Sweet and Spicy Balsamic + Mustard Chicken Roast

Some flavour combinations were made to be. One of those combinations has to be balsamic vinegar and dijon mustard. Add a touch of heat to it, and it is always a huge winner. I had eaten really tasty chicken tenders marinated in balsamic and mustard for 6 hrs, and cooked on a bbq some years ago, and the taste of those delicious pieces still haunt me.

Now this recipe can be thrown together in no time at all. As soon as you are home, throw it all together, pop it in the oven and let the oven do the hard work for you. The marinading of the chicken is really optional because the moisture from the mustard and the vinegar helps to maintain the tenderness of the chicken. I normally add a touch of water to my chicken whenever it’s roasting, or some chicken stock (depending on what I have on hand) to ensure that when it’s done the chicken doesn’t turn out dry. This really is a problem with chicken breast, but it’s a good idea anyway :).

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So I just marinaded the chicken straight in the baking tray, and that went straight to oven. #savedoncleanup! Just mix together the hot sauce, vinegar, garlic, mustard, salt and pepper, and some parsley too. Coat the chicken well and this is something I just like doing – add the garlic under the skin of the chicken so that you get that intense garlic flavour throughout the meat. Oh and the hot sauce! How could I forget.

I picked up some Byron Bay Chili hot sauce and oh my goodness it is phenomenal. I use it in so many marinades and it even made a feature in myΒ Bang Bang BroccoliΒ recipe and it was incredible. This hot sauce has mango in it, so it has that delicious sweet mango taste, but an intensely hot chilli finish. It is deceptively hot, which I just love. You can use tabasco, or sriracha even, but if you are in Australia… please just do yourself the favour and get your hands on some of this stuff.

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Now20170228_181031.jpg you want to cook the chicken for around 40 mins to the hour, depending on the thickness of your chicken. I used chicken drumsticks because they were on special (haha), but any cut of chicken would do. Remember to check if it’s cooked by just cutting into the thickest portion and ensuring the meat is cooked through.

 

Here is the recipe card, and trust me it is so worth it. Your kitchen is going to smell absolutely divine! Oh and be wary that you are going to get plenty of back bits, which are not for eating. Just remember that the hot sauce and mustard do have some sugar in them, so naturally these sugars are going to caramelise in the oven. You could absolutely use some of the left over flavour juices and sauce to make yourself a different stock, but I would avoid using those charred bits altogether.

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And that is it! It’s easy, and it is totally delicious. Mid week chicken dinners do not need to be a chore. It’s a cheap cut of meat, and it is an easy recipe to follow so it is perfect for those looking for a budget-friendly and healthy meal. I like serving the chicken with some onions that have rested in some salt, pepper and lime juice, along with a big heart salad. This chicken recipe is a great way to get that protein in your diet, and pair it with plenty of greens such as rocket, kale or spinach for a carb free and incredibly delicious dinner. If you find the heat overpowering go ahead and add some cheese, such as feta or ricotta, to your salad to allow your tongue some cooling creamy goodness.

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Review: Belle’s Chicken

Belles Hot Chicken Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

For a casual meetup after work one night, in my first week no less, a couple of friends and I decided to head to Barangaroo in the heart of Sydney city for some good American style friend chicken. Thankfully I only had to walk for 10 minutes from work, which wasn’t too bad.

Now I hadn’t heard much about Belle’s. The only thing I knew was that it was a place to buy chicken. Surprise surprise!! What I didn’t know was that they had an interesting range of spicy-ness which of course was a huge point of interest for me πŸ˜›

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In terms of the menu, it is short and concise. Only wings, drumsticks, tenders, and ribs on offer in terms of the chicken. Each of those comes with a side, which I thought were interesting. In a way I do like that the menu was so small and meant that the focus was completely on those few items. The real variation is in the heat of the chicken topping. Now they offer some fish and steak too, and burgers, but it’s clear from everyone eating at Belle’s that it is the chicken you really need to go for.

