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Archive for September, 2010

September ’Meanderings’ …

A new look for this roundup from this month with less words as I am going to let the pictures do the talking instead.  Just click on the title to be taken to the post – and enjoy!  I am enjoying reading the comments that are coming in and linking up with new ‘foodie’ friends – if you are one of these then thank you for bothering to write.  I would love to hear from anyone who makes any of the recipes I post through the comments section for that recipe.

Here are the recipes I have made during September: some lovely ways of cooking chicken for the early Autumn plus some French style recipes to keep alive the memories of our Summer holiday to the French Alps this year.  (Read Meanderings ‘à la carte’ August 2010 for more details of where we visited and the foods we enjoyed there and brought home.)

Recipes this month

 Zaatar Chicken                   Mexican Style Chicken Pepper Salad
    
Aromatic Lemon Roast Chicken              Tamarind Chicken Satay
     
Chicken & Bacon Fricassée                                     Salad Niçoise
    
Tartiflette                                                 Mille-feuilles Napoléon
  
All images ©’Meanderings through my Cookbook’

www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Meanderings Revisited (links back to original post)
Le Far Breton aux Pruneaux (Breton Far with Prunes)
Minted Salmon & Fennel Tortilla Omelette
Blackberry, Apple & Ginger Crumble
Beetroot Chutney
Blackberry Curd

Bookshelf Meanderings:
During September I made a number of recipes from Mediterranean Cooking by Christine France, including Aromatic Lemon Roast Chicken which I have posted this month.  This slim paperback book was originally available from Tesco Supermarkets (priced £3 in 1998, according to the label still on the cover) but I acquired it from a local charity shop for a fraction of this price.  It is packed with straightforward recipes full of the flavours of Mediterranean ingredients.  I hoped my family would shut their eyes and pretend they were still on holiday!  As a result of the recipes in this book I finally got round to cooking and serving Polenta to my family – and then wondered why we had never eaten it before.  It is such an easy ingredient to use.  Firstly we ate it as a simple buttery mash but on a second occasion I turned it into Courgette Polenta Slices (recipe to follow).  (I have made corn bread too in the past and really must do so again as I remember how much we enjoyed it: I just wish I could remember where I got the recipe!)  Three more recipes are in the pipeline to eventually be posted on this site, all very much enjoyed by us: Florentine Pork with Chick Peas, Tuscan Style Sausage Pot and Prawns with Provencale Style Tomato Salsa.  Among other recipes, I also have my eye on Sicilian Cauliflower Salad, Pumpkin Lemon & Parmesan Risotto & Tiramisu Ice Cream.  If you come across this book I recommend you snap it up!

Blogosphere Meanderings:
The Omnivorous Bear is written by Wendy who lives near Nottingham in Central England. I particularly enjoyed her posts about Apple Butter and she was kind enough to offer to let me know a good source of windfall cooking apples local to her (unfortunately the distance between us would have made taking up her kind offer rather silly – but thanks again Wendy!)  Not long afterwards I found some beautiful Crab Apples instead and turned them into Crab Apple Cheese, which is similar and was successful.  Wendy made her Apple Butter into a delicious sounding Toffee & Apple Butter Crumble and Apple Butter Cake, both of which I must try with my Crab Apple cheese.  Other recipes made recently which took my attention are: Seed & Grain Bread, Cheese & Sweetcorn Scones, Puy Lentil & Pumpkin Soup … plus some good instructions for Madeleines, which I will treat as reminder to get my as yet unused tin out of the cupboard and give them a go!

Restaurant Meanderings:
We ate out with family at a The Royal Thai Restaurant at Stoney Stratford, Bucks (near Milton Keynes) which they recommended and had visited on a number of occasions.  It was a quiet weekday lunchtime, the food was delicious and we ate relatively cheaply from their two course lunchtime set menu.  Almost everyone started with Sesame Prawn Toast – always a favourite (and not difficult to make either).  Main courses included Panaeng (a dry aromatic curry that was excellent, if rather hot) and Pad Priew Wan (a less hot sweet and sour flavoured dish).  We will be going back again: I want to try the Pad Thai, which is on the other lunchtime ‘Express’ menu!

