Slow Cooked Mustard and Cider Chicken

30 Nov

Beautiful Bexhill on Sea (ok, I’m biased!) has a wonderful library, housed in a very lovely Victorian Building which, I understand, was once a school.

Bexhill Library (I came across this photo on the internet – happy to acknowledge if it’s yours!)

We have access to books in Spanish for Big Man, books about Quilting for me, novels, internet, and pretty much everything you’d expect from a good library. We have a particularly good section of cookery books which allows me to try out ones I’m thinking of buying and to check out ones I’d never previously come across.

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Because of my recent new love affair with my slow cooker, The Slow Cook Book caught my eye. What I like about this book is that apart from some really good recipe ideas (soups, stews, casseroles, tagines and curries) it details two ways to cook each recipe – both in the slow cooker or in the oven or stove top if you don’t have a slow cooker. What a great idea!

Most slow cook recipes are pretty flexible and forgiving, so you don’t need to follow them slavishly. The main thing to remember is that slow cookers don’t need quite as much liquid as conventional cooking as this cooking method tends to conserve most of the liquid.

A mustard chicken casserole caught my eye and as Big Man is a fan of English cider, I thought I’d add that in as the flavours would work well together. It was a simple dish to pull together, with a little preparation before putting it into cook and then forgetting about it for a few hours. It tastes even better made a day ahead.

Serves 4

  • 2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • 1 tbsp English mustard
  • 2 tbsp runny honey
  • 8 large chicken thighs, skin on
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large onions, halved and sliced (not too thin)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and halved lengthways
  • A few sprigs of thyme
  • 300ml or chicken stock mixed with 300ml of your favourite cider (or use just stock) which you need to warm – this is sufficient for the slow cooker. For the conventional cooking method you will need 900ml of liquid.

Mix the mustards and honey, season the chicken thighs and smother them with the mustard mixture. Leave for at least 30 minutes (or prepare ahead and leave overnight).

If cooking in the oven, preheat to 160C/325F or Gas 3. Heat half the oil in a frying pan and on a medium heat, fry the chicken in batches until it is browned all over. Put the chicken pieces in the slow cooker or a casserole dish.

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Add the remaining oil and fry the onion and garlic until the onion starts to turn brown, Add this with all the sticky bits from the pan and any marinade that remains from the chicken, plus the hot liquid to the slow cooker/casserole dish. Add the time and stir everything gently before covering and cooking in the slow cooker on high for 4 hours, or low for 8 hours or in the oven for 2 hours.

When prepared, taste and adjust the seasoning and serve with mashed or boiled potatoes and steamed or lightly boiled greens.

Another House Renovation Finished – Breathe In, Breathe Out…

23 Nov

Oh it’s been a long, long road with this one. But like the very first project we undertook together, we love this house. Little secrets emerged from behind layers of wardrobes, original flooring came back to life and today our lovely new tenants moved in.

For those of you who are interested, I’ll let the photos tell the story of a little 2 bedroomed (it was 3 bed when it was originally built but with only an outside loo and no indoor bathroom) Victorian mid terraced house.

Feb 2014 (19)41 Red Rd Completed 22 Nov 2014 (23)

The previous owners had lived there for 60 years, the lady (her daughter) who sold it to us told us that her parents had originally rented it then managed to buy it with a mortgage. She (the daughter) was born and bought up there, her mother lived out her final years as a widow in  the house and the daughter’s son and his children all had strong memories of spending time with their grandparents (and great grandparents) there.

Feb 2014 (30)41 Red Rd Completed 22 Nov 2014 (30)

Yesterday the previous family came to look over the house before the tenants moved in. I was anxious. We bring properties up to a modern standard (putting in central heating, efficient plumbing and decent kitchens and bathrooms).

Feb 2014 (10)41 Red Rd Completed 22 Nov 2014 (11)

We try to revive old floorboards if we can and replace them if we can’t. We paint our houses white so that whoever buys or rents them can make them their own. But they look very different from when we start and I was worried it might upset the previous family.

