It started with the idea of a dinner on a terrace or garden in occasionally warm weather this spring and ended as a delicious dinner inside. The menu was positively spring-like:
Fresh cucumber, pea & mint soup, griddle herby lemon chicken with jersey royal potatoes with butter & parsley, and a side of stir-fried courgettes with ginger and chilli. Served with white wine, of course.
Fresh cucumber, pea & mint soup
Nutrition: 305kcal/25g carbohydrate/5.3g sugars/19.8g fat/12.8g saturated fat/2.5g salt per serving
1 fresh cucumber, medium to large, peeled and diced
1 small onion, chopped
300g Maris Piper potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
250g podded fresh peas or frozen peas
2 sprigs fresh mint, plus shredded mint for garnishing
4 tbsp creme fraiche
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
pinch of paprika
Wash the cucumber and cut off 5cm to reserve for the garnish. Cube the rest. Melt the butter in a large pan and add the onion, cucumber and potato and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes stirring. Add the stock and bring to the boil, then simmer for 12-15 minutes until the potato is almost tender.
Add the peas and whole mint springs to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes until the peas are tender. Remove the mint sprigs and add 6-8 ice cubes to the pan and stir until melted. Blend or process until smooth, then chill. Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche in each bowl and a scattering of shredded mint, diced cucumber and sprinkle of paprika.
Griddled herby lemon chicken
5 minutes preparation
1 hour marinating time
15 minutes cooking time
1 unwaxed lemon, plus extra lemon wedges to serve
100g natural yoghurt
15g pack fresh oregano (I used lovage from my garden)
20g pack fresh flat leafed parsley, chopped
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
4 British free range skinless chicken breast fillets
Grate the lemon zest and squeeze the juice, then place both in a blender with the yoghurt, oregano, parsley, garlic, olive oil and seasoning. Whizz until smooth. Place the chicken breasts in a shallow dish and poor over the marinade. Cover with clingfilm and leave to marinade in the fridge for at least an hour, turning once.
Heat a ridged griddle or non-stick frying pan. I used a flat non-stick pan as was making a mess of it on the griddled one. Cook for 6-7 minutes each side, turning once until golden and cooked through with no pink meat (this is important). Serve with extra lemon wedges, new potatoes and a green salad or a lightly stir-fried greens.
With the last piece of chicken in the pan almost done, I added the marinade and cooked it well, served it as a top up sauce with the meal.
Jersey royal new potatoes with butter and chopped parsley
600g new potatoes
15g parsley, chopped
Cover the potatoes with cold water in a pot, bring to boil, simmer for 20 minutes or until tender. Add butter and parsley, let stand for 2 minutes before serving.
Stir-fried courgettes with ginger and chilli
1 courgette per person
half-inch chunk of fresh ginger, peeled, thinly sliced, then chopped very finely
1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced, then chopped
1 fresh red or green chilli, very thinly sliced
1 tsp groundnut oil
cut courgettes in about four portions, then cut each portion in half. Place each cut section face down on a cutting board and slice very thinly into fine little strips, about 2mm thick.
In a wok or frying pan, heat up groundnut oil. When it is hot (but not too hot), throw in the chopped garlic, and stir fry for about a minute. Before it takes colour, throw in the ginger, followed by the courgette-strips and the chilli. Stir fry until the courgettes begin to go translucent. Season with soy sauce and sesame oil, if you’ve got any, then serve.