So today morning, while helping my beautiful Mummy with some errands, something happened. I kept running into friends and neighbours telling me how much they enjoy reading my blog and about the recipes they like. Neighbourhoods change, but visiting my parents feels like going back home. People there are mainly very friendly and many of them know me from when I was a child. I love feedback, and before you roll your eyes at me (I can see you) I appreciate all kinds. Done properly. You know what I mean. I love writing on here. I don’t get too personal, mostly because I don’t want to make my friends and family uncomfortable or make them feel uneasy in any way. I want people to talk to me at the end of the day!
Hi everyone. Hope you’re all doing well. It’s been such a hectic few weeks for my family and so C&T had to take a step back this time round. Before talking about food, as we almost always do here, I just want to ask one question: did the Azure Window really and truly collapse? I just can’t believe the footage I’ve been seeing over the internet. It’s been a long time coming but now that it’s no more I still can’t get my head round it. I’m glad I managed to see it and take some photos a couple of years ago. Such a pity. The weather during these few days certainly hasn’t helped. That and other factors for sure. I don’t want this post to be too wordy, so I’ll stop there but it’s a sad day.
This rough weather calls for a roast. I love roasting anything, especially when I have to feed a group of people. How easy is it to place everything in a roasting pan and plonk it in the oven, and just let it do the cooking for you. I do understand though why some of my readers write to me asking me for tips. Believe me when I tell you that I have burnt many a roast throughout the years before learning some useful pointers from the pros. I think there are a few important things to keep in mind. Using a roasting pan in which whatever you want to roast, meat, veggies or both can stay snug but still with some little space to spare surely helps. You want it to roast not broil or poach. When using chicken pieces, I always cover the dish with kitchen foil and then uncover it during the last 15 minutes or so. My Maltese heritage always tells me to pour some stock at the base of the pan, mainly due to an innate fear that my food would dry up if I don’t. It almost is a recurring dream this! Such as the one where I open the fridge and/or pantry and it’s completely empty.
This is definitely a Throwback Thursday recipe. I promise I didn’t plan it on purpose. What’s true is that I’ve been thinking about writing about it for ages. I never did until now because the photo isn’t good at all. It almost went in my not-to-publish file, but I’ve changed my mind. This recipe turned out well so why not?
It goes back to the first month or so in my kitchen here in Malta, when I was barely doing any serious cooking. We moved back in the middle of the summer months, when being in the kitchen, I think, is totally unbearable. The heat is just too much for me, so I either cook late in the evening or very early in the morning, although those two options don’t always work for me either. We end up eating loads of salads and the likes instead, and there’s no need to say that baking stops almost to a complete halt.
One of the easiest things for me to cook when I feel as if I’m racing against time is chicken. I know I’m not alone on this; when people ask me for recipes, 99 percent of the time it’s all about cakes or chicken. My favourite chocolate cake recipe? Done. An easy chicken recipe? You’re sorted. And here’s another one.
I don’t normally go for chicken breasts, because I feel edgy cooking them. I prefer something on the bone, like chicken legs. The meat nearest the bones is always more tender and juicier, and almost never goes dry, no matter how long you cook it for. It also reminds me of my mum’s Sunday lunches, and my obsession with drumsticks. They would fall off the bone, and at the end of the meal I would declare that they were the best thing I’ve ever had. (Excluding chocolate and marshmallows, of course.)
I’m sure that summer’s officially here, one, because it’s almost unbearably hot, and two, because I buy chicken by the bucket, or whatever expression you might choose to put instead. There are tonnes of reasons for which this happens. The first one that comes to mind is that it makes a perfect meal for when I have people over for supper. So I keep various chicken pieces in the freezer at once. This past week I went to the butcher twice; they were on my list for both trips, simply because I had guests last Saturday and I ran out of chicken breasts. As I must have mentioned somewhere before on C&T
but I must do so again I would rather have the dark meat bits. The meat next to the bones is generally more tender and juicy. However lately, since the turn in the weather, I much prefer grilling or pan-frying a marinated chicken breast. The marinade bit is most important. It’s amazing what some extra virgin olive oil together with freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt and pepper does to a piece of meat, and to vegetables! Place the meat in a dish, marinate, cover with cling film in the fridge for a couple of hours. Grill, serve with a simple salad and voila, you have a meal. Right there.
This recipe is a little different, in that you don’t even need a grill pan and there’s no marinade prep but it’s easy. I like it because it resembles a curry without the extra spice. It comes in handy when you know you will feed a group of people who undoubtedly have various likes and dislikes, or even allergies and/or intolerances. As months go by I am often finding myself in this predicament, which can be a headache on one hand, but a positive thing for me, meaning I’m reconnecting with people. It’s been almost a year now since I moved back from Surrey. Unbelievable.