We opted for southern chicken tenders, the mildest option, with a broccoli and almond salad with blue cheese sauce, medium drumsticks with the house chips, and another round of medium drumsticks with the pickled vegetables both with ranch sauce. Β The Bar at the restaurant looked pretty good and was actually the front of the counters. We saw two fancy looking liquids and ordered both – the lemonade with cardamom and house tea.

The tenders, I thought we great. Tenders are just such a simple choice, and Belle’s does them fantastically. The chicken was crispy on the outside and beautifully moist on the inside. The blue cheese sauce was equally amazing, and rich and just slightly pungent. I wasn’t particularly impressed by the broccoli and almond salad mainly because I couldn’t taste the almond and the sauce was a little off almost bitter tasting. I ended up dipping the chunks of broccoli into the blue cheese sauce to just lift the flavour a little.

The medium wings were SALTY! This was just such a shame because the spice level was really lovely and manageable. But that salt content, was off the roof. Dipping the chicken into the sauces helped, but only slightly. The chicken left me feeling fairly parched, and thankfully we had that lemonade and tea to help the chicken go down nicely. The chips were decent, and with the ranch sauce tasted just like other chips to be honest. The pickled vegetables were nice, and tangy, and went well with the crunchy and spicy chicken.

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The drinks? LOVED THEM! The tea seemed to have some saffron through it, which was just so different and tasty. The tea wasn’t overly sweet which was great. I loved the cardamom in the lemonade. It kept it warm yet refreshing and wasn’t overdone at all. The drink was just laced with the spice.

Now for the voting?

The menu: 7/10

I liked the simplicity, but I would like to have seen a few more sides perhaps?

Ambiance: 9/10

Honestly Belle’s loses a point only because on the view of the cranes still constructing the Barangaroo area which does ruin the sight line a little. Otherwise the outdoor decked setting is really wonderful to enjoy the night in. That along with the fairy lights on the roof – spectacular.

The Food: 7/10

I loved the tenders, but not the salad. The spice of the drumsticks was good, but unfortunately that salt was far too overpowering. I’ve given extra points for the excellent drinks, but otherwise the food was fairly average.

Service: 7/10

The line moved fairly slow, and there really wasn’t much interaction with them. Overall they all seem fairly friendly, but perhaps more talk with them would be nice!

Average score: 7.5/10

Would I go back. Probably. Who says no to fried chicken that doesn’t make you sick?

Easy Chicken Cacciatore

This has to be a recipe that I have been wanting to make for at least a whole year. Countless times I have looked at the recipe, tried to prepare for it, but then it just never happened. So many times I saw this recipe on televisions, Food network ftw, and so many times did this recipe pop up on my you-tube ‘recommended list’ . What is Chicken Cacciatore??

So according to my research, it is an Italian chicken recipe which literally means a Hunter style chicken pot. It’s tender chicken cooked in a tomato sauce keeping it moist and literally falling off the bone. The ingredients in this recipe are so simple and easy to find. Sure it does take some time, but you won’t regret it at all… trust me.

Now typically you should use chicken marylands, but I went ahead with drumsticks because I had them on hand. Essentially you could use any cut of chicken, but to maximise the flavours you definitely want to use bone in and skin on pieces. This way when you brown the chicken in the initial stages of this recipe, you essentially render down the chicken fats. Then you end up cooking all the wonderful vegetables in this flavourful fat and well, everything becomes super delicious.

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This recipe uses what I would call the ultimate flavour trifecta (maybe 4-fecta. What is the actual word for this?) , onions, garlic and celery. Oh and add carrot to that too. In this recipe I think these are the essentials. I like using plenty of garlic, but of course that depends on your own taste. Now there aren’t any real spices apart from salt, pepper, and chili flakes, which makes the flavour so true to the vegetables in the recipe and so light on the stomach too.

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All of this combined with good ol’ canned tomatoes and you get this insanely delicious sauce, rich in flavour, and rich in texture too. The tomatoes will need a bit of sugar and extra salt to cook them through well, and soften down the chicken, and of course to cut the sourness of the fruit.

