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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

Easy Spring Rolls

Who doesn’t love a spring roll? I have to say they were never really one of my favourite take-away foods as more often than not they were always oozing, and I mean ‘ooozzingg’ with grease! Luckily, the lovely French people seem to love the old ‘printemps’ and sell them everywhere in all flavours, including crab, prawn, pork and chicken, but still they are desperately greasy. So yes, chez le rêve, we are trying to be healthy, and the poor deep fat fryer has been cleaned and consigned to the cellar for a while, (sob..) but I still have urges! I now feel quietly smug that I may have found a solution to this using a few cheats along the way.

Here’s what you need for 8 rather large spring rolls!

  • 8 sheets Brique pastry or 16 of filo.
  • 50g (1 nest) mung bean vermicelli noodles (any glass noodle type thingy will do).
  • 1 small jar Chinese veg drained (usually beansprouts and carrots etc).
  • tin of cheapo crab.
  • finely chopped red chilli (optional) .
  • I finely chopped spring onion.

Easy Baked Spring Rolls (3) Easy Baked Spring Rolls (4) Easy Baked Spring Rolls (2)

Here’s what I did:

  • Cook your noodles. Normally shove them in boiled water and wait about 3 minutes.
  • Drain noodles and combine with other ingredients.
  • Take a sheet of brique (or 2 sheets filo, lightly oiled between) and dollop an 1/8th of the mixture as shown on the picture.
  • Roll up and bring in the sides carefully and stick on a baking tray.
  •  Lightly brush the top with oil and bake about 10 mins gas 6, or 200 degrees.

Easy Baked Spring Rolls

Serve it with a bit of shop bought or homemade chilli sauce and enjoy the delicious crunch of pastry and veggies without piling on the pounds! Perfect as a starter or side in a Chinese banquet or when you are just feeling naughty. Give ’em a go and tell me how easy it was – I promise it will be!

Top tips:

  • If you have cooked shredded meat like pork, chicken or duck you could use this instead.
  • Use defrosted budget prawns or chopped squid lightly cooked. Be sure not to freeze if you have used defrosted ingredients.
  • If you  can’t get hold of Chinese veggies in a jar – hard luck! Some supermarkets sell fresh mung beans but I’ve not seen them in France. I would suggest finely sliced spring onion, grated carrot, peppers and mangetout. In fact, add what you like!
  • We ate 4 and froze the rest in an old takeaway plastic container. They are best cooked from frozen or will go soggy. If you are doing this add a few minutes more.

So please have a go. It looks difficult but it’s really easy. Your family will think you are marvelous and you will know it’s as healthy as you can make it at a fraction of the price. Another Virtuous dish.

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!

  

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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