Archive for category Food

Messed About Chicken

Someone close to me once said that they like Roast Chicken, but they don’t like it messed about. That’s fine, but unless you get a really good chicken they can taste a bit bland and dry. Personally, I like my chicken messed about with, so here’s a recipe for that.


  • One medium-sized chicken
  • Two cloves of garlic
  • The zest and juice of a lemon
  • A handful of rosemary (preferably fresh)
  • A sprinkle of salt
  • A teaspoon of cornflour
  • A glass of dry white wine

You will need:

  • small bowl
  • garlic press
  • lemon juicer
  • fine grater or sharp knife
  • cooks brush
  • As much time as you can spare

Lemon, rosemary and garlic are one of the classic combinations, with which it’s hard to go wrong. The quality of the chicken makes a difference, but you can compensate for a lesser bird with time in the marinade. Start this dish in the morning and it will reward you in the evening.

Marinading Chicken

Marinading Chicken

Wash the lemon in hot water and rub it in kitchen paper to remove the wax (unless it’s unwaxed, but that’s rarer). Using a grater, or even a sharp knife, put finely chopped or grated zest into a bowl. Juice the lemon and add it to the bowl. Add twice as much olive oil as lemon juice. Wash and strip the leaves from the rosemary and then chop finely, and add them to the bowl. Crush two cloves of garlic in the press (or chop very finely) and add them to the mixture. Whip together with a fork.

Using a cooks brush (a pastry brush will do, but one of those silicone ones works very well) paint the chicken all over with the mixture and leave on the side to marinade. Throughout the day, as you pass, paint some more marinade on the bird. Just keep adding more marinade and let the flavours penetrate the skin.

After at least an hour, or if possible all day, pour any remaining marinade inside the chicken. Sprinkle with salt and place in a roasting tin in the oven at 180C for about an hour. If you have a rotisserie, this is a perfect way to use it.

At the end of an hour, remove the chicken and raise the temperature to 200C. Remove the chicken to a resting plate, then pour as much of the fat off from the roasting tin into a bowl to cool without loosing any of the browned bits or the juices. Add a glass of white wine to the tin and with a wooden spoon scrape off as much of the brown bits as you can into the liquid. When the tin is mostly clean (this makes washing up easier) pour the scraping and mixture off into a pan and heat slowly. It will spit, so be careful.

Return the chicken to the roasting tin and roast at 200C for ten minutes. This will brown the skin and add to the flavour. Meanwhile wait until the saucepan is near boiling. Mix a teaspoon of cornflour with just enough cold water to make it liquid and add this slowly a bit at a time until the sauce starts to thicken. bear in mind the sauce will thicken further as it cools.

Remove the chicken from the oven after about ten minutes and place on the resting plate under foil for about five minutes while you finish off vegetables. Carrots, steamed broccoli, french beans and mashed or new potato all go well with this. Alternatively you can eat it with a mushroom or saffron risotto, or even pasta.

Carve the chicken into slices onto a warmed plate. Pour any juices from the resting plate into the sauce. Serve slices of chicken with a small jug of sauce to pour over the meat. It elevates a chicken to dish worthy of a feast, and yet it is simple and yet, for a messed about meal, it requires very little attention.


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I’ve been making Marmalade

No, really. I’ve posted the recipe on The Fayre of the Courts?




Recipe: Seville Orange Marmalade


The finished product

The winter is often at its worst at the end of January, which is just the time the Seville Oranges become available in Britain. This is a breath of summer at a time when it is most needed, and the citrus scent and vibrant colour are a blessing for the winter days. Seville Oranges are not for eating – their taste is extremely bitter and they’re not especially juicy – but they make the best marmalade.

While I’ve looked forward to eating the marmalade, the making of it can be fussy and messy, with the results sometimes less than ideal. Getting it to set properly can be a real challenge, but I now have a recipe that works well – and the best thing is that it’s easy.

Seville Orange Marmalade (Makes about 8 medium jars)

  • 1Kg Seville Oranges
  • 2Kg of Jam Sugar (includes pectin)
  • Juice of two Lemons
  • 4 litres of Water.
  • 8 – 10 medium Jars
  • Cellophane Circles

You will need:

  • large pan (preferably a preserving pan)
  • sharp knife
  • lemon squeezer
  • jam thermometer (recommended)

Wash the oranges in plenty of warm water, just in case they’ve been sprayed with preservatives or insecticide. It’s the skins of the oranges that are important, so make sure they’re clean and relatively unblemished.

