A great trip Down Under to see a range of friends, including some getting married :-)
I went. It was awesome.
I went. It was awesome.
Having so loved our trips to Marrakech, I was inspired to try out a variation on Moroccan chicken with preserved lemons and olives. It’s a winner in our house, and is well worth the time to prepare the ingredients in advance. It’s sweet, savoury and salty all at once, with mouthwateringly tender chicken. We serve it with tabbouleh (bulgur wheat with onions, tomatoes and herbs) – not quite traditional Moroccan but a beautiful accompaniment to the dish.
I normally use good quality chicken thighs, often from Fosse Meadows Farms via the ever-wonderful Brockley Market. The preserved lemons can be found in some supermarkets, but it is really easy to make them at home using the BBC GoodFood recipe.
Ingredients for the chicken (serves 4)
- 8 skin-on chicken pieces (thighs are good)
- 1 garlic, separated into cloves
- 2 preserved lemons, cut into strips
- Pitted green olives, handful
- Small onions, quartered
- 1 handful thyme
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 150ml white wine or chicken stock
- 1 pinch black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 150°C
- Season the chicken using Moroccan spices (ras-el-hanout or similar – you’ll want to put some paprika in there for a lovely smokey flavour)
- Put the chicken pieces into a roasting tin and add the garlic cloves, lemon strips, onion, olives and the thyme; just roughly pull the leaves off the stalks, leaving some intact for strewing over later. Add the oil and using your hands mix everything together, then spread the mixture out, making sure all the chicken pieces are skin side up.
- Sprinkle over the white wine or stock and grind on some pepper, then cover tightly and slow-cook for 2 hours.
- Uncover, and turn up the oven to 200°C. Cook the uncovered chicken for another 30-45 minutes, by which time the skin on the meat will have turned golden brown and the lemons will have begun to scorch and caramelise at the edges.
- Serve straight from the roasting tin: strewn with your remaining thyme and a tabbouleh salad. Green veg such as asparagus and green beans finish off the dish superbly.
- 125g bulgur wheat
- 4 medium tomatoes, diced
- Bunch of spring onions or 1 small red onion, finely chopped
- Large bunch of fresh flatleaf parsley, finely chopped
- Large bunch of fresh mint, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Juice 1 large lemon
- Place the bulgur wheat in a large bowl and pour over boiling water until just covered (follow the instructions on the packet – the cooked weight will be about 3 times the dry weight of the bulgur wheat). Cover with a clean tea towel and stand for 15 minutes, until tender. Drain the bulgur wheat well and place in a sieve. Squeeze out the excess water using a spoon.
- Place the tomatoes, onions and herbs in a large bowl and toss together well. Add the drained bulgur wheat, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice and season well to taste.
This is a wonderful jam recipe taken from “salt sugar smoke” by Diana Henry. It makes 2 x 1lb jars of soft set jam. It is delicious either on buttered toast or added to a bowl of porridge for breakfast.
- 800g strawberries, wiped clean then hulled and halved/quartered depending on size
- Pulp and seeds of 10 passion fruits
- 600g granulated sugar
- Juice of 1 lemon
Quarter the larger strawberries and combine with the passion fruit pulp and seeds. Add to a larger heavy-bottomed preserving pan with the lemon juice and sugar and heat until the sugar dissolves.
Simmer for 5 minutes, then mash the strawberries. Bring to the boil and skim, then keep at rolling boil until the setting point is reached (104.5 degC). You’ll know when it’s done if you put a small portion on a chilled plate and it holds a wrinkled finish when you push it with your finger.
Cool for 10 minutes then transfer to sterilised jars. Enjoy!
Pans and jars
To sterilise the jars, wash them in very hot and soapy water and allow to dry. Heat in an oven at around 140 degC for 30 minutes, ideally whilst you’re starting to make your jam. Take care when handling the hot jars!
To sterilise the rubber seals for the jars, place them in a pan of hot water and bring to the boil for a few minutes. Keep on a low simmer until you are ready to fill and seal the jars, then remove them carefully with tongs.
This is a fantastic recipe for mouth-wateringly tender pork and great crunchy crackling, but it does take all day to make! The original recipe was by Jamie Oliver, but I’ve adapted it to make it into a pot-roast.
Serves 4 to 6
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 6½ hours (including resting time)
- 2kg boned shoulder of pork, skin on
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Optional: fennel seeds and star anise
- 2 red onions, halved
- 2 carrots, peeled and halved lengthways
- 2 sticks of celery, halved
- 1 bulb of garlic, skin on, broken into cloves
- 2 apples or pears, halved and cored
- 6-8 fresh bay leaves
- 600ml water, vegetable stock or cider
Preheat your oven to 220°C.
Place your pork on a clean work surface, skin-side up. Get yourself a small sharp knife and make scores about a centimetre apart through the skin into the fat, but not so deep that you cut into the meat. If the joint is tied, try not to cut through the string. Rub salt right into all the scores you’ve just made, pulling the skin apart a little if you need to. You can also add the fennel seeds and crushed star anise at this point, ideally leaving the seasoned pork to sit in a freezer bag in the fridge overnight to absorb more of the flavours.
Brush any excess salt off the surface then turn it over. Season the underside of the meat with a few pinches of salt and pepper. Place your pork, skin-side up, in a roasting tray and pop in the preheated oven. Roast for 30 minutes, until the skin of the pork has started to puff up and you can see it turning into crackling. At this point, turn the heat down to 140°C.
Take the pork out of the oven and create a layer in your roasting tin of the vegetables and the fruit. Add the stock and put the pork back on top. Pot-roast for a further 4 and a half hours. You can do this in a covered roasting tin or by adding a double-layer of foil over the top, sealed tight against the roasting tin. The pork will be soft and tender after this time, but don’t worry about the crackling – that will be crisped up later.
Turn the oven back up to 180°C and roast the pork and veg uncovered for a final hour. This creates the crackling.
Take out of the oven and carefully lift the pork up and transfer to a chopping board. Cover with foil and a towel and allow to rest for ½ hour in a warm place.
To make the gravy, strain the vegetables and roasting juices through a sieve and allow to sit for a minute in a bowl. Spoon/skim off the pork fat and discard. The rest is the base for your gravy. Add more water or stock as needed, thickening with arrowroot or cornflour as you wish, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve the pork and crackling with your jug of gravy and some lovely roast or mashed potatoes. Some stewed red cabbage, honey-roast carrots and a dollop of apple sauce are perfect to accompany the pork.
Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) – October 2012, a set on Flickr.
Awe-inspiring Northern Lights shot at the Ãžingvellir National Park outside of Reykjavik, Iceland.
Reykjavik – October 2012, a set on Flickr.
Sightseeing, whale watching and the Blue Lagoon – a wonderful week in Reykjavik during October 2012