Take the down-home American approach to fine dining

WATCHING Americans celebrate Independence Day last week reminded me of just how much I love their relaxed approach to entertaining.

No airs and graces; it's all about generous, welcoming food and making guests feel at home.

And, fittingly, these days you can't leave the house without tripping over the latest big new thing in ribs or gourmet burgers.

The Southern states in particular are famous for their hospitality, and their crispy-outside, tender - inside fried chicken is finally getting the praise it deserves.

Easy to cook and full of flavour - I can't think of a better way to feed the soul.

>>More Easy Eating

Fried Southern chicken with 'slaw

Serves 4

I love the naughty crispiness of this spiced chicken - roll up your sleeves, grab a napkin and enjoy!

  • 4 chicken thighs
  • 4 chicken drumsticks
  • 2 x 284ml/9½fl oz cartons of buttermilk
  • Light-flavoured oil, for frying
  • 200g/7oz plain flour
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp salt, plus extra for seasoning
  • 3 tbsp chopped thyme

For the 'slaw

  • 3 tbsp Greek-style yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 tsp celery salt
  • A dash of Tabasco
  • ½ red cabbage, finely shredded
  • ½ red onion, finely sliced
  • 150g/5oz green beans, halved in length and blanched for 1 minute
  • 400g/13oz tin black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained

Toss the chicken pieces in a bowl with the buttermilk. Cover and chill for at least an hour, or ideally overnight.

For the 'slaw, combine the yoghurt, mayonnaise and lemon juice in a large bowl. Stir in the celery salt and Tabasco. Fold in the remaining ingredients and season with freshly ground black pepper to taste. Set aside.

For the chicken, preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.

Heat the oil in a deep saucepan to 180C/350F, or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil turns golden in 40 seconds. Combine the flour, cayenne, cumin, salt and thyme in a large tray.

Remove the chicken from the buttermilk and remove any excess. Coat in the seasoned flour. Fry in batches until golden. Drain on kitchen paper and transfer to a rack set in a roasting tin.

Season with salt and roast for 15-20 minutes until cooked through. Serve with the 'slaw and cornbread.



Serves 8

This bread is practically a meal in its own right. Eat it while it's warm and if you have leftovers, fry slices in a little butter for your breakfast the next day.

  • Butter for greasing, plus extra for serving
  • 275g/9oz coarse cornmeal
  • 90g/3¼oz plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • 400ml/14fl oz buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 fresh corn cobs, kernels cut off the cobs
  • 2 red chillies, sliced
  • 4 spring onions, sliced

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Generously grease a 20cm ovenproof frying pan with butter.

Combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a bowl and set aside. In a separate large bowl, lightly beat the buttermilk, milk and eggs until well combined.

Fold in the corn kernels, chillies and spring onions, then the set-aside cornmeal and flour mixture.

Tip into the pan and bake for 25-30 minutes until firm and golden on top. Leave to cool slightly then serve while still slightly warm, with some butter on the side.


Pecan pie sundae

Serves 4

I must admit that I've taken quite a liberty in comparing this to a pecan pie - well, there are pecans, but the caramel and digestives are not exactly authentic… Once you taste it, you'll see where I'm coming from.

  • 500ml/17fl oz tub vanilla ice-cream
  • 3 tbsp thick caramel sauce or dulce de leche
  • 150g/5oz pecan halves, roughly chopped
  • 15g/½oz unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tbsp demerara sugar
  • 100g/3½oz digestive biscuits, broken into rough crumbs
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar

Take the ice-cream out of the freezer and leave it to soften slightly. Tip it into a bowl and gently fold in the caramel sauce. Cover and freeze until needed.

Preheat the oven to 180C/ 350F/Gas 4. Mix together the pecans, butter, sugar and a large pinch of salt. Tip into a roasting tin. Cook for 6-8 minutes, stirring once, until golden. Allow to cool then mix in the digestive crumbs.

Scoop some ice-cream into tumblers, top with the pecan and digestive mixture, more ice-cream and a final topping of nuts and digestives to finish. Serve immediately.

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