Chicken saltimbocca with spinach and a potato rösti

Saltimbocca is traditionally made with small slices of veal but it works with other meats. Here, I used chicken breasts. These were trimmed and split in half lengthways. I suppose that I could have flattened them out, but I wanted nice plump parcels of chicken.

Slices of Parma ham and a sage leaf were placed inside each piece of chicken, which were then folded over and secured with a cocktail stick. These were left in the fridge until it was time to cook them.

The spinach was washed and steamed, then as much water as possible was squeezed out and this was also left on one side.

For the rösti, I parboiled some Maris Piper potatoes and let them cool. Then, these were grated into a bowl, seasoned and chilled in the fridge.

The chicken was sautéed in a frying pan in butter and grapeseed oil for about five minutes on each side and then simmered in a large glass of Marsala, a sweet Italian dessert wine, and about 200 ml of chicken stock for a further 10 minutes.

While these were cooking, I heated some butter in a non-stick frying pan and shaped the grated potato into flattish cakes and fried them until crisp and golden on both sides.

I melted some more butter in a saucepan and reheated the spinach with some grated nutmeg.

I checked that the chicken was cooked through and removed it from the pan while I reduced the sauce slightly.

To drink with this it had to be an Italian wine and Chianti Classico (check for the Gallo Nero, a black cockerel on the neck label) seemed like a good idea. We drank one from Waitrose, Monetmajone Chianti Classico 2011, a rich red with a nice spicy depth and a good fruity sour cherry note.

Pan-fried cod with grilled prawns and flageolet beans

I don’t eat cod very often these days because of the pressure on fish stocks but in the fishmonger yesterday there was some lovely line caught cod on sale, so I had to buy a piece. I also bought some raw king prawns, because I love prawns.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a plan for a dish to cook with these two different ingredients, so what I had was basically just about eating things that I like rather than making a coherent plate of food.

I decided to use a small tin of green flageolet beans as the vegetable component of the meal and I cooked these in olive oil with garlic, chopped shallot, diced tomato, parsley, salt, pepper and lemon juice.

The lovely meaty prawns were shelled and butterflied, dressed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and simply grilled on a hot griddle and the cod was fried in hot olive oil, skin side down, and then turned over and finished with some butter. The butter was then poured over the plate, which was also seasoned with some basil-infused olive oil.

Saddle of lamb with couscous stuffing

My local butcher’s shop sells what are known as Barnsley chops, double lamb loin chops cut from the saddle and they are great grilled. However, they also sell the chops as a piece, a small joint, and that is what this recipe used.

The meat was boned, leaving a nice small piece of meat that was suitable for stuffing and roasting.

The stuffing I made was influenced by Middle Eastern and North African flavours and was simply couscous, soaked in hot water until soft, mixed with chopped pistachio nuts and semi-dried apricots, Aleppo pepper flakes, ras el hanout spice mix, chopped fresh green coriander leaves, salt and olive oil.

The joint was then loosely tied and roasted in a 180C oven for about 45 minutes.

I served this with some plain white rice and a vegetable dish made with chopped shallots, crushed garlic, diced aubergines and courgettes sautéed in olive oil and then lightly stewed with herbes de Provence and chopped tomatoes.

There was some chopped mint and Greek yoghurt on the side (not in the picture) instead of a gravy.

Cannon of lamb with curried vegetables and a curry sauce

I wanted to try something that was in the same vein as the more upmarket Indian dishes that we see on television from chefs like Cyrus Todiwala and Atul Kochar, not that I am claiming the same levels of skill as they have.

Anyway, I used cannon of lamb, which I seared in sunflower oil and thnn put in a 180C oven for 15 minutes, while I cooked some basmati ice.

I had previously made a sauce and cooked a vegetable side dish, as follows.

The sauce.

I fried some cumin seeds in hot sunflower oil in a saucepan before adding a chopped piece of ginger, some crushed garlic, a seeded green chilli, a diced onion, a bay leaf and some sprigs of mint. When these were softened, I added a teaspoon each of turmeric, cumin and coriander, a heaped tablespoon each of red lentils and white urad dhal and some hot water and simmered this for about half an hour until the pulses were cooked.

I removed the bay and mint and then liquidised the contents of the saucepan, added some salt and pepper and mixed in some lemon juice. Later, when I reheated this, I stirred in a nice glug of single cream.

The vegetables.

I blanched some diced potato and carrot with some frozen peas. I heated up some more oil in a pan and sizzled a teaspoon of panchporan whole spices. Then I fried off some diced onion and ginger and garlic paste with a couple of chopped green chillies. Then I added the vegetables plus a teaspoon of turmeric and another of garam masala and cooked this for about 10 minutes, until everything was nicely mixed and soft. At this point I added a handful of chopped fresh green coriander leaves.

To serve, I reheated the sauce and the vegetables and sliced the lamb into nice pieces. I topped the rice with fried red onions and the vegetables with some mango chutney.

I was pretty pleased with the result. Next time, I will try it with chicken breasts marinated in yoghurt and tandoori spices instead of lamb.

Salsiccia al finocchio

Otherwise known as Italian pork sausage with fennel seeds.

There is a Bristol butcher’s shop called Paeckert in Cheltenham Rd, well-known for excellent sausages. I bought some Italian pork and fennel sausage (it comes as a continuous coiled piece like a traditional Cumberland sausage) and roasted it in some olive oil until the sausage was cooked through. I cut this into pieces and set it aside while I made a simple garlic and tomato sauce, seasoned with a little salt and pepper and some dried red chilli. To this I added the sausage, and while this was heating through, I cooked some potato gnocchi. When these were done (they take about a minute or so), I added them to the pan with some torn Basil leaves.

This needed nothing else apart from some freshly-grated Parmesan cheese and a bottle of Italian red wine for a lovely Italian comfort food supper.

Quiche Lorraine

The very first thing that must be said about a proper quiche Lorraine is that it does not contain cheese. If it has cheese in it, it is still a quiche, but not one from Lorraine.

The only ingredients in a real quiche Lorraine are cream, eggs, bacon and salt and pepper as seasoning. The pastry should be a nice flaky shortcrust, which I think is best made with lard, plus some butter.

The other ingredients are streaky bacon cut into lardons and fried, I like smoked, but you can use unsmoked, 300 ml of double cream mixed with three beaten egg yolks and one whole beaten egg, plus pepper and salt (but be careful because the bacon will be salty).

Anyway, you make your pastry (according to your favourite recipe) and after letting it sit in the fridge for a couple of hours, you blind bake it in a flan ring with a removable base.

Then you add the filling and bake in the oven at 170C until it is set and the top is golden.

And that is it. A true classic.


Leftover poached chicken – a simple gratin

The leftover chicken and the stock from the poule au pot I cooked at the weekend was the basis of last night’s dinner, which was a nice chicken gratin, which is a simple thing to make, but tasty and filling on a cold evening.

First, I made a sauce with some of the chicken stock and a basic butter and flour roux, to which I added a tablespoonful of crème fraiche, some grated Comté cheese and two teaspoonfuls of Dijon mustard.

I then stripped the cold chicken from the carcass of the bird and put this into an ovenproof dish with some sliced mushrooms and pieces of blanched asparagus. This was covered with the cheese sauce and topped with grated Parmesan cheese and baked in the oven until bubbling and browned on top.

I served it with mashed potato, but pasta or plain rice would work equally well.


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