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

True Taste Food and Drink Awards 2011

16 Jun

The other day I had the opportunity to do my bit for Wales. Granted this was not too arduous a task as it involved eating lots and lots of delicious food all day long.

As a judge for the celebrated True Taste Food and Drink Awards I sampled some of the very best food Wales has to offer. Some truly superb entries in all categories, it illustrated just how far Wales has come as a producer of top quality foodstuffs. With the odd bizarre exception, the entries were well prepared and of a very high standard. From salami to sirloins, and pies to preserves, it was a complete gastro-feast. These awards are an excellent opportunity for producers to showcase their talents and gain the recognition they deserve both locally, and UK wide.

This was a great experience with some very knowledgeable foodies and chefs making up the the judging panel. My entire day was spent smelling, savouring, indulging and discussing…heaven!

If you want to know more about the True Taste Food and Drink Awards please take a look at their site www.truetaste.tv

The winners of the True Taste Food and Drink Awards 2011-2012 will be announced later this year.

Perfect Pork

6 Jun

When a quick fix Sunday lunch is required this pork fillet is the easy way to make a special roast without fuss. The sage and juniper add great flavour and the sauce can be taken two ways. Either follow tradition with a quick reduction for gravy or add a little cream to make something more sophisticated. Serve with lots of scuffed roast potatoes and some steamed greens tossed in butter.

Pork fillet with sage and cider

You will need:

Pork fillet (allow 3 medallions per person)
Celery, Carrots, Onions roughly diced
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
50g Unsalted butter, cut intosmall cubes
3 rashers of Smoked bacon, cut into 1″ pieces
2 Cox’s apples sliced
Sage leaves
1 tbsp Juniper berries
I can Dry Cider

  • Preheat your oven to 180c
  • Arrange your carots, celery, onions and garlic in the bottom of a roasting tin
  • Place the pork medallions on top of the veg
  • Put a piece of bacon onto each medallion
  • Top with the butter and a sage leaf
  • Season the whole tin and sprinkle over your juniper berries
  • Pour your cider over the top
  • Cook for 25-30 mins
  • Once cooked place your medallions onto a serving dish and keep warm
  • Heat the remaining cooking liquor
  • Strain your liquor, return to a clean pan
  • Reduce to create a delicious gravy or if you want to go posh add a splash of cream.

Spring barbecue…

23 Apr

Spring has definitely sprung, and in true brit reaction to the weather our furry coats have been swapped for a bikini top and shorts. The heatwave means we can hit the garden with our lily-white bodies and get some Vitamin D exposure.

With this in mind last weekend saw the Davies household’s first barbecue of the year. After a quick trip to Slade Organics just outside Wick in the Vale of Glamorgan, we came home with fantastic fillet steak from prime Aberdeen Angus cattle. How do I know they were Aberdeen Angus? Because Slade Farm labels tell you so, including the age of the animal, what they ate, their provenance, (bred, born, reared and fattened on Organic holding based at Southerndown), where they were slaughtered and how long the meat was hung for. This is the sort of info which should be standard and gives you a much more personal connection to what you are eating. Added to which, and most importantly, the end product is rather fabulous.

We even picked up boot-full of manure for my veg patch courtesy of some very cute Gloucestshire Old Spot pigs which are also raised on Slade Farm.

Great steak is best kept simple, rub with a fruity olive oil and season well with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Once your coals are hot, pop on your steaks and open something red and fruity (note: to avoid barbecue burns, limit the red and fruity to just a glass until you put the tongs down).

Cook your steak as you like it (mine’s seared, smoky and pink) and then leave it to rest with a knob of herb butter on a warmed plate. Alongside your steak try a quick baby gem salad, the sweet and crisp leaves will hold their own against ripe tomatoes layered with basil and red onion. In true boy scout style you could add a crispy skinned baked potato sliced open with some salty butter to cool the inside. With the sun fading and probably your first sunburn of the year just starting to glow, eat, drink and enjoy it while it lasts people.

Roasted root salad

3 Jan

It’s January and after the blow-out that was Christmas this is a brilliant winter salad. Comforting for the dark nights ahead, but sufficiently nutritious to make you feel you’re doing something healthy and virtuous for the New Year.

