Orzotto

20 Jun

 

Something between a pasta and a risotto Orzotto is a fab summertime comfort dish when it’s still raining in June!

With baby peas, fresh parsley and pesto it’s light, quick and simple to make and stores well for packed lunches or even picnics (if it ever stops pouring down).

I found this great supper in this month’s Delicious Magazine. It uses store cupboard items, although granted Orzo pasta is not a super common pasta but larger supermarkets have it, but not always in the pasta aisle. I found this brand at Asda and it was pretty good quality (not that I’m an Orzo expert btw).

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To make it vegetarian just omit the pancetta and use veggy stock. You could also make a try it with dried porcini and chestnut mushrooms which would be equally delicious.

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You will need:

A largish heavy bottomed pan
2tbsp Olive oil
1 onion finely chopped
I clove garlic (optional)
260g Orzo pasta
500ml Chicken or Vegetable stock
Juice of 1 lemon
200g frozen Petit Pois
2 tbsp Classic pesto (either make your own see previous posts or shop bought)
Plenty of flat leaf parsley, chopped

  • Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onion (and garlic if including) till soft add the pancetta and fry till it has taken on some colour.
  • Stir in the orzo as you would rice in a risotto and coat with the oil in the pan. After a couple of minutes pour in the stock.
  • Stir and simmer on a lowish heat, keep stirring occasionally. Test regularly until it is just tender (around 8 mins).
  • Add the lemon juice and the frozen peas and simmer a little longer.
  • Remove from the heat and stir through the pesto and most of the parsley.
  • Serve with an extra sprinkle of parsley, parmesan shavings and a grind of black pepper.

Baked chicken curry

16 Jun

This is a super easy standby chicken curry from one of Hugh FW’s books.  Its a quick whizz of ingredients followed by a slow bake in the oven to create a deliciously rich and fragrant chicken curry. I’ve used chicken thighs as they carry the spice flavours really well and they’re also pretty cheap. The curry has creamy coconut milk which tempers the spices and makes it family friendly too.

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You will need:

2 heaped tsp cumin seeds
2 heaped tsp coriander seeds
1 heaped tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp ground fenugreek
1 tsp ground ginger or 1inch piece of fresh ginger roughly chopped
1 lge onion roughly chopped
3 lge cloves garlic roughly chopped
1 lge green chilli roughly chopped (remove seeds if you want to take down the heat)
3-4 tbsp rapeseed or groundnut oil
1.2kg chicken boneless chicken thighs
400g tin chopped tomatoes
400g tin coconut milk
Salt & pepper

Ok so the longest part of this is organising your spices but it’s definitely worth it.

  • First grind the seeds in a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder then roast them in a dry frying pan. Tip them out.
  • Next quickly season then sear your chicken thighs in the frying pan. Lay the chicken in an ovenproof dish and lets move on to the sauce.
  • Tip all your spices into the frying pan and cook for a few minutes.
  • While this is happening put your onion, ginger (if using fresh), garlic and chilli in to a food processor and whizz away till they form a rough paste. If it looks a bit cludgy add a small amount of water.
  • Next tip the onion mixture into the pan with the spices combine and cook for a few more minutes the mixture will start to look dryer and come together so it’s more like a traditional curry paste.
  • Now give the tomatoes a whizz in the same food processor pour onto the spice paste and then pour in the coconut milk mix together. Season with a tsp salt and a pinch of black pepper.
  • You should now have a rich creamy sauce ready to pour over your chicken and get baking.

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  • Pop in the oven for about 45mins on 180C. Sprinkle on some fresh coriander leaves and serve with fluffy basmati.

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Barabrith meet Tea Brack

22 Apr

After growing up in Abergavenny, Wales you would think I would be totally au-fait with Barabrith. I am afraid not, in our house we had Tea Brack, and yes it bears a more than a passing resemblance to Barabrith, although I’m sure die-hard Welsh cooks will disagree. Tea Brack has it’s origins in Ireland, so maybe somewhere in my roots there is an Irish granny (since confirmed I do have the blarney in my roots!) who has passed this recipe down through the family, both my mother and grandmother cooked this delicious fruit loaf regularly. Their version did not include whisky which seems to feature frequently in the traditional Irish versions of the recipe. In the Llewellyn family method, the fruit is soaked overnight in cold tea, and then combined with the other ingredients to make a warm fruit bursting loaf. Said loaf could then be sliced and spread with butter and served at Saturday tea time alongside scones with homemade Raspberry jam, Victoria sponges oozing with buttercream and other scrummy, but heart attack inducing fare.

