Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Roast Chicken Portions on Roasted Mediterranean Vegetables

This roast chicken recipe on Mediterranean vegetables is a little bit different to those similar recipes featured previously on this blog in that rather than being roasted with the chicken, the vegetables are roasted in the juices only when the chicken has been set aside to rest. As the vegetables used in this instance are fairly delicate, requiring only minimal cooking, this prevents them from being overcooked and served a little bit less than at their best.

The ingredients quoted here will make for two large or up to four medium portions.


1 4lb chicken
Olive oil
Salt and white pepper
1 large aubergine/eggplant
1 large courgette/zucchini
1 large red onion
4 to 6 medium chestnut mushrooms
Chopped coriander leaf/cilantro to garnish


Wash the chicken and pat it dry with kitchen paper. Season the cavity with salt and white pepper. Lightly grease a roasting tray with olive oil and sit the chicken on it, breasts side up. Drizzle more olive oil over the chicken and rub it in evenly with your hands. Pay particular attention to the breasts and thighs. Season with more salt before placing the tray in to the oven - preheated to 400F/200C/Gas Mark 6 - for one hour and twenty minutes. This is equivalent to twenty minutes per pound in weight plus twenty minutes over.

After this time, remove the chicken from the oven and pierce the thickest parts of the thigh and breast with a skewer to check the juices run clear. Transfer the chicken to a large serving platter and leave uncovered to rest while the vegetables are prepared.

Wash, dry, top and tail the aubergine (eggplant) and courgette (zucchini). Chop to approximately one inch chunks. Peel and quarter the red onion and wipe and half the mushrooms. Add the vegetables to the roasting tray, season with more salt and white pepper and stir carefully to evenly coat with the juices of the chicken. Put the tray back in to the oven for twenty to twenty-five minutes, stirring carefully again half way through cooking.

The chicken should be carved just before the vegetables are ready. Begin by pulling the leg portions gently out from the carcass, slicing through the skin and flesh and popping the bone free. Remove the wings in a similar way.

Slice either side of the breast bone, cutting in one direction only and following the bones in the ribcage, to remove the two breast fillets.

Lift the vegetables from the roasting tray with a large slotted spoon and lay them on the bottom of the serving dish. Arrange the chicken portions on top and scatter with the roughly chopped coriander/cilantro.

Take the dish to the table and allow each diner to help themselves with serving spoons.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Easy Whole Roast Duck with Duck Fat Roasted Potatoes

Recently, I was cooking a dinner away from home again and it was whole roasted duck that was on the menu. Although there are any number of different ways in which it possible to roast a duck and so many different ways in which we can prepare a duck for the oven, I decided to go for simple as simple gets. The ingredients used prior to putting the duck in to the oven were the duck itself, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Quite literally, nothing else was used at this stage and the results were so impressive, I don't think I will ever roast a duck again any other way.

If the duck which you are going to roast has been purchased frozen, it is absolutely vital that it be fully and appropriately defrosted prior to being cooked. This should be done by placing the duck (covered) in a large dish on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator. Timescales will vary depending upon the size of the duck and full instructions should be on the packaging. It is important also that you remove the duck from the fridge a few hours before you intend to roast it and allow it to come up to room temperature.

Ingredients for Four People

1 4lb duck
Duck giblets and neck
1 large carrot
1 medium onion
2 sticks of celery
Olive oil
1 pint to 1 1/4 pints of cold water
1 glass of red wine
6 medium russet potatoes, or as desired
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sweetcorn, peas, or other vegetable to serve as an accompaniment


Put your oven on to preheat to an initial 425F/220C. This is the temperature at which the duck will be started cooking before it is reduced after around half an hour to 350F/180C. A duck this size should require a total of about two and a quarter hours' cooking time plus twenty minutes to half an hour to rest.

The neck, wing tips and giblets from this duck were in a vacuum sealed pack in the cavity. Remove them and set aside. Wash the duck under running cold water and carefully pat the outside dry all around with kitchen paper. Lay the duck on a large roasting tray and use a metal skewer to puncture the skin quite a few times on the breasts and thighs. Don't go too deep - you only want to allow the fat to run out and not damage the flesh of the duck. Season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place the roasting tray in to your preheated oven.

