Paprika Chicken

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You can’t beat a decent bird.  And although the evenings are gradually getting longer and lighter, there is still a definite nip in the air, driving us back indoors for pints, blankets and comfort food.  And there’s no better comfort food than a roast chicken.  Although it is delicious served simply, I’ve also been enjoying different takes on the traditional roast chicken this winter.  Just a few little twists by adding a bit of spice or sweetness, perfect for this time of year.  My Moorish (moreish?) paprika roast chicken with apricots is just the ticket for in-between days.  Or why not try a different beast altogether and roast a pheasant. I know game can seem daunting, all dark meat and heady smells, but it couldn’t be simpler to prepare, particularly if served as a one pot marvel. 
 
These wonderful photos are the result of another collaboration with the brilliantly clever photographer, Faith Mason.  Have a look at her website for more gorgeous shots and check back here in a few weeks for some upcoming Easter treats. 
 
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 Pot Roast Pheasant with Fennel and Chorizo
Serves 2-3

You will need:
2 medium onions, sliced
2 large fennel bulbs, sliced chunkily
3 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
1 pheasant
150g chorizo, sliced
100ml sweet and dark sherry, preferably Pedro Ximenez

 

500ml fresh chicken stock, from the chiller cabinet
1 tin butter beans or cannellini beans
a few sprigs of thyme
crusty bread, to serve, optional

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 160C.  Add a little oil to a frying pan and cook the onions and fennel slices until softened and beginning to go golden.  Add the garlic slices and continue to fry until just soft.  Remove and place in a large casserole dish or pot.  

2. Add another splash of oil to your frying pan and heat until really hot.  Season the pheasant and brown on all sides, this should take no more than 5 mins.  Nestle the pheasant in the casserole dish, sitting on top of the fennel and onion. 

3. Fry off the chorizo slices until browned and crispy.  Add these to the casserole dish as well.  Deglaze the frying pan by pouring in the sherry, simmering for about 5-7 mins, stirring and scraping the pan as you go until slightly reduced and sweet-smelling. 

4. Meanwhile, add the stock to the casserole dish and bring to a gentle simmer.  Add the reduced sherry, beans and thyme sprigs.  Cover and place in the oven for 1 hr 30 mins until the birds are cooked through and the sauce is thick and glossy.  Serve with some crusty bread for dipping and mopping, if you like.

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Paprika Roast Chicken with Red Pepper, Olive and Apricot Couscous
Serves 4

You will need:
200g dried apricots
75g butter, softened
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp smoked paprika
handful parsley, optional
1 whole chicken, approx 1.5kg
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 lemons, juice and zest
300g couscous
100g green olives
3 long red peppers, cut into chunks
Rocket, to serve, optional  

Method:
1.  Preheat the oven to 190C.  Finely chop about 75g of the apricots and mash into the butter along with the garlic, 1 tsp paprika, seasoning and, if you like, some roughly chopped parsley.  Loosen the skin covering the chicken breasts and generously dot the butter underneath, smoothing down as you go. 

2. Place the rest of the butter into the cavity of the chicken, along with the juiced out lemon halves.  Scatter most of the apricots, half of the olives and all of the red pepper chunks into a large roasting tin. Mix together 1 tbsp of oil with the lemon zest, juice, 1 tsp paprika and some seasoning.  Use half to toss through the vegetables and the remainder to rub or brush this liberally all over the chicken.  Sit the bird in the roasting tray, tucking in as many stray bits of vegetable and fruit underneath as possible. Roast in the oven for approx 1 hr 20 mins, until cooked through and tender.

3.   Towards the end of the cooking time, cook the couscous according to packet instructions.  I like to tip it into a large bowl, pour over boiling water, covering by at about 2 cm.  Tightly cover with cling then leave for about 10 mins.  The water should have been absorbed and the couscous soft.  Fork the remaining oil through the couscous along with some seasoning.  

4. Once the chicken is cooked, place on a chopping board to rest.  Tip the fruit and veg into the couscous along with the rest of the olives and apricots, as well as a little of the juices from the roasting tin.  Fork through to distribute then season to taste- adding a little more oil or lemon juice if necessary.  Serve with the chicken and a rocket salad.

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Strawberry Tea

Summer!  A time for BBQs, sunshine into the lazy evenings, drinks on terraces and trips to the beach.  But not necessarily a time for afternoon tea.  In my opinion, tea and cake (pleasant as that combo may be) really belongs to the more blustery days of autumn and winter.  But sometimes on a June afternoon (and in my case rather too often if truth be told) rather than that cooling glass of lemonade or sticky ice lolly, I crave a coffee and slice of something sweet.  And it is also true that friends come round for tea even in the summer.

These occasions call for a cake that’s a bit different to something you may wish for on an autumn day- something lighter and more pillowy but still has a decent crumb.  Above all it needs to be packed with plenty of seasonal fruit.  This berry cake is just the ticket for a summer’s afternoon tea.  I’ve added apricots too, which add a bit of tart sweetness.  You could top this with a dusting of icing sugar or maybe some toasted flaked almonds, but I find that a dollop of creme fraiche is all I need.  Serve with pots and pots of tea or coffee. 

Strawberry and Apricot Cake

You will need:

85g unsalted butter, plus a bit extra, softened
200g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
150g caster sugar, plus extra
1 large egg, beaten
240ml milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
500g strawberries and apricots, hulled and halved

Method:
 

1. Preheat oven to 170 C and grease a 20cm cake tin (ideally with a loose bottom) with the extra butter.  Dust with a little sugar.   In a bowl, toss the fruit in a little extra sugar to coat and set aside.

2. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together into a medium sized bowl.  Beat the butter and 150g of sugar until light in colour and fluffy.  Use electric beaters if you prefer!  Gradually add the milk, egg and vanilla. Slowly add the flour mixture.

3. Pour the cake batter into your prepared cake tin.  Working quickly, lightly press the sugar-coated the fruit into the cake.

4.  Bake until cake is golden brown and coming away from the sides of the tin, approx 1 hour.  Leave to cool slightly before removing from the tin and transferring to a wire rack to continue cooling.  Serve warmish or a room temp.