Category Archives: food

Recipe: Chicken and Chorizo Casserole

Chicken Thighs and Chorizo (8724)

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.

Chicken Thighs and Chorizo (8717)

Chicken Thighs and Chorizo (8716)

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.

Chicken Thighs and Chorizo (8723)

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.

Chicken Thighs and Chorizo (8720)

Chicken Thighs and Chorizo (8722)

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.

Chicken Thighs and Chorizo (8718)

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.

Chicken Thighs and Chorizo (8726)

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?

Rob x

(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.)

Broccoli Soup

Broccoli Soup (8542)In general we all overindulge on food over the holiday period. I, for one, did so. I love to bake, even more so during Christmas but I have to say that this year I have eased on baking extra goodies; I end up with too much food during the first week of January. For example, one of the first things I let go is the traditional Christmas cake. (J loves it but it’s not a particular favourite of mine.) Now, before you say I am the meanest person on the planet, let me explain why. We are only two people in this house. I don’t want a big cake to sit there for 6 months in a container, waiting for J to finish it up. The cake keeps but there’s a limit to freshness, with anything, especially in summer. We made plenty of other goodies this year, so J put his mind at rest when we discussed our plans.

As you might have figured by now, you know I’m not a health nut, and I would devour anything when I’m hungry. Nonetheless I like soothing foods, even if it means having some soup on a regular basis. For me, a good soup can be classified as comfort food. When I was a child my mum made sure I ate loads of fruit, veggies and protein, but many years ago I lost track of what I was eating. Now I pace myself, instead of half a cake, I eat one slice! As they say, it’s not rocket science, but I never judge someone for overeating or putting on weight. I know how hard it can be to lose it. I’m no expert – this is just my experience.

What I like to do is to ease on the cakes and sugars, especially in January. It does me a world of good. I eat normally; it’s not healthy to go cold turkey anyways. So let’s ease into 2014 with a very simple recipe, shall we? As with many soup recipes, I make this whenever I have too much broccoli. I never throw extra ingredients away, unless they go bad obviously. However I try not to let anything get to that stage in the first place. It’s good to plan weekly meals, but as a shopper I do go overboard, once in a while. Fact. It just happens. Instead of getting all hot and bothered about it, I go through my cookbook collection, or simply google recipes. It works!

I made this broccoli soup very recently. It’s almost like a broth. Now to be honest, I’m a fan of thick soups. The thin stuff doesn’t usually do anything for me. I recently had a lovely long chat with a reader of this blog about the pros and cons of thick soups. Yes, it’s amazing what food bloggers talk about. It drives people mad! I like this recipe, but if you prefer you could always add more potatoes to bulk it up. It just needs to be served very hot. I don’t like cold soup. You can even have it in a large mug while snuggling under a warm throw, watching The Mentalist. Like one normally does! Serves 4.

  • 2 or 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium red onions, roughly chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 large potato, peeled and roughly chopped in chunks
  • 2 sticks celery, roughly chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon mixed spice or garam masala
  • 500g broccoli, washed, roughly chopped and stalks removed
  • 2 litres vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • a swirl of sour cream and another of extra virgin olive oil, for topping each serving

Place a large pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the olive oil together with the onions, garlic, potato, celery and spices, and give everything a good stir. When the onion turns golden, add the broccoli and stir, making sure the broccoli are covered with the onion mixture.

Pour in the vegetable stock, let the stock bubble up, reduce the heat and let it simmer until you can comfortably pierce through the broccoli with a fork. Carefully pour the soup into a free-standing blender, or better still, insert a stick blender into the pan and blend, until you have a smooth mixture.

Add salt and pepper if you like. Pour the soup into your serving bowls and swirl the sour cream and a little extra virgin olive oil on top. Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

Rob x

Roast Pork

Perfect Roast Pork (8585)

I can’t believe and/or understand how this year has gone by so quickly! Everyone says that every single year, and the older I get the more I say it. Thankfully this year I am not in charge of all the Christmas planning, and I have been able to relax a little bit. That left me plenty of time to think about food, not that I really need a specific time to do so; I always think about food and what I will be eating next. That’s me! Anyway, moving on.

I love a good roast and there’s no better time for one than this. It’s simple and tastes great, and an alternative to the traditional bird, which alas is not my favourite. Turkey may be leaner, which contributes to its dryness, but you want the fat in a recipe like this. The crackling keeps the meat moist so keep it for the roasting process and discard it before carving. It’s too much for me to be honest, and a little chunk goes a long way. It all depends on what you like.

A note on the cooking times, according to the size of the meat, I would work on the lines of around 55 minutes to an hour per kilo plus 25 to 30 minutes on top of that. Of course, these times may vary. Mine took an extra 30 minutes or so to cook properly, but the best way to test this is with a meat thermometer. You will never go wrong with that. For pork the ideal temperature is around 75 to 80ºC.

  • 1.8kg leg of pork, skin on
  • course salt
  • mustard powder
  • 3 large red onions, halved, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, washed and sliced
  • 1 whole head of garlic, chopped in half, skin on
  • 6 to 8 large baking potatoes, washed and cut into chunky wedges

Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Remove the pork from the packaging and with a clean thick kitchen towel pat the skin to make sure it’s dry.

Preparing Roast Pork (8582)

Score the skin with a sharp knife if your butcher has not done it for you beforehand, and rub the skin with salt and mustard powder. If you’re sharing the crackling with a large group of friends then use the mustard powder. If you’re cooking for a few people and plan to throw the crackling away, then just rub the skin with the salt.

