Claypot Chicken

Anna May everyday claypot ingredients2

You know that feeling at the end of the day – the one when all you are fit for is the sofa.  Ideally with a glass of wine in one hand and the other held out expectantly for a plate of food which someone else has cooked to be placed in it.  I regularly feel like that and I am sure I am not the only one.  Much as I love cooking and I do, I really do, there are times when I feel like I can’t be bothered.  Invariably at the tired end of the day, possibly after a difference of opinion with one of my children, the house refusing to clean itself or the dog taking himself on a long unscheduled walk and having to be found.

These are the evenings when you need this recipe – easy, quick and totally restoring,  Never mind my top 10 or top 5, this one is firmly on the podium in the top 3.

I must point out one thing, which you may have spotted already, it is not a looker.  As they say though, never judge a book by its cover and in culinary terms, this is that book.  I’ve tried prettying it up, sprinkling it with this or that but it doesn’t work.  Moreover it would be missing the point.  This recipe is beyond simple, uses very few ingredients and is cheap.  To zhuzz it up just for the sake of the photograph would be wrong.

I gave the recipe to one of my brothers ages ago and kept asking him if he had made it.  I guessed not because I hadn’t heard the rapturous applause.  Eventually (after some badgering from me I must admit) he cooked it for this wife – he says they  now have it once a week.  So do we, it really is that good.

So please take my word (and my brothers, and my husbands) for it and try this.

Anna May everyday claypot chicken

Claypot Chicken

1 tablespoon oil

1 onion, chopped

1 thumb of ginger, peeled and finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

4 chicken thigh fillets, each cut into 6 pieces

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 tablespoon soft brown sugar

4 tablespoons basmati rice

250ml chicken stock

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and gently soften the onion.  Add the garlic and ginger and stir for a couple of minutes.  Put the rice, brown sugar and fish sauce into the pan, give it all a good stir followed by the chicken and the stock.  Simmer gently for about 12-15 minutes until the rice and chicken are cooked.  This is enough for two adults (although I think I could probably eat it all myself).  Serve with a drop or two of chilli sauce if you like.



Ham hock, parsley and lentil salad

Anna May everyday ham hock salad

I have to admit to a little scepticism about lentils in my youth and am ashamed to say thought they were only for those who might also knit their own sheep’s milk yogurt.  How wrong I was and I can remember the lentils that won my heart all those years ago.  Following a birthday treat to the theatre (Miss Saigon) we went to a French restaurant in the West End.  One of the starters was lentils with little bits of bacon and a creamy vinaigrette.  I don’t know why I was led to this choice but I was and it was heavenly.  Now my larder wouldn’t be without these useful pulses and while the Sausages and Lentils (April 2013) may be a little cold weather number, this salad is perfect whatever the season.

I confess I haven’t been simmering any hocks for my shredded ham.  If I had it would have been perfect for a pea and ham soup or risotto and you should keep the stock if you find yourself cooking said cut.  No, so determined am I that spring is imminent that I have put away such warming and comforting types of soup.  I bought this ham hock at Waitrose and it is very good.

This is a little more substantial than the summery lettuce salads which await us but has a suitable zip from the lemon and mustard in the dressing and verdant pep from the parsley which is more an ingredient than simply a garnish.

Ham hock, parsley and lentil salad

100g puy lentils

180-200g ham hock, shredded

20g flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped or torn

2 spring onions, chopped

Handful of rocket

Juice of half a lemon

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

Pinch of sugar

Cook the lentils in boiling water, they will take about 10-15 minutes but check as they do vary.  Once cooked drain and leave to cool.  In a medium size bowl mix the mustard, sugar and lemon juice and then add the olive oil slowly, taste and season.  Put the lentils, ham hock, spring onions, parsley and rocket into the bowl with the dressing and give it a good mix.  Turn onto a serving plate.  This would do 2 adults for lunch with some nice bread alongside.

Anna May everyday ham hock salad ingredients

Lemon Cake and the 1970’s

Anna May everyday lemon cake


I like to have a cake in the tin at weekends, it make me feel a bit Ma Larkin and reminds me of proper weekend teas when I was young.  There was usually a good walk on a Saturday afternoon so when you got home tea was well deserved.  Crumpets, scotch pancakes or cheese on toast followed by scones perhaps or cake, probably accompanied by the wrestling on World of Sport – that sort of thing.  I don’t know if these feasts were purely a reward for hiking up hill and dale or whether the grown ups were using them to line the stomach before those epic 70’s dinner parties.

I remember them well and watched them through the bannister halfway up the stairs.  The ladies in long dresses with hair up would arrive in a cloud of Diorella or Rive Gauche.  The men in velvet jackets or occasionally in slightly racy frilly shirts, hair slicked back – it was a different sartorial time.