Feb 2014 (16)41 Red Rd Completed 22 Nov 2014 (1)

Fortunately there were tears of joy and smiles of relief as they saw fireplaces uncovered and restored that they had previosuly forgotten existed. Admiration for the floors and chuckles at the improved outside loo.

Feb 2014 (5)41 Red Rd Completed 22 Nov 2014 (15)

Time now to rest and focus on ourselves. Time for good food, and sleep and long walks on the beach.

 

Solomillo Asado con Champiñones y Beicon – Roast Pork Fillet with Mushrooms and Bacon

18 Nov

Finally, back to the cooking. An easy recipe which looks like you´ve put lots of effort in and hours of work! This would also work well with pork loin or chicken breast.

You´ll need for 2 people (with leftovers which is always a good thing)

  • 1 pork fillet
  • A sprig of rosemary (discard after cooking)
  • About 10 mushrooms thinly sliced
  • 2 rashers of bacon finely chopped
  • ½ a medium onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of crushed garlic
  • Small glass of dry white wine or sherry
  • Seasoning
  • Olive Oil
  • Set the oven to about 180ºC (medium)

Put the pork fillet on a sheet of aluminium and rub in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and season all over with pepper and salt.  Tuck the rosemary spring under the meat and bring the aluminium up to create a basket for the meat, but don´t cover it completely.  This basket will save the cooking juices.

Put the meat onto a baking tray and into the oven and cook for about 30-40 minutes until the juices run clear when you put a skewer into the thickest part.  Remove from the oven, remove the rosemary, wrap the foil tightly round it and keep it warm for about 5 minutes to let it rest a little.

While the meat is cooking, put a few tablespoons of oil into a deep frying pan and cook the onion, garlic and bacon together gently until the onions are soft.  Add the mushrooms and a grind of pepper, stir over the heat until the mushrooms have all absorbed a little oil then add the wine and a few grinds of black pepper (no salt usually needed because of the saltiness of the bacon).  Put a lid on the pan and simmer gently for about 10 minutes or until the mushrooms are cooked and the liquid has reduced by about half.

Now pour in the meat juices and stir in.  At this point you could add a dash of cream if you fancy a creamy sauce.  Slice the meat and either pour the bacon and mushroom sauce over or serve separately.

Any leftovers of meat can be finely chopped, mixed with the mushrooms and bacon with a little cream and are delicious on pasta!

Apologies to my veggie pals and readers (you know who you are :) ) this is an unashamedly porky plate with little room for adaptation but I hope you will understand and forgive….

Patchwork Progress

13 Nov

I apologise for the lack of cooking and recipe posts recently. I have made some new dishes, a wonderful beef casserole a few days ago but the photos – not so good…

Anyway, some of you know that I am a crafty Chica (of the creative rather than sly kind) when I’m not cooking or renovating. My latest project is a patchwork quilt, which almost follows a pattern and is being made by hand. Time for a big thank you to a new blogging pal, Kate over at talltalesfromchiconia, who has an amazing blog full of beautiful projects and a lot of quilts! She has been giving me, a humble novice quilter, some really great tips – thanks Kate!

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So, just to give some “technical” details for anyone interested, the pattern is based on one called Garden Walk from the book Jelly Roll Dreams compiled by Pam and Nicky Lintott. I used a Moda Jelly Roll (I think the colour was called Holly Wishes which turned out to be quite Christmassy!) plus extra fabric.

The blocks are now completed but I want to make the quilt wider to properly cover our King Size bed, so will be adding a contrast of sashes vertically between the rows of four blocks.