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What makes this recipe so great? The fact that it is literally so simple. You just have to let stew away for a really good 30-40 mins until the meat just seperates from the bones and the tomatoes have caramelised slightly. Here is the recipe card, and see for yourself just how tasty this one ends up ❀

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Review: Mr Wong’s

Mr. Wong Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

So to celebrate my birthday *sigh I am getting older* among other important things, we headed to Mr Wong’s in Sydney’s CBD, and boy was I truly impressed. Tucked away in an alleyway with very modest signage is this wonderful restaurant, that isn’t small at all. Upon entering you feel gusts of cool breeze (It’s the aerodynamics of the room #engineeringgraduaterighthere) and you see the expansive set up all decorated in a colonial french theme. I loved the colors, the vibe, the ambience, and the sounds from the place – it was all so cozy and inviting.

We had a reservation, but we were a little early. Thankfully they seated us right away. Now the first thing I noticed, were how friendly and smiley the wait staff was. Not a single one looked unhappy or b***hy – something I have noticed in the city. The second thing I noticed was how incredibly loud the table next to us was. Here we were having an intimate dinner while a bunch of corporate dressed men were swearing their heads off. It did ruin the mood a little, but alas not the fault of the restaurant itself.

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Oh and you can literally see the chefs working! It’s so wonderful! The open kitchen really shows you the story of how the food is made and I loved it. The fact that the kitchen was so beautifully clean was another awesome point.

Now to the bits and bobs of the food and menu. Firstly, the wine list – so good!! They have a fabulous range of drinks to serve, which I loved. We didn’t order anything too heavy, considering it was only the afternoon. We stuck to a simple Reisling and Rose wine. We also were offered complimentary tea, which I really enjoyed. I chose Chrysanthemum, which is deliciously nutty and subtle and perfect with food. I would definitely recommend grabbing a nice tea during your meal, I find that it helps all the food just go down well.

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Okay, the menu. It’s expansive! I loved that there were multiple dim sum options, and they were certainly very unique. I had never seen aubergine (eggplant) and chicken together in a dumpling, thought we didn’t order it.

We stuck with our favourite, the Pork xiao long bao, a delicious steamed dumpling which has a broth encased. It’s incredibly hot so you need to ‘pop’ the dumpling before eating it otherwise you will burn your mouth. Would I recommend it. Yes. Hell yes I would. The dumpling was soft and delicious and the pork was tender and flavourful. The broth wasn’t overpowering at all and just complimented the meat beautifully.

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For mains we decided to order the Kung Pao Chicken, along with the ‘Typhoon shelter type’ King crab fried rice. The rice was such a treat to the eyes. The speckles of the crab meat, the garlic, the rice, and chilli were just beautiful. The rice itself was surprisingly light, and not oily at all which I really loved. Normally I find fried rice at restaurants just drenched in oil, with all it’s flavour taken over by this oil. But not at Mr Wong’s. The rice was perfectly seasoned, and was just so damn good! In my opinion this was one of the best fried rice’s I had ever eaten.

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The Kung Pao Chicken was wonderful. Just wonderful. It was a true balance of sweet, spicy and salty – umami :P. The chicken had a beautiful smokey color and flavour, and the roasted peanuts were just a lovely crunchy compliment to the soft and tender meat. The meal came with fried chilli as well, and not only were these great to look at, but they tasted phenomenal when eaten with pieces of chicken and rice also. Β The green’s along with the chicken balanced the saltyness of the meal greatly, and offered some color and freshness to the meal and palate too. With the fried rice… it was absolute perfection.

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Did we order dessert? Sadly. No we didn’t – We got macron’s from Adriano Zumbo in QVB instead ❀

Okay time to rate the place. My favourite part.

Food: 10/10

I really have nothing more to say about it. It was delicious.

