Spring chicken & citrus stew

On Tuesday evening I had the lovely Fig over for our usual bout of zombieness and so was flicking around on the internet looking for something to cook. I fancied something stewish as Tuesday was sunny but cold but also something springish and light. I found this recipe online and decided to give it a go. It’s a Jamie Oliver recipe and I do find the ‘a handful of this’ and ‘a handful of that’ approach to be rather annoying, however, it’s all I’ve got to go with so I shall replicate it here.

The recipe as listed serves ‘4-6’, so I scaled it down for just the three of us. Rather than using one chicken and jointing it, as suggested, I opted for 2 bone-in chicken thighs per person, and that seemed to have worked well.

1 large chicken (or two chicken thighs per person)
olive oil
6 cloves of garlic
1 large onion, chopped
1 bulb of fennel, finely chopped
1 leek, thinly sliced
1 handful of asparagus spears (I used about 10 spears) (snap the woody ends off)
1 handful of fresh peas (I used about 200g)
1 handful of broad beans (Sainsbury’s had no broad beans so I opened for trimmed French beans)
½ a bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley
½ a bunch of fresh dill
A few sprigs of fresh tarragon
600ml of chicken stock
1 large handful of stoned green olives (I used 12 large green olives)
1 x 400g tin of cannellini beans
2 lemons
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons of natural yoghurt
Parmesan cheese
Joint the chicken into legs, thighs, breasts and wings.

Put a large saucepan over a medium heat and add 3 tablespoons of olive oil.

Season the chicken portions and place in the pan. Cook for 10 minutes, until browned on all sides, turning regularly, then remove and set aside.

Once you have browned the chicken there should be a bit of fat left in the pan. Add the garlic, onion, leek, fennel and half of the herbs and cook until softened, stirring occasionally.

Place the chicken back in the pan, pour in the stock and season with black pepper. Cover with a lid, then cook over medium-low for around 45 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and falling off the bone.

Bring the mixture back up to a boil, and stir in the olives, peas, broad beans and cannellini beans. When the vegetables are done, add most of the herb leaves, reserving some for garnish.

Remove the chicken from the stew and use 2 forks to pull the meat off the bones. Discard the bones, return the meat to the pan, then season and remove from the heat.

Beat the juice of 2 lemons and the eggs together well, then pour slowly into the stew – don’t let it boil or the egg mixture with scramble.

Stir in the yoghurt before ladling the stew into bowls. (I mis-read this instruction and just dolloped the yoghurt on top. Still, it worked ok.)

Grate over a little Parmesan and serve sprinkled with the reserved herbs.

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Tagine of lamb

My new flatmate, the lovely Neil, moved in on Wednesday, and so I cooked us dinner. I decided to go for this recipe from the book The Beer and Food Companion that Alberto got me for my birthday. The recipe contains pale ale and also recommended a beer to go with it, although we opted for wine instead. I love a bit of Moroccan cooking and I’ve cooked, and blogged loads of different tagines, but none of the others have had ale in them, so I thought it was worth giving it a try. And a lamb tagine is always welcome. I left out the flaked almonds as I don’t like them, other than that I followed the recipe, simply scaling it down from feeding 6 to 2.

I served it with a fluffy, buttery cous-cous.

Serves 6

Olive oil
1.6kg of boneless lamb shoulder, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 large onion, finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
500ml of tomato juice
1 x 400 tin of chopped tomatoes
120g of dried apricots (I cut each in half)
10 stoned dates, chopped
2 tablespoons of sultanas
40g of flaked almonds
600ml of pale ale
1 teaspoon of saffron threads
1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
1½ tablespoons of sweet paprika
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1 teaspoon of ground coriander
1½ tablespoons of ground ginger
1 tablespoon of turmeric
2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, chopped

Combine the pepper, paprika, cumin, coriander, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon in a bowl. Use half the mixture to coat them lamb, then cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for as long as possible, preferably overnight.

Pre-heat the oven to 150.

In a large saucepan heat one tablespoon of olive oil over a medium heat, and add the onion and cook until softened and slightly golden.

In a separate frying pan heat 2 more tablespoons of oil and cook the lamb pieces, browning on all sides. Once browned remove from the heat.

Add the remaing spice mix to the onions and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds more.

