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similes / empanadas

16 Aug

empanadas, drawing

“Imagine you are holding something in the palm of your hand. A cup of tea. Now tip it out onto the grass.”

“What? Why would I do that?”

“It’s not good tea… PG Tips? No, Lipton. And it’s cold, tip it out. Now pretend it’s a sponge, squeeze it out. Good. As you extend your arm, turn your hand and squeeze the sponge at the last minute. Imagine there is a leaf between your elbow and your side. Actually,” he chose the largest vine leaves from the terrace, “here. Keep it close to your body, as long as possible.”

As my flatmate Emma had requested, my brother was teaching us karate, starting with a basic punch.

“Now step forward at the same time. Good.”

Our vine leaves floated down to the ground, over and over. Step. Step. The grass under my bare feet was slightly damp in the evening air.

~~~

My mother had a project for us too, also for late afternoon when the sun was low over the fields. She roped us into building an outdoor bread oven, following a rough recipe. Reluctant to surface from my summer reading list, I soon discovered that it wasn’t so much hard labour as child’s play: making sandcastles and mud pies. With the same satisfaction of constructing a perfect dome of lemon cream over a lemon tart, we made a smooth dome of wet sand, then plastered it with damp newspapers (pictures of Wills and Kate, also “en vacances dans le Gers!” the local paper was excited to announce).

building bread oven, drawing

Then the mud and straw from the nearby field had to be stamped with water and more sand to make it pliable. Like grapes for wine, tougher. We started with garden clogs on, but it turned out to be easier to do so without, the mud squishing between our toes as it softened. My mother and I stamped and stomped and squished around in little circles. Finally the hard rubble (interspersed with dangerous pieces of terracotta roof tile) became smooth, the same plasticity as a butter slab beaten and moulded into shape for croissant dough. My brother supervised the construction of the clay layer, built up in balls squashed into a rough wall.

“About the size of cricket balls,” my mother said.

“Not a cultural reference I know,” Emma replied, a smile in her voice.

The cricket balls spiralled up and around, covering the English royal family and more local news of cows and tractors and shooting stars. When smooth, the dome looked like an old fashioned beehive. It reminded me of trying out wattle and daub on a school trip, ancient building techniques. The first layer complete, the mud now covered my hands and feet and stomach, somehow. Better than a spa, an exfoliating mud mask.

“We should sell this as an expensive retreat, mindfulness and oven building!”

The sun was almost gone by then, and we had empanadas to prepare. So we left the second layer and the carving out of the door for another day, and rinsed off the mud.

~~~

The empanadas were Emma’s idea. She wanted to make a nice gesture, a thank-you, on her last evening. All the more so since we accidentally told her what my mother had said about house guests.

“Like fish, after three days, they start to go off.”

My brother tried to make it better by adding, “but you are family really, more like Christmas cake. You can stick around for a month.”

She thought it was funny, I think, since she knows my anti-social tendencies. And because, equivalent to the cricket ball remark, in France, the bûche de Noël stays fresh for a day or two at best.

empanadas, drawing 2

Her father sent us a picture of a faded newspaper cutting, their family recipe. Her mother was from Chile; she and her sister have spent time there and in Argentina, both of which make empanadas of varying sizes and fillings. She deciphered the sparse instructions for me, a cup of this, a small spoon that, mix, rest, roll. I made the pastry, unsure if the cold butter and warm milk would cancel each other out. But,

“It smells right,” Emma said. She was frying onions and finely diced beef, grilling red peppers, before adding cumin and chilli, a homegrown tomato, a handful of raisins. Then I rolled out the dough, stamped out handspan circles with a small, white bowl, while she added the filling, folded the rounds into half moons and crimped the edges, from the corners first, fold, press, fold, press. My brother brushed the little parcels with beaten egg. They could have been miniature Cornish pasties, or enormous gyoza. Choose your own cultural reference. Half were roasted pumpkin (from the garden) and a strong, melty goat’s cheese, the other half beef and peppers and a slice of boiled egg, The latter had sun’s rays drawn out with a knife point, in the manner of a galette des rois.