Service: 9/10

I’m only taking a point off because the wait staff that looked after us was a little slow, and well forgetful :/

Ambiance: 10/10

They have done a fantastic job at Mr Wong’s in bringing in a bit of history and culture into the restaurant. The whole place is warm, and inviting and tells a little story about the food and everything behind it. The fact that the kitchen is completely open to everyone, is a huge added bonus.

The menu: 9.5/10

Half a point off because I would have liked to see more chicken in the meat section of the menu, but otherwise this one is really great.

Total score: 38.5/40 OR 9.625/10 πŸ˜€

Would I go back. Of course.

Review: Criniti’s Italian

Criniti's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

For some reason or other, Criniti’s has become my go to restaurant. Need to go to a decent restaurant? Criniti’s. Need to go to a restaurant with plenty of vegetarian options? Criniti’s. Need to go somewhere closeby and/or has multiple outlets? Yup. Criniti’s.

So this particular review is based on all the vegetarian meals I ate. SO, meat eaters, this one isn’t for you.

I sound like a big advertisement :/ But in all seriousness. This is place is pretty packed on weekdays as well. During lunch there are always plenty of families, or people from work getting a bite. At night, the ambiance is warm and cozy and it is always someone’s birthday. Now the decor isn’t exactly to my personal taste, with the large mounted Ducati and spare parts adorning the place, but I absolutely love the visible wood fire oven, colorful bar serving some pretty great drinks (with plenty of Italian liquors and wines), along with the overall slightly vintage look.

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DEMOLISHED!

The service I have found to be very friendly, but a little slow. Particularly on weekdays! But alas when short staffed, this is bound to happen. The staff is most definitely patient however. It’s not all that customary for the manager to be serving food, but when needed he or she is also out there serving or cleaning up, which is something I really liked. I think it’s fantastic when the entire staff is working as a team ya know? #teamspirit. Much too often I’ve seen managers unprepared to do the dirty work. *sigh*

The menu here is pretty damn expansive, with regular pizza, white pizza, risotto, burgers, salad and so much more. The prices are a bit on the high side, but the portions are pretty large. I would generally say one plate between two people is the right amount. I love the drinks menu because of the excellent wine and beer range. Yes even their beer range is great. Typically I opt for a simple Riesling with my food, or a really good fruity White, coz I love my white wine. Dad went for a peroni, and I must say I did like it.

Alright onto the part that you really want to hear about. The food.

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We started our meal with the Tomato Brushcetta Pizza Crust, as an entree. Dad in paricular loves this one because it’s delicious and fresh. There is fresh tomato, basil and onion which have been rested in their own juices with some salt and pepper ofc. It’s such a simple combination, but it is a bang on winner. The garlic crust this was served on was wonderfully thin, with a thick but soft crust. The juices of the bruschetta softens the crust down so much… love it. In saying this however, this is something you can easily do at home, so for the price you are paying I would like to see something more original and extravagant. Even a hint of balsamic would have elevated this to another level.

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Next up we ordered the Penne Vegetarian. This was a delicious pasta in a magnificent basil sauce with eggplant, sundried tomatos, olives, zucchini and capsicum. I love it when pasta is loaded with rich vegetables, and this was just that. The sauce was a stand-out really, and in fact paired as a tasty sauce for the left over crusts from our pizza. The pasta was cooked perfectly, and so were the vegetables. I certainly would recommend this one for any vegetarians out there.

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This was followed by our next main -the ferrara pizza. This I absolutely loved. There was onion, capsicum, olives and the crust was so excellent. You could taste the light smokiness of the wood fire oven on it, which is just another added taste element. The only downside to this one was that it had cooled down a little before it came to our table. We could actually see our pizza on the counter waiting to be delivered to us. This was a bit of a bummer, but the pizza itself was great. On top of that, look at the large crust! This wasn’t a huge deal for us, since we did dip the crust in the leftover pasta sauce, but considering the price, I would have like to see more topping and less bread.

