Monday, April 27, 2009

Tarragon and rosemary stuffing

The stuffing I made at the weekend was similar to this one. As I wrote earlier, you do not have to be at all precise about quantities: all you are doing is binding breadcrumbs with egg (and with the butter you may have used to soften onion and garlic), and flavouring them with as large a quantity of herbs as you like. I think that lemon zest is a winning addition.

This time, I used three thick hunks of white bread, which I whizzed with the leaves from a stalk of rosemary. I softened two small onions and a clove of garlic in about a tbsp of butter for only about five minutes, until they had started to turn golden. I added a handful of tarragon, chopped, and the zest of a whole lemon, with just a little salt (bread is salty) and generous grindings of black pepper. I mixed everything by hand with one beaten egg.

I put the stuffing inside my chicken. I can see the point of cooking it apart; but it stays moister inside the bird.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Chicken Basquaise in the oven

If you can cook this dish in the oven with a minimum of fuss, why not use the technique for other chicken stews? My earlier Chicken Basquaise recipe was pretty simple; here's an even easier one.

4 chicken thighs, 4 drumsticks
1 tin tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 onions, chopped
4 red peppers, cut into fork-sized chunks
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp olive oil

Mix the ingredients in a roasting tin, arranging the thighs skin-side up. Put into a gas mark 6/200C oven. Check the progress every 15 to 20 minutes, and turn down the heat if the dish is bubbling too energetically. (After 30 minutes, I turned down the oven to gas mark 4/180C.) Once the tomatoes are cooking, you can break them up with a wooden spoon. You need to give the ingredients a stir quite regularly, and if they threaten to catch at the edges you can thin them with a little stock. (Or add half a stock cube at the beginning, and add water to the tin when necessary.)

Cook for 60 to 75 minutes.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Leek and potato soup

If you've ever made the mistake of mashing potatoes in a food processor, you'll know that the blades give them the consistency of Uhu. As do the blades of a liquidiser when you blend the potatoes in a soup. The solution is to cook the potatoes separately, and mash them. Serves 4.

3 medium potatoes
1 garlic clove, unpeeled
3 medium leeks
Chicken stock

Peel the potatoes, and cut them into chunks as you would for mash. (I usually cut mine into pieces about 2cm square.) Cook them in about 200ml of chicken stock, with a little salt. If you put a lid on the pan, the potatoes do not have to be submerged in liquid - and it is better to go easy on the stock now than to end up with a thin soup.

Cut off the roots and the tough leaves of the leeks. Split them down the middle, then slice them vertically, and wash them. Allow them to soak for a few minutes, so that the grit can disperse. Drain them, and put them into a saucepan with about 25ml stock, a knob of butter, and a little salt. Cook them gently in a covered pan until soft and glossy (about 10 to 15 minutes), adding a little more stock if they threaten to catch.

When the potatoes are soft, fish out the garlic, slip it from its skin, return it to the pan, and mash it with the potato.

Add enough stock to the leeks to enable you to blend them. Put them in a liquidiser, or use a stick blender.

Combine the leeks and the potato, adding more stock if necessary. Warm up the soup gently - if you boil it, you'll bring out the glueyness in the potatoes. Check the seasoning. Away from the heat, stir in another knob of butter.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Chicken with aubergines, lemon and garlic

My most recent chicken saute recipes (here and here) have involved a certain amount of fussing: do you cover the pot or not? If you leave it uncovered, will the chicken, and other ingredients, cook through and tenderise?

It need not be that complicated. You do not even need to brown the chicken pieces first.

4 chicken thighs, 4 drumsticks
2tbsp olive oil
2 aubergines, cubed
1 head garlic - 1 clove peeled and chopped, the rest left whole
1 lemon, quartered
200ml chicken stock
1 bay leaf

Mix the ingredients in a roasting tin, and bake at gas mark 6/200C for an hour. Stir from time to time, and allow the thighs to sit skin side up for a while, so that the skin browns. Add more stock, depending on how much sauce you want and on whether the contents of the tin threaten to dry out.

Chicken legs will take this blast of heat without becoming tough. If you have breasts as well, add them about 25 minutes before the end of cooking.

You could add minced chillis to the dish, stirring them in at the end. Or (mixed with the stock at the start of cooking) harissa. Serve with rice or couscous.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

One-pan lamb chops

Allegra McEvedy has offered some very attractive recipes in the Guardian recently. I think I shall give this one a miss, however. Perhaps it's unfair not to have a go; but there are several details that make me think it would give me trouble.

You fry spiced lamb chops, then onion rings, then slices of butternut squash. You layer them in the frying pan with broccoli, pour stock over it all, and bake for 10 minutes.

First, I would not use a cast iron pan of the type illustrated in the newspaper. Any seasoning that the pan has had - the accretion of a slick layer thanks to cooking fat - will be compromised by the deglazing effect of the stock.

Allegra McEvedy can peel and slice a squash in four minutes, while her onion rings are frying. That is beyond my competence. My biggest reservation, though, concerns the cooking time. Squash is often tough. You cannot rely on it to tenderise after a brief frying and a 10 minute immersion in stock, as it receives here - even assuming that the stock is sufficient to immerse it. The broccoli might be a problem, too. If it does not touch the liquid, it might remain crunchy; if it is immersed, it will overcook.

What do you do with all the liquid at the end? Use some as sauce, and the rest later as stock, I suppose.