Poulet Suissesse avec un Salade Tunissienne Grillée (Mechouia)

Right Mesdames et Messieurs, this weeks post has got a French theme. Well, almost.

baby chick

The night before last I made a lovely Poulet Suissesse, or Swiss Chicken from Diana Henry’s great recipe book Roast Figs, Sugar Snow. It’s a book dedicated to the food and time-honoured traditions of countries in the colder parts of the world. Sweden, Austria, Russia, Sweden, and then dipping into northern Italy and France. You’ll probably see a review of this book appear in my “book reviews” section by the way; and it’s a really good read. Something which I really appreciate in recipe books. Sometimes I just like to get into bed fifteen minutes early and pore over all my cook books, and I’ve got heaps of them! Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, Julia Child and Delia Smith are all firm favourites, oh, and Diana Henry of course. And those full page colour photographs are a gastronomic delight. Anyway, about this recipe.

I think it comes from somewhere around the Swiss and French alps but it is also enjoyed throughout Europe, France especially. Just by looking at the ingredients in the sauce you can tell this recipe hasn’t strayed too far from a French kitchen. It’s also characteristically rich, creamy and heavenly, an especially suitable recipe for chilly nights where electric blankets and sleeping bags on the couch are mandatory, and it feels very rewarding after especially lengthy bouts of exercise.                                                

La Salade Tunissienne Grillée is also influenced by the French, but mainly consists of Tunisian and Northern African flavours.  Ground caraway and coriander seed, blackened capsicums, juicy plump tomatoes. You get the drift. A very nice aside to the chicken, enjoyable hot, warm or cool. It would also pair well with other rich meat dishes and couscous at a Tunisian themed lunch or feast (I have yet to try a nice couscous dish).

¡Enjoy et bon apetit!

Poulet Suissesse

Serves 6 people, or 4 greedy ones

Ingredients  

6 chicken thighs with bone and skin

30g butter

2 tbsp of olive or vegetable oil

275ml of white wine, any variety of grape will do (I prefer sav. blanc)

salt + pepper

15g breadcrumbs

For the sauce

50g of butter

50g of flour

Full-fat milk

75ml of cream or créme fraîche

1 1/2 tsp of dijon mustard

Freshly grated, or recently opened packet of ground nutmeg to taste

40g parmesan cheese, grated

125g of gruyère cheese or beaufort cheese, grated0

Method

1. Heat the butter and oil together in a large frying pan with lid, or your widest pot. Pref. Oven-proof. Quickly brown the chicken pieces all over. You want to get a good colour, not to cook the chicken through. Drain off the excess fat from the pan/pot/cooking vessel and pour in the white wine. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to dislodge all the crusty cooking juices. Season with salt and pepper. Bring the wine to just under the boil, then turn down the heat, cover the pan and cook the chicken over a gentle simmer for about fifteen minutes.

2. Pre-heat your oven to 180° Celsius /350° Fahrenheit/ gas mark 4. Remove the chicken and set aside in a large roasting dish. Pour the juices from the pan into a jug. Now make a roux by melting the butter in the pan you used earlier and add in the flour. Stir over a medium heat until the butter and flour come together and turn a pale biscuit colour. Remove from the heat. Measure the reserved chicken juices and add enough milk to bring it up to 550ml. Start slowly adding this to the roux, stirring well after each addition, and when fully brought together put the pan back on the heat and bring to the boil, stirring all the time until the sauce thickens. Add the cream or créme fraîche and simmer for 5 mins to cook out the flour, then put in the mustard, nutmeg, salt and pepper as well as the two cheeses. Cook for a few mins more until the cheese is nicely melted, but make sure not to cook. Over-melted cheese can become horribly oily. Check the sauce for seasoning.

3. Pour the sauce over the chicken in the roasting dish , sprinkle on the breadcrumbs and bake in the oven for 20 mins. Flash under the grill for a further 5 mins or so, or until the top is bubbling and golden brown. Serve.

Salade Tunissienne Grillée (Mechouia)

Serves 4 well

Ingredients

4 large plum tomatoes

2 capsicums of any colour

1 or 2 poblano chillies or other hot chillies on hand

1 brown or red onion, or half and half if you’d like

1 large garlic clove, unpeeled and crushed

1/4 tsp of ground caraway seeds, you may need to buy caraway seeds and grind them yourself in a pestle and mortar, or a good coffee grinder used only for spices

1 tsp of sea salt

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

2 – 3 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil

12 black and/or green olives, halved, or 12 small black ones

1/2 tbsp of capers

Method

Grill the tomatoes, the capsicums, chillies, onion and garlic straight under the grill of your oven, or near a gas flame, or feel free to build a large open fire in the garden and roast them over it traditionally until blackened and charred, remembering to turn often. Remove as they are done. Put the capsicums and chillies into a paper bag straight after removing from the oven and allow to steam for about 10 mins (This loosens the capsicums/chillies skins. A common alternative, peeling under running cold water dilutes their flavour). Meanwhile, peel the tomatoes and chop into rough, uneven pieces. Put into desired salad bowl. Peel the peppers, stem and deseed them. Cut the capsicums into 1/2 in pieces and finely chop the chillies, then add both to the tomatoes in the bowl. Peel and squish the garlic clove and combine with the caraway, coriander and salt. Mix well with all the veg and stir in the lemon juice and olive oil. Garnish with olives and serve with the Poulet Suissesse.

