Chicken in Mascarpone Sauce…

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Petti di Pollo con Salsa al Mascarpone

This is a supper dish that is satisfying on so many levels – its sheer simplicity, its warmth of flavours, its alluring aroma and its rich autumnal colours.

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For 6

1 onion peeled and chopped roughly

6 tbsps chilli oil

2 x 400gm tins of tomatoes

1tsp salt 

1tsp sugar

250 gm mascarpone cheese

About 10 basil leaves roughly torn

A boneless chicken breast with skin on, or thigh, skin on and boned, per person

Preheat your oven to 180c. In a medium saucepan, fry the onion for 5 minutes in 4 tbsps of the chilli oil. Pour in the tomatoes with the salt and the sugar, bring to the boil and then simmer for 10 minutes with the lid off then 10 minutes with the lid off. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon. Take the saucepan off the heat and pouter into a blender and blitz until smooth. Pour into a large bowl and stir in the mascarpone and the basil leaves. Season the chicken pieces with salt and black pepper. Heat the remaining oil in a large sauté pan or frying pan and fry the chicken on a highish heat on both sides – skin side first – until golden brown. Pour the sauce into an oven proof dish and then arrange the chicken pieces on top. Cook in the oven for 30 minutes. I served it with tiny roasted apache potatoes in olive oil, rosemary and rock salt with steamed purple broccoli on the side.

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This is another one of the mighty Gino’s recipes and I have merely adapted it a tad. I really, really enjoyed cooking it and those round my table who ate it said it was a terrific new flavour to revel in. Make it soon! P.S. I have a really good recipe coming soon for any left over sauce!

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!

Spring Thyme Lemon Chicken Thighs in Prosciutto

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Spring Thyme Lemon Chicken Thighs in Prosciutto

This was a delightfully easy supper and full of spring flavours. I wanted to keep the flavours simple and fresh. I chose boneless skinless chicken thighs which I marinated in a little olive oil, zest of a lemon and lots of thyme. I brought the oven to 180c. The thighs were each then wrapped cosily in a prosciutto slice – though you could of course use serrano ham or parma at a pinch. I skewered each with a cocktail stick to hold the shape whilst they cooked. Remove when they are cooked. I sat them in a roasting tray with a further light drizzle of oil on the pan bottom.

They took around 40 minutes. The flavours simply burst forth in every mouthful – and the ham was lightly crispy, yet succulent. I served these with Venezia new potatoes and the asparagus recipe from the previous post – only I served the green spears cooled rather than cold. The vinaigrette went soooo well with the chicken!

I hope you try this some time soon – and of course it is one that can be tinkered with – you could wrap basil leaves around the chicken rather than thyme and then wrap the ham round. Or you could indsert slithers of garlic into the chicken first and even some red chill finely sliced, then pop the ham around. Experiment!

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Roast veg has the edge…

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Roast veg has the edge...

Sleepy sort of a Sunday today. A simple roast chicken stuffed with butter, basil, lemons and garlic on a bed of red onion slices accompanied by nothing more than a rainbow of roasted veg flavours. One aubergine, halved and sliced, one courgette sliced, 6 baby new potatoes thinly sliced, 6 cloves of garlic left whole – though I did split one or two to get the flavours going- 4 baby red chillies, 2 red onions quartered – all roasted for 45 minutes in olive oil, fresh thyme, rosemary, sea salt and black pepper. For the last 15 minutes, I added 4 gorgeously ripe tomatoes quartered and about 250 gm of haricot verts which I had pre steamed. Then a handful of fresh basil – just because I adore the aroma.

Everyone makes this dish and it probably needs more of a shout out. It makes me feel like I am sitting by the coast near Sorrento watching the sun dip lazily over the isle of Capri – instead of being rain bound in the dampness of a cabbage and cauliflower ridden England.

Food transports. This one certainly does for me. A simple flight of culinary fancy that makes a sodden southern Sunday seem sunnier. I am replete now and off to cuddle up by the fire with a good book and a glass of something frightfully fruity.

Have a good week.

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Happy New Year! A tasty way to bring in 2014!

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Happy New Year! A tasty way to bring in 2014!

Last night was a joyfully easy evening – good company, good wine plus tastes and flavours to salivate the soul. It began with a nice, crisp and fruity Sancerre whilst we waited for my good friend Annie’s starter to appear – gorgeous medjool dates stuffed with stilton and wrapped in parma ham, drizzled in olive oil and baked in an oven at 200c for 20 minutes til crisp and unctuous.

