We created this recipe when we came home one night from touring and found we didn’t have any wine to make coq au vin. We did, however, have a bottle of bubbly and a tub of olives in the fridge. It was one of those fortuitous accidents that led to discovery and what, for us, has become a much-loved regular chicken dinner.
A quick note: brining isn’t an absolutely necessary step when you’re cooking chicken, but, if you have the time to do it, it makes all the difference – it both tenderises and infuses flavour.
For the brine
8 parts water to 1 part table salt, enough to fill your container
Dash of Maggi seasoning sauce
Dash of apple cider vinegar
Fresh herbs, to taste
For the chicken
1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces, brined
2 tbsp olive oil, plus more for the roasting pan
80g butter, chopped
1 brown onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
4 glasses champagne (and one to drink, if you like)
3 bay leaves
Small handful thyme sprigs
2 carrots, thickly sliced
Small tub green Sicilian olives
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Salad, to serve
Make up the brine by stirring salt into the cold water, in a large enough container to hold your meat so that it will be fully submerged. Choose a glass, ceramic or plastic container rather than metal.
Add your favourite flavourings. We often use a dash of Maggi sauce, apple cider vinegar, bay leaves, peppercorns, garlic and fresh herbs, but the only rule for what you add to the brine mix is that it is to your taste.
Add the meat, cover and refrigerate for at least four hours, or up to 24 hours.
Once ready to cook, preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan-forced).
Remove the chicken from the brine and use paper towel to pat completely dry.
Heat the olive oil and butter in a large heavy-based frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken in batches, skin side down, for five minutes or until golden brown. Turn over and cook the other side for three minutes. Set chicken aside.
Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion and cook for five minutes, until soft. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
Add a glass of champagne to deglaze the bottom of the pan, stirring and scraping to combine with the stuck-on bits and pan juices.
Drizzle a large baking dish with oil and sprinkle with salt.
Arrange the chicken pieces in the dish, skin side up. Scatter with bay leaves and thyme, and season with pepper. Pour in the liquid from the frying pan and the remaining champagne, and scatter with the carrots and olives.
Bake for 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the carrots are tender. Serve with salad.
Jimmy’s chargrilled vegetable stack
We often do this with just zucchinis and capsicums – you can use yellow zucchini or the light green zucchini, if you like. Using coriander will give this more of a Middle Eastern tilt and parsley more Mediterranean, so choose which you prefer. For a vegan version, replace the fetta and labne with tahini (one tablespoon per layer).
2 large eggplants, cut lengthways into 5mm slices
80ml olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 zucchinis, cut lengthways into 5mm slices
1 red capsicum, deseeded, cut into 1cm strips
1 green capsicum, deseeded, cut into 1cm strips
200g Persian feta
60g pistachio kernels, roughly chopped
Seeds from 1 pomegranate
Sea salt, to sprinkle
Chopped coriander or flat-leaf parsley, to sprinkle
For the lemon vinaigrette
120ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp lemon zest, finely grated
2 tbsp lemon juice
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Prepare your charcoal grill or barbecue grill plate for cooking.
Lay the eggplant slices on paper towel and sprinkle with salt. Let sit for about 10 minutes, until you see bubbles of liquid appearing on the flesh. Wipe off with paper towel and turn over. Repeat the salting on the second side. This will draw out the water and give the eggplant a less spongy consistency when cooked.
Combine the olive oil and garlic in a small bowl. Brush over the vegetables and cook (in batches if necessary) until tender and lightly charred.
To make the vinaigrette, place the oil and lemon zest and juice in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and whisk to combine.
To assemble, layer the chargrilled vegetables on a platter with labne (or tahini) and a drizzle of vinaigrette between the layers. To finish, crumble the feta over and drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette. Sprinkle with herbs, pistachios and pomegranate seeds.
Plum, blueberry and walnut tart
A chef friend suggested adding walnuts to my plum tart. A layer of them scattered under the plums soaks up some of the juices and adds a lovely crunch.
40g walnuts, very finely chopped
8–12 mixed plums, halved or quartered, seeds removed
Icing sugar, to dust
Runny custard, cream and/or ice-cream, to serve
For the pastry
180g unsalted butter
80g plain flour
Pinch of salt
50ml water mixed with a small squeeze of lemon juice
To make the pastry, take the butter out of the fridge and let it soften a little, then cut into 2cm cubes.
Place the butter into a mixing bowl and add the flour and a pinch of salt. Use your fingertips to rub in, until evenly combined.
Add the water mixture a little at a time and mix with your fingers, bringing the floury flakes together into a ball. You may not need all the water, or you may need a drop more.
Press the ball into a flat disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Remove from the fridge and leave to soften for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan-forced).
Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to fit a 23cm (base measurement) loose-bottom flan tin. Press into the tin and trim off any excess. Sprinkle the base evenly with the walnuts.
Arrange the plums over the pastry base, cut side up. Scatter the blueberries over and dust with icing sugar.
Bake for 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden. Serve warm or at room temperature, with runny custard, cream and/or ice-cream.
This is an edited extract from Where the River Bends by Jane and Jimmy Barnes, published by HarperCollins Australia (RRP$49.99)