In Spring, I like fresher and lighter meals but sometimes I still want these to have a wholesome, restorative content. This is a both a fragranced and subtle dish, perfect for springtime, but with lots of tasty and meaty juices. Use a crisp dry wine wine – something full of flowers like a Sancerre or a Gaillac would work a dream but a dry Moravian Riesling such as ones we tasted in Prague a couple of weeks ago would have also been perfect. Of course,the winter version of this would be the very classic “Coq au vin”!
The combination of lemon, wine and garlic is irresistible and good for body and soul. The paprika lifts the lemony flavours nicely and prevent them from getting too sweet or syrupy, with its peppery kick.
- One plump organic chicken
- Lemon in brine or fresh sliced lemons (unwaxed)
- Garlic cloves, 4 to 5
- White wine, 500ml
- Stock, 250 ml
- Carrot, 1 medium
- Bay leaves, 2
- Paprika, 1 Tbsp ( choose a hot version)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Choose a nice organic chicken and a good dry white wine and this recipe is foolproof! Beyond these two ingredients, and so long as they are tip-top quality, you can relax and play around with the rest…
A smattering of flowers
This was inspired by a long sunny week-end in Prague where we tasted some fantastic local Moravian wines, all dry, crisp and wonderfully flowery ; a proud reflection the beautiful spring flowers adorning the city : From the lilac in blooms along the river islands to slopes of blossoming orchards on Petrin Hill. The lemon and paprika flavours are very present in Czech cuisine and so I decided to blend all of these memories into a simple and humble dish, such as this casserole. The sort of dish you will feel proud to put in front of your guests because of its wholesome quality and simple but stricking flavours.
Wash and pat dry the chicken but leave it whole – it will be very easy to carve later. Fry the garlic cloves in a deep dish with a little rapeseed oil. Add the chicken and brown all of its sides in the garlic oil. Try not to burn the garlic so move things around briskly.
Add the wine, chopped carrot and seasoning and get it to a high boil then lower the heat and simmer, covered for about 45 min to one hour, adding the stock along the way so there is always about 2 inches of liquid around the bird. Leave the chicken breasts down so they soak up the juices as they cook and infuse in the lemon and garlic flavoured sauce. If using freshly sliced lemons, put those slices in at the beginning but if using lemon in brine, put them in half-way through as they will cook quicker than fresh ones.
Serve when the meat is falling off the carcass and you have no need for a knife ! I accompanied this meat with a celeriac and sweet paprika purée (mashed with olive oil) which worked really well.
Here to enjoy a view of Prague in Spring, from the balcony room of Terasa U Zlaté Studnē.
My best restaurant addresses in Prague:
- Terasa U Zlaté Studnē, GoldenWell Hotel, U Zlatē Studnē 4/166, 11800 Prague
- Bellevue, Smetanovo Nabrezi 18, Prague 110 00, Czech Republic
- Wine bar in Snemovni square, near Saint Nicholas church in Mala Strana
- Letna Beer garden, in Letna park, overlooking Prague
Weekending in Prague
“Caviar d’aubergine” or Aubergine dip is a traditional middle eastern dish and I love it everywhere and anywhere because it is super healthy and oh so simple to whip up. I can hardly believe I have not yet included it in this blog… For us, it always goes with our family size pot of hummous and lots of fresh veg and homemade bread to dip in.
I have been recently immersed in the excellent book by Dr Michel de Lorgeril “Le nouveau régime méditerranéen”- a well written, even humorous scientific essay-
and I am loving the idea that simple, century-old recipes still hold the key to good health and longevity. Aubergine salad or dip is one of the staples of the Mediterranean diet and as such needs to feature in a balanced diet. So here it is : not a fad’ and not made of fancy expensive ingredients nobody has heard of – just authentic, simple and classic food.
- Aubergines, 4 medium size
- Tahini, 3 Tbsp
- Lemon juice, of 1 lemon
- Pinch of salt
- Garlic cloves, 2
- Olive oil
- Pepper and smoked paprika to taste
Slice the aubergines in two halves, drizzle a little oil over and put them in the oven for 1h at 160°.
Once cooled, peel them and cut them up in chunks. Press them with a potato masher or put them through the food processor with all the other ingredients until you get a smooth cream.
Check the seasoning. It needs to be sharp and well balanced but not too pungent. One tip: cut each garlic clove in twos and removed the greenish shoot in the middle to take the edge off the garlic but still have a beautiful flavour.