Main course was based on a recipe from Nigel Slater’s new book ‘Eat’ – highly recommended!

Chicken thighs marinated for an hour in olive oil, dried chilli flakes and crushed garlic, roasted in the oven at 200c for 30 minutes – I added more fresh red chilli to Nigel’s recipe and a little squeeze of fresh lemon. I baked potatoes, and when they were ready, split them, scooped out the flesh and mixed it with butter and grated parmesan – popped them back in the oven for 5 minutes once the chicken was ready. Best part was the silky cannellini bean dish.

2 x 400 gm of cannellini beans in a pan with 200 ml of crème fraîche – warm it through then add a little salt and a couple of grinds of black pepper. Mash with a potato masher and serve with the chicken and spuds. Dreamy…really dreamy!

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The gorgeous juices left over from the chicken I put to one side and used as the base for a New Year’s day vegetable soup.

I kept to white last night – prosecco, champagne and Sancerre. I enjoyed every minute of the evening – and the simple supper sumptuously eased in the new year.

Have a great year everyone! So many recipes to look forward to – so much to share! Cheers!

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Autumn almanac…

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Autumn almanac...

I was going to call this Autumn is cumin in…but that was just too naff…so as the Kinks were on the i pod it ended up as you see above…and this dish is everything that is good about autumn…it is lightly spicy..courtesy of the cumin…it is wonderfully colourful (the squash simply exudes bonfires and mellowness) with a regalia of autumnal colours, yet still with the lingering flavours of a Med summer, courtesy of the peppers. Tonight’s supper is in many ways, thanks to Nigel Slater – no he did not drop round and cook with me – sadness pervades – but I was curled up in front of the fire reading his Kitchen Diaries 2, the October section, and I was just inspired to cook something redolent of autumn – and to use up the half of butternut squash that was whistling dixie in the fridge.

So, I peeled the squash, and cut it into chip like strips, then cut up one long red and one long yellow pepper into similar size strips. Popped these on a baking tray with 5 or 6 cloves of unpeeled cloves of garlic. Then drizzled all with olive oil and a good sprinkling of cumin seeds.

The chicken thighs I places on another tray and scattered each with lemon thyme salt and olive oil. I then took some rather pleasant new potatoes and cut them into chips, and bathed them in vegetable oil.

I put the pepper / squash tray into the top oven at 200c and the chicken and the potato chips into the bottom oven, same temperature, for 40 minutes. The congruity of these ingredients must also be remarked upon – because they all kindly cooked at more or less the same time.

I drained the potato chips, drained the chicken jus into a pan, then added the potato chips  to the chicken thigh tray and popped them back into the oven – turning the heat off;  the skin of the chicken was deliciously crispy by now. I removed the peppers / squash tray and left them on a rack to wait patiently for their moment. I added a little chicken stock and hot water to the jus to make a zingingly tangy salty jus that would compliment the whole dish perfectly.

I removed the chicken thighs from the oven, added the squash. pepper and garlic to it and served it at the table. Jus was drizzled over by request.

The flavours were phenomenal – simple as that – the cumin wedded with the butternut squash was mouth-fillingly vibrant.
The whole ensemble was simple, cheap and autumnal – colour wise – flavour wise and fragrance wise.

I felt so relaxed and mellow after eating this – it hit all the spots in the right order and, along with a smoky South African Merlot, reminded me why I am alive. Oh, and thank you Nigel for the inspiration!

