Sunday, 24 June 2012

Putting 'Possibly the Best Chicken Recipe' to the test: Tarragon Chicken

Oooh lala!
Having woken from my second snooze on the 15 minute train journey home, I opened my Metro to the foody bit (the only bit I like after 'Guilty Pleasures') and was faced with a recipe claiming to be 'possibly the best chicken recipe in the world'. Wow, what a claim. Call me fickle but I was sold. I also liked the fancy French name: Poulet A L'Estragon. The fact that I cook tarragon chicken all the time didn't matter. This was different. French. Posher. And more importantly it was simple, looked delicious and I had chicken legs, tarragon, creme fraiche and white wine at home. No post-work trip to the supermarket for me. Smug. I changed the method a bit just for ease.

Feeds 4. Pre-heat the oven to 180c. In a big oven proof proof casserole dish, brown 4 chicken legs really well in some olive oil, get them nice and golden. Throw in a very large glass of white wine, and treat yourself to a slurp, Floyd stylee. Add 5 sprigs of tarragon. Stir well to mix the wine with the juices and move to the oven for half an hour, uncovered. Now remove the chicken to a plate and keep warm (I find that if you cover with foil the skin can lose it's crispness, so just put it in the oven which is now turned off). Get the pan on the hob and bubble up the juices, stir in 3tbsp creme fraiche and stir to melt it all in, along with another 5 sprigs of tarragon. Serve the chicken with the sauce on top. If entertaining, you can make it pretty by getting a big shallow platter, throw in some boiled new potatoes, arrange the chicken legs on top and pour the sauce over everything. It drips down over the potatoes, covering them in delicious creamy winey goodness.

Enjoy with friends, plenty of wine, and make the most of the final few weeks of not having neighbours. A little Edith Piath might have suited the dinner, but instead we had Cyprus Hill and Aphex Twin. Tres bien.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Tortilla - A delicious way to use up eggs and spuds

Who doesn't have eggs and potatoes rolling around their fridge most of the time? Spanish Tortilla makes a great lunch/tapa/something Spanish to bring to a Eurovision party. WHAT? Don't judge me. And it's cheap, which is always good. You can also use up any bits and pieces you have hiding in the fridge, chorizo, apsparagus, courgette, peppers, feta cheese, I could go on...

Feeds 8 as a nibbly type thing and 4 as a decent lunch with some salad. Peel and slice (£1 coin thickness) 3 large potatoes and 3 white onions. Take a large non-stick frying pan and gently fry them, in a very generous glug of olive oil for as long as it takes for the onions to soften and the potato to lose it's crunch, but not soft and broken up. If you're adding any extra veg (I added a handful of slice asparagus spears) do it near the end of this cooking period. In a large bowl, beat 5 eggs and season really well. Now add the contents of the frying pan to the eggs using a slotted spoon to avoid excess oil going in. Combine well, but gently. Get the frying pan back on the heat and pour it all back in, wiggling the pan a bit for the first minute to distribute evenly. let this cook for about 7 minutes, being careful not to burn the base (keep sniffing, you'll smell it if it burns!). When it is starting to firm up nicely, you need to cook the top. You can either be brave and cover the pan with a large plate/chopping board, flip it over and very carefully slide back into the pan, or you can be a wuss like I normally am and stick it under the grill for 5 minutes. I am scarred by previous attempts using a very non-non-stick pan. Potatoes, eggs and onions everywhere. Waaaah. 

The only rule is that you should have hot sauce with this, it's just soooo good. Um, that's my rule, not Spain's, just so you know. Other than that, cut into wedges, or if you want to be fancy pants traditional, little diamond shapes. 

Friday, 1 June 2012

Spring Lamb Stew (Stews aren't just for winter)

AND you get 3 of your five a day...
Don't be put off by the word stew in the title. This is the most heavenly light concoction imaginable, yes it's a stew and yes there is red meat but this is super light and flavoursome, with a sort of herby broth that the lamb sits in, with it's pea and asparagus friends bringing the humble stew out of it's heavy comfort zone and into one of refreshment and delicate flavour. The lamb provides so much flavour and the freshness of the lemon zest and tarragon really let it sing.

Feeds four. In a casserole dish, brown 500g of diced lamb in a splash of olive oil (neck is good for this). Remove and set aside. Now gently fry a large sliced onion and a couple of peeled and diced carrots until slightly softened. Add a glass of white wine (one for the stew, one for chef) and let it reduce down to half. Tie together five sprigs of thyme, a small handful of parsley stalks (you use the leaves later) and two bay leaves and add to pan. I didn't have any string so just bunged it all in. Return the meat and any juices to the pan, season really well and add enough water to nearly cover the meat. Cover and simmer gently for about an hour. At this point check the meat, it needs to be really soft and tender, if not it needs longer, and if it's drying out a bit just add more water. When the meat is 10 minutes off being perfect throw in a big handful of peas, frozen or fresh. 5 minutes later add a big bunch of asparagus, woody ends snapped off and cut diagonally into little pieces. Stir well and give it a final 5 minutes. Chop up the parsley leaves from earlier,  a handful of fresh tarragon, two fat garlic cloves and zest of one lemon. Add half of this to the pan, stir well, serve up, and sprinkle the rest over the bowls to serve. Great with cous cous (none of the lovely juices are wasted) but potatoes, gnocchi, anything would be good.

Eat while watching the rain come down and lament our interesting weather. At least you can eat like it's summer.