Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Baked chicken with lemon, potato & green olives

I love Bill Granger's relaxed, laid back style of cooking (catch him this week on UKTV foods Market kitchen). His books and TV shows always remind be of summer and he always inspires me to cook simple tasty food. The only down side is that they never seem quiet right during the cold British winter. It's always around this time of year I like to revisit his recipes again for the summer.

I bought his latest book (Feed me now!) a few weeks back looking forward to new inspiration for the upcoming spring/summer. However his latest book is a bit different from his previous offerings. All the photos are shot in this country and it gives the book a completely different feel. I can quiet easily see myself cooking from this book all year round. The recipes are divided in to easy to navigate sections. All the usual sections are there - Breakfast (for which he is famous for), lunch, afternoon treats, family dinners, after work dinners, budget cooking, freeze ahead dishes, entertaining and desserts.

The first recipe I tried was his baked chicken with lemon, potato & green olives. It also meant I got to try out my new poultry shears. As I was only cooking for 2 people I halved all the ingredients and only used the chicken thighs, legs and wings. This is an incredibly simple dish to prepare after work and since it is a one pot dish there is very little washing up (I cooked some green beans separately as I wanted some extra veg so this did increased the washing up by 1 pan!). The only downside is that it takes just over 1 hour from starting preparing to hitting the table. However most of this hour is oven baking time leaving you free to do other things. The result was well worth the wait and I can see this becoming a regular feature on my meal planner. The chicken was moist and the flavours worked really well together (the lemon and the balsamic flavour worked well with the salty flavours of the bacon and olives). I'm really looking forward to trying more recipes from this book.

Baked chicken with lemon, potato & green olives

Serves 4
1kg roasting potatoes, such as Desiree (I used baby new potatoes and the roasted a treat)
1 red onion, peeled and cut into wedges
75g green olives
1 lemon
50g pancetta, cut into strips (I substituted this with smokey bacon)
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
120ml chicken stock
1 x 1.7kg chicken, jointed
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

  • Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4.
  • Cut the potatoes in to small chunks and put them in a roasting tin or ovenproof dish.
  • Scatter over the onion wedges, olives, lemon slices, pancetta and bay leaves.
  • Add the tomato paste and balsamic vinegar to the chicken stock and stir to dissolve/mix.
  • Pour the stock over the potato mixture.
  • Put the chicken pieces on top.
  • Drizzle over the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Roast in the oven for 50 minutes or until the chicken is cooked/golden.
  • Remove the chicken pieces, cover and allow to rest.
  • Turn the oven up to 220C/Gas 7 and return the dish to the oven for 10 minutes or until everything is well coloured and the potatoes are cooked.
  • Place the chicken back in the dish (remove the bay leaves) and serve.


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Thursday, 23 April 2009

Olive and pumpkin seed bread

I think I have mentioned before that I make the majority of my own bread but I have only blogged a few types. The reason being that the majority of the time I bake a basic wholemeal loaf which I mix in my bread machine, shape and then bake in the oven. Nothing too fancy or worth blogging. I occasionally top the loaf with some seeds for added texture but that's about as interesting as it get a lot of the time.

The last few weeks time hasn't been on my side and as such we have resorted to buying a loaf with our weekly supermarket shop. So when I had two days off this week and wanted to spend some time in the kitchen I decided to find a recipe for bread that was just a little bit special as a treat (not only a treat eating wise but baking wise for me). So I started flicking through Andrew Whitley's Bread matters. Lots of the recipes took my fancy but I finally settled on his olive and pumpkin seed bread. I was a little nervous about his 16-48 hour fermentation stage as I have tried to make sourdough before Christmas (from one of Jamie Oliver's books) and also a ciabatta (can't remember the name of the bread book) and failed miserably both times. The results were always wet, runny doughs that didn't support their shape. I decided to give it a go anyway, ignoring the look of horror on my boyfriend's face (he was imagining the mess in the kitchen from previous times!).

So my bread started life on Monday evening (quickly mixed up after finding the recipe and discovering how long I needed to leave it and just before 24 came on TV). The sponge was simple to make and was covered and put in our back bedroom (the warmest room in the house) for 16-48 hours. I left it alone on Tuesday, the smell alone was enough to reassure me something was going on! Then on Wednesday I used the sponge to make the basic dough and then added the flavourings before baking.

So was it worth the effort? yes, the bread is very tasty (so long as you like olives!) in its own right (sandwich fillings would need to be kept simple) and has a really nice texture. I really enjoyed shaping the bread (the swiss roll style filling and shaping - see below) and enjoyed the whole baking experience. I will definitely be trying more recipes from his book (sun-dried tomato and red onion bread with tamari-roasted sunflower seeds sounds fantastic) but he has yet to convert me to baking bread in his slow fashion all the time. I can see that I could fit this into my bread baking e.g. make the sponge on a Friday night and bake the bread on a Sunday but there is just something convenient (well in bread terms anyway) about being able to bake bread in 3-4 hours.