Tea brack

Ingredients

300g mixed dried fruits eg. Sultanas, raisins etc
250g Light brown sugar
300ml Strong, hot tea
300g Self-raising flour
1 egg
Butter for greasing tin
1kg/2lb Loaf tin

  • This is pretty simple as cake recipes go and fairly laid back. Just a few ingredients and a loaf tin.
  • The night before put your sugar and dried fruit in a bowl, make your strong tea and while its hot pour over the sugar and fruit and stir well. The fruit needs 6-8 hours to soak up all the sugary tea so leave overnight.
  • Next day grease your loaf tin and line the base with baking parchment. Preheat your oven to 150C/ gas mark 2.
  • Mix the flour and egg into the fruit mixture which by now has soaked up the sweetened tea.
  • Once mixed scrape into the loaf tin and level the top.
  • Bake in your oven for 1.5hours or until it has risen and is firm to the touch.
  • Leave to cool for 10mins before turning out of the tin and putting onto a wire rack.
  • Delicious sliced and spread with warm salty butter.
  • NB: It is essential to drink a large mug of hot tea preferably poured from a teapot with your Barabrith.

Eating Barcelona…

7 Jul

Sitting at my kitchen table watching the July drizzle (hello?!!) I can’t help feeling more than a small hankering to go straight back to the sunny climes of Barcelona.

Back in the 90’s I was lucky enough to be an EFL teacher in this fabulous city. For two years I explored every nook and cranny of Barcelona often with mixed success. Pickpockets, dodgy dealers and from time to time some very dodgy food made for an interesting life, as with the seediness came a wealth of culture and a unique blend of exoticism that I’ve never found anywhere else. This time sealed my obsession with, and to, all things Spain and over the last 20 years I have been back many times to get my fix.

My latest visit was no exception, the wealth of fabulous homegrown food the Catalans have to offer coupled with some outstanding wines, great art, architecture and even fabulous weather make it an exceptional destination.

Our trip began with the usual bag drop off at our hotel. Normally a lottery when it comes to online booking, the Hotel Market was a pleasant surprise. It’s stylish and laid back with friendly staff. Situated in La Raval, formerly a bit low rent as an area it is now much improved, and has kept its village-like vibe with the bustling if temporary Mercat de Sant Antoni. The original market building along with many others in the city is undergoing extensive renovation at present.

Nearby we found plenty of great bars and cafes. We breakfasted at the excellent Rekon (formerly Granja Contigo) serving great coffee and delicious Napoletanas (tiny pan chocolat) and Palmero (sweet heart-shaped pastries with a sugar glaze) plus the ubiquitous Empanadas (savoury pasties) filled with everything from chorizo to goats cheese and peppers. Drinking a freshly squeezed orange juice in the sun outside, your day is set.

Street life is everything in Barcelona so a great deal of time is passed just soaking up the myriad of  characters and cultures that inhabit the city. This translates to a lot of people watching whilst slurping canyas of Estrella and munching on sweet pimento olives and salted almonds. Perfect for this activity is Marmalade (Carrer Riera Alta), smack on the intersection between 2 small streets it has some very good cocktails, Mojitos are pretty popular here, alongside a good menu of snacks and grown-up burgers.

The cornerstone of Spanish cuisine is tapas, Quimet Quimet is probably the best I’ve found in the city not just for the food but also for the fantastic atmosphere. Be warned it gets very busy and is always standing room only. Located in Carrer de Poeta Cabanyer in the Poble Sec district, it has been in existence for many years and offers unique Montaditos. These small crostini are piled high with inspired combinations from pickled anchovies (Boquerones) with creamy goats cheese to cod’s liver (Higado de bacalao) with roe on a base of sofrito (tomato and pepper sauce). Canned fish are a big deal here and while we may sniff at the thought of opening a can of scallops, in the hands of Quimet Quimet they are elevated to sweet, succulent morsels sipped with a tiny spoon. Fleshy sturgeon is served with roasted red peppers and fine jalapenos, drizzled with the greenest olive oil and a sprinkle of coarse sea salt. Plates of mariscos, clams, razorfish, baby squid, mussels with sweet sea juices that can only be soaked up with pan tomate. The house Cerveza Negra (a dark stout-looking beer) is an excellent accompaniment but that said the house wines are also superb.

When you visit Barcelona don’t miss La Boqueria market just off the La Rambla. La Rambla is rammed with tourists and hawkers and on the whole not a great way to see anything but step off into the market and you are thrown into a bustling hub filled with both tourists and locals jockeying for position. In the centre are stalls loaded with hams, cheeses and brightly coloured fruits and vegetables.


