Tag Archives: Peppers

One-pot Spanish Chicken with Butter Beans; Child’s Play

The last couple of weeks have been bonkers,  so bonkers in fact that I’m going to break my post up into two instalments. Firstly my new children’s cook book was launched and then last week I was appointed the UN FAO Special Ambassador for Pulses (WHAAAT? – I’ll fill you in on that one in a couple of days time)

So, the kid’s book. It’s so nerve wracking when a book finally comes out, you just have to hold your breath and hope that it’s going to be well received. I’ve been very chuffed with all the feed back so far, especially Xanthe Clay’s piece in The Telegraph  (here’s the shorter online version).

Imi’ s been pretty excited about it all, other than the very badly-timed tonsillitis set back on the night of the launch party (“I’m feeling so depressed, this was going to be one of the best days of my life” – good on drama), but she did manage to rally. I’ve purposely not been pushing the cooking too much just recently, there’s always that chance that things might backfire, but last weekend she decided to celebrate our newspaper appearance by cooking a three course dinner. She spent a while planning her menu (from the book of course), made a shopping list and then had a ball being independent in the supermarket with her own shopping trolley (not a quick shop, it has to be said). I was then sent out of the house for a swim and husband Pete was told that he must NOT interfere, other than having to rush around like a kitchen porter every time he was summoned to open the recycling bin.

Imi’s done plenty of cooking before but this was her first “dinner party”. We kicked off with a corn chowder, had one-pot Spanish chicken to follow and finished up with elderflower jellies and chocolate dipped strawberries. She spent hours laying the table, organising music and lighting and then served up her feast with such great pride that it made this entire book writing journey feel worthwhile for her benefit alone (on the financial side of things it would be handy to sell a few books too).

Spanish One-pot Chicken

So here you have a simple dish, rather than a dish for children, and that’s the point of the book; uncomplicated food that we all want to eat. There are 3 variations on this recipe in the book: Spanish, Southern French and Indian. I love the idea of children learning to cook a dish until it becomes intuitive and they no longer need a recipe. The only real difference between the recipes is the spicing and the choice of pulse to soak up the juices.

Serves 4

3 tbsp olive oil, rapeseed oil or other vegetable oil
15 g butter
2 medium onions
4- 8 chicken thighs, depending on size, on the bone and with skin (thighs are so much juicier than breasts in this dish)
1/2 tsp salt and plenty of black pepper
2 red or yellow peppers, seeded and sliced
3 medium tomatoes cut into quarters
12 pitted green or black olives
1 heaped tsp Spanish sweet smoked paprika
2 x 400 g can of butter beans, drained

Preheat the oven to 180 ºc/350º F/Gas 4

Take a large oven proof dish (mine measures 25 x 30cm)  and spoon in the oil and the butter.

Cut the onions in half leaving the root on, peel and then slice them. Put the onions into the dish.

Trim any flappy bits of skin from the chicken thighs and add these to the dish too. Now turn everything gently with your fingers in the oil and leave the thighs skin side up. Go and wash your hands and the chopping board now.

Sprinkle the chicken with the salt and a good grind of black pepper and put the dish in the oven for 10 minutes.

Add the rest of the ingredients and pop the dish back in the oven for 30 more minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Make sure that the chicken is always skin side up on the top so the skin gets crispy .

Taste the juices, you might need a bit more salt and pepper.

Always check that the chicken is properly cooked through, turn over a thigh and cut in next to the bone, there should be no sign of blood or raw-looking flesh. 

TIP: Adding cooked pulses such as beans, chickpeas and lentils to a dish is a very quick and affordable way of transforming it into a satisfying meal.

The recipe is accompanied by great step by step pictures and graphics in my book. Cool Kids Cook is available from all good bookshops including, one of my all-time favourites, the wonderful Topping and Company .


Empanada and Jazz in the School Hall

It’s about time that I got back to my blog- I know, weeks of inexcusable silence. Well, it’s been a momentous month: I hit 50, Peter and I got engaged (after just 14 years) and I’ve got a new book on the go. I’ve stored up all sorts of stuff that I really will get down to writing about but thought I’d flash this one off. Here’s the empanada recipe that I cooked, amongst other tasty bits, at the P.T.A fundraiser at our daughter Imi’s  primary school – Hotwells (just a quick hike down, and decidedly buttock-firming climb back up, Granby Hill) in Bristol.