Add the lamb to the onions and mix well. Add 250ml of the tomato juice to the pan that you cooked the lamb in and bring to a simmer, scraping up any stuck pieces of lamb. Add this tomato juice to the lamb and onions in the pan.

Add the remaining tomato juice, chopped tomatoes, apricots, dates, sultanas, almond flakes, saffron and beer.

Bring to a simmer, then transfer to a tagine, pop the lid on and bake in the oven for 2 – 2½ hours.

Sprinkle with chopped parsley before serving.

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Salmon and mozzarella puff pastry plat

I saw this recipe on Facebook and decided to give it a go this evening. It’s easy and tasty, so why not give it a go!

Serves 1

1 salmon fillet
A couple of thick slices of mozzarella
1 sheet of pre-rolled puff pastry
A sprinkling of cress
Freshly ground black pepper
Melted butter for brushing

Pre-heat the oven to 200

Lay the sheet of pastry out on a lightly floured surface. Place the salmon fillet in the centre of the sheet.

Sprinkle the cress over the salmon and season with black pepper. Lay the two slices of mozzarella on top of the salmon.

Cut two short tabs in the pastry at the top and bottom of the salmon fillet. Then cut five strips, each about a centimetre wide, on each side of the salmon fillet.

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Tuck the top and bottom pastry tabs over the ends of the salmon. Then plat the strips over the salmon and mozzarella, with alternating strips covering each other, on a slight diagonal, until the whole fillet is covered.

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Pinch the pastry slightly to seal any gaps and then brush all over with melted butter.

Place on a baking tray and then bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until the pastry is golden and slightly risen and the salmon is cooked through.

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Slow-cooked lamb with chickpeas

I had Abigail over last night for The Sensorites episodes 3-6 and so I flicked through several cookbooks and found this in my Islands of Greece cookbook, by Rebecca Seal, that I got from Alberto a couple of years ago. It’s tasty and easy to do, although it does take a while – at least three hours – but as I had the day off that was no problem. It’s also surprisingly tasty, given that the only spice in it is a little allspice. Once again, it’s another reddish-brown dish though – I really must try and blog something that’s a different colour!

I accompanied it with some spinach, wilted in butter, which worked well with the main dish.

Serves 4

2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
800g of stewing lamb in large pieces (the pieces I got from Sainsbury’s were stil on the bone, but that works well as the long cooking time means that it falls easily off the bone.)
2 onions, chopped
400g can of cooked chickpeas
1 tablespoon of tomato purée
120ml of red wine
2 x 400g cans of chopped tomatoes
½ a teaspoon of allspice
500ml of lamb stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 140.

In a large, flameproof casserole heat two tablespoons of the olive oil and brown the meat thoroughly, in batches if necessary. (I don’t have a flameproof casserole dish so I started it off in a large saucepan and then transferred to a lidded cassserole dish for the oven.)

Remove the meat from the pan, add a little more oil if required, reduce the heat, add the onions and cook for 10 minutes or so, until softened and lightly golden.

Whilst the onions are cooking, rub the chickpeas between your fingers to remove the skins.

Add the tomato purée to the pan and cook, stirring regularly, for two minutes. Then add the wine, bubbling it and using it to deglaze the pan.

After two minutes add the tomatoes, chickpeas, allspice, stock and browned meat to the pan and season well.

Pop the lid on and place in the oven. Cook for 2 – 2½ hours with the lid on, then remove the lid and cook for a further hour. This should reduce the liquid a bit and thicken the sauce.

Serve with seasonal greens (in this instance, wilted spinach) and either boiled new potatoes or crusty bread.

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Soutzoukakia – meatballs in tomato sauce with cinnamon and cumin

It’s another one from my new Rick Stein cookbook – I seem to be on a bit of a roll with that book at the moment. I love a meatball (no sniggering at the back there!) and so when I had Neil over for dinner, and some Victoria Wood goodness, on Saturday evening, it seemed like a good opportunity to give this recipe a go. I paired it with the same pilaf rice recipe that I had cooked on Friday, as the recipe said to serve it with rice, and that worked rather well.

I may have made the balls a bit bigger than the recipe intended as it said that the amount listed would make 20-24 balls, whereas I only managed 16, but that was fine – they all cooked through ok anyway. The recipe, apparently originally comes from Thessaloniki and the cinnamon and cumin do give the dish a different flavour from other meatball recipes I’ve tried.

