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Piedmont Roasted Peppers

25 Sep

This recipe is just fantastic – it is so simple, healthy and delicious – I serve it as a starter quite often as it is light on the tummy,  or a lovely easy lunch during the week, where I make one whole pepper each and serve with a piece of crusty bread.  If I am dieting, I just go easy with the olive oil (a teaspoon will be fine).  The peppers here are fantastic, large and plentiful.

It is so easy to prepare and can just be popped in the oven an hour before you want to serve.

So, if you are making it as a starter you will only need one large red pepper between two – don’t try and make it with green peppers, they are much more bitter and it doesn’t work.

For 4 people as a starter

2 large crisp red peppers

3or 4 large ripe tomatoes

8 tinned anchovy fillets

Couple of cloves of garlic

Extra virgin olive oil

Black pepper

Small bunch of basil leaves

Pre heat your oven to gas 4, 180 c, 350 F

Cut the peppers in half, through the stalk and cut out the seeds.  Place in a roasting tin.

Skin the tomatoes by plunging them into boiling water and leave for 5 or so minutes.

Cut into quarter and stuff into the peppers.  Peel and slice the garlic and sprinkle over each pepper.  Snip a couple of anchovy fillets over and season with black pepper (no salt needed with the anchovies).  Put a good glug of oil over each pepper.

Put the roasting tin on a high shelf and roast for 50 or 60 minutes.

Serve straight from the oven with the juice spooned over with lots of crusty bread.

Pumpkin Pie

31 Aug

Yes, I know it is August but my cousin came down via some friends in France last week, bringing with her from them, of all things, but a pumpkin.  I adore pumpkin soup but this was a monster and I thought that I could make several recipes from it – I could have left it until Halloween but then it would not have be good to eat!  Anyhow, having never made a pumpkin pie in my life I thought it would be fun to try so when Halloween does come around, maybe you may like to have a go too.  It is dead easy and the result is a kind of unusual flavoured custard pie!  It is really good with vanilla ice cream and a dusting of cinnamon.

This is a BBC recipe by Antony Worrall Thompson

To begin, either make and bake blind a pastry case or just buy a sweet short crust case, 9 inches in diameter.  This enough for around 6-8 portions.

For the pumpkin filling

450 g prepared pumpkin flesh cut into small pieces

2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk

75 g soft dark brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

half level teaspoon each of grated nutmeg, allspice, ground cloves and ginger

275 ml double cream or evaporated milk.

To make

Pre heat oven to 180/350 gas 4

To make the filling, steam the pumpkin until very tender and then put into a food mixer.

Whisk the eggs and egg yolk together in a bowl

Place the sugar,spices and cream in a pan and bring to simmering point. Mix everything together and pour over the eggs and whisk again briefly.

Now add the pumpkin puree continuing to whisk

Pour into the pastry case and bake for 35-40 minutes – it will have puffed up by the end of cooking but still be a little wobbly – don’t be tempted to overcook as in the cooling and chilling process it will firm up but still be lovely and light.

Put the tin on a cooling rack and then transfer to the fridge for a few hours.  Serve with crème fraiche or vanilla ice cream with a dusting of icing sugar or cinnamon.

Chilled Spanish Gazpacho Soup

7 Jul

Where does the time go – it is a little while since I have blogged – but forgive me – I had a little holiday myself in the New Forest last week with some friends from Perth, Australia.  They have been here two years running and they invited us to join them at a beautiful cottage.  So now, back to the Cortijo for more visitors and lots more cooking!

It is sweltering and I was deciding on a starter for last nights guests and I thought “what could be better than Gazpacho”.  I adore it, and it never fails to amaze me how many people think they don’t like cold soup until they taste this.  Even better, if you are slimming and leave out the olive oil it contains NO calories at all!  It takes no cooking at all and no stock but you will need an electric blender – I don’t really see why you couldn’t use a juicer in place of the blender, and just crush in the garlic cloves afterwards.  You can make it the day before if you know you will be busy, or just literally make it in the late morning, chill it for an hour or so, and then serve with some ice cubes for a wonderful summer lunch.   For an extra kick for a dinner party put an egg cup full of vodka in at the end, though it really is not necessary, just fun!

