About us

We are two friends, one living in town and one in the country, who love to cook and entertain at home. We share a passion for our gardens and for the easy-going lifestyle of sub-tropical eastern Australia. And, yes, we both have garden ponds teaming with frogs.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Chicken. Chook chook chooky...



KEEP IN MIND, however, that the $5 total does not include gas for the stove, electricity to run fridge and freezer, the cook’s hourly rate (should he/she have one), the fuel to and from the supermarket, the cost of hot water and detergent and rubber gloves, or dishwasher-running cost (should he/she have one), and so on and so on. In other words, don’t take at face value everything you read or hear about food - not even on a Frog Blog. There is a Big Bad Business World full of bold and subtle advertising that drives our eating habits and food beliefs. However, I do think it is possible, on a low budget, to eat very well and with great joy. (When an activity is compulsory several times a day for the whole of life, an expectation of being joyful on the job surely helps!)

It also helps if one likes to eat chicken. For quick, cheap, tasty meals (no, I don’t eat my own feathery friends), I keep a few 1 kg bags of frozen mixed chicken pieces in the small chest freezer (which is really very economical to run, especially when the food stuff comes home already frozen). Supermarket chicken. Neither free-range nor organic, although the producer assures me on the packaging that the chickens are all barn-raised, grain-fed, free from hormones etc. Mind you, Australian Food Standards require that all chicken for human consumption be free from hormones and antibiotics. At about $4/kilo, the chicken pieces are literally a mixed bag, but at that price... Today’s bag, for example contained 2 wings, 1 drumstick, 3 thigh pieces and a large piece of breast on the bone (which is the juiciest way to cook breast, so that’s fine); whereas the chicken photographed at the end of this post, in tomato-based sauce, came in a bag of eight small tidy thigh pieces. Just right for 4 serves.

Chicken from a mixed bag - with pea pilau
 I always skin chicken. 1 kg, whether in the shape of a whole free-range bird or budget pieces, will yield 150-200 grams skin and fat. That’s an awful lot of saturated fat; it is also, unfortunately, where much of the flavour lies. So, I extract that flavour by using the skin and fat to make stock. Always. The job takes ten minutes, using the pan the chicken will be cooked in (saves washing up). The stock can be made while marinating other flavours into the poor denuded chicken. It is easy to do, as the Town Frog pointed out a little while ago. We’re including another version to hammer home the point - Don't waste, don't toss.

CHICKEN STOCK from fat scraps.

Removing set fat from stock
In a saucepan, fry until golden, 1 diced onion, a few grinds of black pepper, chicken skin and fat. Add herbs if handy - bay and old rosemary stems. When coloured, add 1 cup water. Simmer 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove skin (to the dog-food tin, which is safe for Fido as no fat remains). Pour stock into small heat-proof bowl, a layer of liquid fat will rise to the surface. Cool, then refrigerate. When the fat is white and firm, peel it from the now jellied stock. Fat will clump and lift off in one piece leaving a fat-free stock.

I usually feed the fat to the backyard egg-layers, mixed in with other kitchen scraps. The girls fight for it - like children scrabbling for chocolate.

The following recipes, using budget chicken pieces, are for easy-to-make, one-pot family meals that provided the whole package-deal of nutrition - carbs, protein, vitamins, minerals, fibre and FLAVOUR. What more could you ask for $1.25 per serve?


Cooked all in one pan, the lightly marinated chicken provides the cooking liquor and flavour for the rice on which it is served.

Serves 4
10 minutes to prepare. 30 minutes to marinate. 40 minutes cooking time.
You will need: Deep stovetop frypan with a lid; meat-cutting board, onion-cutting board, sharp knife; large dinner plate slightly larger than frypan diameter; 1 cup measure; citrus juicer; serving platter or serve from the pan.

