Chicken Caesar Salad

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This is the Chicken Caesar Salad that we make at home … it was conceived by Fast Ed and was demonstrated by him on Better Homes & Gardens 27.11.05, although since using it to teach my Year 9 students about hygienic preparation of both raw chicken and salad ingredients for several years, the method has been slightly adapted! I particularly adapted it this time as I needed to use up some of my not-so-successful sourdough (see a few posts back!). At home we sometimes made it with rye bread and that was also tasty. Turns out it made quite delicious croutons (as did the almost-failed-pumpkin-scones, but they were used in another salad!). Hope you enjoy it as much as the Year 9s and I do!

Ingredients:
1 chicken breast
1-2 small cos lettuce (1/2 a large one)
1/2 baguette bread stick (however I used the sourdough I made a little while ago toasted as croutons!)
vegetable oil (eg. olive or grapeseed)
veggie salt
Chili, salt and garlic spice mix
4 rashers bacon
Parmesan cheese to sprinkle

Dressing Ingredients:
4 eggs
2 tsp Dijon mustard
10 capers
4 anchovies
4 Tbs olive oils
2 garlic cloves
Salt and pepper

Method:
1. Slice chicken breast into strips approximately 1.5cm by 3cm.
2. Heat a little oil in a fry pan, pan fry the chicken pieces slowly till golden and cooked though.
3. Drain on plate covered with kitchen towel, cover with a plate till ready to serve.
4. Soft boil the eggs, see instructions below.
5. Chop the cos lettuce leaves roughly, place in a large serving bowl.
6. Defrost the sourdough after removing from its hiding place in the freezer. Paint with a little oil and sprinkle with spices and salt. Bake in a moderate oven till golden and crispy.
7. Slice up the bacon 5mm thick, and then dice.
8. Fry the bacon in a fry pan with a little oil till browned and crispy (if using bread that is less deep and meaningful than very heavy sourdough, this can be fried off in the fry pan before the bacon instead of being oven toasted).
9. Drain the bacon (and bread) on greaseproof paper.
10. Make the dressing: mash the eggs using a fork in a medium bowl, add other dressing ingredients to the eggs, combine.
11. Add the baguette slices/croutons, chicken and ham to the lettuce. Add the salad dressing and toss to combine all ingredients.
12. Shave cheese and sprinkle over the top of the salad.

How to soft boil an egg –
1. Fill the saucepan with enough cold water to cover the eggs
2. Fill a bowl with cold, iced water and set aside
3. Bring it to boil over high heat. When boiling, add the eggs gently.
4. Boil for 4:30-5 mins (start timing the cooking once the water starts to boil)
5. Remove eggs gently from saucepan and gently place in chilled water
*Variation: boil for 8-9 mins for hard boiled eggs.

Rising to the Occasion: Pavlova

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My mum-in-law had a birthday a while back and now, with a uni course on celebrating with food, and having enjoyed cooking a couple of other desserts recently, I decided it was really time to post these lovely pictures of the Pavlova I made for the family dinner held in honour of her day!

Ingredients:
4 egg whites
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 tsp white vinegar
300mL thickened cream
250g strawberries
2 nectarines
2 plums
1/4 cup raspberry jam
3/4 cup water

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 130°C. Line oven tray with baking paper, dust with cornflour.
2. Ideally you would beat eggwhites with electric mixer until soft peaks form, then start to gradually add sugar, beating until sugar dissolves. I forgot this in the heat of the moment and was relieved to discover that when I beat them up anyhow a meringue still formed! This doesn’t always happen though … best to do it as the recipe prescribes! Once all the sugar has been beaten in, add extract and vinegar; beat a little more until combined.
3. Spread meringue in an attractive looking circular shape on the baking paper, building up a disk of meringue with an even thickness and smoothing the ‘walls’ making decorative grooves round the sides of the Pavlova.
4. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours and then let the Pavlova cool in the oven with the door ajar.
5. Slice up the strawberries, nectarines and plums. Combine and set aside till serving time.
6. Add the jam and water to a small pot, stir over a medium heat till jam has disolved and melted into the water making a runny pink sauce.
7. Just before dessert time, whip the cream to soft peaks, spread over the pavlova, sprinkle with fruit and drizzle over with raspberry sauce. Enjoy with a few other hungry friends or family!

A sort of Salad Niçoise

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… well at least it is inspired by the traditional French recipe but the way we had it a few nights ago. A really easy meal that is fresh, full of vegetables and will also really sustain you (the potatoes, eggs and fish make it ‘stick to your insides’). At our house it was a staple Friday night dinner because it was healthy, fresh, quick and easy. I’ve added a few variations … because I had different ingredients! Steamed/blanched broccoli is good too, as are olives. When I made this one I accidentally pulled the tinned salmon (not tuna)* off the shelf and it was fine like that too!

Ingredients:
Torn up lettuce leaves
Baby spinach leaves
2 roma tomatoes
1/2 red capsicum
1/2 Lebanese cucumber
1 handful of green beans
1/2 eggplant
Spray oil
salt and pepper
1 shallot
boiled eggs (about 1 1/2 to 2 per person)
baby potatoes (about 3-4 per person)
tin or two of tuna (in olive oil if you like, then you won’t need as much olive oil to dress the salad*)
Olive oil
1/2 lime
salt and pepper

Method:
1. Boil the eggs (into rapidly boiling water for 6-7 minutes – this will give you a slight softness in the yolk). Remove from the hot water and place in a bowl of cold water to stop the grey ring of sulfur developing round the yolk. Peal as soon as they are cool to touch (in the bowl they have cooled in with the water … this usually helps get the shells off).
2. Cut the potatoes in half or small pieces (so they are all roughly the same size) and boil in a big saucepan. Remove and set aside to cool.
3. ‘Top and tail’ the beans (remove the tops and the bottoms) and cut in half. Blanch the in boiling water till just done, place in cold water to refresh. Set aside for assembly.
4. Slice eggplant finely, spray with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake till soft. Set aside for assembly.
5. Tear iceberg lettuce leaves and toss with baby spinach leaves in serving bowl. Add the chopped roma tomatoes, capsicum and cucumber. Half the eggs and add both the potato and eggs. Toss salad gently.
6. Top with finely sliced shallot and eggplant strips.
7. Serve with chunks of tuna, olive oil, lime juice and salt and pepper.