You can also add a bit of Tabasco or chilli if you want to make it a little spicy.

For 4-6 people depending on portion size

700g very ripe tomatoes – just don’t bother with those horrible hard English salad tomatoes that they flog you in polystyrene packets – buy the best you can afford – vine ones would be truly gorgeous, but just good looking ripe ones will be fine.

10cm piece of cucumber, peeled and chopped

2 or 3 spring onions or you could even try red onion

2/3 cloves of garlic crushed

Half a red or green pepper

1 heaped tablespoon chopped fresh basil, marjoram or thyme – whatever you can get

4 tablespoons of olive oil (omit if you are watching you weight)

1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

275 ml still mineral water

Black pepper and sea salt

Nearly every recipe calls for you to skin the tomatoes – I never bother, it is too much trouble!  But if you can be bothered, then do so in boiling water for a few minutes and skin them.  Then roughly chop and place with the rest of the ingredients.  Blend in your machine until as smooth as possible (this is where skinning the tomatoes pays dividends but it will make absolutely no difference to the taste, only the consistency).  Then you can just stir in as much or little water as you like to thin it out, whatever you think but certainly no more than 275ml.

You can garnish with a little chopped onion, pepper, cucumber and hard boiled egg, all finely chopped.  Throw in a few croutons if you wish, but again, not really necessary.

Absolutely divine!

Roasted Red Onion Tart

14 Jun

Well, summer is definitely here – it is officially roasting and so any meals that I can prepare in the cool of the morning are great.  Of course, we will be doing mega barbeques on a regular basis, but sometimes, in the heat, even that feels like too much effort.

 

So, over a coffee I scour my magazines and recipe books (a regular request is for visitors to bring me a Sainsbury’s magazine!) for different things to make in advance.  This is one of Jamie Oliver’s and is just lovely with a big green salad and asparagus and you can start off by making the pastry case the day before to make it even more effortless.

 

For the Pastry

 

250 g plain flour

Half teaspoon of mustard powder

100 g cold butter cut up into cubes

1 large egg beaten

A sprig of rosemary or thyme

Splash of milk

Sea salt

 

For the filling

2 or three red onions

300 ml double cream

Olive oil

A few sprigs of time (or a pinch of dried)

3 large eggs

75 g Gruyere cheese

25 g pine nuts

50 g rindless goat’s cheese

 

For the pastry, put the flour, mustard, butter and a pinch of salt into a food processor and whiz up into breadcrumbs.  Add the egg, herb leaves and a little splash of milk and whiz again until combined.  Tip out and wrap in flour dusted cling film and put in the fridge for half an hour.

 

Pre-heat the oven to 190 c, fan 170, gas mark 5.

 

Roll out the pastry in a loose bottom flan tin 24 cm in diameter, 3 cm deep.

Prick all over, cover with clingfilm and put in the fridge or freezer for 30 mins.

You can leave it at that if you are cooking the next day or are pushed for time.

 

Cut up the onions into wedges, drizzle over with olive oil, a little sea salt and the thyme leaves.  Scrunch up a piece of baking parchment, run it under the tap to soak, straighten out and place over the onions.  This will stop your onions burning or colour too much.  Cook for 15 minutes.

 

Remove the pastry case from the oven, and line with a large piece of baking paper, fill with baking beans (or just dry ones) and bake for 10 minutes.  Then remove the paper and beans, reduce the oven to 180 c, 160 fan or gas 4.

 

Put the cream, eggs, gruyere and a pinch of salt and pepper in a boil and mix together.  Tip the onions into the pastry case and then pour over the cream mixture.  Scatter over the pine nuts and crumble over the goat’s cheese.  Toss a few thyme tips in olive oil and scatter over the tart.

