Chicken Roasted With Brown Butter and Plums

chicken-plums

So this is a revelation, and a good way to use up a glut of plums without eating heaps of sugar. The tarragon is awesome with them, really awesome. If you don’t have tarragon use basil, slightly different but still aniseedy. Amazeballs. It reminds me a little of the star anise in Chinese chicken with plum sauce, just not as sweet.

onions-tarragon

Five ingredients. Five! Roast up some butternut squash and call it dinner. I like to cook everything in the oven when it’s on, if I can. Saving energy is good for our bills!

browned-chicken-plums

So. Brown the chicken breast(s) in butter, salt the skin and give it some colour. Lay it into a baking dish with onions, tarragon and arrange the plums. Add a little water to cover the onions and into the oven until it’s cooked and the plums are caramelised. Some wil be sweet and some tart, it works!

roast-chicken-plums

I made this first for two of us with double the ingredients and then for myself for lunch – sans squash – with half of them. Let’s pretend you’re cooking for two, if it’s more then y’all know what to do.

25g ish of butter
2 chicken breasts, skin on (it makes flavour and you can always take it off afterwards)
2 medium onions, sliced into thick half moons – about 5mm
Two stalks of tarragon
Plums, greengages and damsons or whatever you have available. I used 3 Victoria plums, 3 greengages and 5 damsons. Basically enough to fit snug around the chicken. Too few and there will be no juice left and they’ll burn to a crisp.

Brown the chicken in the butter. The butter will brown all by itself. If it looks like its burning add a touch of olive oil and turn down the heat.

Lay the onion moons in the baking dish and top with the tarragon.

Lay the chicken breasts skin side up and fit in the stoned fruits. Pour over the chicken butter, removing any burned milk solids first.

Cover the onions with water and put it into the oven. It took 45 minutes for my two chicken breasts to cook through. You know your oven, adjust accordingly and make sure the chicken is cooked. If everything is browning too quickly, cover it in foil and remove for the last 5 minutes to re-crisp the skin.

We ate ours with mashed up, bashed up squash and it was divine. A little sweet, a little tart, but damn good!

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Sunday

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This is rather late on a Sunday, isn’t it?  Barely Sunday at all really.  I spent all day at work, sometimes a twelve hour Sunday shift is unavoidable.  The skies were this colour all day, it was lovely.  There’s definitely a nip in the air and I am all kinds of ready to welcome Autumn.

I’m going to wear the hell out of this before it’s too cold though, I’m a big big fan of black and white and huge prints and rather love the strange side fashion for oversize shirt dresses – also, I love it with my dork glasses!

Also, the city was host to The Great North Run.  Fifty seven thousand runners pegging it for charities.  The Partner in Crime’s father ran and I can honestly say I was really proud.  Which feels strange, but is true.

I need to say a big thank you to Angie, writer of the inspirational Indulge Your Inner Foodie and Natascha of the excellent blog Natascha’s Place (she has a bear named Flaubert, which I think is the coolest name for a bear.  Ever).
They have both very kindly nominated me for blogging awards. Natascha for the Sisterhood of The World Bloggers award (which I received just as I was losing my groove at the end of May) and Angie for the Blogger Recognition and Liebster awards.  Two prolific blogs who are genuinely among my regular blog reads.  I am honored and grateful to them both.  It’s a lovely fuzzy feeling to be a part of a blogging community.  Go give them some love.

And now it’s late.  Real late.  I’m drinking rooibos tea and eating crumpets with more butter than crumpet.  I had a lovely week, I can say that honestly.  Archie-cat is bunny kicking a catnip carrot – we all foodies here – and I’m back in my pyjamas ..And I read PostSecret along with 2,351 other folks.

Come on next week, let’s see what you’re made of!

Pear and Goat’s Cheese Salad with Quick Pickled Onions

pears

I love pickled stuff.  This salad was lunch a few days ago, the pears were so ripe I could smell them every time I walked past the fruit bowl.

This ‘salad’ really is just cutting stuff and arranging it on a plate – except for the pickle bit, which you can absolutely not bother with and it will still be delicious.