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And we did decide to grab some dessert too. We opted for the 3 scoop gelato, choosing salted caramel, lemon sorbet and cookies and cream (seriously how cute is the serving!!). The cookies and cream was PHENOMENAL. Truly it was so creamy and decadent, with chunks of little cookies scattered in the scoops. Each little chunk was a different size, and portion, so it added a great dimension of texture to the ice cream. The salted caramel was true bliss in a scoop and was finished by my sister in a jiffy. The least liked was the lemon sorbet, mainly because it tasted more like an icy pole than anything else!

Okay time to rank.

Food: 6.5/10

I’ve taken points off because of the brushetta and the pizza. The un-originality of the former, along with the price of it was a let down. As I mentioned above, I would have liked more of the topping than the crust that we got. Also the lemon sorbet gelato, well I didn’t really like it all that much.

Service: 5/10

This is really the let down. I understand busy, but having to wait over 10 minutes to even catch someone’s eye for the bill, did bug me. Oh and the bill was just given to us – a piece of paper. No book or anything!

Ambiance: 9/10

Apart from all the biking gear, which you actually lose focus on within 10 minutes, the ambiance is lovely and cozy.

The menu: 8/10

The menu has a number of items, but I would love to see some more original recipes.

Total: 7/10

Would I go back? Well yes. I’ve actually always had really good experiences at Criniti’s!

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Chicken, Chive and Cabbage Dumplings

Who doesn’t love good old dumplings? I for one absolutely love them, and I often head over to a good dumpling or yum cha place for lunches and dinner. Aah the chilli oil ❀

Now dumplings are actually so easy to make at home! Yes they do take some time, but if you are prepared to put in some time and a little effort, you can make your own delicious dumplings at home. Now normally I would show/write about making the dumpling pastry too, however this time I actually used pre-made store bought gow gee wrappers which are perfect to make these delightful morsels πŸ™‚

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For me dumplings are like comfort food. In winter, in particular, you will fine me, a big bowl of dumplings, some chilli oil, and the entire series of New Girl, or Friends or Grey’s Anatomy. *Sigh* now you know I’m weird

Okay back to the recipe. I used Chicken mince, chives and cabbage as the title suggests, but I also added shitake mushrooms, shallots, ginger and garlic to the filling. I like to start the recipe by actually cooking off the vegetables, and mixing in rice wine vinegar, chili and soy while cooking these together. Then I mix in the chicken mince once the vegetables have cooled slightly.

I steamed my dumplings, and then pan-fried them. Nowadays you can find bamboo steamers everywhere (i.e. look in Kmart!), or you can use an Idli steamer (not even joking here). If you are using a bamboo steamer, it is IMPORTANT that you line the base. This is a MUST!! I line mine wither with baking paper (greased paper) OR some banana leaves or cabbage leaves.

You can alternatively pan-fry the dumplings, and then add some water, cover and then steam. I find my way a little easier, and there’s less a chance of any dough sticking or getting very mushy. It also means you get a lightly crunchy texture along with the smooth steamed dough when you eat these.

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Oh and the dipping sauces? I made an instant chilli oil – so simple. Make a quick paste of fresh chili, chili flakes and fresh garlic and mix the paste well into vegetable oil. Add some salt and pepper just to season, and set aside for a few hours.

The other dipping sauce was a mixture of fresh chilli, coriander stalk, soy sauce and some rice wine vinegar… and that’s it!

Folding the dumplings can be a bit tricky, but thankfully there are HEAPS of you-tube tutorials showing you the different ways to fold them. You basically have to stretch the dough and make tiny folds along the length of the dumpling, so it ends up looking slightly like a crescent moon. A pretty crescent moon.

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Alright now for the recipe. It’s a bit long, but trust me… these are worth it

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A couple of tips! Place your dumplings, once filled, onto a tray lined with baking paper (greased paper) to stop them from sticking to any surfaces. I basically use this lined tray for the entire process, and even serve the dumplings on them!

To serve, remember the dipping sauce! I also add some lime, fresh chili slices and a drizzle of chili oil πŸ™‚

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