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A thigh of relief…

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A thigh of relief... You know when you come in from work and you stand in front of the fridge and you ponder for a second and think….hmmmm… what are we going to eat this evening? Then you remember..(hey it’s  been a long day)….that you randomly bought a pack of free range thighs and chicken drumsticks at the weekend…and you have got some tikka paste left over from Sunday’s lamb dish. So….I marinated the chicken pieces in the paste. Left them for an hour in the fridge. I then put on Spotify and listened to a great new band called Peace and Love…then I opened a bottle of Shiraz and put on Bob Dylan‘s Modern Times…wonderful.The world was already looking better…. Ok…the chicken thighs and drumsticks went in the oven for an hour on 220c. I basted them after half an hour. Whilst I was listening to Bob, I decided to have a go at my very own Brinjal Bhaji. So- I sliced up, then chopped into cubes, one aubergine. I popped it into a pan of boiling water for 5 minutes then drained it. In a frying pan I decided to make a fine curry style dressing for it. I added a tablespoon of olive oil, then added a tsp of mustard seeds, a tsp of fenugreek seeds, a tsp of fennel seeds. I pan fried them for a minute or two – then tossed in the drained aubergine. I then added a tsp of garam masala and a tsp of mild curry powder. I chopped and deseeded a red chilli and a small orange pepper. I added them along with a finely sliced red onion. Turn up the heat and stir constantly until the onion starts to wilt. Turn the heat down, add a little rock salt and pop a lid on for 20 minutes or so, I cooked some basmati rice in my rice cooker with a pinch of turmeric to add colour, When all was nearly ready, I took the lid off the aubergine mix, added a knob of butter and a tbsp of crème fraîche. Leave on a low heat for a minute or two whilst you serve the rice and the chicken. Then add a good spoonful of the aromatic aubergine. This was a scintillating dish for a damp squib of a Tuesday. Oh yes…..back to my wine now…and Bob singing about the Mississipi….see you soon!

Pollo Balsamico…

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Pollo Balsamico...

Sometimes, I think folk who write cookery magazines can be a little lazy. I have found several recipes, which. if you followed them to the letter would be either rather dull, or even quite tasteless. I like Jamie Oliver a lot, but I sometimes feel, probably like the great painters, many of the recipes have not had his ‘touch’, but one of his minions – someone who is probably trying to fill a space in the mag or beat a deadline.

Anyway – moan over. One of these recipes, I have ‘fiddled with’ and I think it now tastes better than when I originally tried it! In essence it is simple – but success hinges on the use of good ingredients – especially the tomatoes. Too many tasteless ones out there! Beware!

So, last night’s supper went something like this….

For this recipe you need:

500 gm really tasty toms – I used some baby plums and some organic vine wallahs.
2 courgettes – halved lengthways and then cut into threes.
150 gm sourdough or soda bread torn into chunks.
Small bunch fresh thyme leaves stripped off the stalk.
8 free range chicken thighs, skin on and bone in- fine for 4
Olive oil / 5 tablespoons of good balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 190C

Mix the courgettes, tomatoes, bread, thyme, some salt and black pepper in a large bowl. Leave to one side.

Pan fry the thighs skin down in olive oil on a highish heat until the skin browns and crisps a little. 2- 3 minutes should be dandy.

Add them to the bowl with the other ingredients plus the balsamic and a good drizzle of olive oil. Then tip into a large roasting tray. Ensure the thighs are skin side up. Drizzle a little more olive oil – ensure the courgettes get a good dowsing.

Put it in the oven for one hour. Check half way through – baste it a little and add a tad more oil if it looks a little too sticky. But that stickiness is half of what you want! Cook til the chicken is nice and crispy and the toms are squishy and the courgettes nicely roasted. Do not be tempted to put foil over it at any stage! It ends up steaming things and spoils the show!

I served it with a green salad. And a big shiraz….A good dish – and a simple one.
And one that balsamic was made for.

Pollo basilico….

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Pollo basiico....

Well it sounds good…and it tasted good too! I fancied making some pesto, so I popped a big bunch of basil into a food mixer with 25 gm of toasted pine nuts, a chopped clove of smoked garlic, olive oil and a pinch of rock salt. Whizzed it round, then decanted it into a bowl – added a good few gratings of parmesan and a little black pepper – then adjusted the mix with more olive oil until it was the consistency I like. Then I remembered I had chicken thighs to use! Oh well – bang went the spaghetti in pesto sauce. I popped on some Van Morrison and I deboned the thighs with sharp scissors, flattened them out and spooned on a helping of pesto onto each. I rolled them up – held them together with a cocktail stick each and popped them on an oiled baking tray. Oven preheated to 200c – they went in for 15 minutes – then I basted them – back in for 5 minutes. Out again and I wrapped some parma ham around each one. Back into the heat for a final 10 minutes and they were looking luscious and inviting. I lightly toasted slices of sourdough bread – spread them each with the remaining pesto. I carefully removed the cocktail sticks from the chicken and popped a thigh onto each piece. I served it with steamed asparagus in olive oil and a few shavings of parma ham.

This is a really easy and tasty light supper – or it could be a starter too. Chicken and pesto – made for each other. and the asparagus chips in nicely with a fragrant crunchiness on the side. The family loved it and the silence as they ate said it all!