Valentine’s dinner date on a budget

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Yes! A Valentine’s dinner date on a budget can be done. Even if your wallet’s feeling the squeeze, you can still treat your sweetheart to a special meal using simple, budget-friendly ingredients. We found the ‘proof in the pudding’ when we indulged our senses in a chicken extravaganza whipped up by the talented Sous Chef Kabelo Ratlhotshe at Café Vigour, Silverstar Casino.

We wanted to tackle a common dilemma: tight budgets versus the desire to shower your partner with love and good food. Because, the way to the heart, right? So, we reached out to Chef Ratlhotshe with a challenge: create a delicious, affordable dish that we could easily recreate at home. And guess what? He was game!

Sitting on the bistro veranda, surrounded by mountains, sunshine, and the sound of fountains, we were treated to a lovely feast of everything gloriously chicken. Masterfully displayed! Ratlhotshe explained its origins consists of a harmonious cultural exchange between French and Italian gastronomy, with a tad more emphasis on the French bit, due to the similarity to chicken roulade.

The base of the meal consisted of a sunset coloured wide swath of peppadews, feta and garlic overlaid with spherical rolls of paprika-encrusted roasted chicken breast stuffed to the brim with feta, red peppers, garlic and thyme-toasted breadcrumbs. Rounded towers of crushed mashed potatoes roasted and infused with butter and thyme were speared with shards of crispy chicken skin.

Roasted baby veggies exploded in hues of green marrow, orange carrots, purple onions and yellow sweetcorn interspersed with cerise pops of flower power.  All accompanied by the sublime chicken jus consisting of roasted chicken off-cuts. This tongue-tingling comforting homage to the humble chicken cleverly plays on balancing notes of sweetness, piquancy, bitter, salty and smoky, buttery goodness. To accompany this dish Chef Ratlhotshe highly recommends a chilled, crisp dry white wine with slight acidic notes that would undercut the richness of the dish.

The best part? You can make this beautifully delish dish at home for your ‘Liefie’. It’s a heck yes from us!

Prep Time – 10 minutes

Cooking Time – 20 minutes

You’ll need: 1 Chicken fillet; ¼ onion; ¼ red pepper; some peppadews; feta cheese; baby marrow; potatoes; sweetcorn; toasted bread crumbs; oil; butter; garlic; thyme; rosemary; paprika; salt; pepper

To make: Preheat oven to 160°C. For the chicken, thoroughly clean the chicken fillet. Open a pocket on the side for the filling. Season the fillet and rub with paprika for color then sear the fillet in a pan with garlic, thyme and oil. Season with pepper and salt according to taste.

For the filling, finely chop the onion, red pepper and peppadews and sauté in butter in a pan until translucent, adding garlic and thyme. Season to taste. Transfer the mixture into a bowl, add feta cheese and bread crumbs to the mixture, and mix well. Use to stuff the chicken pockets. Close the pocket with toothpicks and place in oven for 20 minutes (10 minutes on each side until both sides are golden brown).

For the sides, roast potatoes in tin foil with rosemary and garlic in the oven. Crush the potatoes mixing garlic, butter, cream and thyme. Remember, the potatoes are only crushed and not mashed and their skins are used as well. Place the selection of oil-brushed veggies (baby marrow, sweetcorn and onions) in the oven and roast until perfection. Season to taste. Serve with chicken jus of your choice.

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