Fennel and Chicken Soup

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A fabulous combination! And a great way to use up left over chicken…oh and one of my very favourite vegetables!

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Ingredients

1 fennel bulb – trimmed and cut roughly into 3 or 4 chunks.

1 tulip shallot – or a small onion if not available

1 litre of chicken stock

A pinch of saffron

A pinch or two of smoked paprika

A clove of garlic crushed

About 100 gm left over chicken meat – no skin

A little olive oil

50 gm unsalted butter

50 ml milk – optional

METHOD

Pop the fennel chunks in a food processor with the shallot and whizz until well shredded. Heat the oil and butter in a pan and when warm add the fennel and onion. Pan fry gently for about ten minutes until the fennel becomes soft. 

Add the garlic. Stir for another minute or two. Pour in the chicken stock and add the saffron and paprika.  

Put a lid on and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Pop the chicken in the food processor and whizz until broken down. Add to the soup. 

Simmer for a further 15 minutes with the lid off.

You could now add the milk – or cream if you want to be remarkably indulgent (!)  – and simmer for another minute – then remove from the heat , and blend down gently with a stick blender.

Serve with warm crusty bread!

I promise you, this is full of fabulous flavours!

 

 

Spicy Sea Bass on a Basmati and Quinoa Bed

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A Perfect Summer Supper or lunch for two!

INGREDIENTS – for two

2 Sea bass fillets 

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

125 gm quinoa

125 gms brown basmati rice

6 baby plum tomatoes

1 clove garlic chopped

A small bunch of basil and stalks

1 level tsp each of thyme,rosemary and oregano

Pinch or two of dried crushed red chilli -up to you how much heat you like!

Handful of grated parmesan

Rock salt and black pepper

A splash of olive oil and a tbsp of  balsamic vinegar

METHOD

In a small pan add the garlic, dried herbs, the basil stalks chopped and the crushed red chilli… and then the olive oil. Heat gently. Once it just starts to fizz a little, take off the heat, let it cool a little and add the tomatoes, tinned and fresh. Bring to a gentle simmer, add the balsamic vinegar, stir and leave with a lid on for about 15 minutes.

Heat the oven to 160c. 

Then cook the quinoa and brown basmati rice as per the instructions. Drain and put to one side when cooked. (You might want to do this first before the sauce if the basmati takes a while.)

In a shallow oven proof dish, scatter some torn basil leaves

Pour over the sauce. Pop the fillets on top. Season the fish with a little rock salt and pepper, then sprinkle over the grated parmesan and a few more torn basil leaves. Cover loosely with a sheet of tin foil.

Then slide it into the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

Gently, with a fish slice, remove the sea bass fillets and pop on a warm plate.

Mix the quinoa and basmati rice into the sauce, then replace the fish, skin removed.

Serve and enjoy!

It’s a cracker and very, very tasty.

 

 

 

 

 

Full on Feta Salad

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This can be a meal in itself – great for lunch or supper – but I had it last night with lamb chops pan fried with garlic, lemon and parsley.

INGREDIENTS

Salad leaves of your choice

6 baby plum tomatoes halved

1 block of feta rinsed and cut into cubes

12 black olives halved

Half a pointed red pepper thinly sliced

1 stick of celery thinly sliced

3 radishes thinly sliced

Handful of fresh coriander chopped- you could use mint instead

FOR THE DRESSING

6 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 garlic clove crushed

Pinch of sugar

Dash of salt

Grind or two of black pepper

METHOD

  1. Make the dressing by whacking the ingredients together in a small bowl.
  2. Toss all the there ingredients together in a large salad bowl.
  3. Just before serving , which the dressing once more and pour over the salad. 

Get a fork and tuck in!

 

 

Chicken with peppers

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Pollo con peperoni – chicken at its most supreme

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Supper last night and I was in the mood for chicken…and for pasta…and I had some cream left over and a red pepper…so it had to be this dish…simple and such a refreshing change.

INGREDIENTS

400gm chicken fillet cut into strips

1 large red pepper deseeded and cut into strips

100 ml olive oil

2 small red onions peeled and thinly sliced

2 cloves of garlic peels and finely chopped

Teaspoon of dried red chillies

100 ml white wine

Salt and black pepper

8 cherry tomatoes quartered

Small bunch of flat leaf parsley finely chopped

150 ml soured cream – single would be fine too

METHOD

Heat half the oil in a large deep pan – a non stick wok with a lid would be dandy – or a stainless steel casserole pan. Add the onion and fry gently over a lowish heat for about 5 minutes until soft. Remove from pan into a bowl and put to one side.

Add the remaining oil – add the chicken – raise the heat to medium and brown the chicken for around 6-8 minutes.

Return the onion to the pan with the garlic and the dried chilli.

