img_7239This was not supposed to be another dish of braised chicken. I had every intention of celebrating eggplants this week by stuffing them with a spiced jumble of vegetables and pulses then baking them until thigh quiveringly soft. Except then life got in the way. And so I returned to an old staple formula. If what you need is another variation on a mostly-one-pot, gluten free, easily dairy free, slow carb, veggie packed, happy to freeze, feed a crowd, no need for a salad on the side because the greens are there in the bowl supper, skip straight to the recipe at the bottom.

I had grand visions of recreating Imam Bayildi, that olive oil redolent Turkish dish of blousily bloated eggplants, perhaps with lentils for additional ballast. I spent a good hour or so lazily trawling through travel photos of our jaunt to Istanbul some four and a bit years ago now for inspiration, then fell into a google hole about hammams in Sydney.  But then I just couldn’t bring myself to cook the lentils. All I wanted to do was lie in my hammock in the dappled sun, flick through some books and have the toddler delivery me flowers he’d plucked from the garden, one by one.

I’ve reached that stage of gestation, now that our stowaway is the size of an eggplant, though it feels more like an elephant. I’ll occasionally need help getting up from the couch. Our stowaway is not that happy with meals that contain spice, rich or fatty meats. Heartburn is not just a searingly fabulous Nora Ephron novella. It’s real in this house and not a cause for celebration. Most nights at 8 pm when I’m reclining on the couch our stowaway starts a little party of her own, twisting and turning, cavorting and thumping ‘remember me?!’ Oh, how could I forget?

img_7207So instead I returned to a formula that has served us well when combined with fennel, leek, marinated artichokes and baby spinach, and also with sweet potato, porcini and mushrooms. These self contained one-pot chicken thigh suppers are perfect self contained  saviors, that can be just as happily consumed on the couch as served for company. Their brilliance is how unflappable the chicken thigh pieces are (please don’t use breast. It will be as dry and palatable as paper by the time you come to reheat it). You can easily make this earlier in the day and then perk it up on the hob just prior to eating. For anyone who is desperate to be able to swiftly sit down to a soothing supper and something distracting on a television after they’ve finally put a child to bed/ finished work/ a work out/ what have you, they’re a boon.

This one borrows some hard working ingredients from the deli counter for additional flavour. Marinated red peppers are an instant shot of brightness in a dish and smoked paprika is always festive. I’ve chosen to quickly roast the eggplant pieces because it cuts down on the amount of oil needed in the dish (eggplants are as thirsty as a hot pregnant lass) and leaves the hob clear for you to soften the onions and brown the chicken.

I’ve chosen to serve this with kale for greens, but baby spinach or rocket would also work just as well. Similarly, if you can’t be bothered to blitz and blend the red peppers with the garlic, you could always use a short cut of purchasing a Balkan marinated red pepper relish like Ajvar, or a marinated red pepper dip and use that.

The other great thing about this dish is that it happily feeds a crowd. Which means if there are just 2.5 of you at the table, there’s a headstart to dinner another night stashed away in the freezer.

Win/Win.

Here are a few other things that are going on

Currently:

Eating: Chickpea flour crepes in new guises- I’ve been experimenting with them as ‘testaroli’ – a hybrid of crepe/pasta. It’s comfort food at its best. Make a batch of chickpea flour crepes and then cut them into slim triangles, Make a relatively wet ragu, or olive oil rich sauce, then sautee the cooked crepes in the sauce. Eat out of bowls. So great.

Watching:
City of Gold. This documentary on Jonathon Gold, the first food critic in the world to win the Pulitzer Prize is the perfect antidote to Trump glumness, Hanson madness and Brexit sadness. It’s an elegant celebration of diversity – what richness there is in having a multicultural mosaic, how our differences make our cities interesting and exciting – and how food has the power to bring people and ideas together. Make a new recipe from a culture you’re not that familiar with, or get take away from a place across town that you haven’t been to before. Rent this and have a great Saturday night.

Listening:
Ezra Klein interview with Patrick Brown on plant- meat that bleeds and the science of flavour. They use the analogy here that the non-meat based burgers created by Impossible Foods this might be the ‘Tesla of Food’. An engaging listen for anyone with an interest in sustainability, the applications of science and flavour. Patrick Brown’s emphasis on the importance of transparency in food production is refreshing.

Ogling:
Restaurants in Noosa. I’m heading away in three weeks for three and a half days of a repeat of last year’s women only ‘Spring Break’. To say I’m excited, is the understatement of the year.

Eggplant, Chicken and Pepper Braise

img_7239Serves 4

Shopping/foraging

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2 medium eggplants (approx 600 g), cut into pieces the size of playing dice
3 tbsp olive oil
3 chicken thighs (approx 450 g), cut into pieces the size of a wine cork
1 red onion, cut into slivers
2 marinated red peppers
3 cloves garlic
1 x 400 g tin of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 x 400 g tin cherry tomatoes, or diced tomatoes
double handful of kale, finely shredded
3 tbsp Greek yoghurt/ mayonnaise for dairy free
1 tsp smoked paprika
Handful of almonds, roughly chopped

Here’s how we roll

1) Preheat the oven to 210C/410 F. Place the eggplant pieces on a baking tray lined with baking paper and drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes until they have taken on some colour and softened.

img_72192) Add 1/2 tbsp olive oil to the bottom of a cast iron casserole dish and brown the chicken to seal. Remove and set aside.

img_72123) Combine the garlic and red peppers in a food processor or blender and blitz to a paste (alternatively use 2 tbsp of a red pepper dip).

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img_72114) Add the onions to the bottom of the pan and sautee for 5-7 minutes until softened. Then add the red pepper puree and sautee over medium heat for 1-2 minutes.

img_72155) Add the cherry tomatoes.

img_72166) Return the chicken to the pan and add the beans.

img_72178) Add the roasted eggplant pieces and stir to combine.

img_72239) Cook with the lid on, over a low-medium heat, stirring occasionally for 25 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

img_722610) Combine the Greek yoghurt with the smoked paprika. Add the shredded kale to the top of the hot braise just prior to serving and then stir to combine. The heat of the braise will wilt the kale. Top with dollops of smoked paprika yoghurt and almonds.

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Previously in Poppyseed to Pumpkin

Each week mad websites and baby books will tell you how big your baby now is in comparison to a seed, fruit or vegetable. It starts as a poppy seed and goes from there. To make this process a little more palatable, join me as I bake my way through. Here’s the journey so far. (Nb, you can also see the poppy seed to pumpkin process in the app, or ebook from my first pregnancy with Will, or read about it on the blog here.)