Greek chicken with glazed quinoa and feta salad

Greek chicken with glazed quinoa and feta salad
Serves:
4
Time: 50 minutes
Difficulty: Easy to medium

There’s something about cinnamon that awakens the senses. For me, it brings back fond memories of Europe – from revelling in tongue-tingling sangria in Spain to licking the plate of my moussaka in Greece. Yes, I associate cinnamon with travel. And because travel is my number one favourite thing to do, cinnamon has to be my number one favourite spice.

Combining the ingredients of cinnamon, all spice and oregano is usually associated with red meat, but it works just as well with chicken too. Enjoy this dish as a delicious, but innocuous to the arteries mid-week dinner.

Ingredients

For the chicken:
3 good sized chicken breasts cut into approx. 3cm wide strips
2 tsps cinnamon
2 tsps all spice
2 tsps dried oregano
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

For the salad:
1 can baby beetroots, quartered
2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 red capsicum, cut into 2-3cm pieces
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
1 cup white quinoa
2 cups liquid – either water or chicken stock (I like using chicken stock for a more intense flavour)
50gm Greek feta, cut or crumbled into small cubes
½ tbsp honey
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil – for the quinoa
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil – for the vegies
2 garlic cloves, crushed whole
2 springs rosemary (this is optional, but I like adding it to the quinoa for a deeper flavour)

Method

Step 1: In a fine mesh strainer, rinse the quinoa thoroughly with cool water and drain well. Heat the teaspoon of oil in a saucepan over medium heat and add the quinoa. Toast for about 1 minute. Stir in the liquid, garlic and rosemary sprigs. Bring to the boil. Turn the heat down to low and cook covered for 15 minutes. Then take off the heat and let stand for 5 minutes, covered. Fluff with a fork, removing the now leafless woody sprigs.

Step 2: Meanwhile, while the quinoa is cooking, slice the chicken. Place the pieces in a deep bowl and combine with the cinnamon, all spice, oregano, salt, pepper and oil. Mix well and set aside to marinate for a few minutes.

Step 3: While the chicken marinates, chop the vegies. In a medium non-stick frypan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Drop the vegies in, tossing thoroughly for 2 minutes. Add the salt and pepper. Continue to stir fry.

Step 4: While the vegies are cooking, heat a large non-stick frypan over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken in batches (I usually do 2 batches) for about 3-4 minutes each side or until golden brown.

Step 5: After the vegies have been cooking on medium-high for about 10 minutes, stir in the balsamic vinegar and honey, then lower the heat to medium. Continue to stir for another 5 minutes or until the mixture becomes glazed and sticky (I usually keep cooking it until my chicken is done).

Step 6: In a medium bowl, layer first the quinoa, then the glazed vegies, followed by the chicken, and finally the feta. Pour over the leftover liquid glaze from the saucepan, and enjoy!

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Reuben Hills, Surry Hills

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Dirty Bird – $15

Reuben Hills cafe, 61 Albion Street, Surry Hills

At Reuben Hills cafe in Surry Hills, it’s no surprise to see a swarm of people waiting out front. They’re famous ‘round these parts for their deliciously exotic coffee and flavoursome food. In fact, when Toby Maguire visited Sydney recently to film and promote The Great Gatsby, he lauded Reuben Hills as one of his favourite coffee houses in the city. Moments before that, Baz Luhrmann had proclaimed him a coffee aficionado.

Out front the cafe looks like another terrace house but inside, you quickly become aware that it’s more of a warehouse. Up top, silver coloured barrels and contraptions loom over the open kitchen and dining area. This machinery is what they use to brew their coffee. Downstairs, it’s light, bright and airy – with the back roller-door wide open.

We waited about 20 minutes to get a table, but we didn’t mind as we were eager to find out what all the fuss was about. Plus, our waitress was lovely and cheery, making sure we were comfortably sat with refreshments in a waiting area.

The menu is Mexican inspired, with a dash of rude language. For example, you can indulge in their ‘Really f*ing great Fried Chicken’. Comfortingly for those weekend late risers like us, breakfast items are served all day. They also have a host of exotic coffees, but we left the adventurism for another day and chose our regular skim cap and long black. For our meals, I chose the ‘Dirty Bird’ and Bert chose the ‘NOT Reuben’.

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NOT Reuben – $16

My Dirty Bird burger was served on brioche bread with cheese, tomatillo salsa, pickles and chipotle aioli. And boy did it have a kick to it! The bread was beautifully soft and its contents full of flavour. I should mention though that I was mostly getting the taste of the spicy chicken coming through.

