Sizzling Summer Spatchcock Chicken

It’s been a mad week here! We have a gîte with a full quota of guests, my son and his girlfriend staying in the house, 4 friends staying last night in a tent and my nephew arriving today. So my first thought of the day is wondering how many I am cooking for that evening. Luckily tonight it’s only seven but I need a little break so this is a dish that is really easy and keeps the chicken really moist.

Here’s what you need for 4 people:

  • 2 small chickens
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 2 sprigs rosemary (about 1 tbsp when chopped) or 2tsp dried
  • 2 sprigs of tarragon or 2tsp dried
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • sea salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed

Here’s what to do:

  • First prepare the marinade my mixing the lemon juice, zest, oil and  chopped herbs.
  • Sizzling Summer Spatchcock (4) Next prepare the chicken – it’s really easy. You can use poultry shears but I find it easier with a sharp knife. Put the chicken neck end down on a chopping board and holding the backbone, start cutting through the ribs. Repeat down the other side and remove the backbone. Either chuck it or freeze for making stock later. Flatten the chicken by pushing down hard on the breast area.

Sizzling Summer Spatchcock (5)

  • Carefully separate the skin from the breast and squidge the garlic in. You could mix it with butter to make it very naughty.
  • Spread the herb marinade all over the skin of the chicken and pop it in the fridge for a couple of hours if you can.
  • Cook in the oven at 180 C or Gas 5/6 for about an hour and thirty minutes, depending on the size of your  chicken. You can also barbecue this slowly.
  • You can use this marinade on a normal roast chicken and this way you can stuff the squeezed lemon halves inside the cavity for extra flavour. It’s also great on a rotisserie.

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So here’s a really delicious marinade that you could use on any chicken. Putting the garlic under the skin stops it from burning and allows it to get right into the flesh. If you are going for a virtuous option then omit the oil and mix the garlic and herbs together and then slather onto skinless breast or thigh and cook in foil. Open the foil for the last 5 minutes.

Sizzling Summer Spatchcock (2)

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Delicious Ducky Noodles

Duck has got to be my favourite meat. I nearly always pick duck if we go to a restaurant nearby (a rarity saved for birthdays!). I love it roasted, confit, curried,  in a salad or whatever else, I’m a huge fan. Unfortunately, it’s still an expensive meal so I’ve devised this dish which gives me the dirty, naughty taste of duck without costing a fortune which is light enough for hot summer nights and won’t wreck my diet! It’s really easy and even my meat mad husband doesn’t complain as I can fill him up with noodles.

Here’s what you need for 4 people:

Duck (2)

  • 2 duck breasts
  • 4 nests of noodles (I used rice noodles but egg noodles are fine)
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 1 red pepper cut into chunks
  • few spring onions sliced
  • sliced red chilli (optional)
  • 3 tsp 5 spice powder
  • sesame oil
  • 2 tsp garlic and ginger purée (or 2 cloves garlic and nub of grated ginger)

Here’s what I did:

  • First marinate the duck by slicing diagonally into the skin and massaging in the oil, ginger and garlic and 5 spice. Cover and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Duck

  • Take the duck out of the fridge 30 minutes before cooking and place skin down in a cold frying pan. Turn the heat on to medium and sear the duck for a few minutes until the fat oozes out and the skin is golden.
  • Stick it in the oven at 200 degrees, gas 6 for about 10 minutes, depending on how rare you like the duck .
  • Meanwhile pop the noodles in boiled water from the kettle and leave to stand.
  • Heat a tbsp oil in a wok and stir-fry the onions and peppers for a few minutes then add the spring onion sand finally the chillies if using.

Duck (5)

  • Let the duck rest for about 10 minutes before slicing thinly.

Ducky and Prawny Stir-Fry (2)

  • Drain the noodles and combine with the vegetables and extra sesame oil if you like.
  • Arrange the sliced duck on top and serve.

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Tips:

  • Add a few raw prawns or small cooked ones (whatever you have in the freezer) to make it a special meal.
  • Use mangetout, baby sweetcorn, mushrooms, pineapple…whatever you have!

Ducky and Prawny Stir-FryDucky and Prawny Stir-Fry (3)

  • Drizzle the duck with runny honey and sesame seeds for extra oomph and, of course, calories!