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Spaghetti Bolognese

This spaghetti bolognese is one of the few recipes which my family and I continue to revisit as it is delicious, warm and comforting. This makes it ideal for the wintry weather months as it perks you up very well, especially the morning after when you can put it on toast with a fine shower of cheddar cheese to finish (I prefer parmesan closer to dinner). I find it also very enjoyable on a cool summer night, preferably with a simple basil, feta and tomato salad lightly dressed with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice to accompany. I would say that this is probably not a traditional, Italian bolognese but then again I don’t know any people from Italy and so therefore have not had the chance to ask how it’s done. Even if I did though, the answer would depend on what region of Italy they hailed from as each one makes it differently. This recipe however is very nice and should do fine, especially for the everyday cook (and aspiring food writer) like me.

Spaghetti Bolognese –
Serves 4, just

2 small glugs of olive or vegetable oil
1 medium brown onion, diced
500g mince
2 cloves of garlic, also diced (adjust quantites if necessary)
1 can of crushed tomatoes
1 heaped tsp of oregano
¼ Cup of tomato paste
½ – 1 glass of red wine, any variety

Some water

3 or more tsp of worcester sauce

½ tbsp or so of sweet chilli sauce

2 tsp of soy sauce (optional)

4 small fistfulls of spaghetti

1 tbsp chopped fresh basil (optional)

Cheese of your choice

Note – ingredients are listed in order to be used

Get out a large pot and leave to warm up on a medium heat. Peel and dice your onions and add to the pot along with the oil and leave till lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Add the mince, breaking it up thoroughly with your spoon and brown for at least 10 mins. After that, add your garlic and cook for a further minute or so, then throw in your tomatoes, oregano and and paste (you can also add fresh oregano if desired, 1 large tbsp being sufficient) and also pour in the wine. Note – the longer you cook the bolognese, the more flavour from the wine is lost so if intending to cook for a few hours, then I’d recommend for you to add a small amount of wine about an hour prior to serving or add a large glass in advance. Stir every 10 mins, believe me, every 10 mins and if you notice the water level getting low then top up with a bit of water. 10 mins before intending to serve, boil some water in a large pot and add a small pinch of salt. Add spaghetti. Cook until al dente, about 8 mins. Add basil to mince. Serve on warm plates with mince and spaghetti mixed together, a scattering of parmesan or cheddar cheese and a drizzle of freshly pressed extra-virgin olive oil and salad on the side. !Bon apetito!

Tandoori Chicken


Right, don’t be daunted by this very long looking recipe. It is in fact surprisingly easy. Firstly if you don’t think that you can find all of the spices needed for the marinade then find a local Indian spice shop, I know for a fact that it is almost impossible to find mace in a supermarket but in the Indian spice shops they usually have big tubs of all sorts of spices (including mace) where you can get as much or as little as you need. Also don’t think that becuase you have to marinade the chicken that you can’t make this recipe, you just have to plan ahead. It is also worth noting that it’s a good idea to double the amount of marinade. You can freeze half of it for when you’re making it another a day, making it much easier for yourself in the future.

Ingredients –
1 medium sized onion, peeled and roughly chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
a thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, 2 in by 1 in
3 tbsp lemon juice
250 g plain yoghurt
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp ground mace
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
4 generous glugs of olive oil
2 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 – 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 – 1 tsp orange food colouring, (use sparingly!)
a few lemon wedges to garnish

6 – 8 free-range chicken breasts

Firstly make your marinade. Put the chopped onion, garlic, ginger and lemon juice in your food processor or use one of those funny hand blender sticks and blitz till a smooth paste is achieved. Scoop all of that out into a bowl large enough to accommodate your chicken or one of those very large glad freezer bags then add all of the yoghurt, coriander, cumin, turmeric, garam masala, mace, nutmeg, ground cloves, cinnamon, olive oil, salt, freshly ground black pepper, cayenne pepper and food colouring. Mix thoroughly.

Now score your chicken, cut three diagonal slashes across the breasts and make sure the knife goes halfway through. Then put your chicken into the marinade (there might be more marinade than you actually need so if you want to then you could put the chicken in the bowl first then pour as much marinade in as you need, freezing the rest for another day). Put the chicken into the marinade and rub it all over the breasts and into the slashes with your thumbs.

