Necessity is most definitely the mother of invention. And when you live in China, but steadfastly insist on eating like you’re still back home, you have to get inventive pretty damn quick. Shanghai is an amazing city to live in. You can immerse yourself in Chinese culture, customs, life and food or you can go for days here without living in China. If you know where to look, you can get your hands on pretty much every comfort from home. But as Qingpu is the Western most district in Shanghai, getting a sudden craving for one of my favourite Verdicchio’s pastas could easily result in a three hour round trip to track down the ingredients. Take sun-dried tomatoes. They may be soooo 1990, but when no one is watching, we all still love them. But when I wanted to whip up this sun-dried tomato containing pasta a little while ago, I quickly realised that the Chinese are very à la mode, because I couldn’t find them anywhere. What to do? Even if I had a lovely, sunny patio, the searing temperatures and high humidity meant I’d be left with a scene more resembling a week old DB on CSI than anything you’d want to chop up with some chicken. So I settled for the next best thing – tomatoes completely untouched by the sun, but still oh so good. Possibly better, actually. Read the rest of this entry
It’s not easy being posh, especially for someone like me who will literally spend an entire weekend in my PJ’s, hair unbrushed, face undone and drinking juice straight from the carton when my husband is away. Whether I’m trying to get my hair under control or serve up a fancy feast, being posh requires time I don’t have, effort I cannot be bothered with and a plethora of tools probably gathering dust in a cupboard somewhere. Not so if you make these easy little chicken parcels. Minimum effort, relatively high posh factor (we’re not talking Fat Duck here okay? But they’re at least one step up from mac & cheese). Then again, you can wrap a bit of old shoe in some phyllo pastry and people will ooh and aah when you serve it.
- 4 skinless and deboned chicken breasts
- 1 cup cheese (use a mixture of feta, mozzarella and a bit of cream cheese)
- basil pesto
- 1kg tomatoes, cut into wedges
- 125ml cream
- phyllo pastry
- Switch your oven to grill. Cut the chicken into strips. I find that cutting across the grain and holding your knife at a 45 degree angle makes for the most tender pieces. Season, place in a baking dish in a single layer and grill until almost done, but still slightly pink in the middle.
- Turn the oven to 180˚C, chuck the chicken on a plate to cool slightly, and place the tomatoes in the baking dish. Saves on washing up. Drizzle with a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. Roast for 30 minutes.
- Remove your thawed phyllo and keep under a moist kitchen towel until you're done working with it. Cut three sheets of your pastry into 20 x 20cm squares and place on top of each other, brushing each layer with butter as you go (For the love of God, don't use cooking spray or margarine. Life is too short). Now, place a few pieces of chicken in the middle of your pastry. Spoon a quarter of the cheese mixture on top, place 2 wedges of tomato on top of that and finish your little tower with a teaspoon of basil pesto. Gather the phyllo together around the chicken and make a little parcel. The butter will help it all stay in place if you just sort of scrunch it together. Bake at 180˚C until golden brown.
- To serve, blend the remaining tomatoes, strain trough a sieve and heat. In a separate pot, add about 2 tablespoons of the pesto to the cream and reduce until slightly thickened. Serve the parcels with the sauces and a few crispy potato wedges.
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