We ate our baked empanadas on the terrace, under the vines, next to the half finished mud oven. There was a meaty red wine from the Gers to mimic an Argentinian one and no need for cutlery.

~~~

N.B. No recipe today, because I don’t consider myself an expert yet. I wanted to tell the story anyway, to make a list of all of the imagery we used across our lessons and constructions. So much of recipe writing is hitting on the right simile / metaphor that will ring true for the reader. Not to be poetic, but to be explicitly clear. It looks like, smells like, feels like this.

We did compare a few recipes on line to see if they were similar to Emma’s family one. They were the same, and subtly different, in the way that everyone’s Chilean grandmother has her own special method. And yet they were not so difficult, especially with company. I highly recommend having a go. The fillings can be improvised according to your fridge or garden. The roast pumpkin and goat’s cheese (nothing more than that) was particularly good. And they reheated nicely for lunches and snacks later on.

 

lamb, apricot and fennel meatballs

7 Jan

persian lamb apricot meatballs

These lamb and apricot meatballs are so delicious that I have made them three times in three weeks. They have a light texture with a touch of sweetness, complemented by earthy, toasted fennel seeds and fresh, chopped dill. Called koofteh in Iran, kofta or kefta elsewhere, the word means to punch or to pummel, which  is how you treat the mixture, squashing and punching the meat until the fibres all but dissolve, blending with the apricot and onion for a more airy result. The cooked meatballs are finished with a yoghurt sauce, a drizzle of pomegranate molasses and a handful more dill.

I learned the recipe at a cooking class in London with Sabrina Ghayour. Her food was a modern take on the traditional Iranian, fresher and lighter. One thing we learned was that Persian food often contrasts fruit with meat; she made an incredible lamb and quince stew too. You can read her writing in the Guardian, which has an alternative meatball recipe with dried cherries or cranberries instead of apricots.

Serve these koofteh as party snacks – with kebab sticks making them into ‘lollipops’ as Ghayour calls them – and they will disappear in minutes. Equally nice for a meal with rice (Persian-style with a crispy bottom layer, or tah dig) or with flatbread and a simple salad.

~~~

Persian lamb, apricot and fennel meatballs

from Sabrina Ghayour – her book Persiana is out now. She recommends using latex gloves for this recipe as you need to bring the mixture together by hand, and the turmeric can temporarily stain your fingers. And it seems like a lot of fennel seeds but it works!

makes 30-40 depending on size – serves 6 with other dishes alongside

500g minced lamb

1 small onion

150g dried apricots

50g fennel seeds

2 eggs

2 tsp turmeric

20g fresh dill, chopped

2 tsp flaky sea salt

ground black pepper

to serve: yoghurt, pomegranate molasses, nigella seeds/black sesame seeds, more chopped dill

If you have a food processor, use it to finely chop the onion and dried apricots. Otherwise, do so by hand. Toast the fennel seeds in a dry frying pan until golden and fragrant. Grind in a mortar and pestle (or my home equivalent, a thick mug and a rolling pin).

Tip all ingredients into a large bowl and squash together with one hand. (Use latex gloves if you have some.) Punch the mixture until the meat almost disintegrates. Taste to check the seasoning – add more salt and pepper if necessary. (You can fry or microwave a small amount if you don’t want to test raw meat.) Roll into even balls. At this point the meatballs can be refrigerated to fry up later.

Heat a large frying pan with enough olive oil to cover the pan. When a drop of water sizzles in the oil, add the meatballs, trying not to crowd them too much. Fry the meatballs to a nice brown on one side, flip them all carefully and carry on, shaking the pan once or twice so they cook evenly. Cut one open to see if fully cooked. If you are making a big batch, brown the meatballs and arrange on a baking tray to finish off in the oven.

To serve: thin some yoghurt down with some water or olive oil to the texture of thick cream. Arrange the meatballs on a platter and drizzle the yoghurt sauce on top. Follow with a drizzle of pomegranate molasses (or sweet tamarind sauce or even honey) then shower with chopped dill and nigella or sesame seeds for colour.

If serving as a snack, stick wooden kebab skewers or toothpicks in each one. If it is part of a meal, serve with a salad, flatbread and extra yoghurt sauce.

