New Baby Chicken

It’s amazing how a situation, and experience, can change how you perceive things. Its definitely the case with food. Fish and chips for example always tastes better on the beach, and the memory of the ice cream I had relaxing on the walls of old Dubrovnik is undoubtedly effected by my happy memories of that holiday.

When our daughter was born, my wife and I returned from hospital with our new baby desperate for a good meal. Hospital food is not necessarily the best, although I remember my wife gobbling down all the food given to her during her time in the hospital. So, on our return I set to work making a decent meal.  I don’t recall why, perhaps it was suggested by my wife, but I ended up making a Jamie Oliver recipe (from one of the comic relief mini-books). A tray bake chicken dish, which used pancetta wrapped around chicken stuffed with basil butter. The herby butter oozed out of the chicken, helping to keep the chicken moist, but also infusing the potatoes with a delicious basily butteriness. It was exactly what was needed for a mother recovering from childbirth, and a father coming to terms with the enormity of parenthood. Comforting and buttery, yet fresh with the acidity of the tomatoes and the vibrant flavour of basil. We’ve had the same dish, or very similar versions of it, many times since, but its never ever come close to matching the first one. That’s why it will forever be known as New Baby Chicken.

New Baby Chicken

You will need (serves 2)
600g potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm dice
salt and black pepper
olive oil
Small bunch fresh basil
50g softened butter
2 skinless chicken breasts
6 slices streaky bacon
Large handful cherry tomatoes, halved
Small bunch of salad leaves (whatever you’ve got, but rocket or watercress go well)
Juice of half a lemon
4 tbsps extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 220°C and par·boil the potatoes in salted water, then drain and let them steam dry until cool. Toss them in a little oil and seasoning, before baking in a  roasting tray for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, tear the basil leaves and pound them in a pestle and mortar with a little salt until the luscious green juices of the basil are released. Add butter and work the basily liquid into it, to form a green flecked basil butter.

To prepare the chicken turn your first chicken breast over, fold back the small fillet underneath, cut a long, shallow slash into the main breast meat. Spoon a couple of teaspoons of basil butter into this cut and fold the small fillet back into its original position. Next, lay the streaky bacon on a chopping board and, using the side of the knife, flatten and lengthen each rasher. This makes your bacon go further, but also helps it to crispen up better.  Lay out three rashers, slightly overlapping, on a chopping board. Place a chicken breast upside down at the centre of the bacon and wrap the rashers around the chicken breast. Repeat with the remaining chicken and bacon.

chicken and potatoes in the pan

When the potatoes are nearly cooked, throw the tomatoes into the tray with a splash more oil, and place the wrapped chicken breasts on top. Pop back in the oven for about 15-20 minutes. Serve with a salad of leaves and a quick lemon juice dressing (mix the juice of half a lemon with 4tbsp. of oil).

new baby chicken

 

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Favourite Five Broad Bean Recipes

favorite fiveI’ve mentioned earlier this month that the first broad beans of the season are a real delight for me. I like the fact that you can plant a few beans in October or November and they emerge in the last of the autumnal sun, brush off whatever the winter throws at them, then rapidly grow as the days warm in spring. One single bean brings one plant, but a whole basket of harvested pods and countless beans. They are one of the easiest of crops to grow, only being slightly blighted by black fly and bird attack. I’ve found that overwintering the beans seems to cut down on the black fly attacks, but opens up the possibility of birds like pigeons feasting on the new shoots. So I often use a net to cover the plants in their infancy, and also pinch out the tops of the plants when the beans are formed; which I’m told reduces the chance of the black fly descending. As an ingredient the beans are perhaps at their best when small and sweet, although the larger beans work well when made into purees and we had amazing large dried and fried beans in Peru; a kind of Latin salted peanut.

Broad bean

Broad beans are a great ingredient and often make their way onto our plates. Here are my Favourite Five Broad Bean recipes.

Broad Bean Hummus – Cook 400g of shelled beans in boiling, lightly salted water till tender  about 8-10 minutes or so). Drain, cool and pop them out of their slightly grey skin. Whizz with a small sprig of mint in a food processor before pouring in a little lemon juice, and some olive oil as the processor blitzes. Continue to mix until smooth.

Broad Bean, Pea and Mint Tagliatelle  – This is perhaps our favourite spring/summer pasta dish. Start by blanching the beans   and peas (100g of each shelled). If the beans are young you don’t need to peel off the outer skin, but if older its worth the time. Take half of the beans and peas and whizz in food processor until semi-smooth. Finely chop a garlic clove and soften in some olive oil, add the whizzed pea/bean mix and cook for a minute or so. Add 200ml of double cream and the other half of the beans and peas. Stir in a handful of chopped mint and 75g grated parmesan. Add your choice of cooked pasta to the sauce, serve with a little extra parmesan sprinkled on top.

broad bean pea and mint pasta

Broad Bean Falafels – Place 500g podded broad beans in a food processor and whizz; add 1tsp. baking powder, small red onion, 1 clove garlic, handful of chopped coriander, parsley and mint, and 1 tsp. cumin seeds. Blend until smooth, adding a little lemon juice to help it break down. Add a little olive oil and then form into balls. Chill for a few minutes and then fry in oil until crisp, serve in a pitta with hummus and minted yoghurt.

Broad Bean and Chorizo Tapas – Cook the podded broad beans in salted water for 8-10 minutes, drain and peel off greyish skin. Meanwhile, slice a chorizo and fry in a little oil. Add the beans to the chorizo and spicy oil, toss for a few minutes, then add chopped flat leaf parsley.