Read Meanderings ‘a la carte’ from previous months

‘For what we are about to receive…’ October 2010 

Coming in October … I will be making the most of nature’s bounty adding recipes for chutneys, jellies and similar and also adding some recipes which include apples.

Happy Cooking & Eating!

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Although some sources try to connect these pastries with Napoleon I of France, it is more likely that they originated from Naples in Italy with the connection with the Emperor made at a later date.  Mille-feuille a French word is translated literally ‘thousand leaves’, referring to the fine layers of puff pastry.  In the UK  the most common version contains thick cream or custard (and sometimes jam as well) plus a feathered decorative icing, when it is is often given the name Cream, Vanilla or Custard Slice.  Whatever the name this pâtisserie is relatively simple to make, especially as if uses ready made puff pastry (make your own if you wish), with the pastry layers made in advance and the layering done within an hour or so of eating to avoid losing the crispness.  This last stage is rather fiddly and time consuming but well worth the effort and should earn appreciative comments from those you are serving!

This recipe called Napoléons with Lemon Cream and Strawberries was found in a small book from the library: French Desserts by Laura Washburn.  It is a variation on the original plainer versions and containing layers of lemon cream and strawberries.  I felt that the finished Napoléons, whilst delicious, could be rather too acidic in flavour for some people.  Using a sweeter, less acidic, lemon curd mixed with extra cream and well sugared strawberries (rather than unsugared) could go some way to solving this.  In my version of the recipe I have substituted my own lemon curd (still lemony but milder), sugaring the strawberries well to counteract their natural sharpness. Thinking further, it would be interesting to try some more combinations using curd and cream mixtures with fruit: orange curd would go well with apricot and lime curd with stem ginger and both could have added chocolate shavings, for example.  If the curd was omitted and the cream was increased then flower flavourings such as rosewater or orange flower water would be delicious in combination with fruit. Dainty individual servings of just a bite each would make an ideal finger buffet snack or single element of a multi part dessert. There are many possibilities for these Napoléons and I shall definitely be doing some experimenting.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Mille-feuilles Napoléon with Lemon Cream & Strawberries
Napoléons au citron et aux fraises
(Makes 10-12 pastries)

500g packet of Puff Pastry (or home made if you wish)
Milk, just a little for brushing
Caster sugar, just a little for sprinkling
2lb/900g strawberries, aproximately
4 or 5 tbsp sugar, depending on sweetness of Strawberries, more if needed
For the lemon cream:
1 jar of lemon curd, home made if possible or good quality
150ml whipping cream, Elmlea half fat if possible
Icing sugar, to dust

1.  Preheat oven to 200oC/400oF/Gas 6

2.  This step can be done well in advance, leaving just the finishing to be done closer to serving.  Roll the Pastry into a large oblong on a floured board and cut into 15 to 18 equally sized 2 x 4 inch/5 x 10cm rectangles.  Place these, spaced out, on baking trays.  Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake for 10-15minutes, or until golden.  Carefully lift onto a wire rack and leave to cool.

3.  Slice the strawberries into thin layers, sprinkle generously with sugar and leave to one side.

4.  Within an hour or two before eating whip the cream well and thoroughly combine with the lemon curd.

5.  The pastry rectangles must be completely cool before filling.  Slice each carefully in half.  This is easiest with a serrated knife.  The pastries are made in three layers so choose the best looking top pieces and keep to one side.  The remaining pieces, either tops or bottoms, form the other layers.

5.  Layer the Napoléons together.  First put about 2 teaspoons of cream mixture on a bottom layer.  Cover with about 8 strawberry pieces.  Add a second pastry layer (this will be either a bottom or a top of the halved pieces). Follow again with lemon cream and strawberry pieces.  Finally, add one of the selected top pieces as a lid.

6.  Move each Napoléon to a serving dish as it is completed.

7.  Just before serving dust the completed plate of Napoléons generously with icing sugar.

8.  Serve with additional strawberries and extra cream.  Allow 1 or 2 Napoléons per person, depending on size of serving and appetites of diners.

