so I can’t live in complete regret.

On a recent trip to Atlas Trading, my local spice hub, I bought some sumac. It’s a fresh, zesty Middle Eastern spice made out of the dried, red fruit of a small shrub. The crimson hue also fits in with this Valentines Day theme…

Sumac

Roasted Garlic and Sumac Chicken Heart Skewers with Salad – because nothing says ‘I love you’ than hearts and salad.

Recipe 

serves 6 people (As much as these are delicious, I don’t think I could eat more than a handful per seating)

Ingredients 

300g free range chicken hearts

yogurt, whatever you have and enough to cover the hearts

2 cloves garlic, roasted until soft and sweet

sumac, enough to coat the hearts

salt to taste

salad of your choice

Method

Wash the hearts out thoroughly – until the water runs clear. Drain into a colander and place in a bowl with the yogurt for up to 3 hours. Make sure that all the hearts are coated in the yogurt that will help tenderise this secondary cut of meat.

Before you’re ready to serve, soak the kebab sticks in some water so that they do not burn. Wash the hearts clean of the yogurt. Dry off with kitchen towel. Smash garlic into a paste and toss through the hearts. Add some salt and some sumac. Thread the hearts onto the cocktail sticks.

Heat oven (I used a Philips Air Fryer) to 200C and roast for 4minutes until tender.

The hearts were insanely succulent and the fat on them has crisped up delightfully. The sumac added a lightness to what is general considered to be a macabre ingredient. And they ended up looking like crumbed and fried baby squid which is at least a point of reference if I ever serve these at a dinner party…

Free range chicken hearts were sourced from The Butcher Man here in Cape Town. Find a reliable butcher to help you with this one.

The Paneer Stands Alone

“Age is something that doesn’t matter, unless you are cheese” – Luis Bunuel

In this case, the age would be ‘newborn’ because paneer is a fresh cheese. I stand to be corrected but to my knowledge, paneer is the only Indian cheese. Paneer is a lot like ricotta but made solely with milk and not cream. It’s light and creamy and my favourite way to eat it is with palaak (spinach) and the warm spiciness of garam masala.

I got into a frenzy about eating Indian food on Sunday. Because Even though I was a little muzzy from the night before, I have always believed that cooking for oneself is the way to nurture oneself and so I set off on making my Sunday lunch dreams come true.

paneer recipe

Paneer Recipe

Ingredients 

2L full cream milk

6 Himalayan salt crystals

1 lemon

Method

Bring milk to scalding point with salt. Thats the point when you can see bubbles at the edge of the pot, steam raising, but not boiling yet.

Take the pot off the heat and squeeze the lemon into the pot of hot milk. Be careful not to squeeze the lemon seeds into the milk. Stir the pot with a wooden spoon and set aside for 10-15minutes. In that time, the curds and whey (yes, intsy-wintsy-spider style) will separate. The curds will be the lumpy milk solids and the whey is a sour-looking liquid that will separate to the top of the pot.

Ready a strainer or sieve lined with muslin cloth or a new kitchen cloth. Cut your piece of string before you pour the curds and whey into the cloth.

Pour the liquid into the muslin. Tie the cloth closed with the string and suspend. The curds needs to hang to allow the excess liquid to drain off ±45minutes. Once most of the liquid has drain off, place the muslin cloth with the paneer in it between two flat surfaces – a dinner plate weighed down with a side plate and a pestle will do. Once the curds have drained dry, cut into squares and add to your curry sauce.

 

 

Born to be Wilderer

I feel as though I’ve started to play with food again. I recently upgraded my kitchen so the novelty of cooking has been revived. Will share the DIY in a separate post. You too will be amazed at how a little can go a long way. But I digress…I recently spent some time the Spice Route Estate. The property is home to CBC Brewery, a pizzeria, their restaurant Barley and Biltong, Brenda’s Preserves where I made my very own spice (himalayan pink salt, dried garlic, garlic flowers and pink peppercorns), Bertus Basson’s restaurant, The Barn’s Artist Gallery and glass blowing studio, DV Chocolatier and of course, the Wilderer Distillery.

Image by @GreatGrampops
Image by @GreatGrampops

The Wilderer (Vill-de-rer) Distillery is a family run operation. The current distiller is still being trained by Helmut Wilderer. Apparently Helmut employs a sensorial approach to distillation, so instead of focussing on technicalities, he encourages using qualitative means. While both men sit together in the tiny room that houses the copper pot stills, only one of them is holding a broom handle which is uses to administer a quick smack to the wrists for non-performance. Once you taste the clean, flavourful gin/grappa/infused white spirits, you too will  be ok with overlooking the menial clout.

There was a bottle of Fynbos grappa lurking in my kitchen. The herbaceous aroma is quite heady with aniseed being the front-most flavour. I used it to deglaze my pan of coconut oil, butter, garlic, chilli and thyme – pasta sauce of the future. Once the thick coat of alcohol lifted (after all, it’s a white spirit), what was left was a light, liquorice sauce to bathe my linguini and fresh courgettes in. I also threw in a few slices of beef rump from the previous night. Was a pretty bang on dinner for 1.

Wilderer

Making Pasta

The first time I had ever made pasta was as a contestant on MasterChef SA. We had one day off a week and this happened to be one of the first Sundays that we got to do as we pleased. Being the garden variety food nerds that we were, we were all gathered in the kitchen testing the new gadgets out.

One of the dishes that helped me win the title was a hand cut fettuccine with West Coast Lobster (as of December 2016 The West Coast Lobster is on the SASSI red list – DO NOT EAT IT) in a tomato-based, lemongrass, chilli and sour cream sauce – the second time I had ever made pasta. And with self raising flour which was my only option! (For those of you who need an explanation, self-rising flour has baking powder in it which is a raising agent – not suitable for pasta making).

Since then I’ve made pasta with varying levels of success. The method that I would dare to call almost foolproof is by weighing, not measuring, the ingredients.

Use 1 egg per portion of pasta you wish to make. Use large eggs that are at room temperature. Each egg weighs about 50g. Multiply that by 1.5 to calculate the amount of flour you need to add. I used Millstone’s white bread flour. Then mix together and knead until the dough is springy. What I mean by that is – knead the dough until the gluten has been activated so that when you push a finger into the dough, it should spring back into shape.

Sometimes there isn’t enough time or effort for a pasta sauce so instead I roasted some rosa tomatoes with whole cloves of garlic, thyme and red chillies to be smooshed later and tossed through the warm pasta. Some pan-friends courgettes and a bit of goats milk Chevin and you’re ready for a light pasta lunch.

Home made pasta