27/10/2015

Chicken and Spinach with an egg and lemon sauce

There is a Greek soup called avgolemono. It is pure comfort food to any Greek, speaking to us of the days when we lived at home and Mum fed us soup when we weren’t well. Or when we had a broken heart. Or just because we loved it so.

I remember being on holiday with all the cousins, one Easter, in a big rambling house in St Osyth, and my sister, Nina, had made an enormous pan of it. It was in the fridge, and my Mum kept sneaking into the kitchen and stealing a mugful of it.

It is usually made from simmered whole chickens, their flesh turned silky and slippery, all their goodness gone into the stock that surrounded them.

Once the birds have been taken out, and portioned (never throw anything away) the stock is skimmed and brought to a gentle simmer. Rice is added, and when that is tender, the heat is turned off, and one ladleful of the stock is whisked slowly into eggs beaten with fresh lemon juice, until they heat up.

This is then stirred back into the stock/rice mixture, producing a cloudy, cream looking soup. We either pop the chicken back in, or keep it warm and eat it afterwards. Cubed halloumi can be added in to the soup instead of the chicken, and the chicken used the next day.

There are other uses for the avgolemono sauce. As a dressing over steamed vegetables, a sauce to pour over stuffed vine leaves, or just added to other dishes to thicken the sauce up.

This was christened How to Make Simon Wibble Chicken, because the first time he ate it, he almost fainted with happiness.


3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly lengthways

1 bag ready washed spinach

3 chicken breasts, skin removed (it will just go flabby otherwise) and then cubed

1 large lemon

1 large egg

1 medium white onion, very thinly sliced

1 200g block feta cheese, cubed


Slice the onions and fry them until translucent and soft in a decent amount of olive oil. (Decent may vary from normal person to Greek)

Add the garlic and also cook through but DO NOT brown it.

Add the chicken. Stir well to colour all over.

Add the spinach. Just lay it on top of the chicken so it steams and put a lid on.

After about 10 - 15 minutes the chicken should be done and the spinach wilted.

There will be a LOT of liquid - this is good!

Add in the cubed feta, stir to mix well and turn off the heat.

Juice the lemon.

Beat the egg and lemon juice together and gradually add spoonfuls of the hot liquid to the mixture then return the egg mix to the pan.

Turn the heat back on but it has to be a very low heat.

Stir continuously until the liquid thickens. It should look like a cream sauce.

Season to taste.


Sadly I have no photo, because we ate it too quickly. I expect I shall just have to make it again, and update here when I do.

I imagine you could make this with blocks of very firm tofu, or chunks of Quorn fillets, though add some vegetable stock powder to the juices to up the flavour content. You don’t want it to be bland.

Eat with a spoon and a friend.

25/10/2015

Something to prep for Christmas

I know. I know, we haven’t even had Hallowe’en yet, but if I don’t write this down now I shall forget it, and it’s quite a useful thing to have in the cupboard. Plus today being the day of the mad scramble to change the clocks/remember what time to change the clocks/find out which clocks set themselves means we are now done with BST, so Autumn can officially start.

One of those scents that always invokes the latter part of the year, and Christmas for me, along with cinnamon, mixed spice and nutmeg is orange in all its forms. I read a cookery book when I was very young (yes, I really did start early) , and it showed pictures of a Christmas table, all frosted grapes, ivy tendrils and beautiful clementines. I still want a Christmas table like that, though I fear it would be impractical. I’ll leave that up to Ina Garten.

If I can’t have the table, I can at least have the oranges.

I hate wasting anything, so whenever I juiced some oranges, I used to loathe throwing away the skins until I’d figured out something to do with them.

I’ve chopped the skins into tiny pieces in the food processor and made marmalade. It made one big jar, which made me feel a lot better about things.

The other thing was to zest the oranges first, and then dry it out in the oven on a very low heat overnight. This makes a lovely addition to cakes and cookies, without adding extra moisture. It also makes the whole house smell of Christmas while you’re doing it.

You could mix it up with sugar, and perhaps pop a cinnamon stick in there too, ready for your Christmas baking.

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Have a photo from Christmas last year, in Cyprus.

The garden belongs to a fabulous restaurant, in an old Cypriot house, run by a mother and daughter team. It’s called Ikimiz, which means ‘the two of us’.

This just added to my idea perception of the orange as a Christmas fruit, not to mention the amount of orange that gets added to Cypriot breads and pastries at celebration times.

Quite magical, seeing them there in the dark.

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I shall soon start my annual hunt for Christmas oranges again.

24/10/2015

Low Carb ‘Cornbread’

I do hope that I don’t harp on about low carb stuff to people too much, it just happens to be the way I need to eat if I want to feel healthy, and for my body to stop hurting.

Weight loss is a side effect. It’s a useful one, for sure, but that’s all it is. I am perfectly happy with my body, bigger or smaller, but my KNEES are happier with it a bit smaller.