My idea of a rainy afternoon is having loads of good books to read, sipping a hot chocolate on the couch with a thick throw, or two. No radio, no movies, no nothing. Just some peace and quiet. That’s how I spent yesterday afternoon, and by the looks of it that’s how it will be today. I am one lucky lady I know. My idea of a comforting meal after such an afternoon is something like this recipe. It’s a breeze to make and full of flavour.
This is actually my take on two recipes from Elizabeth Bard’s Lunch in Paris and Mireille Guiliano’s The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook. I read Lunch in Paris in two days; you could say I devoured it, but that would sound silly. On the other hand, the latter was a bit of a surprise. I didn’t think I was going to like such a book, but honestly, I really enjoyed it. The recipes are simple, delicious, fresh and flavourful and it’s not about low-fat this and low-fat that, and margerine and saccharine. Yuck. You use butter and there’s chocolate in their too. Lovely. Hold on, I hear you say. Are you on a diet? Are you now into low-fat fad? Eh? The answer is simply: nope. I *do* need to lose some weight, yes, but what I’m really into is variety.
Fact is I get bored very easily. I’m also not into any trend, because trends come and go, and quiet frankly I find it hard to keep up. I’m not running a restaurant. I cook at home, like most of you do, so I don’t need to constantly come up with new stuff. I eat everything and I’m willing to try anything, as long as it’s
good edible. Please also note that I’m not into palpitating cobra hearts or bird nests. Those things are for Mr. Bourdain; definitely not for me.
So give me a hearty but light meal any day and you’ll make me very happy. Fish or chicken are easier on me than red meat, especially in the evening. As much as I like grilling steak I don’t sleep well if I have that for dinner. When I’m not baking this is the kind of food I like to cook. By the time the pan is simmering on the hob or baking in the oven, all by itself, I can do the washing up without stressing myself to death, lay the table, light a candle perhaps and relax.
Please don’t let the not-so-short list of ingredients intimidate you. I promise you, this is painless and cheap. Serves 4.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 8 large chicken thighs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 100g chorizo, cut into bite-sized cubes
- 1 large red onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped or crushed
- 2 sticks celery, finely chopped
- 1 leek, chopped
- half a large lemon, cut in half
- freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 large yellow pepper, roughly chopped
- 75ml chicken stock
- 800g polpa di pomodoro (plus some water to get to the bits of tomato on the sides and bottom of the can)
- 2 teaspoons tomato concentrate
- pinch of salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
In a large pan heat the oil and butter over a medium-high heat. Add the chicken, salt and pepper and brown the chicken on both sides. Brown in batches if your pan is not big enough to fit all the thighs at once. Remove from the pan, set aside in a warm bowl.
In the same pan add the chorizo, onions, paprika and garlic cloves. There is no need to add more oil here as the chorizo will release its own. Give everything a stir, scraping the bottom of the pan and allow the onions to turn opaque. Now add the celery, leek, lemon and its juice and yellow pepper.* Cook for around 5 minutes, making sure to coat the vegetables well with the juices from the pan. Add the chicken thighs back in.
Pour in the chicken stock, polpa, tomato concentrate, salt, pepper, sugar and thyme. Give the contents of the pan a good stir again. Cover and let it simmer for around an hour over medium-low heat.
Serve with basmati rice.
*Alternatively you could add around 4 large potatoes, cut into chunks or quarters with the vegetables, and serve it with some crusty bread, omitting the rice.
Enjoy! What is your favourite one-pot meal?
(Adapted from Elizabeth Bard’s Lunch in Paris, Summersdale, 2011 and Mireille Guiliano’s The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook, Simon & Schuster, 2011.)
It’s so easy for me to skip lunch altogether. That’s very bad I know, but it happens sometimes, especially when I have a full day (when it’s even worse). There’s absolutely almost no excuse for this vile behaviour so this is an easy sandwich which I put together in minutes. There no method in the madness and it’s only a guide. You can use whatever you like of course; this is just what I do with any leftover roast chicken I might have in the fridge. I wouldn’t even call this a recipe.
- Cooked chicken pieces (approximately 150g but who’s really measuring?!)
- 1 courgette, chopped
- 2 chestnut mushrooms, roughly chopped
- 1 small onion, roughly chopped (you can also use spring onions if you prefer)
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped or crushed
I put these in a shallow pan, with a little drizzle of olive oil and cook them with a pinch of paprika, chinese 5 spice and chilli flakes. Let them sizzle up and add a dash of white vermouth or honey, or both! Let it bubble up till the liquid is reduced. Serve in between some tasty polenta bread or a crusty baguette, with plenty of greens and slices of tomatoes. It’s simple but ideal when you don’t have much time to eat, but still need to! Enjoy.