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Ever since eating this recipe in our home last winter we had been looking forward to trying it at its home this summer in the mountains of France.  We found it on the menu of a pavement cafe just opposite the door of the church at Briançon, a fortified town high in the alps.  Briançon is actually the highest city in the European union, according to French statistics – about the same height as Ben Nevis in Scotland.  The Tartiflette did not disappoint and it was certainly authentic, containing the Reblochon cheese which is a regional speciality, with a slice actually melted on top.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable lunch in a lovely location.  When making my own version some months beforehand I had been unable to find Reblochon (or Taleggio which was suggested as an alternative) so I used grated Mozzarella.  I would look around a little harder though if I was making it for a special occasion (I have seen it since so now know where to go).  Although I used a recipe from a book, I did some research to find out about alternative cheeses.  Waitrose have two recipes.  The first is for a Tartiflette very similar to the one I made, where they suggest substituting Crémier de Chaumes, Epoisses or even mature Irish Ardrahan (unknown to me).  The second recipe is a variation on the basic recipe which uses ripe Brie: Tartiflette with Brie & Bacon.  I have read elsewhere that you can use Pont-l’Évêque.  Sounds as if anything goes, though preferably not too mild a flavour: most importantly, the cheese must melt well…!

My recipe comes from One Step Ahead by Mary Berry, a book from the library with so many lovely recipes that I am loth to return it.  She writes that the mixture can be prepared in advance – up to 12 hours if necessary – and kept in the fridge (though bring it to room temperature before cooking to avoid cracking the dish) but is not suitable for freezing. In the dish we ate on holiday a slice of Reblochon was laid on top of each individual portion dish, so reserve slices of cheese before you grate if you are going to do this.   Although we ate Tartiflette in the Alps during the summer months, it is perfect as a quick and simple winter TV supper eaten round the fire.  Be warned, though: it is not a dish for calorie counters!  Serve with green salad or green vegetable.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Tartiflette
(Serves 4)

Butter for the dish
1lb/500g small potatoes, preferably new
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4-5ozs/125-150g smoked streaky bacon, chopped
4-5ozs/125-150g button mushrooms, halved or quartered
4ozs/125g Reblochon or Taleggio cheese, rind removed
   0r
substitute a similar melting cheese (see above) but the result will not be as authentic
¼pint/150ml single pouring cream (original used double) – I used Elmlea half fat
a little paprika
2tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1.  Butter a shallow ovenproof dish.  Preheat the oven to  200oC/400oF/Gas 6

2.  Boil the potatoes in salted ater until they are tender.  Drain well and, once they have cooled enough to handle, slice them thickly. 

3.  Arrange them in the base of the buttered dish.

4.  Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion for a few minutes over a high heat.  Add the bacon and fry for a few minutes more.  Turn down the heat, cover the pan and cook for around 20 minutes until it is tender, stirring occasionally.

5. Add the mushrooms to the mixture in the pan, raise the temperature and cook over a high heat for 3 minutes.

6.  Tip the mixture over the potatoes and stir in.

7.   Coarsely grate the cheese – or remaining cheese – over the top of the bacon and potato mixture.

8.  Pour the seasoned cream over the top of the potato mixture, sprinkle with paprika.  Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes until crisp on top and piping hot.

9.  Serve hot sprinkled with parsley and with a green salad on the side.

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What could be better for a Summer Sunday lunch on a scorcher of a day – a ‘too hot to cook’ type of hot day!  I was delighted when I discovered this recipe on the back of the pack of tuna and it was perfect for a busy day, just before we went on holiday, when lots of cooking was the last thing on my agenda.  (We followed it with an ice cream dessert).   Salad Niçoise is a specialty of the Côte d’Azur region of France, originating in and named after the Mediterranean port city of Nice.  Traditionally red peppers and shallots are used with the French insistent that no cooked vegetables be added, whilst it is not always usual to include salad leaves.   With these reservations, Salad Niçoise is usually understood to be a mixed salad which includes four essentials: tuna, egg, French green beans and olives mixed with other salad ingredients, all of which is tossed with a vinaigrette dressing.

