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Awesome Apricots and Chicken

Updated on May 13, 2013

Cooking For Friends is Fun, Drinking With Them Can Be Dangerous!

There is nothing better than having friends to dinner who are good company and full of laughs. We're blessed with many of these fun-loving and thirsty friends! I'm having a dinner party tomorrow evening and already starting to panic...what to cook? Have we got the ingredients? Is there enough drink? Any ideas?

An idea has formed

Apricots and chicken cooked together make me think of the spicy tagines from Morocco. I can see and smell the dish as if it was yesterday, but alas, 25 years have passed since we visited the vibrant main market square, the Djemaa el Fna in Marrakech. If you don't know about this extraordinary place in the center of the town, I recommend you look it up, and perhaps one day - GO AND SEE IT!

Anyway, I digress - get the thinking cap on - back to cooking thoughts! But, what's the menu going to be? After thumbing through several cook books trying to get ideas, I eventually plumped for some old favorites and added a twist or two on the day. The dishes are:

You can see how easily I get distracted when planning these sort of things. I'm all ready to delve into all things Moroccan, perhaps some other time - if I can ever find my photos of the trip - but we had an unbelievable time!

Keep focused, and think about the menu, friends are coming tomorrow, so hope I've got lots of drink, I'll need that alright!

Created on 10 April 2013

All photos © Rob Hemphill

A Social Gathering

My social network

I'm not really very good at spending time on Facebook, Twitter and those dozens of other social network sites, I know I should. But, my social network site is right here on my doorstep.

I'm fortunate enough to have so many good friends, many of whom I grew up with after arriving from Africa in the early 1960's. So, if I want to tweet, I get my camera out and go in search of a little feathered friend, otherwise I'm happy in my own functioning social network.

In this recipe, it's important to use high quality, ripe vine tomatoes to capture the sweetness and flavor. However, if you aren't able to get the small, flavorsome vine tomatoes, then by all means use the bigger beef tomatoes, but you may have to add a little honey to get the sweetness to balance with the vinegar's acidity. Therefore, rely on your taste buds and add accordingly.

  • Prep time: 25 min
  • Cook time: 20 min
  • Ready in: 45 min
  • Yields: 4

Ingredients

  • 2.2 lbs (1 kg) ripe cherry tomatoes on the vine - red & yellow if you can get them
  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 1 fresh red chili
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 ciabatta loaf
  • 2 small red onions
  • 4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • a small bunch of fresh basil
  • a few dollops of creme fraiche - to serve
  • ~seasonings~
  • olive oil
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt & black pepper

Instructions

  1. 1. Pull the tomatoes off the vines, but leave a few of their green tops on.
  2. 2. Quarter the large tomatoes, then put all the tomatoes into a roasting tin. Drizzle over a generous glug of olive oil and season.
  3. 3. Halve and de-seed the red chili and add to the tin.
  4. 4. Crush in 4 peeled gloves of garlic.
  5. 5. Toss all the ingredients together, then put tin into the top shelf of the oven for 12 to 15 mins.
  6. 6. Peel and roughly chop the onions and place into a hot saucepan with some olive oil and a generous pinch of salt. Turn the heat to medium and leave to soften, stirring occasionally.
  7. 7. Take the tray of tomatoes out of the oven and add all to the pan of onions.
  8. 8. In 2 batches, gently pour the vegetables from the saucepan into a liquidizer. Add most of the basil, put the lid on, cover the top with a tea towel and whizz to a rustic consistency, pouring the mixture into a serving bowl as you go. Once finished, mix well, season to taste.
  9. 9. When serving up, top each bowlful with a dollop of creme fraiche, a couple of basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil. Take to the table with a tray of croutons.
  10. The Croutons
  11. 1. While the tomatoes are cooking, get another roasting tray and rip the ciabatta into 8 even chunks.
  12. 2. Add a generous glug of olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and put into the bottom shelf of the oven.
  13. To Serve
  14. Put a crouton in the bottom of each bowl, and ladle the soup on top. Another crouton can be served alongside.
  15. As they say in the restaurant trade - ENJOY!
Cast your vote for Tomato and Basil Soup with Croutons

Useful Books on Soups

Wise Wine Advice

One glass of red wine is good for you

The menu I've chosen contains wholesome foods, bar a little cream in the dessert, so we'll have to work that off tomorrow!

But, as far as the wine is concerned, did you know that drinking a glass of red wine is actually extremely good for you - however, don't overdo it as more than one decent sized wine glass blows the benefit completely, why? How come one glass is OK? Questions, questions.

