Smoked Prawn and Smoked Bacon Chowder and a Down by the Sea Salad

I’ve just tried something new for the first time – it’s quite exciting at my age to do that! Nothing saucy or involving dressing up in latex…I’m talking food here of course. What else?!

Smoked prawns are what have got me all excited and giddy. Am I just late to the party or is this something new? I came across them in our little Down by the Sea fishmonger’s the other day and they are sold in the traditional measure for cooked prawns here – by the pint.

Of course, I had to try them and along with two cooked and dressed crabs I had a delicious salad in mind for supper. It was utterly delicious and with some homemade mayonnaise for the crab (some of which I turned into a Marie Rose sauce for dipping) and a balsamic vinaigrette for the salad and some new potatoes drizzled with olive oil it was a wonderful meal. But not really a recipe to impress you with.

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I still had half a pint of prawns left (25 of them to be precise) so the next day I decided to make a kind for chowder for lunch. I don’t claim this to be a completely authentic chowder as I didn’t have any corn, so it’s more a cross between a chowder and the lovely soup from Scotland, Cullen Skink. Strange name, great soup.

Ingredients (to serve 2)

  • About 24 peeled prawns (smoked or plain)
  • 4 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, finely chopped
  • Half an onion finely chopped
  • 2 small sticks of celery, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons of plain flour
  • Half a litre of liquid (I used a mix of milk and fish stock made with the prawn shells)
  • 1 tablespoon of crème fraiche
  • A finely chopped spring onion
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper

Smoked Prawn & Bacon Chowder (2)

Gently fry the onion and celery in a little olive oil until it starts to soften then add the bacon and fry until it starts to crisp. Add the prawns and plain flour and cook gently for a few minutes. Add the stock/milk and bring slowly to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes, it will thicken. Taste and season if necessary. To serve stir in the crème fraiche and sprinkle over the spring onion.

Orange and Chili Duck with Stir Fried Vegetables and Noodles

I keep seeing gorgeous duck recipes over at Mad Dog’s blog, and then Rosemary taunted me with this. Then Chgo John started talking about fish talking to him at the fishmonger’s and before I knew it I was having a good chat to a pair of duck legs in the local butcher’s shop. “Go on Chica”, they said “you know it’s been ages since you cooked duck, and now that you have a decent oven and a great extractor fan in your kitchen, there’s no need to fear us”. So of course, they came home with me. I carried them though, I didn’t make them walk.  Well, it was pouring with rain.

Citrus & Chili Duck (1)

I had a bowl full of oranges and some lovely little red chilies at home, so I veered off in a slightly Asian direction with this dish. It was simple to pull together and the flavours really complimented the duck. I served them with noodles which I stir fried (after boiling) with garlic, ginger, mushrooms and pak choi with a final splash of soy sauce, a spoonful of hoi sin sauce and a squeeze of orange juice. I think the noodles like this would also make a great soup with some chicken or vegetable broth.

Ingredients (to serve 2)

  • 2 duck legs and thighs
  • 2 small red chilies, finely chopped (deseeded if you prefer)
  • The grated zest of one orange
  • A crushed clove of garlic
  • Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Rub all the ingredients into the duck legs and roast in a medium oven for about an hour until the skin is crispy and the juices in the thigh run clear. Serve with rice or noodles and sprinkle some chopped spring onion over.

That’s it. How easy was that?

Eek – Bad Photo Warning, but Good Food!

So, you’d think I’d have learned by now that if you want a decent photo of food in a restaurant you have to eat at mid day, take a camera, not dig in first and ensure the light is good.

Oh dear, most of our best meals in Jersey were eaten at night, in dimly lit restaurants, with the photos taken on the phone and only after we had started eating and then remembered “ooh, must take a snap of this”!

But…being an honest Chica and wanting to share the experience with you, here are the photos in all their awful glory. Suspend your reaction to the bad photos and imagine the deliciousness of the actual food. Buen provecho!

