Easy Peasy Supper: Parsi Chicken with Apricots.

Fiesta Friday *3

Time to entertain, but not to slave over an extensive shopping list and hot stove?

Easy Peasy Suppers fit the bill when interesting but non demanding recipes are called for, using ingredients that you don’t need to trawl the back streets to find  🙂

See more quick and easy ideas by searching ‘Easy Peasy’ in the right hand side bar.

Parsi Chicken with Apricots.

Parsi Chicken with Apricots: A delicately spiced ‘Easy Peasy Supper’.

Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s Curry Easy, I love this dish.

Spiced but not shouting and wonderfully adaptable

(Madhur says her friend ‘puts in a healthy glug of Maderia towards the end of cooking!’)

it’s a delicate, no fuss supper which works well with plain rice or potatoes.

Potato mint and egg salad

New Potato, fresh mint and soft-boiled, freshly laid egg salad.

‘Parsi’ means Persian.

India’s Parsi community were driven out of Persia by muslims around the 8th Century and settled on India’s West Coast.

At first there were concerns from locals that their country was already over populated.

According to tradition, the Parsi’s leader asked for a bowl of milk filled to the brim and a spoonful of sugar.

He carefully blended the sugar into the milk, without spilling a drop.

“We are like the sugar,” he explained, “We will only sweeten your country.”

http://www.parsi.com/parsihistory.html

Parsi spiced Chicken with Apricots.

Parsi Chicken with Apricots: A delicately spiced ‘Easy Peasy Supper’.

This dish is a little sweet, but delicious with it.

I’d recommend a fairly bland accompaniment to complement and not overpower the sweet – sour tones.

I had some new potatoes and mint that needed trimming, so made a quick salad with soft-boiled, freshly laid eggs… perfect!

Serves 4.  

Recipe adapted slightly from Madhur Jeffrey’s Curry Easy.

1.25 Kg Chicken pieces (or use a whole chicken, portioned, as I did)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

12 dried apricots

3 Tablespoons Olive Oil

2 Cinnamon Sticks

1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

2 medium onions, sliced

1 Tablespoon tomato puree

3 teaspoons peeled and finely grated fresh ginger

1 1/2 Tbs granulated sugar (I used quince jelly)

2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon garam masala

1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Mint - growing apace in the spring rain!

Mint – growing apace in the spring rain!

This is my contribution to Angie’s Fiesta Friday over at The Novice Gardiner

http://thenovicegardener.wordpress.com/fiesta-friday/

I’ve learnt so much from the other Fiesta-goers,

and am so grateful for the tips and advice I’ve been given.

I’m off to join you all now.

Follow the link above, or on the right hand side bar –

hope you enjoy this dish, and I’m looking forward to trying some of yours!

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.

2014-05-08 20.00.08

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  🙂

A versatile take on Hummus.

Chickpea, Roasted Lemon, Tomato, Parsley & Black Olive Smash:

A zippy, more adaptable take on hummus…

Equally delicious, even more healthy, and, well, see what you think…

Coarser & less oily than the original, roasted lemons and tomato combine zestily with the smashed chickpeas, toasted cumin seeds and black olives.  Bursting with goodness and full of natural, unadulterated Middle-Eastern flavour.  Although made at the end of February, I was able to use fresh parsley that had overwintered happily in the garden  🙂

Spring Parsley!

Spring Parsley!

Great to have sitting in the fridge as a ready snack, especially for those of us who are wheat free so need an alternative to bread or biscuits ready to grab, to combat the 5pm slump… Or whenever a burst of energy is needed!

If using as a dip / starter, crush chickpeas up a bit more – but not as pulverised as you would for hummus.  Serve piled onto baby Romanie Lettuce leaves, or crisp crackers.

chickpea, roasted lemon & tomato smash

1 – 2 cans of chickpeas, gently heated for around 5 minutes to make them easier to crush.  Drained.

