Saffron chicken and Herb Salad

Another epic salad from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook, this fresh plate of loveliness really hit the spot for lunch today. Wednesday’s are just meetings, meetings, meetings, and fitting in eating is a real challenge.

I think the title of this dish is a bit misleading. I think I’d rebrand it as ‘Roast chicken breast with an orange, honey and saffron glaze – served with a fennel and herb salad’. OK – maybe that is too long winded, but at least it is clearer!

In reality the chicken breast is simply roasted in the oven, and an orange glaze is poured over it when it is ready. The salad is not really just a herb salad, more a fennel salad with some herbs; definitely more fennel than anything else!

The orange sauce is the only thing that takes any time with this dish. Once that is on you can get everything else done with ease. Preheat the oven, season some chicken, roast it, rest it, break it into bits. Slice some fennel, add some mint, coriander, chilli, lemon juice and olive oil – and that’s done too.

The orange sauce is a segmented orange (take out all the pips) with some honey, as much saffron as you can spare, and a small amount of water – which you boil then simmer for an hour until it is all ‘glazey’.

Once the chicken has rested, pour over the glaze then toss it all together and eat. Really really easy.

This is a keeper and I think ANY white meat or fish or even Tofu might work with this sauce and salad. I liked it so much I will probably make it again later with the other parts of the chicken and perhaps serve it with another side.

Salt and Pepper Tofu – Two Ways – sort of…

These two dishes are essentially the same – just subtly different. Both are salt and pepper tofu, just the accompaniments differ. But why so much tofu?!

Even before lockdown we planned all our meals at least a week in advance. We had bought three packs of tofu to cook meals from the ‘itsu 20 minute cookbook’ – my favourite of the ‘really really quick’ meals books I own.

Due to skipping a couple of meals and the ‘leg of lamb that lasted 4 days’ saga we skipped the tofu meals in favour of food that was closer to expiry. Obviously you can’t do this forever – tofu has a lifespan too – and we ended up with out of date tofu!

Whilst watching Australian Masterchef Season 12 (it’s on – watch it – it is sooooo good) one of the competitors made a tofu dish where they served it cold, pressed, uncooked, raw basically. I wasn’t impressed – so I decided to come up with something myself.

All I have done here is press the tofu for an hour, toss it in white pepper, sea salt and cornflour and fried it until a little bit crispy. Using white pepper allows for a more subtle peppery flavour – black pepper can be overpowering if you use too much!

The one on the left is fried in left over pork fat (from a dish I made the other day) and the one on the left if fried in olive oil. The pork fat one was much more crispy – but obviously far less vegetarian.

The one on the left has pickled red onion (slice and leave in white wine vinegar), sushi rice, steamed broccoli, cucumber and red chilli – and a little herby sauce (left over from another meal).

The one of the right is just boiled new potatoes, hard boiled egg, cucumber, radishes, braised red cabbage, more pickled red onion – and a Satay sauce from the Gado Gado recipe from Ottolenghi’s Plenty cookbook. The meal is almost the Gado Gado recipe but it is supposed to have green beans, bean sprouts, croutons and crispy onions – which I didn’t have to hand. I will try it again when I next plan some meals. The addition of the crunchy stuff will definitely make this a better meal.

The Satay sauce took forever to make – and I’ll talk about this another time. Suffice to say it took at least 90 minutes to make, is very very nice – and was more spicy than I expected.

One more pack of tofu left! Let us see what we are having later today!

Pizza Bianca with potato, anchovy and sage

I think I’ve cooked every recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Simple cookbook. It is in my top 5 go to books for quick stuff. Itsu’s 15 minute meals is another.

During these tricky times – where we are getting our food once every 2-3 weeks – we are planning meals from one cookbook at a time. Ottolenghi’s Simple was last week’s book of choice so we made this incredibly easy pizza.