Oysters featured frequently – and often at mid day with a glass of wine, so this photo is not too bad…

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Mussels in white wine and Jersey cream…

DSCF4251A beautiful carpaccio of beef

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Duck spring rolls in a home-made pastry…

DSCF4237Lamb shank…

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Blueberry creme brulee…

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There was also a wild mushroom and puff pastry tart, a bacon hock with borlotti beans, panna cotta, cheese boards, fish pie, fruits de mer, scallops…but if I tell you that the photos above are the best of a truly bad bunch…well, you get the picture.

So…I’ll leave you with a few more scenic shots and we’ll move on back to the cooking in the next post.

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Home Again – There’s No Place Like It!

When I say home, I mean our Down by the Sea home. This year has not been a great for us when it comes to holidays. We had to cancel all our plans in the summer because of ill-health and death in the family. It’s the way life goes sometimes. We understand that. But thought we’d try just one more time with a few days away for our anniversary and headed to the beautiful island of Jersey.

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Well, I think The Devil (pictured below, he turned up unexpectedly) had a hand in the proceedings.

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We did enjoy some amazing meals and our hotel was lovely…but oh the weather! Rain, wind, cold, more rain, more cold and really strong winds. It’s a teeny tiny island and mostly should be enjoyed outdoors. Luckily the sun broke through every so often for a few minutes and we leapt out of out little hire car to snap a view.

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We ate and drank amazingly well, and I’ll share some of our meals with you later. But for the moment, we’re staying put. If I mention going away on holiday for a while, please slap me round the face with a wet fish and remind me that There’s No Place Like Home.

Tarallucci – Savoury Fennel Biscuits and a little break for Chica and Big Man

I seem to be cooking to an Italian theme right now – no particular reason. Well, I did buy a new (second hand) cookery book, Two Greedy Italians by Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo. If you ever get a change to watch the series they made to go with the book, do give it a go – it features some good food from all around Italy and the pair of them behave like a funny old couple who have been married for years! The following recipe comes from the book.

Taralucci (5)

Here’s a bread type recipe which I made recently as they reminded me of nibbles my parents often serve at their home with olives and salted almonds with pre lunch or dinner drinks. The first batch I made came out a little chewy, more like crispy bagels. I cooked the second batch for longer and they were as I remembered – crispy, hard and deliciously aniseedy in flavour.

Ingredients (makes 40-50 but can easily be halved)

  • 200g semolina four
  • 200g plain flour plus extra for dusting (use all plain flour if you don’t have semolina flour)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1 x 7g sachet of fast blend yeast (or 1 sachet of dried yeast dissolved in 150ml lukewarm water)
  • 150ml water (no need to use if you have used it to dissolve your yeast)
  • 100ml of extra virgin olive oil

Add the fennel seeds, salt and pepper to the flours and mix then add the liquids. Knead well for about 5 mins and then leave to rise for about 2 hours or until doubled in size.

Knead again for another 5 mins and then pat the dough into a flat, rectangular shape. Cut strips about 2cms wide off and cut each strip into 10cm lengths. Wrap each strip around a finger, flattening it slightly and pressing the ends firmly together.

Preheat the oven to 180 degress C or gas Mark 4 and bring a large pot of slightly salted water to the boil.

Drop the dough circles into the water in batches, let then rise to the surface and let them cook for about 3 minutes.

Taralucci (1)

Life them out with a slotted spoon and leave them to drain (I did this on greaseproof paper as I found they stuck to kitchen paper).

Place the biscuits on a baking sheet and bake for about 35 minutes until lightly browned and crispy (the original recipe calls for initial cooking for 15 mins at the higher temperature then 10 minutes at a medium temperature). Leave to cool and enjoy with a glass of something lovely.

Tomorrow we’re packing our little cases and heading over to the beautiful island of Jersey. I say beautiful because I hear it is – it will be out first visit. And we’re not worried that rain and gloomy weather are forecast as we’re going to celebrate our anniversary which also (most fortunately) coincides with a food and drink festival. Well, we might do a little sightseeing but hopefully we’ll be back a few kilos heavier and full of exciting ideas for new dishes. See you next week!

Chocolate and Amaretto Semifreddo

Now please don’t send the dessert police round if this is not really an authentic semifreddo. I’ve just looked at the Wikipedia definition and it seems like it should have ice cream mixed in with the whipped cream.  Oh dear, Chica taking shortcuts again.