Pour in the wine and let it reduce by half. Add the red pepper slices.

Season with salt and black pepper. After 4 minutes stir in the tomatoes. 

Lower the heat, cover the pan and cook for around 25 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Remove the lid and stir in the cream. Add the chopped parsley and after a minute or so – serve with pasta.

A colourful southern Italian dish with more flavours than you could imagine.

Enjoy!

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Chicken Cannellini and Chorizo One Pot

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This is a perfect mid week supper – simple and satisfying with sufficient zing to warm up your engine!

 

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INGREDIENTS for 4

2 tbsp olive oil
500g chicken breast cut into chunks
4 shallots, sliced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 green chilli, deseeded and chopped
Splash red wine
275g chorizo, thinly sliced
1 x 400g  can chopped tomatoes
200ml  chicken stock
1 x 400g can cannellini beans, drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Handful chopped fresh coriander
Crusty bread or a good warm flat bread, to serve

METHOD

  1. Heat half of the  oil in a large pan. Add the chicken, grind over some black pepper, and fry, turning frequently, until lightly browned all over. Remove from the pan and keep warm.
  2.  Add a little more oil to the pan, then fry the chorizo until crispy, add to the warming plate with the chicken.
  3. Add the onions, garlic, celery and chilli and cook for five minutes in the juices left over. Add a splash of red wine and simmer until reduced by half.
  4. Add the can of chopped tomatoes to the pan with the vegetables, stir and bring to the boil. Cook for five minutes, then add the stock and bring back to the boil.
  5. Add the browned chicken, the cannellini beans and the crisp chorizo and half the chopped coriander – simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until the chicken is completely cooked through –  no lid. Season, to taste, with a tiny bit of salt if needed and a little more ground black pepper.
  6. Sprinkle with remaining chopped coriander and serve with crusty bread.

This went down well last night and was hoovered up very happily by the family.

 

 

Sautéed mushrooms on garlic toast with a parmesan cream…

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Sautéed mushrooms on garlic toast with a parmesan cream...

Some things go just naturally together. You hear so often about colours that do or do not go together. Fashion revolves around colours and shapes, shades and cuts. Music is all about harmony and rhythm. So too with food. Food revolves around pairings and teamwork – flavour matchings, some forced, some natural, some accidental. Art is all about shades, textures, lines and colour matching. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and beauty is all around us. It is here in Bonnie Lalley’s painting, capturing the delicate association of three wonders of nature – highlighting the vibrancy of three ingredients that magically meld together on the plate. Pork, mushrooms, garlic. And for me, of all the great cuts that the fabulous creature that is the pig supplies to our world, bacon is undoubtedly one item I could not live without.

Bonnie’s painting reminded me of one of my favourite special brunch dishes. Please try it and wallow in the way nature brings trios of tastes to our palates.

Sautéed mushrooms on garlic toast with a parmesan cream

For the mushrooms

A knob of butter
A drizzle olive oil
1 shallot, finely diced
2 handfuls of mushrooms of your choice, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
A handful flatleaf parsley, chopped
A sprig fresh tarragon, roughly chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the parmesan cream

200ml7fl oz double cream
40g/1½oz parmesan, finely grated

For the toast

4 thick slices of rustic bread
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
1 garlic clove, halved

For the bacon and eggs

4 slices smoked streaky bacon
1 tbsp vinegar
2 free-range eggs
2 sprigs parsley, to garnish

For the mushrooms, heat a frying pan over a medium heat and add the butter, olive oil and shallots. Fry for 2-3 minutes until softened then add the mushrooms. Increase the heat and fry the mushrooms for 2-3 minutes, or until the mushrooms are golden-brown around the edges. De-glaze the pan with the sherry vinegar, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits, the stir in the herbs. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Keep warm.

For the parmesan cream, bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan over a medium heat then whisk in the parmesan and some freshly ground black pepper. Simmer for 3-4 minutes or until reduced to a thick sauce consistency. Keep warm.

For the toast, preheat a griddle pan over a medium-high heat. Drizzle the bread with olive oil and toast on the griddle pan until crisp and golden-brown on both sides. Rub one side of each piece of toast with the garlic. Set aside and keep warm. Keep the griddle pan hot.

For the bacon and eggs, griddle the bacon rashers in the same pan you used for the toast until crisp and then set aside and keep warm.

Bring a saucepan of water to a simmer and pour in the vinegar. Crack the eggs into ramekins or cups and tip them gently into the water. Cook for 2 minutes or until the white is opaque and the yolk cooked to your liking- for me the eggs have to be soft and ready to run! Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

To serve, place the toast on serving plates, top with the mushrooms then the egg and lay over the bacon, spoon over the cream sauce and finish with a sprig of parsley.

These are ingredients that go together that were made for each other.

