Chicken with garlic and cider

This is a wonderful impromptu dish I made for my mother when looking at what ingredients I had at hand. From my trusted source of ocado recipes.

Don’t be put off by the large quantity of garlic, as the flavour will mellow in the cooking. Good with boiled new potatoes and green beans.

Serves 4

Total time required 50 mins

Preparation time: 10 mins

Cooking time: 40 mins

Ingredients:

15 Garlic Cloves, unpeeled

1 pinch Salt

1 pinch Black Pepper, freshly ground

2 tbsp Olive Oil

30g Butter, unsalted

4 Chicken Breasts, skin on

1 Bay Leaf

450ml Dry Cider

200ml Apple Juice

200ml Double Cream

1 tbsp Thyme, leaves

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4). Cook the whole, unpeeled garlic cloves in a pan of boiling salted water for 4 minutes. Drain, cool slightly, then peel and set aside.

Heat the oil and butter in the casserole. When sizzling, add the chicken, skin-side down, and cook for 4–5 minutes, or until deep golden brown. Turn the chicken over and add the garlic cloves, bay leaf, cider, and apple juice. Cover and transfer to the oven for 20–25 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

Lift the chicken out of the pan. Remove half the garlic cloves and discard. Bring the remaining juices up to the boil. Crush the garlic into the juices with a fork, then boil until reduced and thickened slightly.

Add the cream, season to taste with salt and pepper, and simmer for 1 minute. Return the chicken to the sauce and baste with the juices; add the thyme leaves and serve immediately.

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Friulian apple, nut and poppy-seed pie

I made this based on a recipe I got some time from one of my sources. The ingredients just sounded too good to ignore. I searched for it online and found it in the Telegraph’s recipe section.

Ingredients:
Serves 8

250g (9oz) plain flour
125g (4½oz) butter
100g (3½oz) caster sugar (I used 90g as it’s my policy to use 10% less sugar than any recipe calls for – it tends to bring out the other flavours)
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp cold whole milk
grated zest of 1 lemon
3 tart eating apples (didn’t use tart ones, which wasn’t a problem but will use at least one more to make the filling a bit more moist)
1½ tbsp grappa (of course, I used 2 tbsp, otherwise what’s the point of even opening the bottle!)
60g (2oz) raisins (didn’t have enough raisins so added cranberries and chopped figs)
175g (6oz) walnuts or hazelnuts, chopped
3 tbsp poppy seeds, plus extra to serve
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
ground seeds from 4 cardamom pods
icing sugar, for dusting (didn’t use but recommend as the cake it not sweet at all)

Instructions:
To make the pastry, put the flour and butter into a food processor and whizz until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and baking powder and whizz again. Add the milk and half of the lemon zest and process again. The pastry should come together in a ball. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5 and put in a metal baking-sheet to warm.

On a floured surface, roll out two thirds of the pastry and use it to line a 23cm (9in) spring-form cake tin so that the pastry comes about 4cm (1½in) up the sides. Roll the other piece of pastry into a circle slightly larger than the tin and put on a floured metal sheet. Refrigerate the cake tin and the circle for an hour.

Peel and core the apples and grate the flesh. Mix with the grappa, raisins, nuts, seeds, spices and remaining lemon zest. Pile into cake tin and put the circle on top. Pinch the edges together, then indent the rim with the tines of a fork. Cut a star in the centre to let out the steam.

Cook on the baking-sheet in the oven for 30 minutes. Let it cool in the tin then carefully remove. Sift icing sugar over the top and scatter on poppy seeds. Offer cream whipped with grappa.

Mash potato

As I cook a lot of casseroles and pot roasts, mash is often the best way to enjoy the dishes with all their juices. I have a generic way of making potato mash but I will be adding recipes for more sophisticated mashes, such as celeriac and potato mash or sweet potato with brandy and smoked bacon mash…

For the simplest mash, take 3 medium-sized potatoes per person. Quarter them and put in boiling water for at least 20 minutes or until soft. Over cooking is not a huge problem but you don’t want them falling apart otherwise you’ll get potato slush as you drain them – a far cry from a tasty mash.

Add a bit of butter 25-30g and mash it in with the potatoes. Add salt and pepper. Keep mashing as you are adding milk, gradually, until you get the texture and creaminess you want.

