Please pinch me!…I cannot believe that this week my son, Felix, will be celebrating his 21st birthday!…How did that happen? I have thus been rather consumed over the last few weeks with thoughts of birthday celebrations (and a slight feeling of loss!). In truth, the celebrations will be quite straightforward – a night out with mates and a celebratory meal out with us – the ‘old folk’! Naturally, this gives me the excuse to enjoy one of my preferred pastimes – eating out; we’ve booked one of my favourite London restaurants, Five Fields (see my review from last year here!). Of course, I will also be cooking some of Felix’s best-loved meals as an extra birthday treat, so I thought that this week’s recipes should reflect his favourite dishes. He is unashamedly a meat lover and prefers a sweet edge to his savoury food…
Menu one is ‘Chicken, Cherries & Chicory’, although the season is just about over, you might still be able to get some British cherries, however, if not this recipe works year-round with imported ones, as by cooking them you bring out their sweetness. This is a new family favourite, I particularly like it as it’s so easy to cook. At the moment I like to serve it with runner beans, but a good green salad would also work well and perhaps some potatoes (Felix’s favourites are Baby Roast Potatoes – recipe here!). Menu Two is ‘Sea Bream with Figs’, here the winning component is the figs – you don’t use fresh ones, but dried, so this is another year-round favourite. Menu Three is a ‘Blast from Past ‘recipe and one of Felix’s favourites – ‘Pomegranate and Honey Glazed Chops with a Radish and Cucumber Tzatziki’. This is a lovely recipe by Diana Henry which I shared last July – if you haven’t already tried it, I urge you to! It has wonderful summery flavours – perfect for enjoying with the last of the summer sun as we move into September…
Chicken, Cherries & Chicory (Serve 4)
This is a lovely easy, very tasty bake from Rosie Birkett’s cookbook ‘The Joyful Cook’. The cherries are a wonderful sweet addition and are complemented by the bitterness of the chicory (you could also use radicchio). It is a recipe which works year round as you can use imported cherries, as by cooking them you bring out their sweetness, alternatively you could substitute them for another fruit such as plums…Serve with green or runner beans and rice or potatoes.
4 teaspoons sea salt flakes
2 tablespoons caster sugar
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs or chicken pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 bay leaves
4 heads of chicory (preferably red), halved lengthways
6 shallots, skin on, halved
1 lemon, halved
150ml vermouth or dry white wine
300ml hot water
150g cherries (there is no need to stone them – just warn your guests!)
Handful fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
Sea salt and black pepper
- First of all, a few hours before cooking, grind the salt, sugar and fennel seeds using a pestle and mortar, then rub this ground ‘cure’ mixture on the flesh, but not the skin of the chicken. Chill in the fridge (you could leave it overnight) and remove from the fridge about 30 minutes before cooking. If pushed for time just leave it in the rub whilst you prepare everything else for the dish.
- Gently rinse the cure from the chicken and dry it well with kitchen paper.
- Heat the oil in frying pan over a medium heat. Brown the chicken, skin side down for about 8-10 minutes, until the skin is crisp and golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and place skin side up in a large roasting tin on top of the bay leaves. Season with black pepper.
- Using the same frying pan with the fat from the chicken, add the butter and melt over a medium heat. Place the chicory, shallots and lemon halves, cut side down in the pan and cook for about 5 minutes until caramelised and softening on their cut sides. Transfer these to the roasting tray cut side up, squeezing the lemon over the chicory and throwing in the spent lemon halves.
- Turn up the heat under the frying pan and add the vermouth (or wine), scraping up any of the crusty bits from the bottom of the pan. Simmer until reduced by half, then pour into the roasting tray – avoiding the chicken as you want it to remain crisp.
- Finally pour in the hot water (again avoiding the chicken), cover the roasting tin with foil and place in a preheated oven, 120’c fan, for 20 minutes then take off the foil and add the cherries and chopped tarragon.
- Turn up the oven to 180’c fan, return the tin to the oven and roast for a further 30 minutes until the chicken is cooked, the skin is golden and there are delicious juices in the tray.
- Serve the chicken on plates alongside the wonderful cherries, chicory and shallots with the juices spooned over.
Roast Sea Bream with Figs and Almonds (Serves 4)
In this recipe the delicate flavour of sea bream is complemented by salty olives and sweet figs – it’s a fantastic combination! In addition it’s a really simple recipe, all you need is a good green salad on the side. You don’t use fresh figs, but dried, so this is a good all-year-round recipe. Depending on the size of the fish you could serve one fish per person or alternatively two larger fish for four. I found this recipe in Skye McAlpine’s cookbook ‘A Table in Venice’ – not only are the recipes delicious but the photographs of both the food and of Venice are inspiring!…
4 sea bream (or 2 larger – see note above)
10 dried figs, quartered
80g black olives, stoned
20 almonds, chopped
50ml white wine
50ml olive oil
A few sprigs of rosemary
- Wash the fish under cold water and pat dry, including their insides, with kitchen roll. Rub the insides of the fish with a little salt and lay them in a roasting tin.
- Scatter the figs, olives and almonds over and around the fish. Drizzle in the wine and olive oil, tear the rosemary into pieces and add to the roasting tin.
- Roast in an oven to 180’c fan for 30 minutes until the fish is cooked.
‘Blast From the Past Recipe’
I shared this recipe last July, it is such a delicious quick recipe that I thought I should remind you of it!…
Pomegranate and Honey Glazed Chops with a Radish and Cucumber Tzatziki served with Rice (Serves 4)
This recipe is from Diana Henry’s cookbook ‘Pure, Simple Cooking’, it is one of those cookbooks which I find myself going back to again and again, it has lots of really simple yet stunning recipes. This recipe has the flavours of Greece, it is a perfect summer dish, and if the UK weather permits, even better al fresco! I like to serve it with white long grain rice. Make sure you allow time to marinate the chops, anything from 1-24 hours – but the longer the tastier!..
8 thick lamb chops (chump chops)
Sea salt and black pepper
2½ tablespoons pomegranate molasses
8 tablespoons olive oil
1½ tablespoons honey
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
Radish and Cucumber Tzatziki
200g radishes, finely sliced
½ cucumber, cut into small cubes
300g plain Greek-style yogurt
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons mint, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper
Large bunch of coriander, leaves picked
3 tablespoons of fresh pomegranate seeds
- Mix the marinade ingredients together, coat the chops generously and leave to marinate, refrigerated, for 1 to 24 hours.
- To make the Tzatziki simply mix the radishes, cucumber, yogurt and garlic together, then stir through the mint leaves and olive oil.
- Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan, cook the chops for about 3 minutes on each side, do not have the heat up too high otherwise you will burn the honey and pomegranate mixture.
- Serve the chops on a bed of the coriander leaves, dressed with a little olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and the tzatziki on the side, sprinkle over pomegranate seeds. Serve with rice.