Archive for the ‘Chicken’ Category

img_2442

There is something very British about pheasant. Images of men in tweed, wearing Barbour jackets, valets reloading rifles before handing them back to their masters and hounds with bird in mouth come to mind. Cooks and servants at the manor preparing a banquet in celebration of the glut of birds shot.

Thomas Becket famously dined on pheasant the night before his infamously violent death in 1170. Tudor kings and queens dined on elaborate pheasant dishes with colourful plumes adorning the roasted bird. And we often read about pheasant being cooked in Dickensian stories and Austen novels, so it surprises me, that all things considered, how infrequently we see it in restaurants and supermarkets.

Both chicken and pheasant were recorded as having been brought to Europe by Phoenician traders but chicken with its bland taste and texture has won universal acclaim; with people usually eating chicken more than twice a week in different reincarnations.

Fast forward to the present day:

This Christmas, my nephew mentioned he’d never tried pheasant; actually, neither had the rest of us in the family. As Christmas Day traditions must be kept (turkey is a must) we tried cooking pheasant for the first time in the run up to Christmas.

Having read the butcher’s instructions on the label of the plucked, prepackaged, plastic wrapped pheasants and several internet searches later, it was clear that pheasant are in danger of drying out in the oven.

On taking the bird out of its packaging to place on its roasting trivet, the smell was strong and putrid. Slightly worried about this we looked at each other quizzically and thought, let’s just give this a go, if we don’t like it we just won’t cook it again. Admittedly whilst it sat on the trivet the smell seemed to dissipate and our fears were allayed.

We were not inflicting food poisoning on ourselves a few days before Christmas! Phew!!

img_2382

We prepared a herb butter and squeezed this between skin and breast meat. And stuffed the cavity with dried prunes and figs – the pheasant can take bold flavours; having bold flavours (and smells) itself. Truss the bird up before putting it into the oven so that the stuffing remains in the cavity and if you have any streaky bacon (we didn’t) protect the breast meat by laying several rashers across it.

Roast the bird on its trivet of vegetables for anything from 1hr 10mins to 1hr 30mins at 180°C. Allow to rest whilst you tend to gravy and mashed potatoes and any other vegetable side dish you’re serving.

img_2426

In terms of flavour, the breast meat had a slight herby/gamey taste but otherwise was quite transient and could pretty much carry other flavours with it but the leg meat, especially the drumstick was very strong and bold in flavour. Texture-wise this again was different, the leg meat was juicy, however, the breast meat was very dry.

I dare say that with repeated practise you’d be able to hone in your pheasant roasting skills or maybe even prefer cooking it in a slow cooker or in other guises.

With gravy, stuffing and mash this makes for a delicious autumnal/wintery evening meal sat in the warmth of your homely kitchen. As with other birds, the key is not to dry it out – the herb butter and streaky bacon will go a long way in protecting the integrity of the breast meat but keep an eye on this. Depending on the size of the pheasant being served it may be pertinent to think of half a bird per person so that they can try the leg and breast meat as there are joys to be had in both.

Pheasant season runs from 1st October to 1st February, so even if you’re not up to cooking pheasant during the Christmas season you can give it a go in the new year. If I can locate pheasant back home, I’d definitely be game to give it another go (pun intended).

Enjoy

Gastrorob

Summer holidays are finally over, children back at school and reality sets in that the beach will become a weekend activity for the next few weeks whilst the September sun still entices us with hot, summer days and balmy evenings.

It’s too hot to turn the oven on and no one fancies heavy, comforting, autumnal fare just yet but just because we’ve changed our spades for satchels and sandals for suits doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a bit more sunshine in the kitchen.

The BBQ grill is still our friend and these tangy, spicy jerk chicken and pineapple skewers are the ideal thing to make and just as easy to eat!!

Jerk seasoning, a spicy blend of ingredients such as chillies, thyme, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg originates from Jamaica and you can make it as hot as you can take, from merely hot to incendiary. If you want to make the recipe from scratch you can (jerk mix) or just buy a Jerk Seasoning spice mix from the shops. Whatever suits you.

Ingredients – all quantities given for 1 chicken breast per person

1 chicken breast per person

1 small pineapple cut into large chunks or 1/2 tub of fresh pineapple chunks

1/2 tsp of jerk seasoning

Juice of 1/2 lime

1 tsp of olive oil

Method

1st: Cut the chicken breast into chunks. Place in a bowl.

