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Posts Tagged ‘chicken’

I was feeling greedy again this evening – that is in the mood for some more Two Greedy Italians recipes. You know you’ve got a good cookery book when you find yourself going back to it time and time again wanting to cook recipe after recipe. I think this is one of a handful on my shelves which is building up to be well-thumbed and splattered.

The dishes I planned to cook when I wrote my book review earlier this month didn’t end up being on the menu today. Ah well, I’ll have to come back to them another time! Instead I prepared pollo casalingo al vino bianco (housewives’ chicken in white wine and vinegar), finocchi gratinati (fennel gratin) and patate arraganate (sliced roasted potatoes with tomato, oregano and basil).

All three dishes were incredibly simple to make. Once the small amount of chopping and assembly were done, they all sat happily on the hob or in the oven (smelling wonderful) whilst I got on with a few jobs.

The chicken recipe comes from the Piedmont region of Italy, and as the story goes farmers’ wives would prepare the ingredients in the morning before heading off to work in the fields. When they returned home, all that remained to do was to put the pan on the heat. The scent and flavour of the dish was surprising, tangy from the lemon and vinegar, aromatic from the clove, bay and peppercorns. It was reminiscent of sousing liquor, only the more familiar fish was substituted with chicken.

The fennel gratin had a delicious crisp and savoury topping from the breadcrumbs and parmesan which contrasted with the soft fennel. The potatoes were heady with oregano, crisp where they’d caught on the side of the baking dish and offered an occasional sweet, caramel treat from the red onion scattered amongst the slices of potato. Both complimented the chicken, as they would other chicken and fish dishes.

All in all, tonight’s meal was another thumbs up to the Carluccio and Contaldo Italian adventure.

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I spent the weekend at a very different work Christmas party, not my own company’s Christmas party, but that of my partner’s, Element78. This year, the MD, Iain, decided that rather than the usual meal and drinks in town he’d invite partners and organise something a little different; an away weekend to Springhead, a beautiful, rural, self-catering centre in Dorset. 

When, in the pub one Friday evening after work, I offered to manage the Christmas dinner cooking for him, I could see the weight falling off his shoulders. And so, the idea came about that each member of the E78 team and their partner would be responsible for organising one element of the weekend to share the load.  Then began a couple of months deliberation, discussion and delegation.

My attention turned to menu planning. Unaware of how good the facilities would be but knowing we were going to be out and about during the day and there’d only be a short time available for cooking, it had to be something which could be turned around in as short a time as possible…no giant turkey then! 

The hardest part, besides calculating how many potatoes to order (after all, there is a rule which states that no matter how many roast potatoes you cook, there just aren’t going to be enough), was finding something suitable for the vegetarians. Whilst I insist on having veggie night once a week at home, I’m not vegetarian and nor could I ever be (I could not come to terms with life without chicken or pork with crackling!), I do like to look at the vegetarian options when we’re out for dinner. I’m often appalled at how unappealing and thoughtless the dishes are compared to the meat or fish dishes, especially on Sunday and Christmas menus. My challenge had to be to come up with a vegetarian option which not only went with all the trimmings but which made my vegetarian diners feel special and that their meal was a star of the show. 

Initial numbers worked out at 14 meat eaters and 3 veggies but as the days before the big weekend passed, messages were being relayed my way about the changing numbers. One day it would increase, the next decrease. It was impossible to know how many I would be feeding on the night. There was only one thing to do; keep calm and carry on!

We arrived back from an afternoon of virtual warfare (one to keep the boys happy!) around 6, dinner was to be served at 8. Time to get cooking. I’m very thankful to Jed and the small team of helpers who took orders to get potatoes peeled, carrots chopped, sprouts shredded, peppers stuffed and utensils washed. Within the hour everything was prepared and anything that needed to be in the oven was – there was plenty of time for G&Ts and to change into party frocks before the final flourish and service. Ramsay’s kitchen nightmares this wasn’t, but I could get used to the shouts of ‘yes chef’!!

Dinner went down incredibly well and people couldn’t have been more complimentary, with pretty much everyone (final headcount was 21) asking for one recipe or another. I achieved my aim with the vegetarian dish and was overwhelmed by the comment of ‘this was the best Christmas dinner I’ve had’. I can’t help but think that I’ve got a job for life at future E78 Christmas party’s but, do you know what, I’d be more than happy with that outcome!

