Pollo all’aceto balsamico…

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Chicken with Lardons, Garlic, Thyme and Balsamic Vinegar

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I saw this being cooked on a fabulous t.v. programme by the Italian cook, Gino D’acampo and knew instantly that I had to give it a go. It is simple and the flavours are beyond mere words doing them any justice! I cooked it last Friday, starting at 6.30 pm and we sat down to eat at 8.15pm  – perfect. You could use pancetta instead of lardons. The original recipe calls for asparagus in the salad but it is out of season now, so I went for two greens that complimented each other harmoniously.

For 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
4 chicken drumsticks, bone in and skin on  I just went for the thighs but if you are hungry…do both!
200g smoked lardons, diced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
A few fresh thyme sprigs
150ml white wine
300ml chicken or vegetable stock
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

For the salad

100 gm of young purple sprouting broccoli
100 gm of sliced green beans

200g cherry tomatoes, quartered
A few fresh flat leaf parsley leaves – I used fresh basil leaves instead as I had no parsley!
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan with a lid or a casserole dish. Put the chicken pieces in the pan skin-side down and fry for 5–7 minutes until the skin is golden brown and really crispy. Season with salt and pepper. Turn the chicken over, season the skin and add the pancetta. Cook for a minute before adding the garlic and thyme. The lardons should be almost crispy when done.

Deglaze the pan with the white wine, scraping up all the caramelized bits from the bottom of the pan. Allow the alcohol to bubble for a minute, then add the stock. Cover the pan and simmer gently for 1 hour, adding more stock if the contents of the pan become dry.

While the chicken is cooking, par boil the beans for 6 minutes and remove from pan and drain – pop the broccoli into boiling water for just about 4 minutes until the stems are al dente – so you can just pierce them with a knife. Drain these too. Rinse beans and broc in cold water. Leave to one side – 20 minutes before the chicken is ready pop the broccoli, beans, tomatoes, basil leaves, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil into a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper then toss everything together. Leave to stand.

When the chicken is cooked, remove it from the heat – the sauce should have reduced and thickened. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, return the pan to the heat for 1 minute to warm the sauce, then serve the chicken and sauce with the scrumptious salad.

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This is simply….fantastico! A dish with a wow factor – the salad is such a marvellous change from usual chicken accompaniments and the delectability of the sauce in the chicken dish is remarkable.

Buon appetito!

Pasta Broccoli…seriously good for you!

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Pasta Broccoli...

The photo does not really do this dish justice – if you have never tried this combo before – you must. I had something like this in a restaurant over the summer – and I think this is roughly how they did it – but anyway – I like it like this!  It is simple, healthy and delicious.

I was never a fan of this particular greenery but since reading an article on men’s health last year we are now best buddies! This following article is from research into broccoli and the advantages for men in particular – though it is, no doubt, great for ladies too! It caught my eye because I had a creaky joint – not that type! – it was actually my hip! – and, yes, this stuff is good for joints – so, if you can get through the article the recipe follows – but this is great stuff and worth knowing – I didn’t! Listen up!

Ounce for ounce, broccoli has more vitamins and minerals than almost any vegetable you can eat. (Good news indeed!) Take vitamin K, for example. Broccoli is brimming with 93 micrograms of the stuff per cup. That’s good news, since K is essential for building cartilage and heading off joint inflammation as you get older.

Broccoli also protects your peepers with an abundance of lutein and zeaxanthin, two cartenoids critical to vision. Florets harbour the bulk of broccoli’s carotenoids, including beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A.

It is also a good source of fibre and may help ward off cancer. Studies show that eating three servings a week of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli may slash your risk for prostate cancer significantly. Mix broccoli with tomatoes for even better protection.
Broccoli’s secret to fighting cancer? Researchers believe it’s an antioxidant called sulforaphane, which helps substances called Phase 2 enzymes defend the body against cancer. Sulforaphane also squelches H. pylori, the bacteria behind most common stomach ulcer.’

OK, some jargon there towards the end, but you get the picture. Broccoli is good for you! I guess you all knew that – it was more a learning curve for me….

Anyway, enough science! The recipe!

Ingredients for 4

400 gm pasta
A head of broccoli broken into florets
Olive oil
4 garlic cloves finely sliced
Pinch of red chilli flakes
Black pepper
About 50 gm of parmesan cheese grated – you can use more – or add more at the table

Ok. Put your pasta into a big pan of boiling water – after 4 minutes add the broccoli. No need for salt, as the parmesan does the job later – but add some if you must! Whilst it is cooking ( I cooked it for a further 6 minutes) in a small frying pan, fry the garlic gently in a good, hearty splash of olive oil until it just, just turns a little brown.

Strain the pasta and broc – reserve a tiny bit of the cooking water in the pan. Add the broc and pasta back to the pan and then add the garlic and the oil – stir round – grind over some black pepper and add the chilli flakes – stir gently then stir in the parmesan.

Serve immediately – you can add more chilli flakes to your taste, or more parmesan, or even more oil at the table if you so wish. I like the broccoli a little more al dente than I cooked it yesterday – I took my eye off the pan! So be careful ! But it was, nonetheless, a great and easy supper dish – my kids loved it and it is now a firm fixture in my culinary simple supper repertoire.

And, I know it is doing me….. deep within….good!

Late Summer Saturday Supper…enhanced by early Autumn apples!

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Late Summer Saturday Supper...enhanced by early autumn apples!

I wanted something not too heavy for supper last night and not too taxing after two late nights, so I went for something around
apples as I collected a whole basketful of them on an afternoon wander around the grounds.

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Obviously it had to be an apple sauce as I had some gorgeously perfect pork chops quietly ruminating in my fridge. I made the sauce first – 500 gm of apples peeled and cored, 20 gm castor sugar and 100 ml of water – all into a pan with a lid on a low heat until all had blended into a tangy toothsome concoction. I pan fried pork chops til golden with garlic cloves and black pepper. I also wanted something cooling, so plumped for a simple warm potato and red onion salad – using garlic mayonnaise. I steamed some broccoli and kale, taking it off in time to leave the broc with a bit of a bite. I have to say that it was a very satisfying supper – simple – cheap and bursting with flavours and textures – the apple sauce helped it all on its way – as did a very nice bottle of tempranillo thank you very much that had insinuated its way into my presence whilst cooking. I am easily tempted!

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Camembert to the rescue….

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Camembert to the rescue....

Larder pretty empty after the trips abroad so making the most of what IS in as I have been lazy and not made a serious trip to the shops yet….also heading off to the Lake District on Friday so not worth stocking up much. Anyway…tonight we had simple but scintillating fare. Pearl new potatoes, stimulating smoked bacon, steamed broccoli and cauliflower enrobed in a camembert and crème fraîche sauce (simply break up a whole camembert and add to a pan with a 300ml tub of crème f – heat gently until it all blends together – no need for seasoning believe me – it is nirvana. It may not have been 5 star Michelin food tonight but it hit every spot available on my taste buds on a rather damp squib of a night in darkest Hampshire. 5 star yum!