"The trouble is, I can't find a recipe that I feel inspired to make, or that will be recognised as technical enough to earn skill points ..."
I'd first ask:
"What is your favourite style of cooking? Classic French, Greek, Japanese, Paraguayan, Italian, Scottish, Indian, German ?"
Once we have that established, we can whittle down the options.
Secondly, I'd offer this one I did for a dinner party today. You can call it Indian, Caribbean, Exotic, Miami Beach - it could have come from anywhere - but it's not difficult and works well.
Coconut Chicken with Mango and Banana
(Feeds 4 - 6 )
1 kg chicken breasts, skin removed, cleaned
1 large onion, sliced thin
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
2 tbsps fresh grated coconut
1/2 lt coconut milk *
1 small hot red chilli pepper, diced small (optional)
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp curry powder ( Use a good quality brand. I make my own, so it's excellent, of course
. For this dish I used a South Indian combination called Sambhar, which has toasted, ground split lentils in the mix. Don't need to get complicated - the curry is fine! )
2 tsps salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 medium,barely ripe,mango, peeled and diced
2 medium bananas, sliced into rounds
Juice of 1 lime
Ghee, clarified butter or canola oil for frying
In a large frying pan, add a tbsp of ghee/oil and heat. Place the chicken breasts in the oil and sautée until just browned. Turn over and repeat the process, then set aside. Do all the chicken breasts like that.
Using the same oil as you fried the chicken in ( providing it's not burned) , fry the onions until just pale. Add the minced ginger and the chilli pepper, stir for about 30 seconds, then add the curry powder and the grated coconut. Stir once or twice.
Add the coconut milk and stir to mix. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Add the tomato paste and blend well together.
Slice the chicken on the bias into 1/2 - 3/4 inch strips and add to the coconut stock. (If you want to leave the breasts whole, go ahead; if you want to cube them, that's ok too - depends on how you're going to present them.)
Add the salt and simmer gently for about 10 - 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning. (the dish should be salty ; but you're going to add fruit NOW...)
Add the diced mango and mix in gently - you want to preserve the shape without turning the dish into a casserole. Stir once or twice, then add the black pepper and the lime juice. Stir once or twice.
Just before serving, add the banana rounds and mix in to warm through.
Serve with saffron rice or basmati rice & green peas.
(* Coconut milk
.If you want to make your own, take a couple of coconuts ( the brown variety ), remove the milk and then remove the meat. Blitz the meat in a blender/processor and measure it out. What ever measure you use, add double the quantity of water. Place in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower to barely simmer, then cook for 15 minutes. Allow to cool and strain the water through a fine sieve, pressing hard on the solids to squeeze out the juice.
If that's too complicated, simply buy a can or two of unsweetened coconut milk. The Piña Colada stuff is no good; it has to be unsweetened)