Roast Chicken with Saffron, Hazelnuts and Honey

I’m not an expert on poetry, I can’t even claim to get immense pleasure from reading it regularly, but there are some poems that stick in my head. One such poem is “If” by Rudyard Kipling. Different lines from it seem appropriate at different times.

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

That seems to be the part that resonates right now, and I wanted to say a heartfelt thank you to you all for your kind words of support and encouragement while Big Man and I deal with the highs of a wonderful year of hard work behind us, and the lows of the ill health of loved ones in the here and now.

However, life really does go on. We live, we laugh, we cry and of course, we cook and eat. Cooking soothes the soul, eating does too. Well, we all knew that didn’t we?!  Today I have another beautiful Ottolenghi recipe that is stunningly simple and simply stunning. I followed the recipe almost exactly, which is rare, and I wouldn’t change a thing. When we ate this dish, I found myself thinking what beautiful Arab flavours it contained. As I looked up the recipe again to pull this post together, Yotam Ottolenghi says that he was influenced by a recipe from Claudia Roden’s book, Tamarind and Saffron. Aha, now I need to buy that one too!

Chicken with Saffron Hazelnuts & Honey (8)

Serves 4

  • 1 large (organic, free range if possible) chicken cut into portions
  • 2 onions roughly chopped
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp each of ground ginger and ground cinnamon
  • A generous pinch of saffron strands (but use turmeric if you don’t have saffron)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 tbsp cold water
  • 2 tsp coarse sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 100g hazelnuts (actually, I did change this, he says unskinned, mine were skinned!)
  • 70g honey
  • 2 tbsp rosewater

In a large bowl mix the chicken pieces with the onions, olive oil, spices, saffron, lemon juice, water, salt and pepper and leave to marinate (from 1 hour to overnight in the fridge)

Heat the oven to 190 degrees (Gas 5). Brown the hazelnuts on an oven tray for 10 mins (I dry fried mine in a pan), cool slightly, roughly chop the nuts and set aside.

Transfer the chicken and marinade to a large tray or oven dish (you want to spread it all out) and bake for about 35 minutes.

Meanwhile mix the honey, nuts and rose water to make a rough paste and spread it over the almost cooked chicken. Return the meat to the oven for about 10 minutes (or until cooked) and it is all golden brown.

This dish looks so beautiful (well, less so in my photo!) and is good even when cold.

Advertisements

One Year On…Pollo en Pepitoria – Chicken in a Saffron and Almond Sauce

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
  • Olive oil
  • 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!

Fabada – Asturian Sausage and Beans

When we travelled to the distant north of Spain, we bought back some foodie memories with us. Well, a little more than memories, we bought back beans and smoked meats to make the famous Fabada.

It´s one of those dishes which needs the authentic smoked blood sausage (morcilla), chorizo and pork to achieve the “real” taste, but it also lends itself to “making do” depending on the ingredients you have to hand.

The ingredients given below can be interpreted fairly loosely to make a lovely bean, ham and sausage stew if you can´t get hold of the Asturian versions.  I also like to be lighter with the meat than some people, so feel free to add more. This recipe will serve six as a main course, but it does keep well for about 5 days in the fridge.

You´ll need

  • 1kg of Fabes (or any large dried white beans)
  • 1 small blood sausage
  • 1 or 2 chorizo (depending on the size)
  • About 100g piece of smoked or unsmoked or salted pancetta or pork belly (or use chunky lardons)
  • ½ teaspoon of saffron or add a teaspoon of sweet smoked paprika or pimentón instead
  • 2 bay leaves

This dish really improves by making it the day before you want to eat it, although it´s not essential, and if you have an earthenware bowl to cook it in, even better!  The day before making the dish put your beans into soak in plenty of water.  In a separate bowl of water soak any smoked or salted meats.

Using the water you soaked the beans in, put them in your cooking pot with about a depth of  3cm of water above them.  Bring to the boil then skim off the froth which will appear. Dissolve the saffron in a little water and add to the beans (or add your pimentón or paprika directly to the water).  Now add the pork belly or pancetta, bring to the boil and skim and then repeat with the chorizo and morcilla.

