Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Parmesan Chicken

My flatmate Stefanie has never lived away from her parents before. She goes to uni nearby where she lives in Belgium, so there has never been any need to move out of her family home. This means before she moved in here– with three English girls who have lived away from home since they were all 18– she had never done laundry, cleaned or cooked before. ever. When she told me this when we first met almost two months ago, I had a sort of mini-silent-masked panic attack. For someone like me, who cooks anything and everything (except for eggs, if I can help it) I couldn't imagine how someone didn't even know how to boil pasta or make some plain old chicken.

Tonight, Stefanie is cooking me and my flatmate Holly dinner. A couple of weeks ago I cooked this recipe for her and she was inspired. It's a dish that is quite easy, but looks like it takes a lot of preparation (and that's what counts). And the best part is, those you cook it for will be fighting over the last bits.

Parmesan Chicken

1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 cup/6 oz/ 170g butter
1 1/2 cup/6 oz/170 g dried breadcrumbs (if you can't find any in the shop and you're feeling brave, you could always make your own!)
1/2 cup/2 oz/55 g grated parmesan
2 tbsp chopped cilantro/coriander
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
4-6 pieces boneless, skinless chicken (cut= your choice), cut into small pieces– roughly 5x5 cm

1. Preheat the oven to 450ºF/230ºC/Gas mark 8. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Once it's all melted, add the minced garlic. In a large bowl mix the breadcrumbs, parmesan, cilantro/coriander, salt and pepper.

2. Dip the chicken pieces into the garlic butter, then into the crumb mixture to coat them. Place the coated chicken pieces onto a baking dish. Try to leave a little room between each piece. When you have coated all the pieces of chicken, drizzle the remaining garlic butter over the chicken.

3. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the juices that come out of it are clear.

serves 4-6.


I won't be posting all that much over the next couple of weeks. On Friday I'm venturing to Barcelona to see some family and friends for a few days and after that I make a much needed trip to England. I will be back with photos of my travels, stories of my cooking, and most likely a picture of my 22nd birthday cake!

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Caramelised Leek, Spinach, and Goats Cheese Tart

I've been teased before about my slight addiction to Marie Claire UK magazine. If I'm in England I will buy every issue, and on weekdays I normally check their website at least once to find out the 'Buy of the Day', clothes and/or beauty products that are normally quite appealing and quite good value. I don't care what people say, I love it.

Anyway, it's not just beauty and fashion. This a recipe I found in there which I love. Love love love.

Caramelised Leek, Spinach and Goats Cheese Tart

9 oz/255 g/1 rounded cup all-purpose flour
4 1/2 oz/125 g/ 1/2 cup butter

2 tbsp olive olil
1 leek, thinly sliced
1 head of fennel, thinly sliced
5 1/2 oz/155 g/ 3/4 cup baby spinach leaves
2 1/2 oz/70 g/ 1/3 cup goats cheese, crumbled
3 eggs, lightly beaten
5 1/2 fl oz/160 ml/ 2/3 cup pouring/whipping cream

NOTE: Can substitute fennel for more leek if you prefer.

serves 6-8

1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF/200ºC/Gas mark 6. Place the flour and butter in a bowl or in the bowl of a food processor and mix until it resembles breadcrumbs Gradually add 3-4 tbsp iced water until the pastry comes together (if doing this by hand mix with a spoon). Gather into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

2. Roll out the pastry onto a floured surface to fit an 8 1/2 inch/ 21 1/2 cm circular tin (if you don't have a circular one a rectangular one of a similar area will do– see picture!). Ease into the tin and trim off the excess pastry.

3. Line the tin with baking paper and fill with baking weights or rice. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the paper and weights and bake for a further 10 minutes. Remove from the oven reduce the temperature to 315ºF/160ºC/Gas mark 3.

4. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, add the leek and fennel and cook for 20 minutes. Remove. Add the spinach and cook until wilted. Spread the leek and fennel over the pastry. Top with the spinach and the crumbled goats cheese. Combine the eggs and cream in a separate bowl, and then pour into the pastry shell. Bake for 40 minutes.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Tarte au citron

I've written before about how much I love Spanish food, and all the amazing things that there are to eat here. Unfortunately, one area where– in my opinion– the Spanish are lacking is their puddings. Having lived in Lyon for five months, where puddings and pastries and chocolates and all those lovely little things are such an art and so great in number, I can't help but feel like there isn't much in España that competes.

