When you breed chickens for eating, you´re going to have to deal with the chicken, the whole chicken, and nothing but the chicken.
Most of our Fat Boys end up being cut up into individual portions with the skin off – they´re easier to store in the freezer that way and you don´t have to pluck them. Chicken Breast has always been my least favourite part…typically it can be a little dry and bland. Now that we get to eat our own chickens, I can at least say that the breasts are neither dry nor bland and taste great just done on the griddle with olive oil and salt and a squeeze of lemon juice at the end.
Some of our chickens are real monsters though – and with no artificial feed. Just corn, wheat and a long-ish life (at least in terms of chickens for eating) pecking around our olives. One chicken breast can weigh about 500g and is plenty to feed two. Sometimes it´s nice to jazz it up a little, and this is a firm favourite.
One monster chicken breast or two regular
Two tablespoons of cream cheese mixed with one crushed clove of garlic, a sprinkle of salt and a tablespoon of your favourite herb finely chopped (I like basil or chives with this)
About four tablespoons of tomato sauce (i.e. made from fresh or tinned tomatoes)
Split the chicken breast in two without cutting all the way through. Fill with the cream cheese and close. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle a little olive oil over, massaging it in all over.
Put into a baking dish and pour over the tomato sauce. Bake on medium for about 30 minutes. Check that it is done by piercing it – if the juices run clear, you´re done. If not, cook for a further 10 mins, check and repeat if necessary. When cooked, grate cheese over the top, pop it under a hot grill until the cheese is melted and bubbling, and serve.
This is a great prepare ahead dish (up to the stage before you start to cook) and if the breast is large, serve cut into slices with a little extra tomato sauce on the side for your loved ones who prefer things saucy!
Well, who´da thunk it?! The lovely Betsy from Bits & Breadcrumbs passed this fabulous award on to me. In true Blogging style I have to answer a few questions and pass the baton on. Thanks Betsy, I´d be honoured!
1. What, or who inspired you to start a blog?
It was two things. First of all my lovely crafty friend Florence over at Florence and Freddie started blogging on WordPress and encouraged me to go for it. Secondly, I had just finished writing City Slicka to Spanish Chica and wanted to try it out on a wider audience. Still unpublished, but oh what fun to write. And now I can say I have written a book, so I´m quite proud of that even though it needs a good edit. Anyone know any editors….?
2. Who is your foodie inspiration?
Lots of people, but I guess it started at home. My beloved grandmother was the queen of cakes and taught me how to bake. My mum was a 19 year old English girl who married an Italian and had to learn pretty damn quick. My parents still laugh that the first meal she made him when he visited his future in laws was severely over cooked Spaghetti with tomato ketchup on it. Fortunately she´s an amazing cook now and even ran her own catering company for many years. Chef wise I love Rick Stein, Jamie Oliver, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and finally I am now inspired daily by my fellow food bloggers.
3. Your greasiest, batter – splattered food/drink book is?
It´s not a book, it´s a folder filled with recipes torn out of magazines, scribbled notes, print outs of recipes. I love it, but maybe I should get myself a new folder (ideally wipe clean) as it´s falling apart.
4. Tell us all about the best thing you have ever eaten in another country, where was it, what was it?
Oh, that´s hard, I´ve travelled a lot and eaten some amazing (and some revolting) meals. Freshly grilled fish on the beach in Bali, a papaya for breakfast in the Cook Islands, an amazing Seafood Feast in Watson´s Bay Australia, my auntie´s pasta in Calabria, an incredible Japanese meal at Nobu in Paris, fresh bread out of the village oven in Morocco….sorry, can´t make my mind up on that one.
6. What is the one kitchen gadget you would ask Santa for this year (money no object of course)?
Well, Christmas is long gone but ready for December 2012 I´d like to ask for something quite simple….an immersion blender. I have a knack of breaking things and this is probably one of the gadgets I use most in my kitchen. I´ve been in Spain 6 years and I think this is blender number 7 or 8 and is held together with Big Man´s electrical tape. Mind you, we now don´t have a handle on the fridge door and the oven doesn´t work well and I´ve always fancied a wine fridge….
7. Who taught you how to cook?
I´d love to say my mum and grandmother, and I suppose they did teach me the basics, but I am very much self taught. As soon as I left home I was off and experimenting (my poor friends) but I had great fun and built up my confidence to a point that I even taught a cookery class for a while.