Put 4 litres of water in the preserving pan and set it to heat on the stove. Prick the oranges once with a sharp fork or skewer (to stop them bursting when they’re heated) and put them into the water while it’s heating. We’re going to cook the oranges before we cut them up, which is the secret of this recipe. Bring the water to the boil and reduce to a simmer, then carefully place a heavy plate on top of the oranges to keep them immersed in the water. Leave them to simmer whole for about an hour and a half.

While the oranges are cooking, take ten or twelve clean jars and sterilize them, either by placing them in the oven at 100C or by putting them through the dishwasher on a 70 degree wash cycle. The dishwasher method works well, and after you can transfer them to   the oven to pre-heat the jars to receive the hot marmalade.

When the oranges have boiled for an hour and a half, test that they are cooked by piercing the skin with the tip of a sharp knife – it should pierce easily. Turn off the heat and lift the oranges out with a slotted spoon and place them somewhere to cool.

IMG_0372When the oranges are cool enough to handle, take each one and slice in half vertically. Take a dessert spoon and scoop out the flesh, scraping the cooked contents of the orange out into a bowl. The inside of the skin should be slightly translucent. If the skin has any white patches, do not use these as they will be bitter. Cut off the parts where the stem connects as these may be tough. You should be left with sections of cleaned cooked orange peel which you then slice into sections according to taste, depending how thickly but you like your marmalade. As the skin is well-cooked, it slices easily and cleanly.

The flesh of the oranges, pith and pips, and any offcuts of peel can be boiled up with the juice and water in a muslin bag if you cannot find jam sugar with pectin added – in which case you should squeeze the muslin to extract the maximum amount of pectin from the flesh, pith and pips, and add this to the pan, but I find it’s just easier to use jam sugar with the pectin already added, and it gives more reliable results.

Add the jam sugar and the lemon juice to the remaining water in the pan, which should have about two thirds left. Stir until the sugar dissolves and then add the cooked sliced peel to the pan. Stir and bring to the boil so that the mixture develops a seething foam. If you’re using a jam thermometer, set it so it’s halfway down the edge of the pan. If you ‘re managing without a jam thermometer, keep it foaming without letting it boil over for about 20 – 30 minutes.

With a jam thermometer, wait until it’s slightly over the jam point and then turn off the heat. Without a jam thermometer, it’s difficult to judge when it reaches setting point (which is why I recommend one), but the best alternative is to have a small plate in the fridge to get cold – spoon a little of the mix onto the plate and put it back in the fridge for five minutes. If when you take it out, you can draw your finger through it and it acts like jelly and not syrup, then it’s setting.

Once the marmalade is setting, leave it to stand for about ten minutes in the pan. This will allow the peel to equalise with the marmalade and it should prevent the peel floating to the top in the jars. This sometimes works better than at other times. Once it is ready to jar, take the jars out of the over and place them ready by the pan. Then ladle the marmalade into jars using a jam funnel, filling each jar in sequence – I normally start with the smallest jars and move up to the bigger ones.

Once the jars are full, place a cellophane circle on the top for a seal and screw down the lid. The cellophane will prevent the acid in the fruit from corroding the inside of the lids. Label and store – with the acid and sugar it should keep for up to a year.

Serve on fresh buttered toast, or in any other way you like.

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Recipe: Crispy Pork with Sweet and Sour Pineapple

Sweet and Sour is all about contrasts, and this recipe has lots of them. The pork has a firm meaty texture, complimented by a crispy coating with herb notes, while the sauce balances sweetness against acid, without the overpowering cloy of commercial sauces which, for me, are always more sweet than sour. It also looks fantastic on the plate, especially if you serve it with some crisp sugar snap peas or some French beans.

Start with the sauce as you want to give it time for the flavours to come together.

Crispy Pork with Sweet and Sour Pineapple

Sauce Ingredients

  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3 tsp fresh ginger (grated)
  • 1 long red pepper (sliced)
  • 150ml white wine vinegar
  • 100g demerara (brown) sugar
  • 200ml water
  • a splash (5-10ml) of soya sauce
  • 1 heaped tsp cornflour (to thicken)
  • 1 fresh pineapple (cubed)
  • A little oil for stir-frying
  • A small amount of chilli can be added to give the sauce a little heat (optional)

peel and crush the garlic into a wok or frying pan and let is sizzle in a little oil for a minute or two. Add the peppers after a few moments and cook them until they are just starting to loose their crispness. Add the vinegar and the sugar into the pan and stir until the sugar dissolves. Chop the pineapple into cubes – you probably won;t need all of it, but it keeps in the fridge and makes a dice fresh dessert. You can use tinned pineapple but you will lose some of the sharpness and may gain sugar if it’s been kept in syrup – reduce sugar quantity accordingly. Add the pineapple and a splash of soya sauce. The soya is to add a little savoury-saltiness to the sauce. Leave the sauce off the heat while you cook the meat.