2nd: Mix the jerk seasoning, lime juice & olive oil and pour over the chicken breast chunks. Make sure the chicken is coated in the marinade and leave to marinate for anything from 30mins to overnight.

3rd: Light the BBQ and prepare the chicken skewers. Once the coals are glowing white hot put the skewers on the grill and allow to colour before turning over.

4th: Serve with Creole-style rice and black beans, a sprinkling of coriander leaves and wedges of lime to squeeze over.

The juicy pineapple has a cooling effect on the spicy jerk chicken and the combination of sweet and spicy plays with the taste buds. If you’re preparing this for children or as part of a family dinner, make individual skewers hotter with a few drops of Tabasco sauce or a shower of dried chilli flakes.

Any leftovers can be eaten cold the following day with more Creole-style rice and green leaves.

Pimped-up fettuccine alfredo! Easy.

img_4324

Ingredients:

  • Chicken breast (aim for 1 per person)
  • Spanish onion
  • Garlic
  • Cream
  • Thyme
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Lemon juice
  • Parsley
  • Seasoning

https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=6ZEeFW1PG8s

Method:

1st: Chop the chicken breast into slices, or equal size pieces and fry in oil/butter.

2nd: Dice a small Spanish onion and 2 cloves of garlic.  Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from the frying pan and sauté the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent.

3rd: Slice a few chestnut mushrooms and add to the pan.

4th: Return the chicken to the frying pan, and sprinkle in parsley and thyme and pour in the cream.  Squeeze the juice of a lemon into the sauce.  Season well and allow to simmer for a few minutes.

5th: Boil any pasta you are using – I made some fresh fettuccine pasta – and once cooked mix into the creamy, chicken sauce.

6th:  Grate parmesan cheese to taste and mix well.  Serve and grate more parmesan cheese over, drizzle with truffle oil.

This dish makes a great Valentine meal if you’ve decided to wait until the weekend; it’s luxurious, creamy and delicious.  Send me your Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo photos!

 

Over the past few days it has been impossible to go to sleep comfortably due to the searing heat and high temperatures. Sitting, sweltering in humid, airless evenings has been unbearable. The thought of having to turn an oven on and subsequently heat up the house is quite frankly the last thing I’d want to do.  Alas, even the ubiquitous summer staple; the BBQ, is making me want to jettison off to cooler parts. But one must eat and one must eat well.

So inspired by the shimmering evening heat and the colour of summer, I offer you a simple yet stunning 2 course supper that bring all the colours and smells of the souk to your doorstep: cinnamon and lemon chicken pilaf followed by a refreshing lemon syllabub.

IMG_3513Cinnamon and lemon chicken pilaf

Pilaf, from Persian origins, is basically a rice dish with any vegetables, meat or shellfish added. When cooking anything Middle-Eastern, I cannot avoid adding toasted nuts to the dish, nor do I want to, as this adds to the resiny earthiness of the dish as well as a touch of exoticism.  Feel free to add dry fruits or even rose petals as this can only enhance its intended decadence.

The beautiful aromas and earthy colours make everything golden; as if a Sultan were to be joining you for dinner.

1st: Marinade chicken pieces (I used breast but have used boneless thighs before) in Greek yogurt, the juice of a lemon and a teaspoon of cinnamon (or alternative aromatics e.g. cumin, ground coriander, turmeric, mixed spice) for one hour or longer.

2nd: Prepare your chicken stock (add a glug of rosewater) with saffron strands to relinquish their warm ochre dye.

3rd: After an hour, drain the excess marinade off the chicken pieces and fry in batches to colour them.  Once all the chicken is fried set aside and tend to the rice.

4th: I cook rice using the 2:1 method. 2 parts warm stock: 1 part basmati rice. Toss a couple of cardamon pods into the stock to release their spicy aromas as well as a good squeeze of lemon juice.

5th: In a dry pan, fry pistachios, flaked almonds and pine nuts until golden.

6th: Once the rice is cooked, mix everything together with freshly chopped parsley.  I usually do this in the large frying pan I used to fry the chicken in so that all the charred-black marinade bits around the pan make their way into the final dish.

Lemon syllabub

20130824-011437.jpgA Tudor creation, the syllabub is a cloud-light yet aromatic dessert that is more a visual delight than a full blown pudding.

Very easy to make (no cooking; merely pouring and whisking)

And can be made with several flavour combinations. Basically think of it as scented cream that occupies a notional territory between solid and liquid:

1st: Whisk a 254ml tub of cream with 4 tablespoons of icing sugar until it forms soft peaks.

