Chicken with Flageolet Beans, Leeks and Rosemary

I am on a bit of a mission to increase our intake of pulses – they are cheap, filling and with a little magic can be quite delicious.  I love them (now) but one of my children isn’t mad about them so inevitably I make it my mission to think of delicious ways to serve them up.  To be fair I didn’t really like pulses much when younger and would pick them out of a cassoulet or chilli and line them up around my plate.  It was always disappointing then to be asked to finish them, at this point cold and without anything more palatable to help them on their way.

This is a delicious combo then, leeks and beans to please me and crispy skinned chicken to please us all.  Don’t panic that four thighs aren’t enough, this is surprisingly filling and you can always serve another green veg or perhaps a crusty baguette and salad alongside.

The leeks, flageolet and rosemary work particularly well together and this makes a great side dish to roast lamb.  Pop it into an ovenproof dish, top with breadcrumbs and finish in the oven until crispy above and bubbling beneath.

Roast chicken with leeks, flageolet beans and rosemary

You can of course use dried flageolet, just remember to soak and cook them according to pack instructions prior to using them below.

4 chicken thighs

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large or two medium leeks

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 sprig rosemary, leaves finely chopped to yield around 1 teaspoon

1 tin (400g) flageolet beans, drained and rinsed

250ml chicken stock

2-3 tablespoons double cream

Chopped chives or parsley (optional)

Heat the oven to 200, put half a tablespoon of the oil into a roasting tin, turn the chicken in the oil, season with salt and cook for half an hour.  Heat the remaining oil in a large frying pan and cook the leek gently, without colouring, until soft.  Add the garlic and rosemary, cook for a minute or two then add the beans, stock and cream.  Simmer for about 10 minutes until a little reduced then check for seasoning.   After its 30 minutes remove the chicken from the oven, add the leek mixture to the pan without getting sauce on the now crispy skin and return to the oven for a final 5-10 minutes until gently bubbling and gold skinned. Scatter over the chives or parsley if you are using them.  Serves 4.

 

 

Baked feta with chilli and herbs (or olives)

 

Tapas, mezze, picnic, however you refer to this style of eating I loved putting a load of different dishes on the table to pick at. Whether as lunch itself or simply a couple of things to whet the appetite before the main event.   You will find many such recipes on these pages Cheese Gougeres (November 2016), Moutabal (February 2017), Artichoke Crostini (March 2013), Grissini with Rosemary (May 2015) are a few.  More often than not the little plates I serve are vegetarian and it has often been a good way to entice my children to try something different.  Rather than being faced with an entire supper of something new and unfamiliar – this is an opportunity for them to try something whilst knowing there is a myriad of old favourites to tuck into at the same time.

I am a little ambivalent about feta.  If it is mild I am happy to tuck in, enjoying its salty edge.  Too strong or mature however and it ventures into that hirsute, goaty thing that I struggle with.  In this recipe use whichever type of feta you prefer – you can even find feta style cheese now that only contains cow’s milk.

This baked feta graced our table on Saturday evening amongst some other goodies.  I served it with homemade little tortilla chips (don’t panic the chips are homemade not the tortillas – find the recipe in Girls’ Night In, February 2014) and this was the first empty plate, it literally disappeared before my eyes. Warm, soft, salty with a bite from the chilli – this could be one of the most moreish things I have eaten.

Now this is a winning get out of jail free card if you need a last minute canapé or snack to go with drinks.  The warm soft feta has a completely different character to the cool white chunks more familiarly seen in Greek salads.  It takes on a delicate squidge that is enormously inviting and along with some chilli flakes and a sprinkling of herbs is the perfect mouthful to scoop onto a pita or tortilla chip. Packs of feta last for ages in the fridge and along with some hardy herbs you may have weathering the winter storms and chilli flakes in your cupboard you are all set.  Sometimes I add olives to the dish before baking, it depends whether I have any to hand and its very good either way.

Feta with Chilli and Herbs (or Olives)

The ingredients that follow are what I tend to have on hand and therefore what makes this a store cupboard saviour.  You can use chopped fresh chilli if you prefer and even pickled chillis for a different but very delicious vibe.