 

Cook for 30-35 minutes or until just set (it will firm up even more when cooled, so don’t be tempted to overdo it!).  As said if you have a pasty case in the freezer it is a very simple and fairly quick supper, and will serve 6 at a push!  It definitely makes a change from meat or fish, and if there are only two or three of you, will stretch to lunch the following day – even better!

Lemon Meringue Pie Italian style

21 May

I don’t know where the time goes – I have been busy again this week with guests and as of yesterday morning, the place is eerily quiet – no baby Carmen to grin at me having her breakfast before I have even got up!  I would have been very happy for her to have been left behind.  We have got behind with other friends who live here too and so last night was our first get together in a while.  I always try to start making at least one dish the day before friends come to dinner – one always runs out of time otherwise, particularly after a busy period.

I don’t think I have ever met anyone who doesn’t like lemon meringue pie, and it has to be said, it is a tiny bit fiddly (because of the three components) but is made less so if you make at least the pastry case the day before.  If you have time, then also make the lemon part and then it really is a breeze to finish.  I normally make the crispy kind of meringue but thought for a change I would make the Italian which you can pipe onto the pie in peaks – it looks a bit more special (although maybe a bit like you might buy from a shop ironically!).  Anyhow this pie is sufficient for 8 decent slices and is really fun to make.

You will need a fluted flan tin with a loose bottom, slightly smaller than a large dinner plate.

Preheat the oven to 180/350/gas mark 4

For the pastry

225 g plain flour

pinch of salt

150 g butter cut into pieces

75 g of caster or icing sugar (I use icing in this one, it seems to make the pastry

crisper)

1 whole egg

1 egg yolk

Put the flour, salt and butter into your magimix and whiz up into breadcrumbs (I can’t do this by hand, my hands are too warm and so it is always a disaster)

Add the sugar and whiz again

Add the eggs and pulse until it leaves the bowl clean

Put in the fridge for at least an hour – I think the colder the better.

Lightly grease the tin, roll out the pastry (top tip, roll out between two pieces of clingfilm – it stops it cracking and splitting – also, I cut the pasty in half and roll in two pieces to make it more manageable for this type of pastry.  Then just join by gently pressing together with your fingers in the tin.  I leave the pasty overlapping the sides too to stop it shrinking – I have never been able to prevent this happening even if I put the pastry in the tin in the freezer!  So after it is cooked, I take a sharp knife and carefully cut off the excess.  Then put some baking parchment in your pie and cover with dried beans.

Bake for 15-20 mins – then I always remove the paper and beans, and pop back in for 5 or so minutes to cook the bottom a little more.

If you are making the day before, just wrap carefully in foil after cutting off the excess pastry.

For the lemon bit

175 ml water

140 g caster sugar (or I just use normal granulated as I always run out of caster, it makes not a lot of difference)

35 g cornflour

35 g butter

2 lemons, grate the rind and then juice them

3 egg yolks

Boil the water, lemon juice and zest and then add the butter and stir in.  Cream the eggs yolks, sugar and cornflour together.  Pour the lemon mix on the eggs and return to the pan and continue to cook gently on a low heat until thickened.  Spoon into the pastry case and leave to cool.

At this point pre heat the oven to 220/425/gas mark 7

Now you are going to make the meringue

350 g caster sugar (again I used granulated)

180 ml water

4 large egg whites or 5 normal

Whisk up the egg whites in a roomy bowl

Boil the water and sugar together to 129 degrees – yes I know, but if you don’t have a thermometer then just let it boil away for a couple of minutes after boiling point!

Turn on the whisk again, and pour on the boiling sugar, whisking all the time until thick and creamy – it does need to be reasonably firm, so if it isn’t just continue whisking for another couple of minutes – you will see it start to thicken up – it should be able to stand up on its own.  Don’t be tempted to leave it too soon or it will just be a big mess on the top of your pie!

Now if you have a piping bag you can have fun piping it on in spikes or if you simply can’t be bothered, just swirl it on with a spoon and spike it up a bit.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and cooked.  It will not be crispy, rather marshmallowy but is fun for a change and looks good too.