Serve with oatcakes or flat bread. Or just with cut up raw carrots and peppers if you are going Paleo!
A venitian market
Posted in 3 to 4 ingredients, family favourite, pot luck
Tagged budget, dip, eggplant, hummous, lemon, Lorgeril, mediterranean diet, paleo, smoked paprika, vegetable
Sponge cake with lemon butter cream and fresh berries
For Valentine’s day, I propose to you a very British classic : two layers of sponge cake with a butter cream filling with fruit. Nothing could be more traditional but if you are not used to sandwich cakes, it is a very nice way to celebrate a very anglo-saxon day! Do not forget a nice and corny card – or a very rude and inappropriate one!- and you are set for the tackiest day in the calendar!
Joke apart, I actually quite like Valentine’s days because it is attached to fond memories and because a day celebrating Cupid is never a wasted day in my books. Tonight you should open a bottle and curl up on the sofa to watch a nice soppy rom-com like “Love Actually” or “About Time”. Something romantic and cute that will make you think that really “Love is all around”! Because it is – that bit is true! Nothing else really matters, does it?!
Anyway, back to baking:
Ingredient list for the cake:
- 3 large eggs
- Caster sugar
- self-raising flour
- Vanilla extract
- Baking powder, 1 ½ tsp
Weight the eggs and then weight a similar amount of sugar, butter and flour. Reserve.
Cream the butter and sugar together, then add the beaten eggs and the flour in alternance.
Mix the vanilla extract in. Beat the mix in with a whisk until light and fluffy.
Divide in two shallow tins and bake at 180° for 25 minutes.
Remove and let it cool.
Ingredients for the butter cream:
- Butter, 100g
- Icing sugar, 150g
- Zest of one lemon
- Juice of half a lemon
Mix in a blender or with a whisk. Reserve.
Spread the cream on one cake, lay blueberries on top, sandwich with the other cake and dust icing sugar to decorate – I used a paper heart as a stencil.
Crack open that bottle and curl up with your lover to enjoy this in front of that good British comedy! This is the one night of the year when I would not recommend going out unless you are truly desperate for food, or company, or both: restaurants are foul on Valentines’s day and you do not want to be compromised in such bad settings…
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
For the marinade:
- 1 frozen chopped chilli cube or two pea-size drops of Harissa paste
- 200 ml water
- 70 ml olive oil
- 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.
All the world’s spice under a tent
ZIngy and creamy posset
A posset is really a cooked cream dessert very popular in gastropubs and the best alliance to the iconic shortbread. For me, this is a marriage made in British heaven and one of my favourite dessert.
I made this last sunday for my niece Antonia to go with the fennel seeds shortbread I had brought for Christmas and I knew she liked… I was thrilled to discover it is such a quick and easy pudding to make and it is definitively going into my favourites’ repertoire. This recipe is from the wonderful Tangerine Dream Cafe in The Chelsea Physic Gardens where they serve incredibly creative and quirky dishes using lots of the plants and flowers available all around the kitchen. I am a particular fan of their Lavender scones and ginger bread for tea…
Ingredients list: Serves 6
For the Posset:
- Double cream, 500 ml
- Caster sugar, 125g
- Juice and finely grated zest of 2 unwaxed lemons (I recommend Amalfi lemons still seasonal and so fragrant it’s untrue)
For the Shortbread:
- Butter, 250g
- Golden or caster sugar, 110g Plus for sprinkling
- Plain flour, 250g
- Fine semolina, 110g
- Crushed fennel seeds, 1 tsp
For the posset:
Place the cream and sugar in a pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 3 minutes.
(5 minutes at 80 in the Thermomix works well too)
Stir in the lemon juice and zest and leave to cool.
Pour into sundae cups or martini glasses and decorate with edible flowers : pansies or nasturtiums are soon in season! I also use dry edible flowers bought on a stall in Borough Market.
For the shortbread:
Beat the butter in a mixer until creamy then add the sugar, followed by the flour, semolina and crushed fennel seeds.
Mix until it forms a smooth dough then roll out onto a floured surface and cut out shapes.
Place on a baking parchment or silpat sheet on a rack and bake for up to one hour at 150º. Watch so the edges do not colour too much. The cookies need to be still a bit soft on coming out as they will harden when they cool and you want a crumbly and slightly chewy texture. Sprinkle with a bit of caster sugar before they cool down.
This is a fresh and delicious pudding, perfect for a spring lunch al fresco!