Place the chopped onions, carrots and celery in the middle of a baking tray, and put the pork onto the vegetables. Put the two garlic halves beside the pork.

Roast the pork for 1 hour at 200ºC, then take the dish out of the oven and slowly place the potatoes around the pork and veggies. Slowly…because you don’t want to splatter any hot fat and hurt yourself in the process. Turn the temperature down to 175ºC. Put the dish back in the oven and continue to roast for around 1 hour 25 minutes.

Perfect Pork Crackling (8584)

Take the pork and vegetables out of the oven, place the pork leg and the potatoes on a warm serving place and let the pork rest for 25 minutes in a warm place as close to the oven as possible. Don’t serve this piping hot, you really don’t need to and it’s important to let the meat rest before carving. I don’t cover with foil either – the crackling is enough to leave the pork moist. Remove the crackling just before carving. You can either serve this in chunks or discard it.

Perfect Pork Crackling (8589)

Perfect Roast Pork (8586)

If you are making gravy, spoon any excess fat from the bottom of the roasting dish and strain the liquid through a sieve into a saucepan. Add a splash of cider or even red vermouth to the liquid. In a small ramekin mix a rounded teaspoon of cornstarch/cornflour with cold water until you get a pasty but still watery mixture. Quickly pour this in the saucepan and whisk it until you get a smooth gravy. Pour this in a gravy boat and serve with the pork and potatoes.

Perfect Roast Pork with Gravy (8588)

If you’re eating this with your beloved, as I did, there will be plenty of leftovers for the next two or three days!

This is my last recipe for the year. Enjoy and a Happy Christmas! See you all in the New Year. Take care of yourselves.

Rob x

Berry Crumble

Berry Crumble (8101)

These days I rarely have impromptu suppers at home but when I do I don’t even think twice about making this recipe for crumble, or adaptations of it. Crumbles are so versatile, plus they take almost an insignificant number of minutes to assemble. The baking takes a little longer but you don’t have to do anything while it’s in the oven anyway. It takes the pressure off cooking, especially when you know you have a standby recipe for emergencies.

Berry Crumble (8098)

This is technically not a typical seasonal recipe, but I thought to include it today because for me this time of year is all about emergencies, and a great pick-me-up during stressful times. I know that for many of you Christmas preparations can be a nightmare, but I hope the work and planning that goes on behind the scenes is ultimately worth it. I dare to say this is one of the healthiest recipes in this blog, excluding those times when there’s cream involved, of course – however it is Christmas so there’s nothing wrong in a little indulgence!

Berry Crumble (8100)

For the topping you need:

  • 125g butter
  • 60g jumbo oats
  • 40g flaked almonds
  • 30g sunflower seeds
  • 70g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 75g light brown sugar

For the fruit mixture:

  • 500g frozen blackberries (mixed summer fruits would also be a good option)
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour
  • 50g vanilla sugar or caster sugar

Preheat your oven to 200ºC/Gas mark 6. Melt the butter and put to one side.

In a bowl combine the oats, flaked almonds, sunflower seeds, cinnamon and brown sugar.
Place the fruit of your choice in a round shallow pie dish and sprinkle the cornflour and sugar as evenly as possible over it. Move the dish about to mix. (You’ll need the cornflour to absorb some of the juices since the fruit has been in the deep freeze for some time.)

Stir the melted butter into the topping (dry oat mixture), and spoon this on top of the frozen fruit on top. Do not cover completely as to end up with some of the fruit peaking out of the topping. It will look really pretty!

Bake for around 25-30 minutes. Serve this alone or with double cream during the colder months. (In Summer it’s perfect with ice cream.)

Enjoy!

Rob x

(Recipe adapted from Nigella Express, Chatto & Windus, 2007.)

Pea and Pesto Soup

Pea-Pesto-and-Lentil-Soup-(4443)

I’m trying to update this blog from top to bottom. I have been wanting to do this for ages but the procrastinator in me told me that it was going to be a chore and therefore I would hate it. Fact is I’m really enjoying it, although I do have to apologise for being such a patronising git during the early months of writing. I don’t like being patronised and I’m sure you don’t like to be either. I hate being that person! That being said I’m  trying to find ways to avoid making mistakes, but that doesn’t always work, and after all the most important thing is to learn from them.

Rummaging through photos and recipes I found this one, which I wrote about a long time ago. It was hiding in another post, which I now re-wrote, and I’m including this soup recipe here. I think that as long as a recipe is valid it should be given at least some thought. I haven’t made this in quite a while but I made a promise to myself to make it again as soon as possible, especially for this time of year, when we generally tend to overindulge!

To the original recipe I add celery, potatoes and green lentils mushed to make a thick creamy concoction either for an easy supper or to take along for a picnic in a thermos jug. Leave out the lentils if you don’t want to fuss about too much, but feel free to use tinned ones instead.

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 stick of celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 100g green lentils, soaked and cooked
  • 200g frozen peas
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • pepper, to taste
  • 100g pesto (approx. half a jar)
  • 2 litres vegetable stock

In a large pot gently stir the garlic, onion and celery in the oil. You could add a little bit of butter here if you wish.

Add the potatoes and peas and coat these with the onion mixture.

Add the stock and the lentils. Leave to cook for around 30-35 mins or until the potatoes are completely cooked. All the other vegetables will be ready by this time anyway. Leave to cool slightly, blend everything and eat. Serves 4.

(Recipe adapted from Nigella Express, Chatto & Windus, 2007.)