 

 

diana henry’s japanese garlic and ginger chicken with smashed cucumber

31 Mar

Scan 5

More cookbooks! Disaster. The latest addition to my collection has not yet been added to the shelf. It lives on my sofa and I open it at random for inspiration. Let’s see:

“Beluga lentil, roast grape and red chicory salad.” Intriguing, roast grapes. An Autumn recipe in hues of violet and red. Let’s aim for Spring:

“Butterflied leg of lamb with sekenjabin.” With what? Oooh, a “Persian mint syrup.” Best with flatbread or couscous and broadbeans. Mmm. Turn the page:

“Chocolate and rosemary sorbet” on the same leaf as “Grapefruit and mint sorbet.” All of my favourite flavours!

A Change of Appetite: where healthy meets delicious is an adventure in flavour, an exploration of healthy food without austerity or preaching. It is a fresh and beautiful cookbook. There are whole seasons full of recipes, with intermittent pages of musings on grains, proper lunches, the Japanese philosophy in food. I’m afraid to say the piece on calories rang unfortunately true: eat 500 calories chocolate, skip dinner. Works out even right? Not really.

As a pastry chef, I find it hard to condone dieting. (I’d be out of a job.) And I don’t believe abstention or detoxes work long-term. But too much sugar does have an effect on my body and my mood.

Henry doesn’t ask you to diet either. Just to take a little more care, add a few more green leaves and prepare meals with tons of flavour, inspired by Japan or Iran or Bulgaria. The healthy aspect works because the recipes really pique my appetite. And Ottolenghi’s apparently; his stamp of approval is on the front cover.

The ginger and garlic chicken I served at a dinner the other day was sharp and savoury and mouthwatering. Even with the chicken all eaten, the sauce was so good my guests took more wild rice just to soak it up. The cucumber with ginger has real character too, the rare occasion when cucumber has a starring role. It was all light and fresh and just enough. Satisfying.

I have to admit that we did have a first course of eggs and spinach, and later a cheese course with three cheeses and fresh salted butter then dessert. But, France. We had modest portions of each and still didn’t feel like we had to roll home afterwards.

The garlic-ginger chicken is going into regular rotation. (Using the grated and frozen ginger leftover from my homemade ginger juice.) In fact I am going to marinate individual portions in zip-lock bags and freeze them. Then in the morning I can defrost one bag or several in the fridge, ready to bake at suppertime. Virtuous ready-meals!

Next on the list: “Spelt and oat porridge with pomegranates and pistachios.” Wish it was breakfast time already.

~~

Diana Henry’s Japanese Garlic and Ginger Chicken with smashed cucumber

from A Change of Appetite

serves 4

8 chicken thighs (bone-in) or 4 whole chicken legs

3 1/2 tbs soy sauce

3 tbs sake or dry sherry (or in a pinch, white wine)

3 tbs dark brown sugar

1/2 tbs brown/red miso

60g fresh ginger, peeled and grated

4 garlic cloves, crushed or grated

1 tsp togarashi seasoning (or 1/2 tsp chili powder)

Smashed cucumber:

500g cucumber

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 tsp sea salt

2 tbs pink pickled ginger, finely chopped

handful of shiso leaves, torn up (or mint)

Mix together marinade ingredients. If baking that day, preheat oven to 200C, arrange chicken in a baking dish in a single layer and pour over marinade. Let sit for at least 20 minutes while oven preheats (or a few hours in the fridge). If not, put chicken pieces in a zip-lock bag (or several), divide the marinade between them and freeze.

Bake chicken for 30-40 minutes depending on size of pieces, basting with marinade halfway. To check if the chicken legs are fully cooked, stab with a sharp knife and see if the juices run clear. If they are a little pink, carry on cooking.

Meanwhile, peel and de-seed the cucumber. Chop roughly. Put cucumber, garlic and salt in a zip-lock bag and bash it a few times with a rolling pin. This step can be done on a chopping board but is much more messy. Refrigerate until chicken is ready. Drain of any liquid and serve the cucumber topped with finely sliced pickled ginger and shiso (or mint).

green & black’s chicken mole

4 May

002

The only saving grace in drastically screwing up my holiday dates and arriving in England a week early for a planned holiday with friends was the book I had ordered, with the idea of savouring it on the beach in Cornwall. Luckily, I suppose, I didn’t make it out of London before I realised my mistake. My brother made me a cup of tea – “because I understand that’s what you do in these sorts of situations” –  I cried hysterically, bought three more Eurostar tickets and went back to Paris, and to the bakery for another week.