Non-scary Paella

30 Apr

It is a while since I have posted anything so for all of you who follow our blog, sorry but we were so busy over Easter with 11 guests here!  So it has taken a while to catch up.

One day last week, our friends Rob and Nevenka invited us over for Paella – I said to Rob that although I had made it before a few times, I always got into a bit of a tiz as obviously I am not used to cooking it very often and it does have quite a few ingredients.  Anyhow, Rob said I could watch him make his and that way I would see that it was not something to be frightened of and great fun to boot.   One of the great things about Paella is that is wonderful for a crowd and is made in one pan.  I was very happy to be going out and being cooked for – such a treat when I do so much of it here.  So here is Rob’s very non-scary version – I think what I took from him is that much of it is in the preparation, like many things in life, and if you take the time to get all of your ingredients ready, then it makes the cooking of it much more simple and takes all the stress out of it.   Rob was very relaxed and made it look so easy that I felt like I was on a cookery show!

For Rob’s meat paella, you will need:-

A very large frying pan, or preferably a paella pan

A gas hob (or some Spanish do cook it on the barbeque grill)

8 Chicken legs (drumsticks)

3 Chorizo sausages (the raw kind)

A good handful or two of pork ribs (easy to get here, but you may need to order them

From your butcher – they need to be in small bite-size pieces if possible)

Rabbit cut into small pieces – a good couple of handfuls (omit if this is not up your street – again you may have to order especially

16 large prawns with their shells – I am adding these because they look beautiful in a mixed paella or meat only as we are making here

An onion

A good few cloves of garlic

1 teaspoon of saffron

1 and a half cups of fat rice (Arborio)

4 cups of good fresh chicken stock

1 red and green pepper chopped into smallish pieces

So, put a little pork fat or sausage fat into your pan and heat through

Firstly cook the chorizo and then add the pork and brown.  You will have quite a bit of oil in the pan to cook the rest of the meat.  Remove chorizo and pork, and add the chicken.  Keep it on the move in order not to burn, you want colour but not char-grilled!  Then add the rabbit and brown too.  Remove onto a plate and add you’re chopped up peppers and onion and cover with a large lid or even a baking sheet to steam the peppers a little.  Then add the garlic and fry off too.  Rob has a good tip of cooking the garlic later otherwise it colours too much and disappears!  Then add your rice and stir in.    Keep stirring for a few minutes and then add the hot chicken stock and sprinkle in the saffron – exactly how much you use is up to you – we don’t like it too bright in colour or too strong in taste so easy does it – you can always add more.  Then put all the meat back and gently cook until the rice has absorbed nearly all the liquid, stirring from time to time.  Continue to cook until the rice is ready – you can add some peas if you wish, they look lovely but just add at the last minute so they keep their beautiful green colour.  Baby broad beans work fantastically too.  And there you have an entire meal for a large family or friends all in one pan.  Put the whole thing on the table and serve with absolutely nothing else other than some lemon wedges – you won’t need it!

Californian Grilled Fish with Coriander and Lime Tartare sauce

7 Apr

This recipe is really lovely and even people who claim not to be too keen on fish seem to love it – you can use any type of white fish – I like to use hake as it is plentiful here and what I would call unfishy in taste.  It is from my Delia Smith summer collection.

When I cooked it for my friend Annie Hibbert, she said ‘this is River Café standard, only it hasn’t cost me 50 quid!’.  So thank you Delia and Annie!

 

The recipe is in two parts – I make the mayonnaise first and forget about it until later otherwise it is all a bit last minute preparation for my taste – I like to be organised and not have too much to do at the end – that way you don’t get flustered when cooking for 6 or 8 people.

 

Anyhow, first the mayonnaise.  You do need a food processor for this – I can’t see how else you can do it , but if pushed you could use Hellmann’s and then add the rest of the ingredients to it – it would still work (obviously leave out the egg and the oil!).

