Chicken chasseur

A week or so back I was contacted by the Provence tourist board with the email subject line being “A (hopefully) interesting proposition”. I open the email and read on with interest but unfortunately it wasn’t a break for two in Provence! Instead they were offering me a box of French products to cook with. The exact contents of the pack were unknown but lavender was more than likely to be included.

Now as you’re all aware I cook more than my fair share of Italian dishes so I knew this wouldn’t be easy. I thought about it though and decided it would be good to challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone. I agreed and a few days later a box was delivered to my house. I opened the box and the smell of lavender filled my home. The box contained dried lavender suitable for cooking with, lavender infused olive oil, bay leaves, goats cheese biscuits and seasoned dried tomato paste. A bit of a random combination I’m sure you’ll agree so they definitely weren’t all going to be in the same dish.

I grabbed my some what neglected and dusty copy of Larousse gastronomique from the book shelf and sat down to research the cooking in Provence and in particular the use of lavender. Unfortunately I found little inspiration or help in this my only French cook book. I’ll admit I haven’t used this book much but I thought this would be the perfect opportunity. I found it difficult to find a recipe in the book and there was no mention of lavender at all. So I headed off to the internet. I found a few really detailed and useful posts on cooking with lavender and making lavender sugar on prepped. I also found a wide variety of French recipes on delicious magazine’s website.

So far I have prepared some lavender sugar following the directions from prepped and in a week or so it will be ready for me to use and I already know what I am going to make with it but I will leave that for another blog post.With the more savoury ingredients I cooked chicken chasseur last night and I have to say it was delicious. A real eye opener that I need to push myself outside of my comfort zone of British and Italian cooking and try more different cuisines and recipes in general. The smells coming from the kitchen whilst it was simmering away were mouth watering. I suspect a big hit of flavour came from the dried tomato paste. Even before I put it in the pan it smelt fantastic. The ingredients are dried tomatoes, sunflower oil, peeled tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, mozzarella, salt and pepper. I’ve never paid much attention to the tomato pastes available in the supermarkets over here and stuck to simple tomato puree/paste but I’ll be on the look out for something similar in the future. I served the chicken chasseur with some crushed new potatoes and it was the perfect meal for a rainy monday evening.

So that only leaves the goats cheese biscuits (some of which got crushed in the post) so I imagine they’ll make good “croutons” with a salad and the lavender infused olive oil. I have no idea what to do with the oil so if any one has ever used it I would love to know what it works well for.

Chicken chasseur
From Delicious magazine
Serves 2

4 skinned and boned chicken thighs
2 large fresh thyme sprigs, leaves picked
olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 tbsp tomato purée
100ml dry white wine
100ml chicken stock
150g small chestnut mushrooms, halved
1 bay leaf
100g fresh or canned chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp fresh flatleaf parsley, chopped

  • Open out the chicken thighs and place skinned-side down on a work surface. Sprinkle with half the thyme and some seasoning, roll back into shape and tie at each end with string.
  • Heat a deep, non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp oil and fry the chicken pieces until golden all over. Set aside.
  • Add more oil if needed, the shallot and garlic to the pan.
  • Fry for 4-5 minutes until lightly browned.
  • Stir in the purée, cook for 1 minute, add the wine and stock, and bring to the boil.
  • Return the chicken to the pan with the mushrooms, remaining thyme, bay leaves and some seasoning.
  • Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Uncover, stir in the tomatoes and simmer for 30-35 minutes.
  • Turn the chicken now and then, cooking until the chicken is tender and the sauce has reduced.
  • Sprinkle with the parsley and serve with mashed potatoes or new potatoes.

Bill’s basics review

I must confess to being a big fan of Bill Granger. I love his simple, laid back way of cooking and presenting. In this cookbook he presents over 100 recipes that are his favorite, classics (think coq au vin, spaghetti carbonara, fish and chips and ‘fried’ chicken) which he has worked his magic on, not only simplifying but also putting his spin on them to modernise them. Examples include fish and chips, where the fish is coated in bread crumbs and shallow fried (instead of battered and deep-fried), coq au vin which can be made in less than one hour and ‘fried’ chicken which is oven baked yet he says still has all the flavour of southern fried chicken (this recipe is next on my list to try, so I can not confirm this).