Broad Bean, Pea and Feta Orzo Salad – Orzo, a delicate grain-shaped pasta, is quick to cook. Whilst it cooks, sauté 2 shallots, lemon zest, and some cooked peas and beans in a bit of butter. Combine the bean and pea mix with the pasta, some chopped feta, and a finely chopped mint. A great summer salad or side dish.

What ways do you use broad beans in your cooking?

I’m dead chuffed to be shortlisted in the FOOD category for the BIBS (Brilliance in Blogging Award). If you think I deserve to be in the final then please vote for me by clicking on the picture below. Thank you for all your support!

BiB Food 2014

 

 

 

Favourite Five Mustard Recipes

Spadeforkspoon Favourite FiveMustard is a great ingredient offering piquancy to many a dish. It is a member of the Brassica family of plants which has tiny round edible seeds as well as tasty leaves. Its English name, mustard, comes from a contraction of the Latin mustum ardens meaning burning must. This refers to the spicy heat of the crushed mustard seeds and the French practice of mixing the ground seeds with must, the young, unfermented juice of wine grapes. Although mustard was considered a medicinal plant initially, it has become a staple of many food cultures. Prepared mustard dates back thousands of years to the early Romans, who used to grind mustard seeds and combine them with wine to form a paste not much different from the prepared mustards we have today. It’s a store cupboard essential and here are my favourite five uses of mustard.

Mustard Soup  – This is a delicious soup which I first tasted in Amsterdam. It combines the piquancy and texture of wholegrain mustard with a silky smooth creme fraiche based liquor. Simple to make and a great winter warmer.

Cheese and Mustard Scones – Cheese scones are one of life’s little pleasures; especially so when served warm and the butter melted slightly on top. The addition of a little grain mustard really brings out the cheesiness, and gives them a slightly more sophisticated flavour. My son has recently been diagnosed as coeliac, so this recipe is for gluten free scones, but the addition of mustard to your usual cheese scone recipe would work. Combine 275g gf plain flour, 50g ground almonds, 3tsp baking powder, 2 tsp xanthum gum and 1 tsp salt in bowl and rub 100g butter into the dry mix to make breadcrumbs. Add 100g of whatever cheese you have around (generally cheddar and Parmesan in our case). Combine 2 eggs with a tbsp wholegrain mustard and 125ml yoghurt. Pour this into breadcrumb mix and bring the ingredients together with a fork. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and flatten to 3cm thick, before cutting out into scone shapes. Transfer onto a baking sheet, brush the tops with a little milk and grate a little more cheese on top. Cook for 10 minutes at 220 °C. Leave to cool slightly before eating.

Piccalilli – This has been my food revelation of the year. For years I’ve seen the yellow pots of Piccalilli on sale and thought they looked over processed and not too tempting. Then early in 2013 I had a dish in Bridport which had a delicious Piccalilli accompanying pig’s head croquettes. It just worked so well. So, when I had a glut of veg at the plot, I made some of my own and it’s been in constant use ever since. As well as vegetables from the plot, it uses a combination of English mustard powder and mustard seeds to make a simple punchy preserve.

Mustard mash – A simple use of wholegrain mustard to give the humble mash a bit of a twist. Boil, drain and mash your potatoes, before adding a knob of butter and a spoonful of wholegrain mustard. It goes brilliantly with sausages, but would work with other meats too.

Mustard and Honey Dressing – This is our ‘go-to’ dressing. Throughout most of the year we have a jar of this in the fridge. It’s speedy to make, lasts a few days, and really compliments a range of salad leaves. To make, just add the following to a jar with a screw-top lid: 3tbsp olive oil, 1tbsp lemon juice, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, 1/2 clove of garlic crushed, 1/2 tbsp honey, pinch of salt and sugar and a few twists of black pepper. Cap and shake vigorously to emulsify. It can be easily upsized for the summer months, when there isn’t a day that goes by without salad featuring on our plates.

mustard dressing
What ways do you use mustard in your cooking?

 

 

 

Rocket and other salads

This year has really been a good one for a steady crop of salad products from the plot. I’ve grown Romaine, as well as Mustard, Lollo Rosso and other mixes. It’s meant that, instead of buying bags of hermetically sealed supermarket salad, we’ve enjoyed a fresh supply of whatever is at the plot. Latterly this has included pickings of less conventional, but easily as tasty, nasturtiums, beetroot and chard. They all add variety of flavour; from the peppery nasturtiums, to the more earthy flavours of the beets. It’s said you also eat with your eyes; and the ruby red veins on the chard leaves, as well as the yellow and orange nasturtium flowers, really are appetising.

20131010-120048.jpg These have all been in and out of our salad selections, but the ever present is rocket. It’s a gardeners’ (and cooks’) friend. Speedy to grow, it produces lots of peppery leaves which can be cut and will regrow for further pickings. It also makes a great frittata or pesto.

I’ve found that rocket can bolt in the heat of summer (and experienced it a bit this year). So I tend to sow in partial shade – in my case in a cold frame which is situated under one of our apple trees. We’ve got some old polystyrene mushroom boxes which have made great planters, as they don’t tend to dry out that quickly when filled with rich moisture retentive compost (we’ve punched a few drainage holes in the bottom). All you need to do is sow (a little every week or so) and water when necessary. It’s October now and the rocket is still going strong. Indeed, I think I may sow some more in the greenhouse.

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