Jerk Chicken

Jerk Chicken (7942)

These past few days have been good. The clearing process of our extra bedroom in preparation for our very special guest next month is almost in full swing. I say almost because it’s really kind of stop-and-go. Tuesday was my most productive day so far. I cleaned, cleared, swept, mopped, dusted and my vanity area now smells of perfume – in the bad sense though! I was so tired by the end of the day as I am right now after an intense baking and photography session that I broke a perfume bottle. It flew right across the furniture, over my head and onto the floor. Boo. Glad to say it wasn’t anything expensive but it was a gift and still I was a bit upset. Those bottles are resilient though – I’m truly impressed. I don’t know anything about their manufacturing process but the bottle just cracked in half. There was a minimal amount of glass shards in the end so there were no unfortunate accidents, thank goodness. However the smell…woah…it has been making me dizzy and no amount of cleaner has made the smell dissipate. It’s still there and still going strong. How my insides felt this morning as I woke up I really cannot describe.

So back to our clearing-for-the-guest situation. I’m happy to say things are looking up. While this is going on, I’m currently thinking about recipes I can conjure up during those days, when most probably I will be out all day (yay!) I want to cook and eat a variety of quick, easy but still delicious foods with minimal preparation. It’s no use trying new stuff that week. This chicken recipe is just the ticket – or one of the tickets – when you don’t know where your day has disappeared. I made this for the first time ages ago, and it’s been quite a while since I revisited it. I’m so behind on this blog you wouldn’t believe. Before I start singing its praises, please note that you still need to marinade the chicken pieces preferably a day before in the fridge. If you forget don’t fret (apologies for the rhyme). Sometimes it just happens and preparing it a few hours before is good enough. The quantities of spices is totally up to you. These amounts are just about right for me, considering I’m the type who plays it safe most of the time. I do love that kick though occasionally.

The za’atar my brother-in-law got me from the Middle East is just wonderful, but dried thyme is a good substitute. Some finicky people will comment on how this is not ‘real’ Jerk chicken. I like to deviate from strict rules and I cannot deny my Mediterranean roots.

I served this with some rice with roasted veggies; usually it’s with things I happen to have in the fridge that day. I only have the recipe for the chicken in this post but I have some suggestions and options for the rice. It’s always handy to have a packet each of frozen peas and corn too. These past few weeks I cannot stop myself from buying loads of yellow peppers, fresh garlic and parsley. I think they make everything taste better. But really, you can use whatever you like. The following feeds 4 people, with a side of course.

For the marinade:

  • 2 fresh chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 2 handfuls of fresh garlic, washed, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 2 teaspoons za’atar or dried thyme
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • regular olive oil

For browning the chicken:

  • 4 large chicken legs or breasts, skin on and scored on the diagonal
  • olive oil, for frying
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

To prepare the marinade, mix together the chillies, cloves, fresh garlic, spices, pepper and olive oil in a small bowl. Score the chicken pieces with a sharp knife and rub the marinade into the meat. Place the chicken in a  spill-proof glass dish, cover and leave it in the fridge, preferably overnight or at least for a couple of hours. The more you leave it, the better the result, especially if you’re cooking with chicken breasts.

Preheat the oven to 220ºC/Gas mark 7. Add a tablespoon of regular olive oil in an ovenproof pan and fry the chicken pieces over medium to high heat for around 10 minutes on all sides. Pour in the Worcestershire sauce and cook for a further minute. If you don’t have an ovenproof dish to hand to use on the stove, use a shallow frying pan first, then transfer the meat to whatever dish you will use for the oven.

Cover the pan with an ovenproof lid or some kitchen foil and place in the oven for around 15 to 20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and all the juices run clear. Cook uncovered for another 5 minutes for the meat to turn a lovely dark golden colour.

Serve with rice.*

Enjoy!

(Recipe loosely adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cooking Course, Hodder & Stoughton, 2012.)

Things I love about Malta (1)

Traditional Sweet (9889)

Hello everyone! Hope you’re having a good weekend. These past few weeks have flown by like nothing, and I barely stopped for a break. It has been go go go from the get-go from the week before Easter until now – more like until I don’t-know-when-it-will-stop day. I’ll inform you if it happens. Besides that I can say that it’s all been good. The weather’s now getting better too. Hurrah for that! I’m also having a bit of a clear-out for this month. A good friend of mine is visiting us in 30 days she says: she’s counting down and I must clear the guest bedroom for her. That, my friends will resemble something out of the Exodus. I don’t dare think about it, as that room *is* the jungle. My mum suggested taking before and after photos. I, on the other hand, will stay away from that space as much as humanly possible.