A couple of large handfuls Baby plum or cherry tomatoes, halved

1 Tbs Olive oil

Pinch of salt

1/2 Lemon, sliced into half moons

1Tbs Lemon juice

2Tbs Olive oil

Handful of fresh parley, roughly chopped

Salt and pepper, to taste

3/4 tsp Cumin seeds

 –   Preheat the oven to 180C/350F
 –   Mix the tomatoes with the teaspoon of olive oil and the salt.
 –   Place tomatoes on a lined baking tray, cut-side up. Roast for 10 minutes then add lemon slices & cook for 20 minutes
      more. Remove from oven and set aside.
 –   Toast cumin seeds in a small non stick pan for 1 minute until fragrant.  Then lightly crush in a pestle & mortar or with the
      side of a knife.
 –   While the chickpeas are still warm, drain then add to a bowl along with the olive oil and lemon juice Gently crush with a
      potato masher. You want to keep plenty of texture.
 –   Stir through the roasted lemon slices and tomatoes, fresh chopped parsley and cumin seeds. Season to taste.
 –   Serve at room temperature with crackers, lettuce or crusty bread.
Chickpea, Roasted Lemon, Roasted Tomato, Black Olive & fresh parsley Smash.   V,  W/f,  D/f.

Chickpea, Roasted Lemon, Roasted Tomato, Black Olive & fresh parsley Smash. V, W/f, D/f.

Recipe originally from the Waitrose magazine – altered slightly, to suit.
What’s your stand-by ‘pick me up’ snack?

Experiments with Polenta –

Half term has just finished 😦

Making the most of ‘time’, I’ve been doing some seasonal Spring Cleaning… therapeutic.

Going through the cupboards, I found that we had rather a glut of polenta.

So to correct the balance of ‘store cupboard essentials’, we had a polenta evening, trying lots of different polenta dishes.  Here are the top two: Orange polenta cake steeped in fruit syrup, & Mushroom herb polenta – more tricky to make, but an education in polenta cooking if like us you’re not familiar with it.  I have to say, I  always just thought of polenta as something which lacked good looks and taste, even when served in the smartest restaurants, and never really ‘got‘ it..!

Mushroom, Herb & Polenta 'Pizza'.

Ottolenghi’s Mushroom, Herb & Polenta ‘Pizza’.

Orange Polenta Cake with orange syrup.

Orange Polenta Cake with orange syrup.

Mushroom Herb Polenta; like a homemade pizza.  Bubbling with mushroom juices, grilled cheese & fragrant herbs.  Orange Polenta cake; lovely for desert with a dollop of creme fraiche; equally good for tea the next day.

* * *

Ottolenghi’s Mushroom & Herb Polenta.  Vegetarian.

We found it best to let the prepared polenta rest a little before use, allowing it to settle.

I’d love to hear what other people do with polenta – do let me know (I’ve still got quite a stash in the cupboard!)  We used thyme and sage in this recipe, as they both needed trimming ready for their spring growth!

http://www.ottolenghi.co.uk/mushroom-and-herb-polenta-shop

* * *

Orange Polenta cake with Orange Syrup.  Vegetarian.

Light, textured and aromatic – a grown up cake to serve with rich ice cream, creme fraiche and / or dark berry compote.  It’s plain, not a stunner – but simple is sometimes good…

250g softened butter

250g sugar (I used unbleached cane sugar)

4 large eggs

140g polenta

200g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

Grated zest and juice of 2 large oranges.  Grate gently or the zest will be bitter.  Save 100ml juice for syrup.

Orange Syrup – 100ml orange juice and 100g sugar.

Line a round 23cm cake tin with baking paper.  I used a smaller tin with only 2/3 of the mixture and it was perfect, so adjust carefully to suit your needs.

Heat oven to 160 / 140 / gas 3.

Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.  Gradually add eggs, beating well.  Feel the burn in those arms!

Reserve 100ml juice for syrup in a small saucepan.  Add the rest, with zest and dry ingredients to the creamed butter & sugar, sifting in flour and polenta.

Gently plop into the tin and smooth the top.  Bake in the oven for around 45 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre.

Make the syrup by gently dissolving sugar in remaining orange juice over a low heat, stirring occasionally.  Once dissolved, bring to the boil then simmer for 5 minutes to reduce & thicken slightly.

Slowly pour the syrup over the cake, allowing it to seep in.  I did this before taking the cake out of the baking paper, to stop the syrup from running off.

Allow to cool on a wire rack.  Enjoy – some people won’t like the texture of the polenta, but I think it’s quite sophisticated… I’m going to try this again in late summer, with lavender flowers in the syrup to give it a more floral aroma.

Recipe from the fab BBC good food website.  What’s your favourite recipe website?

Kitchen cupboard - a bit more sorted, but will never be 'tidy'!

So for the moment, my kitchen cupboard is sorted, but it’ll never be ‘tidy‘!