Cover the bowl or just seal the bag and leave in the fridge for at leat six hours but I suggest that you make it the day before you’re using it so as to give the chicken a good long time to marinade. This will increase the flavour. Shake the bag or bowl a couple of times while it marinades.
Right, so when you’re going to cook this chicken, about half an hour before you do, light up your barbecue and leave on its lowest notch. After about 20 minutes, when it’s screaming hot, get your chicken out of the marinade and put onto the barbecue. Cook for about 6 – 8 mins per side and baste with the marinade as you cook. Insert a knife into the centre to see if the chicken is cooked in the middle, if not then leave for a couple more minutes until it is. I suggest you serve this with a couple of lemon wedges to squeeze over it and maybe accompany it with a salad and a small pot of raita. This is very filling and tasty.

Escargots

escargots

For me it is fascinating how many people refuse to eat escargots! Perhaps due to the misconception that anything which is slimy and (I do agree) ugly should not be a wonderful taste experience to be desired like caviar, well something cheaper than caviar. But many delicious delicacies do look revolting. In particluar the tarantulas which are abundant in the amazon jungle which are thoroughly enjoyed by the locals. Apparently the creatures legs are reminiscent of chicken and are considered marvellous. However due to my absolute arachniphobia, even someone who will try almost anything like me would certainly be nervous. What if it wasn’t quite dead and leapt off the chopping board to get onto my face before I’d got around to severing its legs! Hardly likely, but a frightening thought. However a simple snail is surely not as bad as a tarantula. Nobody’s got any excuse not to try them! When you think of it, escargots arrive at your table in restaurants looking nothing like snails and more like a firm, overlarge chicken liver in a shell. So why don’t people try them? I consider them a pest as I find plenty of them in my garden before I lay down the snail bait so wouldn’t it be a good idea to eat them instead of finding ones foaming at the mouth which is a horrible way to die. I think I and certainly the snail would prefer the painless and quicker death of being cooked in garlic and butter. Plus at the end you get to eat them!

Recipe for snails will appear soon.

Lamb and Spinach Curry

Image

This is the recipe for the beautiful Lamb and Spinach curry from Rick Stein’s “Food Heroes” series and is the only curry recipe you will ever need. Serves 4.
cropped-srb_curry.jpg
The Ingredients –
250g (9oz) Ghee/Clarified Butter
3 tablespoons Fresh Coriander (chopped)
65g (2 1/2oz) Garlic
1 tablespoon Ground Turmeric
1 tablespoon Red Chili Powder
350g (12oz) Fresh Spinach washed with large stalks removed
1 tablespoon Ground Cumin
4 medium sized Green Chillies with stalks removed
1 tablespoon Paprika
½ tablespoon Gharam Masala
550g (1 1/4lb) Onions Chopped
1 x 400g (140z) Can Chopped Toms
50g (2oz) Fresh Ginger, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon Salt
900g (2lb) Boneless leg or shoulder of Lamb (1½ in) cubes
1 tablespoon Ground Coriander
120ml (4fl oz) water
A pinch of ground cumin and freshly ground black pepper to serve

How to Cook –
1. Heat the ghee in a large, heavy based pan. Add the onions and cook over a medium heat, stirring now and then, for 20 minutes until they are soft and a light brown

2. Put the tomatoes, water, ginger and garlic into a liquidizer and blend until smooth. Remove the fried onions with a slotted spoon, add them to the paste and blend briefly until smooth.

3. Return the puree to the ghee left in the pan and add the lamb and salt. Simmer for 30 minutes, by which time the lamb will be half cooked and the sauce will be well reduced. Stir in the turmeric, chilli powder, cumin, paprika and ground coriander and continue to cook for 30-45 minutes for shoulder or 45-1 hour for leg, until the lamb is tender, adding a little water now and then if the sauce starts to stick.

4. Meanwhile, put 175g (6oz) of the spinach leaves into a large pan and cook until it has wilted down into the bottom of the pan. Cook for 1 minute, then transfer to the rinsed out liquidizer and blend to a smooth puree. Set aside. Rinse out the liquidiser again and add the green chillies and 2-3 tablespoons of water and blend until smooth. Set aside.

5. When the lamb is cooked, there should be a layer of ghee floating on the top of the curry. You can either skim it off or leave it there, whichever you prefer (LEAVE IT). Then stir in the spinach puree and the remaining spinach leaves and cook for 2 minutes.

6. Now taste the curry and add as much green chili puree as you wish, according to how hot you like your curries (ALL OF IT). Simmer for 2 minutes more.

7. Stir in the fresh coriander and Gharam Masala. Transfer the curry to a serving dish and sprinkle with a little more ground cumin and some freshly ground black pepper just before you take it to the table.

I reccomend that you serve this with parathas and/or naan bread and/or raita (an Indian yoghurt dip quite similar to tzatziki).