Serves 4

For the meatballs:

500g of minced beef
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 egg, beaten
½ a teaspoon of ground cumin
½ a teaspoon of dried oregano
½ a teaspoon of salt
2 slices of stale white bread, soaked in red wine and squeezed dry
12 turns of black pepper
3 tablespoons of olive oil

For the tomato sauce:

1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
150ml of red wine
1 tablespoon of tomato purée
500ml of passata
½ a teaspoon of salt
12 turns of black pepper

Mix all of the ingredients for the meatballs, except for the olive oil, together in a large bowl. Mix well until thoroughly combined and then shape into 20-24 rugby ball shaped meatballs.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, over a medium-high heat, and fry the meatballs in batches if necessary, until golden all over. (you will need to turn them regularly to avoid sticking.)

Once cooked set the meatballs aside whilst you make the sauce.

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over a medium heaty. Add the onions, garlic, cumin, sugar and cinnamon stick, and sweat the onions for 10 minutes or so, until soft.

Add the red wine, increase the heat to bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to medium again.

Add the tomato purée an passata, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 20 minutes or so, until thickened. (I find it helpful to pop a lid on as the passata does tend to splash a bit – you don’t want to be constantly wiping the hob and walls…)

Add the fried meatballs, cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until cooked through. Keep an eye on the sauce and add a little extra water or red wine if it starts to thicken too much.

Remove the cinnamon stick and serve!

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Kozani chicken with prunes, saffron and paprika served with pilaf rice

Douglas came over for dinner and various bits of cult TV on Friday evening, so I thought I’d give this little recipe a go. (Technically these recipes, as the pilaf rice is also from the same book.) Again, as with Thursday’s dinner it’s from the Rick Stein cookbook Long Weekends. It’s very easy to do and, considerably more flavoursome than I was expecting, given the minimal amount of spices that the recipe calls for. The pilaf rice accompaniment is really nice too. So much so that I also cooked it on Saturday night with a different recipe.

Serves 4

8 skinless chicken thighs (being greedy I used 6 for the two of us – 3 each!)
1 litre of water
A pinch of saffron
4 tablespoons of olive oil
3 red onions, finely sliced
1½ tablespoons of sweet paprika
20 pitted prunes
1 teaspoon of salt
6 turns of black pepper

For the pilaf rice:

Serves 4

60g of onion, finely chopped
30g of butter
350g of long-grain rice
600ml of chicken stock
1 teaspoon of salt
20g of pine nuts, toasted (optional)
20g of fat currants, or sultanas (optional)

Put the chicken thighs in a large saucepan with the water and the saffron. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and allow to poach for 10-15 minutes. Drain the chicken, but retain the water.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium/low heat and sweat the onion until very soft, probably about 10 minutes.

Add the paprika and cook for 2 minutes. Then add the chicken thighs, the prunes and about 700ml of the cooking water. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and the chicken is heated through.

For the rice:

Heat the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat and gently fry the onion for 1-2 minutes. Then add the rice and stir well so that every grain is coated in the butter.

Add the stock and salt. Stir well to combine.

Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. About 5 minutes from the end of the cooking time, stir in the pine nuts and currant, if using.

Serve the chicken and prunes with the rice and covered with the thickened sauce. (I probably didn’t thicken the sauce quite as much as the recipe intended, but a bit more liquid worked well with the dish, especially with the rice.)

Delicious. The saffron imparts a subtle but noticeable flavour to the dish and the chicken is wonderfully tender.

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Poulet au permentier – a gruyère gratin of chicken with tomato and black olives

I had the lovely Abigail over for a spot of dinner and Doctor Who on Thursday evening and so I decided to give this recipe a go. It’s another one from the Rick Stein cookbook Long Weekends, that I got for my birthday. It’s a lovely recipe – tasty and easy to do. It requires shredded cooked chicken so, unless you happen to have some cooked chicken lying about, that does increase the cooking time a bit as you have to cook the chicken first. I just roasted 5 chicken thighs, so they were done in 40 minutes and I could just strip the meat off the bones once they’d cooled a little. Other than that it was all fairly straightforward.

I’m not the biggest fan of olives, either black or green, but they work well in this without being overpowering.