Wash the carrot and celery sticks and roughly chop. Peel the onion and quarter it. Add about a tablespoon or so of olive oil to a medium sized stock pot and gently heat before adding the vegetables to sautee for two or three minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the giblets, neck and wing tips of the duck and stir around. I then added one pint of cold water (a British pint, which is equivalent to one and a quarter US pints) and heated to achieve a gentle simmer. Cover and simmer for an hour to an hour and a half, stirring occasionally and of course ensuring your liquid level doesn't get too low. You shouldn't need to but if necessary, you can add a little more boiling water.

The potatoes should be parboiled and cooled before being roasted. Peel them and chop in to large chunks before adding to a large pot of cold water. Bring the water to a boil on a high heat then reduce and simmer for about fifteen minutes until the potatoes are just softening. Drain through a colander, return to the empty pot, cover and set aside to cool.

When the duck has been roasting for about twenty-five minutes to half an hour, reduce the oven temperature to 350F/180C. Baste thereafter every twenty minutes or so.

The stock should be taken off the heat about ten minutes before the duck is due to come out of the oven. Strain it through a fine sieve over a glass or stone bowl. Discard the solids and return the liquid to the empty pot with the glass of red wine. Bring to a moderate simmer and allow to reduce (uncovered this time) by half.

Take your duck from the oven but don't switch the oven off; instead, increase the temperature to 400F/200C. Very carefully, transfer the duck to a large dish (the washed dish in which it defrosted would be ideal) and cover with foil. Leave to rest.

Put the potatoes in to the hot duck fat and very carefully stir them around to evenly coat with a wooden spoon. Put them in to the oven for a total of twenty minutes, carefully stirring again after ten.

When the potatoes are done, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a large plate covered with several slices of kitchen paper to drain, while you attend to the duck.

You could of course carve your duck by cutting fine slices off the breast and thigh but you will get far more out of the duck and keep the meat more moist if you instead chop it in to portions.

Lay the duck on a large chopping board and take either a very sharp large knife or ideally a cleaver. Cut through the skin between each leg/thigh portion and gently pull it outwards and down until you can pop the bone from its socket. Slice through any remaining fat or meat and pull free.

The breast fillets should be removed by starting one at a time on either side of the breastbone (top of the duck) and making slit after slit in one direction only, following the shape of the bones with your cleaver. This is not difficult but do take your time and do not saw back and forwards with the blade. Cut in one direction only, letting the sharpness of your blade do the work rather than applied pressure from you. Otherwise the meat may fray and the final effect will be severely compromised.

When the four main portions of the duck have been removed, there will still be a reasonable amount of meat on the carcass. Cover it while you serve and enjoy your meal and return later to pluck it off by hand. Try refrigerating it in a plastic dish and enjoying duck sandwiches or wraps for lunch the following day.

Serve either a leg and thigh or breast portion per person, along with roast potatoes and the sundry vegetable of choice, all of it drizzled with your delicious duck and red wine gravy.

Note: If you don't want to make gravy in this way - or perhaps the giblets weren't provided with your duck - try serving the duck instead with some delicious, homemade plum sauce.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Valentines Day Recipe: Sizzling, Smoking, Spicy Chicken Fajitas

What are you doing this Valentines Day? Are you heading to your favourite restaurant for a meal? Are you preparing something special at home? If you're cooking at home on Valentines Day, you are not going to want to be spending a great deal of time in the kitchen at the last minute preparing your meal. This chicken fajitas recipe is perfect in that it is prepared with precooked chicken and takes minimal time to throw together, meaning you will have more time to spend with your spouse or special someone. So why not prepare roast chicken for dinner on Monday, ensure you have some leftovers and let this delicious dish put some heat and spice in to your Valentines celebrations?