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The next step is to assemble the quilt block and then make the quilt “sandwich” and start hand quilting…

Lest We Forget…

11 Nov

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them

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Mixed Bean, Pork and Sausage Hot Pot

28 Oct

When in England we get to enjoy a wide variety of different foods that we wouldn’t normally have access to in Spain. Sometimes though, we long for the taste of our other home. If we lived in London, it would be easier to get hold of some of the more authentic ingredients to recreate certain dishes, outside of London it’s a bit trickier. Sometimes, London or not, you can’t get hold of them at all.

Our beloved Fabada, from the north of Spain, is one dish that it’s particularly tricky to replicate exactly without the traditional beans and smoked meats. No matter, we make do and end up with a delicious variation of the original. Fusion cooking? No….we’re not that trendy! Make do and mend? You bet!3 bean & sausage potaje (1)

 

This is a dish you need to plan in advance (especially if you are going to use dried beans which will need soaking overnight). It tastes even better the day after you’ve made it, so is a great one to prepare ahead, or use the slow cooker.

In Spain, this style of dish using dried beans is called a Potaje (pronounced po-tah-heh) which is similar to the French word Potage and the old English word Pottage. All three dishes seem to have much in common with each other as well as the name – do check out the links if you have time.

Ingredients (to serve 6 as a main course)

  • 500g mixed dried beans, soaked overnight
  • 6 fresh chorizo sausages
  • 4-6 slices of pork belly
  • A length of black pudding (or morcilla or boudin noir) about 25cm in length
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ teaspoon of saffron (or turmeric)
  • 1 teaspoon of smoked pimentón
  • Salt (smoked if you can get it)
  • Water

Cover the soaked beans with plenty of cold water and bring to a fast boil. Boil hard for 10 minutes, skimming off any froth that appears on the surface.

Now add the rest of the ingredients except the salt, and bring back to the boil. You can now either put the whole thing into a slow cooker and cook on low for about 8-10 hours, simmer on the stove top for about 2 hours or cook on low in the oven for 4 hours. Make sure you use a dish which has a lid.

When the cooking time is up, test the beans. They should be soft and creamy, even a little mushy. Season to taste. When you are about to serve, put the pot back onto the stove top (transfer to another pot if you used the slow cooker) and return to a fast boil for about 5 minutes. The liquid will turn from a clearer state to cloudy, and thicken at the same time.

Slice the pork belly and black pudding into smaller pieces and serve each person with beans, a chorizo and some pork belly and black pudding. A final drizzle of fresh, fruity olive oil over each dish will really lift the flavour. A perfect dish for a hearty lunch on a cold day.

If you like this kind of dish, why not check out this dish of Pork Shanks with Giant Beans

We need more wine, the bottle is almost empty!

We need more wine, the bottle is almost empty!

or Cod with Butterbeans?

Smoked  Cod & Butterbean Stew (1)

Roast Chicken

20 Oct

Yes, a delicious chicken rubbed in za’atar, stuffed with a lemon and roasted with onion and perfect potatoes cooked in goose fat. So what? I hear you say, nothing special about that. Well, a roast chicken can mean only one thing – AN OVEN!!

Sunday Roast 007

Yes, although the full refurb of our new home is still only in the planning stages, the dismal cooking arrangements have moved into the slightly more modern era with the purchase of a very nice, temporary, second-hand oven.

Hurrah, almost normal service will be resumed. If I don’t smoke us out (no extractor) in the meantime…

Spicy Pumpkin and Pear Soup…and a little sewing

17 Oct

So, remember our pear tree? Yes, the one with an awful lot of pears on it. We’ve been really enjoying eating them in crumbles, purées, stewed but mainly au naturel and sometimes with cheese. Delicious. But they don’t store. I know, I tried it out. I spent ages wrapping a load up in newspaper and storing them somewhere cool and dark only to find a horrible, stinky mush a few days ago. Nasty.

Luckily we really did make the most of them and one of the dishes I made was a hearty soup using some of the crisper, under ripe pears left at the very end.

