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.


Lentils and Light

I’ve always been a fan of things you can whack into a large pan and walk away from.  Leave to potter and simmer and come together whilst you crack on with one or two of the other things that demand your time.

This stew is one such dish.  It takes about 35-45 minutes to cook and no time at all to prepare.  It sits happily on the stove while you crack on with those emails, feeding the cat, ironing or whatever. I served it last weekend for my film-maker friend, Mike, who kindly came round to give me a photography lesson.  Followed by a slice of plum and pear pie, I suppose it was really a bribe to trek East and patiently explain clever things about light sources and let me try out some better lenses.  But it is also exactly the kind of food I crave on days like these, when it starts to get dark around 4.30 in the afternoon and the heating needs to be whacked up.  In fact, it was the perfect meal before heading off to see the Guy Fawkes fireworks on Blackheath.  

Lentils and sausages are of course very good friends and I for one have always thought of them as a particularly Germanic combo.  Not that there is anything wrong with that, of course, but I think this recipe is a fresher, spicier take than the wurst you too might be familiar with.

Sausage and Lentil Stew with Fennel and Paprika
Serves 3 hungry people

You will need:

6 Sausages (preferably of the stronger, Italian variety- I used fennel and chili)
2 onions
2 garlic cloves
olive oil
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp smoky paprika
300g green lentils (not puy please)
700ml passata
700ml chicken stock
A handful of parsley
Black pepper.


1.  Slice the onions and fry them in a large stewing pot over a medium high heat.  They should begin to caramelise ever so slightly.

2.  Meanwhile, brown the sausages all over in a separate frying.

3. Add the minced garlic, fennel seeds and paprika to your pot and stir for about a minute.

4.  Add the sausages, passata and stock.  Stir together.

5.  Add the lentils and cook over a low, simmering heat until the sauce has reduced slightly and the lentils are cooked through.  They should absorb a fair bit of the liquid.  This should take about 40 minutes.

6.  Plate up into large bowls, scatter with chopped parsley and plenty of black pepper.  Serve with chunky bread.

Beans for lunch

My domestic task for this week is to rearrange the kitchen.  I think I was inspired by the ergonomically sound layout and design of the Secret Larder (particularly the labelled fridge shelves).  Oh to have those worktops!  The storage solutions!  But I’ll try to make the most of the space I do have and see how it goes. 

I think my kitchen’s problem is essentially two-fold.  1) I recently got my bread maker out of storage and have been enjoying making homemade loaves (with mixed success, there’s a learning curve), but the thing does take up quite a lot of space.  2) I can’t seem resist picking up new ingredients all the time.  A bottle of this, a jar of that soon add up to a full suitcase on my travels or an overflowing handbag out and about in London. 

So our counters are permanently brimming, which can drive me potty from time to time.  One obvious way around this is to actually use up the store cupboard stuff before seeking out new treasures.  So I set myself a challenge for lunch today to find thrifty ways to use things up (see also my austerity soup).  I made a warm salad of chickpeas, spinach and garlic with a good drizzle of olive oil, pomegranate molasses and a sprinkle of paprika and sea salt (I nabbed more than my fair share of  fleur de sel at my friend Jen’s wedding in the GuĂ©rande region of Brittany back in September, where little bags of the famous sea salt were given as favours).  

A good way for using up any pita bread hiding in the freezer is to turn them into crisps for snacking on.  Simply toast to defrost, cut into strips, toss in some olive oil and put in the oven.  You can add cumin, salt, pepper, herbs, etc. to flavour.  I served these with a cannellini bean and rosemary dip (made with rosemary oil and flaked almonds).   That’s about six store cupboard items used so I can definitely justify at least three more culinary purchases now.