I thinly sliced two rings from a red onion, set them in a bowl and tossed them with about half a teaspoon of salt and set them to one side.  Next up, two small pears cut fairly thin and a couple of chunks from a roll of Kidderton Ash goat’s cheese, it’s delicate mould-fluff has speckles of black ash and it is delicious.  Of course other goat’s cheese would be just as lovely, so would some salty feta (although in this instance I would not pickle the onions), brie, halloumi, roquefort.. many cheeses.

By now the onions had left a little pink juice in the bowl.  I shook them off and plucked apart the rings to lay over the pears and cheese.  Drizzle over some honey, a little balsamic vinegar and crack some black pepper.  Finito!

pear-goats-cheese-pickled-red-onion-salad

Deep Dark Mushroom Barley Risotto

chestnut-portobello-mushrooms

Velvety and nutty textured this is the comfort that the creeping of Autumn is calling for.  It’s deeply savory, it’s salty and it’s brightened with parsley and a breath of lemon juice.  Let’s give rice a run for it’s money!

barley

Pearl barley.  It used to be an old world something food that Grandma’s put in their stews, now it has a new lease of life as the star of the show.  Salads are built around it (particularly good with grilled chicken, plums and basil), it’s soaked with flavour giving stock and stuffed into delicious things.  It makes a great sweet dessert (more on that later) and it’s a beautiful rice substitute.

Here, it is used exactly the same way you would for a normal risotto, except it is way less needy than rice.  It doesn’t need to be constantly stirred to give up a silky result.  As long as you’re on watch as the cooking time draws to a close, so you don’t add too much liquid, you’ll be left with a risotto that falls from the spoon the way it should.

parsley-lemon-parmesan

This makes enough for two of us for dinner

12g (ish) dried mushrooms – I had shiitake to hand
50g butter
1 medium/large onion, diced quite small
250g pearl barley
800ml chicken/mushroom/vegetable stock – I used one Kallo chicken and one Kallo mushroom stock cube
150g portobello mushrooms
350g chestnut mushrrooms
25g butter
ground black pepper
1 garlic clove minced/crushed/chopped
handful of chopped parsley
1-2 tsp lemon juice
handful of finely grated parmesan/grana padano

Pop the dried mushrooms into a bowl and cover them with boiling water.
Into a deep saucepan add the butter and the onions on low. Cook until the mushrooms begin to go translucent but not brown.
Have the stock/s to hand. Tip in the pearl barley and stir to coat the grains with the butter. They will catch on the bottom of the pan as they absorb the butter, they don’t ‘fry’ in it, so once they’re coated pop in the stock and bring to a boil then turn to medium/low.
While this is bubbling away slice up your mushrooms and put them into a separate pan with the butter, pepper and garlic. Let the mushrooms cook and begin to wilt, they’ll give up quite a bit of water. Boil off most of this water but not all of it. This is concentrated mushroom stock, it is delicious savory flavour, it is UMAMI!
Turn the heat off under the mushrooms. Slap on a lid and they can just wait their turn.
Pour the dried mushrooms and all their liquid into the barley.
Check the barley, it should be approaching al dente. Nutty chewiness is good, a raw snap is not. If it’s approaching the delicious chewy stage but still has lots of water left, whack up the heat to boil it off but stir occasionally to prevent burning. Don’t worry, barley is resilient. On the flip side, if it’s not ready yet but seems to be drying out – add more water or stock. (If using stock cubes don’t add more than two! Just add more water or it will be too salty.. yes, there is such a thing as too much salt).
When it’s ready turn off the heat.  Add the cooked mushrooms and all their ‘resting juice’.  Add in the parmesan, parsley and lemon. Mix it through. Taste it to see if it needs any seasoning adjustment.

Like a risotto, slap on the lid and let it sit for five minutes. I’m sure you can find something else to do for that time. Toss the salad, soak the dishes, make sure everyone has wine cutlery or just go feed the cat.

Dish up and devour.  Salad goes really well, but so do wilted greens with a little lemon juice.  Savoy cabbage, broccoli.. whatever you fancy or have to hand.

Leftovers are also really good cold, eaten from a bowl with a spoon.  Just gonna put that out there..

Sunday

Archie

It’s Sunday, we made it!  How was your week?  Mine was actually pretty good, somehow I am exhausted though.  But it’s pyjama day, and Archie Cat has the right idea (and the dirtiest little nose).

