Paprika Chicken

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. 

 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

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.


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  

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.


Straight forward.

Stuck for a supper idea this weekend?  Try this flavoursome combo.

A couple of fennel bulbs, olives, orange zest and juice.  Some chicken thighs.  A few crushed garlic cloves, a sprinkle of parsley, a little sea salt, and pepper and a swig of olive oil.  180 degrees in an oven for 20 mins.  Bish, bash, bosh, supper. 

Tricky tagines

Whenever I’ve been to Morocco I have eaten an awful lot of tagines.  Tagine for lunch, for dinner and all over again the next day.  Lamb, beef, seafood or chicken, from Tangier to Casablanca to Marrakesh, they were always absolutely, addictively, delicious.  However, combined with the country’s wonderful pancake-like breakfast breads, there was inevitably a lot of lying down required between meals, which rather scuppered any sightseeing.  Not to mention the diet of salad and watery soup needed for at least a month after my return home.  I later read that a tagine (read ONE tagine) should basically be your meal for the day, so no wonder. 

Even so, a traditional tagine is perhaps best saved for a special occasion or when you are really, really hungry.  There are hundreds of different versions (the tagine or tajine earned its name from the pot it is cooked in rather than from a specific recipe), depending on the combination of meat, fruit, nuts and vegetables.  However, most conventional recipes do often call for a lot of spices, such as the famous ras el hanout (worth picking up if you are ever in Morocco).  A traditional tagine also needs a fair amount of time to cook, preferably something like a whole day, emerging all unctuous and gooey, meat slipping off the bone.

This is a good cheat’s version.  It still has those undeniably Moroccan flavours, but it is quicker, lighter and has a relatively short list of ingredients.  So although I may have borrowed my flatmate’s tagine pot for an authentic-looking photo, make no mistake- I bluffed my way through this one.

I am always quite sceptical of a stew that doesn’t rely on at least half of (if not a whole) bottle of wine, but this recipe really doesn’t need it, the sauce is still strong and deep.  I was also pretty delighted to finally find a use for all those preserved lemons.

Chicken Tagine with Olives and Preserved Lemons

You Will Need:

 Olive oil, preferably extra virgin
2 onions, sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
Spice- saffron would be preferable (about 1/2 tsp of the powdered stuff) but if that is too expensive (and it is), try some paprika.  Also ground ginger (1.5 tsp), salt and pepper.
Chicken pieces on the bone (thighs, legs, wings as you prefer)- about 750g-1kg
Juice of 1/2 lemon
A bunch of coriander
A bunch of parsley (flat leaved)
1 Preserved lemon
15 green olives


 1.  Get out your very largest cooking pot.  Heat up about 3 tbsp of the oil and then add the onion.  Sauté until softened, before adding the spices and garlic. 

2.  Add the chicken pieces, a large pinch of salt and a good grind of black pepper.  Continue to fry over a medium heat, until the chicken has got some colour.  In traditional tagines the meat is not usually browned, but I feel for this one it both adds flavour and speeds up the cooking process.

3.  Pour about 400ml of water into the pot and leave to simmer, turning the pieces of chicken every so often when you remember.  It should take about half an hour to cook, and for the water to turn into a thick, stocky sauce. 

4.  While it is bubbling away, prepare the preserved lemon.  For this recipe, I only used the peel, sliced thinly, and discarded the pulpy flesh.   Stir this, along with the lemon juice, chopped coriander and parsley into the sauce. Finally add the olives and leave the stew to simmer for a further 5-10 minutes. 

5.  At any stage of the cooking process, you can add more water to the sauce if you feel it is going to be too dry or thick.  Alternatively, if you feel it is too liquidy, remove the chicken pieces at the end of the cooking process and put to one side while you let the sauce reduce over a higher heat.  

6.  Return the chicken to the pot and serve with, couscous, naturally. 

Wine Tasting in Earlsfield

An education in South London last Saturday Night…

Puff pastry tapenade swirls

Tapenade swirls

Basic recipe
1 packet puff pastry
1 jar black olives
1 garlic clove
dash olive oil
1 egg

Blitz your olives, garlic and parsley with a swig of olive oil. Alternatively, you can buy the stuff that comes in a jar. If your puff pastry is pre-rolled, you can get cracking, otherwise roll it out to about 1 cm thickness. Spread your tapenade mixture onto the pastry, all the way to the edges. Roll your pastry into a swiss roll structure. You want to be rolling from the longest side of the pastry, towards the opposite long side. Not the shortest to shortest, if that makes sense. Squish the pastry a little at the end, to seal the swiss roll up. Get a sharp knife and cut into slices, about 1cm-1.5cm thick. Arrange on your oven tray which has been covered with greaseproof paper and lightly oiled. Make sure to leave a decent amount of room between the swirls, as they will puff up. Brush lightly with a beaten egg. Place in a 200 degree oven for about 15-20 min until golden and puffy. Devour.

grated cheese (a strong one would be best here)
grated raw courgette
chili pepper (preferably smoked)
salt and pepper
etc etc.

Delicious little smoked salmon blinis

The wines

Sauvignon Blancs:

2009 Isabel Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, Isabel Vineyards, New Zealand

2008 Les Chailloux, Sancerre, Francois et Jean-Marie Cherrier, Verdigny-en-Sancerre, France


2009 Chablis, Thomas de Ribens, Bourgogne, France

2006 Domaine de la Boissoneuse, Chablis, J. Brocard, Prehy, France

2004 BV Chardonnay, Beaulieu Vineyard, Napa Valley, USA

(Mostly) Cabernet Sauvignons:

2007 Chateau Senejac, Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux, France

2003 Chateau Le Crock, Cru Bourgeois, St. Estephe, Bordeaux, France

(Mostly) Merlots:

2005 Chateau La Fleur de Jaugue, Saint Emilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux, France

2002 Le Dome, Saint Emilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux, France

Some much-needed sustenance- home made pizza. Gorgeous. Particularly the anchovy variety.

Packed Lunch today…

Halloumi, olives, cucumber, avocado, parsley and lashings of lemon. Zesty!