Cook with Us #14: My Comforting Fajita Chicken Roulade
A muffled clap. Another one. And one more. They can finally let go of their sweaty gloves. The air was still saturated with coal dust, the result of the last boring in the shaft. My dad’s ears were still buzzing from a prior explosion when the siren sounded. It was the end of another big shifts. Summer tends to make life underground worst. Most men would wear the bear minimum while excavating. The mining cage has been working overtime. There was a soft murmur in the queue as they await their turn to come out of the mine shaft. Kopalnia Morcinek has been home to hundreds of Polish miners for years now. My dad joined at the prime age of 27 after an earlier career as a blacksmith. His skills at the forge made him a required man in the mines.
As he awaits his turn to climb into the cage he couldn’t help but think of his family. He has barely seen us most week. He has been at the mine 12hrs a day and returning when my brothers and I were already in bed. At the time we lived in a one bedroom apartment in Ustron, in Poland South East, close to the Czech border. The communist regime was at the verge of collapse. But mining was still booming with coal miners. The money is not great but is good. And most miners who started in their 20’s had the promise of being able to retire in their 40’s with a hefty pension. This was a good reason to keep everyone going. As my dad emerge from the mine, he removed the hard hat cocked back on his head. He took a deep breath and rush to the showers to prepare for the trip home.
Back in Ustron, my mum was busy in the kitchen. It was Sunday, she didn’t have to go back to work for another day. The last few days have been demanding at the Foster Care where she worked as a cook. One of the drawbacks of communism was that many families could not afford to care for all of the children. As a result some will be placed into Foster Care. There will be fed, cared for and taught. It was not ideal but at least they had a roof on their head and caring people. My mum was one of them. Away from her culinary duties, every weekend, she will ask for permission to take one of the foster kids home. It was always the same girl. Her name was Kasia. She was a skinny and blonde, as tall I was, roughly 4 yrs old. We would generally play the weekend away at “pretend” and with our dolls.
It was tradition in my family to prepare a chicken roast on Sunday. The smells emanating from the kitchen would be the prompt that my dad would be home soon. Although I grew tired of the chicken roast over the years, I cherish these memories as they were synonym of laughter, and joy. A time of togetherness and sharing. On Sundays, my family was one again. And for the few hours we got to play and run around with my dad they were precious time. My mum would run back into the kitchen to prepare her famous chicken soup while the chicken will be roasting in the oven. For dessert she would prepare some homemade blueberry polish dumpling. Shortly before 6pm we would all gather and share this meal together and talk and laugh again. I can’t remember the specifics of these times, but I have bright visions that these were happy times for every little girl growing up in a country on the verge of major socio-economic changes.
For this week’s contest I intended on making the blueberry polish dumpling. But then I saw this article about mining in the local newspapers and this took me back to the 80’s and my Sunday afternoons in Ustron with my family. With other contestants having showcased a dumpling dish, I set my mind on making something out of chicken. My own version of Sunday roast without it having to specifically a roast. And I thought of this chicken roulade. It is an earthy, and comforting dish that brings along this spirit of togetherness that I’m reminiscing in this post. Since the theme was wrap, I’ve made my own puff pastry from scratch with the left overs used for some chocolate plots. I hope you enjoy it. Bon appétit!
As this is the end of the current “season” of the contest before the long break, I would like to take this opportunity to thank to @chefsteve, @offoodandart and @pandamama from the @cookwithus team for hosting and organising this contest. They’ve gone over and beyond to grow this contest on various levels and platforms. Whilst I will miss the family spirit that have grown amongst the various contestants, I must admit that the break would be good to recharge and prepare the new season. Good luck to everyone and see you guys for the next season.
- 6 medium size chicken breasts
- 3 capsicum (red, green and yellow)
- 6 Swiss cheese
- Fajita seasoning
- 250g butter
- 250g flour
- 100ml cold water
- 1/4 cup chilli powder
- 2 tbsp salt
- 2 tbsp paprika
- 1 tbsp onion powder
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 tbsp cumin
- 2 large beetroot
- 2 large carrots
- Handful alfalfa sprouts
- 4 tbsp mixed toasted seed
- 100 g feta cheese
- Salt and Pepper
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 tbsp orange juice
- 1 tsp fresh ginger
- 4 tbsp olive oile
To make the fajita seasoning:
- Combine all spices in a jar and shake to mix.
To make the salad:
- Make the dressing by mixing all the ingredients together an seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Thinly sliced the beetroot and carrot, then cut them into match sticks.
- Arrange on a serving plate and sprinkle over the alfalfa sprouts and toasted seeds. Drizzle the dressing over and crumble the feta cheeses.
- On a cooking board, mix the flour and butter into a dough. Make a well in the centre and add the water and combine well to have a firm rough dough.
- Roll out on a lightly floured board into a rectangle. Fold a third of the pastry into the centre, then fold the bottom third up over that. Give dough a quarter turn and roll out again. Repeat folding and rolling four times. Chill pastry for 30 minutes before using.
- On a pan drizzle a little of oil and cook the capsicum until they are nice and soft.
- Place the chicken breast on a cling wrap and tap with a kitchen hammer to flatten.
- Coat the chicken breast in the fajita seasoning and place all six pieces (2 by 2) on another cling wrap.
- Add the Swiss cheese on top followed by the cooked capsicums.
- Roll the chicken into a roulade by carefully moving the cling wrap forward.
- Chill the chicken for half an hour in the fridge.
- Place the chilled roulade on the puff pastry with one side brushed with egg wash and rolled.
- Put egg wash on top and sprinkle with sesame seed and the fajita seasoning. Bake in the oven for 1hr at 180 degrees Celsius.
To make the roulade: