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!

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.

Fast and Healthy Asparagus & Tomato Frittata

Fast and Healthy Asparagus & Tomato Frittata

Fast and Healthy Asparagus & Tomato Frittata

I’m not joking around here.  This asparagus and tomato frittata is fast and it is healthy (unless you make it mostly cheese, then it’s just cheese isn’t it?).  It’s pretty much my take-to-work-breakfast staple.  And lunch, and dinner in the summer when it’s hot and all your body wants is salad, vegetables and ice pops.  It’s vegetables and protein, what’s not to love? 

The silicone baking pan makes all the difference for me, I literally throw everything in, RAW, and shove it in the oven.  That’s it.  If silicone wonder-pan is occupied with other goodies I’ll pop a wax paper/baking paper liner in the bottom of the pan so I can just turf it out when it’s done.  I can’t think of one person who enjoys scraping off burnt egg.  Fact.

cherry tomatoes with asparagus and spring onions for frittataI. could. not. stop. eating. the. tomatoes.  I must have a deficiency only satisfied by tomatoes.  I eat a lot of them. (With too much salt and soaked in vinagery salad dressing. Ahem.)

Raw asparagus and tomatoes ready for frittata

There really aren’t a lot of ingredients for this.

1 bunch of asparagus – about 15 slim spears
10 cherry tomatoes – halved and quatered
5 spring onions – chopped
12 eggs

What you see is what you get.  I snapped the asparagus into two with my hands and cut the tomatoes into either halves or quarters so some could sneak through the asparagus.

But asparagus is woody, you say?  Nah.  The trick to getting rid of the woody end is it to hold the spear in both hands.  One hand on the end and the other hand half way to the tip of the spear, bend it and it will snap where the woody part ends and the stalk becomes softer.  DO NOT THROW AWAY THE WOODY ENDS!  Keep a plastic bag in the freezer (or tupperware box if you have space, I don’t – little kitchen!) with vegetable odds and ends to make stock.  I’m serious!  Onion peelings (yes! the papery skins!), mushroom stalks, celery ends, unwanted herb stalks – but why you wouldn’t use those I’ll never know – any bits of vegetable, it all makes flavour.  It’s so much nicer than using those nasty nasty MSG filled stock cubes (except Kallo, y’all know I love ’em).  There will be a separate post where I’m going to use many exclamation marks to get my point across about this, just you wait.

tomatoes-and-asparagus-with-spring-onions-frittata

Anyway! Next add in the chopped up spring onions, raw again.  Everything will cook just enough in the oven with the eggs.  Who wants soggy vegetable frittata?  Bleugh!  Don’t be afraid to jam pack the pan with vegetables, they’ll all float about and have a swim in the egg custard when it’s poured in anyway.

Parmesan grated into egg custard for frittata

My favourite – a big soft heaping of grated parmesan.  Salty deliciousness. I’ve got about 12 eggs in there.  Yes. Twelve, we need that protein!  I just grated about a handful in, I didn’t want it too cheesy cause I’m trying to get my weight down (hah, never happen).  I also added a pinch of salt, a little black pepper (’cause, y’know, eggs) and about a dessert spoon of truffle oil, just for a background savoury flavour.  Absolutely not necessary or required, I just couldn’t help myself.

parmesan-egg-custard-frittata-2

That’s it!  Mix it up and pour it all in.  Bake it at about 180 C and keep checking on it after 25 minutes until it’s not too wobbly and is cooked through in the centre.  Turn it out quite soon after it’s done so you can drain away any liquid that may have been released by the vegetables, I poured off about a tablespoon but still.. we don’t want it soggy!

Parsley and Walnut Pesto

parsley_and_walnut_pesto

The Great Parsley Trilogy Part Deux.  This was the real super star when it came to actually using up the bulk of the parsley.  It takes a lot of it, I’m not gonna lie, but it wouldn’t be parsley pesto with only a token amount now, would it.

I’m afraid I didn’t use or record measurements.  It was very much a go as you feel happening.  That’s ok every now and then, right?  It was basically all of the things I needed to use up.  The parmesan, all the parsley and some walnuts which had been lurking in the baking cupboard for almost too long.

ingredients_for_parsley_and_walnut_pesto

Aglio_e_olio_ingredients

This made two small jars, or two mugs full.. maybe two US cups.

Approximately 400ml of really good quality olive oil.  The best you can afford, it’s a main flavour here so you’ll taste the difference!
Two handfuls of finely chopped parsley
One sliced clove of garlic – but there are two in the photos? Yep.  It was way too much, even for me
A handful of finely grated parmesan
100g walnuts (I know the weight only because the packet said so, heh)
A big squeeze of lemon juice, about 1 tbsp
Truffle oil to serve

Now, I made the mistake of doing this in a blender. No way. If you have a food processor you use that baby! I’d rather bash it in a bowl with a rolling pin than deal with it in a blender again.
Parsley and oil first, to get things on the move.
Then walnuts, garlic and parmesan.
Add the lemon juice bit by bit to your liking.
So far whenever I’ve cooked with this I’ve drizzled truffle oil over the top. Truffles and walnuts? Absolute winner.

Aglio e Olio

aglio_e_olio

I had promised myself that by the end of Thursday the parsley would be all used up.  I got home from work absolutely famished (I’ve started to try out walking to and from work – less pennies, hopefully less inches too). Cue aglio e olio!  So simple, so amazing and so delicious.  Simple always is, isn’t it?  I really shouldn’t act so surprised.

I think perhaps the only thing I did differently was to keep my garlic quite sharp, I only let it take on a mere hint of colour around the edges (sounds awfully pretentious, no?).  I like it with a bit of bite.

This time I was only cooking for one.  Something I’m not very good at, I think I’m always under the illusion that I’m feeding twelve.

100g spaghetti – I grab it out of the packet so that the spaghetti fits between my thumb and first finger when I put the tip of my thumb to my second knuckle.. if that makes any sense to any one!
1 clove garlic – sliced thinly
2 tbsp good quality olive oil – it really makes a difference, particularly as this is a minimal dish
bunch of parsley chopped – mine was about a small handful
grated parmesan – again, about a small handful

Boil up your spaghetti in salty water, I always remember our Italian customers (and now chefs on telly) saying you should cook your pasta in water as salty as the sea.
While that’s going on, gently warm up the olive oil and sling in the garlic. I pretty much just heated my garlic through. Letting it sizzle gently for about four minutes on the lowest heat. Most other folks seem to go for a light browning. Go wild, just don’t burn it.  Burnt garlic is bitter and nasty.
Again, at this stage people talk about adding chilli flakes – if I had had any, I surely would.
Drain the pasta when it’s al dente but don’t drain all the liquid off, keep about two tablespoons in with the pasta.
Chuck in the garlic and oil and coat everything, then the parsley and parmesan. Mix everything around, the parmesan along with the starchy cooking liquor make a beautiful emulsion so everything clings together.
Shove it in a bowl or eat it straight from the pan, no one’s looking!

lemon_for_aglio_e_olio
What I did do when I was almost finished was sling it a little bit of lemon juice, no more than a teaspoon maybe, just to brighten things up a little bit.

Of course you can embellish it with capers; olives; seafood; sundried tomatoes; wilted greens (chard!) etc. etc., but it’s nice to know that something simple and cheap can be wonderful without other ingredients.

Spring Cabbage and Pea Soup

Shredded cabbage and peas

spring-cabbage-and-pea-soup-two

This is really just ‘fridge soup’ masquerading as a healthy broth.  It IS healthy, and I found it oddly comforting.   I honestly expected it to be bland cabbage soup, the kind the crazy yo-yo dieters insist is the miracle weight stripper.  But it was delicious.  Light and quite sweet from the peas, so the sharp grilled cheddar toasts were a savory delight.  Also – crunchy bread with soft hot soup?  Win.

 cropped-savoy-cabbage-one.jpg

 

ingredients-saucepan

Of course you can make this soup more delicious – add BACON.  Yep.  I said it.  Bacon.  Quite possibly the most delicious, deeply savory soup meat.
If you were to buy a piece of bacon – not the ready sliced rashers which curl up at the thought of being immersed in hot water, leaving their white wobbly fat floating around the pan. A lump/piece of bacon. Normally quite cheap in supermarkets over here in the UK.
So, if you were to buy a piece of bacon to make this soup more delicious – and not vegetarian – you should chop it into chunks and add it to the pan when the onions, bay, celery and garlic have had a few moments to themselves. Do not add stock cubes when you add the water! Bacon is salty.
Let all of this bubble around for quite a while if you want tender bacon which falls into strips. Or even in the slow cooker overnight. Then, when the bacon is done, continue on with the cabbage and peas. It will be tremendous.
Alternatively, brown some cubed pancetta with the onions and carry on regardless.

shredded-savoy-cabbage

 

 

Shredded cabbage and peas

 

 

bread-and-cheese

 

two tablespoons of olive oil
one chopped onion
two ribs of celery, chopped
two cloves of garlic, finely chopped
one bay leaf
a half head of savoy cabbage
two stock cubes – vegetable or chicken
two mugs of frozen peas
Into a large saucepan put the oil, onion, celery, bay leaf and garlic. Let this sit on low while you clean and finely slice the cabbage.
Cut out the tough stem of the cabbage, which will leave you two ‘ears’. Stack the ear leaves on top of each other and finely slice across the length.
Add the cabbage ribbons to the pot and coat with the oil.
Add the stock cubes and cover with hot water.
Let this bubble to take the raw edge off the cabbage, about five minutes will do.
I used this five minutes to grate some sharp cheddar onto a slice of olive bread (all I had in the cupboard) and shoved it under a high grill to bubble and crisp.
Toss in the peas for about three minutes.
Check the seasoning and serve.
Beware, it’s very steamy – thoroughly fogged my camera lens.