Fusion Cuisine:

Strictly this is fusion cooking as we’re going to cheat to make the pork coating. An ingredient that was in every bistro everywhere at one time is Polenta – a cornmeal which is sold in most supermarkets. It used to be a cheap Italian staple, but it was adopted by TV chefs and then became expensive. It’s more reasonably priced these days.

Cook some plain rice and prepare some green vegetables to be cooked when the pork is almost done.

For the pork:

  • 1 pork fillet tenderloin
  • 1 egg
  • 1 bag of polenta
  • 1 tsp each of oregano and thyme
  • salt to taste
  • cooking oil

Take a plate with a lip and pour out a covering of polenta onto the plate. You can add more later if you need to. Sprinkle in a teaspoon of oregano and of thyme, and a little salt and stir these together. Take the tenderloin of pork and slice it across the grain into round  medallions roughly 3mm thick. Heat a pan or wok on the hob with enough oil to immerse the pork medallions, until a piece of bread dropped in bubbles and browns in under 30 seconds. Don’t get the oil so hot that it smokes.

Meanwhile, beat an egg into a bowl. Take each medallion of pork and dip it into the egg to cover it, then coat it thoroughly in the polenta and herb mix. Drop each gently into the hot oil and cook until the polenta starts to brown. Do no more than three pieces at a time – too many and it won’t go crispy. Once they are cooked set them on a warm plate lined with kitchen roll on it to absorb excess oil. It should stay warm while you cook the rest.

Once the pork is cooked it should be crispy and brown. dish it up onto a plate with some rice and vegetables and pour the sauce over the pork just before serving.


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Recipe: Leafy Minced Beef Pie

There are few things as comforting as pie, but many people shy away from pies as  difficult dishes to make. Pastry can seem a bit daunting to begin with, and quite fiddly, but it needn’t be, and a home-made pie can be one of the most rewarding dishes to make. You will need some tools – A sieve or strainer, a rolling pin, a sharp knife, a large mixing bowl, some greaseproof paper or foil. Pastry cutters, a pastry brush (the silicone ones are brilliant) and a flour shaker are an optional bonus if you have them.

photo by Mike Shevdon

Leafy Minced Beef pie

Start with a simple filling. One of my favourites is to use my Mum’s recipe for minced beef which has the beauty of being tasty, inexpensive, filling, and low maintenance, and then elaborate on that as my mood takes me.

For the filling:

  • 300g – 500g minced beef
  • A couple of medium carrots, or the equivalent, you can add parsnips for a sweeter taste, or turnip also works.
  • A medium onion (or two small ones)
  • A bay-leaf
  • Herbs to taste (thyme works well, or try a few cumin seeds)
  • A pinch of salt
  • About 300ml water (or real ale for a treat)

Break up the mince into a casserole, peel the onion and slice into rings, or simply chop into medium pieces. Dice the carrots and other vegetables. Add the herbs and the water and stir gently to distribute the ingredients. Cover the casserole with the lid (or foil) and place in a medium oven (180 C, 350 F) for about an hour.

Immediately after putting the filling into the oven, make the pastry. This will give it time to ‘rest’ which is a way of saying it needs time for the ingredients to come together. For our younger readers – you will need very clean hands for the next bit.

For the pastry (this is not a slimming recipe):

  • 125g (4oz) salted butter
  • 250g (8oz) plain flour
  • Up to 50ml (4 tablespoons) cold water (preferably chilled in the fridge)

Sieve the flour into a large bowl (not essential but worth it). Cut the butter with a blunt knife into thin slices and drop these into the bowl and coat them with flour. Then with your fingers, work the butter into the flour between your thumb and forefingers. The technique is to get as much of the flour into the butter as you can without it feeling greasy. If you have the proportions right, you should end up with something that looks quite like a bowl of breadcrumbs.