Here it is, the Element 78 Christmas 2010 menu:

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We had friends staying with us for the weekend and I kicked off their visit with a curry – any excuse to cook one!

I decided to make one of my favourites from Atul Kochhar’s book Simple Indian – achari murg, which he translates as Rajasthani pickled chicken curry. It is so-called because it contains pickling (achari) spices common to Northern India. 

It’s a rare find on a curry house menu, although you can get it at the Jubo Raj on Cotham Hill, which I highly recommend you do if you don’t fancy trying it yourself at home.

I didn’t follow Atul’s recipe to the letter. Having made the dish several times before, there were elements I wanted to tweak and make my own. After all, I firmly believe a recipe is there for inspiration and guidance and not something you need to religiously follow. It got me thinking though, how would chef feel about me changing a recipe he’s worked hard to perfect and at what point does the recipe become my own? Am I within my rights to post a recipe for my own version of the dish here on my blog without causing offense or breaching any laws?

Perhaps I’ll just start by telling you what I changed and why so if you get your hands on the recipe you can decide what you’d like to do!

  • I use chicken thighs with the bone in – partly because I can’t be bothered to bone them and partly because I love the extra flavour they impart when cooking
  • I like to use dried red chillies instead of fresh ones as I think they provide a much deeper flavour and warmth which works well in this dish
  • I add a little cornflour to the yoghurt before adding it to the curry since I have found that the yoghurt I buy from the supermarket can split when added to the hot sauce and the cornflour helps to stabilise it
  • I think that a mixture of lemon and lime juice rather than lemon juice alone enhances the flavour of the dish
  • For extra tanginess I love to add a teaspoon of lime pickle to the sauce (I use Patak’s although I really ought to make my own sometime!)

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Working my way through the Moro Cookbook I came across a recipe for pollo al ajillo, a favourite from my six month stay in Northern Spain, a now scary number of years ago when I was at University. It’s such a simple and amazingly tasty dish – I don’t understand why I haven’t been cooking it regularly ever since I first tasted it. I’m going to rectify that by adding it to our list of trusty quick weeknight suppers. Note to self: check if either of us has a meeting the next day before freely adding to the pan the bulb (not clove!) or two of garlic the recipe calls for!

Pollo al ajillo is a classic Spanish way of cooking chicken pieces. It uses very few ingredients – chicken, garlic, bay leaves, olive oil, white wine, water, salt and pepper. The trick is to emulsify the chicken juices, wine, water and olive oil to create a silky sauce.

And to go with the chicken – to be honest some crusty bread or roast potatoes along with a little green salad would be perfect – I chose another classic dish, moros y cristianos. Moros y cristianos is often served on its own when being frugal but works equally well as an accompaniment to chicken, duck and other meats as well as fish.

Translated to English, the name is Moors and Christians. This rice and bean dish originates from the time when the Moors occupied the Iberian Peninsula. The black beans represent the Moors and the white rice represents the Christians. It’s still a popular dish today. There are many variations of this recipe, some with a Cuban spicy twist, others, like the one in the Moro cookbook, quite simply flavoured with cinnamon, garlic, onion and bay.

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This month’s Cookery Book Supper Club book is Moro: The Cookbook. To kick off proceedings I made charcoal-grilled quail with pomegranate molasses.

OK, so I improvised a little with chicken thighs instead of quail and a domestic grill instead of a barbecue (the book does say that quail is an alternative to chicken and being unable to get hold of any of the wee birds and it being almost winter I felt justified in my substitutions) but I think it still counts as a recipe test in preparation for book club!

It’s a Lebanese recipe in which the bird is marinated in sticky pomegranate molasses and fragrant spices then slowly grilled. It is tangy, succulent and absolutely delicious.

The recipe says to serve the meat with a watercress and pomegranate seed salad and a pomegranate molasses dressing. The salad and dressing were amazing but served with the marinated meat, we really did get a good old slap around the taste buds, even with my own delicate herby couscous to calm things down! I’ll definitely make them again but I think I might hold off on the double whammy next time!

In case you’re up for giving your taste buds a wake up call and are wondering where you can get your hands on pomegranate molasses, try Souk Kitchen on North Street, where they have a small shop area, recipe cards, as well as a wonderful restaurant. For those not local to Bristol or who’d rather buy online you can find it at Maroque. Be warned you may well spend a fortune on ingredients, cookware and bits and pieces for around the home!

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