Around the edge are several bars, some better than others. One of the best is Bar Pinotxo. Stake your claim on one of the stools that border this corner bar and order whatever they have available. Once it’s gone it’s gone, so don’t leave lunch till too late or you’ll be disappointed. We had fantastic rabbit (conejo) cooked with tiny, dark and delicious mushrooms in a rich, earthy gravy, the flavours were pure rustic catalan cooking. The sweet rabbit flesh could only be extracted by nibbling the tiny bones, which made the experience all the more pleasurable. Griddled gambas (king prawns) in their shells were anointed with just a smattering of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Alongside a paper place mat you are given a hunk of salty sour fresh bread with which to mop up the unwasteable juices. Garbanzos (chickpeas) slow-cooked with thyme, pine nuts, olive oil and garlic elevate this humble pulse from sidekick to hero. My husband barely had a look-in, although he had bagsied the aforementioned rabbit. That day there were also some excellent pimientos de padron, the last of which were snaffled by a pair of chic businessmen at my side who knew the ropes, ordered quickly, and didn’t sit ogling all the dishes like starstruck teenagers as we did. After a feast of dishes and several glasses of cava (it just has to be done) we strode, full-bellied, back into the sunshine to soak up some more culture.

All photographs © Keith Davies

Rachel’s Frozen…

18 Jun

After much complaining from my kids about the lack of ice cream in our freezer I thought I’d whip up a batch of frozen yoghurt, it’s quick and really easy to make but most important of all, it’s scrummy.

Ingredients

1 Ripe mango, pureed
1 small can Condensed milk
1 large (450g) carton of Rachel’s Organic Coconut Yoghurt

With a very ripe mango to hand I whizzed up a quick puree which I combined with the yoghurt and the special addition of one small can of condensed milk. This adds a creamy sweetness and is a good foil to the sharper greek yoghurt.

Using a good quality flavoured yoghurt means most of the work is done for you and one large carton (450g) makes about 6 servings. I used Rachel’s Organic Greek Style Coconut yoghurt which is fab on its own but perfect for this. If you have an ice cream maker, lucky you, now’s the chance to use it, alternatively place the yoghurt mixture in the freezer. After about an hour or two take out the yoghurt and fork through to break up any ice crystals. Repeat this process every hour or so until frozen. To serve let the frozen yoghurt sit at room temp for about 10mins to soften.

This is really simple to make and you can add any fruit puree you fancy, strawberries (almost in season so why not PYO), raspberries anything you like.

If you want to make this a bit more flash as a dessert you could you could serve it with some fresh berry coulis and crumbled meringue. Delish.

Papa Poulet…or Poulet Saute au vinaigre

17 Jun

Some quality french cooking for the best Dad in Chez Davies. I saw Henry Harris cook this yesterday on Saturday Kitchen and instantly thought, winner! The recipe is from the bbc website. It takes a little time but is definitely worth it. All my family loved the deep flavours which come from the slow cooked chicken with rich tomatoes, white wine, and mustard tamed with cream and subtle tarragon. I used a whole chicken which I then jointed into thighs, breast, legs, and drumsticks but you could equally use pre-portioned chicken thighs and legs. Bones equal flavour so please make sure you leave them in. I served ours with very buttery mash and some roasted celeriac and rosemary. This will serve 4 (2 adults and 2 hungry children!)

Ingredients

  • 1.5kg/3lb 5oz free-range chicken
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tomatoes, blanched and skinned
  • knob of butter
  • 1 tsp tomato puree
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 50ml/2fl oz red wine vinegar
  • 125ml/4fl oz white wine
  • 500ml/18fl oz chicken stock
  • 1 heaped tsp Dijon mustard
  • 250ml/9fl oz whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon

Preparation method

  1. If using a whole chicken, cut it up and divide the breast into 2 sections. You should end up with around 10 pieces.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180C/350C/Gas 4.
  3. Heat a splash of oil in a large, wide, lidded, oven-proof pan.
  4. Season your chicken and fry until golden.
  5. Meanwhile, quarter the skinned tomatoes and scoop out the seeds. Keep the pulp.
  6. Dice the tomato flesh into a small dice and put to one side.
  7. Remove the chicken from the pan and set to one side.
  8. Tip out the fat and add the butter. Stir in the tomato purée and cook for two minutes to cook out the purée. Add the garlic and tomato pulp and cook for a further minute to dry out the pulp.
  9. Add the vinegar and reduce until it has all but disappeared. Add the wine and reduce in volume by a third. Then add the chicken stock and bring up to a simmer.
  10. Taste to check the seasoning, and add salt and freshly ground black pepper as necessary.
  11. Return the chicken to the pan, cover with a lid and transfer to the oven.
  12. Bake for a further 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
  13. Lift the chicken from the pan and set aside and keep warm.
  14. Strain the sauce through a sieve into a clean pan and bring back to a boil.
  15. Whisk in the mustard and stir in the cream, then simmer and reduce to thicken slightly.
  16. Check the seasoning a final time and then add the diced tomato and tarragon.
  17. To serve, pour the sauce over the chicken and serve.

