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Paprika Chicken with Peas and Lardons

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Here is a nice, tasty and easy way to jazz up the classic trinity of chicken, peas and potatoes. A real crowd-pleaser, this dish is ideal for a relaxed meal with friends.

You will need (for 4 people):
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
4 tbsp plain flour
4 tbsp rapeseed oil (or other cooking oil)
2 large onions
4 cloves garlic
2 tbsp paprika
800 g potatoes
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp tomato purée
A splash brandy (optional)
500 ml chicken stock

For the peas:
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 medium onion, chopped
200 g peas, fresh or frozen
80 g lardons
1 bay leaf
400 ml vegetable stock

Method:

Cut the chicken thighs into bite-sized chunks. Peel the onions and cut into wedges. Peel the potatoes and cut in 2 or 3 depending on size.

In a large, heavy based pan or casserole, heat up half of the oil. Flour the chicken, then fry in batches until nicely coloured on all sides. Reserve on a plate covered with kitchen paper.

Warm up the rest of the oil in the same pan, add the onion wedges and the peeled garlic cloves and cook gently for about 2 min. Add the paprika, then the potatoes and stir well. Add the tomato purée, leave to cook for a minute, then add the vinegar and brandy.

Put the chicken back in, add the stock and bring to the boil. Cover, and leave to simmer for about 15 min, then take the lid off and simmer for a few more minutes until the potatoes are tender and the sauce has thickened. Check the seasoning, and adjust if necessary.

Meanwhile, make the peas:

In a saucepan, heat up the oil, and gently fry the lardons and onions. When the onions have softened a bit, add the peas and stir.

Add the vegetable stock, bay leaf, and a bit of black pepper. Bring to the boil then turn the heat down and simmer for about 10 min. Using a fine sieve, drain any remaining stock out, and transfer to a warm serving dish.

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Filed under Mains, Meat dishes

The Next Best Thing To A Duvet Day: Velvety Mushroom and Chestnut Soup

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Winter is dragging on, my mood is as gloomy as the weather, and I feel like I am going to be cold forever.

I wish I could just burrow under the duvet and wait for the temperatures to start climbing again before venturing back out, but I can’t do that because I would most probably get sacked. Unfortunately, my job cannot be done from home, and it definitely cannot be done from under a duvet, so like most other people I have to suck it up, leave my bed and wrap up in a lot of layers in order to go to work. And it sucks.

Sadly, taking your duvet to work isn’t normally very practical either. So, what to do? What could make up for having to get out of bed?

In my opinion, the next best thing to a duvet is probably soup. It is warm, comforting and satisfying, and unlike a duvet you can take it to work to enjoy during your lunch break, without having to endure being stared at by your co-workers as if you have suddenly grown a second head. If you agree with me, then this recipe is definitely for you.

This mushroom and chestnut soup is very tasty and warming. The chestnut purée is optional, but the texture wouldn’t be as smooth and velvety without it. Use any mushrooms you want; if you are lucky enough to have access to wild mushrooms then don’t hesitate to use them. I usually go for a mixture of chestnut mushrooms and (rehydtated) dried porcini.

You will need (for 4 servings):

800 g mixed mushrooms (rehydrated weight if using dried mushrooms), quartered
1 onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
30 g butter
3 tbsp olive oil
2 pinches dried thyme
3 tbsp brandy
1 litre hot chicken stock (or vegetable stock for a vegetarian version)
Salt, pepper
4 heaped tbsp unsweetened chestnut purée

Method:

In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, heat the oil and butter together on a medium heat. Add the onion, celery, garlic and thyme and cook until soft but not coloured (about 3 to 4 min).

Add the mushrooms and cook for about 5 min, then add the brandy and cook for 1 or 2 min to evaporate the alcohol. Add the stock, season, and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 25 min.

Transfer about 2/3 of the soup to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour it back into the pan with the rest of the soup, and stir in the chestnut purée. Check the seasoning.

Serve with plenty of crusty bread, and crème fraîche if you like.

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Filed under Mains, Soups, Starters, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Another “No Cheese” Rant: Authentic Gratin Dauphinois

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I was fortunate enough to spend 3 years studying in Grenoble, in a part of the French Alps called the Dauphiné. And it just so happens that this region is the birthplace of Gratin Dauphinois (or dauphinoise potatoes as it is called in English).