Of course there is a chapter on his trademark breakfasts as well as baking, soups, meat, seafood, chicken, vegetables, rice, pasta and bread, salads and desserts. The recipes all appear simple and straight forward, the photographs are stunning and Bill’s passion for food and good home cooking is evident throughout.

So far I have tried Bills coq au vin, which he cooked on Saturday kitchen (and is also in this months Sainsbury’s magazine) and the recipe can be found here.  The recipe was straight forward to cook and tasted delicious (it reminded me of this dish from his last book feed me now). I also cooked his fish and chips with tartare sauce recipe. The fish had a subtle hint of paprika which I really enjoyed and the chips were deliciously crisp on the outside and fluffy in the middle.

Fish and chips
Serves 4

75g plain flour
1/2 tsp paprika
1tsp ground cumin
2 eggs, lightly beaten
80g fresh breadcrumbs
500g firm white fish fillets, cut into fat strips
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra just in case
25g butter, plus extra just in case

    To serve

    Oven-baked chips
    Tartare sauce
    Lemon wedges
    Chopped flat leaf parsley

        • Mix the flour, paprika and cumin with sea salt and ground black pepper in a bowl. Season the breadcrumbs well with sea salt and black pepper and put in another bowl. Put the eggs in a third bowl.
        • Dip each piece of fish in the flour, then the egg, then in the breadcrumbs.
        • Heat the olive oil and butter in a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook the fish strips, in batches, for about 2 minutes on each side until lightly golden, adding a little more butter and oil to the pan if needed.
        • Serve with oven-baked chips, tartare sauce, lemon wedges and a scattering of parsley.

          Oven-baked chips

          1.25kg potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
          3 tsp olive oil

              • Preheat the oven to 230C/gas mark 8 and put a couple of baking trays in the oven for 20 minutes to heat up. Cut the potatoes into chips, dry with a clean tea towel, toss with the oil and sprinkle with sea salt.
              • Put the chips on baking paper on top of the hot baking trays and bake for 30 minutes, turning once, or until golden.

                Tartare sauce
                serves 4

                4tbsp mayonnaise
                2 gherkins, finely chopped
                2tsp tiny salted capers, rinsed and chopped
                1tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
                1tsp snipped chives
                Lemon juice to taste

                    • Stir together all the ingredients.

                      Thank you to Quadrille publishing for sending me a review copy of Bills basics.

                      Cookbook review – John Torode’s Chicken and other birds

                      Chicken used to be one of my favorite meats and I used to cook it at least once a week. Right now though I can’t remember the last time I cooked it. Its not that I’ve gone off chicken but more that I’m a less fussy eater and cook a wider range of dishes. However this book could hold the next chicken recipe I cook. 256 pages on chicken and other birds, cooked in a variety of different styles and cuisines, with this book you’ll never be short of inspiration for chicken again! But this book is more than a book of chicken, there are also lots of recipes and information on cooking game birds too.

                      The first thing I liked about this book was the removable jacket sleeve with a flow diagram of what to do with your chicken. From poaching or roasting it whole, to jointing and grilling it or using the meat in curries, pies or kebabs. This diagram inspires you to turn to the book for recipes, ideas and tips for getting the most out of your chicken. As well as the recipes which I will cover in a minute, there is lots of other useful information such as a calendar of the game seasons so you know what to eat when its at its best, a brief guide to all the types of bird you might wish to cook, what to look for when shopping for chicken (no not the 2 for £5 stickers), jointing a bird and a list of poultry and game dealers.

                      So on to the recipes. The book is split in to chapters on the following topics soups and stocks, snacks and starters, legs and breasts, salads, curries, barbecues, roasts, one pot wonders, tarts, pies and pasties, pasta, noodles and grains and finally confit, terrines, pates and pastrami. Each chapter has a brief introduction by John which will inspire you to try the recipes. Some of the recipes that I want to try include chicken Cesar salad, some of the 8 different chicken kebab ideas (oregano and garlic, chicken and prawns with pancetta, Chinese chicken with sesame seeds), the roast chicken with olives and lemons, and the chicken paella. There are nearly as many game bird recipes as their are chicken ones such as penne with ragout of game sausage and red wine, guinea fowl tagine, five-spiced Chinese duck with bok choy and oyster sauce and pheasant wrapped in proscuitto with polenta. I’ve never eaten game, let alone cooked it but should I ever decide to this will be the book I reach for. Scattered throughout the recipes John also offers lots of useful advice and tips.