Ingredients for Two People

2 small chicken leg and thigh portions (or equivalent amount of chicken meat)
1 red bell pepper
1 medium white onion
1 medium strength green chilli
Generous pinch of dried red chilli flakes (optional)
Salt and black pepper
Freshly chopped coriander/cilantro to garnish
Vegetable oil for stir frying

To Serve:

6 tortilla wraps
2 small ramekins of homemade guacamole (prepared earlier or even the night before)
2 small ramekins of soured cream
2 small ramekins grated Cheddar cheese


Put the serving dishes for the hot stir fry and two plates to serve the tortilla wraps in to a low oven to heat.

Remove the seeds from the red bell pepper and slice. Peel the onion, quarter it and separate the leaves. Discard the skin from the chicken and pull the meat from the bones in fairly large pieces. Half the green chilli, scrape out the seeds and membrane and moderately finely chop.

Bring your wok to a high heat and add about a tablespoon or so of vegetable oil. Add the peppers and onion and stir fry for about a minute before putting in the chicken and chilli flakes. Stir fry for a further minute. Season with salt and pepper.

Carefully spoon the stir fry in to the serving dishes and plate with the ramekins of guacamole, soured cream and cheese. Heat the tortilla wraps one at a time in a hot dry frying pan for about fifteen seconds (or follow the instructions on the pack) before transferring to the heated plates.

Below you will find a suggested way of assembling the wraps.

Looking for More Valentines Recipes, Including Starters and Desserts?

Click on the link below for further inspiration!

Homemade Valentines Dinner for Two

Add some guacamole along the diameter of a wrap, about two-thirds of its length. Top with soured cream.

Spoon on some of the chicken stir fry and finally add some cheese.

Fold the empty flap of the wrap over and one side over that before rolling and tucking in.

Whatever you are doing or eating on Valentines Day and whomever you are spending it with, I hope you have a wonderful time and to see you back here very soon.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie (Gardener's Pie)

Shepherd's pie and cottage pie are hugely popular comfort foods but neither is particularly vegetarian friendly. Made principally with lamb and beef respectively, they are in their conventional forms out of bounds for even the most flexible of vegetarians. When I decided that another vegetarian dinner option was definitely due on this blog, I determined to use some commonly available garden vegetables to make a version of shepherd's or cottage pie. I wondered what to call this pie and quickly thought gardener's pie would be a great idea! Unfortunately, when I performed a Google search, I found that others have long since had precisely the same idea. All I can state with certainty therefore is that this is my own version of a genuine gardener's pie, with all the ingredients commonly grown in millions of vegetable gardens around the world.

If you are unfamiliar with the principal ingredients of shepherd's pie, it is normally minced or ground lamb, cooked with a small quantity of chopped root vegetables and topped with mashed potato. Shepherd's pie or cottage pie is hugely popular pub grub here in the UK and if you think gardener's pie would prove a successful vegetarian option down at your local, why not suggest it to your landlord?

Ingredients per Pie

2 medium sized baking potatoes
1/4 small swede turnip/rutabaga
1/2 medium parsnip
1 medium or 2 small carrots
1/2 medium white onion
1 pint fresh vegetable stock
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1oz butter
2 tsp chopped chives
Sea salt, black pepper and white pepper
2 or 3 tbsp frozen garden peas


The potatoes should be started first. Peel them and chop to around one inch chunks. Add to a pot of cold salted water and put on to a high heat until the water boils. Reduce the heat and simmer for about twenty-five minutes until soft.

Peel the swede turnip, parsnip and carrot(s). Dice to about half an inch. Finely slice the peeled onion half. Add the vegetable oil to a pot and gently heat before introducing the onion only. Sautee the onion for a couple of minutes until transluscent and add the remaining vegetables. Season with salt and black pepper and pour in the vegetable stock. Bring to a moderate simmer for fifteen to twenty minutes until the veg is softened.

Immediately before you drain the potatoes and return them to the empty pot, add the frozen peas to boiling water. They will take about three minutes. Add the butter to the potatoes, a little white pepper, and mash them well with a hand masher. Use a spoon to stir in three-quarters of the chopped chives.