So here is my easy duck dish, full of flavour and the most time consuming bit is cutting up the vegetables. You could be really naughty and just use frozen ones!

Let me know how you cook your duck in the summer.

Seasonal Vegetable Frittata

Sometimes I plan a meal and feel sure that I will have enough left over for the following night. Unfortunately, each time I am disappointed and find myself raiding the fridge for possibilities. Of course, here in France, there always seems to be a Bank Holiday too and, of course, shorter opening hours so here is my  low-carb solution. It’s a sort of crustless quiche or Spanish omelette and of course, it’s easy and virtuous.

Here’s what you need for 4 people:

  • 5 eggs
  • 2 tbsp creme fraiche
  • 1 pepper, chopped
  • 1 tomato, deseeded and chopped
  • a few spring onions or shallot or onion, chopped
  • chopped fresh parsley or 1 tsp dried

Here’s what I did:

Seasonal Vegetable Frittata

  • Whisk the eggs with salt and pepper.
  • If using onion, heat a tsp of oil and soften the onion for a few minutes without browning.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and pour into a greased flan dish.
  • Cook at 180 or Gas 4-5 for about 20 minutes.

Seasonal Vegetable Frittata (3)

Top tips:

  • Use any vegetables you have, for example, leftover peas or sweetcorn, mushrooms, cooked potatoes or green beans. If there is nothing in the fridge there must be some peas in the freezer!
  • To make it more substantial fry some lardons or chopped bacon and drain the fat and add to the mix. You could also use prawns, ham, leftover chicken or tinned salmon.
  • Add  some naughty grated cheese if you like.

So here is an easy, virtuous dish you can make from leftovers in the fridge or freezer. I serve it with a salad but it could be served with any meat dish too. A pretty dish, it could be adapted to suit a vegetarian and would also work well sliced for a buffet or party food.

Seasonal Vegetable Frittata (2)

Chicken with Tarragon and Juniper Berries

My favourite herb is tarragon. It goes in egg dishes, salmon and of course, chicken. I use it dried for the intensity of the flavour and sometimes fresh, as in this dish. I’m growing it in pots now, but if you want to do the same be sure to buy French Tarragon, not Russian. The Russian one is more widely available but the taste is very mild. The pot needs to be brought in during the winter months as it is quite tender.

I’ve been cooking this dish for years, originally as a dinner party dish as it always looks pretty with carrots and mangetout. It might be a little retro now but it is still impressive and tastes luxurious. Best of all, it takes very little effort.

Here’s what you need for 4 people:

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 8 juniper berries, lightly crushed
  • 1 glass dry white wine ( I used Muscadet but a Pinot Grigio would work)
  • 1 glass chicken stock ( I used half a cube)
  • 2 heaped tbsp of low fat creme fraiche.
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon (or 1 heaped tsp dried)

Here’s what I did:

Tarragon Chicken (2)

  • Cut each chicken breast into 3 equal strips.
  • In a casserole dish heat 1 tbsp of vegetable oil and add the chicken and brown for a few minutes.
  • Add the stock, wine and juniper berries, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover for 5-10 minutes until just tender.
  • Season and add the tarragon and creme fraiche for a minute.
  • Serve with boiled new potatoes and seasonal vegetables.

Tarragon Chicken

So here is a quick and tasty dish you can do midweek or dress it up for posh nosh too.  In winter serve it with small roast potatoes and roasted root vegetables. No need for gravy with all the yummy sauce. The best thing is that it is lower in fat than using double cream but  will not curdle when you add it to the wine. Give it a go and see how easy it is….I’d love to know how you get on.

Tuscan Roast Pork

We are still in the grip of some seriously hot weather here. Yesterday it was 36 degrees! Now, I love the sun but it’s not ‘doing’ weather is it? My poor doggies only get up when they need a drink or to find a different cold spot on the tiles, so I really can’t be bothered with cooking much. The thing is, despite moving to France, I still think of Sunday lunch as a  a special occasion, and more importantly, my family expect it! So this dish is a bit of a compromise, especially if you’ve already peaked on barbecue food too. I first did this dish many years ago and did it spit-roast on the barbecue but this is the lazy version for all you cheaters out there.

This is a Decadent dish. What I mean is that this dish has a fair bit of fat in it. More importantly it’s easy, so if you need to sneak outside with a glass of wine there’s no guilt because dinner is doing itself.