Serves 6

30g of butter
6 large banana shallots, peeled and halved
3 carrots, chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped (as ever, I used 1 fat leek instead.)
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
4 tablespoons of white wine
4 large ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped
1 tablespoon of tomato purèe
350ml of chicken stock
600g of cooked chicken meatm shredded
16 black olives, halved
2 tablespoons of chopped parsley
50g of gruyère cheese

For the topping:
1.5 kg of floury potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
30g of butter
5 tablespoons of double cream
2 egg yolks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Boil the potatoes for the topping in salted water until tender.

Heat the butter in a large saucepan, over a medium heat and sweat the shalllot halves, carrots, celery (leek) and garlic for 10-15 minutes, until soft.

Add the white wine and cook for 1 minute, then add the tomatoes, tomato purèe and chicken stock, and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the sauce has thickened.

Add the cooked chicken, olives and chopped parsley and season with salt and pepper.

Drain the potatoes and mash them until smooth. Add the butter, cream, egg yolks and season well.

Pre-heat the oven to 180.

Place the filling in a large ovenproof disgh and top with the mashed potato.

Grate the gruyère over the top, and bake for 30-35 minutes, until bubbling and golden.



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Viennese Gulasch with spätzle

Sorry it has taken me a while to get ‘round to blogging this – life’s been a bit hectic over the last couple of weeks. I made this on Saturday 25th when my lovely friend Vanessa was down from London for the weekend and we had our friends William and Craig over for dinner. The recipe comes from the new Rick Stein cookbook I got for my birthday.

There was a slight issue in that the spätzle requires the use of a colander, and, unfortunately, I only realised, just as I was about to cook it, that the colander is broken. In the end I repurposed the batter as raspberry pancakes for breakfast the following morning. I’ll still detail the spätzle recipe here, but don’t be surprised that it doesn’t appear in the picture!

The Gulasch was delicious though, and suitably different in flavour from the other gulash recipes that I’ve done before to make it worth blogging. I’m sure that the spätzle would’ve been tasty too, if I’d managed to make it – the pancakes certainly were! As it was I accompanied the gulasch with some sautéed cavolo nero.

Serves 6

100g of lard
1.2kg of onions, peeled and chopped
4 cloves of garlic, grated
1 tablespoon of tomato purée
2 tablespoons of sweet paprika
1½ tablespoons of hot paprika
1 teaspoon of caraway seeds, crushed
2 teaspoons of cider vinegar
2 teaspoons of brown sugar
1½ teaspoons of salt
12 turns of black pepper
1 litre of water
1.5kg of shin of beef, cut into bite-sized pieces (Sainsbury’s didn’t have any shin of beef, but braising steak worked just as well)

For the spätzle

500g of plain flour
2 teaspoons of salt
4 eggs, beaten
250ml of milk
80g of butter
A few pinches of grated nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the lard in a large saucepan over a medium heat and fry the onions fior 10 minutes or so, until a deep golden brown.

Add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Then add the tomato purée, hot and sweet paprika, caraway seeds, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir well to combine and cover with the water.

Bring to the boil then add the beef, turn down the heat and simmer for 2 hours. Check frequently, stirring every so often to prevent sticking and adding more water if necessary.

To make the spätzle: sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Add the eggs and whisk them into the flour.

Still whisking, gradually add the milk until you have a thick batter. Cover and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Once the batter has rested, bring a large, deep pan of salted water to the boil, then turn down to a simmer.

Rest a colander over the pan, ensuring that it is not touching the water.

Push the batter through the holes in the colander with a spatula. Cook for 2-3 minutes until all the noodles have risen to the surface. Drain well.

Heat the butter in a frying pan until foaming. Add the spätzle and fry until golden and coated in butter. Add the nutmeg and pepper, stir well and remove from the heat.

Serve the gulasch with the spätzle.



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Crisp pork and beef pie with onions, red pepper and oregano (Kima bougatsa)

Yesterday, as is usually the way on Wednesdays, I had the morning off and Alberto and I were both finishing work at 8pm, so it was the perfect opportunity to spend the morning cooking this pie, which is also from the new Rick Stein cookbook I got for my birthday. Apparently the recipe is from Thessaloniki and is usually made with sheep’s milk butter, but ordinary butter will do just as well. Judging from the description in the recipe it looks like the sort of pie that is normally cut up into squares for snacks, however it worked just as well as a main course for two. The brittle nature of the filo pastry did mean that it was a bit messy to serve though and doesn’t look that neat on the plate, as you can see from the picture below. Tasty though!