Bertie and Brownies…

13 Jun

Its been hectic in the Davies’ household of late. We are at the end of GCSE exam fever (thank heavens!) and we also have a new addition in the form of Bertie, a four month old Labrador cross, puppy. Rescued from abandonment in a field by the lovely people at Four Paws Animal Rescue, now Bertie has a permanent home cwtched on our sofa.

Introducing, Bertie Davies

Despite this distraction I have been baking lots of treats to fortify my daughter in her studies. This particular recipe is one of her favourites that we have made together many times and when you’re tired and fed up of revising (or life in general) there is nothing like a big mug of tea and a warm chocolate brownie to cheer you up.
This recipe is an amalgum of several from Nigella to Nigel Slater. It is pretty simple and foolproof so give it a whirl. If you are a purist go 100% Dark chocolate (make sure it’s got 72% cocoa).

These quantities will make about 16 which is perfect for lunchboxes for a week. However if you are looking for celebration quantities then just double or treble remembering to upgrade the size of your brownie tin.

You will need:

180g Unsalted butter
90g Dark chocolate (Green & Blacks)
90g Milk chocolate (As above)
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g Caster sugar
110g Plain flour
Half teaspoon salt
150g chopped walnuts (optional)
Non-stick/or lined brownie tin 15cm square

  • Preheat your oven to 180C/Gas mark 4
  • Melt the butter and chocolate together in a bowl over a saucepan of boiling water on the hob. (You can do this in the microwave but I always forget about it and burn the chocolate!)
  • Beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla
  • In another bowl combine the flour and the salt
  • Once your chocolate mixture is melted leave to cool slightly then beat into the eggs and sugar
  • Finally beat in the flour until smooth and then scrape into your brownie pan
  • Bake for about 25 minutes but keep an eye on them. Ideally your brownies should be pale brown and meringue crisp on the top but still a bit gooey in the middle. test with a skewer if you are not sure. If the centre is still very runny pop the brownies back in for another couple of minutes.
  • Makes 16

Once cooked leave to cool for as long as you can bear to wait, for these brownies are edible joy.

A nice cuppa and warm chocolate brownies

Focaccia

4 Mar

It’s been a funny day. What started with deep-sea fog hanging over the village and loosing me my dog whilst out on a walk, ended with glorious sunshine and a heat normally associated with April or May. With the outbreak of spring weather I was inspired to get cooking. Today’s recipe selection was fairly eclectic including a fruity chilli courtesy of Thommi Miers, Madeira cake and homemade bread, but most importantly focaccia. This recipe will give you less of the cake-style focaccia you buy in the supermarket and more of a doughy bread studded with rosemary and steeped in fruity extra virgin olive oil.

To make your basic dough follow this recipe, feel free to embellish your focaccia with any topping or additions you like. Sundried tomatoes, feta cheese, olives and pine nuts are all fantastic individually or combined. My focaccia is your starting point with just rosemary sprigs pushed deep into the dough and a sprinkle of sea salt.

You will need:

  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • Half pint of tepid water
  • 1.5 sachets of dried yeast
  • 1tbsp sugar
  • Half tbsp salt
  • Extra virgin olive oilFor the top
  • Rosemary sprigs
  • Sea salt

Preheat your oven to 180C/Gas mark 4.

Grease a 20cm square brownie tin or a baking sheet if you prefer a round focaccia.

Place all your dry ingredients together in a large bowl, you can make your dough by hand or using a mixer with a dough hook. Slowly add your warm water to the centre gradually bringing your dry ingredients together. Keep combining until you have a sticky dough mixture. This is where some elbow grease is required. Take your dough out of the bowl and on to a lightly floured surface. (Don’t introduce too much extra flour though) keep pushing, turning and kneading the dough until it becomes springy, smooth and elastic. If you use a mixer this will be pretty easy but don’t get smug at some point you will need to get your hands dirty! Shape the dough into round ball and place in bowl. Cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place to prove. This will take about an hour.