When I say that I was “fortunate”, it is because at the end of these wonderful 3 years, I headed back home with the recipe for Gratin Dauphinois in my back pocket (and a Master’s Degree in Business, but who cares? You can’t eat a degree).

Now, for those of you who read my Quiche Lorraine post, you will know that I don’t like it one bit when people mess with a beautifully simple recipe. This also applies to Gratin Dauphinois. THERE IS NO CHEESE IN IT, just potatoes, milk, cream, eggs and seasoning. That is all you need!

This gratin is perfect as a side dish with roast meats, or as a main with a few slices of cured meats.

You will need (for 4):

About 1.2 kg potatoes
2 eggs
750 ml milk
4 tbsp double cream
1 clove garlic
100g butter + extra for the dish
Nutmeg
Rosemary
Salt
Pepper

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200 C/ fan 180C/ gas 6-7.

Peel the garlic and cut in half. Rub the cut side over the bottom and sides of a large oven dish. Butter the dish.

Peel and wash the potatoes, then cut into 2mm slices.

In a large jug, beat the eggs, then add the cream and milk. Season.

Put a layer of potato slices over the bottom of the dish (you don’t need to be neat), then pour some of the milk mixture over it. Repeat until the dish is full or you have used up all the ingredients.

Season, sprinkle some grated nutmeg on top, and some rosemary. Dot small pieces of the butter all over.image

Bake for about 45 min or until golden and cooked through.

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Filed under Mains, Sides, Vegetables, Vegetarian

A Chicken Walks Into a Pub… (Chicken Cooked in Lager and a Quick Mustard Sauce)

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My husband, Mr Greedy Frog, is a lager snob. He likes premium German lager, and doesn’t care much for most of the run-of-the-mill brands commonly found in shops and pubs.

Now, before you get the wrong idea, I feel the need to tell you that he isn’t a snob about anything else; we are after all talking about a working-class lad from Cumbria, here. But I digress.

Anyway, against his better judgement, and in a laudable but misguided bid to save money, he bought some cheap lager the other week. And he really didn’t like it.

Now, this is where I come in. I have mentioned before that I don’t like waste, so there was no way this lager was ending up down the sink (sorry, sink!). Sadly, I don’t drink lager, I can’t stand the stuff. As a cooking ingredient however, I think it is rather brilliant.

I like to use it in bread, waffle batter, stews, you name it. In this instance, I had a chicken whose initial destiny was to end up roasted. Well, now it was going to drown in lager… (this wasn’t meant to sound sinister).

You will need (for 4):

1 chicken
1 tbsp olive oil
1 carrot, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 celery stick, chopped
2 heads fresh garlic (optional)
1 litre lager
Salt
Pepper
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Method:
In a pan large enough to hold the chicken, heat up the olive oil, then gently fry the chopped vegetables for a couple of minutes.image

Season the chicken cavity, and add to the pan with the garlic. Pour the lager on top (make sure it almost covers the chicken, add a bit more if needed).image

Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for about 1 hour, turning the chicken after 30 min.

This is ready when the chicken is cooked through and the cooking liquid has significantly reduced.image

The garlic heads will be nice and tender and ready to be spread on some fresh bread.

You can serve this with pilau rice and a quick mustard sauce:

In a small pan, quickly fry a chopped spring onion, add a large ladleful of cooking liquid from the chicken, boil for a minute then add 1 tbsp French mustard and 1 tbsp half-fat crème fraîche. Heat through, add some chopped parsley and take off the heat.

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Filed under Mains, Meat dishes

The Real Quiche Lorraine (Warning: No Cheese or Onions Allowed)

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I am a self-confessed Quiche Lorraine bore.

You see, I am from Lorraine, and therefore consider my recipe to be the definitive one. And I do not tolerate for any liberties to be taken with it. Only shortcrust pastry, lardons, eggs, cream and seasoning are allowed. Nothing more, nothing less.

Because the beauty of Quiche Lorraine resides in its simplicity.

Which is why to me, the addition of cheese is just pure heresy. I pour scorn on the use of onions. And if you dare add mushrooms, peppers, or, horror of horrors broccoli, I shall track you down and force you to listen to Celine Dion’s back catalogue in a loop until you see the error of your ways and promise never to do it again.

Ok, rant over.

Quiche Lorraine is meant to be shared, and perfect for an informal party. It can be made ahead, is delicious hot or cold, and everyone knows that it tastes even better if you ditch the cutlery.