Is the book worth reading? Absolutely. I have outlined the basic recipe below but in the book Andrew explains how to refresh the sponge and turn it in to a leaven. He also explains about the temperature of the dough being important and how to get it right (I don't have a thermometer yet so just used 'warm' water and it worked out fine). There are plenty of recipes to keep you going and lots to read about the whole baking process.

I will of course be entering this in to Yeastspotting.

Olive and pumpkin seed breadThe sponge
3 g fresh yeast (or a little less than 1g dried fast acting yeast in my case)
150g water (at 20C)
75g Strong white flour
75g stoneground wholemeal flour

  • Dissolve the yeast in the water.
  • Add to the flours in a large bowl (sponge may expand to up to 3 times its volume).
  • Mix to form a soft sponge (no need for vigorous kneading).
  • leave at room temperature to ferment for 16-48 hours. The sponge should rise and collapse in this time.

The final dough

225g Sponge from above
150g strong white flour
75g stonegroune wholemeal flour
4g sea salt
15g olive oil
105g water (fairly warm if the final dough is quiet cool)

  • Mix all ingredients together.
  • Knead until the dough is stretchy and silky
  • Cover and allow to rise for 1 hour

Olive and pumpkin seed bread
Makes 2 small loaves
30g pumpkin seeds
20g olive oil
Basic bread dough from above
100g black olive paste (can be made by blending olives in a food processor with a little olive oil, drained first if they have been stored in brine)
12 black or green olives
Olive oil for brushing

  • Work the olive oil and pumpkin seeds into the dough.
  • Divide the dough in half.
  • Dust the work surface with a little flour
  • Roll or stretch each piece into an oblong around 20x15cm.
  • Spread the black olive paste over almost all the surface of each piece.
  • Roll up like a swiss roll.
  • Fold the ends under the loaf so they meet in the middle, reducing the length by half.
  • Firmly push olives into each loaf so they disappear in to the loaf.
  • Place on a baking tray and brush with olive oil.
  • Cover and leave to prove (around 20 minutes).
  • Bake in a moderate oven (190C) for 20-25 minutes until golden.

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Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Back in the kitchen............

and the garden!

Its been a busy few weeks and consequently the blog has suffered but I've just had 2 days off work and as well as relaxing I have been back in the kitchen (and also the garden). I've also joined twitter so anyone who is interested feel free to follow me (purelyfood).

I started my day off yesterday by making a batch of bagels and enjoyed one fresh from the oven with cream cheese sat in the sunshine. For our eveing meal I tried out my first recipe from Bill Granger's latest cookbook - feed me now! It was his baked chicken with potatoes, green olives and lemon and it was delicious (by far the best dish I have cooked in sometime) - expect a blog of this recipe later today or certainly in the next few days. Today I'm in the middle of making olive and pumpkin seed bread from Andrew Whitely's Bread matter's. If it works out well you can expect a post on that soon too. Cross your fingers though as I haven't had any sucess with any of the other breads I have tried that involve any length of fermenting (eg ciabatta or sourdough). Mine always end up too wet and runny.

I have also spent some time in the garden today, planting some seeds. We tried growing our own last summer and grew some herbs, salad leaves and mangtout. It was a reasonable sucess apart from the snails! so we're trying again this year. We have very little space so only grew in a few pots last year. This year we have emptied the only small area of planting the garden has and are trying to grow more veg. So far I have sowed (some directly outside and some in seed trays on my kitchen window sill) herbs, salad leaves, mangtout, spring onions and courgettes. If space allows I would also like to plant some beetroot and another type of climbing bean/pea.

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Monday, 13 April 2009

Delicious ice cream!

It's turning in to a quiet few weeks for update on my blog. Sorry about that, I haven't given up on it though. It's been a busy few weeks with too much work and studying to do, leaving very little time or energy to cook, never mind blog! We've mostly been eating meals from the freezer or reliable, quick favorites (think pasta bakes etc).

Easter weekend has been fun (work and study free!) but not much cooking has gone on in my kitchen. We ate out whilst shopping on Friday and the last two days we have been staying with family. On Saturday we went for a walk in the south Peak District (Dovedale) and consequently had a very lazy meal of pasta and sauce when we got home. We parked and started our walk from Dovedale car park and after our walk we rewarded ourselves with a well earned ice cream.

Who doesn't like ice cream? Well apparently me when I was a toddler. I find this very hard to believe that any child can not like ice cream! And certainly not someone who loves it as much as me now!

In the car park at Dovedale there is a little wooden hut selling delicious, dairy made ice cream (made with local cream) in no less than 8 flavours and very reasonably priced too. The hardest part was choosing the flavour, Belgian chocolate or caramel toffee crunch? mint chocolate chip or rum and raisin?

All in all a great way to spend Easter Saturday - delicious ice cream, sunshine and a nice walk with stunning views.