A tower of macarons in Les Halles de Lyon. Delicious bastards.

I miss being 2 minutes away from a pâtisserie at any one time, and all treats that I could get so easily and so cheaply. And so do my flatmates, apparently; two of whom, like me, spent the first half of this school year in France. Lia had been asking me for a while if we can figure out how to do a tarte au citron, apparently her favourite confection (I'm much more of a tarte aux fraises gal m'self). I loved the idea of making this, but was... intimidated. The idea of making pastry frightens– or, I should say, frightened– me a little, mainly I think because with pastry there's so much that could go wrong. I thought (for a hot minute) about buying a ready-made pastry from the supermarket and using that, but if it was going to be worth doing, it was going to be done from scratch.

To get help conquering my fear I went to a site that I trust very much. I started reading David Lebovitz's blog when I was in Lyon, which seems a little odd seeing as I was without any means of cooking, but as it happens David Lebovitz is not only a great chef and food writer, but his 'American in Paris' perspective was so helpful when it came to just living in France, never mind eating there. And, he had some great tips on where to go and what to do in Lyon as well. So, I went started searching for pastry recipes, and sure enough I found one. One that made me totally more confident about the whole tart endeavour. It's a little... unconventional, but it works so well and the pastry comes out beautifully flaky, just as you'd find in a little French pâtisserie.

My very first ever pastry shell. Not half bad, I'd say.

Anyway, here is what we got, and while I'd say it was not perfect (I had to make do with what I had in my kitchen, no mesh strainer, no fluted tart pan) it was one heck of a good start. The curd that I made was also from David Lebovitz's site, but I modified it slightly to yield a bit more and to be a bit more lemon-y. I like it that way. And of course now that I'm not so afraid of the pastry, I'll make it prettier next time. Promise.

Tarte au citron

3/4 cup/ 190 ml lemon juice
grated zest of 2 lemons
3/4 cup/150 g/5 oz sugar
1/2 cup/125 g/4 oz butter
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
one prebaked tart shell (David recommends a 9-inch one, but I made a smaller one, for lack of pie tin. I would highly recommend using his recipe but if you have one that you prefer, go ahead and use that... or, if you're feeling lazy, just buy one from the shop)

1. Preheat the oven to 350º F/180º C/ Gas mark 4. In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the lemon juice, zest, sugar and butter together, waiting for the butter to melt. In a small bowl, beat together the eggs and egg yolks and set aside.

2. Once the butter has melted, whisk in roughly a third of the mixture to the eggs. Make sure to mix constantly: this will warm the eggs up a bit. Put the egg mixture back into the saucepan. Cook on a low heat, stirring the mixture until it thickens and there are bubbles starting to form around the edge of the saucepan.

3. Pour the curd mixture through a strainer onto the tart shell. Using the strainer is important: it gets rid of all the little lemon pips and thick nasty bits that may have made their way into your mix. If it needs help getting through the fine mesh, stir it with a spoon or spatula. Use a spatula to smooth over the top of the tart.

4. Put it in the oven for 5 minutes so that it has a chance to set. Remove from the oven. Leave to cool before slicing and eating.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

¿Como se dice paprika en español?

A couple of weeks ago I was strolling along at way too leisurely a pace to campus from Plaza de las Tendillas, when my friends and I all stopped dead in our tracks. We were distracted by a shop window that we had ignored so many times before; it had been boarded up with brown paper for some time, but now the paper was down and there was a sign in the window. From the glass shop-front that gave a view of the entire store you could see chocolates, spices, teas, and all sorts of fun kitchen accessories that I generally spend far to much money on. The shop was closed at that point, it was mediodía and true to form all the Spanish shops were shut (save for all the tourist traps). But we made a decision that we would have to go back to this shop, rather sweetly named SpicyChoc, and try desperately not to spend the small amount of money we all had.

photo courtesy of

We finally managed to go to the shop when it was open a few days ago. I walked in and instantly felt I could spend all day in there. Not only do they have the biggest collection of loose-leaf teas I've seen in a long while, orangettes (orange pieces dipped in dark chocolate, a speciality in Lyon),  and lots of kitchen gadgets, but they also sell paprika. In a test tube.