Quite a different time for food too and the puddings stick particularly in my memory.  The first thing being the choice, there were always several puddings on offer, why was that?  Back then there were profiteroles, brandy snaps filled with cream, lemon mousse always towering high above the sides of the white souffle dish, pots au chocolate in regulation little china urns, sliced oranges with caramel shards in the juice – all of them still delicious to this day but also very much of the time.  Being in possession of the Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook, an early Mary Berry, I was keen for my Mother to offer such thrills as the Loganberry Mousse which looked a proper treat in the crystal bowl in the picture.  Loganberries being in short supply in North Yorkshire during the 70’s this sadly never graced the table chez nous.

Following this array of desserts, the cupboard of the sideboard would be opened and the stickies would appear, Cointreau, Kummel, Royal Mint Chocolate Liqueur, Port… You know what, it is not surprising a few crumpets were required as ballast before dinners like these.

So I like a cake in the tin.  Whilst I am more than happy with a simple bake, the fabulous weather we had this week required something special, more celebratory as we heralded the arrival of Spring (so late it is almost time for summer).  Thus my triple layer lemon cake for what could be more sprightly and springlike than lemon.  A light sponge with tangy lemon curd and smooth soothing cream as an extra little treat.  It is simple but thoroughly spoiling, worthy of a birthday as much as being a Saturday tea cake.  It is not however obligatory to follow this with a four course 1970’s dinner.  Now, where is my roll on lip gloss….

Lemon Cake

165g soft butter

165g golden caster sugar

3 eggs

165g self raising flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

75 ml milk

1/2 pot lemon curd

300ml double cream

Icing sugar

Preheat oven to 170 and grease a deep (7-8cm) 20cm tin.  Cream the butter and sugar together for five minutes until light and fluffy, add the eggs one at a time whisking well between each one, then sift in the flour and baking powder.  Stir in the milk and then put the mixture into the tin, smooth the top and bake for 45-55 minutes until well risen and a skewer comes out clean.  Leave to cool for five minutes in the tin and the cool completely on a wire rack.  Meanwhile whisk the cream until it holds soft peaks but is not stiff.  When the cake is cold cut into three, I find a bread knife easiest for this, and spread the bottom layer with lemon curd and then cream, top with another slice of cake and repeat.  Put on the top layer, dust with icing sugar and serve.   This is squidgy and fabulous and you may need forks to eat it.  Keep in the fridge if you don’t finish it off in one go.


I have entered this cake into Layer Cake Tea Time Treats hosted by What Kate Baked and Lavender and Lovage – check out both these sites for delicious things to cook!

Wild Garlic Pesto

Anna May everyday wild garlic pesto


My kitchen smells of garlic, I mean really smells of garlic.  There is a huge bunch of wild garlic in a jar, the wild garlic pesto has just been made and now the wild garlic caldo verde is on the go.   Wild garlic and local salami pizza to follow…. phew, I imagine I might smell as much as my kitchen right now.

The roadsides, hedgerows and woods around here are now full of wild garlic and the heady oniony aroma ranges from a gentle whiff to a full on garlic breath pong.  Hundreds of pointy green leaves cover the ground and the buds are fat and papery, any minute now the white flowers will explode bringing with them a sight (and smell) particular to our Spring.  Should you decide to pick a little to take home there awaits before you a choice.  A light and fragrant broth or perhaps a pungent stir fry, the leaves adding both flavour and colour.   A little shredded, softened in butter and added to some mash is a new, unauthentic I admit, take on colcannon.  With peas and stock you get a new petit pois a la francais.   The caldo verde I am making is a version of the Portugese soup with chorizo and potatoes – here the wild garlic replaces the usual cabbage.

I have tempered this wild garlic pesto slightly with parsley, rather than diluting the flavour, I think it enhances it.  This version still has a wallop of flavour but is not so mouth puckeringly strong you don’t want to finish it.  It is amazing with pasta but also try  spreading it on some lightly toasted sourdough – a real treat with drinks this long and hopefully sunny weekend.

Wild Garlic Pesto

40g wild garlic, chopped

10g parsley, chopped

25g pine nuts, lightly toasted

20g parmesan, finely grated

3-4 tablespoons good olive oil

Salt and pepper

Lemon juice, optional

You can do this in a mortar with a pestle or a small food processor.  Whizz or pound the wild garlic, parsley, pine nuts, parmesan and olive oil.  Don’t process too much as it is nice to have a bit of texture to the pesto.  Add a good pinch of salt and some pepper, taste and adjust any seasonings to taste.  You may like to add a squeeze of lemon juice just before serving.  This amount would be enough for pasta for 4.

Anna May everyday wild garlic

I have entered this wild garlic pesto into Herbs on Saturday recipe sharing blog, check it out for lots of wonderful seasonal ideas.