Saffron and Lemon Chicken


Seems I’ve been a bit slack in posting about food of late. Truth be told I’ve not really been making anything particularly exciting.

This weekend saw Freya and myself celebrate our first wedding anniversary and preparations for various festivities got in the way of normal cooking habits.

After a pretty hectic weekend – which saw a large number of us complete the marathon 26 pub Monopoly Board Pub Crawl – I settled back into normality with this very tasty dish from Persiana by Sabrina Ghayour.

This dish has relatively few ingredients, and does benefit from a long marinade, the longer you leave it the better it will get. That said, the first batch I grilled was excellent after just 1 hour of marinating.

In a bowl you slice 4 white onions, and add to it the juice of 5 lemons, greek yoghurt, turmeric, quite a bit of sea salt, and some saffron which has been infused with water for 10 minutes or so. Give the whole thing a good mix, add the diced chicken breast and leave in the fridge for as long as you can.

Like I said, I cooked up our first batch after an hour but I think we’ll be eating this for a couple more days – so I’ll let you know if it starts tasting better.

The marinade breaks down the chicken beautifully and it tastes so tender after just 15 minutes under the grill.

I served this with a very nice radish salad and a naan bread – and it was a spot on dinner.

I’ll certainly be making this again – it could be one of my go-to dishes when I want to impress – because impressive it is – and very very simple.

Nigella’s Calabrian Lasagne

  
We don’t often do pasta. Too many carbs!  But for some reason I felt Freya needed a lasagne to cheer her up a bit. 

The Brits tend to make their own version of lasagne and I imagine it is a million miles away from anything the Italians make. 

On Australian Masterchef this year one guy made a lasagne the English way (adding cheese to a white sauce) and he was suitably chastised by Marco Pierre White for not making a proper bechamel and using th wrong type of cheese – oh and doing the layers in the wrong order. 

I tend to make my lasagne different to most as well so I thought I should try an Italian version. Now granted you can’t normally trust Nigella to do anything authentic but this lasagne did remind me of one I’d had in Italy many years ago.

This lasagne has no white sauce. It doesn’t even have buckets of minced meat. Oddly, it contains slices of cooked ham and hard boiled eggs. Sounds strange – but it was amazing.

You can make this (well up to the point it goes in the oven) in less than 20 minutes. It is very easy. Most of the stuff from the Nigellissima book can be achieved by anyone – even if you do lack the rich language and voluptuous figure that comes hand in hand with her recipes. It is hard to believe it is one of her recipes because it is broadly quite healthy. Compared to the desserts in the book – which are guaranteed to give you heart failure! That said, she does say it is great for soaking up alcohol; so it clearly has a purpose!

Anyway, how do you make it!?

Well first you hard boil some eggs. You’ll need these to be peeled and cold so do those first. While they are on the go you make a very runny tomato and meat sauce by frying some onions, adding some mince, adding red wine, then a lot of passata and the same again of water.

I had to shift my sauce to the pressure cooker as my pan wasn’t big enough to hold 2.5 litres of sauce!

While the sauce is on a rolling simmer for 10 minutes or so you can peel your eggs!

Then you simply ladle the sauce into the bottom of your dish, add dried lasagne sheets, add another layer of sauce, then add slices of cooked ham (that stuff you put in your kids sandwiches!) and some sliced/chopped hard boiled egg.

Build up the layers until you’ve filled your dish (I did 4 layers) and top with one last layer of sauce and a load of grated parmesan.

Cover it in tin foil (I had a panic! I thought I didn’t have any) and wrap it tight and pop it in an oven for an hour. And it’ll be done.

Something awesome happens while it’s in the oven. The pasta layers all ripple and all the sauce soaks into the pasta leaving it so beautifully cooked. Being under foil effectively steams it too so you won’t get any hard uncooked bits. British lasagnes are all flat and regimented and predictable but this one is quite amazing. You don’t even miss the white sauce. And it isn’t a meat overload. The dots of mince here and there are all you need – it’s pretty special!

If you’re feeling cheated on the cheese you can always use more or try a stronger cheese but I found it perfect just the way it was. And was the ham and eggs odd? No. They were a great addition indeed.

Nice dish. I’ll definitely make it again. And we’ll definitely be eating it again today as we barely dented the batch that I did make!

Haloumi, Courgette and Mint Fritters with a Wild Rice Salad with Peas (and Green Harissa)

Last night we were supposed to meet up with an old work colleague but it didn’t work out. Just as well really given the expensive meal we had out on Monday at Hawksmoor Bar in Seven Dials.