The pièce de résistance was the NOT Reuben sandwich. I couldn’t get enough of it. So much so that I made Bert give me half of it for three quarters of my burger (because he wasn’t going to give it up without a fight, so I had to turn my negotiations up to full power). Inside the artisan rye slices, the wagyu salt brisket was crisp on the outside, yet gorgeously soft and tender on the inside. Matched with the pickled slaw, manchego cheese and horseradish cream, it was nothing short of spectacular.

reubenhills.com.au

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Brown special fried rice

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BROWN SPECIAL FRIED RICE

Serves: 2
Time: 40 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Ever since I was a child, I’ve had a passionate love affair with fried rice. I remember one time in particular back in my home town of Perth, when my little sister and I had such an enormous craving for it, we were compelled to walk half an hour to our local Chinese restaurant and back again just to satiate our monster craving. And satiate it did – gloriously.

For us fried rice was, and continues to be, that damn good. But unfortunately, also that damn unhealthy. So my ode to this Asian culinary classic is healthier, yet still tantalising on those tastebuds – making it a great lunch recipe.

Ingredients
1 cup brown rice
250g cooked and cleaned prawns
100g deli smoked ham, torn
¾ cup frozen peas, thawed
3 celery stalks, sliced
4 spring onion stalks, finely sliced (3 for the pan, 1 to garnish)
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 red chillies, finely sliced (1 for the pan, 1 to season)
2 tbsp soy sauce, plus extra to season
1 tbsp Shao Xing Chinese cooking wine
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tbsp sesame oil
2 eggs

Method
Step 1: Cook brown rice according to packet instructions. Meanwhile heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large non-stick fry pan or wok over medium-high. Add the garlic and chilli and stir fry for 30 seconds. Add the celery, spring onions and ham, stir frying for 2-3 minutes.

Step 2: Add the prawns and peas and stir fry for another 2-3 minutes. Then fold through the rice, stir frying for 2 minutes.

Step 3: Toss in the soy sauce, Shao Xing and sesame oil – stir fry until completely combined. Push the mixture to one side of the pan and crack in the eggs. Let them sit and fry for 30 seconds to 1 minute and then fold through the rice until the egg shreds are blended through.

Step 4: Serve up the rice in bowls and garnish with left over spring onion slices. Place the remaining chilli slices in a small sauce bowl and pour in the extra soy sauce – serve on the side.

Wake up with a healthy turkey breakfast wrap

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HEALTHY BREAKFAST WRAP

Serves: 2

Time: 10 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Ah breakfast, the most important meal of the day. Although, when I was younger, I frequently missed this holy grail of meals because, well, I got to sleep in longer. It wasn’t until my years became older and wiser, that I realised just how essential it is to kick start your metabolism. So now I always make time for it. For an extra ‘kick’ to this start, I add chilli flakes to really get your blood going.

Ingredients
2 wholemeal wraps
6 slices of deli turkey
2 slices of light and tasty cheese
Half an avocado
Light mayonnaise
Barbeque sauce (sugar reduced)
4 eggs
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
Chilli flakes (optional and to your liking)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil spray

Method
Step 1: Put a non-stick frying pan on medium heat. Spray with extra virgin olive oil and toast each side of the wraps for about 20 seconds.

Step 2: Put the wraps on plates and add the mayo and barbecue sauce, spreading both about 3-4cm wide and all the way down to about three quarters, leaving the bottom quarter free. Lay three pieces of deli turkey over each wrap. Halve the cheese slices and layer the two halves over the turkey for each wrap – keeping that last quarter free throughout. Turn on your grill to a medium heat, and then place the wraps under the grill, keeping an eye on them to make sure they don’t crisp.

Step 3: In a medium bowl whisk the eggs, salt, pepper and chilli flakes until the eggs are frothy. In the same pan, add the extra virgin olive oil and scramble the eggs, taking them off when they’re still slightly moist and glistening.

Step 4: Take the wraps out of the grill (the cheese should be melted). Layer the scrambled eggs over each of the wraps. Use a teaspoon to scoop out the avocado and add the final layer. If you’re feeling a little saucy this morning, add extra sauce over the top.

Step 5: Fold up the bottom of the wrap, then fold over the sides. And voilà! They’re ready to dig into.

Suzie Q, Surry Hills

Another day, another Surry Hills cafe for a delicious weekend brunch. Suzie Q in Surry Hills pays homage to food, drink and music – a timeless combination. It was the first day of winter when we ventured into this neat little cafe, tucked away in a corner that was formerly a loading dock. Although it was a comparatively warm winter’s day, we were still craving something to warm our stomachs and this was the place to do it.

We were greeted by friendly staff as they handed over the menus, which were slipped inside vintage record covers – much to my delight. To match the music theme, on the left wall resides an enormous black and white classic picture of Woodstock.

The cafe itself is quite small (so you can imagine how dominating that picture would be!) and we chose to sit at the window bench looking out onto, well a car park, but it was nice to have some fresh air anyway. The tiny kitchen is just behind the counter, so you can watch as the food is freshly prepared. Keeping with the theme, the meals are named after songs. We decided on the ‘Henry Lee’ and the ‘Eggs and Sausage in a Cadillac with Susan Mitchelson’ as well as a long black and skim cap.

