Agnello e Patate al Forno (Apulian Shepherd’s Pie)

Agnello e Patate al Forno (Apulian Shepherd's Pie) | Selma's TableApulia is the southern Italian region which makes up the “heel” of the boot after which the country of Italy is likened. The area was once known as the Wine Cellar of Europe and today, their olive oils are much coveted by the cognoscenti . Their food espouses that wonderful Mediterranean diet of olive oil, fresh vegetables, fresh fish and shellfish, pasta and regional cheeses. The meat of choice is lamb or kid which is grilled, roasted or baked which brings me to this recipe for Agnello e Patate al Forno which translates to Lamb and Potatoes of the Oven or an Italian version of Shepherd’s Pie!

Agnello e Patate al Forno (Apulian Shepherd's Pie) | Selma's TableIt’s from a wonderful book called Italian Country Cooking by Susanna Gelmetti which I have had for many more years than I care to remember.  Over those years, I have made many a recipe from it but this is the one that gets made time and time again. Italian cooking is cooking from the heart. It is all about excellent quality ingredients generally cooked simply and without fuss and this ethos completely appeals to me. This recipe depends on flavoursome lamb, tasty fresh tomatoes, good pecorino cheese, good wine and fresh herbs. I have made it with and without wine – it is better with, of course. I tend to use lamb neck fillet as despite being tender, it has a lot of flavour and cooks a little more quickly than other cuts. The dish comes together in about 15 minutes and cooks for 1 – 1.5 hours depending on the cut of meat used.

Agnello e Patate al Forno (Apulian Shepherd's Pie) | Selma's TableI start by pre-heating the oven to 200C/400F and placing a couple slices of bread in it to toast for the bread crumbs. I set the timer for 5 minutes too so that I don’t forget about them! Then I place the garlic, the cheese and the herbs in a small processor and blitz until the mixture resembles green crumbs, which is set aside. Once the bread is out and has cooled, I tear this up and blitz it too and mix it into the cheese and herb mixture. I peel and cut up the potatoes, dice the tomatoes and chop the lamb. A little olive oil is judiciously poured into a baking dish, into which the lamb, potatoes and tomatoes are tumbled about, seasoned and covered with the herbed breadcrumb mixture. A little wine is poured in and a little water to come halfway up the potatoes. At this point I like to pull up bits of lamb to poke through so that the tops get nice and crispy while the underneath braises in the delicious wine and tomato juices and gets melting tender. A little olive oil is then lightly drizzled over the top and it goes into the oven to cook, undisturbed for an hour or so.  In the past, I have used stock for all the liquid if wine was not at hand and also added lemon zest to herb mixture and the juice to the liquid. It smells amazing as it cooks and benefits from resting for a few minutes after coming out of the oven. Served with a peppery rocket salad, it’s a lovely meal at this time of the year.

Agnello e Patate al Forno (Apulian Shepherd's Pie) | Selma's Table

Agnello e Patate al Forno (Apulian Shepherd's Pie)

  • Servings: serves 3 people or 2 generously, with left overs
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted from  Italian Country Cooking by Susanna Gelmetti

INGREDIENTS

  • 35g pecorino cheese
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3 sprigs of rosemary – about 5g of needles
  • 25g fresh parsley including the stalks
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • pepper
  • 25g fresh bread crumbs
  •  500g potatoes (floury or waxy – both types are fine here)
  • 400g – 500g lamb neck fillet or lean lamb
  • 5 ripe tomatoes
  • salt
  • 100ml approx of white or red wine
  • 100ml approx of water or stock
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh parsley and pecorino cheese to serve.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F. If you are making your own bread crumbs, which I recommend, then place the bread slices in the oven to dry out for 5 minutes while the oven is heating up. In my experience, it is best to set a timer so that you don’t forget about them!
  2. Chop the pecorino into cubes, peel the garlic and strip the needles off the rosemary. Place in a small processor and blitz until it’s crumbly. Add the parsley and oregano and blitz again. Scrape out and set aside. When the bread has been in the oven for 5 minutes, remove to cool, then tear up and blitz into crumbs. Stir into the herb and cheese mixture and grind over lots of freshly milled pepper. Mix well.
  3. Smear the bottom of an oven proof dish with a little olive oil. Mine is about 9″ x 5″.
  4. Peel and chop the potatoes into smaller chunks that you would for a roast. So the larger ones into about 8 equal sized pieces and smaller ones into 4 and place in the dish. Cut the lamb, across the grain in similar sizes to the potatoes. Dice the tomatoes keeping them chunky. Tumble the lot into the dish and season with a good sprinkle of salt. Arrange so that bits of lamb and potato are poking through.
  5. Carefully pour in the wine and water, tilting the dish so that the liquid is evenly distributed. It should come halfway up the potatoes.
  6. Shake over the breadcrumb mixture to cover the top evenly and drizzle over a little olive oil.
  7. Cook in the oven for 1 – 1½ hours or until the potatoes are cooked through. Let rest for 5 minutes then sprinkle over some fresh parsley and shaved pecorino before serving.
© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2015. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Spicy, Slow Cooked Butter Beans with Chorizo