My recipe starting point was found on the back of a pack of Finest Catch Frozen Tuna Steaks.  (This appears to be a small company without a website address, but their fish retails through a small nationwide chain of supermarkets and I have been very pleased with it, especially their Oak Smoked Haddock.)  I find frozen tuna steaks easy to use and relatively economical though if I was cooking for a special occasion I would choose fresh tuna steaks.  Alternatively, this can be served at a buffet with the tuna steak replaced with the contents of two tins of tuna chunks, which are placed on top just before serving at the same time as the eggs and olives.  (It should go without saying that Tuna should come only from a sustainable source and be line caught.)  I had all the ingredients to hand, the one exception being that I had a jar green olives already open, so decided to use these rather than the usual black ones.  I added a couple of additional salad ingredients which we usually enjoy: cucumber and pepper, this time orange.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Salad Niçoise
(Serves 4) 

4 Tuna steaks  (or 2 tins of Tuna chunks in brine, drained)
1tbsp butter
1tbsp olive oil
juice of ½ lemon
salt & black pepper

For the salad:
2oog small new potatoes (cook with a sprig of mint, optional)
2 hard boiled eggs, quartered
175g green french beans, topped & tailed
100g lettuce (original recipe suggests 1 head Romaine – I substituted a mixed bag)
150g cherry tomatoes, halved (or larger tomatoes cut into quarters or eighths)
1 small red onion, finely sliced
50g pitted olives, black (original recipe) or green or mixed colours
4inches/10cm cucumber cut into four lengthways and chopped
1 orange/red/yellow pepper diced (optional)
6tbsp vinaigrette dressing (have more available if needed)

1.  Scrub the potatoes and boil until soft.  Add a sprig of mint to the boiling water (optional).  Drain and cool.

2.  Hard boil the eggs in their shells.  Cool immediately in cold water to avoid a grey ring around the yolk.  When cool, crack and remove the shell, quarter and set aside.

3.  Blanch the beans by pouring over boiling water which should be just enough to slightly soften while they retain their bright green colour.  Immerse in cold water to stop them from overcooking, drain and set aside.

4.  Prepare the remaining salad items except for the olives and pieces of egg.  Stir in the cooled potatoes and beans.  Dress with the vinaigrette and gently mix together.

5.  Melt a little butter in a frying pan and add a little olive oil and heat until the butter has just melted.  Place the Tuna steaks in the saucepan, season with salt & pepper and squeeze over the lemon juice.  When the Tuna steak has a light colour on on one side, turn it adding a little extra olive oil if necessary and cook until the second side is also lightly coloured.  The fish should not be overcooked and should still be a little pink in the centre.  Alternatively, cook the Tuna steak in your own preferred way.

6.  Serve a pile of salad onto each plate, placing a still warm tuna steak on the top and decorating with the pieces of egg and olives.  Alternatively serve the tuna steaks separately, decorating one large dish of tossed salad with the olives and egg pieces so that guests can serve themselves.  Drizzle just a little extra olive oil over the salad if you wish, or have extra dressing and seasoning available for guests to help themselves.

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Fricassée is a French dish and is a stew of chicken or other poultry, but sometimes of other white meat, rabbit, fish or vegetables.  The meat is cooked in a white gravy, or sauce, which includes cream or (in my version) a similar dairy product.  Many versions add vegetables, particularly mushrooms, often with the addition of a little white wine or dry vermouth.  There is, I gather, a Cajun version which is much darker in colour and served, as I do, with rice.  All of this information was discovered when doing a little research for this preamble, having realised I did not really know what Fricassée was.  I am still not especially any the wiser, apart from confirming that I was right about its French origins.  Although there was no mention of using dark meat, I have a particularly good recipe for Lamb Fricassée, which I really must make again and post on this site.

I have been making my version of this recipe, a family favourite and a particularly good way to use up chicken leftovers from a roast dinner (or turkey at Christmas).  Fresh chicken can be used but it should be included earlier in the recipe once the onion and bacon mixture are partly cooked.  I like to add a little bacon to give extra flavour and often add a selection of the vegetables I have to hand, but always include mushrooms and some frozen peas.  I like to make my version as colourful as possible, the vegetables I include and selected to give a good variety of colour as well as balance of flavour.   I consulted a recipe to double check the ingredient list, but in the end made very few modifications to the one given below, which is mostly my original version.   I found a good one in a slim book of chicken recipes found in a charity shop: Pan-Cooked Chicken Dishes (Pub: IMP Ltd – no obvious author) in the Recipes from Around the World series.  I have often seen copies of this book for sale cheaply and wonder if it was originally given away free with a magazine, or similar.   

