Monday, 20 November 2017

Creamy chicken with mushrooms and cider

Ooh, November, you are naughty! The sudden drop in the temperature has left me a little lost for words. The autumnal jackets and macs I thought I could wear a little longer will have to be put away, in favour of my heavy, warm wintry coats. The gloves are being dug out for another season's service; thank goodness for my fleecy leather gloves! Anyone who knows me knows I always have cold, cold hands. I have fingers like ice cubes!

The household vacillations over whether to put the heating on or not have stopped. The heating is most definitely on. My new electric blanket is currently my favourite appliance; taking the chill out of my bed before I turn in at night.

Inspired by the weather, I have been thinking about internal central heating. By which I mean warming, comforting food for shivery days. Elizabeth David's Spicy Lentil Stew has been a lifesaver recently, a number of variations described by her in the recipe ringing the changes. Soups, curries, stews and slow braises are the things I crave when it's brisk and nippy.

So, on a cold Sunday, I thought of hearty pasta with a creamy and indulgent sauce. Tender chicken and just-cooked mushrooms with a touch of booze. Stews made with beer and ale favour darker meats. Chicken thighs (the brown meat of the chicken) cooked in vintage cider

This creamy chicken dish could be served up with rice, mash or baked potatoes. But I love pasta, so I used some Spatzle, a chewy egg pasta typically used in German, Swiss, Austrian and Hungarian cooking.

Creamy chicken with mushrooms and cider (with Spatzle pasta)

Serves 2-3 people (2 greedy portions or 3 normal portions)
2 large echalion shallots (peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced finely)
4 chicken thigh fillets, sliced
160g chestnut mushrooms, quartered
3 anchovy fillets (preserved in olive oil or salt)
1 teaspoon paprika
60ml double cream
200ml vintage cider
3 tablespoons olive oil (2tbsp + 1tbsp)
25g (1oz) unsalted butter
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
Juice of half a lemon (optional)
250g egg spatzle pasta 
Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
Freshly ground sea salt (to taste)

Time required:
10 minutes preparation
40 minutes cooking time

Two saucepans
Frying pan

1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a saucepan, add the shallots and soften under a gentle heat for around 10 minutes. Do not allow to colour. 

2. Remove the shallots, keeping to one side, trying your best to leave as much of the oil in the pan. Add the remaining oil to the pan and heat up. 

3. Add the chicken in small batches. You want to seal the outside of the chicken slices so that they are no longer pink, buy you don't want to cook them completely. 

4. When you have cooked the last batch, put all the chicken to one side.  Hopefully, your pan still has residual olive oil in it. If not, you will need to add half a tablespoon. On a gentle heat, add the anchovies and paprika, and stir until the anchovies have disintegrated into the oil. 


5. Now put the shallots and chicken back, turn up the heat and stir until the chicken is coated with the oily mixture.

6. You will want to put a pan of water on for the Spatzle pasta. Mine took 11 minutes to cook, so you will need to ensure the pasta is cooking during the following two steps of the recipe, or you won't be able to bring the dish together.  

7. Add the cider to the chicken and "burn off" the alcohol smell on a medium-high heat. The cider will come to the boil and bubble. You aren't actually burning off the alcohol, but you will notice the smell becomes less boozy. When this happens (5-7 minutes), reduce the heat to a simmer and allow to simmer for another 7 to 10 minutes. 


8. In the meantime, in a frying pan melt the butter, then add the mushrooms. You want to cook these on a gentle heat for about 7 minutes until just tender. Do not overcook or they will become too soft and slimy to add to the chicken.


9. Add the cream to the cidery chicken and fold in the mushrooms. Let everything sit on the heat for a few minutes to get heated through. Add the parsley. Taste and season accordingly (if you used anchovies preserved in salt, you may find you don't need to add much salt). Add the lemon juice to your preference. 

10. Drain your pasta, and begin assembling the dish in bowls ready for serving. Put some pasta at the bottom of a bowl. Add the chicken with some of its sauce on top. Serve immediately. It would look prettier if you garnish with a little double cream and parsley, but I was too hungry and wanted to eat straight away!

Happy eating!

Friday, 27 October 2017

October 2017 Favourites List

This month’s pictures are from the Italian city of Lecce, from my trip earlier this year. In the southern region of Puglia, Lecce is a historic and beautiful place, perfect for wandering around, gawking with your camera at the ready, followed up by fabulous food and drink. 

There is a fabulous, half buried sunken amphitheatre in the town centre, dating back from the 2nd Century AD. Other buildings were constructed on top of it, which is why you can’t see the full circle of the theatre which would have accommodated 25,000 people. 

Around the rest of the town, Baroque architecture picks up those classical influences, as the limestone columns, arches and decorative figures fill the town with style and grace. The imposing city gates would once have been guarded, keeping the people of Lecce safe, and keeping undesirables out. 

The wines of the region aren’t the most famous of Italian wines, but you will struggle to find bad wine. The seafood is spectacular (I particularly recommend Blu Notte, just by the Porta San Bagio). It’s a wonderful place to spend a few days, and unwind among the abundant culture.

Porta San Bagio

Food articles and know-how:

Foodie storytelling par excellence from Aaron. The life and times of a shipping container:

Chengdu, Sichuan, where "spice is life". Food meets travel:

After the revelations that jars of supermarket pesto contain as much salt as a Big Mac, are there any other storecupboard products which appear to be healthy but might not be?


Chilli, tomatoes, pasta. Arrabbiata sauce is a spicy Italian classic (although I have received the tip that perhaps the vinegar could be left out, for which I thank Linda Paulnott, a previous guest blog author):

Autumnal borlotti beans with lamb and a tangy salsa:

I keep whole mung/moong beans at home for sprouting. But here's a dahl recipe which uses them, from Mamta's Kitchen:

Cookwitch Lisa is exploring Autumn's produce with this Rye bread:

New recipe from Food Urchin, Dan - Pearl Barley "risotto" with chard, mushroom and bacon:

Panch phoran is a Bengali spice mixed from 5 different whole spice seeds. Want to know how to use it? Here's a recipe from Romy Gill, which uses squash, which is in season right now.

Having been asked for uses for stale bread, I thought I would share this for you - some interesting links to other recipes at the bottom, such as a dessert, Exeter pudding:

Venetian sweet and sour prawns and Venetian sweet and sour sardines; if you want to make the prawn dish, substitute prawns for sardines and follow the sardine recipe.


Searcy's smoked salmon fishcakes with tartar salad:

I love dumplings of virtually every description. Pierogis are just one scrummy example!

My other writing:

Blog post for law students - Evidence in chief tips from former BPTC students:


Mogwai – Every Country’s Sun

The Duke Spirit – KIN

Julia Holter – Have You In My Wilderness


The Vietnam War
BBC Introducing: 10 Years of Finding The Next Big Thing
BBC 6 Music Live: Mogwai

BBC 6 Music Live: Robert Plant