I won a competition to have lunch with the legendary Maggie Beer. Knowing that my dear friend, Steph, might murder me if I didn't take her, she's my +1.
When we found out we won, we laughed hysterically for about 2 hours and drank way too much wine. We both never, ever win things so this came as quite a suprise, especially considering the magnitude of the prize. It's mostly amusing because we are still mere babies in some eyes, at only 20 years old and not many others share our love for Maggie Beer because quite frankly not that many people our age are that food obsessed to even know who she is. When we've told people we're going to hang out with Maggie Beer, we receive jealous looks from mothers, not our fellow adolescents. Things sometimes get scary.
Maggie Beer is somewhat of a homecook legend in Australia - she is a self taught cook who once ran a successful restaurant in the years before I was even born. She has a passion for local produce and makes the kind of food you want to eat on a cold, winter's day. She then moved onto making and selling her own food specialty products, including pate, quince paste, jams and chutneys, homemade soup and ice-creams (the elderflower and vanilla bean is amazing). Mostly I love watching her cook and present on the tv show "The Cook and the Chef" on the ABC, because we all know I have an addiction to cooking shows and this one is no exception. For years I have watched this programme, but little did I know I would one day get to share a meal with her.
So, this friday, Miss Stephanie and I are getting flown to South Australia to visit the wineries of the Barossa Valley and to share some food with Maggie Beer. It's somewhere I've always wanted to go, purely because of it's reputable and well known food and wine culture, but never thought I would get there before the seasoned age of 30. Although I definitely don't have the greatest knowledge of wine, and sometimes I lick my knife at the dinner table, I love eating good food so I don't think I'm going to have any problems appreciating the experience!
In anticipation of this, I decided to make a recipe from her newest cookbook, 'Maggies Kitchen'. Vino cotto is an Italian sweet cooked wine, and since the recipe had the sweetness of cinnamon and sultanas I decided to add in some normal balsamic vinegar as well. I hope I did it justice!
Chicken Legs with Vino Cotto or Balsamic
From Maggies Kitchen by Maggie Beer (serves 4)
8 chicken drumsticks
zest of 2 lemons, removed in wide strips with a vegetable peeler
5 fresh bay leaves
2 stalks rosemary
1/4 stick cinnamon, ground, or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
1/2 cup flaked almonds
1/4 cup vinco cotto
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
16 sicilian green olives
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup caperberries or salted capers, rinsed
chopped flat leaf parsley to serve
In an oven proof cooking dish, marinate chicken with lemon zest, bay leaves, rosemary, cinnamon, and a good splash of olive oil for at least 1 hour prior to cooking. Preheat oven to 180°C. Place almonds on a baking tray and roast in oven for about 5 minutes until lightly golden. Remove from oven and increase temperature to 200°C.
Season chicken with salt and remove from the marinade. Keep the marinade aside in the dish in which you will bake the chicken in after. On a fry pan set to medium to high heat, gently pan-fry the drumsticks until golden brown all over (8-10 minutes). Transfer the chicken legs back into the baking dish with the all important marinade. To this, now add the vino cotto and balsamic vinegar. Roast the chicken in the oven for about 10 minutes. Remove, add the raisins, capers and olives and roast for a further 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.
Before serving, toss over the almonds and parsley and add a big squeeze of lemon juice. Serve with a salad, roasted vegies or a filling side of lightly buttered and salted cous cous (I had this with roasted fennel and zucchini).