The very enthusiastic Mr Bassett, A.K.A. Peter/Manuel, was my tapas assistant and sidekick – (there was a Fanny and Johnny-esque tone to the demo and now I’m convinced that all the school parents think I’m a bossy old bag -it was all put on of course!) The evening’s entertainment went from the ridiculous to the sublime with another Mum, the super-talented Kate Dimbleby, singing some jazzy numbers including a couple from her latest show and album Beware of Young Girls (Go on have a click and a listen), The Dory Previn Story,  that she just happens to be taking to New York this Christmas.

But now to the empanada which went down a treat – the recipe came from a small restaurant just outside the town of Goian in Galicia. My search for the perfect empanada had been a long one, I felt like I was a million miles from home, gazing across the Minho river at Portugal and then suddenly Fernando the owner/chef started regaling me with tales from his days as a waiter at Thornbury Castle (just a few miles from Bristol) when Fanny Craddock parked her Rolls on the croquet lawn (oh yes we’re back to Fanny again!). It was all quite surreal .. but I must now get to the point and give you that recipe

Galician Flat Pie

The Crust
20 g/ ¾ oz fresh yeast or 1 tsp dried
350 g/12 oz strong white flour
125 g/4 ½ oz corn meal, masa harina or finely ground polenta
½ tbsp salt
50 ml/2 fl oz white wine
100 ml/3 ½ fl oz olive oil
50 g/2 oz lard, chopped into 1 cm/ ½ inch dice (you could use vegetable fat instead)
1 egg, lightly beaten

Another egg lightly beaten, to seal and glaze.

Mix the yeast up with about 3 tablespoons of blood temperature water until you have a creamy paste.

Now put the flour, cornmeal, salt, wine, oil, lard, egg and yeast in a large bowl and begin to stir everything together. You can get your hands in pretty quickly and bring the dough together. It should feel soft and quite sticky, if there is any dry flour left in the bowl then add a splash more water. You will have a job to roll the dough out thinly later if it is too dry.

Work the dough, squashing and rolling for a couple of minutes until well combined and smooth. It will feel somewhere between a pasta and a bread dough. Place it back in the bowl and cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise for at least an hour or until it has risen a little.

Meanwhile make your filling
Tuna filling – Relleno de atún

150 ml/ ¼ pint olive oil
4 onions, sliced finely
1 red pepper, sliced finely
1 green pepper, sliced finely
2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1x 170 g/5 oz can tuna in olive oil
4 tbsp tomato puree
salt to taste
3 boiled eggs, sliced (optional)

Fry the onion until soft and golden and then add the peppers. You really should take your time on this -the longer and more gently you fry this base the sweeter and more delicious the result.

Sprinkle in the paprika and stir in the tuna and tomato puree, cooking for another couple of minutes. Season with salt to taste. Just remember to slightly over season the filling – you might want a dash of vinegar and even a sprinkle of hot paprika too (the filling will be surrounded by the more neutral crust)

Lay the slices of egg on top of the filling in the empanada before adding the lid.

Now for the Assembly

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C /400°F /Gas mark 6.

Back to the crust. Roll out half the dough to a 5 mm/ ¼ inch thickness to fit your baking sheet or Swiss roll tin. Grease the baking sheet and lay the dough on top.

Now pile on the filling, spreading it evenly, leaving a 2cm/1 inch margin around the edge. Include all the deliciously oily juices too

Brush the edge with a little beaten egg – this is your glue so do beware not to drip it down the sides of the dough or it will be welded to the tin when it comes to serving.

Roll the rest of the dough to the same size and lay it over the filling. Now crimp the edges together, twisting over the dough to form a rope-like edge – like a Cornish pasty.

Brush the entire empanada with beaten egg and, using a fork, pierce the top with dozens of holes ( or you’ll end up with the London dome effect and then a large split).

Leave to rest for 10 minutes and then bake in the hot oven for 20 – 30 minutes, until the crust is nicely browned.

Fillings can vary enormously but just think of the onion, pepper, paprika and tomato as the base and then add cooked chorizo, pork loin, octopus, salt cod and raisins, black pudding with pine kernels or whatever else takes your fancy.