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Chicken & Bacon Fricassée
(Serves 4)

½oz/10g butter
1tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 stick celery, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 leek, cut into rings
4ozs/125g mushrooms, button if available – quartered or finely sliced
4ozs/125g diced streaky bacon – smoked or unsmoked
Small glass of white wine – optional (I usually omit this)
1tsp Herbes de Provence
1 bay leaf
Salt & pepper
1tbsp cornflour
150g crème fraîche, soured cream or single cream – or even milk!
8ozs/250g cooked chicken leftovers
   or
12ozs/375g uncooked skinned & boned chicken, cut into strips
Peas, courgette, red pepper (or other colour), sweetcorn – choose 2 or 3
1tbsp lemon juice – optional (for rice)

1.  Melt the butter and olive oil together in a frying pan.  Cut vegetables, apart from leek, into similarly sized pieces so they cook evenly.

2.  Finely chop the onion and gently fry in the covered pan with the garlic, finely chopped carrot, rings of leek, bacon and mushrooms until the onion is transparent and the vegetables have softened.  

3.  Stir in the Herbes de Provence and add the Bay leaf.  If you are using wine it can be added at this point. 

4.  If using fresh chicken add it at this point, stirring well until it starts to change colour.  Put the lid on the pan and cook for 10 minutes.

5.  Add two or three other vegetables – I used peas, diced courgette and diced red pepper. 

6.  Season to taste.  If using pre-cooked chicken cut it into bite sized pieces and add.

7.  Mix (slake) 1tbsp cornflour in a little water and stir into the chicken and vegetable mixture.  Stir well over a low heat until the cornflour mixture thickens the fricassée.

8.  Stir in the crème fraîche, soured cream, single cream or milk and cook through.  It is important that this is done over a low heat otherwise the mixture could curdle. 

9.  Serve on a bed of white rice with a little lemon juice stirred through just before serving.

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This is one of those relatively simple dishes that is ideal if you only want a light meal on a hot summery day, but actually I would be happy to eat at any time of year!  Apart from the time taken to marinade the meat and prepare the kebabs, it is quick to cook in a preheated oven.  Accompany with a portion of boiled Jasmine Rice, plus salad or some peas served on the side, if you wish.  The tomato and chilli sambal is a perfect sauce to accompany to the dish.

Yet again this recipe comes from one of my favourite books: Hot & Spicy Cooking: Exciting Ideas for Delicious Meals with recipes by Judith Ferguson, Lalita Ahmed and Carolyn Garner.   The finished meat was spicy and fragrant but not especially hot.  I used ready made tamarind paste in place of soaking and preparing tamarind pods (although the sourness of lemon juice would give a similar flavour).  Now I know we like the recipe I may see if I can find some Indonesian Soy Sauce, Kekap Manis, but the first time I used a combination of dark soy sauce and dark brown sugar.  The only other change to the recipe was to thread the marinaded meat alternately with cherry tomatoes, cubes of yellow or orange pepper and green pepper or slices of pre-blanched courgette.  This gave extra colour and a healthier dish: anyway I love grilled vegetables in kebabs.   I grilled my skewers of meat but they would be ideal cooked on a barbecue.   A piece of meat and one or two small pieces of vegetable combined on a cocktail stick would also make a good starter or buffet dish. 

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Tamarind Chicken Satay
(Serves 4, 6 if using vegetables as well as meat)

4 chicken breasts, skinned, boned and cut into 1.25cm cubes
Cherry tomatoes, sliced courgette & yellow/orange pepper (optional)
1tbsp sunflower oil
5cm piece tamarind, soaked in 100ml hot water 
   or
2tsp tamarind paste 
   or
Juice of 2 lemons
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1tsp ground cardamom
½tsp ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon kekap manis sweet soy sauce
   or
1tsp dark soy sauce and
½tsp dark brown sugar or jaggery

Tomato & Chilli Sambal
1 red chilli pepper (for less heat remove the seeds and/or reduce the amount/size of chilli)
1 small piece fresh ginger, grated
1 clove garlic, crushed & finely chopped
450g/1lb fresh tomatoes, peeled & seeded
4 tbsps oil
1 tbsp lemon or lime juice
1 tbsp dark brown sugar
Salt & pepper

1.  Put the pieces of chicken in a large bowl. Mix the marinade ingredients together and pour them over the chicken. Stir well and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, but longer if possible.

