Weeks of suppressed cooking urges due to study and life commitments erupted into a frying, caramelising, roasting, sauteing, wine-drinking frenzy last Friday night.
Chicken with almond and grape
Jewelled pumpkin rice (minus the pumpkin)
Tunisian tomato and pepper salad (which, alas, remained forgotten in the fridge while we ate dinner)
Roast pumpkin spinach salad
Chicken with almond & grapes
100g ground almonds
4 tsp sherry vinegar (we used red wine vinegar)
4 tblsp olive oil
8 garlic cloves, skins on
1 organic or free-range chicken, jointed into 8 pieces
2 fresh bay leaves
40 seedless white grapes (we used 20 large cut into halves)
2 fresh bay leaves (we used whole dried)
100mL light white wine
Combine almonds, vinegar and 250mL water in a bowl and mix with a whisk until smooth.
Place a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the olive oil. When it is hot but not smoking, add the garlic cloves and fry for 3 minutes on either side, until slightly golden. Remove the garlic and set aside. Now season the chicken with salt, put it in the pan skin-ide down and increase the heat slightly. Fry for about 5-10minutes, until the skin has a good golden colour and is fairly crisp. Turn the chicken pieces and cook for another 5-10 minutes, until golden on the other side. Return the garlic to the pan with the bay leaves and grapes and fry for half a minute, shaking the pan to emulsify the sauce. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5-10 minutes, taking out any breast meat if it is cooked and putting it to one side. After another5 minutes or so, when the brown meat is tender, stir in the almond puree. Return any breast meat to the pan and simmer for a couple of minutes more, gradually adding the remaining 150mL of water as required by the thickening sauce – the consistency should be no thicker than double cream. Leave to rest for a moment, then taste for seasoning.
This was a total hit on the night and at a picnic a couple of days later. The crispy caramelised onion adds a whole other dimension
75g unsalted butter
6cm piece cinnamon stick
4 allspice berries, crushed (we used 1 tsp ground allspice)
1 large or 2 medium onions, thinly sliced across the grain
15g dried barberries or currents (we used currents)
50g shelled unsalted pistachios
300g basmati rice, soaked in tepid water for 1 hour
450mL vegetable stock
a big pinch (about 50 strands) of saffron
1 quantity Crispy Caramelised Onions, to serve (optional) (we opted in)
Combine saffron in a small dish with 25g melted butter.
Heat 50g of the butter in a medium saucepan with the cinnamon and allspice until if foams, then add the onion and the remaining 1/2 tsp of salt. Fry over a medium heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onion is soft and starting to colour. Add the barberries or currents, pistachios, rice and stock. Bring to boil, then cover and turn heat to low. Cook for 15 minutes, then remove from heat let stand for another 5 minutes (do not remove lid!). Stir through the saffrony butter and serve topped with crispy caramelised onions.
Crispy Caramelised Onions
1 very large Spanish onion
vegetable oil for frying
First prepare the onions. Careful slicing is crucial for beautifully crispy, evenly caramelised onions, so first halve and peel the onion, then slice it across the grain as consistently thinly as possible. Heat 8-10mm depth of vegetable oil in a wide saucepan over a high heat. When it is hot but not smoking, add 1cm layer of the saved onions and reduce the heat to medium. Fry, stirring often, until they are an even golden in colour (they will get a little darker after after you take them out of the pan). Drain and spread out on kitchen paper to cool, then repeat the process (you may need to top up the oil) until you have used all the onions.
Tunisian pepper & tomato salad
Forgotten on the night (keeping cool in the fridge), this salad was happily discovered the next morning and eaten for breakfast with eggs and toast
1 large red pepper
1 large yellow pepper
1 large red chilli
300g cherry tomatoes
1 small bunch (about 20g) of coriander, leaves picked
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
1/2 tsp unsmoked paprika
1/2 tsp ground cumin
3 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp red wine vinegar
Place the red, yellow and chilli peppers whole over a hot barbecue, or directly on the naked flame of a has hob or under the grill (we used the grill option), until the skin is charred all over and the flesh is very soft. Put the blackened peppers into a plastic bag or a bowl covered with cling film to steam and loosen their skin. When cool enough to handle, peel and seed them. Tear the sweet peppers into strips (love this step), and chop the chilli finely.
In a large bowl, stir together the spices with the oil and vinegar to make the dressing, then season with salt and pepper. Add the peppers, tomatoes and coriander to the bowl and toss, then taste for seasoning.