This comforting and very filling dish comes from Mildred’s. This is the second thing I’ve cooked from their book.

We’d already had Latkes the day before – and these are similar in concept – but I really fancied them so I chose to ignore the fact that I was frying stuff off in a pan; a few extra calories and grams of fat won’t hurt once in a while. We’d have done far worse if we’d have eaten out.

One of the dangers of frying at the moment is Freya has just reupholstered our sofa on the boat with a beautiful Laura Ashley fabric. It’s quite amazing what she’s managed to achieve for a first attempt. The cushion covers are perfect; complete with contrast piping. BUT: The sofa does back on to the island unit of the kitchen. So the hob is directly above it – and any splashes from a frying pan are heading straight for the sofa.

We already have a plan to add a sort of splash back to the work surface to prevent such things but for now I just have to be extra careful. The beautiful sofa is covered in old throws – hiding all the great work – sad times!

Anyway. These fritters are pretty easy to make. You grate a slab of haloumi into a bowl, add chopped red onion, chilli, garlic, mint and lemon rind and mix together. You then add grated courgette (with all the water squeezed out of it), eggs and fresh breadcrumbs and form a blob of mixture.

Once you’ve let it rest a while you form egg sized balls (rolling them in flour) and fry them in a pan; pressing them down as you fry them to make them more patty like! I found this to be quite messy – the mixture was quite sticky – I probably could have squeezed more liquid from the courgettes – but I was being impatient.

We had 4 each together with the salad – which was pretty yummy too.

The salad is made from Wild Rice (which I couldn’t get so I used a Basmati and Wild Rice Mix), which you cook and allow to go cold, spring onions, cucumber, mint, coriander, parsley, green chillies, lemon juice and rind and frozen peas that you’ve allowed to thaw. Mix it all together its nearly done!

I didn’t thaw the peas. I chucked them in with the rice while it was cooling, much quicker!

The rice has ‘Green Harissa’ stirred through it and this takes some time to make. Once you’ve made it though you have tonnes of the stuff for future recipes as you can keep it in a jelly jar and store it in the fridge – I don’t see why it wouldn’t keep.

The Green Harissa is made by roasting a handful of green peppers in a very hot over until they pop, skinning and deseeding them and blending them together with cumin and fennel seeds, sumac, chilli fakes, coriander, mint, parsley, lemon juice and rind, spring onions, peas and garlic – oh and a lot of olive oil.

You need to blend the harissa until it is really smooth. I used my Nutribullet but it really struggled with the quantity I was blending. I tasted it and it was very runny and bitter and then I realised I’d forgotten to add the peas (I only noticed as I’d left them on the side and they were the only spare ingredient left out). After these were added it was much thicker and tasted much better!

Most of the Harissa went into a jar. You only need about 100mls for the Salad – I had over half a litre left over!

This dish took a while to make. Fortunately we’d had a snack of stuffed vine leaves from our local Syrian supermarket in Brentford ‘Al Shaaam’. They always have everything I need for the type of cooking I enjoy and they are far cheaper than Morrisons. The staff there are so friendly and helpful – even more so now that Ramadam is over!

I really recommend this dish. If you make it to the recipe you’ll have enough for 2 meals easily. It makes a lot more than you think – and as tempting as it is to go back for seconds there is that waistline to look after!

Carrot, Parsnip and Apple Latkes with a Cucumber Ribbon Salad


I haven’t cooked anything new for a while. We’ve been running down our fridge as we spent several days at Freya’s and my Mums and didn’t want anything to go bad. Freya has been reupholstering our sofa and it needs lots of space – one thing we don’t have on the boat.

These Latkes are from a new book I have called Mildred’s. Mildred’s is a vegetarian restaurant in Soho and this book has some pretty amazing recipes.

This is the first thing I’ve made from the book so it’s too early for me to give it the big thumbs up – but I have a shortlist of many dishes so watch this space.

I picked this out as it seemed light and was just the ticket for a hot summery day.

It’s pretty simple. Grate carrots, parsnips and apple into a bowl. Add coriander, cumin, chilli powder, fresh ginger, polenta, flour and egg and combine.

Then just fry the latkes in batches.

I did struggle a bit with these. They weren’t keen on staying together at the beginning and I had mixed results throughout the cook.

The salad was simply a cucumber cut into ribbons with one of those wide vegetable peelers and then mixed with chopped green chilli, lime zest, lime juice and spring onions.