Here’s what you need for 4 people:    

  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano or 1 tbsp chopped fresh
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 heaped tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp fennel seeds
  • Piece of pork shoulder about 1kg with the skin removed
  • Potatoes for 4 cut roughly in 1 inch chunks
  • 2 Onions/Shallots cut in wedges
  • 2 apples, cored and wedged

Tuscan Roast Pork

Here’s what I did:

  • Mix all the oil and spices together and slather onto the pork.
  • Cover loosely with foil and stick it in the oven at Gas 3/4  or 170 degrees for a good 3 hours.
  • Add the potatoes and onions and leave for an hour.
  • Finally add the apples, making sure to turn everything in the juices.
  • Keep the foil off for the last 20 minutes and wack the heat up to Gas 6 or 200.
  • Let it rest for 15 minutes before attempting to carve.

Tuscan Roast Pork (2)

Et voilà!  The meat will be falling apart so just slice thickly and pile on the veg in the delicious juices.  Serve this with a mixed salad and enjoy a day off! Great for a posh barbecue or when you fancy a change. I would love to know what you think about this recipe, especially as it is definitely a cheap dinner!

Top tips:

  • Don’t ditch the skin, score it, pour loads of table salt on it, wait 30 minutes and wash off. Dry with kitchen towel, and add vegetable oil to coat. Sprinkle with salt and place on a tray. Stick in the oven until crisp (probably the last 2 hours).
  • You can use leg or loin cuts but reduce the cooking time and only remove foil at the end.
  • Do this on the barbecue spit roast for about 1 and 1/2 hours.
  • Add wedged fennel to the pan with the apples.

Quick Raisukaree

This is one of my  Virtuous dishes!

It’s been a year since we moved to France and this year is the first season of the vegetable plot. I’ve tried to focus on the produce that costs the most so one of the ‘must haves’ was mangetout. It always seems to be imported and lasts a day or so in the fridge before going rather manky. Now I’m no gardener but I like to have a go so I got the seeds and  now I have nearly six feet of pea plants! It must be a combination of the ‘canicule’ or heatwave, and the brown water we use to water them, but through no effort we have hundreds of peas.

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I don’t know what it is but eating mangetout always makes me feel virtuous, and as I’m trying to be good and it’s too hot to cook much this is a quick and easy recipe. Already I have been picking and chucking them in boiling water for one minute then into ice water for a minute. Then just chuck a handful in a bag and pop onto the freezer. Then when you have a curry, stir-fry, or fish dish it’s easy to add it frozen to the pan. In fact you can substitute much of this recipe so it can be whipped up in 10 minutes. You could also use prawns or squid straight from the freezer. It also works well with a piece of salmon. Let me know what you think!

The inspiration for this dish is the fact that living in rural France you just can’t pop out to  a favourite Asian restaurant but you can make a low fat dinner which is pretty close to the restaurant version, tasty and quick. It’s perfect after a hard  days work and is great for a dinner ‘do’ as it looks impressive if you put the rice in individual pudding basins to serve.

Here’s what you need for 4 people.

  • 4 chicken breast or thigh meat, about 600g sliced thinly
  • 1 red onion/a few shallots/spring onions/any old onion you have – wedged/sliced
  • 1 red pepper sliced/frozen sliced peppers
  • Handful mangetout/frozen green beans/ asparagus/ peas/baby sweetcorn/mushrooms
  • I can coconut milk light (I buy bulk Maggi Powder as cheaper)
  • Handful fresh coriander/frozen/dried
  • 1 or 2 red chillies sliced/ birds eyes or flakes
  • 1 lime quartered
  • Glug of fish sauce (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed (or cheat from paste)
  • 10g or size 2 stock cubes grated ginger (or cheat)

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How to do it  :

  • Heat 1 tbsp oil in a wok/large frying pan and add the chicken stirring constantly then add the curry powder, garlic and ginger for 1 minute.
  • Add the onion/peppers for 2/3 minutes.
  • Chuck in coconut milk then rest of veg, chillies and fish sauce and simmer until chicken is cooked.
  • Chop the coriander stalks and stir through and scatter the leaves on the top.
  • Serve with 200g basmati rice with black sesame seeds stirred through or noodles in the middle of a large bowl garnished with the lime.

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