At the end, I always add mustard, both english mustard and moutarde de Meaux Pommery or creamed horseradish.

Braised topside with anchovy and onion

This is one of my favourite slow cooked dishes, another example of French regional cooking, adapted from Elizabeth David’s An Omelette and a Glass of Wine via Sunday Telegraph’s magazine.

Ingredients:

250g (9oz) unsalted butter (I NEVER use this much. OK, the dish does need a lot of butter so I use about half the amount as required by the recipe, then let the dish cool down, fridge it for a while and then scoop out the butter that becomes very visible. In my experience this hasn’t affected the flavour but considerably reduced the fat content)
6 onions, peeled and cut into thick half moons
1.5kg (3lb 5oz) beff topside cut into portion-sized steaks
2 bay leaves (I always add more)
2 garlic cloves peeled and crushed (again my hand slips and I add more :P)
1 tbs red-wine vinegar
6 tbsp olive oil (I include in this amount the oil from anchovies)
5 anchovy fillets chopped
2 dried red chillies ideally bird’s-eye
1 very large handful fresh flat leaf parsley

Take a heavy casserole with a lid, and rub the inside all over with three quarters of the butter. It isn’t just a greasing agent – it’s really a part of the dish. Scatter in some of the onion. Season the beef and layer some of it over the onions. Continue to layer the beef and the onion. Throw in the bay leaves. Smear a sheet of greaseproof paper with the remaining butter and place, butter-side down, on top of the meat and onion.

Preheat the oven to 140C/275F/gas mark 1. Place the lid on the pot and heat over a flame until it starts to sizzle. Transfer to the oven and leave for two hours or so, until the meat is very tender.
Place the other ingredients in a food processor and blitz to make a paste. As I don’t have one, I use mortar & pestle and get a very satisfying amount of gooey paste that smells absolutely delicious. Stir the paste into the meat and juices. Replace the lid and leave to infuse for 30 minutes off the heat. Gently reheat for about 25 minutes over a low flame and serve with mash potatoes and something green.

Baked pears with ginger and cardamom

A wonderful dessert (from the Sunday Times magazine) for those times you don’t want to make anything too heavy or have only a few minutes to prepare. The most important about this is the right size of the tin, as pears need to be close together so all the buttery, cardamomy and gingery goodness permeates through them.

4 pears, peeled, halved and cored
75g dark brown sugar
4 tbsp runny honey
1½ tsp ground ginger (I used fresh ginger, thinly sliced using a grater)
Juice and finely grated zest of ½ lemon
4 tbsp unsalted butter
8 cardamom pods, squashed

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Put the pear halves in a small roasting pan, cut side down and in a single layer, so they fit relatively snugly. Sprinkle with the sugar, honey, ginger, lemon juice and zest. Dot with the butter and tuck in the cardamom pods.

Put the pan in the oven and bake for 40 minutes, turning the pears cut side up and basting halfway through, until the fruit is tender and the sauce is bubbling and sweet. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then serve with cream, ice cream or yoghurt.

Chestnut chocolate chilled cake

Nigella Lawson’s recipe as recommended by Jackie the other day has been an umitigated success.

Ingredients:

500g (2 tins) sweetened chestnut purée (I used one can of unsweetened Merchant Gourmet Chestnut puree, and followed the instructions on the tin to make it sweet, which produced the right quantity of chestnut puree for the recipe)
175g soft, unsalted butter
300g dark chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa solids
3 tablespoons dark rum

to serve:
crème fraîche
crystallised violets (didn’t use)

Beat the purée in a bowl until it’s smooth, and then add the butter, beating again to make a well-blended mixture.

Melt the chocolate and let it cool slightly, before adding it to the chestnut and butter in the bowl. Beat in the rum, and spoon the chocolate mixture into a 23 x 10cm loaf tin (I used a slightly deeper but approximately shaped tupperware box, which worked fine), lined with clingfilm, in two batches, making sure the first layer reaches the corners and sides of the bottom of the tin before you smooth over the rest. Wrap the overhanging clingfilm over the cake so that it is completely covered, and put it in the fridge to set for at least four hours, but a day or so in advance if you want.

Don’t take the loaf tin out of the fridge until you want to eat it, when you just unmould the cake, cut it into thin slices and serve with crème fraîche or sour cream.

I must say this was absolutely delicious, even without any cream.