1 kg mixed chicken pieces, bone in (for big eaters, use extra chicken)
1 large onion, diced
1 lime or ½ lemon, juiced
1 rounded teaspoon mild curry paste (or dry spice powder and ¼ teaspoon salt)
1¼ cups long grain white rice, or Thai jasmine or Basmati rice
2 cups water
1 cup fresh/frozen peas, or ½ cup dehydrated peas soaked in 1 cup water
vegetable cooking oil (preferably not olive - wrong flavour)

Quick instructions: Skin chicken; marinate 30 min in lime and curry mix. Fry diced onion then lie the chicken on top; pour in marinade; simmer/steam with lid on 30 min or until cooked. Remove chicken. Add rice to pan and enough water to make pan juices up to about 3 cups; steam rice under lid 10 minutes. Add peas and return chicken. Cover tightly; continue to steam 5 minutes more until rice is soft.

Step-by-step instructions:

1. With your fingers, pull the skin from the chicken pieces. Trim fat (keep to make stock).
2. Place chicken pieces on a large flat plate.
3. Mix lime juice and curry, and add enough water to make ½ cup of mix; spoon over chicken. Marinate 30 minutes.
4. If using de-hydrated peas, soak in 1 cup water while chicken marinates.
5. Lightly fry onion in a little oil. Add chicken, bone-side down, marinade juices and extra ½ cup water.
6. Put the lid on the pan; simmer/steam on low heat 30 minutes. If the lid is not tight-fitting, may need to increase cooking time to 40 minutes, and check to be sure there is still liquid in the pan. Add more water to keep about ½ cm of pan juice.
7. Remove the chicken to a clean plate. Tip the pan juices into a measuring jug, and add water to make up to three cups (roughly 700ml).
8. Tip rice into the pan; stir to coat in residual chicken grease (there will be a small amount); then add liquid all at once. Stir until simmering. If using dehydrated peas, add soaked peas to rice. Turn heat to low; put the lid on and cook 10 minutes.
9. Stir the rice very lightly with a fork. The grains will still be firm-ish and should look wet. If looking dry add ¼ cup more water. Taste and add salt if needed.
10. If using fresh peas, place them over rice, then arrange the chicken pieces neatly on top, bone-side down. Cover and continue to cook further 5 minutes until rice is soft and peas are heated through.

To serve, take the pan to the table as is; or arrange chicken over rice on a platter. The dish is fine as a meal on its own, or dressed up for a party with a selection of small salads, Indian-style.


Serves 4. Use will need: Deep stovetop frypan with a lid; meat-cutting board, onion-cutting board, sharp knife; large dinner plate slightly larger than frypan diameter; 1 cup measure.

1kg chicken pieces
1 large onion, diced
2 large carrots, finely cubed
2 sticks celery and/or other seasonal green vegetables, chopped finely
1 tablespoon mild curry paste
1¼ cups long grain rice
Optional: ½ cup lemon juice

1. Skin chicken (see above!). Add ½ cup water (or lemon juice) to paste and coat chicken. Let stand 30 minutes.
2. While chicken marinates, dice onion and vegetables. Lightly fry all in pan with little oil. When just coloured, tip into a bowl.
3. Add chicken and marinade juices to pan; tip vegetables over the chicken, and extra ½ cup water. Cover to steam/simmer 30 minutes.
4. Lift cooked chicken to a plate. Add rice and water to vegetables in pan; stir until simmering then cover and steam 10 minutes.
5. Stir rice. Taste. Add sprinkle salt if needed. Add chicken pieces on top. Steam a further 5 minutes.


Complete meal for 6 hearty eaters, using 2 bags of budget chicken pieces.