2nd: Add a splosh (more if you want!) of limoncello liqueur and a squeeze of lemon juice.  Fold this in gently, try not to make the cream any thicker.

3rd: Add a couple of tablespoons of lemon curd and ripple this in with the handle of a spoon.

4th: In a dry pan, fry flaked almonds with icing sugar until golden.

5th: Serve in chilled glasses, sprinkled with the flaked almonds.  Provide biscotti or alternative biccies to scoop the cool cream into your mouth!

Not even, Sheharezade, would be able to pull Aladdin away from the table with this feast!

Enjoy.

On Thursday evening I was treated to a wine & tapas tasting event at El Capote, Gibraltar.  Organiser and host, Ian Gareze, informed us by email that:

“the food & wine matching evening consists of 6 french wines accompanied by 6 tapas designed to best compliment the characteristics of the wine and  vice versa”

I replied immediately and booked myself in knowing how popular these evenings are.

I was really looking forward to this!

Having arrived on my own I wasn’t really too sure where to sit but was quickly reassured by our host that it was a mash-mash of people with the idea being to mingle with like-minded people who enjoy good food and good wine!

Tables were laid out as one long table, banquet-style, along the length of the room with chairs placed on either side of the table (it’s an intimate venue.)  Wine glasses stood proudly along the table accompanied by water jugs.  Apparently so as to rinse out your wine glass before trying the next wine.

As people arrived and took their places at the banqueting table it was evident that this was not to be one of those pretentious evenings where people talk about the bouquet of the wine whilst spitting half of it out into a bucket!

This was simple – 6 wines, 6 tapas, enjoy yourselves!  It did exactly what it said on the tin.

1) Bouchard Pouilly Fusse (white) with Moules Mariniere and Sautéed Calamares

All three components of this course were very well balanced.  The wine was chilled but not cold.  It had a delicate herbal note that was reminiscent of recently mown grass which was very well matched to the thyme in the sauce in which the moules were bathing.  This sauce was flavoursome yet light.  The calamares – something which can sometimes become tough and rubbery through over cooking, were tender and exquisite on the tongue.  My only complaint was that there was no bread at the table to mop up the herby, garlicy juices that remained at the bottom of the dish.  But my panic was immediately abated by the waiting staff as they swiftly came round leaving bowls of rustic, chunky, Spanish bread for everyone to get their fill of the juices.  De-licious.

2) Maison Brotte Rose Tavel (Rosé) with Cheese and Potato Nests

Not generally a fan of pink wines (probably because I drank copious amounts of Mateus Rosé in my youth!) I was slightly hesitant about trying this wine.  However after my first sip I was in danger!  This wine was so quaffable; I couldn’t get enough of it.  I could imagine myself sitting in the sun guzzling glass upon glass of this wine.  It had a robustness and lingering finish that I would never have associated with a Rosé.

The birds nests were prepared with brie and lardons (to stay in the french vein).  I thought this combination might not work with the wine, as the saltiness of the lardons would interfere with the floral notes in the wine.  A vegetarian at our table had her own lardon-free nests.  For research purposes I tried both with the wine and surprisingly, the lardons made the wine taste sweeter and almost intensified its flavour and finish on the pallet.

With the white and rosé unscrewed and consumed we moved onto the reds.  Two Bouchard Burgundy Reds were on the menu – Fleurie and Morgon harvested from different villages within the Beaujolais region.

3) Bouchard Fleurie (Red) with Chicken Liver Pâté and Goats Cheese Pâté

Chicken liver pâté with caramelised onion chutney was beautiful.  I must confess I do have a weakness for any pâté on crispbread but the star here was the goat’s cheese, with its mix of herbs which gave the dish a shimmer of sophistication.

This was matched with the Bouchard Fleurie.  This wine was deceptive.  It had a slightly shocking pink hue to it but was still full bodied.  The creamy goats cheese and the velvety mouth-feel of the wine were in great partnership but I was intrigued to see if the white wine we tried at the beginning would have been as good a partner to the goat’s cheese pâté as the Fleurie?  Food for thought (pardon the pun!).

4) Bouchard Morgon (Red) with Coq au Vin

Classic Coq au Vin deconstructed and presented en brochette.

The chicken itself had been marinaded in the Bouchard Morgon overnight.  And you could taste it.  The eternal worry with cooking chicken is always presenting it underdone and even worse nuking it within an inch of its life.  Our host apologised for the length of time we had to wait for this to finish cooking but to be honest we had been plied with so much wine by now that it really wasn’t a worry!  Everyone was mingling and chatting away as if we all knew eachother previously.