My colleagues teased me only a little, having waved goodbye to me and my overstuffed suitcase only 24 hours previously. The book went in my work bag along with neatly rolled apron, chef jacket and trousers.  It was Anne Lamott’s latest journal, about her grandson’s birth and her trip to India, ‘Some Assembly Required.’ On the way home after work I became so lost in her words I missed my metro stop and had to walk back, blinking at the bright sunlight.

Her honest open writing, her willingness and skill in describing her vulnerability, paranoia and love always amaze me, constantly make me laugh. Searching for a quote to read to a friend, I found a good one on every page. Liked a throwaway line about spring:

‘a few cool blue skies, new grass, wildflowers and I’m in love. You’re going to fall for that old magic trick again? Oh, yeah.’

Paris has welcomed me back with a scrubbed-clean spring face. She can be such a tease, playing it cold and distant for months, then just when you think you can cope without her, she magicks up some blossoms, begs for forgiveness. And I fall for it every time.

The sunshine makes all the difference, of course. Suddenly the words are unspooling in my head again, finally my desire to cook for myself has come back, long dormant. I love cooking for friends, guests, presents – but alone, tired, grumpy? Not so much. Rather like a good night’s sleep after a week at work, everything seems shinier in the spring. People seem more attractive. Or maybe the Parisians finally have smiles on their faces as they drink beer by the canal and swing their legs over the water.

001

So I come home with energy and compassion, and fall on the recipe for Chicken Mole. Inspired by another book I received from a dear friend, ‘Like Water for Chocolate’  – a Mexican tale of magical realism, emotion poured into cooking – the casserole of chicken, tomatoes, paprika and chocolate transmitted all the love and warmth I had been missing over the winter.

Simple enough – you brown the chicken, cook some onions and garlic, add tins of tomatoes and beans and the final touch of chocolate and smoky chilis or paprika. (I snuck in a roasted red pepper and a little extra chocolate as well.)  Then stick the pot in the oven for the flavours to bind and deepen for at least an hour and a half. Today I served it over a plain accompaniment of brown rice and devoured half of it standing up by the window. It tasted earthy and wholesome, not specifically of chocolate so much as a complex blend of savoury flavour.  Tomorrow I will hunt for ripe avocados and corn tortillas as the recipe suggests, and I cannot wait. I am properly hungry again. It is a good feeling.

Next week I will be on holiday again, for real. The total cost of the aborted trip twists my insides a little, and it may well rain in Cornwall. But if I can hold onto the spring feeling regardless, and listen to the words and recipes growing … if I can weave half as good a story out of it – my seemingly endless screw-ups, my relationship with this tricky city – as Lamott does, then I will be extremely grateful.

009

Chicken Mole

from the Green & Black’s ‘Unwrapped’ chocolate recipe book, as inspired by Laura Esquivel’s ‘Like Water for Chocolate‘ – they advise serving with avocado salad and corn tortillas, or, if for vegetarians, replacing the chicken with an extra tin of kidney beans 

should serve 4 

1 large red pepper

4 chicken legs (thigh and drumstick)