I want to start a little series on C&T about the bits and things I am loving about Malta. Food will definitely make a huge part of the chunk, but I will take it slow. In the sense that the post after this will not be a part 2, and the one after part 2 will not be a part 3. Hope you get the gist. That’s because I’m still exploring the good things and experiencing some bad ones regretfully, so this will come in steps. Hopefully I will keep this up and tell you all about the sensible stuff going on. This is, of course, part 1.

So, on a more positive note, I am pleased to tell you that I started to settle down a bit in our home on the rock. (As I write this we’re voting in a referendum today, so everything’s quiet.) It’s taken more than I thought it would, but nothing prepared me for reverse culture-shock. A friend of mine warned me about it but I never thought how strongly it would affect me. I’m loving my sunny kitchen and I want to use it even more. Having said that, I’ve done quite a good amount of cooking and baking lately – sometimes forgetting to take pictures unfortunately. It’s a bit of a killer that, I know, but it happens, especially when I’m really hungry. I just can’t wait to eat. Cakes and desserts are a bit easier on me, as they are not necessarily eaten on the spot (mm..not necessarily always) so I can take my sweet time on the pics. Cooking dinner is a totally different beast altogether.

I think I need to write a post on how and what I use to take food photos. It’s really nothing special and I don’t use a tonne of stuff. Just my camera and a good standard fixed lens for a morning shot. I try to take all my photos in good natural light. I found that’s the best and easiest thing to do, but there are ways to simulate bright light when it’s dark. But more on that in a later post.

The subject of the photo you see above is a traditional sweet we make on this beautiful little island called ħelwa tat-tork. I took this photo by cutting a few pieces on a white surface and placing it on one of my kitchen table chairs against the light coming through my balcony door. The kitchen was in a mess when I did this, partially because we were still unpacking the majority of our boxes and there was barely any floor space left. But somehow I found the space for the chair and now it’s one of my favourite shots. I am pleased with it although there are always a few things I should have tweaked. You may have seen or heard ħelwa tat-tork with its original name halva, because we got the recipe, or at least a variation of one, from the Arabs. It’s basically made from tahini, sugar and almonds, but there are so many adaptations out there it’s hard to choose. To say that Malta’s history is colourful and very complicated is an understatement but thank goodness for that because now we are left with one of the richest food traditions around. Come and visit, and you’ll see for yourself. What I always suggest is make friends with a local, and  hopefully you’ll be invited to a great meal.

I will now start work on my list. Kunserva is definitely a close second. But that’s a whole new post…

Enjoy!

Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton

Prettiness (9813)

Spring is here. (What, no exclamation mark, you say? I thought I might spare you one this time.) I hope you all had a lovely long Easter weekend. I am having quite a busy few weeks and it’s only going to get worse, but it’s all been good. Yesterday was the best day. We had lunch with my family (I made stew, which is sort of a tradition in my house, and took it over to my parents’ place.) Then we drove to Ħad-Dingli for a walk along the cliffs, and on our way back home stopped over to the wonderful Diar il-Bniet for a great coffee and something sweet. I took some snapshots with my mobile – no camera this time unfortunately – and will be tweeting some of them on Twitter later on.

Entrance to the Kitchen (9811)

In the meantime I found some photos I took from my last full day in the UK. I wanted to visit Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton for quite a while but as usual we never managed to find the time. Typical excuse I know. Then, on my very last day, after sadly packing the last of my belongings, J asked me if I felt like going. Of course I did.

Little Suns (9831)

It was raining heavily, but it was my last chance so I took it. We walked around Chawton before; it’s such a pretty place, rain or shine. And anyways, the rain stopped as soon as we arrived. How lucky is that?

The Writing Table (9817)

The house is small but as soon as you step in I felt taken back in time and there’s so much to see, and the garden is absolutely charming. The place is a must see if you, like me, a massive fan of Jane Austen and her books. These are a few photos from that day. I hope you like them – they are some of my favourites.

Fig Tree (9829)

It won’t be my last visit to Chawton. I’m sure of that.

At Cassandras Cup (9843)

Latte at Cassandras (9844)

Enjoy and Happy Monday!

Broad Bean Risotto

Broad Bean Risotto (8030)

When I woke up this morning I kept reminding myself that it’s Thursday (not Sunday) and a public holiday on the rock. It’s not as quiet as one might hope, and to type this I had to close the window in my study. It’s easy to focus now and I *am* calm. Which brings me to a recipe made best when you have a good thirty minutes of peace. So tell your partner in life to babysit the kids and the pets for a little while and spend some time in the kitchen with me.