8. I’m coming to you for dinner what’s your signature dish?
Oh, that´s tough too. I guess it would depend on what time of year you came as I´d try to use as much of our own produce from the vegetable garden, our own eggs, perhaps our own chickens. Ok, as we´re in Spain I´ll do a lovely seafood platter to start, a chicken paella cooked outdoors, you can digest, take a walk or a dip then we´ll have whatever fresh fruit is in season with honey and almond ice cream, little cups of coffee and some of my cantuccini biscuits.
9. What is your guilty food pleasure?
Now that one is easy. Walkers Cheese & Onion Crisps. And no, if you buy me some, I won´t share!
10. Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn?
I´m a trained and practising Psychometric Profiler as well as a (sort of ex) Human Resources Consultant. I think I used to scare people off (especially potential suitors) as they thought I was analyzing their every word or gesture. And I probably was a lot of the time! Finally…tag 5 other food bloggers with these questions…like a hot baked potato…pass it on.
I think many of the people I have already mentioned have already been tagged, but I´d like to mention a few new (to me) discoveries, the lovely blogs over at Ang Sarap, IamSimplyTia, FrugalFeeding, PeasePudding and SimpleSpeedySnacks. They should all feel free to join in or not….but I do enjoy reading their blogs and hopefully you will too.
Pepitoria – what a great word! However, I couldn´t find a decent translation for it. The dictionary comes up with “hodge podge” or “fricassée”. I don´t think either of those translations suit the sophistication of this beautiful looking, wonderful tasting but oh so easy to prepare dish.
It´s often cooked for celebratory meals – probably because of the luxury of the ingredients (saffron and almonds) and the fact that it can be prepared for a large number of people in advance. It seems that it´s a year since I published my first post here on WordPress. Wow, what a journey it´s been! From no readers 😦 to a lovely group of new blogging pals who comment, support, encourage and inspire. I thank you all, it´s great to have you along for the ride.
So, back to the food. Don´t be put off by the word “luxury”, it´s actually luxurious in terms of quality and not cost. Most recipes suggest using free range chicken or even an old hen or cockerel for long slow cooking and an amazing taste. I used our old black cockerel who was no longer doing it for my lady hens…he had a great life, fathered many little chicks and was treated splendidly after his demise in this gorgeous dish. Ok, on with the cooking.
You´ll need (for approx 6 people depending on the size of your chicken)
1 large chicken cut into portions and floured
About 20 blanched almonds
1 thick slice of day old bread
6 cloves of garlic peeled and sliced in half lengthways
About 1 heaped tablespoon of chopped parsley
½ teaspoon of saffron stamens (or you can use ground turmeric which will add a little flavour of a different kind, but it´s a good substitute)
¼ teaspoon of ground cloves
Fresh black pepper for grinding and salt (I used Maldon)
About ½ litre of chicken stock
2 large glasses of dry white whine
1 bay leaf
2 hard boiled eggs
Start by putting a few good slugs of olive oil in the bottom of a heavy based pan that has a lid. Brown the almonds and garlic and remove. Now fry the bread until browned and remove. Put the bread, almonds, garlic, parsley and saffron in a jug with about half a cup of stock and blend until you have a thick smooth mixture.
Fry your chicken pieces in the same oil (add more if necessary) until browned on both sides then pour over the almond and saffron mixture, one glass of white wine, enough stock to cover the meat, the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Pour yourself the other glass of wine and drink while waiting for the pot to come up to a gentle boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook gently for at least an hour and a half. I cooked mine for three hours as it was an old cockerel (bless him) and check every so often that the meat is covered with liquid. If not, add a little water or chicken stock.
When the meat is tender, remove from the sauce and turn up the heat to reduce slightly. Check for seasoning and add the mashed yolks of the 2 hard boiled eggs to further thicken the sauce. Once it has reached the consistency of a thick pouring sauce, put the chicken back into the pot (or pour the sauce over your chicken if you are going to use a serving platter) and sprinkle with the chopped whites of the hard boiled egg and finely chopped parsley. Serve with fresh lemon to squeeze over, rice, fried or mashed potatoes and ¡Buen Provecho!
Ok, so I could be posting about the delicious ribs in barbecue sauce I cooked today, inspired by Greg´s recipe over at Rufus´Food and Spirits Guide, but more of that another day. They were superb though!
Have been down amongst the chickens and olives again and little brown (well, she´s more honey coloured) hen was quite happy for me to have a little cuddle with our new chickie whilst she had a well earned snack.