                      Whilst I would not normal buy cookbooks that focus on one type of meat I do think this is a good book. Its stuffed full of mouth watering pictures and John’s useful hints and tips. Although you may glance over this book on the shelf if your not a fan of chicken or think you know all there is to know as chicken I think this book is a great introduction to cooking other types of birds.

                      Thanks to Quadrille publishing for sending me a copy of this book to review.

                      Further information:
                      John Torode’s chicken and other birds.
                      Published by Quadrille publishing, September 2009
                      Hardback, full colour photography, pages 256
                      ISBN 978 1 84400 715 8
                      £20

                      Fresh from the oven – Stuffed buns

                      This months Fresh from the oven challenge was hosted by Ria from Ria’s Collections. She picked a family favorite Stuffed Bun recipe for this month’s challenge. It is basically a bun stuffed with a Spicy Indian Chicken filling (or a vegetarian filling if you prefer).

                      I’d seen a recipe for stuffed buns before that I liked the look of but this is the first time I’ve baked anything like this myself. I liked the idea though of the buns being a complete snack, bread buns filled with a delicious, spicy chicken mixture.

                      So how did I get on –
                      The dough was wetter than I am used to and I had to add some extra flour. I’m afraid I cheated a bit and didn’t knead by hand for 10 minutes but used my KitchenAid. I also found that my dough didn’t rise very much, after an hour and a half and very little rising I decided to carry on regardless with the rest of the recipe. Consequently I only managed to make 5 buns (should have made 12!), never the less the bread still tasted soft when finished. They are very quick to bake so keep an eye on them in the oven. The filling in these buns was delicious and as for the bread it’s self I found it too sweet but my boyfriend loved it!

                      Stuffed Bun

                      Yields 12 buns
                      For the dough:

                      Ingredients
                      Dry yeast-1 tbsp
                      Warm water-2tbsp
                      Milk-1/2 cup
                      Salt to taste
                      Oil-1/2 cup
                      All purpose flour-2 cups
                      Sugar-1/4 cup
                      Egg-1, beaten
                      Egg white-1,for egg wash
                      White sesame seeds for sprinkling
                      Method
                      • Dissolve the yeast in warm water with 1/2tbsp sugar and 1/2 tbsp of all purpose flour. Leave aside for 10 minutes.
                      • Boil the milk and allow to cool down till it is warm to touch. Add sugar, oil and salt.
                      • Mix well with a wooden spoon till the sugar dissolves and add 1 cup flour and mix to a smooth paste.
                      • Add the beaten egg, yeast and mix.Add the remaining flour and mix well till it forms a smooth dough.
                      • Knead well for 10 mins.[We knead it using our hands]
                      • Let it rest till it doubles in volume.
                      • Punch down the dough lightly using your palm and divide them equally.
                      • Flatten them into small discs and fill them with 1 tbsp of the filling. Re-shape them into a ball.Sprinkle the top with sesame seeds.
                      • Let it prove for another 20 mins.
                      • Bake them in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees for 10 mins. When it starts to brown, give them an egg wash using 1 slightly beaten egg white.
                      Spicy Indian chicken filling

                      Ingredients
                      Boneless chicken-200g, boiled and shredded
                      Onions-4 big, finely chopped
                      Ginger garlic paste-1 tbsp
                      Chilli powder-1/2 -1tbsp [depending on your spice level]
                      Coriander powder-1/2 tbsp
                      Salt to taste
                      Oil-3 tbsp
                      Method
                      • Heat oil, add the ginger garlic paste and saute till it gives out a nice aroma.
                      • Add the onions. Saute them till soft and transparent.
                      • Reduce the heat and add the powders and mix well for 2 mins.
                      • Add the shredded chicken and mix well.
                      • Keep it off the fire and let it cool.
                      • Use it for filling the dough.

                      Cookbook review – The Eagle cookbook – David Eyre & The Eagle chefs

                      I’m going to start this review being totally honest with you:

                      • I’ve never eaten at The Eagle,
                      • Up until hearing about this book on Twitter I wasn’t even aware of this gastropub,
                      • I haven’t seen the original recipe book (which this new book is an update and redesign of) – Big flavours and rough edges,
                      • I received this book free in order to review it from Absolute Press.