I increased the amount of meat used, in order to bulk it up a bit, and I added ½ a green pepper, as well as the red, for a touch of variety.

Serves 2 (or 12 as party food/snacks)

4 tablespoons of olive oil
4 medium onions, chopped
1 red pepper, finely chopped
½ a green pepper, finely chopped
150g of pork mince (I used 250g)
150g of beef mince (again, I used 250g)
2 tablespoons of tomato purée
½ a teaspoon of dried chilli flakes
2 teaspoons of dried oregano
200ml of chicken stock
½ a teaspoon of salt
Freshly ground black pepper (about 10 turns)
10-12 large sheets of filo pastry (depends how big your dish is – mine was about 30cm square and 3cm deep)
100g of butter, melted

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, over a medium heat, and gently fry the onion and pepper for about 10 minutes or so, until soft.

Add the pork and beef, breaking up any lumps with a wooden spoon, and continue to fry for a further 10 minutes or so, stirring frequently, until evenly browned.

Add the chilli flakes, oregano, tomato purée and stock, and season with salt and pepper. Stir well to combine and then continue to cook, for about a further 10 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Remove from the heat and set aside to cook.

Pre-heat the oven to 190.

Lay a sheet of filo pastry over the base of your chosen pie dish. Brush with butter. Repeat with a further 5 sheets, brushing each sheet with butter after laying it in the dish. (The sheets I was using were slightly longer than they were wide, so I alternated the direction of each sheet so as to get good coverage up the sides of the dish.

Spread the cooled filling over the filo, then lay another sheet of filo pastry over the top. Brush it with butter and then continue laying sheets over the top, buttering each sheet, until you have used them all up. Finish by buttering the top.

Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until crisp and golden.

Allowing it to cool slightly before serving might make it a bit easier to serve, but hey – it had been a long day at work and Alberto and I were hungry! (If you were using it as snacks for a party, rather than a main meal, then allow it to cool a little and then cut into 12 even squares.)

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Fennel and sausage ragu with tagliatelle

On Tuesday evening, with Fig on holiday and thus unavailable, I had the lovely Phil Dukes over for dinner and Doctor Who. (we opted for the The Androids of Tara, which follows on from The Stones of Blood, which we watched last time.) This gave me the opportunity to select a recipe from the other new cook book that I got for my birthday – Rick Stein’s Long Weekends, which Vanessa and Matt got for me. There are loads of lovely recipes in there, but this one caught my eye. It looked tasty, full of flavours and fairly quick and easy to do, as well as being filling enough to serve all three of us. (Alberto was working late, so I’d promised him dinner for when he got home.)

I was slightly hampered by the fact that Sainsbury’s only sell sausagemeat at Christmas (daft – you might want to make Scotch Eggs, or sausage pie at any time of year!) but I got some pork sausages, skinned them and that worked fine.

The recipe gives instructions and ingredients for making your own fresh tagliatelle, however, I didn’t have the time or the inclination (or a pasta machine) to make it fresh, so I opted for fresh tagliatelle from Sainsbury’s.

Serves 4

400g of coarse pork sausagemeat
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, grated
2 sticks of celery, chopped (or 1 fat leek)
¾ of a teaspoon of fennel seeds, roughly ground (I left the seeds whole, and that was fine)
½ a teaspoon of chilli flakes
A sprig of fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of salt
Freshly ground black pepper (about 10—12 turns of the grinder)
150ml of dry white wine
150ml of double cream
150ml of chicken stock
50g of grated Parmiggianno or Parmesan to serve
Sufficient fresh tagliatelle for four
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over a medium heat and then add the sausagemeat, breaking it up as you fry it, with a wooden spoon. Fry over a medium heat, stirring regularly, for 10 minutes or so, until nicely browned and cooked through.

Add the onions, fennel seeds, chilli flakes, rosemary and salt and pepper and stir well to combine, and cook for 10 minutes or so, until the onion has started to soften.

Pour in the wine, using it to deglaze the bottom of the pan, and cook for a few minutes until the wine is reduced by half.

Then add the cream and chicken stock. Stir well. Pop a lid on the pan and simmer the mixture gently for half an hour, stirring occasionally.

Cook the tagliatelle as per the instructions on the packet. Once cooked, drain.

Once the creamy mixture is cooked and the sauce has thickened, add the cooked tagliatelle and combine well.

Serve immediately, sprinkled with the Parmiggianio


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