Well, it all comes down to 5 major reasons:

  1. Drink sensibly and in MODERATION

    Drinking red wine in moderation helps to prevent heart disease, especially for middle aged people - it lowers the risks attached to heart attacks by up to 50%.

  2. Lowers bad cholesterol

    It reduces the risk of blood clots from developing which occur from deposits of fat in the blood vessels.

  3. Antioxidant source

    Substances like Resveratrol found in red wine are terrific for helping to increase good cholesterol, and this in turn prevents blood clots from forming.

  4. Healthy lifestyle

    This goes without saying, but I'm going to say it!

  5. Protective properties

    Red wine has the same tannic properties as green tea. Chemical agents that can damage the hairs inside the inner ear are neutralized by the antioxidants in the red wine.

~ 5 Reasons Why Drinking Red Wine is Really Good For You

~ Pairing Food and Wine

Main Course & Starter Ingredients - And reference

Click thumbnail to view full-size
  • Cook time: 1 hour 30 min
  • Ready in: 1 hour 30 min
  • Yields: 4

Moroccan Style Apricots and Chicken - MAIN COURSE

  • 1 3/4 lb chicken cut in strips
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 med onions - sliced
  • 1 clove garlic - crushed
  • 4 sticks celery - sliced
  • 1/2 pt chicken stock
  • 8 oz dried apricots soaked overnight in
  • 1/2 pt orange juice
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh parsley to garnish

Instructions

  1. 1. Mix the flour, salt & pepper and thyme together, then toss in the chicken and coat thoroughly.
  2. 2. Fry in oil over a medium heat for approx. 8 mins. browning evenly.
  3. 3. Transfer to casserole and lower the heat.
  4. 4. Fry the onions, garlic and celery in oil stirring for 4 mins.
  5. 5. Transfer the veg to casserole.
  6. 6. Stir the chicken stock in a pan, add the apricots and soaking liquid and bring to the boil.
  7. 7. Pour the sauce over the meat and adjust the seasoning.
  8. 8. Cook in preheated oven for 45 mins. until the chicken and veg are tender.
  9. 9. Garnish with parsley.
  10. Serve with rice and a green vegetable.
  11. The casserole can be reheated at 160°C, 325°F or Gas Mark 3 for 30 mins.

Good Cooking Utensils

Cuisinart CPC-600 1000-Watt 6 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker, Brushed Stainless & Matte Black
Cuisinart CPC-600 1000-Watt 6 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker, Brushed Stainless & Matte Black

If you've never used a pressure cooker before, then I suggest you look into it sometime. Food cooked slowly in this way is always tender and delicious. They are easy to use and understand, so if you're a busy person with less time for cooking, think about one of these.

 
T-fal A91082 Specialty Nonstick Dishwasher Safe Oven Safe Jumbo Cooker Saute Pan with Glass Lid Cookware, 5-Quart, Black
T-fal A91082 Specialty Nonstick Dishwasher Safe Oven Safe Jumbo Cooker Saute Pan with Glass Lid Cookware, 5-Quart, Black

This appears to be one of these clever copies of a top class brand. The company making these is called T-fal, so it must be a take-off of Tefal, but it's great and such good value.

The cooking area inside is generous enough, so you'll fit in more than you realize. You'll be able to cook your entire meal in one item of cookware. Not to forget that it's non-stick and has a fry pan lid too, and the handle is comfortable to hold.

 
Polder 362-90 Digital In-Oven Thermometer/Timer, White
Polder 362-90 Digital In-Oven Thermometer/Timer, White

Having one of these around in your kitchen acts as peace of mind when trying to monitor meat cooking. Whether you're roasting a turkey or some beef, this timer and thermometer takes all the guess work out of knowing when the meat is safely done.

 

For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food: Vegetarian Recipes from the Heart
For The Love of Food: Vegetarian Recipes from the Heart

This is a lovely collection of inspirational and delicious dishes by well known chef Denis Cotter, he takes the art of vegetarian cooking to a new high.

I haven't come across any other cookbook on vegetables that is so beautifully written, and intriguing at the same time. The recipes are well thought out and original, so you'll want to get stuck in and try them out.

The recipes complement any busy modern day lifestyle and include loads of ideas for easy mid-week dishes, also snacks and salads, and not forgetting summer barbecue and risotto recipes. Highly Recommended

 

Beware of Headaches...

...from drinking too much wine

Drinking too much alcohol, especially wine can easily give you a headache, which could turn into a migraine.

I've got a few pointers for you, as having been a winemaker and knowing what is used in the production of wine, there are things to be wary about.

