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.

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  • 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.

DSC_0939Sizzling Summer Spatchcock (6)

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.

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Simple Saucey Steaks

My family love steak. We don’t have it often as it is expensive in France, as it is in the UK, so we reserve it for special occasions. When my son went back to the UK last week part of his last meal here was steak. We managed to get some tender entrecôte steaks from Lidl which were good value and some samphire, or salicorne  in French, just because I love it. Now Will, like many teenagers doesn’t really do mushrooms, so we decided on a pepper sauce, which to be honest I hadn’t made before. I looked up a few recipes online and it was far too complicated when I was making the mussel starter. All the recipes seem to involve reducing stock and far too much faff, and as I said before, I prefer to cheat so here is my version of a steak au poivre.

Here’s what you need for 4 people:

  •  4 rib-eye steaks or your choice of cut
  • 2 finely chopped shallots
  • 1 clove of garlic crushed
  • 1 tsp Bovril or I beef stock cube dissolved in 250ml boiling water (if you don’t want to measure this is the equivalent of just under a mug)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 capful of brandy
  • butter and oil for frying
  • 2 heaped tbsp low fat creme fraiche

Here’s what I did:

  • Cook the steaks to your liking and leave to rest while you make the sauce.
  • Melt about a tbsp of butter in a frying pan and soften the shallots for a few minutes.Keep stirring so they don’t brown.
  • Add the garlic for 1 minute then tip in the brandy.
  • Add the stock and creme fraiche.

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  • Stick in as much pepper as you like.

Steak au poivre

I served this with chips cooked in the oven and the samphire simply fried in butter for a couple of minutes. No salt required.

steak au poivre (2)This week we were able to have a few meals on our own, which might have been romantic if  our two Weimaraners weren’t salivating at the table! Whilst shopping a few backs we found some tournedos, which are the smaller part of the fillet. Often meat is sold covered in a protective layer of fat which I just take off after cooking. They were half price so we paid 3.50 in Euros for both, an absolute bargain. They were begging for a blue cheese sauce.


Here’s what you need for 4 people:

  •  4 steaks
  • 2 tbsp low fat creme fraiche
  • 1 small packet (150 g) of Roquefort cheese roughly cut

Here’s what I did:

  • Cook your steak and leave to rest. I fried these in butter for a couple of minutes each side and then put them in the oven for a few minutes for medium rare.
  • Using the same pan, add the cheese, creme fraiche and pepper to taste. There is enough salt in the cheese.

Steak with RoquefortThis is almost a non recipe, it’s so simple. This time we had large sliced mushrooms with loads of tarragon and garlic which worked well too. Of course, even though I’ve used low-fat creme fraiche, both these dishes are decadent due to the amount of fat used.

Oh well, back on the diet then!

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:

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  • 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.


  • 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.

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

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



  • 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.

Moules Marinière

My son is flying back to the UK today to spend some time with his brother for a couple of weeks. We are always looking for any excuse for good food so I asked him what he would like for a farewell dinner last night. Bearing in mind we are trying to be healthy I was ecstatic when he said that he would like oysters to start with followed by mussels!

Alas, it was not to be. I sent husband and son off shopping and they came back without oysters; they were being delivered today. Instead they came back with some mussels and very naughty bread to be followed by steak and chips! Oh well…

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People have told me that they love mussels but are frightened of poisoning themselves by not preparing them correctly but trust me, it’s easy.

How to prepare the mussels:

  • Fill a bowl with cold water and tip in the mussels.
  • Under the cold tap remove the stringy, beardy bits and check each mussel. If it’s cracked or won’t shut when you tap it then chuck it.
  • Discard any that float in the water.
  • After cooking, advise your guests to chuck any that have not opened.

Just follow the rule of: before cooking mussel shut, if not open after chuck.