This is where the magic comes in, and as with all magic, there are rules. Pastry needs to be cold, and not overworked, so add the water in dribbles and mix into the crumbly mixture to bring the mixture together – you may not need all of it. I tend to use a metal spoon or a blunt knife for this, and very quickly it will bind into a solid mass.  If you kneed it (like bread), your pastry will be leathery and tough, not crumbly and light. As soon as you have a smooth even consistency, shape it into a fat sausage, wrap it in greaseproof paper, or put it in a polythene bag, and stick it in the fridge for about 15 – 20 minutes to allow the gluten in the flour to react with the water.

Take the pastry out of the fridge about 15 minutes before you want to use it, or it will be stiff and difficult to roll out. After an hour, take the filling out of the oven and, placing a sieve over a pan, drain the liquid from the mixture. Keep the liquid for gravy. Pick out the bay-leaf.  Set your oven to warm to 180C (375F) while you roll out the pastry.

Dusting a clean surface with flour, roll one half of the pastry back and forth with a rolling pin, and then turn it through 90 degrees, then roll it again, dusting the top with flour to prevent sticking as you go, until it is approximately 3mm (1/8 inch) thick. Roll it too hard and it will break up at the edges (which it will do to some extent anyway) so have patience. It needs to be larger than your pie dish or plate and a similar shape. Try and do this in one go, but it doesn’t work first time, form your pastry back into a lump and try again. If there’s not enough pastry, find a smaller dish.

Use a little greaseproof paper or foil to wipe a light coating of butter over the surface of your pie dish or plate to prevent the pastry sticking. You can use the rolling pin to lift the pastry by lifting the edge and then, using the rolling pin as a roller, lift the pastry as a piece using the roller to support it, and rest it over the pie dish or plate. Settle it onto the dish without pressing it tight. It should rest on, rather than be pressed into, the dish. Use a sharp knife to trim the edge of the pastry to the edge of the dish so that you have a smooth pie base – keep the pastry trimmings; you will need them.

Put the drained filling onto the pie base. If you are using a pie plate, leave at least 2cm (just under an inch) at the edge to allow the edge to be sealed. In a raised pie dish you can leave less margin – about 1cm (half an inch). Crack an egg into a mug and beat it with a fork, then paint the egg with a pastry brush (or the tip of your finger) around the edge of the pie base. This is the glue that sticks your edge together, so you’re looking for a smear – not too much.

Roll out the second half of the pastry to the same thickness (3mm, 1/8 inch). Using pastry cutters, a sharp edged cup, or a knife-tip, cut out circles of pastry. As you cut, place these in an overlapping circle around the pie like overlapping tiles. You may need to trim the edges of the circles from the edge of the dish. When you’ve completed the circle you should have a pie topping with a gap in the middle.  Brush the tops of the circles with egg.

Now take all the trimmings and cuttings and quickly form these back into a lump. Work it just enough so it forms a piece, then roll it out again. Now is the time to get artistic. I’ve used a leafy theme for my pie, but you could do hearts for valentines day, or stars, or animal shapes if you have the cutters for them.

Place these so that the edges of the circles are covered and overlap, so that eventually you have a fully covered pie made from overlapping pastry. Don’t overlap more than once (into a triple layer) or your pastry may not cook through, and don’t worry if there’s the odd gap – your pie filling will steam through these nicely. If you want to get really arty, you can draw on your leaves with a blunt knife with a design to suit your shapes. Brush the remaining pastry with egg.

Place the pie in the oven at 180C (375F) for about an hour until the pastry is golden (brown = burnt). Remove from the over and allow to rest for ten minutes while you bring the liquid from the filling to a simmer in a saucepan. Once it simmers, mix a heaped teaspoon of cornflour in a cup with cold water to form a milky liquid. Add this slowly while stirring the simmering liquid until the gravy just thickens. You won’t need all of it.

Serve the pie with fresh vegetables and new potatoes, or for a real treat, chips.




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Recipe: Mackerel with Rhubarb

In my newsletter I did promise a recipe for Mackerel with Rhubarb, with all credit to The Draak, who came up with this (and it was her Rhubarb). As with so many fish recipes, it’s simple and quick and involves minimal messing about with good ingredients.

Take one medium sized Mackerel per person, and take off the pectoral fins with kitchen scissors. I like to leave the heads on, but if you prefer you can take them off by slicing through behind the gills. The fish won’t mind either way.

Wash the fish in cold water, pat dry with kitchen town and take some sprigs of fresh rosemary and put these in the cavity. Place them on a baking tray (see comments about bake-o-glide and baking fish in previous post) and put them in the over for 30 minutes at 180 degrees C.