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Ingredients (serves 4 as a main course)

  • About 1kg of pumpkin or squash (peeled, seeded and cut into cubes)
  • 3 medium pears (peeled and cut into cubes)
  • 50ml olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin and ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger (peeled and grated)
  • 1 level teaspoon of hot chilli powder (or to taste)
  • 3 cloves of garlic (peeled and crushed)
  • 1 tin (400g) coconut milk
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Smoked pimenton to serve

(Inspired by a recipe from the book Economy Gastronomy)

Heat the oil and add the pumpkin. Fry on a medium heat until it starts to colour a little (you may need to do this in batches) then add the spices and garlic. Cook for a minute then add the pear, coconut milk and stock. Simmer for about 30 minutes, blend to a texture you enjoy (I used a stick blender) season to taste and serve with a sprinkle of smoked pimenton.

For any of you who are wondering what the heck I’ve been up to in the absence of great cooking facilities (and apart from house renovations), I decided to set myself up with a little winter project. I am hand making a patchwork quilt, following (sort of) a design pattern.

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Am really enjoying making the quilt top but may back out of hand quilting it myself. We’ll see.  Perhaps next year I’ll be eating this soup snuggled under my quilt!

A Juicy Pear

6 Oct

After the doom and gloom of our dismal cooking arrangements, I wanted to reassure you that all is not quite so bad Chez Chica and Big Man.

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We have inherited a beautiful pear tree in our new home. Well, it’s in the garden of course, not growing in the middle of the sitting room. Which would make day to day life a little awkward.

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It’s a tiny Victorian back garden but we still have the original wall and it’s south west facing, so it’s warm and sunny.

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Obviously, being without an oven, pies and crumbles have been out of the question but we’ve enjoyed sharing them, eating them with cheese, cooked and served with thick cream and some have been cooked and frozen for a rainy day. It’s raining today, I think we might be eating pears…

(For those of you with proper kitchens, pop over to Roger’s blog and be inspired by this beautiful recipe.)

Slow Cooked Spiced Lamb Shanks – and some spartan cooking arrangements

2 Oct

So, you know how the cobbler’s children historically had no shoes? Well, the property developing, building and renovating couple currently have a crappy kitchen with no oven in their new home. Can you imagine how that makes me feel? It’s a bit weird though as in Spain I often go the whole summer without turning on the oven, but when you don’t have something all you can think about is that one thing. Here’s a quick glimpse of my current cooking arrangements.

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I am making do for the moment with a small camping sized electric hob, my now well-loved giant slow cooker and an electric plancha. All I want to do is bake cakes and oven roast meat but it’s not to be, for a while at least.

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And just to explain the even more dreadful than usual photos of the finished dish, you can see that I am hardly “blinded by the light” in the kitchen. Boo hoo. But hopefully all this explains why I am posting less recipes than usual!

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A perfect dish to get rid of cooking frustrations is a slow cooked pot of lamb shanks. This can be done just as easily in a low oven, reducing the cooking time to 3-4 hours. You will be rewarded for your patience, whichever method you choose!

Ingredients (serves 2 generously)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 lamb shanks
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp harissa paste
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 500ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses (or black treacle)
  • 4 dried apricots, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to season

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Heat the olive oil in a frying pan (or in an ovenproof dish if you are going to oven cook) and brown the lamb shanks all over, then transfer to your slow cooker (or put onto a plate).

Gently fry the onions and garlic until softened then add the spices and tomato and bring to a simmer. Pour in the stock, add the molasses, apricots and season. When it’s bubbling again pour over the lamb shanks in the slow cooker (or add the lamb shanks to the pot), cover and cook on low for about 10 hours until the meat is tender and falling off the bones.

When you are ready to serve (with mashed potato is a good idea), take the meat out and keep warm, pour the sauce into a pan and reduce on a medium heat until thickened to your liking. Pour over the meat and enjoy!

Any leftover sauce is wonderful served over pasta and easily heated up on your camping stove (but do feel free to use a regular one too)!

(Inspired by a recipe from the BBC Good Food site)

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