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No, seriously – this is important.  This discovery, a collision of culinary findings, has quite literally, and miraculously, transformed the way I feel about roasting a chicken.  Yes, roasting a chicken.

Before, I admit (rather sheepishly),  I was intimidated at the thought of roasting a chicken… all that flesh that needed thorough cooking or else some poor, unsuspecting eater of my roast chicken could get food poisoning… perish the thought! Yikes!

But, thanks to Ms Nigella Lawson’s book ‘How to Eat’, I have discovered that the key to a good roast chicken comes down to having a really hot oven – 210°C as a matter of fact.  Who knew?  I’d never ventured beyond 180°C in my culinary adventures.  Can you imagine my anticipation as I cranked my oven’s dial up beyond 200… shivers, darling – shivers down my spine! 

And you know what?  Lemon goes really well with roast chicken.  This may seem really obvious – but I was clueless; seriously – completely clueless.  Granted, I always picked the lemon and herb flavour at Nando’s*, but that’s because I have an aversion to my tongue being on fire as a result of consuming piri piri sauce.  I never quite knew how good it actually is until the day that I realised that the combination of lemon and chicken is not a new thing.  As matter of fact, I have a recipe from the middles ages that combines lemon and chicken… then there was the recipe in FreshLiving** that combined fennel, lemon and chicken.  But the last delectable piece of information that caused my culinary epiphany is thanks to Ms Lawson.  She writes about how homely roast chicken is, how it reminds her of her mum.  And what’s the main ingredient that Ms Lawson uses to roast her chicken – lemons! Lemons, people! Lemons!  (And a little salt and pepper doesn’t go amiss.)

I’m so excited.  Not only do I know what to put on my chicken before roasting it (lemon juice), but I have discovered that time (an hour actually) and a hot oven is all you really need.  Oh, happy day!

* a South African born and bred brand of yummilicious chicken fast food fare, based mostly on Portuguese cuisine

** Pick n Pay’s (huge retail chain – think Walmart or Tesco’s) monthly magazine – it usually has some really delicious looking recipes

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Quick beef and mushroom stroganoff

I’ve made this dish twice, the main difference being the mushrooms.  On the first occassion, I used button mushrooms and an asian mix of mushrooms (enoki, shimeji, and shiitake). On the second occassion, I used button, black, and porcini mushrooms.

What you need: Beef stroganoff (I used beef cut into strips for stir fries), paprika (I didn’t have plain paprika the second time around, so I used smoked paprika – turns out it’s yummier), salt and pepper, olive oil, chopped onion, sliced garlic (I confess I cheated here, I used the prechopped garlic… and lots of it!), mushrooms, thyme (again, I cheated here… my little thyme plant was destroyed by frost this winter, so I used dried thyme instead), greek yoghurt (I used greek style yoghurt because when I phoned my beloved husband to ask him to pop into the store on his way home and get some, all he could find was greek style yoghurt… I imagine it’s pretty much the same thing…)

How to do it: Toss the beef with the paprika, salt and pepper. Fry this in a little olive oil until it’s browned.  Set it aside (I took this to mean remove the cooked meat from the pan, but leave the juices behind.)  Fry the onion until it’s soft (I fried it in the meat juices, adding some water so that the onions became sweeter).  Add the mushrooms and the thyme. Cook the mushrooms through.  Stir in the beef and yoghurt to allow it to heat through, but don’t allow it to boil (I imagine this does something to the texture of the yoghurt). 

I served it with white rice the second time around, but the first time around it was served with mashed potatoes and peas. Yum!  

Source (i.e. give credit where credit is due): Fresh ideas July 2010 – Winter comfort 27 delicious recipes to suit your lifestyle

In my last post I whined about how I find it difficult to settle on a recipe and simply cook the dish… mostly because I get carried away with the idea of cooking that I don’t actually get down to doing the cooking. 

You’ll be pleased to know that I did indeed cook the beef and mushroom stroganoff – and my beloved husband liked it so much that he went back for seconds.  Horay!  There’s hope for me yet!

I got to thinking though – wouldn’t it be nice to keep a journal of my cooking adventures?  So, me thinks I shall write-up the recipes I try, and add my odd notes to it, then post it here for your edification. 🙂

It will be interesting to see how the entries progress over time, and perhaps one day I’ll actually feel confident about cooking!

I saw the film Julie & Julia* and thought to myself: ‘What a lovely idea… I could do that too!’  But then I looked at my cookbook collection and all ambitions came to a grinding halt – which cookbook to choose? I could devour any one of Tessa Kiros’ cookbooks (they’re delicious just to look at!), or I could try my hand at one of my Portuguese cookbooks, or perhaps a British cookbook… but then again, there’s also my medieval cookbooks… I have a little fixation with muffins and cupcakes – so I could saunter through one of those cookbooks… and of course there’s Jamie Oliver’s Jamie at Home, which would fall in nicely with my grand ambition to start a vegetable patch… Oh, how to choose, how to choose?!

Then I realised that I didn’t have to choose… it’s not about what I’m cooking so much as the experience of cooking.  For too long I’ve wanted to capture that gorgeous sense of nurturing through the food I make… that earthy warmth that comes from enjoying a hearty, robust home-cooked meal (especially since we’re now in winter – a perfect time for comfort food and comfort cooking)… that joy of sharing, of experimenting, of connecting… and of course, that sense of childlike surprise when the dish I’ve prepared actually tastes good!

I’ve heard it said: ‘the universe applauds action, not thought’ – clearly I just need to start somewhere, anywhere!   Perhaps I should try making my mother’s famous orange cake (no one makes it quite like she does…), or perhaps I could make some crunchies (haven’t made those in ages!)… or… um… I could try that delicious-sounding herb and lemon roast chicken…

Do you see my problem?  I get so carried away with the possible delights of cooking, that I don’t actually get down to doing the cooking… Oh, to be that domestic goddess Nigella Lawson writes of, Tita of Like Water for Chocolate, Babette of Babette’s Feast, or Vianne of Chocolat!

Oh fiddle sticks! I must just choose one recipe and cook it – just one.  How does beef and mushroom stroganoff sound?

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* A film about Julia Child’s cooking profession, which is intertwined with Julie Powell’s challenge to cook all the recipes in Child’s first book Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year and to blog about it.