200g pack of feta

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes, depending on how hot you like

A couple of sprigs of fresh thyme

25g black or green olives, pitted (optional)

Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200.  Put the feta in a small ovenproof dish, sprinkle over the chilli and thyme, drizzle with oil and add the olives if you are using them.  Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until soft but not collapsing.  Serve with homemade pita chips, tortilla chips or whatever you like.

 

 

 

Olive, thyme and chilli soda bread

I made this recently to put out before lunch when friends came over and it was gone in minutes.  Served with a garlicky courgette dip it was just the ticket with some pre lunch drinks and kept the children more than happy.  As luck would have it this takes minutes to make and as such is something I regularly turn to.  Although I love making all kinds of bread and make a loaf of white or sourdough weekly, this is a great one to have up your sleeve when the clock is ticking and there is no time for proving and rising.

Whilst I might not have buttermilk in the fridge at all times, I always have yogurt to hand.  This, let down with a bit of milk, works a treat in place of buttermilk and means a loaf of this moreish bread is never more than about half an hour away.   My daughter adores olives and chilli so can polish off half of this loaf without thinking and it takes the sting out of the veggie soup or salad that often accompanies it.

Essentially a riff on my seedy soda bread, April 2013, I add some punchy flavours to this one.  The chilli is up to you but I think it works a treat with the olives and thyme.  There is a thyme plant outside the kitchen that manages to soldier on whatever the weather so along with some store cupboard olives this one is always a contender for lunch or supper.   Or serve as I did at the weekend with a dip, a herby labneh perhaps or hummus and you will have happy faces all round.

Olive, thyme and chilli soda bread

I make this with a mix of wholemeal and regular white flour but you can go with all white if you prefer or if that is what you have.  Buttermilk sometimes comes in 284ml tubs for some reason so just make this up to 300ml with milk.  If you are using yogurt, use 200ml and make it up to 300ml with milk.

150g wholemeal flour, plus a bit extra

150g plain flour

1 teaspoon fine salt

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

2 teaspoons soft brown sugar

300ml tub buttermilk (or yogurt, see introduction)

50g olives, I like a mix of green and black, chopped up a bit

1 teaspoon thyme, leaves only

1/2 teaspoon chilli (omit this if you like)

Preheat the oven to 200.  Put the flours, salt, bicarb, sugar, olives, thyme and chilli in a large bowl and mix.  Add the buttermilk and give it a good mix together.  Sprinkle some wholemeal flour on a baking sheet, make the dough into a ball, put on the tin, sprinkle a little more flour over and cut a cross in the top with a sharp knife.  Bake for 30-35 minutes until crusty, golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap the bottom.

 

 

Herby Ricotta with Pickled Cucumber

Herby Ricotta 1

Despite a few cool, misty mornings we have been enjoying a bit of an Indian Summer recently, my children were swimming in the sea three times last week (and even I joined them on one occasion…) and there are still shorts and summer dresses being sported in the playground.  We expect (and hope) July and August will be hot for the school holidays but September heralds a return to work so to have fabulous balmy weather always feels like a treat, a bonus, a little extra.

As such I like to eke out the summer feeling with barbeques and eating in the garden whenever possible.  If, however, you’ve had enough of those leafy green salads then try this for your lunch – smooth, creamy herb flecked ricotta which is unbelievably quick and easy to make (yes make yourself!) accompanied by sweet and sour crunchy cucumber.  The latter is a riff on my quick pickled onion and you could of course use that instead.

I like the ricotta spread on slices of baguette, topped with the tangy fresh cucumber slices, a little more substantial than lunches in the height of a hot summer but not yet a headlong dive into the autumnal soups yet to come.

Herby Ricotta 2

Herby Ricotta with Pickled Cucumber

You can use whichever soft herbs you like, I use parsley, chives and dill because that is a combination I love.  The dill along with the pickled cucumber give a bit of Scandanavian vibe and go together perfectly.   The ricotta would also be fabulous on little crispy toasts topped with chopped cucumber as a canapé and of course, prior to the herbing this ricotta is perfect for any other sweet or savoury recipe you have up your sleeve (so much better than supermarket ricotta and I struggle to find fresh around here).