Broad Bean Risotto (8029)

One of the things I love about Malta is the fruit and veggie trucks you see dotted around the many towns and villages on the island. I love going to the one near to where I grew up in Birkirkara. I love visiting my mum too which goes without saying and of course, going there brings back good memories. I have been meaning to post the following recipe and the above photo for ages so here it is. It’s starting to get warmer here now and we’re already finding plenty of spring and summer produce. I’m finding good quality strawberries too which I macerate in lemon juice, some sugar and pepper too. Delicious.

The other day my mum gave me a good bunch of broad beans which I ate as soon as I arrived home, podded and just sprinkled with a pinch of salt, extra virgin olive oil and a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice. (I know that you might be thinking about me having an unhealthy relationship with citrus, but on this island you get the freshest lemons and oranges you will ever find in your life, I promise, and I intend to make full use of that.) I simply ate them with a hunk of Maltese bread and a chunk of hard cheese. Again, delicious. That was one moment when I confirmed that the best things in life are really the simplest. This risotto makes me happy. Hope it makes you happy too.

  • 300g fresh broad beans, shell removed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 25g butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 400g arborio rice
  • around 1 litre of vegetable stock
  • a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • 100g grated parmesan cheese

Remove the skins from the beans. Boil the broad beans in a pan of boiling water for around 5 minutes, drain, rinse with cold water and set aside for later.

In a heavy-bottomed pan tip the olive oil and butter. When the butter has melted add the chopped onion and garlic on medium heat and sweat for a few minutes until the onion has turned translucent. Add the arborio rice into the pan and give everything a good stir making sure that the rice is completely covered with the butter and oil.

Add two thirds of the vegetable stock slowly, one or two ladles at a time until the rice has absorbed almost all of it. With risotto all you have to have is some patience to stay with it and stir it as necessary.

Now add the broad beans you have slightly cooked beforehand and continue to add the rest of the stock. Stir and wait for the rice to turn almost of a creamy consistency.

Turn off the heat, squeeze some lemon juice in the rice, add the grated cheese and check for seasoning. Serve immediately in shallow bowls. Serves 3-4 friends.

Enjoy!

Archery Haiku

Roberta Briffa:

I have rarely if never reblogged anything from J but I had to for this photo. I was quite surprised when I read the haiku. I cannot get the relishing solitude bit in the middle of nowhere very often. I thrive in company. I don’t like the quietness in the countryside. I have been to this archery field though and I found it good. It’s side by side to the Marsa Sports Club practically surrounded by tennis courts – the sound of rackets smashing the balls echoes throughout the whole place. It’s beautiful on a sunny day like today. At long last the Sun’s out. Let’s hope it stays that way on Friday. It better be – I’ve cancelled all my morning plans! Are you ready for the solar eclipse?

P.S. Just before dinner J told me that he took this photo with his phone. Nice work I say.

Originally posted on Johann A. Briffa:

Archery Haiku

View original

Two Simple Recipes: Vegetable Soup and Garlic and Chilli Kale

Garlic and Chilli Kale with Chunky Vegetable Soup (8631)

It’s still reasonably cold in the Med and I’m still nursing a very bad cold. My neighbour’s kid is having a ball running amuck right above my head, most probably sitting on a desk chair and sprinting across the corridor. Either that or playing boċċi. Who knows? Can’t imagine the grief he’s giving his mum, but I can definitely picture the grief he’s giving me!

So just when my head starts to ache I decide to post two recipes on C&T. Simple stuff but they are just the things I want to eat when I’m inside with quite some time to spend in the kitchen. There will be plenty of chances in the future for chips. That’s exactly what’s keeping me going! *Checking my forehead for fever*

Vegetable Soup with Kale (8630)

When it comes to soups I must confess that I rarely follow any recipes. But this just confirms my belief that recipes are to be used as a guide. Most of the time, soup and minestrone are the kinds of concoctions I make when the time has come for me to visit the veggie market and I want to empty the fridge to avoid waste. Sometimes I do plan to make them in advance mind you, as I did last week. I still have around 4 portions to finish. As in stews, they get better in time.

Garlic and Chilli Kale with Chunky Vegetable Soup (8633)

Here is everything you will need for this particular Vegetable Soup recipe, which I have responsibly written down (I forget to do so occasionally). The one for kale will follow after this.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 small red onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • paprika
  • garam masala
  • ground ginger
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • 200g frozen peas
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 400g butternut squash or pumpkin
  • 1 litre vegetable stock or enough to cover the vegetables
  • 300g cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

In a large pan gently heat the olive oil. Add the onions, celery, garlic, all the spices, salt and pepper. Stir and let the onions release some of their natural sugars and water. After a few minutes add the peas, potatoes, squash or pumpkin and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil and turn the heat down to a simmer. When the vegetables are done, turn the heat off and tip in the cannellini beans. Let the soup sit for a little while and serve. The cannellini beans will thicken the soup slightly and give extra bulk. Serves 4 to 6 friends generously.