                      So for those of you like me that aren’t aware of The Eagle, it is a gastropub in Farringdon London which was taken over by chefs David Eyre and Michael Belben in 1991. This was the first gastropub, revolutionising the way we British eat out. Since then gastropubs have sprung up all over the country, offering great quality food in a relaxed environment.

                      Anyway on to the cookbook. There are chapters on:

                      • soups (including Andalucian garlic soup with soft boiled egg and spicy mussel soup),
                      • salads (roasted pumpkin and red onion salad and Spanish roast vegetable salad),
                      • meals on toast (bruschetta),
                      • eggs for dinner,
                      • pasta (penne with sausage, tomato and sage and egg fettuccine with ricotta, peas and smoked pancetta),
                      • rice (risottos and paellas),
                      • fish (Baked sea bass with tomatoes),
                      • meat (grilled leg of venison and braised garlic chicken)
                      • and side dishes (Sicillian aubergine relish and celeriac mash)

                      Each chapter includes an introduction to the chapter including such topics as what to pair fish with, grilling and roasting meat and a particularly good page on risotto law and rules. I especially like the way each recipe has a short introductory paragraph or two including a description of the flavours or the look of the dish, its origin and helpful hints and tips. Beautiful photographs are used throughout the book, not only to illustrate the mouthwatering, delicious looking food but also of The Eagle pub. I loved the writing style and the layout of the book as well. I may have only cooked one recipe from the book so far but I have read much more of the book and learnt alot.

                      On my first flick through of the book I thought the recipes were going to be complex, the types of recipes that are great to cook when you want to impress but not much good for everyday cooking. Although these recipes look and sound like they would certainly impress, on closer inspection many of them are not as complicated as I imagined. There is a good mixture of relatively simple dishes (some quick, some not so quick) and some that are a bit more complicated but the emphasis of the book is very much on using good quality ingredients, maximising the flavours and cooking great food in a relatively simple manner. I tried out one recipe from the book which with the permission of the publishers I have included below. It was simple, quick and tasty. I will definitely cooking this recipe again and I am already looking forward to trying out more recipes from the book. In particular I can see myself trying out some of the pasta dishes, the soups and stews in the autumn/winter and the next time I do want to cook something a bit special this will be the first book off the shelf.Grilled chicken breasts with oregano, lemon and black pepper
                      David Eyre

                      Serves 4
                      4 large free range chicken breasts
                      2 tbsp finely chopped fresh oregano (or marjoram) – you could use dried for a different result, but use less than half the quantity
                      3 tbsp olive oil
                      1 small dried chilli, crushed
                      More freshly ground black pepper than you would expect – about 1 level tablespoon
                      2 lemons
                      Sea salt

                      • Wash and dry the chicken breasts. Mix with the oreagano, oil, chilli, black pepper and grated zest of one of the lemons and leave to marinate whilst the grill heats up or the charcoal dies down to an even medium heat.
                      • when ready to cook, salt the chicken and squeeze one of the lemons all over them.
                      • Cook the breasts, turning them 90 degrees once on each side, then remove from the heat.
                      • Squeeze the juice of the other lemon over them, sprinkle with a little more olive oil and leave to rest for a moment. If you happen to have some truffle oil, now is the time to make good use of it.
                      • Serve with a mixed leaf salad containing chives, parsley and spring onions.

                      My version:
                      I used dried oregano and didn’t use any truffle oil. I cooked mine on a griddle pan after leaving the chicken to marinade for about one hour (there was no length of time specified in the recipe so I don’t know if this was too long or too short). I served mine with new potatoes, griddled courgettes and oyster mushrooms.

                      Thank you to Absolute Press for sending me a review copy of this fantastic book.

                      Further information:
                      The Eagle cookbook – David Eyre & The Eagle chefs.
                      Published by Absolute Press in 2009.
                      Hardback, full colour illustrations, 192 pages.
                      ISBN 9781906650056
                      Price £20
                      Available to buy now.