2.  Soak the skewers in a bowl of water.  This prevents them from burning: especially important if barbecuing.

3.  Grind the chillis, ginger and garlic together in a food processor or using a pestle and mortar. Chop the tomatoes coarsely, use the food processor if available and blend them into the chili mixture.

4.  Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan.  Fry the tomato mixture for about 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking.  To prevent sticking, add the lemon or lime juice and a spoonful of water, if the sauce starts to become too thick.

5.  Stir in the sugar and season to taste.

6.  If using vegetables as well as chicken cut each into similarly sized pieces, allowing the same number of pieces for each portion.  If using courgette the pieces need to be blanched: pour over boiling water and leave for 5 minutes, before plunging into cold water or cook for 1-2 minutes in a microwave oven.

7.  Thread the marinated chicken cubes onto thin wooden skewers.  If using vegetables as well then alternate the chicken with the vegetable pieces, using each colour of vegetable in turn.

8.  Brush the threaded kebab with any remaining marinade supplemented with a little extra oil if necessary.

9.  Preheat the grill and cook the chicken gently, turning frequently, until golden brown.  This should take 5-8 minutes.  Continue to brush the chicken with the remaining marinade during cooking.

10.  Serve with Boiled Jasmine Rice.  Peas and salad can be served as an accompaniment but if serving chicken and vegetable skewers a small side salad should suffice.

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I love roast chicken but strangely enough we rarely eat it.  Perhaps it is the knowledge that after the meal is over and the washing up done, there is still a carcass to pick over.  Perhaps it is that, although I know how it ought to be carved, in practice I usually end up with a pile of bits rather than neat slices: tastes good but looks awful.  From time to time however I do buy a chicken, especially as a whole bird is very economical and can be stretched to several meals, so when I saw this delicious sounding recipe I took the plunge.  (Sure enough there were leftovers which became Chicken Fricasee and a Chicken Salad for one, as well as delicious stock made from the remainder of the carcass – plus a few bits for our persistent puss-cat!)  I know I have included a recipe for Roasted Lemon Chicken in the past, but that was for chicken pieces (I usually use thighs) whereas this recipe is for a whole bird and includes spices and a lot of garlic as well, so it is a variation rather than a repeat.  I am sure that it would also be an excellent way to cook individual chicken pieces/thighs.

The recipe comes from Mediterranean Food by Christine France, an excellent charity shop find that originally came from Tesco supermarket.  I have given the original cooking times in the instructions below but all my Sunday Roasts have to fit around going to church (in our case leaving home at around 9.30 and not usually back until well after 1pm, such is vicarage life!)   I have to put any roasting joint in the oven on a much lower heat as I go out, turning the temperature up and (usually) uncovering the meat when we return giving it a final burst of heat before allowing it to stand for a briefly before carving.  Perhaps this is why my meat breaks up, however the flavour is rarely spoiled, just the appearance.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Aromatic Lemon Roast Chicken

1.25kg/2lb 12ozs Roasting Chicken
1 whole head of garlic
2 lemons
4 cardamom pods
1tsp cumin seeds
4 cloves
2tbsp olive oil
Salt & black pepper
200ml/7 fl ozs chicken stock or water
1tbsp cornflour

1.  Preheat the oven to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4. For the original cooking times follow the instructions at Step 8. 
If cooking in the oven for a longer time, do not preheat the oven.  Follow the instructions in step 9

2.  Cut the garlic head in half horizontally. Cut the lemons into wedges.  Lightly crush the cardamom pods, cumin seeds and cloves in a mortar and pestle. 

3.  Lightly oil the roasting tin to stop the meat from sticking.  Place the half of the garlic with the root end and half of the lemon wedges in the bottom of the tin and sprinkle over the crushed spices.

4.  Check inside the chicken and remove any giblets.  These can be cooked gently in a little water for chicken stock and/or chicken gravy.  Carefully rinse the chicken, running water through the cavity. 

5.  Gently ease the skin on the chicken breast upwards to create a cavity.  It should be easy to put your fingers in at the edge of the neck/chest cavity.  Be careful the skin does not tear.  Push half of the remaining lemon wedges underneath the skin. 

