Travel to Italy, Thailand, Hawaii and sunny Queensland with these spring bakes.
Chicken amatriciana traybake
Decent tomatoes and a bit of time are what make this dish sing. I always tend to use a chorizo on the hotter end of the spectrum for that lovely hit of spicy heat. If you can't find small fingerling potatoes, simply cut your potatoes into largish bite-sized pieces to ensure that they cook in time. If using large tomatoes, you may wish to halve them horizontally before roasting.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cups fresh tomatoes (I used a mix of cherry tomatoes on the vine, and larger ox tomatoes)
- 6 garlic cloves, smashed
- 2 cups small fingerling potatoes, scrubbed
- 1 fresh or cured chorizo sausage (about 125g), casing removed, meat roughly chopped
- 500g chicken thighs (about 4 large)
- 400g can crushed tomatoes
- 1 tbsp dried thyme
- ½ cup white wine
- fresh thyme, micro basil, red basil and/or flat-leaf parsley, to garnish (optional)
- 3-4 tbsp grated pecorino (or to taste)
- Preheat oven to 160C.
- Add the olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, potatoes and chorizo to a large baking tray and use your hands to toss and coat everything in the oil. Pop in the oven for 45 minutes or until the tomatoes are softened and jam-like, and the chorizo is crisp, and its coloured oil has oozed.
- Increase the heat to 180C. Add the chicken thighs to the tray, nestled in among the tomatoes and potatoes, and add a good heft of salt and pepper. While the chicken is cooking, combine the canned tomatoes, thyme and white wine in a jug and give it a quick stir with a fork. Cook the chicken for 10 minutes, then working quickly, open the oven door and pour the tomato and wine mixture into the corner of the baking dish. Cook for a further 20-30 minutes or until cooked to your liking.
- To serve, top with the herbs and more salt and pepper. Add the grated pecorino and serve.
Chicken noodle salad with a Thai-inspired dressing.. Photo: Katrina Meynink
Thai coriander chicken noodle salad
So, you need to whip up this Thai sweet chilli sauce that makes waaay more than you need for this recipe but trust me, it is so, so delicious. If ever there was a moment I considered drinking a dressing/marinade, this is it.
Use leftovers as a dressing for salads, as a marinade for all the proteins, heck even rub it into kale leaves as I have done as part of this recipe as standalone 'crisps' with drinks. It is a gift that keeps on giving. Store in the fridge in a screw-top jar for up to six months.
The best bit about this salad is that you can add and substitute with whatever you have on hand, salad-wise. I've swapped the cucumber for zucchini and added in red onion for extra bite – it is very adaptable to what you do or don't have. You can also skip charring the chicken in a pan first and just add it to the noodles in the oven, but the charred, smoky flash in the pan does wonders for the flavour, as does giving the noodles an initial 10 or so minutes head start with plenty of room in the baking pan to crisp up.
Thai coriander dressing (makes about 4 cups)
- 1 large bunch coriander, leaves and stems, washed thoroughly, chopped
- 1 small bunch Vietnamese mint, leaves picked
- 5cm piece galangal, peeled, chopped
- 1 lemongrass stem, white part only, chopped
- 5cm piece ginger, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 cup kecap manis
- 2 cups sweet chilli sauce
- 100ml fish sauce
- 1½ tsp sesame oil
- juice of 2 limes
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 3 makrut lime leaves, deveined, chopped
- 500g chicken thighs (about 4 large)
- 440g packet fresh hokkien noodles (these vary in weight depending on brand but anything around this will do)
- 1 cup purple kale leaves
- ½-¾ cup Thai coriander dressing
- 250g punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 cup loosely packed edible flowers (optional)
- ½ cup Thai basil leaves, coarsely torn
- ½ cup mint leaves (Vietnamese or garden standard), coarsely torn
- ½ cup coriander leaves, coarsely torn
- ½ cup wasabi peas
- 1 medium Lebanese cucumber, shaved into ribbons
- Preheat oven to 170C fan-forced (190C conventional).
- For the dressing, add all ingredients to a blender and blitz to combine until you get a lightly thickened, salad-dressing sort of consistency and the fibrous elements (lemongrass and galangal) have completely broken down. Check for seasoning.
- Add the chicken to a mixing bowl with enough of the dressing to coat, rubbing the mixture into the thighs. Set aside while you prepare the noodles.
- Spread the noodles across a large baking tray lined with baking paper. Add the torn kale leaves and then massage ½ cup of the dressing into the noodles and leaves. Pop in the oven for 20 minutes, tossing halfway through this time, to prevent burning. If your kale leaves are taking on too much colour, simply remove them once they are crisp and set aside until you are assembling the salad. Depending on the thickness of the noodles, they may need more time to crisp, although please remember they do harden a little more as they cool.
- Meanwhile, place a non-stick frypan over medium heat. Once hot, strain the chicken from any residual marinade and cook for around 3 minutes per side – you want it to char and caramelise without burning. Add the chicken to the noodle tray and cook for a further 10-12 minutes.
- Remove the tray from the oven and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes (this is to prevent the herbs from wilting in the heat).
- While the noodles and chicken are cooling, add all the salad ingredients to a large serving bowl. Toss to combine, then add the noodles, kale leaves and chicken. Toss again before drizzling over more of the dressing to taste.
- This is best served immediately to get the chewy, crisp textural crunch of the noodles but any leftovers hold in the fridge for a later meal and still taste rather marvellous.