Traffic Light Soups.

We have enjoyed a tasty exploration into the world of vegetables over winter, celebrating a wide array of flavours and combinations.

Home made soups can be so nutritious, packed with flavour, richly smooth or rustically chunky, and versatile.  Simply and quickly made.  Comforting and bursting with natural wonder.

All can be made vegan, wheat and dairy free.  The three shown here are amongst our top tastes for this season.   By varying the amount of stock used, or omitting it altogether, you can make them thicker to serve as a sauce to pep up plain vegetables, fish or poultry.

Tomato Soup, Sweet Potato and Butternut Soup, Pea Soup.

Tomato Soup, Sweet Potato and Butternut Soup, Pea Soup.

The smell of hot soup, cupped in a deep bowl as I sit in front of a dancing fire, is as much part of winter as dark walks to work and chilblains on my toes.  Ouch.

Last night, to start a special evening, we served three soups; chilled rather than hot, in tiny shot glasses as interesting, colourful appetizers.  I love tiny tastes – conversation pieces to break the ice; easy accompaniments to drinks before dinner.

The details below are not so much recipes as guidelines.

I like to make my soups very simply, adding just a few ingredients.  I vary according to the herbs etc that are around at the time so that they totally reflect the seasons… the combinations are as extensive as your own imagination.  But here are the basics; encouragement just to have a go. Cook your veg in good stock, having fried off onions / garlic / spices (bacon bits if you’d like…) then blitz with enough added liquid (more stock / cream…) until you have the consistency you need.  Serve steaming  hot or chilled; garnished or not.

You just need a powerful blender, a big lidded pan, and a wide imagination.

Tomato Soup.

Hot tomato soup.

Hot tomato soup.

This makes a store cupboard tomato soup – you’ll get a livelier flavour by using fresh, ripe, late summer tomatoes when in season.  Looking forward to that  🙂

Gently fry off 1 Onion & 1 plump clove of garlic in just enough olive or sunflower oil.  Sweat with the lid on the pan for a little while.

If you have, you can add: Stick of celery, peeled, chopped carrot, herbs that compliment tomato such as thyme, basil, marjoram, bay… If not vegetarian you may like to add a little bacon / chorizo…  put a lid on so they all gently steam until soft.

Add 2 tins of tomatoes – cook for a while with the lid off, to allow flavours to develop.

Add well-flavoured vegetable stock, depending on how thick you want the soup to be: blitz as you’re doing this so you can judge the finished consistency.  If you want tomato sauce to serve with beans, roasted vegetables, fish or poultry, blitz smooth or chunky and you may want to reduce down rather than adding  extra stock.  Add capers / chopped olives / gherkins / chopped soft herbs such as basil or chervil and seasoning to taste.

Optional: Splash of cream / sprinkle of paprika or black pepper / a drizzle of thick, sticky well matured balsamic vinegar / scoop of avocado sorbet to serve, depending on whether you’re having it hot or chilled.  No limit to the options, really…

Sweet Potato and Butternut Soup.

P1000338

I love this, particularly as a winter warmer – the golden colour and smooth texture are as comforting as this soup is healthy.  Sweet Potatoes are packed with Vitamins B6, C, D, Iron and Magnesium.  Great for skin, healthy bones, heart and energy; they’ve also been linked with cancer toxin reduction.  As a significant added bonus, they apparently promote healthy red and white cell production, which increases immunity to disease and stress.  Wow – who needs vitamin pills?!

Nigella Lawson’s recipe is a great starting point – vary as you like.

http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/butternut-and-sweet-potato-soup-66

Green Pea Soup.

Green Pea Soup.

Green Pea Soup.

Again, no rules here.  Fry off some onion in oil (or butter if not dairy free and like the taste).

Add around 200g frozen peas and 200 ml good vegetable stock.  Gently simmer, with herbs if desired, with the lid on for a few minutes.

Blitz in a food processor.  Adjust quantity of stock and seasoning until you have the consistency and taste that you like.

Serve hot or cold – with sour cream and snipped chives, mint (especially good added to chilled pea soup in the summer), or topped with ham lardons for non vegetarians.

Hot Tomato Soup.

I’ve just planted some beetroot seeds, so am looking forward to beautiful deep purple Borsch later in the summer.

Soup thricolour bright

Couldn’t be easier – What’s your favourite soup?