Take a slotted spoon and add the vegetables to a 5" ceramic bowl. Pour in a little of the stock but not too much or your mash will quickly become soggy.

Don't make the mistake of simply tipping the mash on top of the vegetables. Instead, use a dessert spoon to carefully add it in small lumps before spreading out with a fork as a gardener would rake his soil.

Sit your gardener's pie in the centre of a serving plate. Drain the peas and arrange them around the pie as shown. Scatter the remaining chives over your pie and serve.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Garlic Roasted Smoked Gammon with Spicy Potato Salad

Smoked gammon is a delicious piece of meat, gammon being similar to ham but butchered in a slightly different way from the pig's hind leg. Although it is quicker to cook a piece of smoked gammon like this by boiling it, the roasting process imparts a far greater level of flavour. In order to spice it up just a little bit, I included a couple of whole garlic cloves in with the gammon as it cooked. I also resisted the temptation to add some apple sauce or similar to the served gammon as although it may make for better presentation, I feel it slightly diminishes (in this particular instance) the delicate smoky and garlic tastes of the meat.

The quantities used here will serve two people - with the likelihood of enough gammon being left over for a sandwich later...


1 1/2 lb piece of rolled smoked gammon joint
2 large cloves of garlic (whole and unpeeled)
1 large baking potato
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 medium carrot
1 small green chilli pepper
1 tbsp chopped coriander/cilantro
Sea salt and white pepper
3oz Double Gloucester cheese with chive and onion


It is necessary to start the potato salad first, as the potatoes have to be cooked and cooled before being added to the mayo. Peel the potato and chop it in to about six or eight bits. (Don't be tempted to chop it smaller to allow it to cook more quickly. If you chop potato too small before boiling it, what happens is that the potato becomes entirely water saturated and mushy, fit only for disposal - this applies equally when making mash.) Add the potato to a pot of cold water, bring to a boil and simmer for about twenty-five minutes until softened. Drain, return to the empty pot, cover and leave to cool.

While the potatoes are simmering away, you can get your smoked gammon prepared and in to the oven. Put your oven on to preheat to 400F/200C. Be very careful to ensure that you unwrap your gammon completely if it has come prepacked as this piece did. There are sometimes two or even three different layers/types of wrapping. In this instance, the cooking time was also detailed on the wrapping. If you buy a piece devoid of cooking time guidelines, ask your butcher or grocery assistant for help if it is required.

Spread a large piece of tinfoil on a roasting tray. Lightly oil the centre with vegetable oil. If you don't do this, you will find the gammon will stick to the foil and it is a messy, irritating job pulling the tearing foil free. Sit the smoked gammon on the foil, skin and fat side uppermost. Lay a garlic clove on either side. The reason why the garlic cloves are unpeeled is to limit the risk of them burning and turning bitter during cooking.

Wrap the foil that you have a sealed but loose tent. Put the tray in to the oven. The total roasting time for this piece of gammon was one and a half hours, so it can be left unattended until twenty minutes before it is due to be ready.

When your potatoes have cooled, chop them to about a half inch dice. Put the mayo in a large bowl, add the potatoes and season with salt and white pepper. Stir very carefully with a wooden spoon, so as not to break the potato. You may find it easier to use a folding technique, much like folding flour in to wet ingredients when baking. This is much less likely to cause the potatoes to break.

Peel the carrot and julienne it. (Slice and chop in to thin strips). Chop the strips to around one inch strips. Remove the seeds and membrane from the chilli and finely chop. Add both to the potato and mayo combination and fold to mix. Chop the coriander and stir it through the potato salad in the same way. Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate until required.

Twenty minutes before the smoked gammon is due to be ready, take it out of the oven and very carefully open the foil to expose the meat. This allows some colour and texture to be added to the skin. Return to the oven.

Check the gammon is fully cooked when you remove it from the oven by ensuring all juices run clear. Transfer to a plate and cover to relax for at least fifteen minutes before carving. Plate with your spicy potato salad and three thin slices of the delicious Double Gloucester cheese.