I had an adventure outside of London this week or rather a trek…we had to go up to York for the day to clear out Felix’s room at university. Normally when we visit York, we use it as an excuse to have a ‘mini’ weekend break. Those of you who know York will understand why – it really is a beautiful city and a real treat for a ‘foodie’ like me; for those of you who haven’t visited it yet, make sure you put it on your list of new places to visit when life returns to ‘normal’!
Although rules have been recently lifted and we could have found somewhere to stay overnight, I didn’t really fancy it under the current conditions, so unfortunately, our visit was a rather exhausting day trip, seven hours on the road. Before going, the question of food was high on my list of priorities – what would we do for lunch? Although restaurants are trying to get back to a ‘new norm’, I decided that the logistics would prove too complicated, so the idea of a picnic crossed my mind. I must admit, I’ve never really been a ‘picnic person’, it brings back memories of family picnics in the seventies – soggy tomato and cucumber sandwiches in tupperware. I wanted to prepare something that would travel well, no sweaty sandwiches for me! I decided to make a roast spatchcock chicken and serve it with a melon, rocket, walnut salad, all ingredients which would travel well and not wilt. It was a great success; the salad is a meal in itself, so if you’re a vegetarian I urge you to make it!
This week I’m sharing these recipes with you, as not only do they make a great summer dinner menu but also, as lockdown eases and we are beginning to venture further afield for days out, they are an ideal choice for a picnic – something we may be having more often this summer as the rules for restaurants continue to be tight. The second menu this week is a lovely, summer fish recipe, a fillet of sole with a sauce vierge served simply with fine green beans and steamed new potatoes. The sauce vierge also features in my third menu; as an alternative dish, this sauce is delicious served with spaghetti, creating a great summer pasta dish with the added bonus of being vegetarian!
Hopefully it won’t be too long before I can share with you a ‘proper’ visit to York and some of the restaurants that I have visited, which will hopefully inspire some new menus on Menu Mistress, watch this space!…
In the meantime lets enjoy these summer menus…
Spatchcock Chicken with Rosemary, Garlic and Chilli served with Melon, Artichoke & Walnut Salad (Serves 4 -6)
Spatchcock Chicken with Rosemary, Garlic and Chilli (Serves 4-6)
Spatchcock Chicken is a great way to roast a chicken – it enables the chicken to cook quicker and is a lot easier to carve. The rosemary, garlic and chilli oil in this recipe, is a particular favourite of mine, it is a tasty and very simple way of seasoning the chicken. If you get your chicken from your butcher, ask him to spatchcock it for you, alternatively it is very easy to do yourself…
How to Spatchcock a Chicken:
On the backside of the chicken use a pair of strong kitchen scissors to cut along either side of the back bone to remove it, then flip it over and press down very firmly on the breast bones, it will give a satisfying crack as it flattens! Some people like to insert skewers to help keep the chicken flat during cooking but in my experience they make no difference, so I prefer not to use them as they make it more difficult to carve the bird.
Click here to watch the video on me spatchcocking a chicken on my Instagram Page!
1 x 1.8 – 2.25kg chicken
1 teaspoon of sea salt flakes
For the marinade:
1 tablespoon freshly chopped rosemary (about 3 sprigs)
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (about 20 grinds of a pepper grinder)
½ teaspoon chilli flakes
Juice of half a lemon
4 tablespoons olive oil
- Firstly make the marinade by combining all the ingredients together.
- Cover the chicken all over with the marinade – I use a brush to do this.
- Place it breast side up, flattened out, in a roasting tin. Sprinkle over with the sea salt flakes.
- Place in a preheated oven 180’c for 45-50 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken.
Melon, Artichoke & Walnut Salad (Serves 4)
This is a great salad to accompany chicken but also, served alone, it is a meal in itself – a great recipe for vegetarians! The vinaigrette is really tasty and worth remembering for other salads. I discovered this recipe in Gino D’Acampo’s cookbook ‘Gino’s Islands in the Sun’, which concentrates on recipes from Sardinia and Sicily, offering Italian cooking with a twist from these islands. If you are, thinking of taking this salad out and about on a picnic, carry the prepared ingredients separately (the vinaigrette in a small jar, the melon, artichokes, rocket and walnuts in separate containers) and combine when ready to serve.
1 cantaloupe melon
175g chargrilled artichoke hearts in oil, drained and roughly chopped
50g walnuts, roughly chopped
70g rocket leaves
For the vinaigrette:
Juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
4 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper
- Whisk together the ingredients of the vinaigrette.
- Cut the melon into wedges and remove the seeds, cut each wedge into 2cm chunks.
- Place the melon in a large bowl, add the rocket leaves, artichoke pieces and walnuts.
- Pour over the vinaigrette and toss together to mix.
Fillet of Sole with Sauce Vierge, Green Fine Beans and Steamed New Potatoes (Serves 4)
Sauce vierge is a french sauce generally made with tomatoes, olive oil, lemon juice and herbs, there are many variations but my favourite version is one I found in a cookbook by Nina Parker, ‘Nina’s St Tropez’. It balances the flavours of the vinegar and lemon juice perfectly with the herbs, and is an ideal accompaniment to a delicate fish like sole. It is also a great sauce for pasta – see menu three below (so keep any leftovers for lunch the next day!). This fish dish should be kept simple so that the delicate flavour of the sole is not overpowered – so serve simply with fine green beans and steamed new potatoes.
2 large knobs of unsalted butter
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 clove of garlic, finely sliced
4 sole fillets
Juice of 1 lemon, plus one lemon quartered to serve
Sea salt and black pepper
For the Sauce Vierge:
2 spring onions, finely sliced
2 shallots, finely chopped
Bunch of fresh chives, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
300g tomatoes, about 4 medium
4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons caster sugar
Juice ½ lemon
60ml olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper
- Cut the tomatoes into quarters, deseed, discarding any liquid – pat them dry on kitchen roll, slice into strips, then finely dice, add to a bowl along with the other sauce ingredients, mix well and season to taste.
- To cook the sole, melt a knob of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil over a medium heat, add half the garlic. Reduce the heat to medium, add two of the fillets, skin side down, cook for 3-4 minutes.
- Just before turning the fish add half of the lemon juice. Carefully turn the fish over and cook for a further 1-2 minutes.
- Remove to a warmed plate whilst you cook the other 2 fillets in the same way.
- Serve immediately with the sauce vierge and the lemon wedges, fine green beans and steamed new potatoes.
Spaghetti with Sauce Vierge (Serves 4)
This is a perfect summer pasta dish, a delicious ‘no cook’ sauce for spaghetti with the added bonus of being vegetarian!
Sauce Vierge – recipe above
- Make up the sauce vierge – see recipe above.
- Cook the spaghetti according to the packet instructions until al dente.
- Drain the spaghetti and mix with the sauce vierge.