2 kg mixed chicken or thigh pieces, bone in
2 medium onions, diced
4 - 6 tomatoes, diced (about 2 cups pulp, or 400gm can good-quality crushed tomato)
1 large carrot, cut into 1 cm cubes
2 stalks celery, chopped
fresh rosemary, parsley &/or basil, salt and pepper
olive oil
1 - 2 small scrubbed potatoes per person, cut into quarters or 6 pieces
½ cup crushed green or small black olives

1. Over medium heat, in deep frypan or wide saucepan, lightly fry onion, celery and carrot in small amount olive oil until onion starts to colour.
2. As vegetables cook, skin chicken pieces.
3. Add tomato to pan with few sprigs fresh rosemary, freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste (start with ½ teaspoon if using fresh tomato; less with canned tomato). Bring to boil, stirring now and then.
4. Place chicken pieces in sauce, bone sides down. Simmer gently for 15 minutes with lid on. (Don’t worry if chicken is not fully covered by sauce.)
5. Turn the chicken. Place chopped potato in a layer over the top pushing the potato down against the chicken with a spatula. Replace lid. Simmer further 15 minutes or until potato is tender to a fork.
6. Add olives over potato. Turn off the heat and leave the pot to sit, lid on, for a further 10 minutes before serving from the pan. Garnish with a sprinkle of chopped herbs.

Alternatively, omit potato (as shown above), and serve with steamed rice or crusty bread.

Next: Garden mint, and making old-fashioned mint sauce.

Written and compiled by two frogs

Sunday, 19 May 2013

A walk around the garden...to look at rosemary

Whether using a hint of rosemary, or a good big hit, this ‘hard’ herb will give a lift to just about any food, sweet or savoury. A rosemary bush needs very little love; it will last for years once established; and, if you have limited space, its culinary versatility makes it a herb-of-choice to grow in a pot. Because of its toughness, the forgiving rosemary bush also makes a good filler plant in dry-country shrubberies where not much else will grow.

There are several varieties of upright and prostrate rosemary. All will strike roots from cuttings taken in late winter and spring, placed in water or sandy potting mix. If the green-thumb gene is not in your blood, buy an established seedling from the markets. Release it into a big fancy tub and it will repay this good deed by becoming an excellent ornamental on a balcony or near the back stairs. Each time someone brushes against the leaves, you’ll be transported by the lovely smell of Mediterranean Summer. Add a lavender plant to the tub as well, and sage, as they enjoy the same warm dry growing conditions.

Rosemary needs at least half a day of full sun, good drainage (sandy soil, a raised bed, or a pot that is seldom watered), and a little light pruning (for the kitchen) to keep it looking ship-shape. In the right spot, the bush will live on and on and on.
This ten-year old rosemary (and lemongrass) is growing inside a fenced vegetable garden. If lettuce-loving wildlife are a problem in your garden as they are in mine, a few bushes of rosemary planted around the veggie patch provide a natural deterrent. Wallabies, kangaroos and hares dont seem to like rosemary. And the more rosemary you have, the more you can use, not only in the kitchen.

In the kitchen, chopped rosemary is delicious added to tomato and cucumber salad; in marinades for chicken, fish and lamb; added to meat stews; sprinkled over vegetable bakes before they go in the oven; and as a flavour enhancer in soup. Better for you than salt.

Two-thirds fill a small (150 ml) screw-top jar with any white vinegar from the pantry. Add 1 tablespoon rosemary leaves, a good grind of black pepper, 1 teaspoon seeded mustard and 1 teaspoon grated lemon or lime peel. If you like, also add crushed clove of garlic and half small red chilli, roughly chopped. Top up the jar with olive or other vegetable oil. Best made at least 24 hours ahead and will keep for several weeks in the fridge (olive oil will solidify and go white in the fridge, but returns to normal at room temperature). 

USES: Shake well and use as a dressing for salad; in a dipping bowl with crusty bread; over hot potato, baked carrot, or warm crushed chickpeas. Also excellent to marinate lamb chops, chicken or fish for the barbecue, with no need for extra oil when cooking.

On our next ‘walk around the garden’, we’ll look at growing and using old-fashioned garden mint.

Written and compiled by two frogs.
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