300ml pot single cream (you can use double if that is what you have)

600ml whole milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

A handful of chopped herbs of your choice

Put the cream into a pan and fill the empty pot twice with milk and mix this into the cream along with the salt.  Bring to the boil and them remove from the heat and add the vinegar and give it a stir.  You will see the mixture separate, pour into a muslin lined colander and leave to drain for an hour or so until you have a crumbly creamy cheese.  Mix in the herbs and check the seasoning, you may need a little more salt and some pepper.  Heavenly.

Pickled Cucumber

Half a cucumber

1 tablespoon caster sugar

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Salt

Put the sugar and vinegar into a shallow bowl with a pinch of salt and leave to dissolve. Using a vegetable peeler, take long slices of cucumber avoiding the watery seeds in the middle and add to the bowl.  Leave for at least half an hour, stirring occasionally, for the cucumber to “pickle”.

This amount would serve two for lunch or more along side other dishes.

Roast Vegetables with Pomegranate Molasses

Roasted Veg Salad 3

I went into the larder yesterday and a pile of vegetables were gazing balefully at me.  I had bought them for the weekend but we had done other things and my menu plans had gone awry.  As I am going away I knew they needed to be eaten up, there is nothing worse than having to throw something away which was fine one minute and gone off the next.  So, courgettes, peppers, aubergine and onions all jostling for the top spot.  Aubergine curry, a provencal tian, soup – lots of things crossed my mind but it is hot and I wanted a salad.

I used to make a salad like this all the time in the 90’s – I can see myself now, in the kitchen of my flat, Oasis blaring and a vat of Bulgarian Cabernet Sauvignon on stand by.  It was great then and I’ve made derivations of it ever since but I wanted to jazz it up a bit.  I roasted all the vegetables and made a dressing with olive oil and pomegranate molasses.  The fruity tang was just the thing to bring this up to date, both sharp and fruity and along with some crushed garlic made the perfect dressing.  I’m not very keen on couscous, it always seems a bit pappy and, for me anyway, still has a whiff of school semolina about it.  Bulgar wheat however has bite and texture so that is what I used.  Piles of fresh herbs, the mint being one of the few things the fat slugs haven’t scoffed in the garden, and some rocket completed the picture.

If I’d planned this earlier I would have made some labne, strained Greek yogurt which I could have blobbed over the salad but some garlicky regular yogurt was an excellent alternative.  I had forgotten how much I adore this salad, roasted, sweet and slightly charred vegetables, the nutty bulghar, masses of verdant herbs and the lip smacking dressing.  This would go down a storm with barbecued meat or fish but is substantial enough to have for lunch on its own.  Truly a winner, I will be making this all summer and beyond.  Back in couple of weeks!

Roasted Veg Salad

Roasted Vegetables with Bulghar and Pomegranate Molasses

The following vegetables are what I had but use an equivalent amount of whatever you like.  Should I be overwhelmed with courgettes later in the summer (if the slugs don’t eat those too) I will make this with those and perhaps throw in some feta and chives.

2 red peppers

1 aubergine

2 courgettes

3 onions

Olive oil

1 bunch parsley, chopped

1 bunch mint, chopped

2 large handfuls rocket

100g bulghar wheat

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed

Half a lemon

Preheat the oven to 200.  Chop the vegetables into small and similar size pieces, turn in some olive oil, put onto baking sheets and cook for about 30 minutes turning occasionally until soft and just catching at the edges.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool.  Put the bulghar wheat into a bowl with a pinch of salt and cover with boiling water to about 1cm above, leave to soak for 15 minutes then drain.  Mix the garlic, oil, pomegranate molasses and some salt and pepper to taste.  In a large  bowl, toss the vegetables, bulghar, herbs, rocket and dressing, stir to combine and have taste, a squeeze of lemon will probably be all you need.  Serves 2 on its own or 4 as an accompaniment.

Roasted Veg Salad 2