                      Daring Cooks – Rice with mushrooms, cuttlefish and artichokes

                      This months Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Olga from Las Cosas de Olga and Olga’s Recipes. She chosen a delicious Spanish recipe, Rice with mushrooms, cuttlefish and artichokes by José Andrés, one of the most important Spanish Chefs at the moment. The recipe is from his US TV show Made in Spain. To watch how Jose Andres cooks this dish click here for a utube video.

                      After missing last months Daring Cooks challenge I was looking forward to finding out this months challenge. Initially I was not looking forward to the recipe but I decided to substitute the cuttlefish for chicken and give it a go anyway. During July I didn’t spend all that much time in my kitchen so this was the first time in a while I got back in the kitchen and cooked something that wasn’t familiar, quick or simple. Once I started to cook I started to realise just how much I had missed the relaxation and enjoyment I get from cooking. Since this is supposed to be a challenge I decided to try the Allioli using the traditional method. It was a complete disaster to say the least! But not one to give up I started again and made it following the modern method which worked well. However neither me or my boyfriend like the taste of raw garlic so we didn’t really enjoy the alloli however I’m glad we gave it a try.

                      I really enjoyed cooking this recipe and the resulting dish was absolutly deliscious and very flavourful. I’m really glad I joined the Daring Cooks as otherwise I would have never cooked this dish. I froze the left over sofregit so in a few weeks I can cook this dish again and it will only take half the time! However I can definately see myself cooking the whole recipe from scratch again (without the allioli) and even looking up further recipes from Made in Spain. Thanks again Olga for chosing this recipe and hosting this months challenge.

                      Rice with mushrooms, cuttlefish (or chicken in my case!) and artichokes
                      Cooking time: 45 minutes

                      serves 4

                      4 Artichokes (you can use jarred or freezed if fresh are not available)
                      12 Mushrooms (button or Portobello)
                      1 or 2 Bay leaves (optional but highly recommended)
                      1 glass of white wine
                      2 Cuttlefish (you can use freezed cuttlefish or squid if you don’t find it fresh). I substituted this with chicken breasts.
                      “Sofregit” (see recipe below)
                      300 gr (2 cups) Short grain rice (Spanish types Calasparra or Montsant are preferred, but you can choose any other short grain. This kind of rice absorbs flavor very well) – about 75 gr per person ( ½ cup per person) Please read this for more info on suitable rices.
                      Water or Fish Stock (use 1 ½ cup of liquid per ½ cup of rice)
                      saffron threads (if you can’t find it or afford to buy it, you can substitute it for turmeric or yellow coloring powder)
                      Allioli (olive oil and garlic sauce, similar to mayonnaise sauce) – optional

                      Directions:

                      • Cut the cuttlefish in little strips (or dice the chicken).
                      • Add 1 or 2 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and put the cuttlefish (or chicken) in the pan.
                      • If you use fresh artichokes, clean them and cut in eights.
                      • Clean the mushrooms and cut them in fourths.
                      • Add a bay leaf to the chicken and add also the artichokes and the mushrooms.
                      • Sauté until you get a golden color in the artichokes.
                      • Put a touch of white wine so all the solids in the bottom of the get mixed, getting a more flavorful dish.
                      • Add a couple or three tablespoons of sofregit and mix to make sure everything gets impregnated with the sofregit.
                      • Add all the liquid and bring it to boil.
                      • Add all the rice. Let boil for about 5 minutes in heavy heat.
                      • Add some saffron thread to enrich the dish with its flavor and color. Stir a little bit so the rice and the other ingredients get the entire flavor. If you’re using turmeric or yellow coloring, use only 1/4 teaspoon.
                      • Turn to low heat and boil for another 8 minutes (or until rice is a little softer than “al dente”)
                      • Put the pan away from heat and let the rice stand a couple of minutes.

                      Sofregit (a well cooked and fragrant sauce made of olive oil, tomatoes, garlic and onions, and may at times different vegetables such as peppers or mushrooms)

                      Cooking time: aprox. 1 hour

                      Ingredients:

                      2 tablespoons of olive oil
                      5 big red ripe tomatoes, chopped
                      2 small onions, chopped
                      1 green pepper, chopped (optional)
                      4 or 5 garlic cloves, chopped
                      1 cup of button or Portobello mushrooms, chopped (optional)
                      1 Bay leaf
                      Salt
                      Touch of ground cumin
                      Touch of dried oregano

                      Directions:

                      • Put all the ingredients together in a frying pan and sauté slowly until all vegetables are soft.
                      • Taste and salt if necessary (maybe it’s not!)