Add the bay leaves, make sure all the meat is pushed to the bottom and then cook very slowly for about 2 or 3 hours.  Try not to stir as this will break the beans, shake the pot if necessary and top up with boiling water if needed.

You should be left with thick creamy beans which still hold their shape.  I like to thinly slice the meats and sausages so they can easily be eaten with a spoon.  This is a “plato de cuchara” or a “spoon dish” as they call it here.

Serve with a good robust red wine, plenty of bread and I like a tomato and garlic salad on the side. ¡Buen Provecho!

Chicken Paella

Guess who loves black pepper?!

I can´t believe I´ve done so many posts without doing one on the famous Spanish Paella!  Paella traditionally comes from Valencia, up towards the north of Spain, and very good it is too.  People think of prawns and mussels when they talk of paella (which here is pronounced along the lines of pie-eh-ya) but there are meat versions and mixed meat and seafood versions, although not many vegetarian ones.

If you can buy proper paella rice, it does make all the difference.  Use long grain and it won´t be able to soak up all the flavours.  Use risotto rice and it will go creamy.  Paella rice plumps up, absorbs the flavour but the grains stay separate.

In Andalucía they tend to make more Arroz or Arroz Caldoso, which translates as Rice or Brothy Rice.  This is exactly the same as a paella, but with more stock, giving a more soupy dish. Whether you make Arroz or Paella, the technique is the same, it´s just the quantity of liquid that varies.

And now, allow me to let you into a little secret.  The beautiful colour of a Paella?  Saffron? Well, sometimes, but most housewives here use artificial colouring.  I was shocked when I found out – perhaps even more than when I realised how expensive saffron is, but I´m just letting you know.  I try not to use anything artificial in my cooking, and have been known to slip a little turmeric in, which doesn´t really affect the taste but gives a good golden colour.  You can also use paella spice sachets which contain salt, garlic, paprika, saffron and ground cloves….oh, and a little colouring too.  There´s no getting away from it.  I leave it to you…make your own mix with a few strands of saffron, or use a mix.  I won´t judge you!

So, here´s how I made this paella.  I can´t claim my version today is typically Andaluz, it was a ”what have we got in the fridge?” kind of day.  The beauty of this is that you can make it however you fancy.

  • A cup of cooked chicken
  • A quarter cup of diced jamon
  • Two cloves of crushed garlic
  • One small onion, finely chopped
  • One long thin green pepper, finely chopped
  • A stick of celery finely chopped
  • A cup of chopped tomatoes
  • About 3 cups of chicken stock
  • One and a half cups of rice
  • Seasoning
  • Olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons of hot pimentón (optional)
  • Paella spices
  • Lemons to serve

You can make this in a large frying pan if you don´t have a paella pan, or a saucepan if you want to make arroz. The paella pan in the photo is meant to serve four (!).  We ate about two thirds of it between the two of us and there was enough left over for a few tapas portions the next day.

Soften your onion, celery and pepper in olive oil and then add the crushed garlic.  When the garlic has softened, add your pimentón (or chilli powder) and spices and stir in. Now add your tomatoes and cook gently for a minute or two then put your chicken, jamon and stock in and allow to boil.  I find that for a paella I use double the quantity of liquid to rice, 3 times for arroz. 

When the liquid is boiling, add the rice and some seasoning, stir it all around and reduce the heat.  I often partly cover the dish with a large lid.  You don´t need to stir it like a risotto, some will stick on the bottom, but in my house we fight for those bits!  I can´t be more precise about quantities as a lot will depend on how much liquid your rice absorbs. Have a pot of boiling water or stock on the side and if you feel it´s cooking too quickly add a little more.

When the rice is almost cooked, but not quite there, turn it off and cover it.  Use tin foil or a lid.  These last few minutes “resting” are important.  Here they say that arroz can be “mal cocinado, pero bien reposado” which means badly cooked but well rested.  Hopefully yours will be both bien cocindao and bien reposado!

Laid back and rested rice

And that´s it, serve with plenty of lemons to squeeze over and a glass of your favourite wine.

I´ll do a seafood version soon – my two best girlfriends in the world are coming to stay tomorrow, so no doubt we´ll have plenty of cooking, eating and wine drinking sessions together that I can share with you all!