I’ve been on a low carb kick recently as I had to fit into Ryanair seats, and that is a challenge for average sized people, let alone voluptuous goddesses* like yours truly. Lowering the carbs is the best way for me to do that. Not NO carbs, just lower carbs.

I do get the craving for bread, every so often. It’s just so useful!

I regularly make a version of Chick Pea Flour Focaccia, but I’d run out of the flour, so turned to the internet.

Green Onion Cornbread? Yes please!

Did I have any green onions? No. So the first attempt was made with cooked shallots, and it was okay, but just a bit dry. Plus I wasn’t sure whether the 2 tbs butter went in melted, or unmelted, and I think I chose the wrong one.

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I purposely went out and bought spring onions, and tried again.

Melted butter this time, and a touch more sour cream, plus I upped the salt. It made all the difference.

1 cup almond flour
3 spring onions, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2  tsp. salt
2 large eggs
2 tbsp. butter
1/4 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350°F. (It was 170C on my fan oven.)

Mix all the ingredients together well with a whisk.

Pour into well greased baking dish (I use a 7” diameter cast iron pan), then bake for 20 minutes or until edges begin to brown.

Et voila!

Cast iron panful

I had a wedge with a bowl of chilli, and then it made a rather good sandwich the next day too. I already had roasted peppers in the fridge, so I just popped some sliced manchego in there too. No butter or oil was needed, the bread had stayed quite moist, covered, in the fridge.

Roasted pepper and cheese sandwich

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Yes, I am a goddess. Did you think I was going to tell you I wasn’t?

Vanilla Tea Duck

Since I started reading Ottolenghi’s Nopi, and misread ‘lamb with vanilla braised chicory’ as ‘vanilla braised lamb’, I’ve been wanting to cook meat with vanilla. One recipe has already been done, and I’ll post about that soon but on Friday I had another ‘I’ve got a recipe stuck in my head’ moment that I needed to exorcise. (Please tell me that other people get that too?)

I love vanilla anyway, with its caramel notes and sweet, heavy scent. I don’t really prescribe to the notion that certain spices are only for sweet, or only for savoury (though I’m not sure yet of a sweet use for cumin) so I do mix things around a bit. The amount of times that people have been aghast that I put cinnamon butter onto a roast chicken before it goes into the oven…

2 Gressingham duck legs

The Marinade

3 tbs Ceylon Tea with Vanilla

3 tbs dark soy sauce

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 cardamom pod, crushed

1 tbs runny honey

1 tbs smoked garlic oil

Pour 2.5 pints boiling water (you need enough liquid to immerse the duck legs) over the marinade ingredients, then let it infuse until it’s properly cooled down.

Strain the bits out, and put the duck legs in.

Leave overnight in the fridge so that the duck soaks up all of the flavour.

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Pat the duck dry, and put the marinade in a pan to reduce.

When it has reduced by three quarters, and I will admit this takes some time, add 3 tbs soft muscovado sugar and 1 heaped tsp of marmite (yes, Marmite), mix well, and continue reducing until it’s syrupy. Leave aside to cool and thicken some more.

Put the duck legs into a pan, sprinkle with a little salt, then put into the oven at 170C for half an hour. After that, then turn it right down to 90C and cook for about 3/4 hours.

The Pancakes

This is someone else’s recipe that I found on that there interweb, and tweaked. They used ground almonds, but I had coconut flour, so went with that, as it seemed to fit better with my vaguely Asian theme. I’m not sure I’d use this exact recipe again, as they were quite fragile but they were extremely tasty, if not particularly malleable.

4 oz cream cheese

1 cup coconut flour or 3/4 cup almond flour

4 eggs

1/4 cup coconut or almond milk

pinch salt

I cooked them in a small pan, on a medium heat, and used coconut oil to stop them sticking.

Pour the batter into the hot pan, until it spreads out to about 3 inches across. (My first one went right to the edges of the pan and would NOT come out, hence deciding on the smaller size, so I could at least get the spatula underneath.

Once you can ease the edge up without tearing the pancake, jiggle a spatula under it and flip over.

They do keep quite well, and taste just as nice cold, so I made them before I cooked the veggies.

The Vegetables

I started cooking these when the duck came out of the oven and was resting.

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1 large courgette, cut across into 3, then each section cut into 1/8ths.

light olive oil

sea salt

3 spring onions cut crosswise into 2, then each piece split in half lengthways

Stir fry the courgette pieces until they start to turn brown, season with a pinch of seal salt, then add the onion strings and cook until they wilt a bit. The courgette should still be a little crunchy.

Pile onto a plate with the pancakes, and the duck, and a wee bowl of the sauce.

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The duck meat isn’t overly sweet, but the vanilla adds a smoothness, and a roundness to the taste. The slightly sweeter taste works incredibly well with the tang of the spring onions, and the slight crunch of the courgettes.

The coconut pancakes definitely work with the vegetables, and the dish really works as a whole.

Something I’d cook again? Yes, definitely.