Spicy, Slow Cooked Butter Beans with ChorizoNo matter what I do, when I cook meat in the slow cooker (aka the crock pot), it becomes wooly and all the delicious seasonings I have added become dull, dull, dull. On the other hand, I love the texture and flavour of meat slow cooked in the oven or braised on the stovetop. Perhaps the sealed environment of the slow cooker which is essentially slow boiling the meat over a very long period of time, relegates the proteins and the seasonings to a pappy, bland insipidness. Perhaps oxygen and evaporation play a crucial role in the flavour and texture stakes. I don’t know but what I do know is that there are millions of people out there who do make it work and work well – there are some fabulous sounding recipes out there and many a crock pot devotee as a quick search on Pinterest will confirm. Nonetheless, I cannot make it work for me. I have tried “roasting” a chicken in it, braising brisket and stewing meat. I’ve used it to make stock and flavoured legumes. I’ve adjusted cooking times, reduced liquid, increased flavourings and spices – all to no avail. Everything just tastes dull; no matter how much I try and adjust the seasoning after the cooking, I just cannot rescue the texture or the flat taste.

Spicy, Slow Cooked Butter Beans with Chorizo | Selma's TableThat being said, what I do like is how well it cooks dried legumes like chickpeas and butter beans without the need to pre-soak or watch that the pot does not boil dry. I chuck together the beans, bay leaves and water just before going to bed and in the morning, the beans are soft, juicy and plump, ready to be sauced for supper that evening.

Spicy, Slow Cooked Butter Beans with Chorizo | Selma's TableBut, I hear you say, why bother when you can get tins of the stuff in practically any corner shop and grocery store? Well, the texture and the flavour is much, much nicer when cooked from dry. I find the liquor in the tins tastes tinny and have to rinse the beans very well indeed before using them. Having said that, I always have a couple of tins in pantry as they do come in very useful for those last minute meals but if I have the time, I much prefer to cook them from dry.

Spicy, Slow Cooked Butter Beans with Chorizo | Selma's TableI would suggest that the first time you make these, you do them during the day, when you are likely to be around to check on the water in the crock. I have found that the measurements below are perfect for my crock – the beans cook and soak up just enough water, leaving perhaps a cup of thick liquid that has not been absorbed and is just perfect to thicken the sauce with.

Spicy, Slow Cooked Butter Beans with Chorizo | Selma's TableThe chorizo sauce is just delicious!! Lemony, tangy, spicy and rich – do, please take the time to caramelise the onions slowly – you can get on with something else in the kitchen for the 10 minutes or so that it will take for them to slowly turn a golden brown. They lend such a depth of flavour to the sauce. And of course you can use the contents of 2 very well rinsed cans of butter beans instead and just use water where the recipe calls for bean cooking liquid. If you don’t have a slow cooker and want to use dried beans, then cook the dried beans, according to the manufacturers instructions on the pack which usually involve soaking them for 8 hours and then simmering them for one or two hours afterwards.

Spicy, Slow Cooked Butter Beans with Chorizo

INGREDIENTS

  • 250 g dried butter beans
  • 650 ml water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 onion finely diced
  • salt
  • 1 cooking chorizo sliced into ½ cm rounds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • ½ – 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 2 tsp smokey paprika
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 large tomatoes diced
  • handful chopped parsley

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Either the day before or at least 9 hours before you wish to eat; place the dried butter beans and bay leaves in the crock, top with water cook on low heat for 7 – 8 hours. I don’t find it necessary to add any salt or baking soda. The beans will become plump and tender, having soaked up most of the water.
  2. An hour or so, before you wish to eat; heat the olive oil in a pan and stir in the finely chopped onion. Sprinkle with a little salt and cook on a low heat for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Take time to cook them slowly to get that deep flavor from the caramelised onions.
  3. Stir in the sliced chorizo and the spices. Let this cook gently until the oil turns orange from the chorizo.
  4. Add a ladle of the bean cooking liquid, stirring to deglaze the pan by scraping any sticky bits off the bottom. When it has evaporated, stir in the tomato paste and the diced tomato. Stir and add another ladle of the bean cooking liquid, when it has evaporated, add a final one. There shouldn’t be much liquid left in the beans – try and get as much of it into the chorizo mixture to evaporate. If you don’t have much liquid left in the beans then use water instead.
  5. Stir in the butter beans, taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Simmer gently for half and hour to allow the flavours to blend and any excess liquid to evaporate.
  6. Just before serving, stir in the parsley.
  7. Serve with rice, a dollop of greek yoghurt and a sharp green salad.

