It’s always fun to get something new in the post. This month the people at Quarto sent me not one, but two very interesting books that I thought deserved a special mention. I’ll start with one called Cleanse, Nurture, Restore with Herbal Tea written by Sebastian Pole, co-founder of Pukka Herbs in 2001, which is of course the same company that makes the very well-known Pukka teas.
It was only during my years living in Surrey, just outside the M25 and studying in London, that I appreciated what a real commute to work was like. I remember my very first day on the train from Woking to Waterloo. It was, without wanting to exaggerate, a total nightmare. It took me a little more than three hours to get to Kensington. It was chaotic – it always is to be honest but that day was awful. All the lines had delays and many services were suspended or cancelled. It was my first day of lectures and I was going to be late. I arrived just in time…and famished. I hadn’t taken any lunch with me so I grabbed something quick from the nearest food store. I cannot remember if it was a sandwich, a salad or a bag of chips, but it felt hurried.
I planned to continue working on a book review today but things are definitely not going to plan. This is happening so often lately. I know I say it so often to make your eyes and ears explode (such an exaggeration, really!) but these past few weeks I just haven’t had time to do anything. My writing almost went down the drain, and I can barely go through the day without feeling like a zombie by the afternoon. So although I have been posting regularly once a week, things on C&T were a little quiet on my end.
However I didn’t want to go through this week without posting something. I will have another post up because I know some of you are waiting for a particular book review. I plan to have that for you in a few days.
This weekend I promised myself I would try to catch up with a couple of Writing 101 tasks that were given throughout the past few days. It’s been tough for me to find some time to sit down and just write away, and since this is a food blog, recipes were given first priority. But today is a good day to focus on my work. It’s a breezy sunny morning and the only thing missing is a beautiful view. I wish I had the time to drive to somewhere like Dingli, sit on a bench by the cliffs and soak up some of that fresh sea air. I can’t do that right now so I’m in my second favourite place – the study area. So here we go.
The task at hand is to come up with a list of 10 things I like. At first it seemed simple enough, but that’s definitely not the case. There’s a sneaky 11th item in there somewhere. My list could go on and on, so the scope of this exercise for me is to learn how to condense ideas. If you are a regular reader of C&T you might already know that my posts are of the long-ish kind. So before completely defeating the purpose of the task I’d better be on my way! These are listed in no particular order of preference.
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.
When I find myself biting my nails thinking about what to do next, I grab my camera and take some random pics. Of anything. But lately I must say I’m back in love with my cookbooks. Not that this kind of love ever diminishes that much, but some books are better cared for than others.
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.)