Once your dough has puffed up nicely get your baking tray or tin ready, grease lightly with oil then place your dough on top. Push and spread your dough out across the tray, stretching it out. When you are happy with the shape pour several glugs of oil onto the top of the dough. Push the oil into the bread with your fingers and then stud the top of the focaccia with your chosen topping or rosemary sprigs.

Bake in the centre of your preheated oven for about 30 mins keep an eye on the top so it doesn’t burn. Don’t worry if your focaccia looks a bit knobbly that’s part of the charm. I add a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt at the end to boost the finished flavour.

Cacciatora comfort

24 Feb

This needs a little forethought but it’s actually pretty simple. It’s a slow cook well worth waiting for, cacciatora transforms the humble chicken thigh into a rich, hearty meal packed with deep flavours that will satisfy the coldest soul this February. This Jamie recipe from Jamie’s Italy works brilliantly with cannellini or butter bean mash, and is an excellent supper party staple.

You will need

  • 2kg Chicken pieces ( thighs and legs work well)
  • 8 Bay leaves
  • A couple of sprigs of Rosemary
  • 3 cloves of garlic ( crush one, slice two)
  • Half a bottle of Chianti
  • Some flour
  • Olive oil
  • 6 Anchovy fillets
  • A handful of green or black stoned olives
  • 2 tins of plum tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper

Season the chicken with salt  and pepper place in a large bowl cover with the red wine . Add the bay leaves, rosemary and crushed garlic. Cover and leave to marinate at least overnight (This marinating is the key to your end result having a rich intense flavour, so if time is short do this the night before so it ready to cook the next evening.) The next day you chicken will be deep purple in colour this is what we want.

Preheat your oven to 180c ( gas mark 4). Drain your marinated chicken keeping the liquid. Dry the chicken with kitchen paper then dust each piece with some seasoned flour. Heat the oil in a large ovenproof pan. Fry each pice so the outside begins to brown and crisp up. Remove the chicken pieces and put to one side.

Now cook your sliced garlic in the same pan. As soon as it starts to turn colour put in the anchovies, tomatoes and olives. Stir to break up the tomatoes and then slide the chicken pieces back into the sauce.

Once bubbling nicely cover with a well fitting lid and then leave to bake in your warm oven for about one and a half hours. You may find a layer of oil on the top after cooking. Skim this off before serving. The cannellini bean mash couldn’t be simpler. Drain and rinse a tin of cannelini beans. In a small saucepan heat some olive oil with a bruised clove of garlic. Pour this flavoured oil over your beans and mash roughly. This recipe will feed a hungry six just make sure you supply copious amounts of Chianti to make this a true Italian experience.

Elderflower bliss…

20 Jun

There’s something about the scent of Elderflower that delivers up summer sunshine even when it’s raining. The heady perfume is divine, quite literally bottled, as a cordial. Dilute for your small ones with sparkling water and for your big ones, dilute with Cava. This cordial is great for drinking outdoors with lots of barbecued chicken and thirsty friends. Alternatively, as we live in Blighty with the most unpredictable weather, serve indoors with grilled chicken Caesar salad and aforementioned friends!

Gather your flower heads, away from smelly roadsides if possible. This is a great excuse for some family foraging but hurry, because the flowers don’t hang around for long, especially with the very wet and windy weather we’ve had over the last few days. Once picked tap the heads gently as Elderflower is a favourite with creepy crawlies. (Do not do as I did, and shake the heads indoors, as I spent the rest of my evening gathering up spiders, beetles and some weird midgy things from all over my kitchen.)

You will need:

25-35 elderflower heads, strip off the large stems
1kg Caster sugar
50g Acetic acid (ask your pharmacist for this)
3/4 Lemons sliced
1.5 litres water
A large bowl to put everything in

  • Add your sugar to 1.5 litres boiling water, stir to dissolve thoroughly
  • Once this is cooled stir in the acetic acid
  • Add your elderflower heads, pushing into the syrup mix
  • Add your sliced lemons and again push ingredients down into the liquid so they are submerged.
  • Cover with a tea towel and leave in a cool dark place for at least 2 days. If you can wait longer do as the flavour will intensify
  • When it’s ready strain the mixture through a fine tea towel or piece of muslin. Cover until you are ready to use
  • Prepare your bottles for the cordial by sterilizing
  • Heat oven to 100C/0.5 Gas mark
  • Wash bottles and rinse thoroughly, pour in boiling water, tip away and then lie on their side in oven
  • Leave in oven for 15mins.
  • Turn off oven and leave bottles until cold
  • Using a funnel pour the cordial into the bottles, seal, and ideally store in the fridge.

    Bottled nectar

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