You will need:

300 g plain flour
150 g unsalted butter, cold, diced
200 g lardons (or diced bacon, or pancetta)
3 eggs
250 ml crème fraîche
150 ml double cream
Salt
Pepper

Method:

Make the pastry. In a large bowl, add a pinch of salt and the butter to the flour. Work the flour into the butter between your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add enough cold water to bind, knead briefly then form into a ball (you can of course use a food processor instead if you prefer). Wrap in cling film then chill for 20 min.
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Preheat the oven to 200C/ fan 180C/ gas 6.

Roll out the pastry to line a 28 cm fluted tart tin (re-form any leftover pastry into a ball and freeze for another time). Chill again for 10 min, then line with foil, add baking beans, and bake blind for 15 min. Remove the foil and beans, and return to the oven for 5 min.
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While the pastry is in the oven, heat up a non-stick frying pan, and dry-fry the lardons for a few minutes. They should colour slightly, but make sure they don’t get crisp. Drain on kitchen paper.

In a large jug, slightly beat the egg, then mix with the creams. Season, being careful not to add too much salt, as the lardons will be quite salty already.
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Scatter the lardons over the pastry base, pull the oven shelf partially out of the oven, and place the tin on it. Carefully pour the filling, stopping just below the edge of the pastry. Push the shelf in gently, and bake for about 20 min until golden on top and soft in the middle.
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Filed under Buffet, Mains, Savoury Tarts, Starters

Open lasagne with creamy mushroom and spinach filling

You can use any type of lasagne sheet for this recipe: you can buy them fresh or dry from most shops, or you can make your own (watch this space for a recipe and step by step guide, coming up sometime soon).

You will need (for 2 portions):

2 large lasagne sheets (or 3 small ones)
2 tbsp olive oil
3 spring onions
250g chestnut mushrooms
Pinch of thyme
150g spinach (about 2 large handfuls)
3 heaped tbsp crème fraîche
Parmesan (from a block)
Salt
Pepper
2 tbsp chopped parsley

Method:

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Cook the lasagne sheets according to the packet instructions.

Meanwhile, thinly slice the spring onions and mushrooms. Wash the spinach and drain thoroughly.

Heat up the olive oil in a frying pan, or sauté pan with a lid. Add the spring onions and mushrooms, salt, pepper, thyme, stir then cover for 2 to 3 min until the mushrooms are cooked.

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Add the spinach and leave to wilt for a few seconds, then add the crème fraîche. Warm through, check the seasoning and take off the heat.

Drain the pasta and cut the lasagne sheets in half so you end up with square-ish pieces.

Lay one piece in each serving bowl, top with some of the filling and some grated parmesan. Repeat until you have used up the pasta and filling, then finish with some parmesan shavings and chopped parsley.

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Filed under Mains, Pasta, Vegetarian

Quick bean stew with grilled halloumi and crunchy toasted almonds

This is very quick and easy to make, and ideal for a midweek evening meal.

You will need (for 2 portions):

2 tbsp olive oil
200g fresh white mushrooms
4 spring onions
2 cloves garlic
1 tin baked beans
25g blanched almonds (flaked almonds would be fine too)
150g halloumi
Pinch thyme
2 tbsp chopped parsley
Salt
Pepper

Method:

Preheat your grill on medium.

Cut the spring onions into 1cm chunks, clean and quarter the mushrooms, crush the garlic.

Place a large pan on a medium heat, and heat up the olive oil. Add the spring onions, garlic, mushrooms and thyme. Toss in the oil then cover and leave for about 2 min until it all starts to soften.

Meanwhile, warm up a small frying pan. If you are using whole blanched almonds, crush them roughly in a pestle and mortar (or food processor), if using flaked almonds, leave them as they are.

When the frying pan is hot add the almonds to it and let them toast until golden. Make sure you keep an eye on them though: they would burn in no time if left unattended. When golden, take off the heat and set aside.

When the mushrooms have softened, add the baked beans, salt and pepper to taste, and warm through.

Slice the halloumi as evenly as you can (you should end up with 6 slices), and pop it under the grill on a baking tray lined with baking paper.

As soon as the halloumi is nice and golden (this should take 1 to 3 min depending on your grill), take it away from under the grill.

To serve, spoon the bean and mushroom stew into shallow bowls, top with the cheese and scatter the almonds on top. Finish with the chopped parsley.image

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Filed under Mains, Vegetarian