Easy Peasy Supper: Chicken Cacciatora.

Fiesta Friday *2

Delicious, quick and healthy.  I’m presuming that this is the dish Italian ladies had waiting for their hard-working husbands when they came home from a day working in the forest… made with equal love, it’s my healthy contribution to Fiesta Friday this week!

Easy Peasy Supper recipes are perfect for mid-week dinners, or entertaining at the weekend, when you’ve got something more entertaining than cooking to do all day!

Italian Forester's Chicken

Italian Forester’s Chicken

I based the recipe for this dish on Jamie Oliver’s, from Jamie’s Italy.

http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/chicken-recipes/hunter-s-chicken-stew-pollo-alla-cacciatora

I omitted anchovies, and cut right down on wine, adding stock and extra tomato juice instead, in line with the tastes of the friend I made it for.  Really delicious – I love recipes that easily adapt to suit availability or taste.

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Serves around 6 people

2 Kg chicken, jointed, or 2 Kg of chicken pieces
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
8 bay leaves, slightly crushed
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 cloves garlic, peeled (1 crushed, 2 sliced)
½ bottle Chianti
flour, for dusting
extra virgin olive oil
6 anchovy fillets
1 handful green or black olives, stoned
2 x 400 g tinned plum tomatoes

Season the chicken pieces with salt and freshly ground black pepper and put them into a bowl with the bay leaves, rosemary sprigs, crushed clove of garlic and wine. Marinate overnight in the fridge, or for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4.

Drain the chicken, reserving the marinade, and pat dry with kitchen paper. Dust the chicken pieces with flour and shake off any excess. Heat an ovenproof pan, add a splash of olive oil, fry the chicken pieces until browned lightly all over and put to one side.

Fry off the sliced garlic gently until golden brown, then add the anchovies, olives, tomatoes (broken up with a wooden spoon) and the chicken pieces with their reserved marinade.

Return to the boil, cover with a lid or foil and bake in the preheated oven for around 1½ hours.

Skim off any oil that’s collected on top of the sauce, then stir, taste and add a little salt and pepper if necessary.

Remove the bay leaves and rosemary sprigs, and serve with a salad.

Foresters Chicken - Dairy Free & Deicious.

Foresters Chicken – Dairy Free & Deicious.

– It’s a shame the pictures have all come out so horribly ‘RED’!! Maybe because I took them when the chicken was still hot?

I’d appreciate any advice on the photography front if anyone can help – Thanks ex.

Meantime, I’m off to see other inspiring dishes – with far better photos, no doubt – over at Fiesta Friday – click the link in the right side bar to join in with Angie, the Novice Gardener and her crew  🙂

Happy Easter. Helter Skelter Egg Run.

Happy Easter…

May your eggs be plentiful and yummy!

As a chicken keeper, who is not very keen on chocolate (really!) finding and enjoying eggs is more of an all year pursuit than a seasonal  treat – perhaps with a few weeks off midwinter when the chickens focus on keeping warm rather than egg production.

Last Easter, Holly (daughter number 2) gave me a lovely ceramic ‘egg tray’ to keep Ava and Clemmie’s eggs in.  A beautiful mix of utilitarian and elegant, it was a lovely present.  However, due to the traffic in our kitchen at times, it got broken within a week.  I replaced it with something that I think every chicken keeper should have – a helter skelter egg run…

04.14 Egg run with dishwasher box

More robust, quirky in design and cause for an everyday smile.

The definition of ‘Helter Skelter’ is In disorderly haste; confusedly; haphazardly.  

although that may apply to the fairground variety, the Helter Skelter is anything but when used as an egg run / store.

What I love about it is that it effortlessly orders the eggs – so that if you want the freshest for poaching you take from the top.  But when baking you’d go for one at the end of the run…  And gently guide the others down to take its place.  We used to date each egg when taking it out of the laying box, but that’s no longer necessary.

I got mine from Amazon UK – I’m sure they are easily available from outlets worldwide too.

 

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As a child, I didn’t particularly like chocolate either – I remember kind friends / family giving my sister and me beautifully shiny, brightly wrapped Easter Eggs.  I would enjoy the thought and the pretty packaging, but the eggs themselves would sit in the kitchen for some months.  Sometime in the autumn, my mother would usually make a chocolate cake   🙂

My parents used to hide a new dress in the garden as an Easter present for us to find instead of the eggs – I remember finding a lovely bright red dress one year – I put it straight on, then went to church and ripped it on the railings on the way home.  My mother mended it with iron on mending fabric… strange the things that we remember.  What does Easter mean to you?

 

New feathers, New thoughts…

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Ava, one of our lovely girls, had an out of season full moult mid January.

The sight of her, wandering sadly around in the cold biting winds, with no down or feathers to keep her warm, was awful.

She was much quieter than usual, and slow to come out of her house in the morning.

So it’s wonderful that she’s now a busy, happy hen again – with a fluffy new white coat… Here she is, in all her newly feathered glory – about to dig a deep nest, as she so loves to do, which she and Clemmy spent most of Saturday sitting in, giving the occasional contented cluck…  Those feathers won’t stay white for long, but it’s so lovely to see her tossing the bark chippings around again, like a pre-occupied old lady on a mission!

I haven’t posted for just over 6 months –

Somewhat struck, all that time ago, when a someone I look upon as a good friend said that although we hadn’t been in touch for a while, it was ok – he knew how I was by reading my blog… I was put off blogging for a while… Work then got very busy, time went by, I turned around twice, and here we are… February 2014!