I had been looking for paprika for a long while in Spain and was– up until my jaunt to SpicyChoc– unable to find it. I had just taken for granted that the word paprika in Spanish would be, well, paprika. Not so. You see, Spanish paprika is known as pimentón, and is quite different from paprika around the rest of the world. It has a smoked flavour, one that you might find when it's used in chorizo or sobrasada. It's a lovely spice, but I want paprika, dammit! I use it so frequently in day-to-day cooking that making lunch/dinner without it has been quite a challenge. So I was so happy when I saw this little test tube for 0,80€. Undoubtedly I will go through it in about three weeks, but that just means another excuse to go back to SpicyChoc.

The "Exciting World of Salads"

The biggest argument I've ever had with my ex-housemate Natalie was about salad. I'm not exaggerating when I say this, we literally shouted across the table for about 2 hours on the subject, with our other housemate Carmen trying to moderate from the middle. She had started laughing at me for my choice of lunch, what I called a 'broccoli salad'. She claimed that a salad had to have a cold, raw base of lettuce, tomato, and cucumber. I argued that she wasn't opening her mind to the "exciting world of salads"– and yes, I believe I used that exact phrase. Salad may have started out as just lettuce tomato and cucumber, I argued, but it has evolved into so much more: think of a waldorf salad, a tricolore salad, or even a pasta salad or potato salad.

broccoli salad
Broccoli Salad- the one that started it all

I was recounting the details of The Great Salad Debate of 2009 to my friend the other day, and she mentioned something interesting. Salad stems from the Latin word sal, meaning salt; so the term salad is a completely is a completely loose one anyway. Salad has become a more all-encompassing term for a collection of vegetables (usually) with a dressing in modern times, and thank God. These days, you can have a salad for a main meal, something that would fill you up and keep you going, as opposed to just a bland side to accompany your meat or fish. So many times I will just throw in all of the vegetables I have lying around (some cooked, some not), accompanied by a bit of ham and parmesan and make my most favourite thing, a "Kitchen sink salad" (meaning there's everything in it but the...).

rocket salad
There's nothing quite like sitting out in the sunshine with a good kitchen sink salad to make you the happiest gal in all of Córdoba

Did I just write an insane amount about salad? I believe I did. To make things a little more interesting, here's a group of my favourite salad recipes, ones a bit more interesting than lettuce, tomato, and cucumber.

Broccoli Salad, from Simply Recipes
Cold Pea Salad, from Simply Recipes
Arugula (Rocket) Corn Salad with Bacon, from Simply Recipes
Summer Chickpea Salad, from Jamie Oliver
Strawberry Salad with Speck and Halloumi, from Jamie Oliver
Herbed Couscous Salad, from Chocolate and Zucchini
Summer Tomato Salad, from David Lebovitz
Chicken, Mango, and Chilli Salad, from Nigella Lawson
Chicken Caesar Salad, from BBC GoodFood

Yay salad!

Friday, 12 March 2010

The first boquerones adventure

If you look back a couple of posts, one of the things I decided that I must learn to cook in Spain was boquerones, a small whitebait/anchovy sort of fish that are normally served fried with lemon juice as a typical tapas dish. Well, a last minute decision on a calm weekday evening allowed me to realise this goal.

There they are, accompanied by one of my typical 'kitchen sink salads'. Yummm.

Not bad for a first effort, I'd say. Up until this point, I had never used a deep fryer before in my life, and the idea of it was a little more than intimidating. I had no idea just how much oil would be required, even just to fry the bare minimum– this is not a dish you'll want to be eating everyday! But I wouldn't say that they turned out as well as they possibly could. Next time, an absolute must would be to buy them fresh from the fishmongers. I used a frozen bag this time (I know, naughty naughty) that I got from the local supermarket for a 1,80€; I'm my father's daughter, I can't resist a bargain. Another thing that I shall have to keep in mind is how quickly these little fishies go from not-quite-cooked to very-very-cooked. You want the fish to be crispy on the outside, but still soft and moist on the inside, you definitely don't want them to crisp up and dry out!!