For the Rhubarb Sauce, put some sticks of rhubarb in a baking dish with plenty of caster sugar sprinkled over. Put it into the oven ten minutes after the fish and let it cook until the fish is ready. Bear in mind that you probably need more rhubarb than it shows here, but this was our first crop, so we went with what we had.

The water from the Rhubarb will dissolve into the sugar, and you may want to dilute it slightly if it gets too caramelised. And that’s it. The sourness of the Rhubarb complements the oiliness of Mackerel wonderfully; it’s a combination of flavours that’s almost oriental in intensity.



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Recipe: Tyropitta – Greek Cheese Pies

I love Greece. I know they are going through a terrible economic time at the moment, and they have become Europe’s examplar for how things can go fiscally wrong, but you have to understand – like other countries involved in the financial crisis, the average Greek had absolutely nothing to do with it. They are victims, like everyone else, only it’s harder for them because it’s worse there. Greeks are survivors, though and I’m sure they’ll come though it, not least because they know how to make the best of local produce – and they have some of the best local produce in the world.

Tyropitta - Greek Cheese Pies

Wherever I’ve been in Greece there is always a local bakery. It opens early and closes early, and everything is fresh. When things sell out, they’re gone for the day, so timing is of the essence, and a perennial favourite is the cheese pie. In this post we’ll be making Greek cheese pies, or a version of them that you’ll be able to make with the ingredients you can purchase near home. Delicious as they are, they don’t quite compare to the real thing, which has local cheeses, and hand made pastry, but these are still very good.

First, a word on Feta. Feta is the Greek word for ‘slicing’ so if you go into a Greek supermarket and ask for a quarter-kilo of feta you are going to get some strange looks. You want ‘slicing’? The famous cheese is tyrosfeta, or slicing-cheese, but you can equally well have slicing-sausage, or slicing-ham, so make sure you ask for the right thing.


  • 125g feta cheese (one block)
  • 185g cottage cheese (small pot)
  • 25g grated parmesan cheese (or similar)
  • A small handfull of fresh mint (dried will do, but fresh is better)
  • 2 medium eggs
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 rolls of ready-rolled puff pastry
  • Sesame seeds


  • Weighing scales (though this is the sort of recipe that benefits from estimation).
  • A knife for cutting pastry, and a plate to cut around
  • A pastry brush (the silicone ones are really good)
  • Flour sprinkler with plain flour


Pre-heat the oven to approximately 180 degrees C.

Strip and wash the fresh mint, and then chop finely. In a large bowl, mix together the mint and cottage cheese. Grate in the salty feta cheese and parmesan. Break the eggs into a mug and beat together. Tip three-quarters of the eggs into the bowl, keeping about a quarter back. Grind some fresh black pepper over the top of the cheese mix. Stir together to form a thick mixture.

Wipe the surface of two large (or three medium) baking trays with a little oil on some kitchen towel to prevent the pies sticking. Take a small plate – about 6 – 7 inches is about right – and gently ease flat your puff pastry onto a work-surface. You will notice that I’m using shop-bought puff pastry. If it were shortcrust I would be making my own, but for puff pastry the shop bought is better than anything I can make myself. Life is too short.

Cut out circles of puff pastry using the plate as a guide, keeping as far to the edge as you can to maximise the number of circles you can make. You can dust the work surface with a little plain flour from a sprinkler to prevent them sticking. You should have a circle of pastry. Using your pastry brush, dip into the reserved egg mixture and paint a circle of beaten egg round the outside of the pastry circle. This is to help seal the edge. Then place a serving spoon sized dollop of mixture in the centre of the circle. This is the hard bit: too little and it will only taste of pastry, too much and it won’t seal. About a medium serving spoonful is usually enough.

Fold over the circle to form a pasty-shaped semicircle, and then crimp around the edge of the pastry with your finger and thumb, sealing in the mixture. Don’t worry if they don’t entirely seal – they will still taste good. Place the pie on the baking tray and do the next one.

When you have filled a tray with pies, use your pastry brush to coat the top of the pies with egg mixture and then sprinkle sesame sees over the top as decoration. They will give a wonderful nutty scent as the pies cook. Place in the hot over for 20 – 25 minutes until golden brown. Once cooked, remove and place on a cooling tray for ten minutes, though you may find that passers by are too tempted to keep hands off.

If you make too many to eat in one go (how many is too many?) you can freeze the uncooked pies and keep them in the freezer for a couple of weeks in a sealed freezer bag. They will cook from frozen (an extra ten minutes in the oven) and they make a great Saturday morning breakfast.

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