#EATEASY with Yvonne Connolly: shares her hearty Chicken Tagine; her all-time favourite food hacks, and shows you how to win over fussy eaters…
Beat the January blues by exercising more and cutting back on dead calories. This month I bring flavour to the table with a hearty Chicken Tagine; share my all-time favourite food hacks, and show you how to win over fussy eaters…
Here we go again… the beginning of a new year and a fresh start. I’m not one for definite resolutions, they ultimately fail, but I’m always mindful it’s a great time to draw a line under errors made and plan to make more positive habits. After an indulgent Christmas, my food and exercise plan is top of my list for tweaking. Remember, calories are energy. If your aim is to lose weight, exercise is really important. More so is calorie control. I find a less traumatic way to begin a diet is to cut out dead calories. That means wine, soft drinks, chocolate… yes, all the treats! Choose nutritious foods containing quality calories such as vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, lean meat. Gradually lowering your calorie intake is a more sustainable way to achieve your target weight. If you find it impossible to cut out all empty calories, portion control is key. It’s all about balance. If your will is weak and one bite leads to 3,000 calories later, then remove temptation from the kitchen altogether.
TIME TO TRY SOMETHING NEW!
Make 2017 the year to explore new things. This is especially important for kids whose tastebuds change dramatically as they grow up. It may take up to 15 times of trying a food before they will like it, so don’t give up! Be persistent and creative. Try serving the “offending” food in different ways with dips or in their favourite sauce. For particularly stubborn kids, purée vegetables and add them to the sauce. They’ll be pleasantly surprised when you let them in on the secret. Personally, I always insist my kids take one bite. If it’s a “no thanks” I bank it and try again another time.
IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED, CHEAT!
Some of my favourite food hacks:
1. Crack an egg into a bowl. To easily separate the yolk from the white, place a small water bottle over the yolk and squeeze. The vacuum will suck it straight into the bottle. Simply squeeze the bottle again to expel the yolk into another bowl.
2. Use boiling water to make ice cubes as clear as you’ll see in any fancy bar or restaurant.
3. Pop off the stem of an avocado. If it’s brown it’s overripe. If it’s a nice yellow-green you have a perfectly ripe avocado.
4. Jab lollipop sticks straight through the lids of yoghurts and freeze for delicious frozen yoghurt. For an extra treat, dip the tops in some melted chocolate then sprinkle with finely chopped fruit and nuts before eating.
CHICKEN TAGINE – with preserved lemons and olives | Serves 4
It’s hard to go from Christmas excess to salads in January. Here’s a good hearty, healthy compromise packed full of flavour: my Chicken Tagine with preserved lemons and olives. A tagine is a North African dish named after the pot it’s cooked in. The results are just as good when cooked in a casserole dish. It tastes great the day it’s made and even better served the next day when the flavours have infused. It’s traditionally served with couscous but it’s great with rice too. Although shop-bought preserved lemons are available in select supermarkets, it’s very easy and cheaper to make your own in advance.
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1 chicken, chopped into 4-6 pieces. Skin on. (Skin off for a healthier option)
Pinch of salt
A couple of saffron threads
1 bay leaf
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
The rind from 2 preserved lemons, rinsed in cold water, pulp discarded and sliced.
1 handful green olives, pitted
5 dates, pitted and chopped
300-500 ml chicken stock
1 small handful chopped fresh coriander
1 small handful chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
FOR THE COUSCOUS
2 cups of couscous
2 cups of chicken stock
3 tbsp raisins,
2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
1 tbsp chopped chives.
1. Combine all spices in a large bowl or plastic bag. Add the chicken, rubbing the skin with the spice mix. Allow to stand in the fridge for a few hours or ideally over night.
2. In batches brown chicken pieces in a frying pan with a little oil, skin side down for 5 minutes, until lightly browned. Then brown the lemon slices, turning once for five minutes.
3. Transfer the chicken pieces to the tagine, add lemon slices, garlic and onions, saffron, bay leaf, olives and dates.
4. Add the chicken stock then cover and place in a preheated oven at 180C for 1 hour 30 minutes.
5. Stir in parsley and coriander right before serving. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve with couscous (below).
1. Pour 2 cups of hot chicken stock over 2 cups of couscous. Cover and allow the couscous to swell for 5-8 minutes or until it has soaked up the liquid.
2. Add a small knob of butter, and fluff up couscous with a fork.
3. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Stir through 3 tbsp raisins, 2 tbsp toasted pine nuts and 1 tbsp chopped chives.
TO PRESERVE LEMONS
1/2 cup of salt
Extra fresh squeezed lemon juice, if needed
Sterilised jar with lid
1. Add a couple of spoonfuls of salt into the jar.
2. Cut the lemons into quarters but keep them attached at the base.
3. Gently pull open the lemons and sprinkle well with salt.
4. Put the prepared lemons in the jar and press them down so that their juices come out and rise to the top. Pack the jar with lemons, covering with juice. Add more juice if needed, and add a couple more tablespoons of salt to the top.
5. Close the lid to the jar and let it sit at room temperature on the counter for a few days. Turn the jar upside down every so often. After a few days put the jar in the refrigerator for at least 3 weeks, until the rinds of the lemons soften. They will last for 6 months in the fridge.
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