Left overs are even better the next day!

© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2015. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Sensational Meatballs with Lentils

Sensational Meatballs with LentilsI almost didn’t post this recipe, hence the lack of photos, in progress or otherwise! I’ve been making these Sensational Meatballs and Lentils for about 8 years (since 2006 according to my notes) and it was Jake who suggested that I share the recipe here on the blog when I made it the other day. It came about the usual way – picking up a few bits on the way home from work and seeing what was in the cupboards to supplement the ingredients – a bit like Ready Steady Cook! The resultant deeply flavoured, lemony Meatballs and Lentils were so delicious that I wrote up the recipe in my notebook.

This is one of those dishes that wraps you up in a warm blanket and gives you a hug; so comforting on these dark, chilly evenings. The seasonings of smoked paprika, rosemary and cumin seeds give the dish so much depth and flavour and the lemon juice and zest perk it all up.  It’s very quick to prepare, especially if you buy pre-made (raw) meatballs which can be a godsend if you are strapped for time.  Red lentils don’t require pre-soaking and cook very quickly, usually between 15 – 20 minutes and the lemon juice is the perfect complement to them. Stirring in spinach or chard leaves at the end gives it a vegetal boost with the added bonus of not having to prepare a separate side dish. You could also use frozen spinach. adding it a few minutes earlier so that it has a chance to thaw in the pot. Don’t add salt until the end otherwise the lentils stay hard.  This is quick, one pot cooking at it’s best.

Sensational Meatballs with LentilsYou start by rolling the meatballs, then sauté the onions, then the meatballs with the seasonings; stir in the stock, lentils, lemon juice and tomatoes and let the whole lot simmer away while you get the rice on and prepare the spinach which gets stirred in a couple of minutes before the end. That’s it!! I urge you to give the Meatballs and Lentils  a try – the dish is absolutely sensational!

I’m taking these to share with all the Fiesta Friday #46  revellers, so generously hosted by Angie at the Novice Gardener. Today our co hosts are  Margy @La Petite Casserole and Juju @cookingwithauntjuju. – do drop by and say hello to them!

Sensational Meatballs with Lentils

  • Servings: 4 generous portions
  • Time: 45 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 500 g lean mince beef
  • 1 tsp of salt and a good grinding of the pepper mill
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
  • 2 red onions, diced
  • A good splash of Olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp chopped rosemary
  • 1 tsp whole, dry roasted cumin seeds
  • 1 rounded tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 200g dry red split lentils
  • 1 rounded tsp of chicken stock powder stirred into 500 ml of hot water/500ml homemade stock
  • 1 tin of tomatoes or 3-4 medium tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 couple of bay leaves
  • 300 – 400 g fresh spinach or chard

To serve

  • Cooked rice
  • Dollop of greek yoghurt or tzatziki

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Season the minced beef with salt and pepper, stir in parsley and with a light hand, mix well to combine. Wet your hands and roll into walnut sized balls and set aside. If you are in a hurry you can substitute ready made (raw) meatballs but get the premium ones as the cheaper ones have more fat and sometimes, gristle.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and sauté the onions until soft and a little coloured.
  3. Stir in the rosemary, smoked paprika, garlic and lemon zest, then add the meatballs and sauté until lightly brown on all sides – about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the lemon juice, the lentils, the stock, the tomatoes (break up the tomatoes if you are using whole tinned ones) and bay leaves. Let this simmer gently for about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on it and add a little more water if necessary. It shouldn’t be too thick.
  5. While it’s simmering away, wash the spinach/chard and remove the central rib if thick and fibrous. Save them in the freezer, for the stock pot. Chop the leaves and set aside. Get the rice on.
  6. After 20 minutes, check that the lentils are cooked through and also check the seasoning. Adjust to taste – this is the time to add salt; I also like to add more cumin seeds.
  7. Stir in the spinach/chard leaves and cover the pot to allow the leaves to wilt in the heat.
  8. Serve hot with rice an a dollop of greek yoghurt or tzatziki.
© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2013, 2014. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Citrus Chicken with Sage

Citrus Chicken with Sage | Selma's TableA clementine or satsuma is part of our breakfast these days, in the vain hope of keeping at bay, the season’s coughs and colds but a recent purchase of a bag of clementines yielded mouth puckering, lip curling, sour fruit that neither of us can eat. Rather than throwing them away, I have been using them in place of lemons for a similar return in acidity but with a softer more floral flavour.

