Slow Cooked Mustard and Cider Chicken

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.

Mustard and Cider Chicken 001

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.

Mustard and Cider Chicken 003

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.

Spring Salads

I always feel a bit of a fraud posting salad recipes as most of us conjure up salads from what we have in the fridge most of the time. Well, it makes sense.  But sometimes there are some really tasty combinations of ingredients just work so well together, it’s worth searching them out to make them specially.

The first one was inspired by a conversation with my parents at Christmas. We were eating some particularly good smoked salmon and they were reminiscing about their work in London in the 1970s and 1980s when they used to run some very funky nightclubs. I was the envy of the class having a young mum who wore silver platform boots and Green Mary Quant nail varnish to go to work but in typical fashion always wanted to be round visiting best pal Ria’s mum who baked cakes. There’s no pleasing young folk, as I am sure many of you will agree!

Their memory was of Ella Fitzgerald (oh yes, I’m shamelessly name dropping here) asking for English mustard to go with her smoked salmon, so of course we got out the mustard and I have to say, Ella certainly knew what she was asking for!

Smoked Salmon Salad (1)

Asparagus and Smoked Salmon Salad with a Mustard Mayonnaise

(Quantities are up to you, we ate this as a starter between 2)

  • Rocket leaves, asparagus spears (blanch the chopped stems first for a few minutes then add the tips for the last minute or so) slices of smoked salmon arranged to your liking on one of your favourite plates.
  • Drizzle a little olive oil over and a squeeze of lemon juice, a sprinkle of salt and a few grinds of black pepper.
  • Serve with a dipping mayonnaise (homemade or otherwise) mixed in a ratio of about 5:1 with English mustard. Put on your favourite Disco collection cd and get on down.

If you enjoy asparagus, try this recipe out and see what you think.

Back in Spain here it’s orange season and we can’t get enough of them. They’re being sold at outrageously cheap prices for massive bags of them so we’re juicing them, eating them au naturel and in fruit salads and savoury salads. Here’s a favourite which we serve with grilled pork – the flavour of the sweet and sour oranges, the sharp onion and the creamy avocado contrast really well with the richness of the meat.

Orange & Avocado Salad (4)

Orange and Avocado Salad

  • Per person a peeled and chopped orange, half a peeled and chopped avocado, some thinly sliced sweet onion and a sprinkle of finely chopped parsley,
  • Sprinkle some coarse sea salt over and a drizzle of olive oil. If the oranges are particularly sweet squeeze over a little lemon juice and finish with a splash of balsamic vinegar. I used a Balsamic vinegar reduction which is not only pretty to look at as you can get all cheffy with it, it also has a very delicious intense flavour.

Go on, Spring into Spring and start to throw off those warming winter hotpots and give your favourite salads a chance again!

Smokey Pork Belly Strips with Roasted Vegetables

Pork belly is a big favourite in our house but from reading recipes and comments on other lovely blogs, I’ve realised that not everyone can get hold  of whole pieces of pork belly. In fact, in Spain I have to ask the butcher to not slice it up as it’s also more typical to sell belly slices.

Smokey Pork Belly (3)

Usually pork belly slices are barbecued in Spain but here in the UK in December the weather doesn’t really lend itself to outdoor cooking – not that I wouldn’t grab the chance if the weather was perfect at the right moment!

I wanted to use belly slices and to try to recreate some of the smokey flavours in my kitchen without setting off the smoke alarm and causing panic amongst the neighbours. Easy…use the oven Chica!

Ingredients (to service 2)

Turn oven on to almost the highest setting

  • A mix of root vegetables cut into large chunks (I used sweet potatoes, potatoes and carrots)
  • An onion cut into thick slices and about 6-8 whole garlic cloves
  • 6-8 pork belly slices
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of mustard powder
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of smoked pimentón or paprika
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

Put all the vegetables with the onion and garlic into an oven tray, season, drizzle well with oil and mix to ensure all the vegetables are coated.

Rub the pork belly slices in the mustard powder and the pimentón and season lightly.

Cook the vegetables in the oven for about 20 minutes until the vegetables start to soften. Lay the pork belly slices over the top of the vegetables and continue to cook for about another 20 minutes or until the pork belly is browned and crisp.

Enjoy with a warming glass of red wine and if you have any vegetables left over, add some stock the next day, blitz and enjoy a delicious roasted root vegetable soup.

For another pork belly recipe, check out my Smokey Pork with Pimentón and Peppers or Crispy Pork Belly with Stir Fried Cabbage.

Honey Mustard Chicken

Honey Mustard Chicken (2)

While we’ve been in the UK we’ve missed eating our own home reared chicken, but we have 2 fantastic butchers nearby and are able to buy organic chicken and eggs too. A luxury, but I’d rather eat meat less often and enjoy good quality, properly reared meat that hasn’t been pumped full of chemicals.  I often buy a whole chicken which gives me more options…roast, soup, portions to freeze and eat later.

I had been saving our favourite part of the chicken which is the thigh.  I much prefer dark meat and when it’s cooked with the bone and skin, the flavour is better. In my humble opinion at least! Big Man is happy to eat chicken simply grilled or roasted, I enjoy extra flavours or sauces, so this was a dish to keep us both happy as I cooked the chicken in the base for the sauce, then served it on the side when the dish was complete. Having said that, I think he ate his share!

Ingredients (to serve 4)

  • 8 chicken thighs (or your favourite joints)
  • 2 glasses of white wine (plus one for the chef). Use chicken stock or water if you don’t cook with alcohol
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 – 2 heaped teaspoons of English Mustard (according to taste)
  • 2 cloves of crushed garlic
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 level teaspoon of cornflour

Season the chicken with salt and pepper and put into a deep baking tin. Mix together all the other ingredients (except the cornflour) and pour over the chicken. If you have time, leave it for an hour or so before cooking, turning the meat in it once.

Honey Mustard Chicken (4)

Cook at about 200 degrees (Gas 6 approx) for around 45 minutes, basting and turning the meat once or twice. Check that it’s cooked by piercing a thigh with a sharp knife to see that the juices run clear.

Drain the sauce off into a small pan and keep the chicken in a low oven while you finish the sauce. Add the cornflour to a few tablespoons of cold water, mix well and stir into the sauce. Heat gently until it thickens to your liking and serve with the chicken.

I made double the quantity and used the leftover chicken which I stir fried with courgette, bacon and mushrooms, then added the rest of the sauce and a little cream and served with pasta. Waste not, want not!

Honey Mustard Chicken Pasta (3)