                      Allioli is the optional part of the recipe. You must choose one of the two recipes given, even though I highly recommend you to try traditional one. Allioli is served together with the rice and it gives a very nice taste

                      Allioli (Traditional recipe)
                      Cooking time: 20 min aprox.
                      Ingredients:

                      4 garlic cloves, peeled
                      Pinch of salt
                      Fresh lemon juice (some drops)
                      Extra-virgin olive oil (Spanish preferred but not essential)

                      Directions:

                      • Place the garlic in a mortar along with the salt.
                      • Using a pestle, smash the garlic cloves to a smooth paste. (The salt stops the garlic from slipping at the bottom of the mortar as you pound it down.)
                      • Add the lemon juice to the garlic.
                      • Drop by drop; pour the olive oil into the mortar slowly as you continue to crush the paste with your pestle.
                      • Keep turning your pestle in a slow, continuous circular motion in the mortar. The drip needs to be slow and steady. Make sure the paste soaks up the olive oil as you go.
                      • Keep adding the oil, drop by drop, until you have the consistency of a very thick mayonnaise. If your allioli gets too dense, add water to thin it out. This takes time—around 20 minutes of slow motion around the mortar—to create a dense, rich sauce.

                      José’s tips for traditional recipe: It’s hard to think that, when you start crushing the garlic, it will ever turn into something as dense and smooth as allioli. But don’t give up. It’s worth the extra time and effort to see the oil and garlic come together before your eyes. Just make sure you’re adding the olive oil slowly, drop by drop. Keep moving the pestle around the mortar in a circular motion and keep dreaming of the thick, creamy sauce at the end of it all.

                      Allioli a la moderna (Modern recipe)
                      Cooking time: 3-4 minutes
                      Ingredients:

                      1 small egg
                      1 cup extra-virgin olive oil (as above, Spanish oil is highly recommended)
                      1 garlic clove, peeled
                      1 Tbs. Spanish Sherry vinegar or lemon juice (if Sherry vinegar is not available, use can use cider or white vinegar)
                      Salt to taste

                      Directions:

                      • Break the egg into a mixing bowl.
                      • Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the garlic cloves, along with the vinegar or lemon juice.
                      • Using a hand blender, start mixing at high speed until the garlic is fully pureed into a loose paste.
                      • Little by little, add what’s left of the olive oil as you continue blending.
                      • If the mixture appears too thick as you begin pouring the oil, add 1 teaspoon of water to loosen the sauce.
                      • Continue adding the oil and blending until you have a rich, creamy allioli.
                      • The sauce will be a lovely yellow color.
                      • Add salt to taste.

                      José’s tips for modern recipe:
                      (1) If you do not have access to a hand blender, you can use a hand mixer (the kind with the two beaters) or a food processor. If you use a food processor, you must double the recipe or the amount will be too little for the blades to catch and emulsify.
                      (2) What happens if the oil and egg separate? Don’t throw it out. You can do two things. One is to whisk it and use it as a side sauce for a fish or vegetable. But if you want to rescue the allioli, take 1 tablespoon of lukewarm water in another beaker and start adding to the mix little by little. Blend it again until you create the creamy sauce you wanted.

                      Olga’s Tips:
                      (1) In Spain, rice is not stired as often as it is when cooking Italian risotto. You must stir it once or twice maximum. This tip is valid for all Spanish rice dishes like paella, arròs negre, arròs a banda…
                      (2) When cooking the alternative style you can change the cuttlefish or squid for diced potato.
                      (3) If you can’t find cuttlefish or squid, or you’re not able to eat them because of allergies, you can try to substitute them for chicken or vegetables at your choice.
                      (4) Sofregit can be done in advance. You can keep it in the fridge or even freeze it.
                      (5) For more information on how to clean and remove the heart of artichokes, please watch this video
                      (6) For more information on how to clean and remove the heart of artichokes, please watch this video
                      (7) To tone down the taste when you do it by hand in a mortar, then add an egg yolk. If you want to tone it down in the alternative way use milk or soy milk. Anyway, the best alternative way is the original oil and garlic alone.
                      (8) Allioli must be consumed during the preparation day and preserved in the fridge before using it.
                      (9) For help on conversion on metric to imperial, visit this page.