Root vegetables are fabulous during the winter months and once roasted take on a brand new personality, which is deep, rich and sweet. The chillies add an extra heat which works well with the cool, creamy feta. The final addition of rocket, with a drizzle of balsalmic and olive oil, gives the right level of peppery crunch. Plus the greenery is a beautiful contrast to the deep reds and oranges of the root vegetables.

The combination of our best seasonal produce with the mediterranean flavours of rocket and feta cheese is heavenly. I have suggested some root veg that works well roasted in the salad but feel free to add any others that take your fancy. The balsalmic gives the final touch to make your supper sing.

You will need:

2 beetroot
1 butternut squash
2 parsnips
2 red onions
2 whole large chillies
3-4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
A few sprigs of thyme and rosemary
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
200g or 1 block of feta

  • Preheat your oven to 180c/gas mark 4
  • Peel and cut your root veg into wedges, place in a large bowl
  • Scrunch the thyme and rosemary to free the oils and then add them to the bowl
  • Add some olive oil plus the garlic cloves, salt and pepper
  • Tip into a roasting tin and spread your veg evenly
  • Roast for 20-30mins until soft but lightly caramelized
  • Arrange your roasted roots on a serving platter
  • Crumble your feta over the vegetables
  • Sprinkle your rocket leaves around the plate
  • Finally drizzle you balsalmic and olive oil over your salad
  • Serves 4

This is a great supper dish to serve on a chilly night either on it’s ownsome, or with grilled lamb or a quality pork sausage plus lots of good red wine.

Pesto-licious

31 Dec

Perhaps one of the quickest, and most popular, things I make is pesto. Once you have a batch whizzed up the possibilities are endless.The peppery basil combined with roasted pine nuts, pungent garlic and nutty parmesan, married with some great olive oil. It’s a combination made in heaven and one which can elevate your store cupboard essentials to something stunning.

You will need:

2 large bunches of basil
1 large handful of pine nuts
I large handful of coarsely grated parmesan
1/2 or 1 clove of garlic
A generous glug of olive oil
Salt and pepper

  • Lightly toast your pine nuts in a dry frying pan, leave to cool
  • Bash your garlic and pine nuts in a pestle and mortar or if you prefer use a food processer
  • Add your basil and bash/blend
  • Add the parmesan
  • Finally pour in the olive oil until you have rough sauce
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste then give it a final mix and taste
  • If not using immediately put the pesto into a jar and cover top with a thin layer of oil. This will keep in the fridge for at least a week if covered with oil.

Now you have your excellent homemade pesto here are a just a few ideas of what you can create.

Green Spaghetti

Number one favourite with kids and adults alike, it is pesto in it’s most simple form. Stirred through hot pasta, loosened with a little olive oil and garnished with a few parmesan shavings, this is fast food at it’s best. If you feel the need, add some pan-fried smoked bacon, or a handful of fresh spinach leaves which will wilt with your hot pasta. This is excellent comfort food and perfect for those days when you want something quick but satisfying.

Pesto Tart

This is a complete cheat but I love it, and so does everyone who eats it. It is quick, simple and you can adapt the toppings to suit any occasion. I have made one large tart here but you can divide the pastry into six or more to create individual tarts if you’re having a party for New Year.

You will need:

I block puff pastry
3-4 tbsps of your very scrummy pesto
A handful of cherry or plum tomatoes halved
I ball of mozzarella
A few basil leaves
A drizzle of olive oil
Salt and pepper

  • Preheat your oven to 200c/Gas mark 6
  • Grease a baking tray
  • Roll out your puff pastry on a floured board to about 4mm thick and rectangular in shape
  • Place your rolled out pastry on the tray
  • Spoon on your precious pesto and spread out leaving a one inch edge
  • Scatter your tomatoes evenly
  • Tear your mozzarella into chunks and place across tart
  • Take your basil leaves and rip into shreds and scatter
  • Drizzle the olive oil over the tart and season well.
  • Brush the edges of your pastry with a beaten egg or milk
  • Place in your oven for approx. 20 minutes or until edges are risen and golden and the cheese is bubbling
  • Serve as a starter or with green salad for a superb lunch or supper
  • Feeds 6 as a starter or four as main
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