 

 

1 large egg

6 fl oz of light olive oil

1 small clove garlic, peeled

1 dessertspoon fresh lime juice

1 heaped tablespoon small capers, drained

3 or 4 small gherkins chopped

1 tablespoon fresh coriander

Half teaspoon mustard powder

Half teaspoon salt

Black pepper

 

Break the egg into the bowl of the processor and add the salt, pepper, garlic and mustard.  Switch on the machine and through the top very slowly pour the oil – it must be a slow steady trickle.  Once the oil is all in, you will get a mayonnaise type sauce – add the rest of the ingredients and check the seasoning.  Put in a jar in the fridge till you are ready (you probably won’t use it all up in this dish, so make a Caesar salad the next day as I am doing today).  It will keep for a week anyway.

 

For the Fish

 

Two or more fillets – actually if you double the quantities, it will be sufficient topping for 6 fillets).

Two tablespoons of your mayonnaise as above

Grated zest of a lime

3 tablespoons of grated cheddar cheese

Two tablespoons of white or brown breadcrumbs

1 dessertspoon chopped coriander

Pinch of cayenne pepper – don’t go too mad or it will mask all the other flavours

Butter

Salt and pepper

 

Line a baking tray with foil and butter it.

 

Pre-heat the grill to its highest setting

 

Once you are ready to prepare your fish, (and I recommend you buy fillets ready done so it is dead simple once you come to make the dish) dry off the fillets (you can make as many as you like – this recipe is for two/three people).

 

Spread the fillets with the mayonnaise

Mix all your ingredients together apart from the butter and then sprinkle all over the fish – the mayonnaise will hold it on – don’t worry if some of it falls off, it does not need to be perfect! Dot each one with a little butter.  Now place on the bottom of your oven, as far away from the grill as possible for 10 minutes or so, or until the breadcrumbs are golden.  Do keep an eye on it though, and if your grill is separate from your oven, it will need only 5 or 6 minutes at a slightly lower setting.  You can serve this with pretty much anything – vegetables or a green salad, new potatoes or little sautéed ones.

 

 

 

 

Dinner for when yours is in the dog!

21 Mar

One day last week, when I knew that I had a busy day ahead, I went to the freezer to pick something out for dinner that was all ready to go.  I had some lovely homemade barbeque ribs so decided on them and then all I had to do was make a salad and put a couple of jacket potatoes in the oven, leaving me free most of the day to get things done.  However, when I returned later that day, our supper had vanished from the table – this has never happened before but obviously I knew who the culprit(s) were!  And there they were in the courtyard enjoying the bones immensely.  I guess the smell was too good and Kevin, the Pointer, had managed to move the kitchen chair out of the way and steal the foil container.  Digby was also joining in when I arrived.  Great.

 

I had a look in the fridge to see what I could come up with without having to spend much time cooking, and then had a look in my Bill Granger ‘Holiday’ cook book.  He is fantastic for the most delicious and often simple food, and it always tastes so fresh and healthy even if it isn’t!  Anyway, this is what I came up with – I had everything at home apart from an avocado and cooked chicken (as this recipe was really for when you had leftovers from a roast chicken the day before).  Anyway, I decided that it looked gorgeous and popped out and bought a cooked chicken and the avocado.

 

It’s worth making sure you have all the other things in your fridge/larder for the next time you want to have a go at this.  If you are making it for children, just omit the chillies.

 

Chorizo with shredded chicken tortillas – this is enough for 4

 

A slug of olive oil

2 chorizo sausages (not the dried kind, but the ones you might barbeque –

take the skins off and roughly chop

1 onion chopped

Quarter of a Savoy cabbage finely shredded

2 garlic cloves

3 red chillies seeded and chopped

5 tomatoes chopped

2 cups of cooked shredded chicken

4 fl oz chicken stock

Salt and pepper

 

To Serve

Flour tortillas

2 Avocadoes Diced

2 tablespoons of coriander

2 tablespoons lime juice

Grilled tomato and chilli Salsa

 

heat the olive oil in a large pan and add the chorizo and cook for a few minutes.  Add the onion and continue to cook for a further 4 or 5 minutes.  Then add the cabbage, minced garlic and chilli and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, and then simmer gently for 10 minutes.  Add the cooked chicken and the stock and simmer until most of the liquid has disappeared. Season with pepper and a little salt.  Warm the tortillas in a clean frying pan for about a minute or so flipping half way.  Put the chicken and chorizo onto half of the tortilla and fold over.   Mix together the avocado, coriander and lime juice and spoon over.  Serve with the tomato and chilli salsa. see below.