White wine

The first and most important is that nearly all bottles of white wine will have a substance called sulfur dioxide (SO2) added into it to act as a preservative. This is not unusual and totally normal, it will have been added just prior to bottling and is completely safe. Saying that, if you buy a very young wine, where the SO2 level is still relatively high, this can very easily trigger a headache.

Secondly, white wines that are consumed many years after making would tend to have reduced amounts of SO2 as the levels would have dissipated over the years.

The moral - Drink fewer glasses of young whites than older, more mature versions.

Red wines

Now red wine headaches are caused in a very different way to those from whites. Many researchers believe that there may be several suspects in the wine that cause headaches, they are tannins and histamines, tryamines and prostaglandins. Read more about the chemistry on WinesAndWinemaking.com

My camera is never too far away, and I couldn't resist taking some photos after the dinner ended - and I only had two glasses of wine!

The Saucy Sisters Guide to Wine

The Saucy Sisters Guide to Wine - What Every Girl Should Know Before She Unscrews
The Saucy Sisters Guide to Wine - What Every Girl Should Know Before She Unscrews

This is a great fun book for girls, have a laugh and learn how to unscrew the cap off a bottle wine!

Two wine experts, Beverly Wichman Pittman and Barbara Wichman Nowak share their humorous and sensible advice on wine. Find out about bargains and food matching and learn how to host a wine party.

They give you conventional advice in an unconventional way and make what can be a serious subject into a laugh. Even find out about different wine varietals by "judging a man by the wine he's drinking."

 

Mandarin and Yoghurt Surprise - DESSERT

Make the day before, as time is needed in the fridge.

  • Cook time: 25 min
  • Ready in: 25 min
  • Yields: 6

Ingredients

  • 1 pint (600 ml) Greek style yoghurt
  • 1/2 pint (300 ml) whipping cream
  • 11 oz (300 g) tin of Mandarin oranges
  • 6 oz (175 g) soft brown sugar

Instructions

  1. 1. In a large mixing bowl, whip the cream to a firm consistency.
  2. 2. Next fold in the yoghurt.
  3. 3. Drain and discard the juice from Mandarin oranges and fold them into the yoghurt and cream mixture.
  4. 4. Place the entire mix into a glass bowl and level top with a knife or spatula.
  5. 5. Put 3/8" (10 mm) layer of brown sugar on top, and lightly pat down and level with your hand.
  6. 6. Place in the fridge overnight.
  7. 7. Sugar will dissolve to form a brown glaze on top. A slight rippling effect may be seen through the side of the bowl.
  8. 8. Ready to serve.
Click thumbnail to view full-size

Coffee As Always

To end a tweet!

I can rarely finish a meal without a good cup of coffee, and nothing beats the real stuff brewed in a percolator. Or maybe you'd like to have one of those gorgeous Irish Coffees!

I'm not alone in this sort of caffeine addiction, did you know that bees are also addicted to caffeine? The amazing coffee plant has the ability to manipulate our memories, well maybe not ours too much, but certainly those of tiny bees.

With the antioxidants of the red wine and the caffeine of the Kenya coffee, we all enjoyed a good tweet of an evening, and luckily we weren't limited to just 140 characters!

Medium Dark Roast Kenya Coffee

Copper Moon Kenya Coffee, Medium Dark Roast, Whole Bean, 12-Ounce Bags (Pack of 3)
Copper Moon Kenya Coffee, Medium Dark Roast, Whole Bean, 12-Ounce Bags (Pack of 3)

This is a lovely, perfectly roasted coffee with a light acidity that's Kenyan coffee is known for. It has a smooth, chocolatey flavor with an attractive aroma, so if you're looking for a full-bodied coffee this isn't the one for you.

A fantastic tasting coffee - you'll want more than one cup!

 

Victoria Arduino, 1922

Buy at Art.com

Marley Waits...

We have the friendliest black labrador, Marley who always aims to please - like most dogs. He just loves it when we have a few folks around for a meal as he knows, through experience that his taste buds will get a turn in the end, which they did!

I couldn't leave him out of my dinner party, could I?

Don't Go Without a Tweet or Squark! - I'm always interested in your opinions

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    • profile image

      soaringsis 4 years ago

      I really must try the Apricots and Chicken dish. Marly was quite a pleasant surprise.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I have some apricots so might just try this.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 4 years ago

      What a wealth of information for putting together a get together with friends.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 4 years ago from Canada

      I didn't expect such a wealth of recipes and nutritional information so you surprised me. I really enjoyed all your original photos as well. You are like me and keep your camera constantly at the ready. Those photos sure make a difference.

    • hovirag profile image

      hovirag 4 years ago

      I love your recipes - I have to make them myself