6.  Place the remaining wedges inside the chicken along with the remaining half of the garlic.

7.  Put the chicken, breast side downwards, into a roasting tin.  Rub over the remaining oil and season well.  Add two tablespoonfuls of stock or water.  Cover with a well fitting lid or lightly oiled foil to prevent sticking.

Follow either the cooking instructions at Step 8 (original timings) or Step 9 (longer, slower cooking time – useful when going out)

8.  Cook for one hour at preheated temperature.  Turn the chicken over and baste by spooning the collected juices over the meat to help browning and moistness.  Return to the oven and roast for a further hour, or until cooked.  Remove the lid or cover for the last 30minutes to allow the chicken to brown and crisp, but watch that it does not burn and the tin does not go dry – add a little water or stock if necessary to prevent this.  When it is cooked the juices should run clear when a knife is inserted into the thickest part of the thigh.

9.  If leaving this to cook in the oven for a longer period, then set the oven on to 140oC/275oF/Gas 1 when you put the chicken in. After about 2-3 hours take the chicken from the oven, turn it over and baste it well.  Be careful as it can start to break up while being turned.  Increase the heat to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4 and return to the oven, uncovered, for about 30 minutes to allow the chicken to brown and crisp, but watch that it does not burn and the tin does not go dry – add a little water or stock if necessary to prevent this.  When it is cooked the juices should run clear when a knife is inserted into the thickest part of the thigh.

10.  Remove the chicken from the tin and allow the meat to rest, uncovered and in a warm place, for about 15 minutes before carving.  (The resting time can be omitted or cut short if necessary, but it does make carving a bit easier and is always recommended for meat.)

11.  While it is resting strain off the chicken juices from the pan, skimming off any excess fat.  This can be reserved for roasting potatoes if you wish and will give a subtle garlic and lemon flavour.  Dissolve the cornflour in a little water and gently combine with the strained juices and the remaining stock or water.  Cook in a pan over a gentle heat stirring all the time until slightly thickened.  Pour this gravy into a jug and keep warm.

12.  Carve meat and serve.  Excess meat can be kept for several days and eaten cold or cooked into other hot dishes.  The carcass can be made into stock along with the giblets if not already used: cover with water and gently cook with added vegetables (carrot, celery and a bay leaf, along with the roasted garlic heads if you wish) – freeze until needed.

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This lovely combination of cold chicken and vegetables dressed in a spicy yoghurt mayonnaise and served with hot rice, makes a perfect light but spicy dish for a warm summer evening.  We enjoyed it so much I took the recipe on holiday with me, along with some tomato relish plus little packet containing the spices I needed and then made it in our holiday caravan in the French alps.  (I am always looking for straightforward and quick to prepare holiday recipes, after all it’s my break too!)  The finished dish looks very pretty and would be an attractive addition for a buffet, perhaps as an alternative to the much sweeter Coronation Chicken.  A small portion, perhaps on a bed of lettuce with little or no rice, would make a delicious starter.
Update 6.2.11:  I made this recipe as part of a buffet in a quantity that would serve 50 people.

The recipe came from one of my favourite cookbooks and probably one of my best charity shop finds: Hot & Spicy Cooking: Exciting Ideas for Delicious Meals with recipes by Judith Ferguson, Lalita Ahmed and Carolyn Garner.  Ideally this would be a good use for cold meat left over from a roast.  As I had none I gently pre-cooked some lightly seasoned chicken thighs in a small saucepan along with a little olive oil and some finely chopped onion, allowed them to cool and removed the flesh in strips.  This was then used to finish the recipe. One ingredient that I dispensed with was onion purée.  I certainly was not going to buy a ready made version, if I could find some, as it would be so easy to make myself, but it was rather a lot of work for such a small amount.  In the end I simply gently cooked half a finely chopped small onion in the microwave. On subsequent occasions I have used a good tablespoon of my own home made Spicy Tomato Relish in place of the onion, tomato puree, chilli powder and cayenne pepper, just adding the paprika.  The relish includes a little apple and sugar, making it slightly sweeter, but it was enjoyed by all and I will make it this way in future.  If using tomato relish in the recipe chilli and cayenne can still be added to taste for lovers of spicy food but less will be needed than in the original recipe.  In my version I have also adjusted the proportions of other ingredients, including doubling the quantity of sweetcorn and adding an extra pepper in a different colour.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Mexican Style Chicken Salad
(Serves 6)