I don’t know about you guys but I have a little Sunday ritual/routine.  It’s not steadfast, it does not go against the flow of a flowing, carefree, no plans, relaxing Sunday.  Just a few things I listen to/read/catch up on/do. Let’s share..

..I will always listen to Cerys Matthews’ show at 10am on Radio 6 music.. Listen here

..I never fail to read Post Secret at some point on Sunday, and I always refresh the page when I hit the counter at the bottom to see how many people were reading it with me (today there were 499 of us).

..I make breakfast.  Not cereal, not half burnt hurry toast, not cold pizza.  Breakfast which involves the oven and a saucepan or two.  Because I have the time and breakfast is delicious and is one of my favourite food groups and can really be eaten at any time of day. Really.

..I have a ten minute tidy up spree.  Just ten minutes, it makes all the difference for me.  I cannot relax if.. the work bags are still lying in wait.  Or if the crossword we got frustrated with the night before and threw across the room is still on the floor (yes, we’re children). Or other little tiny things like that.  No big cleaning, just a gathering of the week and setting it to rights.

See?  Hardly a plan of action at all, just a few steps that have evolved over the years and stuck.

I found this video yesterday, it’s affirmation from a wiser generation about what I’ve been feeling lately.. too much pressure.  Go on and have a watch.. #LetGo

The layering has begun!  I bought this waterfall cape and have hardly taken it off.  Must be love.

Time to look after my skin for winter, there are many dishes in my job, so I have a two pronged attack when my hands start to crack (really) Carmex on the actual cracks and the driest areas and then Neutrogena Concentrate all over, especially for bed time.  I’ve tried tons of super expensive products but always come back to these two.  I can’t cope otherwise.

Gin!  There is always time for gin, here’s seventeen times to try from the NY times, I’m going for the Basil Gimlet and The Fountain of Youth (Aviation is my middle name..) Seventeen Gin Cocktails

Fresh Szechwan Steak Garden Rolls

szechwan-peppercorns-thai-basil

That photo, my friends, that one right there?  That is what tongue tingling flavour looks like.  Really!  I wanted something fresh and crunchy that didn’t mean deep-fried and heavy.  I would say that it was a desperate cling to summer and it’s fresh flavours but it’s not.  I like summer, don’t get me wrong but Autumn is my kind of time.  Breezy, fresh air whirling about, trees getting their Autumn/Winter wardrobe in, not to mention all the layering I can do!  Fine knits, deep jewel colours…Gah, I can’t wait!

herbs-steak-garden-rolls

You might need to have a little scout around for two of the ingredients in this.  Szechwan peppercorns and fresh Thai basil.  They are absolutely worth it though, really truly.  I would not lie to you about food.

The Thai basil is a bit more aniseed than Italian basil.. a little bit like tarragon too.  Tarragon and Italian basil put together, maybe?  But not spicy like star anise.. a clean aniseed, citrussy.  Ah hell just try it! It’s different and wonderful and combined with the Szechwan pepper will make your tongue tingle.  Szechwan pepper is different to black pepper.. it’s citrus and bright and doesn’t have the same heat.

If you can’t find either of them, no sweat!  Go for black peppercorn steak and coriander with the mint, just as fresh and bright and less of a shopping faff.

szechwan-peppercorn-steak

Smother your steak in a little sesame oil and crushed Szechwan pepper.  Sear it on a grill so it’s medium rare.  Sorry, I love the pink beef!

szechwan-peppercorn-steak-grilled

garden-rolls-steak

Let the steak rest whilst you faff about getting everything ready for wrapping.  Once you chop the two other items it’s really a very quick recipe.  And so full of flavour – or did I say that already?

rice-wrappers-and-fillings

The dipping sauce is minced garlic with a tablespoon of this that and the other.  Simple.  Fast.  Delicious.

szechwan-peppercorn-steak-garden-rolls

Yeah, rolling the rice wrappers is a little tricky but you quickly get the hang of it. As long as you use a clean damp cloth you’ll be fine.

This recipe gave me 10 rolls, or it would have done if I hadn’t eaten so many as I was making them.