                      Roast chicken

                      A few weeks back Able and Cole sent me one of their free range, organic chickens to try for free in exchange for a review on my blog. For anyone that doesn’t know Able and Cole are an organic food deli every company. They are best known for their veg boxes that are delivered to your door each week. They also offer a wide range of other organic food that can also be delivered to you. I was initially concerned about having fresh food delivered (that needs refrigeration) in case no one was in when it was delivered. Veg boxes may be fine left outside for several hours but this is not appropriate for fresh chickens. I needn’t of worried though, not only was the delivery before 8am (meaning the chicken was in the fridge before work) but it was delivered in a polystyrene box with plenty of ice packs on top of it to keep it cool. The chicken also comes with the giblets which doesn’t often happen in the supermarket. Mine are sat in the freezer waiting for me to find time to make stock.


                      I thought about cooking it in a different way to the normal simple roast I usually do but then decided it would be best to keep it simple and see if I could taste the difference. I usually buy a supermarket free range chicken (not usually organic though) which costs around £4 per kg. Able and Cole’s comes in at £6.76 per kg. I served the chicken with some baby new potatoes and asparagus.


                      So the big question could we notice the difference? Yes, we both thought the chicken had a stronger taste.

                      Will I be switching to organic chickens? not at the moment. The cost is the big issue for me. I strongly believe in only buying free range chickens but at the moment my budget won’t stretch to organic as well.

                      Next month I will be reviewing a selection of items from their new summer range. Suggestions on ideas for using taleggio cheese appreciated! (Its not a cheese I know anything about)

                      Chicken and pesto pizza

                      I’ve been meaning to make a roast chicken (leftovers from Sunday lunch) and pesto pizza for some time and tonight I finally got round to it. It was definitely worth the wait! Sorry about the poor picture of one lonely slice but in our eagerness to try it I forgot to take any pictures until it was nearly too late! Pesto makes a delicious pizza sauce and a nice change from the classic tomato sauce.

                      Chicken and pesto pizza

                      For the dough
                      makes 3 pizza’s or 1 pizza and a focaccia to go with it

                      325ml warm water
                      5g dried yeast
                      1 tbsp olive oil (I usually use extra virgin for breads/pizzas)
                      500g strong white bread flour
                      1-2 tsp salt

                      For the topping
                      Pesto
                      shredded leftover roast chicken
                      ball of mozzarella cheese

                      • Place all the dry ingredients in a food mixer (if using) and fit the dough hook to the mixer head.
                      • Put the mixer on low speed (2 for KitchenAids – consult the manual for other mixers) and slowly add the liquid ingredients to the bowl.
                      • Once all the ingredients are combined leave to knead for 3-5 minutes or until the dough is smooth and springs back when prodded.
                      • If you don’t have a mixer place all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the liquid to the well and use a wood spoon to mix until it is too difficult and then use your hands. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth and springy.
                      • Leave to rise until doubled in size (around 1 to 1.5hrs).
                      • Preheat the oven to 250C or as hot as the oven gets.
                      • Gently knock the air out of the dough.
                      • Remove a third of the dough and on a lightly floured surface roll out the dough into the desired shape size.
                      • Spread a layer of pesto over the dough, leaving a 2cm boarder around the edge.
                      • Scatter over the shredded chicken pieces.
                      • Top with mozzarella cheese.
                      • Bake in a hot oven for around 1o minutes or until the crust is golden.

                      Baked chicken with lemon, potato & green olives

                      I love Bill Granger’s relaxed, laid back style of cooking (catch him this week on UKTV foods Market kitchen). His books and TV shows always remind be of summer and he always inspires me to cook simple tasty food. The only down side is that they never seem quiet right during the cold British winter. It’s always around this time of year I like to revisit his recipes again for the summer.

                      I bought his latest book (Feed me now!) a few weeks back looking forward to new inspiration for the upcoming spring/summer. However his latest book is a bit different from his previous offerings. All the photos are shot in this country and it gives the book a completely different feel. I can quiet easily see myself cooking from this book all year round. The recipes are divided in to easy to navigate sections. All the usual sections are there – Breakfast (for which he is famous for), lunch, afternoon treats, family dinners, after work dinners, budget cooking, freeze ahead dishes, entertaining and desserts.