450g/1lb poached chicken, breast or meat from thighs, cut into small pieces
140ml/¼pint mayonnaise (more if you wish) – not salad cream
140ml/¼pint natural yoghurt (more if you wish)
1tsp paprika
3 medium peppers, seeded & finely sliced: suggest one each red, orange & green
½ x 325g tin sweetcorn, drained (but more if you wish)
a little paprika to garnish
1tbsp Spicy Tomato Relish
or
1tsp chilli powder
pinch cayenne pepper
½tsp tomato purée
1tsp onion purée

1. a.If using the chicken thighs lightly season them and gently cook in a small saucepan with a little olive oil and some finely chopped onion.  When cooked thoroughly, leave to cool, remove the flesh in strips.  Drain and reserve any cooking liquid, which can be cooled and frozen to use as stock.  Set aside the drained onion unless using tomato relish, in which case it can be kept with the stock if you wish.

b.  If using cold leftover chicken cut it into strips, checking for and removing any gristle.

2.  Deseed the peppers and cut into small strips, a similar size to the strips of chicken.

3.  Open and drain the sweetcorn.

4.  Mix together the yoghurt and mayonnaise.  Stir in either the tomato and onion purées (or onion cooked with the chicken or some onion chopped and gently cooked until transparent) along with the chilli powder and cayenne pepper or the tomato relish, which already contains spices. (If using tomato relish a little additional chilli powder and/or cayenne pepper can be added, according to taste.)

5.  Mix in the sweetcorn, peppers and chicken and stir well.  Chill before serving with warm long grain rice, lightly sprinkled with paprika.  Alternatively serve on a small bed of lettuce leaves.

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I missed Nigella Lawson’s Forever Summer series the first time it was shown on television, but have caught the repeats on UKTV Good Food this summer.  Za’atar chicken is lovely for a hot summer day.  It needs some advance preparation but can simply be popped in the over to cook when required.  The chicken is amazingly moist and delicious … need I say more!  Nigella suggests serving Za’atar Chicken with Fattoush, a North African/Middle Eastern salad containing toasted pitta bread, which I have already posted.  It is a wonderful combination of flavours and both are recipes I shall be making again and again.  Coriander & Chickpea Couscous Salad could be served as an additional dish if needed.

The recipe can be found in the book of the series, Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson.  This recipe was part of the ‘Amber’ TV programme: each episode is named after a colour, with the recipes fitting each title.  Clever, although the book is more traditionally laid out.  I am sure that this recipe could also be cooked on a Barbecue, although I have not tried it (suggest a brief pre-cook in the microwave before barbecuing to make sure the chicken is thoroughly cooked).  I did some research and found a recipe for Za’atar mixture and made my own as I had all the ingredients in the cupboard.  Za’atar Spice Mixture (click for recipe already posted on this site) is simply a combination of roasted sesame seeds, sumac, thyme, oregano and salt.  It is aromatic and definitely not spicy, the sumac giving it a lemony flavour.  I have chosen to be more generous with the Za’atar mixture as we love the flavour.  I used the chicken thighs suggested in the recipe but the Za’atar Mixture would be good, I’m sure, liberally spread over a whole roasted chicken.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Za’atar Chicken
(Serves 4)

4 large chicken thigh pieces (with or without skin)
4 tbsp olive oil
4tbsp Za’atar Spice Mixture 
Salt, preferably sea salt

1.  Remove the skin from the chicken pieces if you wish before marinading.  Place the chicken in an ovenproof dish or tin.

2.  Spoon over olive oil and za’atar mixture.  Turn pieces in the dish so they are well covered.  Season and cover.  Alternatively the chicken pieces can be placed in a large plastic bag with the oil, za’atar mixture and seasoning.

3.  Place in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.  If using a china dish then remove from the fridge and bring up to room temperature to avoid breakage.

4.  Preheat the oven to 220oC/425oF/Gas 7.   Place the dish in the centre of the oven, covering for about 20 minutes, then removing the cover and cooking for 35-45 minutes in total, or until cooked through to the bone. 

5.  Serve with Fattoush Salad and possibly with Coriander & Chickpea Couscous Salad as an extra.

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