When Easter Sunday came round, I knew I had to prepare something nice for lunch not only because it was Easter but it also happened to be my mum’s birthday.
A rice based meal would have been very predictable and not to mention tedious; grilled chicken – been there, done that over and over. So after much deliberation with hubby and with Food Network providing bits of inspiration, I settled for a “meat platter” type meal. Of course this was music to hubby’s carnivorous taste buds.
The menu was partly inspired by Sunny Anderson of the Food Network’s “Cooking For Real” and some of my ideas. It consisted of Caribbean Jerk Chicken, Pan grilled Minute Steak on a bed of Mango Salsa, Spicy Meatballs, Potato Mash and a pallet cleansing cucumber and carrot salad all washed down with Sunny Anderson’s refreshing Mean Green Cucumber Juice.

It was sort of an ode to the Afro-Carribean diet with a twist.

I started by marinating the chicken over night, the only ingredient I left out of Sunny’s recipe was the fennel seed and I alternated dry ginger for fresh ginger (which I thought gave the marinade more of a kick). Following her recipe, I baked the chicken for 20 minutes skin-side down, and then made a glaze with some of the left over marinade and then finished it off for another 25 minutes in he oven at a higher temperature. My friend Uzo has a slightly different take on Jerk chicken. Check it out at Uzo’s Food Lab

Glazed Chicken

To make the cucumber juice, I used two large English Cucumbers; available at my local Spar grocery store. I recommend the English Cucumbers over the locally grown ones because the local ones have seeds. It was very easy to make and the result was simply refreshing and delicious.

Cucumber peel in blender and grated flesh prepped and ready for the simple syrup before blitzing

Blitzing cucumber peel and cooked flesh before sieving and chilling

Making the mango salsa was a breeze and I made it extra spicy so that the chopped fresh peppers would counter balance the sweetness of the chopped mango flesh. I also threw in some chopped red onion, chopped spring onions, chopped parsley, salt and freshly ground black pepper and some lime juice. The salsa was accompanied with a simple pan seared minute steak which I drizzled with lime juice and set aside to rest.

The potato mash I made slight chunky to add some texture to the dish. I was fairly liberal with the butter and cream and with a sprinkling of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper it was ready in no time. It was the last dish I prepared so that it arrived at the table nice and hot.
The cucumber and carrot salad consisted of cucumber and carrot shavings and halved cherry tomatoes; it doesn’t get easier than that.
The meatballs were made from the classic meatball recipe which you will find in my “Anatomy of Feast” post and my “Back in the Saddle” post.
The dish came together nicely and each part complimented the other well. Not a single plate came back to the kitchen with any food on it. My mum was flattered that I made a special meal on her special day and my husband was pleased with the prominent helping of protein on his plate; all in all a winning menu.

Potato Mash, Caribbean Chicken, Meat balls, Minute Steak and Mango Salsa, Cucumber and Carrot Salad and Mean Green Cucumber Juice.

For me, tucking into the meal transported me to a sunny beach side resort………

TIP OF THE DAY: To make sure that your meals arrive at the table nice and hot or at least warm, put the serving dish/plate in a hot oven minutes before you plate up. NOTE: Ensure that the dishware is oven safe. 🙂

So you’ve cooked the feast, wined and dined yourself (and maybe your guests) to a comfy stupor, reluctantly cleaned up and put away the leftovers; now what?
As you rummage through your refrigerator the next day you wonder to yourself if the food gnomes stopped by at night to dump food scraps in it. Everywhere you turn there is a bit of this and a bit of that, mostly stuff that probably wouldn’t make a full meal on their own and if you are anything like me, you are loath to put perfectly good food in the bin. The good news is that there are myriad things to do with left overs and the result can be rather fabulous looking and tasting too. In fact, I happen to look forward to noshing on my left overs because they usually always taste so much better the next day.
After the St. Patrick’s day feast (read all about it on the “Full Steam Ahead” post) I had bits and bobs leftover so the next day, instead of making a meal from scratch, I pulled out my leftovers and devised a plan. I remembered that Ina Garten had said that the Lemon Chicken went superbly with Basmati rice, and since Basmati cooks in about 15 minutes, it was a no brainer. I popped the chicken under the grill to heat it up, and added some cherry tomatoes coated in olive oil to roast lightly. I also roasted a whole bell pepper which I had topped, seeded and oiled.
Roasting things like tomatoes and peppers heightens their flavour/sweetness and give meals a new dimension.
After the rice cooked, I added the juices from the lemon chicken to it, then stuffed the pepper with the rice, adding a layer of white sauce in it. I put shavings of buttered carrots on the rice-stuffed pepper, arranged the roasted tomatoes around the pepper, placed the chicken and lemon wedges on the plate and another portion of lemon chicken flavoured rice with a small side of tomato sauce, sprinkled the dish liberally with parsley and voila a whole new dish!

In my upcoming post about my Easter lunch escapade, you’ll see how I came up with the leftover delight below.

Your leftovers should always be properly stored and preserved. I favour ziploc bowls because they are air tight, prevent spills and general messiness. Alternatively you could cover your containers with cling film; not only will this help keep the food longer in the fridge or freezer but will also reduce the possibility of strong aromas infiltrating other foods.
Speaking of strong aromas, putting half a lemon and some salt at the back of your fridge will banish odours and give your refrigerator a lemony zinginess 🙂

The humble egg, rice,  tomatoes and simple blacked eyed peas don’t conjure images of grand meals or exotic recipes. But used creatively, they could very well constitute an elegant plate.

There’s a saying in culinary circles that states that “people eat with their eyes first” and this is not entirely far from the truth except of course you are starving in the Kalahari desert and are more concerned with swallowing the food whole without any concern over how it has been presented.
If, on the other hand,  you are having a home cooked meal, there are many ways to plate it up in a “fashionable” way that would make ingredients like caviar, couscous, artichokes and scallops jealous.

The process is quite simple and just requires some creativity; a table-spoon can be used to make a quinelle, a small tin opened at both ends could become a mould, the strategic placement of food on a plate makes all the difference in the final presentation.
So the next time you are preparing a meal, before you present it, add a personal touch, tidy up the plate and you would be amazed at the results.
With these tips, even though you are not a cordon bleu, you could make beautiful meals pret a manger (ready to eat).
By popular demand, I am updating the photo gallery of this post with recent pictures of my meals. Bon appetit!

Two Cheese Sandwich with a side of Yoghurt and Pink grape fruit juice

Jollof rice and tuna salad

Chicken and Chips

Chicken curry, Plaintain Batonettes, herbs and tomato

Beef olives, roast veges and potatoes

Sauteed potatoes, vege and stuffed beef loin