Hawaiian chicken bake with corn, pineapple and jalapeno. Photo: Katrina Meynink
Hawaiian chicken bake
As someone averse to pineapple on pizza, it's surprising just how good and necessary and uplifting in all senses it is in this easy midweek number. You could substitute with tinned pineapple, but there is something about fresh pineapple that really lifts this.
- ½ tbsp grapeseed oil or other flavourless oil
- 500g chicken thighs (about 4 large)
- 2-3 fresh jalapeno chillies, halved
- 2 large corn cobs cut into thirds
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 200ml pineapple juice
- ¼ cup spicy barbecue sauce
- 1 tsp gochujang paste
- 1 cup finely chopped fresh pineapple (about 6-8 slices)
- 1 cup natural yoghurt
- 1 cup coriander leaves, roughly chopped
- juice and zest of 2 limes
- ½ cup finely chopped pineapple
- ½ fresh jalapeno chilli, chopped
- ¼ cup chopped pickled cucumbers
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1-2 slices of pineapple, chopped into bite-sized pieces
- coriander leaves to scatter
- Preheat oven to 170C fan-forced (190C conventional) and line a high-sided baking dish with baking paper.
- Combine the marinade ingredients in a saucepan. Place over medium heat and cook for 15 minutes or until slightly reduced, the consistency has thickened slightly, and the pineapple pieces have softened and broken down a little. Allow to cool before adding half of the marinade to a bowl with the chicken, turning the chicken to coat, and set aside for 20 minutes.
- Add the remaining marinade, corn and jalapenos to a baking dish and toss to coat.
- Place a frypan over medium heat. Add the oil and once hot, strain chicken from marinade, reserving the marinade, and cook the chicken for about 2 minutes on each side. Cook in batches to prevent overcrowding – you want both sides to look lightly caramelised and charred.
- Add the chicken and any reserved marinade to the baking dish with the corn and jalapenos and bake for 20 minutes or until the chicken has cooked through.
- Meanwhile, add the dressing ingredients to a blender and blitz to combine. Set aside until serving.
- You can serve this straight from the baking dish, scattered with the coriander and fresh pineapple, or transfer to a large serving bowl. Drizzle over the dressing and serve immediately.
Sunshine in a cake: Hummingbird cake stacked with lemon curd and cream cheese icing. Photo: Katrina Meynink
Hummingbird layer cake with lemon curd, honeycomb and chamomile
Because we all need a little sunshine and everything to be a little bit 'extra' this spring. Before you roll your eyes and say, 'I'm not making that', this is the easiest cake you will turn your hand to. You dump everything in one bowl. No mixer, no creaming of butter and sugar. It's a dump and stir situation, the greatest effort is the lemon curd and guess what – if you don't have time or energy for it, simply leave it out. Ditto all the toppings.
This cake tastes better with time so if you bake it the day before serving it will be bursting with flavour. Store the cakes tightly-covered in the fridge overnight, and assemble the layers just before serving.
You will need three 22cm loose-bottom round cake tins for this recipe.
- 125ml Greek-style yoghurt
- 235ml vegetable oil
- 3 large eggs
- 3 large slightly overripe bananas, mashed
- 3 tsp vanilla bean extract
- 500g peeled fresh pineapple, diced into 1cm cubes
- 375g plain flour
- ½ tbsp baking powder
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- pinch salt
- 250g caster sugar
- 150g brown sugar
- ¾ cup pistachio kernels, roughly chopped
- 1 cup shredded coconut
- ¾ cup caster sugar
- ⅓ cup (80g) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- juice and zest from 2 lemons
- 2 tsp vanilla bean extract
- 2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
Cream cheese icing
- 500g cream cheese, softened to mixing consistency
- ¾ cup icing sugar (or more to taste)
- 2 tsp vanilla bean extract
To serve (optional)
- 1 cup honeycomb pieces
- 4-5 dried pineapple pieces
- 1-2 tsp chamomile flowers (you can buy loose leaf tea flowers from health food stores)
- Preheat the oven to 170C fan-forced (190C conventional) and grease and line three 22cm round cake tins.
- For the cake, add all the wet ingredients in a large bowl and mix with a wooden spoon. Add the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. The key is making sure all the ingredients have amalgamated into a chunky cake-like batter but that you don't overwork it.
- Divide the batter into your three tins. Pop in the oven for 30 minutes or until lightly golden on top. The usual cake skewer test doesn't work here as there is banana and pineapple all through the cake, and you might get a false result. The key is to wobble the cakes to ensure no movement, and when you press down on the centre of the sponge, it should bounce back to the touch; while not entirely foolproof this is a great guide for checking the doneness of this style of cake. Allow to cakes to cool completely in the tins.
- While the cake is baking, prepare the lemon curd. Whisk the sugar, butter, lemon juice and zest, and vanilla in a saucepan over low to medium heat. Once incorporated, turn the heat to low and whisk in the whole eggs and yolks. Whisk continually until thickened and the curd coats the back of a spoon. Strain through a sieve and store in a jar until ready to use. (Any leftovers will last up to two weeks in the fridge.)
- For the cream cheese icing, add the ingredients to a bowl and use a whisk or fork to combine – you want it to be a lovely malleable consistency.
- To assemble, add about ¼ cup of lemon curd and one third of the icing between each cake layer, finishing with just the cream cheese icing on the top. Add the dried pineapple pieces, honeycomb and dried chamomile, if using, before serving.