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Doorbells & Sleigh-bells

This, believe it or not, is my 100th post on this blog. Celebrations all round! Pass the bubbly. Bubbly? Let's remember I'm only a chef and not an investment banker. Some lemonade will do fine. But yes, since the idea of blogging entered my head, it has taken me about 3 years to write 100 posts, to provide 100 recipes. In the grand scheme of things, that's not really a lot. But I can't help feeling a sense of achievement that in that time, my photography has certainly improved and my cooking cache has become more adventurous.

On this "momentous" occasion I have decided to post a twist on an old favourite of mine. The original recipe for this dish is a favourite in our family. Granny makes it and it's devoured by everyone (except my brother who doesn't like butter), Mum makes it and it's devoured by everyone (Mum fries hers in oil so my brother will eat it). The dish that I'm talking about is, of course, schnitzel - as we call it in our family. This may have started because of my Granny's time living in The Netherlands or it may have started with her parents. I don't know. The tag in this says "Italian" and I know you're going to correct me and say that schnitzel is German. You're right, but the Italians call it scallopine, the English call it breaded escalopes and the Japanese call it katsu. Each country has a preference.

Ever since I was little, this has been one of my favourite dishes and it's one that Mum and Granny both make when I come to visit (even though I make it myself at home as well). In fact, for my 20th birthday, I made about 20 portions of schnitzel with mashed potatoes, broccoli and gravy for a "dinner party picnic" in our living room because we were students and didn't have enough seats around the table for everyone. It was one of the best birthday meals I've ever had.

My twist involves a couple of little added ingredients that are/were hard to find in Abu Dhabi and the Isle of Wight until recently. Now, most major supermarkets and boutique delicatessens will sell one of them at least. The other (the Italian influence) is rosemary. I find that this is best served with a large, fresh salad and either roasted thyme potatoes, mashed sweet potato or a nice crusty loaf of bread and some butter. You could also style a roast dinner around this with all the trimmings and lashings of gravy made in the frying pan - just like momma used to make (and still does).

Rosemary Panko Coated Schnitzel

  • 4 chicken breasts

  • 90g panko breadcrumbs

  • 2 large sprigs rosemary, plus extra to decorate

  • 1 1/2 tbsp salt

  • 1 tbsp pepper

  • 2 eggs

  • 125g butter

  • 1 lemon, wedged

Make sure the chicken is at room temperature before you coat it. This will stop it seizing up in the pan when you cook it and it will cook much more evenly. Bash the chicken breasts so that they're nice and flat and about 1cm thick. I use a rolling pin and some cling film, I've seen people use glass jars (?!) but you can also use a heavy meat tenderiser. Now they look a lot bigger, cut them in half so that each portion is a nice big slab.

Peel the leaves off the rosemary and chop them up as finely as you can, it doesn't matter if there are a couple of longer bits in the mix. Mix the rosemary with the breadcrumbs, pepper and 1 tbsp of salt and lay it out on a plate. Mix the two eggs with the rest of the salt and lay it out on another plate.

Now for this part, some people will add flour, I don't bother. I think particularly with panko breadcrumbs, you don't need it. Dip each fillet into the egg on both sides and then lay both sides in the panko mix. Do this for all of the fillets so that they're all coated. With the remaining breadcrumbs, sprinkle them over the fillets and press them gently into the meat.

In a large frying pan, melt half of the butter. When it's sizzling and just about to turn brown, add the first three fillets to cook on the first side. If you only have one pan and can only do a few at a time, it's a good idea to have the oven preheated to about 100 degrees C so that you can keep the ones you've already done warm on a tray in the oven.

Once the fillets are golden brown on one side, turn them over to cook on the other side. The first side should take 4 minutes or so. Keep adding butter if the pan is getting dry. You may not need all 125g but it's handy to have.

Once all of the fillets are cooked, lay them out on a serving plate or tray to serve with a sprig or two of rosemary on top for decoration. Offer each diner/guest/ family member a wedge of lemon to squeeze over the chicken and keep a jar or dish of English mustard on the table. The two go very well together.


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