All things light
and creamy

Looking ahead it’s going to be a very busy March as we seem to be packing all the spring celebrations together; St Patrick’s Day, Mothers Day and Easter will come close together. The retailer in me that has a habit of looking ahead while, according to the current trend for ‘mindfulness’ I should be living in the ‘now’. Well here I am being mindful of the fact that the year is whizzing by.

Looking ahead it’s going to be a very busy March as we seem to be packing all the spring celebrations together; St Patrick’s Day, Mothers Day and Easter will come close together. The retailer in me that has a habit of looking ahead while, according to the current trend for ‘mindfulness’ I should be living in the ‘now’. Well here I am being mindful of the fact that the year is whizzing by.

I love all the seasons and I particularly enjoy those moments of change; there is freshness when we are on the cusp of a new season. I always marvel at the change from winter to spring. It is gentle and subtle; sometimes hardly noticeable. Just as you think the cold will never end suddenly little clues start appearing; you look out the window and appreciate the sudden stretch in the afternoon light; as you hurry along in the cold, muffled up in scarf and gloves the sight of a little crop of snowdrops are another sign. And outside of Mother Nature the giant red cardboard hearts in the artificial light of the newsagent’s window are yet more evidence that the game is up for winter and now it’s only a matter of time. And so it’s time to change up our cooking once more.

In the last week or two I have become interested again in natural yoghurt as an ingredient. I was searching for a way to achieve creaminess without loading up on calories or making a dish too rich. Asian and Greek dishes often use yoghurt and it has certainly added a spring like dimension to a few dishes this past few days.

It is a super marinade. For all those of you about to embark on a romantic dinner for two perhaps some Tandoori chicken could add the spice you are looking for. Many Indian, African and Mediterranean meat recipes use yoghurt marinades. It is a simple process of mixing the spices and herbs required with the natural yoghurt. For savoury dishes choose spices and herbs such as cumin, coriander, chives and chilli powder. Prick the meat with a fork and then liberally spread the marinade all over. Leave it overnight in the fridge in a covered container. You are looking for at least 12 hours if possible and longer if you can. When you are cooking the marinated meat make sure it is fully cooked and turn it frequently if you are grilling it.

For a great little side dish or salad topper, chop up some tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper and spinach. Sprinkle in some fresh chives and run a spoonful or two of natural yoghurt through it. This is light and fresh and a great cool contrasting side if you are having a hot Indian dish. You can also substitute natural yoghurt for sour cream in dips. It’s a great deal lighter on the calorie front.

Natural yoghurt is milk that has had a number of harmless bacteria added causing it to ferment. Most natural yoghurt is sold as ‘live’ which means it still contains living bacteria. It is believed that these harmless organisms work with the gut’s natural bacteria and suppress the harmful ones. Mind you, as with anything, quality is everything. Buy the best you can and local if at all possible. The great thing about natural yoghurt is that you can use it straight from the pot. If you are planning to cook with it I tend to bring it up to room temperature before you add it to a hot dish. If it is too cold it might curdle and separate. I also add it slowly with a spoon and you will find that the higher the fat content the better they are to cook with. I tend to buy the large pots and I find that they keep perfectly well in the fridge for up to four days once opened. It’s remarkably versatile.

I have added a really easy recipe below to ease you into cooking with yoghurt. Even if your cooking skills are limited to just turning on the oven, then you will still have remarkable success with this Creamy Coconut Chicken dish that is fool proof to prepare and very mild in the spice stakes. It is a lovely easy Valentines’ night dish for two and, if you do have time to let it marinate, you could prepare it all the day before. I would take it out of the fridge and bring it to room temperature for about 30 minutes before popping it in the oven to cook. However if you are pressed for time you can cook this straight away. I welcome your feedback to pat@jwb.ie

Creamy Coconut Chicken

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 large (or 4 small Chicken Breasts)

1 onion

4 tblsp Mango Chutney

2 Cloves of garlic (crushed)

2 teaspoons of grated ginger

1 tblsp desiccated coconut

1 tblsp ground almonds

1 teaspoon garam masala (or any curry powder to hand)

1 tblsp fresh coriander

300g Natural Yoghurt

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 180°

Slice the onion and spread around the base of an oven proof bowl.

Slice the chicken breasts into strips and spread around on top of the onion.

Spoon the mango chutney over the top, coating the chicken as evenly as possible.

In a separate bowl combine all the other ingredients, putting the yoghurt in last.

Spread the mixture over the top of the chicken.

Marinade at this point if possible

Bake in the centre of the oven for 30 to 35 minutes until the chicken is thoroughly cooked.

9With about 10 minutes to go, take it out of the oven and with a large spoon mix in the spinach. It will wilt down and shrink very quickly.

10.Serve with rice.