Category Archives: winter

Chicken lemon in tagine dish

Tagines make ideal winter dishes

Tagines make ideal winter dishes

As a child, I used to spend most of my Christmas holidays in Morrocco where my maternal grend-parents used to live. So Christmas is not necessarily associated for me with snow or Fir trees but more often with donkey rides in the garden, fish for supper and an exotic, tenderly arranged nativity scene or crèche in the ‘salon’ where my parents and grand-parents would take us to on Christmas morning. Tagines were served to us as a warming winter dish and they are the perfect antidote to cold and dark winter evenings. With warming spices to suffuse the soul and limbs, they  also represent the easy option of a perfect one-pot no-fuss meal.

Chicken lemon in tagine dish – Serves 2 to 3

Ingredients list:

For the marinade:

  • 1 frozen chopped chilli cube or two pea-size drops of Harissa paste
  • 200 ml water
  • 70 ml olive oil
  • Salt
  • Ras el hanout or M’rouzia mix, 1 Tbsp
  • Cumin 1 Tbsp
  • Ground Coriander 1 tsp
  • Pinch of safran
  • Fresh coriander
  • Fresh parsley

For the stew:

  • Cubed skinless chicken breast with wing bone (2/3 breasts) or oyster thighs -ask a good butcher!
  • 1 large red onion cubed
  • 2 / 3 lemons in brine quartered
  • Zest of half a fresh lemon
  • 2 big handful of garden peas, fresh or frozen

Note that a few quartered potatoes can be included as an option, as in the image above –  I tend to give those a miss if I am trying to recover from excessive festive indulgence… Check the water if you have added potatoes and add if necessary towards the end.

Lay all the meat and put the vegetables in the dish, then mix the marinade in a small jug and pour on top of the dish. Cover and cook on medium to low heat for 45 min. Do not open the dish too often, if ever. Chuck the peas towards the end. Serve with a sprinkle of fresh parsley.

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All the world’s spice under a tent

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Tagine of chicken with pomegranate and prunes

For this I advise you to use a proper pointy tagine dish but a heavy pan with lid will do if you can not have the real thing. The pointy shape of the dish does concentrate flavours wonderfully and makes a great centrepiece on the dinner table. Do not forget to soak the unglazed underside of the tagine prior to using it to avoid cracking in the feat. I use a heat diffuseur as well over the hob.

A moroccan tagine

A moroccan tagine

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Ingredients list:

  • Onion,1
  • M’rouzia (or Ras El Hanout), 1 tbsp
  • Chicken stock, 1 large glass
  • Passata, 100m
  • salt
  • Olive oil
  • Pomegranate syrup, 2 Tbsp
  • Diced chicken, 1 with bones and skin
  • Celery heart,1 diced
  • Carrots, 3 or 4
  • Prunes, one handful
  • Roasted almonds, one handful
  • Parsley and coriander to serve.

Fry the chicken in a pan with a little olive oil and turn each morsel a few times for about 15 minutes. Toss the M’rouzia mix over and roll the chicken in the spices until coated, add some salt, then reserve.

Lay the sliced onion at the bottom of the dish, place the chicken bits over. Cut up the celery heart and the carrots lengthwise and pile on.

Drain the chicken juice from the frying pan into a jug, add the passata, some more spice mix (M’rouzia is a current favourite but Ras el Hanout is good too). Then blend in some pomegranate syrup or grape molasses – in sale from any good middle-eastern grocer.  You should have about 250ml of liquid. Add a bit of water if you need too, then pour it all over the meat and vegetables.

Cover and cook on low heat for 45 min to 1 hour. Add the prunes at the end and give a little more heat for 5 minutes. Check the liquid level: the juice must be thick and reduced but still there to give moisture to the dish.

To serve, sprinkle with chopped parsley and coriander, a small amount of roasted almonds and 3 tbsp of fresh pomegranate seeds. The mixed fruity and nutty flavours are great against the saltiness of the meat!

You can serve it on it own or with steamed bulgur wheat. I love bulgur and it loves me back: it is impossible to fail and I really like its rough nuttiness better sometime than a silky couscous.

Creole Bread and Butter pudding with rum sauce

This very decadent and irresistible recipe was given to me by my friend Marie-Lorraine who herself got it from a friend: the sort of word-of-mouth recipe that makes you salivate as soon as you hear about it… It is thought to have originated in New-Orleans but there are enough similar recipes in the UK for it to earn its place on this blog.

I used the stale brioche made the week before, which was lucky timing, but you can use any stale sandwich bread or a bought brioche. The trick is to cover the slices with the liquid and let it steep for a while- which I sadly did not have time to do!

Comfort food at its best...

Comfort food at its best…

Ingredients list:

  • Eggs,2
  • Caster sugar, 150g
  • Whipping cream, 230ml
  • Full fat milk, 700ml
  • Butter, 100g
  • Vanilla extract, 1 drop
  • Bitter almond extract, 1 drop
  • Currants raisins, ½ cup or small handful
  • Nutmeg, 1 tsp
  • Stale white bread or brioche, 225g or about

First weigh the bread and cut it up in thick slices.

In a bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, milk, cream, butter, vanilla and almond extract, currants and nutmeg. Whisk to blend well.

Stuff the slices into the bowl and let them steep in ideally for 30 minutes or more. Or you can also just dip each slice into the bowl, then arrange them snuggly and pour the rest over. Once you have arranged your slices  in a buttered dish, such as a rectangular pyrex or gratin dish, add more milk if necessary to cover it well and press down with a fork to absorb most of the liquid.

They should all fit tightly and without leaving any space.

Reserve in the fridge for a few hours or a night.

Put the dish in a hot oven at 160º C.