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Sunday, 5 April 2009

Chocolate gypsy creams

The only good thing about working Saturdays, Sundays or bank holidays in my job is that we take treats in to keep us going as we don't get a break (that and the fact we only do a handful of each a year). I use it as an excuse to bake something I wouldn't bake every week and this week was no exception. I decided to make a Nigel Slater recipe for chocolate gypsy creams from last months Sainsbury's magazine, a biscuit he described as a biscuit of great, great joy. Any recipe described with a double great and involving chocolate is a must try in my book! The recipe didn't let me down - 2 crumbly, ginger flavoured biscuits sandwiched together with chocolate butter cream and drizzled with dark chocolate - how could this fail. The only down side - my boyfriend dropped a third of the biscuits on the floor when he decided to move a group of them cooling on baking paper by simply picking up 2 sides of the baking paper! Luckily there were just enough left for one for both of us that evening and to take in to work the following day.

Chocolate gypsy creams
Recipe by Nigel Slater

Makes 12-14
For the biscuit
125g soft butter
125g golden caster sugar
1 tbsp golden syrup
1 large egg yolk
175g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground ginger
50g dark chocolate

For the filling
75g soft butter
100g icing sugar
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp strong coffee

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C (140C fan), gas 3.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the syrup and egg yolk and mix together.
  4. Sift in the flour, baking powder and ginger. Stir gently into the butter mixture.
  5. Bring together to form a dough.
  6. Roll tbsp quantities of the dough in to balls and place them on non-stick baking trays.
  7. Flatten each ball slightly with the back of a fork.
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before transferring to a cooling rack.
  10. To make the filling beat the butter and icing sugar together until light and fluffy.
  11. Beat in the cocoa and coffee.
  12. Spread over half the biscuits and then sandwich the other half of the biscuits to them.
  13. Mean while break the chocolate into pieces in to a heat proof dish.
  14. Melt the chocolate over a pan of simmering water (the water should not touch the bottom of the bowl).
  15. Push all the biscuits close together and use a teaspoon to drizzle the melted chocolate over the biscuits.
  16. Leave the chocolate to harden.


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Thursday, 2 April 2009

Frozen assets

I thought I would do a series of posts on what I keep in my freezer, fridge and store cupboards. As I have mentioned before my philosophy on food is that 90% of the time I like to eat healthy food, I have prepared from scratch. Some times I have plenty of time free to cook and bake from scratch and at other times my time is seriously limited. There are a lot of key ingredients I have on hand so I can either cook/bake from scratch when I have time and freeze the results for when time is short. This means when time is short I do not have to resort to supermarket convenience foods. As well as pre-cooked meals I also keep ingredients on hand that I can make quick meals from. Today I am going to start with the contents of my freezer.

Essentials - always in there

Frozen veg - peas, sweetcorn,
Frozen fish - white fish e.g. coley or pollack, salmon and prawns (all bought fresh or frozen).
Home made bread packed down into 4 slice's per bag for making lunches for the two of us.
Ice cubes of wine - red and white. once frozen they can be removed from their trays and stored in sandwich bags for adding to dishes as required.
Home made bread crumbs - used for coating fish cakes, adding to pasta bakes etc.
Tomato sauce - made in batches and frozen in small portions for using as pizza sauce.
Pasta sauces - again made in large batches e.g. Ratouille
Bolognese sauce - I make a batch to feed around 12 every couple of months and split it into portions for 2 people. This is real convenience food and in busy periods we may eat a batch once a week usually with pasta.
Root ginger - cut into approximately 2cm pieces when bought, frozen and then each piece can be removed when needed.
Home made soup (except in summer) - in containers with enough for 1 person. Great for removing from the freezer the night before to take to work for a delicious, warming lunch.

Not essential - but often in there

Frozen veg - green beans (good for stir fries or an extra veg side dish), squash I have roasted myself when in season (for adding to risottos, pasta or couscous).
Stewed apples - from autumn onwards when I get given a lot of cooking apples from family. Small quantities for adding to porridge and larger portions for a delicious warming dessert (with or without custard).
Meats - good quality (at least 70% meat) sausages, mince, pork chops and bacon portioned out first (sometimes even I will cut up the bacon into small pieces for pasta dishes before freezing).
Caramelised onions - red or white - great on pizza or breads.
Biscuits or muffins - most freeze well and then you can just remove a few at a time when you want a sweet treat.
Other pre-made dishes - stews, casseroles, lasagna all freeze well.
Home made mini calzones - great for lunch at work (just reheat for 2-3mins in microwave). My boyfriend loves them - a healthier version of a pastie.
Fresh pasta dough - I have found it is easier to make enough for 6 people and then divide the dough in to 3 pieces - freeze 2 and roll one out and shape.
Home made stock - when I have time to make any!
Fish fingers - I know these are practically convenience food but even Jamie Oliver has a recipe for posh fish finger butties in one of his books! As well as fish finger butties they are good with home made potato wedges when you just don't know what else to cook.

I plan for this post to be updated as my cooking changes so will have a link to it in the side bar. I would also love it to be interactive so please post if you have any other things in your freezers that you think are essential or helpful!

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