The combination of the two was quite excellent. The cucumber neutralises the kick of the ginger and the chilli powder.

Certainly one to make again. I was planning on making some courgette and haloumi fritters after I’d made these but they were more than filling enough.

I’ll do those tonight!

Hazelnut and Chocolate Cheesecake

The planned BBQ at Freya’s parents on Sunday almost became a wet one. It was windy and rainy all day, in complete contrast to the previous day – which was sunny and hot and made our Monopoly Board Pub Crawl a very pleasant day indeed.

Aside from all the BBQ’d food – which was delicious – I knocked up this cheesecake in response to Freya’s mums request. It wasn’t quite the desconstructed cheesecake she wanted but it was quick and easy – and time wasn’t on my side on Sunday.

The recipe comes from Nigelissima by Nigella Lawson, so as you can imagine it isn’t particularly low in fat, or low in anything for that matter.  It was made in less that 10 minutes. You just needed to firm it up in the fridge for a while.

Simply blitz some digestive biscuits with some hazelnuts, butter and a scoop of Nutella until you get a soggy biscuity mess. Press this into a spring loaded cake tin.  Then whip the rest of the jar of Nutella with some icing sugar and some cream cheese until smooth. Spread this over the biscuits. Finally top with some crushed hazelnuts.

I did it all in Freya’s mums Thermomix in seconds. Must get one of those!

Clearly I didn’t do this last step. I forgot to keep some nuts to one side so I ended up adding strawberries as a topping instead. Looks just as good I think.

This is delicious. Everyone’s eyes lit up at the prospect of a Nutella anything and it tasted as good as it looked.

Not good for the diet. But amazing all the same

Spicy Lamb Meatballs with Chickpeas in a Spicy Tomato Sauce


What a lovely few days of weather we are having lately. Summer is finally coming it would seem.

I threw this together in less than 15 minutes in an attempt to replicate to some degree Jamie Oliver 15 minute meal that we saw on TV over the weekend. I think I was close enough.

All I did here was empty a tin of drained chickpeas and a carton of passata into a pan and bring to a simmer with half a red chilli and couple of spring onions.

While they are simmering form meatballs from lamb mince mixed with Garam Masalla and fry them off. When they are done add them to the sauce.

I sprinkled chopped coriander on the sauce before serving but that was all I did.

I’m sure there was a salad in there somewhere when we watched the show but this was more than enough.

Shawarma Chicken with Warm Chickpea Purée and Sumac Onions

We seem to be eating rather a lot of chicken lately!

This dish is from A Change of Appetite by Diana Henry. I finally bought my own copy having borrowed my Mother-in-Laws one last year.

In some respects it isn’t dissimilar to the Jamie Oliver dish I made from 15 minute meals. It just has a little more care and attention. They both end up pan frying chicken at a high heat very quickly.

I mostly ignore the treatment that chicken requires when cooking. If it says boneless chicken thighs I tend to just leave the skin on and leave the bone in – speed over appearance – but for a change I decided to out my Global knives to good use and bone and skin the chicken. It’s pretty easy with the right tools so I will put in the effort from now on.

The prepped chicken is marinated in garlic, lemon juice, cumin, turmeric and mixed spice for several hours.  The purée is made from cooked onion, garlic, cumin and mixed spice- to which you add your chickpeas and blend until smooth with some tahini, lemon juice and olive oil.

For once I found my Nutribullet to be a little irritating when pureeing. It isn’t very good at blitzing a lot of something – especially when it is thick. It is also incredibly difficult to get out of the container when you are done. I think a stick blender would have been better; I may even take a punt on something a bit more upmarket like a Vitamix or a Thermomix.

The sumac onions are simply some crisped up  red onions with sumac sprinkled on top. I crisped mine up on a bed of ice – but it suggests just using cold water.

When you’re ready to easy get your pan really hot and pan fry the chicken – a couple of minutes on each side – and serve with the chickpea puree and the onions.

This dish is very nice. The warm chickpea purée isn’t far off being a hummus and goes really well with the spices that marinade the chicken.

I served mine with pitta bread but I think it was largely unnecessary. We ate quite late and it was a struggle to finish it.  I also added a mint, radish and lettuce salad and a blob of yoghurt just to use up some salad I had in the fridge.

It’s film club tonight – and we are watching Ex-Machina. I made extra so we have an enviable snack for later.

I’ll certainly made this again – especially for the puree. It’s amazing.