S/he (I´m not quite sure) is grey (like his/her daddy, the big grey cockerel) and honey coloured, totally gorgeous. I read that Japan is the most advanced country in the world for training “Chicken Sexers”. My, that would be a career! It seems you have to look at the one day old chicks´ nether regions (and it has to be a pretty good look). If you see a little “button” it´s a cockerel, if not it´s a hen. Did try this once, but as I´m the kind of woman who often misses motorway junctions and road signs, it wasn´t something I excelled at…
Chicken number two, who is an agressive little thing, has her first chick hatching out as we speak. She still has another three eggs, so hopefuly between now and tomorrow, there will be more.
Ok, enough chicken speak, but you can all go “aaaaah” now!
No, not hen parties and weddings, but the real thing!
We currently have three broody hens sitting on eggs. One of them was a hen that we couldn´t find for ages. I suspected the worst. The one day we saw her popping out from under the water deposit – she had made herself her own little nest! I was convinced they weren´t going to hatch as we weren´t sure if they were fertilised eggs, and even how fresh they were.
I went down this morning to check on the ladies and look what I found!
One chick at least is hatching.
She´s sitting on 4 or 5 eggs, I can´t be sure.
She´s a very calm hen and let me look at what was happening. The eggs went straight back under her, don´t worry!
We have more due on Saturday and then another batch later next week. Will keep you posted!
When I was a child I used to go with my beloved Grandmother Olive to visit my Great Grandmother Minnie. Minnie lived with one of her daughters who ran a children´s home and had her own little cottage in the grounds. There was space for them to grow vegetables and keep chickens and as a child born and brought up in London, I was fascinated by this little piece of country living.
I was allowed to go to the chicken shed and collect eggs and I remember always taking great pride and pleasure in this. The smell, the warm eggs under a broody hen, the clucking – it fascinated me and I always dreamed of owning a few chickens.
When Big Man and I moved to our home, we also ended up with a small olive grove with about 30 trees. We talked about one day getting a few hens so that we could enjoy free range eggs. And then one day, my dream came true. Big Man came home with a hen and five tiny chicks. The chicken empire has grown and grown since then. The chickens have moved from a small lean-to shack at the end of our vegetable patch to what we now call “Chickenopolis” in our olive grove.
Chickenopolis is a complex structure, made entirely of recycled bits and bobs we have either found or been given. It has a rather grand chicken house, given to us by some friends, along with six of their hens when they moved and couldn´t take them with them. Attached to this is a sheltered run for when it´s raining and they don´t want to go outside. Having said that, although I´m very fond of all my chickens, they´re not the brightest creatures in the world and will happily stand out in the pouring rain all day as long as there is something on the ground to peck at. Adjoining this, rather like a terraced house in a Victorian street of London, is where the Fat Boys live.
The Fat Boys, turn away now if you´re squeamish, are all cockerels and a different breed which grow quickly and are bred for eating. Rather than buy 6 week old chickens which have been pumped up with chemicals and hormones, we buy the chicks and give them a happy (and chemical free) life for about 4 months. They grow fat naturally, and then when their time comes, they are dispatched quickly and as pain free as it´s possible to do and enjoyed in delicious meals. Once the freezer is full, the next batch of Fat Boys starts off again.
Our chicken population varies, but we have space for about 20 fat boys at a time as they have to be kept separately from the others. We currently have 10 hens and 2 (very happy) cockerels. We are just about to put a broody hen to sit on some eggs, so hopefully once she settles we´ll have a new clutch of chicks 3 weeks later.
Our hens can roam free around the olives and take themselves off to bed when the sun goes down. They´re quite bright in that respect! The olive grove is dog and fox proof, but every now and then you´ll lose one – it´s sad, but a fact of life. One of our neighbours traded us three of his hens a few months ago. We thought they were mature, but realised this week that they were probably younger than we thought as it looks like they have just started to lay eggs. We know they must be those responsible for the Funky Eggs, as all our hens are over a year old and have been laying for some time now.
When a hen first starts to lay, it sometimes lays a really tiny egg. Our new hens have clearly not read the manual about what shape they should be either, as we are getting the funkiest conical eggs at the moment too.
Never mind, we love our chickies, they make us laugh, and in return for what they give us, we hope they enjoy their lives in our little olive grove.
So in 2016 I turned 50. I was in Italy for my 21st, 30th and 40th. To keep this birthday tradition going I always knew I'd be in Italy for my 50! This blog starts with my 5 week adventure in Puglia but my love affair with Italy continues.....