You’ll find recipes for pork and chorizo or octopus empanadas in my book – The Real Taste of Spain- available from the Hotwell’s School office (if you happen to be a parent) or from good bookshops and from Amazon too

Jenny Chandler- The Real Taste of Spain

And just another little picture for you – I visited a bakery in Santiago de Compostela where everyone took their own fillings into the baker who made up the empanadas with his own fabulous dough, initials were marked in the crust and then baked at dawn ready for a simple lunch or snack to be picked up first thing in the morning.

Runner Bean Frittata

You could hardly call our handful of runner beans a glut but I did have to come up with a quick way to use them up before we set off on holiday. It happens every year; all the plants I’ve been tending for months are suddenly laden with fruit just as we’re going away.

These beans have some heritage too. Peter’s father Royston Bassett was one of the most positive, generous spirited men I’ve ever met, he was also the king of beans. Roysty Reg, as we all called him, grew literally hundreds of pounds of both broad and runner beans every year. “When you’ve got beans you’ve got friends” I remember him announcing as he filled his wheelbarrow for the umpteenth time. The journey home from the allotment, with the Kings Head en route (where Roysty did a great trade swapping beans for pints with his mates) was often an eventful one. He managed to misjudge the kerb once, somehow ending up underneath his upturned wheel barrow, finishing up like a giant metal tortoise. He was such a fabulous character, always up for a laugh. His antics go down in family history, perhaps my favourite is the time the Bassett family went out for a celebratory family meal. It was back in the seventies and Roysty was sporting a fashionable blue velvet jacket, purchased for the occasion. The waitress asked “would Sir like a roll?” “don’t mind if I do” said Roysty as he jumped down from the table and rolled on the floor picking up every bit of crumb, hair and carpet fluff on his blazer.

When Roysty died earlier this year, aged 91, he left a huge sack of his prized beans, dried and ready for podding. It was wonderful, as Imi and Pete podded the beans on the doorstep lots of our friends and neighbours stopped for a chat as they passed by, most of them left with a handful of beans. Roysty’s beans have gone to Spain, London and countless gardens around Bristol and I know that this sounds rather sentimental, but Roysty seems to live on through his beans.

So here is the recipe for the quick lunch frittata that we dived into before heading off to very sunny Spain (more about that at a later date) It really helps to have a small, deep, non-stick frying pan. Mine is a rather expensive, but incredibly resilient, 20 cm SKK pan that I bought at Divertimenti. It’s THE perfect Spanish tortilla pan too.

Runner Bean Frittata
A handful of young runner beans, topped and tailed
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
piquillo peppers, sliced ( you could use roasted bell peppers)
a small bunch of chives, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
6 eggs
a dash of milk
salt and black pepper

String the runner beans if necessary (mine were very young and pretty string-free) and then blanch them for a couple of minutes in a pan of boiling water, drain and then run under the cold tap to keep them lusciously green.

Fry the garlic, piquillo pepper strips and beans in the olive oil for a moment or two until you’re enveloped in wonderful smells.

Take a bowl and beat up the eggs with a dash of milk until well mixed. Tip in the fried veg’ and season with plenty of salt and pepper.

Reheat the frying pan with an extra tablespoon of olive oil and pour in the egg mixture. Now cook over a low heat until the sides of the frittata are beginning to come away from the pan. Place a large plate over the pan (the top will still be a bit runny) and turn the omelette over onto the plate. Slip it back into the pan and cook the underside. (if you can’t bear the idea of turning the frittata you can bake it in the oven at about 180 c/350 f for about 15 minutes or until just set, but not rubbery)

Now it’s up to you, if you’re going to eat the frittata warm then it can be delicious to leave the centre quite juicy and loose but if you are planning on eating it cold later then continue to cook until the centre is set. (Just press on the top to see if the centre feels at all wobbly or insert a skewer if you’re really unsure)

Serve up with some green salad.Runner Bean Frittata

 Frittatas are fabulous for all kinds of vegetables – favourites of mine are:  courgette, mint and parmesan or caramelised onion, thyme and goat’s cheese.

And if you really do have a glut of runner beans, you lucky things, then try Diana Henry’s recipe with anchovies , Xanthe Clay has plenty of great ideas for you and do take a look at The Foodie Bugle post by Andrew Green.