Duck and orange is a classic combination and as my eyes fell on the bowl full of sour clementines, I didn’t think twice about adding them to the chicken as I rushed to get something ready for dinner the other night. My Citrus Chicken with Sage is an easy, self saucing, one pan dish that looks after itself while you get on with other things; all it really needs is a salad to round it off.

Citrus Chicken with Sage | Selma's TableI placed all the ingredients in a roasting tin – not too large or there won’t be any sauce left, gave them all a good stir, covered the tin with foil which I removed for the final 20 minutes. You can substitute the clementines with an orange or lemon and the sage for rosemary, thyme or oregano. I always add whole, unpeeled cloves of garlic whenever I roast chicken. After cooking you end up with a nugget of  very mellow, gooey garlic paste which squeezes easily from it’s papery shell and is wonderful smeared onto a forkful of chicken. Some of the smaller cloves caramelise and become chewy. They are all such a treat and also very good for you!! Citrus Chicken with Sage is a really delicious meal for very little effort.

Citrus Chicken with Sage | Selma's TableI am sharing my Citrus Chicken with Sage with the Fiesta Friday revellers. Generously hosted by Angie of the Novice Gardener who this week as posted a really delicious looking cake flan – it not only looks spectacular but also magically flips itself over during baking – showcasing how baking really is science!

Our lovely co-hosts (once again) this week are both Canadian! Globe-trotter Julianna whose blog, Foodie on Board is full of the most delicious global recipes and gorgeous photographs too and Hilda of Along the Grapevine who makes foraging and living off the land aspirational and delicious!!  We are in good hands!!

Citrus Chicken with Sage

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 1 hr 15 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 8 skin on, bone in, free range/organic chicken pieces – I use a combination of legs and thighs
  • 4 medium sized carrots
  • 2 large potatoes (or 12 small potatoes)
  • 2 small sour oranges, clementines or lemons
  • 6 unpeeled cloves of garlic
  • 20 fresh sage leaves
  • Olive Branch EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
  • Salt and Pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Pre-heat oven to 200C/400F.
  2. Trim any fatty bits off the chicken and place in a roasting tin that will comfortably hold everything in one layer.
  3. Peel the carrots and cut into three pieces and add to the tin.
  4. Peel the potatoes – cut large ones into 6 pieces and halve small ones. Add to the tin.
  5. Thinly slice one of the citrus fruits and add to the tin along with garlic, sage and a good grinding of peppercorns.
  6. Squeeze over the juice of the second citrus fruit and a tablespoon of olive oil and give it all a really good mixing in the tin. Then arrange the chicken pieces so that they are skin side up and distribute the vegetables and citrus slices evenly too.
  7. Sprinkle over a good pinch of sea salt, cover tightly with foil and place in the oven for half an hour.
  8. Remove foil, sprinkle a little more salt on the chicken skin to help  it crisp up and cook for 15 – 20 minutes more, until the skin is golden brown.
  9. Arrange the chicken and vegetables on a serving platter and cover loosely with foil. Pour the juices into jug, straining off any excess fat and taste – adjust the seasoning if necessary and serve with the chicken.

© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2013, 2014. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Sublime Rolled Roast Shoulder of Lamb & Potatoes

A Sublime Rolled Roast Shoulder of Lamb & Potatoes | Selma's TableA Roast Chicken and Other Stories by Simon Hopkinson is a cookbook which took my cooking and palate to another level in the mid ’90’s. A grown up’s cookbook and later voted The Most Useful Cookbook’ in 2005, chef and writer, Simon Hopkinson makes absolutely no compromises when it comes to technique or quality of ingredients and is very no-nonsense in his classic approach to cooking which is unpretentious and full of flavour. He has headed the kitchens at Hilaire (where I was fortunate enough to have dined when he was cooking) and then Bibendum; has written a food column for the Independent and also made some wonderful TV programmes; some of which are still available on the 4OD catch up service if you are in the UK. It was he who introduced me to cooking a roast chicken at a very high temperature for the first 15 minutes to tighten skin and start rendering the fat, before lowering it for the rest of the roasting time. It was also he who introduced me to the the flavour sensation that is anchovy, rosemary, garlic stuffed into slits made into a leg of lamb – that first mouthful was unforgettable – the anchovy had broken down and mellowed into an intense savouriness while the garlic and rosemary had perfumed the lamb. I rarely cook a leg of lamb any other way.