Winter-Vegetable-Soup-(6604)

Sometimes I add a generous amount of barley and a couple of small marrows to the mix, as shown in the photo above.

Kale and I.

There has been (I don’t know if there is still) a big hoo-ha for kale during the past year and half. As you might already know, I am not a huge follower of food trends. They come and go. I am more of a eat-good-and-moderately kind of person (who overindulges once in a while and in need of exercise) but I am a big fan of kale. Anything dark green in fact. I’m no vegetarian, but I appreciate the benefits of eating healthily. Give me spinach, broccoli, pak choi/bok choi, etc., and of course the curly kale stuff with which I made this simple recipe below. Kale has vitamin C and K, and the all-important calcium among other health benefits. I’m definitely sold on that.

For the Garlic and Chilli Kale you will need:

  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • olive oil
  • pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped or crushed
  • 350g curly kale, trimmed and rinsed well
  • ½ cup vegetable stock or water
  • splash of vinegar, optional

Heat the olive oil and butter in a shallow pan over medium heat. Add the dried chilli and garlic cloves and turn down the heat to low. Tip the kale into the pan, give it a good mix and pour the stock over it. Cover with a lid and cook for around 5 to 8 minutes, until the kale reduces in size and  almost all the stock has evaporated. If you have it on hand add just a small splash of vinegar. Serves 3 to 4 people as a side.

Enjoy and Happy Wednesday. Don’t fret too much. It will soon be Friday!

Some fruity photos, a little chat and a strawberry and banana milkshake.

Smoothie (7913)

So I have some time to myself on this lovely Sunday morning and thought I would drop a few lines. This week has been quite a hectic one. What made it worse was another little round of the flu. It’s easing a bit now all due to some rest I had yesterday. J wasn’t feeling too good either and after a bowl of minestra (the Maltese version of minestrone) we had a delightful movie afternoon. My feather blanket and hot water bottle became my best friends. I still managed to bake chocolate cookies *just got up and having one right now*. The Sun’s out today and that makes me happy. (Is Spring around the corner?)

Fruity Treats (9485)

These past few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about this blog. It’s something I love to keep up with. Having said that I know that I need to give it even more love and attention because lately I have been slightly neglectful. I had forgotten that moving to a new environment causes a certain amount of confusion. Moving to a new place this time has meant moving countries – again. Moving is expensive, chaotic and very stressful. We moved…let’s see how many times…*counting*…around 8 times (also considering in-house Malta moves) in 13 years. Thinking about just that gives me chills and makes me say things like “I’ll never move again” or “this is it” or “issa daqshekk!” Then I say “never say never!” just because I don’t like to close all life’s possibilities. And we begin again.

Returning to (this little 4 year old baby of mine) Chorizo & Thyme, I’m constantly thinking about what I can do to make it better. One thing people tell me is to write more frequently, but at the minute I cannot commit to a one-a-day post, be it photo or recipe. I wish I could, believe me, but I cannot make promises I cannot keep. My aim is to post at least once a week, with a random bonus photo or chat  – as in this one. There’s no excuses to slacking so I won’t make any, except one thing: life. C&T will continue to be – that will not stop – and the recipes and photos will keep on coming. Lately I have taken to Twitter to post stuff when I’m cooking. Having a smartphone is so handy but mine isn’t anything special and its camera is in no way good, especially when I zoom in. But it does a basic job and I’m happy with that. What I like best is when I post a picture on there and get an instant reaction from someone. It’s still a thrill! I don’t tend to put pictures up on Facebook as they have the rights to anything on there, so I stay away. I’m still very active on that though since that’s how people write to me with queries these days. If I don’t accept your friend request don’t be offended – that just means I don’t know you personally, but you can follow me and most of my updates are public anyway.

I know this has been quite a random chit-chat post but I cannot leave you without some photos. They are taken very randomly while still in my Guildford kitchen. Most probably I was trying out things like composition or something of the sort, which in that small space came more naturally to me. I had everything I needed on hand. Fun times. And now I need to make one of these.

Strawberry Milkshake (7470)

It’s just a basic strawberry and banana milkshake. All you need is:

  • one large ripe banana
  • a handful of fresh strawberries
  • any kind of milk you want

Blend it all up and there you have it. Quick, easy and delightful. Happy Sunday everyone!

Enjoy!

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