250g good steak, rump is fine
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp Szechwan peppercorns
Vietnamese rice wrappers
Vermicelli rice noodles
Spring onion, cut into strips
Carrot, cut into strips
Fresh Thai basil
Fresh mint

Dipping sauce

2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp lime juice
1 crushed garlic

Cook the vermicelli noodles until al dente and rinse with cold water.
Rub the steak with sesame oil and press with the crushed Szechwan peppercorns. Sear the steak to your liking, mine was 2 minutes a side.
Let the steak rest.
Mix together the dipping sauce ingredients.
Get your rolling area ready. Lay down a damp clean cloth, get a bowl of water big enough for the rice wrappers and bring the fillings close to hand.
The rice wrappers can be a little tricky but you’ll get the hang of it. Dip it in the water and rub it until it becomes pliable and floppy.
Lay it onto the damp towel and begin to layer the fillings.
Place one Thai basil leaf and one leaf of mint down first, this way they’ll show through when you wrap them up.
Add a few strips of spring onion and one of carrot. One or two strips of beef, depending on their size and then a bundle of noodles. Fold over the bottom of the wrapper over the filling. Fold in both sides and roll ‘er up.
It might take one or two goes to get the amount of filling right but they’ll all be good eating!

Blackberry Flaugnarde

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Just in time for the weekend! This would be pretty amazeballs after a Sunday lunch. Apparently you’re not supposed to accompany a flaugnarde, not even a little cream.  In my mind though, it’s starting to get a little cold outside so some softly whipped cream would be a delight.

Most importantly though – this dessert is simple. S.I.M.P.L.E. You mix together four ingredients, pour it over fruit and the oven does the rest. That’s it. Done. Finito. Means you can get on with your weekend relaxing, lounging in pyjamas (can’t be just me, can it?) And still be rewarded!

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I ended up using 450g blackberries cause they’re so damn delicious right now, but you could use cherries (which would turn this flaugnarde into a clafoutis!) or blueberries.. some raspberries.. Go for it.
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So. This recipe really should sort out four of you.. especially if you’re taking me up on that cream offer.. but the two of us hungrily devoured it. Oops.

Four big tablespoons of plain flour (or 1/2 C)
Five big tablespoons of caster sugar (or 1/2 C) and some extra for dusting
3 eggs
1 capful of almond extract (I mean it’s lid.. not a cup, dear god!)
350ml milk
450g blackberries
Icing sugar for flinging on top whilst it’s hot

Set the oven to work, about 180c.
Grab your dish.. the flaugnarde will rise in the oven and then settle down so choose something that will hold all the fruit and have a little extra height.  Butter the dish and dust it with sugar.
Turf in the fruit.
Add the flour and sugar to a mixing bowl and stir it together. Add the three eggs and mix it well but quickly, overworked flour goes rubbery.
Add the almond extract and the milk.
stir it all together and pour over the fruit.
Into the oven for about 40 minutes but keep an eye on her.

flaugnard

Eat it hot, warm, cold.. just eat it. I’m off to make another one.

No. Really.

Kedgeree With Pinhead Oats

kedgeree-with-oatmeal

This is an absolute revelation.  I’ll probably never make kedgeree with rice again (but I love rice, so I probably will). Pinhead oats (also steel cut oats) may well be my new favourite thing.  I bought a bag from Mmm… in Grainger Market, they are absolutely amazing, if I need something that probably won’t be carried in the average supermarket they always save the day, utter foodie heaven.

I had intended to send this recipe for consideration to the Guardian for their weekly supplement Cook as they were calling for readers to submit recipes using oats, but I didn’t read that part of the article until 12 hours after the deadline.  Oops.  Next one is for noodles, I have a trick or two up my sleeve there!

Nevertheless, It’s the best food twist I’ve had all year and I demand you make it.  It goes a little something like this..

natural-smoked-haddock-fillets

Take two fillets of undyed smoked haddock and poach them in a mix of milk and water with peppercorns, half an onion and a bay leaf.  Everything goes in cold and when it begins to boil just turn off the heat and let it sit while you do other things.  Yes it will be cooked, no it will not be overcooked.

poached-smoked-haddock

Skin side up and this pan is just off the heat.  I do indeed love heavy pans, I don’t go to the gym so I may as well lift delicious things.

kedgeree-spiced-onions

In a separate pan you need one finely chopped onion, two heaped teaspoons of good quality curry powder, one bay leaf and about 50g of butter – calm it, this will serve four people.

barts-mild-curry-powder

Sorry.  I love the colour of curry powder.

