Nothing like having fesh, wholesome ingredients to feel inspired to cook! Judging by the number of times I mention restaurants on this blog, you might think I don’t cook very often. But I do. I love to cook. I love coming up with new things in the kitchen. But I have to feel inspired and this week, a BBQ chicken did it!
It all started on wednesday when I picked up a BBQ chicken for lunch. I had onions and garlic at home, so I picked up a few tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, carrots and celery as well since I wanted to make a broth with the carcass afterwards.
I wanted a moist rice to have with the chicken but since I was too hungry to take the time to make risotto, I opted for some basmati rice with some nice tomato sauce instead.
Basmati rice with tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup basmati rice
- 2 tomatoes, finelly chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 cup water, boiled
- 1tbsp olive oil
- salt & pepper to taste (I used herb salt)
- paprika/red pepper powder to taste
Heat a small sauce pan. Add the olive oil and stir fry the onions for about 5 min. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another 1-2 mins. Mix in the chopped tomatoes and let simmer until you have a nice sauce, about 5-10 mins. Season with salt, pepper, paprika, red pepper powder. Add the basmati rice, mix in thoroughly. Pour the hot water and let the rice cook – it will take about 10 mins.
The result was nice and moist, exactly what I wanted to balance the dryness of the chicken.
After we finished lunch, I cleaned the rest of the BBQ chicken off the carcass and put it the way. Since you can’t let a good chicken carcass go to waste, I decided to make some chicken broth. So I put the chicken bones in a pot, added a couple coarsely chopped carrots, one large onion, 2 celery sticks, 2-3 bay leaves, some dried herbs (I only had parsley), poured about 2-3 litres of water and let it all simmer for about 3 hours.
Now that I had some nice homemade both, I had to use it, so I decided to make a soup. I looked through the cupboard and found some Puy lentils. I also had about a cup of tomato rice from lunch. It wasn’t enough for another meal, so I decided to use it in the soup. Here’s what I came up with:
Lentil & rice soup
- 1/2 cup Puy lentils
- 1 cup left-over tomato rice (you could use a little bit barley or 1/4 cup basmati rice)
- 1 onion, chopped finelly
- 2 small carrots, chopped in small cubes
- 1/2 zuchini, shredded
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- 1tsp turmeric (curcuma)
- red pepper powder
- 1l chicken broth
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil
- salt & pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a medium soup pot and stir fry the onions and garlic for a couple of minutes. Add the carrots and stir fry for a few more minutes. Combine the dry spices and let it fry for another minute. Blend in the lentils, add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. When the lentils are almost done (15-20 min), mix in the rice and let it simmer for a few more minutes.
It was delicious and a nice meal in a cold night. It tasted even better the next day.
But I wasn’t done with the chicken broth or the left-over BBQ chicken yet. I wanted a single-plate dinner so I decided to make a paella. In Spain, I have learned that a paella is not really a specific recipe, but rather short grain rice cooked in a paella (pan, in Spanish) like these:
So here is what I came up with:
Paella de pollo con vegetales
- 200g short grain rice
- 1-2 cup leftover BBQ chicken, chopped
- 3 tomatoes
- 1 small green pepper, finely chopped
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 cup shredded zucchini
- 1/2 inch fresh ginger, finely chopped
- 500 ml chicken broth
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- salt & pepper to taste
- red pepper powder
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley
Heat the paella (or a medium casserole, if you don’t have one) over medium heat. Stir fry the onions for a few minutes and then add the garlic and ginger. Cook for another minute or two. Add the tomatoes & green peppers. Season with the dry spices, salt & pepper. Simmer for about 10 mins. If the tomatoes are of the acid kind, add 1/2 tsp of sugar. Stir in the white wine and let it evaporate, another 2-3 mins. Add the BBQ chicken and let it simmer in the sauce for a few minutes. Combine the rice & zucchini, add the parsley and mix thoroughly. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Correct the salt & pepper, cover and let it cook until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid, about 10-15 mins depending on the kind of rice. Once cooked, let it sit for 10 mins and serve. It will look something like this:
All in all, a fun cooking week with a few ingredients!
Speaking of ingredients, the choice of spices on these dishes weren’t random or dictated solely by taste. I believe in the medicinal properties of food, and often keep that in mind when choosing how to season a dish.
Turmeric, for instance, is a root from the ginger family and is mostly sold as a powder made from the dried root. Also used as a dye for its bright yellow colour, it is one of the main ingredients of yellow curry and very mild in taste. It’s a strong anti-carcinogen (helps prevent the growth of cancer cells) and has a protective effect on the liver. Look here for more information. Because of its attractive colour – I love yellow – and mild taste, it goes well on any dish and I tend to use it often. Turmeric and oregano are probably the spices I use most often (btw, a USDA study found that, gram for gram, oregano has the highest antioxidant activity of 27 fresh culinary herbs.; I didn’t use it in any of the recipes above because unfortunately, I have run out of it).
Paprika/red pepper powder/chili powder – All of these are related and contain capsaicin, whose anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects may lower the risk of cancer.
Garlic – also has anti-carcinogenic effects and improves the immune system, helping fight colds & other sicknesses. I also it for almost everything.
Ginger – It has been used in Asian, Indian and Arabic medicine since Ancient times. It aids digestions, helps ease stomach ailments, bowel problems, eases the symptoms of the common cold or flu, nausea, etc.