2 tbs olive oil

2 large onions

2 garlic cloves

2 smoked, dried Jalapeno chili peppers, soaked in water

OR 2 tsp smoked sweet paprika

400g tin red kidney beans

400g tin chopped tomatoes

100g dark chocolate, min 60% cocoa solids

salt

~~~

Stab the red pepper all over with a fork and bake in a 200C oven until soft and blackened.

Brown the chicken in the olive oil in a large oven proof casserole. After a few minutes, when the chicken has a little colour, add the onions and garlic. When they are translucent, add the beans (with all the liquid in the tin), the tomatoes, 50g of the chocolate. Either chop the dried and soaked chilis and add them in along with the soaking water, or use the smoked paprika. Bring to a simmer.

By this time the pepper should be done. Lower oven temperature to 150C. Remove pepper stalk and seeds, then roughly chop it and add to pot. Cover and place in the oven for at least 90 minutes.

Skim off any fat. Taste and add the rest of chocolate if needed, as well as some salt.

hearts and lungs and round courgettes

27 Jul

Say you are watching your mother crack open the spine of a raw chicken, curious as she flattens it out into a “toad shape”. She pulls out the heart and lungs, still attached, cleans up the unappealing bloody bits. Then she leaves you alone with one spatchcocked chicken and its insides and an invitation to prepare supper.

You look at the gizzards a little suspiciously. Apparently you have eaten and enjoyed them before, fried up in hearty Gascon salads, disguised by leaves and croutons and foie gras. The heart is tiny, ressembles nothing more than the tip of a bloody finger. The lungs are peculiarly beautiful, not spongy as you would expect, but firm. A rich purple with an oyster-blue sheen from the membrane. They do look like an odd sea creature, a little alien but potentially delicious.

So you fry some shallots in butter, because nothing can go wrong there. (Actually, you may burn them slightly, but this adds to the complex flavour, you convince yourself.) You scoop out the insides of three tiny round courgettes; might as well butcher some vegetables as well as a poor chicken. Push the shallots to one side, sear the heart and lungs quickly, remove from the pan. While you are struggling to remove the meat from its membrane, you saute the courgette stomachs in the meat juices, add torn up breadcrumbs, herbs. Dice the meat very finely.

Finally, you stuff the spherical courgettes with your wilted and peppery gizzard mixture, put on their hats and bake them along with the chicken that has been covered in cream and obscene amounts of mustard.

When you sit down to dinner, you are ready to apologise in case the surprise ingredient is tough, bitter, too odd. It isn’t. It is delicious. You relax.

party food : duck and persimmon kebabs ; pear and ricotta croutons

22 Nov

Fruit is  healthy, obviously, but you don’t care about your guests’ waistlines. More importantly and superficially, it’s pretty. Next to your sombre piece of duck, a bright cube of persimmon takes all the glory. Add a round red tomato and you are in business. And a skinny sliver of pear makes a boring piece of toast as elegant as a spring hat.

(Am newly addicted to persimmons. Like a winter melon, neon orange and full of juice. Pairs with lots of things: cheese, chicken, prosciutto.)

~~~

Duck and persimmon kebabs

As my mother used to sigh during her cooking classes: yes, it will work equally well with chicken. I happened to have a packet of duck wing bits, already deboned, in the freezer.

Marinate the duck overnight: about 200g of duck breast or deboned wings. Lie the meat flat in a shallow bowl and top with equally generous sloshes of soy sauce and rice vinegar. Add a teaspoon of honey and a teaspoon of tamarind paste. Add lots of pepper, chili if you like it and a teaspoon of something sour: mango powder is good.

The next day: quickly fry the duck in a large frying pan with a touch of oil until still slightly pink. Chop into bite-sized pieces and thread onto cocktail sticks with cubes of persimmon and halved cherry tomatoes.

~~

Pear and ricotta croutons

The chutney is the key to a strong and interesting flavour here – pick a good sharp one: tomato-chili or red onion would be good. I used Indian date and ginger, delicious.

Cut some squares of white sliced bread. Melt a little butter in a large flat frying pan and fry the bread to golden and crisp croutons. Alternatively, drizzle melted butter over a tray of bread squares and bake for 10 minutes.

Mix some ricotta with enough salt and pepper to give it a bit of bite. Quarter, core and slice a couple of pears wafer thin, lengthwise to make a nice long point. Leave the slices in a bowl of cold water with a squeeze of lemon so they don’t brown. When you are ready, top each crouton with a teaspoon of ricotta, a slice of pear and a little blob of spicy-sweet-sour chutney.

party food : beef, apple and goat’s cheese sausage rolls

20 Nov

Proper English  food, slightly poshed up. Puff pastry with a goat’s cheese lining, hiding good beef mixed with a little grated apple for extra tenderness. With a sprinkle of toasty sesame seeds, they could even pass for exotic.

Sausage rolls: the perfect bitesize party food, apparently little known in France, so extra appreciation for me. In any case, after the first confusion – is it an oriental pastry? sausage what? – they were polished off in a few minutes.