 

Grilled tomato and chilli salsa

 

3 large ripe tomatoes

2 large green chillies

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons olive oil

half teaspoon of caster sugar

 

Pre heat your grill and put the tomatoes and chillies on a baking tray and grill, turning once until they are a bit charred. When cool peel the skins off and roughly chop. Chop the chillies and stir together with the garlic and olive oil and then season with salt, pepper and the sugar and put in a serving dish for everyone to help themselves.

This is just so delicious and will only take around 30 minutes to make.  I will definitely serve it to a large crowd and let everyone make up their own tortillas.  To make more of a meal serve with a salad too.

 

 

 

 

Easy Sunday Lunch – Part 2. Nigel Slater’s Chocolate Cake

17 Mar

This is the dessert bit of my easy Sunday lunch – actually it is reasonably fiddly but only because of the whisking up of egg whites part!  The reason I like it is because in my opinion chocolate cake only improves with age (within reason!) and so make it the day before and then you can forget all about it until you serve it.  I seem to be attracted to cake recipes that contain ground almonds lately and this one also has them, so just be careful of people with nut allergies!   Nigel grinds his own but we can buy them here very easily so I don’t feel the need to.  Also, don’t overcook the cake if you think it is too wobbly – l didn’t trust my instincts and mine, though yummy, was a tiny bit too firm – it should be slightly squidgy in the centre.   Anyhow, there were no complaints.

You can serve this however you like – I had some homemade strawberry and raspberry sorbet in the freezer and so served a little of that, a few strawberries (raspberries are better but I couldn’t be bothered to drive for 25 minutes on Saturday to get them!) and a splash of pouring cream.  Frankly just some whipped cream would have done the job.

You will need a spring form cake tin, 23cms in diameter, lightly buttered and lined with baking parchment

200g Fine dark chocolate, 70% of course!

200g Butter

A small hot espresso or strong filter coffee

80g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 level tbsps of good quality cocoa powder, not drinking chocolate!

5 eggs

200g golden unrefined caster sugar – I’m afraid I didn’t have any so just used normal sugar, shame on me!

Pre heat the oven to 180c/gas mark 4

Break up the chocolate and melt in a bowl resting over saucepan of simmering water.  When it starts to melt, pour over the coffee.  Cut up the butter in small pieces and drop it into the chocolate and coffee.  Do not stir it, but just leave it gently heating.  Sieve the flour, baking powder and cocoa together.  Separate the eggs, and whisk the whites in a bowl until they are stiff, then fold in the sugar with a large metal spoon.  Remove the chocolate from the heat and stir to dissolve the last of the butter.  Mix the egg yolks together then stir quickly into the chocolate.  Fold firmly but gently into the egg whites and sugar.  Lightly fold in the flour and cocoa and then the ground almonds.  Just keep cutting and folding until everything is incorporated without knocking the guts out of it. Put the mixture into the cake tin and cook just above the centre of the oven for 25-30 minutes – test the middle with a cocktail stick or a small skewer – it should come out just clean.  As said, don’t over cook, leave to cool a little before taking out of the tin.  Rather than spoil the top, I quite often just put the tin bottom onto the serving platter, but you can flip over if you like and remove the bottom, plus the baking parchment.  Dust with cocoa powder and voila, pud is done.