I shall keep you updated on my efforts.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Hassleback potatoes... a revelation

I love potatoes, but I NEVER eat them. I have so much trouble cooking the damn things that for such a long time I just never considered it to be worth the hassle. I used to try and cook baked potatoes, something I considered to be the ultimate lazy food, but for something that was so low-key, I couldn't deal with how long it took to cook. Bore snore.

Then, the other day while doing my usual food-blog perusing, I came across saddleback potatoes (I prefer this name, sounds a bit more appetizing). It's a bit like a cross between a baked potato and a roast potato, and it's delicious. So much less hassle (haha, hassleback) than other types of potatoes, and so worth the short 45 minutes it takes to cook (during which time I just prepared the rest of the meal, so no bother!).

Plus, I think they look pretty.

hassleback potatoes
Pictured here with my Parmesan Chicken. That recipe to follow soon!

Saddleback Potatoes

1. Preheat oven to 220ºC/425ºF/Gas mark 7. If you prefer your potatoes skins-off, go ahead and peel 'em.
2. Make slices in the potatoes, but DON'T slice all the way through. You can slice as thin or as thick as you like. Cover with olive oil, trying to get some oil in between the slices. Top with some salt and pepper.
3. Put in the oven for 45-50 minutes. Halfway through cooking, take them out of the oven and give them a little shake. if the potatoes feel dry, put a little bit more olive oil on them. The slices should have fanned out a little by now so the oil should sink into the gaps no problem!

Saturday, 6 March 2010

"If music be the food love, play on." William Shakespeare

The above clip is from one of my most favourite films, Paris, je t'aime. Of all the vignettes, this makes my top five list (along with short films from the Coen brothers, Alexander Payne, Wes Craven, and Sylvain Chomet... this film is AMAZING).  There are so many things about this part of the film that I love; the story in itself is such a beautiful one, but I think what really gets me is all the little habits and characteristics of his wife that he thinks annoy him but he realises– just in time– that they are in fact some of the things he loves most about her.

When watching this film for the billionth time recently, there was something that stood out to me. If you watch the clip, you'll see that one of the things she does is sing the same song while she makes quenelles (a dumpling of lyonnaise origin, oh so French). I've been told I sing too much generally, but I think in the kitchen is where I do it most. And, like Miranda Richardson's character in Paris, je t'aime, it is normally one or two songs on repeat. And, if they're really good songs, I may even start dancing. Most recently, I've had a combination of Vampire Weekend's album Contra, Regina Spektor's album Far, and Chicago artist Mark Minelli as the soundtrack for my cooking adventures, although the soundtrack to Cabaret is a firm favourite for dancing around the kitchen with a spatula in your hand. What about you? Who would make your kitchen playlist?

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Mummy's Dead Easy "Sweet and Sour Pork"

I think everyone has those dishes from childhood that they have loved all the way into adulthood. They're so dead easy, and so wonderfully comforting. Cooking them makes you feel at home, even when you're halfway across the world (as I so often am). My mum's "sweet and sour pork" recipe is one of those. I write it in quotes because it's not technically sweet n' sour in the most conventional sense, but those two flavours are most definitely present in the sauce that the pork is cooked in. It's also one of the first things I ever made on my own in my second year of uni, when at a loss for what to make myself for supper that WASN'T pasta or chicken. It takes no time at all, and takes a minimal amounts of ingredients in the cupboard. Give it a go with some rice and some veg.

One thing I have to apologise for is my photography skills (or lack thereof). Hopefully as the blog progresses I will get better!

Mummy's Dead Easy "Sweet and Sour Pork"

2-3 pork chops (you can use pork loin if you prefer)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup honey
1 clove of garlic, minced
salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 190ºC/400ºF/gas mark 6. In a wide shallow dish, mix together the soy sauce, honey, minced garlic, and salt and pepper. Taste to see how the sauce is; if you prefer it more sweet than sour, add more honey, and if you prefer a bit of a stronger flavour, add more soy sauce. This will yield a lot of sauce so saving the need for more soy sauce if having it with rice!
2. Allow the pork to marinade in the sauce for a good 5 minutes before you bung it in the oven.
3. Put the pork in the oven topped with the marinade/sauce for 15-20 minutes until the pork is cooked but still tender.

serves 2-3
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