(If there is any beef mixture left over after the party, they also make excellent burgers with a fat slice of apple and a smear of goat’s cheese on the bun.)

~~~

Beef and apple sausage rolls

(makes more than 50, up to 70)

2 packs ready rolled puff pastry

500g beef mince

1 egg

1 apple, grated

2 shallots

1 clove garlic

2 tbsps double cream

lots salt and pepper

150g soft (spreadable) goat’s cheese

1 more egg

toasted sesame seeds

Gently squeeze the grated apple in a clean tea towel to remove excess liquid. Mix with beef, 1 egg, shallots, garlic and cream. Add salt and pepper liberally. To test seasoning, microwave 1/2 tsp mixture until brown, then taste and adjust salt/pepper accordingly.

Unroll puff pastry onto a floured surface. If the sheets are round, roll a little until roughly rectangular. Cut strips 8cm wide and spread a thin layer of goat’s cheese, leaving 2cm along one side bare. Brush the bare edge with a little water.Shape the beef mixture into a rough sausage along the goat’s cheese side, then roll up, pressing gently at the end to stick together. Repeat with remaining pastry. Place long rolls in the freezer, seam side down for 10-15 minutes. Then cut 2cm wide pieces and leave in the fridge/freezer until party time.

When ready to bake, preheat over to 200c. Beat the other egg in a shallow dish, and fill another dish with sesame seeds. Dip the top of each sausage roll first in egg then in sesame seeds. Space out on a baking tray and cook for 10-15 minutes until golden and sizzling.

toulouse sausage with roast figs, tomato and fennel seeds

30 Oct

Radishes and maple popcorn do not make a proper supper. Neither does pull-apart cinnamon bread doused in butter and sugar. Delicious; but inappropriate.

However every now and then my inner adult comes out to play. (I think normally I just have an outer child, one that constantly demands bubbles.)  Sometimes I put on a pretty dress and gold earrings and set the table neatly, with a folded napkin and just one wine glass. Although I do share that illicit feeling described in this funny Party of One podcast. Drinking alone, even with food, is odd.

One day last week, a week of smoothies and toast, I sat down to a one-person dinner party. Then jumped up again to light a candle.

Quite apart from the curious joy of my own company, of the shreds of jazz gently interrupting, this was so, so good. Coarse meaty sausages coiled around tomatoes bursting with juice. On top, sweet black figs made even more honey-rich by a quick roasting. Finally, olive oil, half-moon slivers of red onion and a scatter of fennel seeds to add a finishing touch worthy of a pretentious bistro.

Twenty minutes in the oven, time for a lazy shower, done. Every mouthful was a smug acknowledgment of my own invention, recognition that I didn’t have to share.

Don’t make this for someone else. Make it for yourself. Eat it in pyjamas or completely naked. Whatever is the most like you, your most grown-up and fickle you. (Next week it will be too late, you will be a spoiled child again.)

~~~

Toulouse sausages with roast figs, tomato and fennel seeds

serves just one

Delicious chunky sausages, as many as you like

One fat juicy tomato

At least six black figs

Half a red onion

A pinch of fennel seeds

salt and pepper

Heat the oven to hot. Say 200C. On a baking tray (maybe with tinfoil for less washing up) make a loose circle with your sausages. Halve the tomato and nestle the halves in the circle. Cut the figs in half as well, slice the onion thinly and scatter both over the top. Finish with a generous slug of olive oil, salt, pepper and fennel seeds.

Bake for about twenty minutes until the sausages are cooked through and the tomato is nicely roasted. Try to resist eating directly out of the pan.

chicken soup with lemon, ginger and nam pla

7 Oct

Sunday was market day. Two pineapples, lots of lemons, a bag of carrots that went mouldy the day after, and a chicken, its head lolling grotesquely. Squeamish girls, we asked for the head and feet to be chopped off.

Sunday night we had roast chicken and leek tart. I boasted that I had not been really sick, stay at home miserable sick, for more than a year.

Wednesday the leftover roast chicken went in a pot with a red onion and a dodgy carrot. The tiny apartment was invaded by chicken stock, the scent of smug preparation. We thought of risottos, soups, pasta.

Thursday morning I got sick. Nauseous, head-spinning sick. At a creepy crawly pace I cut salmon slices at work. Whipped eggs and almonds. For once I didn’t want to taste the latest experiment: turmeric, pistachio and rose-water tart. I just wanted to go back to bed. To have someone make me chicken soup.