I appreciate flour is hard to come by at the moment, but this one doesn’t need much. The base is just yeast, flour and water mixed together, lightly kneaded then left under a damp towel for an hour to double in size.

The base is smeared with a paste of marscapone, anchovy, sage, lemon zest and spring onions, the thinly sliced new potatoes popped on top, and finally the grated pecorino. Go crazy with the black pepper – it really makes a difference. And cook it properly! I made 2 – the second one was so much better for leaving it in the oven for longer.

Perhaps my oven wasn’t hot enough for the 9 minutes that it was supposed to need. But it was better for having 12+ minutes – and I have one of those fancy Bake-Off ovens!

I can’t recommend this pizza enough as long as you have the ingredients. For some reason we always have left over anchovies in our fridge, sometimes 2 or 3 jars at a time, as we are notorious for always buying all the ingredients without checking what we already have!

The Pork Belly cook-along

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My birthday promised to be a very uninteresting affair with just my wife, myself and our dog (yes we now have a dog!) at home; no friends, no family – all thanks to lockdown in the UK.

Our very good friends Vicky and Dan suggested we do a cook-along Zoom call. Zoom is the new norm for 2020, web calls to friends instead of meeting them in a pub for a cheeky pint or many…

We settled on both cooking the same pork belly dish, so in the end it was more of a ‘leave it in the oven for many hours’ and just chat and catch up. 4-5 hours in fact.

This pork belly dish is from Tapas Revolution; the recipe is publicly available on their website:

https://www.tapasrevolution.com/recipesomar/2017/10/19/torreznos-con-mojo-dulce-slow-cooked-pork-belly

It is a very simple dish to make. In fact the hardest part was finding someone that sold pork belly. We had to settle for strips from Ocado (they are doing sterling work during the lockdown), and this did not spoil the dish at all.

Simply rub the pork belly with salt, pour a bottle of beer over your pork belly and leave in the oven while you go about your business. No checking required – just leave it to do its thing.

When 5 hours have passed – or somewhere in between make the Mojo Dulce sauce. This is somewhat more complicated but well worth doing properly. Throw in some new potatoes and serve when they are cooked through.

As with all cook-alongs (we’ve done a couple with my in-laws) timing is everything. Both being ready to eat at the same time is an art form. Vicky and Dan’s sauce was beautifully blended – mine was somewhat more rustic! The sauce was finished off properly on my side the next day and had with the leftovers.

I can thoroughly recommend making this if you’re prepared to sacrifice a beer to the oven gods.

Jambalaya

Don’t worry I won’t go quoting lines from that song by the Carpenters!

A quick glance in the fridge today and I found a gammon steak and some spring onions. These needed using up before the weekends continued DIY spell on the boat so I looked through a number of books and found this recipe from Sally Butchers Salmagundi.

Jambalaya is somewhat similar to a paella. This particular version is served cold and is ideal for picnics, barbecues or outdoor eating. I chose it because the temperature inside the boat has been 25 degrees today and I really didn’t fancy a hot meal.

This is pretty easy to make. Boil some gammon in water with a bay leaf and some thyme until it’s cooked, remove the gammon and cook the rice gently in the cooking liquid with some chopped tomatoes.

While that’s cooking you have 15 minutes or so to dice some red and green pepper; slice some onion, celery and spring onions and chop some chorizo or other smoky cooked sausage. Also chop your cooked gammon.

You also make a dressing of garlic, lime juice, green chillies and rapeseed oil – which I blitzed in my Nutribullet.

When the rice is done, let it cool and then mix everything together. That’s it.

This far exceeded my expectations. What was just going to be a leftover rice dish turned out to be flavoursome, crunchy, comforting and the sauce was really zingy and lifted it to another level.

Fortunately I made twice as much as I needed so that’s tomorrow’s dinner taken care of too!

Just as well. We have another floor to sand, dye and stain and lots of other boat DIY tasks to get done done during our unusually commitment free weekend. And it’s going to be a warm dry weekend – happy days!