Here’s what you need for 4 people:

  • 300g per person for a starter or 500g for a main course, washed and checked
  • 2 finely chopped shallots (or 1 onion)
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • glass of dry white wine ( I used a Muscadet)
  • I glass of water
  • chopped fresh parsley or coriander
  • knob of butter or oil

Here’s what I did:

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  • Heat the butter in a large saucepan ( I used a stockpot), and add the shallots.
  • Fry gently until they soften and add the garlic for 1 minute.
  • Tip in the wine and water, herbs and mussels.
  • Pop on the lid and the mussels should start to open within a few minutes.
  • Give them a stir round to make sure the ones at the top are cooked or shake the pan.
  • Sprinkle with more herbs and serve.

moules (3)Don’t they look gorgeous! This is my lazy version so there is no faff with measuring apart from buying the mussels! You can add some cream but done this way it’s a virtuous dish and, to be honest, they don’t really need it. Add more wine or water if you like more juices.


  • I like to bring the steaming pot to the table and let everyone help themselves. It’s much more impressive and they stay nice and warm.
  • You can serve them simply with bread or be really good and just have a salad.Salad

Or, you could be naughty and have dirty chips and bread! This was from another night.

Moules...or mussels, whichever, they taste fantastic!

  • Rather than messing about with a fork simply use a mussel as your tool to pinch the mussels from the shells.
  • You probably won’t have any leftovers but sometimes I keep a few cooked ones back and pop them in the freezer, still in their shells. I find it’s great to chuck them onto a paella last minute if you are can’t get to the shops. Use within a month.

‘Moules frites’ are sold in most restaurants where I live at lunchtimes so it seems a staple diet for the French people. If you’ve never tried them give it a go. The sweetness of the mussels and the saltiness of the sea is a great combination. The bread is great for soaking up all the delicious juices.

How do you cook your mussels?

Spicy Stuffed Squid

This is another Virtuous dish. Can you guess that I am on a diet yet? It’s been hot for weeks here, regularly in the 30’s, so the good thing is that we haven’t wanted to eat much.  I absolutely love squid and have seen similar recipes on the television but they looked a bit complicated so I just thought about what I already had in the house .  This is what I came up with.

Here’s what you need for 4 people:

  • 12 small squid bodies (they were frozen)
  • 1  160g tin cheapo crab, well drained
  • 1 chopped birds-eye chilli or a few flakes
  • 1 finely chopped spring onion
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped or half an onion
  • 1 clove of crushed garlic
  • 1/2 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tbsp chopped coriander or 1 tsp dried
  • 1 tsp fish sauce optional

What I did:

  • Mix crab, fish sauce, chilli, coriander and spring onion in a bowl.
  • Heat about 1 tsp vegetable oil in a small pan and add the shallot to soften.
  • Add the garlic and ginger for 1 minute stirring constantly.
  • Combine the crab and garlic mixture and use a teaspoon to stuff the squid, leaving enough room to secure with a cocktail stick.
  • Heat a griddle pan or bbq and cook for about a minute each side to get some sear marks but take care not to overcook.

Stuffed Squid

We had this as a starter on our weekly curry night. Serve them with a little chilli sauce or just a squeeze of lemon. I put a little salad garnish of cucumber and sliced radish, cucumber and spring onion. It tasted amazing! Great for a dinner party or romantic dinner for two. Give it a go – I’d love to know what you think.

Top tips: 

  • If you don’t want to shell out for crab chop up some budget prawns or use a mixture of the two.
  • To save time make a garlic and ginger mix.  Peel 3 whole bulbs of garlic and 1/3  their weight in ginger. Roughly chop ginger then add to a food processor piece by piece then garlic. Add some vegetable oil until a paste is made. You might need to scrape the sides a few times. Stick it in a container and pour over extra oil to seal, cover and store in fridge. It save grating your fingers if you like a lot of curry dishes. I got this  tip from having a day cooking with Reza Mohammad who has a home in the Charente. Of course, you could buy a little jar of crushed ginger!