No-one made me soup. I went home early (was accosted by a creepy pony-tailed man who insisted on complimenting my breasts) and dozed off alone on the sofa.

I made me soup. I chopped onion and courgette, grated ginger. Skimmed the fat off the stock. Pulled the remaining scraps of chicken from the grey carcass. Stirred, slowly. I squeezed in half a lemon and added a tiny splash of soy sauce and fish sauce, nam pla, for flavour without salt.

It was clear if not pretty, a lemon slice floating on the surface. Light and bright and soothing. Just right (and just easy enough) for sad invalids. When I feel better, I might add salt and pepper, bulghur wheat or rosemary-garlic croutons, cherry tomatoes. Cream. Endless possibilities.

Chicken soup for sad, sick people

For the stock:

1 leftover chicken carcass (roast or not), a little meat left on

1 red onion

1 carrot

For the soup:

a little olive oil

1 red onion

1 courgette

1 inch ginger

50ml white wine

leftover chicken pieces

chicken stock

2 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp nam pla (fish sauce)

juice of 1/2 lemon

lemon slice, to decorate

Make the chicken stock: (Preferably the night before.) In a huge pot, place your chicken bones, hopefully with a little meat left on, onion and carrot. Fill the pot (at least enough to cover the chicken). Bring to a boil and then turn down to simmer for at least one hour if not two. The kitchen should smell satisfactorially chickeny. Let cool and skim off some of the fat on the surface.

Make the soup: Heat olive oil in a large saucepan. Finely dice the onion and courgette and grate the ginger. Sautee the onion until translucent, then add the courgette and ginger. Cook and stir every now and then until the courgette is nice and soft. Add the white wine and let most of it bubble off.

Now add enough stock to fill your saucepan. While it heats, pull any leftover chicken meat off the bones and shred it with your fingers. Add to pot. Squeeze in the lemon juice, add the soy sauce and nam pla. Let it warm to desired temperature, then serve with a slice of lemon.

If you are not sick – I hate you. But you may add fun things: croutons, parmesan, black pepper, creme fraiche, lardons.

 

 

 

roast chicken with mustard and cumin (sixth simple pleasure)

19 Jul

Do what you do. Love what you do.

Find the thing that makes you smile. It really is that simple.

Consider a fancy degree and shrug. Consider all the disadvantages: early mornings, ugly shoes, a permanent coating of flour. And jump up and down with excitement anyway.

Make a pros and cons list and screw it up. Work with your visceral reaction. What does your stomach tell you? Does your choice fill you with energy or make you nauseous?

Does it scare you? Then it is probably what you really want.

Do you know where it will lead? Does it matter if it makes you smile? Like running, you pick a tree in the distance and aim for it. When you arrive, you pick another tree. You keep going.

For me, at the moment, it really is that bloody simple. I am going to keep running. I am going to be a pâtissière. You can find me in a little boutique in Montmartre, covered in flour and full of joy.

~~~

(It might seem odd to offer a recipe for roast chicken instead some high-faluting dessert. But pastry people’s trousers are called pied de poule, chicken feet.

And this is the most beautiful thing I have made recently: crackly savoury skin ten times better than the simple mustard-spice marinade I stirred together. Peppery outsides, juicy insides. Two minutes preparation. Guaranteed to make you smile.)

~~~

Roast chicken with mustard and cumin

serves 4

4 whole chicken legs (drumsticks and thighs) skin on

2 tbs dijon mustard

4 tbs crème fraiche

3 tbs olive oil

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp crushed black pepper

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp fennel seeds

Preheat oven to 180C. Cover a large oven tray with baking paper.

In a large bowl, mix together everything but the chicken. Don’t be afraid to use more mustard as the taste fades slightly when baked. Drop two chicken legs into the bowl and slather all over with the mustard sauce. Be generous – there should be a thick layer like a ladies’ face mask, not like a layer of suncream. Place the legs on the tray and repeat. (Make some more sauce if there isn’t enough left.)

With the legs evenly spaced out on the tray, put it in the oven for about 35-40 minutes. The skin should be a dark crackly brown; if you poke the insides with a sharp knife, the juices should run clear.

Serve immediately, with a grated carrot salad dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and fresh bread to soak up the last drops.

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