Bake until the top is golden so about 30/40 minutes. Let too cool down then dust some icing sugar on top before serving. Given the sugar content, this is obviously optional but looks good!

Prepare the sauce.

Ingredients list for the sauce:

  • Sugar, 200g
  • Butter, 60g
  • Whipping cream or creme fraiche, 45ml
  • Egg yolk, 1
  • Rum (or brandy) 60ml

In a thick bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, cream and place over the hob to bubble until it is all melted. Remove from the hob. Whisk the yolk and add it to the mix. Stir in your favourite rum!

Serve the bread and butter pudding warm in shallow cups or bowls with a side helping of the sauce. It is a cross between French toast and a spoon cake: moist and regressive… Enjoy, it’s winter…IMG_5346

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Lemon and almond pudding

One of the pleasures of the cold season is the beautiful citrus fruit that we can look forward to! The lemons, oranges and mandarines that our body craves in the winter cold; but also the more exotic bergamot, lime or grapefruit… I am just back from Morocco where citrus groves adorn the immaculate parks and roads of Marrakech. I have brought back many scents and spices in my luggage but before I lay it all out on here, I give you a lemon infused pudding that should warm your soul with the fragrances of sun-scorched bazars and lemon scented gardens. Morocco is an assault on all of our senses, but the sense of smell is the most abused and ravished of all… Anything else seems bland and monochrome for a while afterwards…

Rioting colours in a dish

Rioting colours in a pottery dish

Ingredients list:

  • Lemons, thin skinned and unwaxed, 4
  • Sugar, 175g
  • Eggs, 4
  • Ground almonds, 175g
  • Bicarbonate of soda, 1/4 tsp

Top and tail the lemons and rinse them under hot water.

Put them whole into a large pan with 600ml of water and cook on a slow boil for 1 hour. Making sure there is always enough water: you should end up with about 300ml of liquid – add some if you do not!

Open the lemons and take out the pips.

Put it all through a blender with the cooked juice and make up a thin semolina-like, quite soupy mixture. I sometimes put this through a fine sieve if it looks to rough or if there are impurities.

Mix the sugar and the eggs and beat on high speed until creamy.

Add the ground almond and the bicarbonate. Add the lemon purée.

Set into 6 to 8 small “dariole” moulds or one shallow tin.

Bake in the oven at 180º for 30 to 35 minutes and serve at room temperature, inside the pans.

It will raise a little and produce an intensely lemony creamy pudding. You can also try this with clementines or thin-skinned oranges.

Serve a warm, sweet mint tea with this to transport you right back in Marrakech…

Intense lemon

Intense lemon

WHAT TO DO IN MARRAKECH:

Go and spend a night in the desert and experience the beautiful skies of Africa at La Pause,30 km out of Marrakech,just before the village of Agafay. Have a memorable beef “tagine”, under a low hanging Touareg tent, served by candlelight.

Dine with a view over the lit Koutoubia tower in the Café Arabe, near the Mouassine Mosk in the medina.

Go for a drink at the Mamounia hotel and have a stroll in the beautiful gardens of Churchill’s favourite hotel.

Visit the delightful Musée de la Palmeraie, route de Fés, and explore the Andalous garden, the cacti garden and the water garden with its little hut in pisé (a traditional mud and grass building), then admire the contemporary art in the galleries that lead from one part to another. This museum is a little out of the beaten track but worth the visit for its soothing calm and the absence of tourists… 

The cacti garden in Musee de la Palmeraie

The cacti garden in Musee de la Palmeraie

Lunch above the shops after browsing the souks by climbing to La Terrasse des Epices. Mist is sprayed around the arab-style shaded eating areas and the cool bar has a view over the old markets. Later get tempted by the beautiful craft sold all around the maze-shaped alleys. Everything looked tantalising to me…

 

Curried parsnip soup with sweet peppers and paprika

A nice soup to warm you up, body and soul!

Parsnip (or “panais” in French) may not be yet on your “favourites” shopping list but it has the advantage of being plentiful and cheap at this time of year. The British here use it cut as long chips and roasted with olive oil and thyme, but  only recently I have enjoyed it in a very typical soup paired with Curry.

A bit of Britain and a bit of India in an unlikely butIMG_3322 winning combination…

Curried parsnips soup

  •         300g parsnips
  •          2 medium onions
  •          2 to 3 cloves garlic
  •          25g butter
  •          1 tablespoon curry powder
  •          1/2 chopped fresh red chilli
  •          Sweet paprika to taste
  •          1.2L chicken or vegetable stock
  •          150g potatoes
  •           1 tablespoon creamed coconut
  •           Olive oil
  •           Diced red pepper to decorate

Fry the chopped onions with a little oil and add the garlic cloves and butter.

Peel and cut the parsnips and potatoes in chunks of similar size so they cook more or less at the same speed.
Add the stock and the seasoning and boil for 20 minutes on low heat – which is achievable once you have got it to a rolling boil on high heat.

Blend all the ingredients, once cooked through, and add the creamed coconut just before serving. Blend some more until the soup is very fine and creamy.

Decorate with chopped red peppers and smoked paprika in the plates.

This is a lovely way to enjoy a not much loved winter vegetable! The sweet taste of the parsnip makes a very comforting and warming dish, especially with the addition of the spices. I think that the association with the curry and paprika is proper genius! As for the coconut cream (or milk), I already knew that it goes perfectly with all sorts of winter delights: pumpkins, squashes, sweet potatoes AND now parsnips!

Do try it as well with sweet potatoes in a very energizing soup on this blog.

Have a bowlful  and  you are ready to brave the cold outside your front door: Snow is predicted for the week-end!