As instructed by our host, we removed the pieces of the brochette onto the plates provided.  The chicken was succulent and tender.  The marinade had been reduced to make a sauce to go over the chicken.  This was packed full of flavour and finished the dish off perfectly.

I was very impressed by this take on a classic dish.

5) La Fiole Du Pape – Chateaunuef Du Pape with Boeuf Bourguignon

The megastar of the evening in both the wine and food was the matching of La Fiole Du Pape with Boeuf Bourguignon.

La Fiole is surprisingly soft on the palate but its strong tannins lead to a powerful almost majestic finish.  It is full bodied but silky and smooth at the same time.

The boeuf bourguignon was melt-in-your-mouth tender!  The intense red wine flavour coming through with every mouthful.  I must mention the dumplings; these were a clever addition to this dish as more bread to clean the plate with, at this time of the proceedings, would have literally been gut busting!

6) Ochoa Moscatel (White) with Chouquettes

Fair enough – Moscatel is NOT a French wine!  I know.  We all know.  Unfortunately we were meant to try a French variety of this wine but alas it was not possible.  According to the professionals though, the only difference between this white and the French version was the label and hence the price.

Chouquettes, as there name implies are choux pastry sweet treats.  I had to research these online as I had never heard of them before.  Fellow food blogger, David Lebovitz, refers to them as:

“Cream puffs covered with crunchy nuggets of sugar”

So close your eyes and imagine a profiterole in your mind.  Erase the chocolate coating on top.  Now remove the cream that’s inside.  Sprinkle some coarse/pearl sugar over, and presto you have a choquette.

Parisians would have these in the afternoon as their le snack with a cup of coffee.

However, being neither Parisian nor the  afternoon we were jovially chomping our way through these sweat treats drinking copious amounts of sweat white wine.

My tip: dunk these in the sweet wine.  Not only did it serve to help restore some moisture to these cream puffs but they symbiotically sweetened eachother creating a tantalising dessert that relinquished their secret juices with every bite.  It had me going back for more!

A perfect end to what was a truly a enjoyable experience.

Next time, barring epidemics and natural disasters, I shall also go on my own, unfazed by the prospect of being alone,  knowing that from the minute I get there I will be in the presence of good food, good wine, and good company.

Here’s to the next one!

As I savour the last bite of my Pesto Chicken Quesadilla with its melted cheese oozing around white chicken breast pieces, I look back at an inspired menu where the leftovers played the starring role.

After Sunday’s lamb roast I could not face red meat again on Monday.  There is something about lamb that even though delicious at the time of consumption has a lingering fatty richness that can put me off eating red meat again too soon.

“So still needing to satisfy my carnivore cravings it was chicken that ticked all the boxes.”

I bought two large chicken breasts and asked my butcher to slice them into thin fillets as I was planning on coating them in breadcrumbs and frying them.  There is nothing more rapturous than a pile of golden crisp gallina empanada (scalloped chicken) dipped in mayonnaise or dare I say it again – Chilli jam!  But I digress…

…So with 0.5Kg of chicken fillets (way too much for one meal) I decided to alternatively make my own pesto sauce and have Italian-influenced pesto chicken.

Pesto Chicken

Into a food processor add toasted pine nuts, the juice and zest of a lemon, a chunk of parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, basil leaves and olive oil.  Blitz until you form a smooth paste.  Alternatively use a jar of shop bought pesto!

Place the chicken fillets into an oven dish and pour the pesto over.  Cook in an oven until cooked through and golden.

Monday dinner – Pesto Chicken with potatoes and vegetables.

Tuesday lunch – leftover Pesto Chicken with cauliflower and green beens.

Wednesday lunch – leftover Pesto Chicken wrap

Thursday dinner – leftover Pesto Chicken Quesadillas

Quesadillas

1st: Place a flour tortilla in a dry frying pan.

2nd: Add grated cheese to cover the tortilla.

3rd: Chop the leftover, cooked chicken breasts and add spread over the tortilla.

4th: Just because I had in the cupboard, I also added piquillo peppers before placing the tortilla lid and turning the quesadilla over.

Please excuse the globe trotting  from Italy to Mexico but I couldn’t resist it

Andele! Andele! Arriba! Arriba! Epa! Epa! Epa! Yeehaw!

Enjoy