The blogs I enjoy are those that are written straight from the heart – as though the author was having a 1:1 conversation with me – a glimpse into their personal thoughts on a particular topic, whatever it may be, and into the range of topics that matter to them personally…  But reading someone’s blog is, of course, a very narrow vista into their life – an interesting peep into a file, but without knowing what else the file contains, or the complexity (or otherwise!) of circumstances for the author at the time of writing… Without knowing how big the filing cabinet is and what the titles – or content – of the other files may be…

I’ve missed making that quiet time, once in a while, to read blogs that I enjoy, discover new ones, learn, ponder different perspectives – share thoughts with people, wherever they may be in the world.

In reading their blogs, even those that I ‘follow’, I realise that I don’t know that person – a point that was clearly proved when, last month, I met someone whose blog I have been following – their blog is a glimpse through tinted spectacles, a crack in the wall that surrounds the writer, keeping all but their most intimate friends from knowing the true person.

So, having learnt a little more about a good friend and different views on what constitutes keeping in touch(!), I’m looking forward to sharing more thoughts in 2014, and hope that you’ll share yours in response, as you have done in the past – either through private message, or leaving a note on the blog… 🙂

Half Term… time to play with new ‘toys’!

I spent the first weekend of this half term playing with a new gadget that Jassi (daughter 1) bought me –

it’s a ‘Polti Vaporetto Evolution Steam Cleaner Kit with Iron’ ...

Since she’s had her weekend job in the kitchen department at John Lewis, she’s become a bit of an expert about all things necessary, desirable and labour-saving.

She staggered home last week on the train with a huge heavy-duty JL plastic bag containing this wonderful present for me…!

I’m not going to pretend that I’ll use this often, and I don’t really think that’s the point of it – but it is pretty fantastic, and saves a huge amount of scrubbing or fiddling around with specialised cleaning products for different jobs (which I find usually disappoint anyway).  So it’ll be regularly if not frequently in use.

All the building work over the last 9 months resulted in walls being demolished seemingly randomly, plastering at a pace that resulted in not only the new walls being covered with the stuff, but floors too.  Chimney work was accompanied by shocking clouds of soot literally all over the kitchen and workmen walking through what they clearly saw as a building site rather than a home (marching soil, soot and plaster dust throughout as they did).  The hard floors were in a very sorry condition.  The once limestone coloured tiles and grout in the kitchen had transformed to mid brown tiles and black grout.  The dust and plaster power that had got caked onto the basin stand and metal fireplace in the bathroom was equally disheartening.

But after a weekend with my new toy, the grout has re-appeared, showers sparkle and I have the satisfaction of knowing that things are literally steam cleaned without endless bottles of chemicals.

P1000014It’s not a cheap machine, but I’m sure I’ll get lots of successful use out of it –

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the power of steam can be quite addictive and satisfying.

The more I use it, the more I’m saving on cleaning materials…

so longer term use ticks the environmental and financial boxes too!

P1000022On Monday I used my dad’s grass scarifier.

Yes, I know it’s too early in the year to scarify the grass, but he doesn’t know that and I imagine had got his electric scarifier out at the first glint of sunshine.

P1000021Having had a go at his grass and apparently been so pleased with the amount of moss and debris picked up, he was absolutely resolute that I should borrow it and have a go myself.

I did with a heavy heart, thinking that scarifying the grass really isn’t a priority right now. Despite being an electric machine, it was an amazing workout – the collection basket fell off every few seconds – literally – with the result that I spent over an hour  – or was it all afternoon (felt like it) bobbing up and down re-fixing it.

Another good result from the whole scarifying event was that Ava and Clemmie, the chickens, simply loved all the bits that the machine collected – it’s such a good feeling to see or hear happy animals going about their way.  The sight and sound of them contentedly kicking up the moss and grassy waste, clucking and pecking as they went was a pleasure to witness.  Happy girls.

So one product to recommend – see John Lewis’ web site (and other places too) for details of  the ‘Polti Vaporetto Evolution Steam Cleaner Kit with Iron’.

And another to recommend avoiding – won’t name the brand of strimmer as I’m not sure of the model number, but just to say if you’re ever thinking of using one, make sure the basket fixes on properly – unless you have time to spare and want a unbelievably energetic workout as part of the experience (in which case a heavy-duty rake would be a more cost-effective option!)

What gadgets would you recommend using or avoiding?

I’d love to hear…

Egg inside an egg…

I had a text from Jass when at work on Tuesday – ‘Ava’s just laid the biggest egg ever’   

Phew, I thought – that’s supper sorted!

Well, it was really big – even in a general comparison sort of way, not just compared to the tiny precious offerings we hope for from our girls.

When she gently cracked it into the poaching pan, a little white came out – then another surprise – inside was another, complete, bantom-sized egg.

I’ve heard that when first laying chickens produce some strange shaped eggs, but this seemed really egg-trodinary!

… I’d love to hear about any other weird and wonderful eggs out there…

First Egg!!

– Still warm from being laid by Ava, and it’s a double yolker – how strange to be so amazed by a chicken producing an egg – but this has to be one of life’s little wonders!!

Jassi poached it –

Jassi’s easy way to poach an egg – 

Simmer water in a small pan, and when it has little bubbles in it, stir the water around

Drop the egg in for one minute, keeping water whirling around egg – then quickly turn heat off

With water still swirling around, let it cook without heat for 10 minutes…

Then remove from pan with a slotted spoon… yum!

Welcome to Clemmie and Ava.

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We have finally got some long awaited chickens! Thanks to Harry for his encouragement with the housing… we’re trusting the Omlet’s promise that they’re fox proof – so far, they seem to be true to their word. Clemmie and Ava – a Black Rock and Sussex White seem to get on well and be happy so far – they’re living in a fixed run, on a special brick framed bed filled (thanks to Tom for his totally amazing work making the brick path around the chicken bed) with bark chippings from some recent cherry tree pruning… all seems well so far – cluck, cluck!

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