Easy Sunday Lunch – Part 1. Picantones (Spring Chicken) with Dauphinoise Lite

14 Mar

What a week of weather we have had – rain, rain and more rain – of course it is a gift but we are not used to it so we are all moaning away – it gets us every year too!  One day you are having to move under the tree in our courtyard because it is too hot (as in two weeks ago) and the next you are rally driving through the mud up our track!  Anyhow, the thing that never fails to cheer me up is getting stuck into a big cook up for friends.  We were out to lunch last Wednesday at our friends Graham and David having a magnificent lunch – they had just come back from Istanbul and so were making a Turkish banquet – and I mean banquet – it was sensational.  Anyhow, because I knew the forecast was still a bit miserable for the end of the week, I invited them to ours for a warming traditional English roast lunch – the thought of lamb or chicken sizzling away in the oven with mountains of roast potatoes is real food for the soul.  They had another friend coming so I said just bring them too. Another friend from England, Ilse, was staying with us as she is over checking repairs to her cave house which had suffered a little with the inclement weather, so we were going to be a nice little group.

As it turned out, Sunday dawned bright and sunny – and hot!  So I changed my menu slightly and laid up the table outside instead.  This meant saving loads of time lighting wood fires to warm everyone up and instead I flung open all the doors to let the day into the house.  Originally there were to be eight of us, which is the amount that I am most happy to cook for without stressing too much – any more and it is a barbeque, a curry or something that requires no last minute faffing.  Well, there were to be only six but the lunch I made you could actually easily do for 10 without any fuss, even if you are not comfortable cooking for a crowd.  In Spain, we easily get lovely little Picantones – Spring baby chickens – I love them, not just for the taste, but because you have one each and so there is no carving involved at the end and therefore everything can be served very easily, and more to the point, hot!  The recipe I use for this is actually from a tapas book by Penelope Casas where she uses Quail.  But because this is a main course, one would have to have at least two Quail and delicious though they are, they are too fiddly for what I want today.  If you can’t buy baby chickens, then just use one or two beautiful free range hens and joint them before cooking to achieve the no hassle serving.  One very large hen will do for six, but for eight buy two and have some leftovers for the next day.

You need to start the recipe the night before.

6 baby chickens or one large hen jointed (your butcher will do it for you if you ask)

20 cloves of garlic peeled and minced

1 or 2 onions – if they are very large, one will do – cut into chunks

A slosh of stock, I used a bit of chicken stock that I already had but frankly a bit of a vegetable stock cube is fine – use about half a cup full of liquid

A slosh of white wine

A good slug of olive oil

2 or 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar

Salt and Pepper

Put everything into a food processor and whiz it all up until you have a paste – if you don’t have a food processor, just chop the onions as finely as you possible can, and mix everything together in a bowl.  Put the chickens or jointed chicken pieces into your roasting tray and cover with the marinade.  Turn all the pieces so they are coated, cover with foil and put in the fridge overnight.

These will take about an hour and hour in a fan oven – start off at 200 c, gas mark 6, and then lower after 20 minutes to 190, gas mark 5.  Cook skin side down for the first 30 minutes and then turn over and baste once or twice throughout the cooking time.  If you like you can remove from the oven, cover and then reheat at 190 for ten minutes when you are ready to serve.

Yesterday I served these with a lovely green salad and a pan of potatoes that I had sliced with a mandolin and layered up with onions and sage, a little olive oil over each layer and a cup of stock, salt and pepper and just put them in with the chicken on a lowish shelf, then turned up the heat to crisp the top layer.  They are utterly delicious and much healthier than Dauphinoise!  I also baked some onions, having simmered them whole for 20 mins, popped them cut in half in a baking tray with a good cup of double cream and sprinkled with parmesan cheese.  Then they sat alongside the potatoes for about 25 minutes. Then instead of stuffing I wrapped spicy sausages in bacon and oven baked for 30 mins and served with the chicken platter.   I didn’t put any of the food onto posh serving dishes, just put them out as they were for everyone to help themselves.  I promise this is so much easier than trying to keep a traditional roast lunch hot and is really every bit as good.  The fact you can prep everything in advance just means you are free to be with your friends for most of the time instead of in the kitchen.