Regardless of what top chefs are doing in the restaurant world, or the fiendishly complicated dishes plated up in those reality TV shows full of shouty mentors and weeping contestants, cooking really isn’t that difficult. Don’t get me wrong – I love seeing the creativity of chefs in full flight at fancy restaurants, and I obviously have no issue with cooking on TV – but neither has much bearing on the fairly straightforward task of feeding my family every evening.
How many elaborate recipes from cooking shows or restaurants have ever actually made it on to your dining table? I’m guessing very few, if any. That is not to say that home cooking is any less important, or lower in quality than its fancy cousin, restaurant fare. Quite the contrary. All you have to do is choose simple recipes that focus on the things you find important. That might be speed, nutrition, cost, taste, or any number of factors. Once you know what excites you in the kitchen, choosing recipes is easy. There are plenty out there. Take these two, for instance: simple, affordable, delicious and ready in minutes. What more could you want?
CHICKEN AND BROCCOLI LINGUINE
Finely chopping the broccoli and chicken allows them to be incorporated with the pasta, rather than leaving big chunks that spoil the overall texture of the dish.
• 1 head broccoli, separated into florets
• 1 skinless chicken breast (about 250g)
• 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil • 500g dried linguine
• 1 small brown onion, finely minced
• 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
• 150ml thickened cream
• salt and black pepper, to taste
• freshly grated parmesan cheese, to serve
Bring a large pot of water to the boil to cook the broccoli and pasta. First, boil the broccoli for 1 minute and remove to a cutting board, reserving the water for the pasta. Finely chop the broccoli. With a knife, coarsely mince the chicken. Boil the pasta according to the packet instructions.
While the pasta is cooking, heat a very large frying pan over medium heat and add the oil. Fry the chicken until lightly browned, then add the onion and garlic, continuing to fry until they are softened. Add the chopped broccoli and fry for a further 3-5 minutes. Add the cream and stir well.
When the pasta is al dente, drain the pasta and reserve about ¼ cup of the pasta water. Add the pasta and reserved pasta water to the chicken and broccoli over heat and mix well. Season to taste and serve with parmesan cheese.
Serves 4 as a side dish
Carrots vinaigrette. Photo: William Meppem
Leeks can be very expensive, even when they’re in season, so this carrot version of a classic French dish, leeks vinaigrette, is a much more affordable option
• 1 tsp fennel seeds
• 3 bunches small Dutch carrots (about 20 in total), scrubbed and trimmed (see tip, above)
• 1 eschallot, finely minced
• 1 garlic clove, finely minced
• 2 tsp Dijon mustard
• 1½ tbsp white wine vinegar
• 1 tsp caster sugar
• 1 /3 cup extra virgin olive oil
• 2 tsp finely chopped parsley
Make a vinaigrette by lightly toasting the fennel seeds in a small saucepan until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat and add the eschallot, garlic, mustard, sugar and vinegar, then slowly drizzle in the oil while whisking to emulsify.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil and boil the carrots for 4 minutes. Drain and transfer the hot carrots to a serving dish. Pour the vinaigrette over the carrots and allow to stand for 10 minutes while they cool and absorb the vinaigrette. Scatter with parsley and serve.
Adam’s tip To clean Dutch carrots, I trim away most of the long green stems, leaving a little bit on for presentation. Then I scrape them with the back of a knife instead of peeling, and remove any dirt from the base of the stem using a skewer under running water