                      The first recipe I tried was his baked chicken with lemon, potato & green olives. It also meant I got to try out my new poultry shears. As I was only cooking for 2 people I halved all the ingredients and only used the chicken thighs, legs and wings. This is an incredibly simple dish to prepare after work and since it is a one pot dish there is very little washing up (I cooked some green beans separately as I wanted some extra veg so this did increased the washing up by 1 pan!). The only downside is that it takes just over 1 hour from starting preparing to hitting the table. However most of this hour is oven baking time leaving you free to do other things. The result was well worth the wait and I can see this becoming a regular feature on my meal planner. The chicken was moist and the flavours worked really well together (the lemon and the balsamic flavour worked well with the salty flavours of the bacon and olives). I’m really looking forward to trying more recipes from this book.

                      Baked chicken with lemon, potato & green olives


                      Serves 4
                      1kg roasting potatoes, such as Desiree (I used baby new potatoes and the roasted a treat)
                      1 red onion, peeled and cut into wedges
                      75g green olives
                      1 lemon
                      50g pancetta, cut into strips (I substituted this with smokey bacon)
                      2 bay leaves
                      1 tbsp tomato paste
                      1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
                      120ml chicken stock
                      1 x 1.7kg chicken, jointed
                      1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
                      sea salt
                      freshly ground black pepper

                      • Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4.
                      • Cut the potatoes in to small chunks and put them in a roasting tin or ovenproof dish.
                      • Scatter over the onion wedges, olives, lemon slices, pancetta and bay leaves.
                      • Add the tomato paste and balsamic vinegar to the chicken stock and stir to dissolve/mix.
                      • Pour the stock over the potato mixture.
                      • Put the chicken pieces on top.
                      • Drizzle over the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
                      • Roast in the oven for 50 minutes or until the chicken is cooked/golden.
                      • Remove the chicken pieces, cover and allow to rest.
                      • Turn the oven up to 220C/Gas 7 and return the dish to the oven for 10 minutes or until everything is well coloured and the potatoes are cooked.
                      • Place the chicken back in the dish (remove the bay leaves) and serve.

                      Chicken leftover – Chicken Noodle Soup

                      I’ve wanted to cook a chicken noodle soup for some time. As I’ve mentioned before though I don’t cook a lot of oriental dishes. A few things have put me off cooking a noodle soup before, such as believing the recipe would involve a lot of oriental ingredients that I would have to buy for one dish (fish sauce, pickled bamboo etc), that it would take me ages to cook and then I wouldn’t like the end result (I didn’t like the noodle soup I chose in wagamam) and I don’t like coriander! However I am glad I tried this recipe that I found in Leith’s Simple Cookery. I think it is a little over simplified so any suggestions to make it more authentic without over complicating it (or involving pickled bamboo or coriander) would be welcomed. I’m thinking along the lines of replacing the sweetcorn with some other veg but not sure which. The soup element of this dish does have a really nice taste with a bit of a kick to it (from the chilli and the ginger) so I don’t think I’ll play around with that too much. All in all a simple week night dish (which in my house at least is a bit different to the usual pasta I serve!).

                      Chicken Noodle Soup
                      Adapted from Leith’s Simple Cookery

                      Serves 2
                      800ml Chicken stock
                      1 tbsp root ginger, finely grated
                      1 red chilli, finely chopped (I used a dried chilli as that was all I had).
                      1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
                      2 portions of vermicelli noodles, cooked according to the packet
                      cup of frozen sweetcorn
                      100g cooked chicken, shredded
                      1 tbsp soy sauce.
                      1/2 tbsp thai fish sauce if you have it (or if not available use extra soy sauce – as I did & as recommended by the original recipe).

                      • In a saucepan bring to the boil the stock, ginger, garlic and chilli. Simmer for 5 minutes.
                      • add the cooked noodles (drained), sweetcorn and chicken to the pan. Add the soy sauce, thai fish sauce (if using) and season with salt and pepper to taste. (I only added pepper as soy sauce and the chicken stock have enough salt in for me). Return to a simmer for a few minutes.
                      • Ladle in to bowls to serve.