Regular readers of this blog will probably have already noticed that I don’t post a huge number of dessert recipes. Mainly because I’m not very sweet toothed, and secondly because Big Man and I don’t really need to be eating too many naughty treats and generally stick to fruit and yogurt at the end of a meal.

But sometimes, yes sometimes, life calls for pudding and with some new pals round recently for supper, this was such an occasion. Obviously, after a long day of house renovation, I needed a meal which I could prepare in advance so that I could relax and enjoy the food and company.

The main course was Pollo Cacciatore, made the day before. Dessert was made the evening before, inspired by part of a programme presented by Nigella Lawson. I missed the detail of the recipe, so this is my version and it worked out perfectly. I am my own Domestic Goddess.

Semifreddo (4)

Ingredients (serves 6-8….well 4-6 in my house)

  • 600ml of double or whipping cream
  • 100g of your favourite chocolate which you need to put into the fridge for an hour or so
  • 2-3 tablespoons of amaretto (or your favourite liqueur)
  • 4 ready-made meringue nests (or you could be a complete Domestic God or Goddess and make your own)
  • A loaf tin or plastic ice cream tub lined with cling film

Beat the cream until is softly whipped (but not stiff). Finely chop the cold chocolate and add it to the cream with the liqueur then crumble in the meringue (break it up into small pieces). Mix gently with a large spoon until combined and then spoon it into your container. Cover with cling film and freeze until you are ready to serve. Take it out of the freezer a few minutes before you want to eat and slice it (I found it easiest with a bread knife) into portions.

I served mine with fresh raspberries, a raspberry coulis (made with one cup of raspberries and half a cup of icing sugar, cooked then sieved) and some flaked almonds. It’s not the most beautiful photo in the world, I apologise, but it was taken as I served it up after an evening of food and wine conviviality, at about 10pm in an underlit kitchen.

Easy, delicious and very little effort. Perfect!

Pollo Cacciatore – Hunter’s Chicken

How many ways can you make Chicken Cacciatore? Quite a lot if you go by the recipes that pop up if you do an internet search. I imagine that the most authentic recipes rely on very few ingredients if they were cooked out doors by the hunters over an open fire. But perhaps they were cooked indoors by the hunters’ wives for their return.  I imagine that when they went out hunting they were probably tracking wild boar or something that really offered a sporting challenge. I don’t think Chicken Hunting would provide much of an adrenalin rush to the boys out for a day of testosterone, alcohol and guns.

Pollo Cacciatore (3)

Enough wondering about hunters and authentic recipes, here’s my version which relies mostly on store cupboard ingredients (well, I did have to hunt out my smoked pimentón from the back of the cupboard so I think it counts).

Ingredients to feed 6 hungry hunters

  • 1 large chicken jointed (I jointed mine into 14 pieces – 2 legs, 2 thighs, 2 wings, each breast cut in two, the rest of the carcass into 4 – all with the bone in)
  • About 2 cups of your favourite homemade tomato sauce or use tinned tomatoes
  • A tablespoon of tomato purée
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • An onion peeled, halved and cut into medium slices
  • About half a cup of olives
  • A large glass of red wine
  • Salt and Pepper
  • A teaspoon of smoked pimentón or paprika
  • A red pepper thinly sliced
  • About 6 rashers of smoked streaky bacon cut into small pieces (or use lardons)
  • A few sprigs of rosemary
  • Olive oil for frying

Start by heating a few tablespoons of oil in a large pan and (in batches) brown the chicken pieces and set aside. Add more oil if necessary. In the same pan gently fry the peppers, garlic and onions until soft then add the bacon and fry (on a higher heat) until the bacon starts to crisp.

Pollo Cacciatore (1)

Add the tomatoes, tomato purée, wine, rosemary, pimentón and seasoning and bring it up to a bubble. Add the wine, olives, chicken and rosemary and cover. Cook gently on the stove top for about an hour or in the oven on low for a couple of hours. Check every so often and if the sauce is starting to dry out, add a splash of water.

When ready to serve, cook for a few minutes on the hob to thicken up the sauce if necessary and serve with mashed potatoes or rice. Tastes even better if made the day before. Any leftovers are wonderful with pasta. And a little glass of that red wine…