sauteed-kedgeree-onions

Fire it up on medium and cook out the onions without colouring them.  The whole thing is a little on the sweet side so we don’t need to caramelise the onions.

adding-the-steelcut-oats-pinhead

Add in 220ml (ML) of pinhead oatmeal and make sure it all gets coated with the melted spicy butter – much like you would with risotto rice.  Add in 340ml of hot Kallo chicken stock (or fish/vegetable stock if you’re meat free) and turn it to low.  Stir it often to prevent it sticking.

kedgeree-with-oatmeal

Once pretty much all of the water has been absorbed you can peel the skin away from the haddock and flake it into the oats in big chunks, mixing the fish in will break it up further.

aromatics

Soft boil or poach an egg (or two) whilst you mix in some finely chopped parsley and a little lemon juice, these two give the earthy flavours a little lift.  Of course, use coriander instead by all means, I prefer parsley here.

kedgeree-with-pinhead-oats

Ta da!  This made me a happy girl.  Go get some happy!

Could serve four alongside a starter or dessert, or two ravenous people who like their eggs two at a time.

2 smoked haddock fillets – approximately 500g (could easily be less, 500g is a very generous amount of fish)
200ml milk + 200ml water
2 bay leaves
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 small onion in chunks
1tsp peppercorns
220ml (yes ml, I.. um.. broke my scales..) pinhead oatmeal, not rolled/quick cook oats = mushy!
2 heaped tsp mild curry powder, I used Barts
50g butter
340ml chicken stock (other stocks are good, but not beef)
Bunch of parsley
1 lemon
soft boiled eggs to finish

Poach the fish in the milk + water mix with one of the bay leaves, the peppercorns and the small chunked onion.
Put it all in a pan and bring it to a boil, when this happens switch off the heat and leave it alone, sitting in the milk.
In another pan add the finely chopped onion, curry powder, last bay leaf and butter. Bring to a medium heat to soften the onions without colouring, give it maybe 5-7 minutes.
Add the pinhead oats and coat with the melted butter.
Add in 340ml of hot stock and stir everything together. Keep the heat on medium-low and stir frequently to prevent sticking.
Wait for the oats to absorb most of the stock, this took me about 10 minutes on low, may be longer or shorter for you – keep a watch out.
Finely chop the parsley, quarter a lemon.
Peel the skin away from the fish and add it to the spiced oats in large chunks now that the stock has been absorbed and the oats have separated slightly (don’t worry, it will never separate like fluffy rice, but this is ok).
Turn off the heat, add a squish of lemon juice and the parsley, mix everything around, trying to go gently on the fish.
That’s it, top off with soft boiled eggs and dig in!

Lets have a cuppa and a chat..

 

tea-with-ferns
*

I’ve been away for a little while, haven’t I?  I don’t like to talk about personal things here – this is where the food happens.  But food is a big part of life and how I’m feeling affects my cooking and eating habits.  If it effects mine, then it probably does yours, too.

I’ve had a wobbly few months where work and family pressures all built up and became too much.  I’m normally pretty good at shouldering stuff but when so much of it comes along at once I’m not so good.  Guess I got a little bit swallowed up there.

It made me realise just how easy it is to forget the truly important things when the every day feels like you’re wading through pea soup – y’all know I’ve got a recipe for that – and that your own small world is coming to get you.

When things get a bit bumpy, don’t forget to do the things that make you happy.  The things you do for you.  Yeah, there will be days when you don’t want to get out of bed let alone muster the energy to do something that isn’t paying your bills – no matter how much you love it. But you will.  We will.  We’ll get out of bed – even if it’s just because we have no one to cover our shift at work and we don’t get sick pay, but we will, and it will get easier.  I promise.  The fog will dissipate and inspiration will come back.

My Partner in Crime reminds me often – and which I should magic marker to my forehead – “Care about things that matter”.  That can seem a pretty big ask when so much is going on in your mind that you can’t quiet it.  When you’re being squeezed from all angles and when you’re a tired emotional wreck.  After some time, going through the motions and staying afloat, things do seem easier.  You begin to see the problems from other angles and you begin to see ways through them.  I’m left wondering what I became so anxious about – hard to see it when you’re in it though.

So.  I’m going to care about things that matter and take my Wellwoman multivitamins, cause folks – those things work wonders!

*  Yes, I planted ferns in a toilet bowl.