Unfortunately I didn’t care much for my coffee. It was watery and as I was nearing the bottom, tiny clear liquid rings made an appearance up top – I can’t say I knew what was making that effect, but I’m assuming it was due to the said watery nature of it.

My meal on the other hand was a whole other story. I said it to Tom that Saturday and I’ll say it again here – it was the best breakfast/brunch I’ve had in Sydney. My Eggs and Sausage in a Cadillac with Susan Mitchelson was a delicious mouthful both on paper and quite literally. It began with a layer of arepa – which is a type of bread – flat, round and made from corn meal, it’s a traditional Columbian and Venezuelan food. And if you and gluten are mortal enemies, good news for you – it’s gluten-free. On top of that were spicy (I like spicy and this did not disappoint. There was none of that mild stuff other places use because they’re too afraid to use the big guns!) slices of chorizo, melted cheese and then a layer of poached eggs. Garnished with tomato salsa, mint and coriander – it was a tempting tower. As I cut into the top, golden rivers of egg yolk cascaded down and the combination of all the flavours together was truly spectacular.

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Tom’s Henry Lee was a grilled thick ham roll with manchego cheese, beetroot relish and horseradish cream. It was served with potato crisps (yes, the kind you get from the supermarket) and slaw. This was a hearty meal, but probably not the healthiest option. I found the slaw a little too creamy as well and although I can usually never find a crumb left on Tom’s plate, this slaw was neglected like a stubborn child neglects their vegies.

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Because of the wonderful creation that is Eggs and Sausage in a Cadillac with Susan Mitchelson, Suzie Q will have my patronage again – I’ll even give their coffee a second shot.
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Cyren Bar and Restaurant, Darling Habour

Let me start by saying that I had great expectations of this Darling Harbour white spectacle. When it first opened it was heaving (and it’s not a small place by any means). On top of that, there were lines of 20 or 30 deep waiting for a table out the front. However, when we visited on a Friday night, a touch over half a year later, the place showed no signs of its former demand – foreshadowing an unfortunate experience. 

Cyren has been lavishly renovated with beautiful colours of white and gold. You can sit outside near fiery heaters, or inside where stone art seems to be a running theme. We were seated inside, quite gratefully as it was a cold autumn’s night.

We discovered that there was only one waiter responsible for taking orders in our rather large section of the restaurant when we realised no one had come to offer us water or take our orders for at least twenty minutes after sitting. So we waved the waiter down, ordering our selections of seafood and steak. The waiter seem frazzled and was run off his feet – he might’ve done a better job if management had been thoughtful enough to roster more staff on a Friday night in a Darling Harbour location.

I ordered the barramundi and chips – costing me $38. I had to choose between salad and chips for that amount – I didn’t get them both. The barramundi was nice enough; when I got past the sticky rather than crunchy skin – a big disappointment for me. Even more disappointing was when I, as well as a friend, requested aioli to go with our chips and it never came, despite asking for its whereabouts from two different waiters (it was always ‘on its way’).

Adding to this, I had to ask for more water, rather than my glass being refilled as you would expect from a place that charged you $38 for what was basically fish and chips.  When the waiter asked how everything was towards the end of the night, our friend didn’t hide our unsatisfied moods – letting him know it was nothing short of terrible. When the manager came over and asked if we wanted free desserts to make up for it, we politely declined as no doubt, we’d have to wait for another half hour to receive them – if at all.

Price

Around $20 for entrees and $38 for mains

Service

They need more staff, and then perhaps the service would be standard rather than dismal.

My final verdict

Overall, it was a rather substandard experience and I won’t be hurrying back there anytime soon.

Cyren Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon

The best ever Bloody Mary

I had heard stories of this legendary Bloody Mary, and at the time I wasn’t quite sure I believed them. “It’s the best Bloody Mary you’ll ever have”; “It’s like a whole meal”; “You’ll love this” they said. ‘The best ever Bloody Mary’ is certainly a tall call to make – but for me there is no doubt. Of course you’re more than welcome to prove me wrong, but hear me out first…

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Bloody Mary, $16.50

It’s served in a large brandy glass using a ‘secret’ Bloody Mary blend. The level of spiciness is at your discretion; just choose a number between 1 and 10 – 10 being the hottest. I like mine pretty spicy, so I chose an 8 and it was fan-bloody-mary-tastic. As well as fine spices and a shot and a half of vodka, it’s served with a layered skewer of stuffed baby pepper, pickled brussels sprout and boiled egg. You’ll also find cucumber, lime and lemon slices within this concoction.

The bartenders craft their Bloody Marys with love and care like that of a mother to her newborn child, and so it can take a bit of time. But it’s worth it.

You can indulge in what I would say is the best ever Bloody Mary at The Clock Hotel in Surry Hills.

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