Just like Bonnie’s painting and my recipe!

Cumin lamb steaks on a bed of rock salt crushed potatoes & buttered spinach with garlic sauce

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Cumin lamb steaks on a bed of rock salt crushed potatoes & buttered spinach with garlic sauce

Possibly my longest title to date! Couldn’t think of anything witty, well I could but they were all very corny. Anyway, this is a fabulous supper, inspired simply by my memories of our days in New Zealand where it seemed every other restaurant was doing some variation on the theme of lamb steaks piled on something or other, infused with this or that. I often pined for just a plain lamb steak…they were not easy to find..all the chefs wanted to ‘out sauce’ each other or come up with another way of disguising the lamb…possibly because they had so damn much they had become stone bored with the simple plain taste of…lamb! Well, I am in ‘fancy lamb steak denial mode’…so wanted for the first time in many years to recreate a dish like I experienced in Wellington.

This is my offering and it is very, very simple. And yet delightful.

I first rubbed each steak with cumin seeds and left them to think about things for half an hour or so.

I used a small bag of Venezia new potatoes which I boiled until they could just be pulled apart – about 20 minutes. I then drained them and popped them back in the pan with the lid on to steam a while.

I put a large knob of butter in a wok, melted it over a low heat and then added a bag of spinach, wilted it for about 10 minutes, added some black pepper and a little salt. Then put it in a sieve and squeezed the water out. Then it went back in the wok to keep warm.

I chopped 2 cloves of garlic and slipped them into a small pan with about 80 grams of butter and let them melt together.

The steaks were then pan fried in a heavy based skillet for three minutes a side in a tiny amount of olive oil.

The fun part is building the stack. The potatoes need a good grind of rock salt and a little butter before crushing them with a potato masher, but not too much. Arrange them on the plate, top with a spoonful or two of the spinach, put a steak on the top and drizzle with the garlic butter.

Then just tuck in….tis is a silken dish of buttery flavours that meld together like a marriage made south of the equator.

Coriandered tomatoes in cream

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Coriandered tomatoes in cream

Supper had to be swift tonight. I was hungry. I had tomatoes. Manzanos – but baby plums would be fine. In a large frying pan in olive oil I added around 150 gm of superb toms. Then a clove of garlic chopped very finely. I added three strips of smoked bacon chopped up roughly. All fried gently for about 10 minutes. Next a teaspoon of dried rosemary and a large handful of chopped fresh coriander. The pasta was popped on – rigatoni. 400 gm.

Into the tomato mix I added a tub of single cream – 250 ml.

I let it warm nicely and blend together. Pasta was then drained and added to the tomato mix. By all means sprinkle some grated parmesan on if you wish. A simple and satisfying and superb supper.

Scintillating. I told you I was in a hurry.

Poor man’s pots with lemon & thyme pork chops…

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Poor man's pots with lemon & thyme pork chops...

This is a take on the famous Spanish dish of patatas a lo pobre – it is wondrous in its simplicity yet divine in its complexity of flavours. There is little like it – I could easily eat it on its own – or it could just as easily accompany anything from lamb to fish. I ate it in Menorca last August snuggling up to a snow white slice of monkfish and it was delectable – I swear I can still taste it when I close my eyes. That version was with green peppers. This one is based on Nigel Slater’s version from ‘Eat’.

For 4

750 kg baby new potatoes – scrubbed and halved
Olive oil
A red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
2 red peppers – deseeded and cut into thin strips
Large red onion sliced thinly
A clove of garlic finely chopped
Pinch of smoked paprika
Large knob of butter – about 75 gm
500 gm vegetable stock
A small bunch of basil finely sliced

Heat oil in a sauté pan. Place pots in cut side down with the chilli. Leave them for about 5 or 10 minutes while you deal with the peppers. Add them to the pan, then the onion and garlic. Then the paprika.

Pop in the butter and stir until all get coated nicely.

Leave again for about 10 to 15 minutes to get the potatoes browning in that very attractive fashion they have. Have a drink.

Then pour in the stock, bring to the boil, season a little. Cover with a lid and simmer for around 20 to 30 minutes until the stock has evaporated down a lot. I took the lid off for the last five minutes and crushed most of the potatoes ever so lightly with a masher to soak up the magical juice.

Stir in the basil at the end.

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I served this alongside a loin chop pan fried slowly in a little olive oil. Half way through cooking I grated over the zest of a lemon and sprinkled lots of thyme and black pepper.

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The resulting meal was one of those I simply wanted to prolong as much as possible – the flavours were straight from heaven – a Spanish heaven in this case – somewhere possibly just outside Granada or Zaragoza.

This is the grandaddy of the versions – but you could just do it with the spuds, onions, pepper and stock with a little seasoning.

If you have never tried this I urge you to. Soon.

Very soon.

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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