10 years later, I am watching Jamie Oliver roast a leg of lamb directly on the oven rack with a roasting tin full of potatoes underneath to catch all the fat and juices. Both he and Nigella Lawson send my kitchen OCD tendencies completely into overdrive – they are both so MESSY but perhaps I would be too if I had a brigade of assistants to wipe down every jar, utensil, surface and handle I touch. I digress. I was very taken with the idea of the potatoes roasting under the lamb, cooking in the lamb fat and absorbing all the lamby juices but there was absolutely no way that I was going to put myself through cleaning the oven afterwards.

One Sunday, few weeks later and in a hurry, I bought some lamb and potatoes, thinking I would do my usual but got home to find that I had bought a boned and rolled shoulder of lamb. I thought of Jamie Oliver’s roasting method and remembered that I had a wire rack which had feet – it could sit in a roasting tin, a few inches above the base.  So I improvised on my “usual” by making a paste out of the anchovy/rosemary/garlic trinity and added a spoonful of mustard. I unrolled the lamb and smeared it with the paste, re-rolled it using the stretchy butchers string that it came rolled in and set it on that wire rack, over a few peeled potatoes, to roast. Best. Meal. Ever.

Intensely savoury and juicy meat; potatoes which were crisp on the bottom and full of the flavours of lamb – eaten alongside some plain green beans and washed down with a glass or two of a smooth red – it really was sublime. It is not a dish I make often though – this really is a treat to have once in a while, after a long brisk walk or perhaps for a special occasion when dietary concerns can be put aside…

A Sublime Rolled Roast Shoulder of Lamb & Potatoes | Selma's Table

Roasted and ready to rest

This time round I included thyme leaves and a little harissa too – it was wonderful. Of course, you can leave out the harissa if you wish or substitute chill flakes and paprika but please do try it with the anchovy – the heat of the oven changes the flavour completely with no fishy taste, just a lot of big savoury flavour. And do remove the lamb from the fridge for at least an hour beforehand, to get the meat up to room temperature. It will cook more evenly this way.

A Sublime Rolled Roast Shoulder of Lamb & Potatoes | Selma's Table

Today, Elaine the inspirational blogger behind Foodbod and I are once again co-hosting Fiesta Friday #36 which is held by the generous, creative and wonderful Angie @ The Novice Gardener. Do take a look at Angie’s latest post – I mean, who else can take a draft post and some left over mole and come up with this mouthwatering dish for Crepas di Mole? You can also see who has been featured from last week’s birthday-centric submissions. And, on to my co-host,  Elaine – she makes the most delicious looking and sounding food all of which is dairy, wheat and meat free. Take a look at  The foodbod range where you can order some of her flavour packed dips and goodness bars if you are lucky enough to live locally to her.

Click on the Fiesta Friday badge below to join the party – you can submit a post (please be sure to include the link and a mention in your post to Angie  FF#36 post – it’s only polite and also ensures that you can be considered for a feature next week!)  or just take a look at others are up to!  If you are new to blogging, Fiesta Friday is a great way to gain exposure and make new friends too.

If you’re new to Fiesta Friday, please do take a minute to read the guidelines.

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A Sublime Rolled Roast Shoulder of Lamb & Potatoes

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy-moderate
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INGREDIENTS

  • 6 medium floury potatoes
  • 750-900g boned and rolled shoulder of lamb
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

For the paste

  • 2 stems of rosemary leaves
  • 1 good Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 4 anchovies (in oil)
  • 1 tbsp of the anchovy oil or olive oil
  • 1 tsp Djion mustard
  • ½ – 1 tsp Harissa paste

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180C/350F.
  2. Peel and halve the potatoes lengthwise. Toss in a little olive oil and salt and place in a roasting tin, cut side up.
  3. Pop in the oven to start roasting while you get on with the lamb.
  4. Unroll the lamb, fat side down. Save the stretchy butchers string, unless you have kitchen string that you can use.
  5. Blitz the paste ingredients together – it should be quite thick. Add a little more oil if necessary. Taste and adjust the seasoning – it shouldn’t need salt as there is plenty in the anchovy.
  6. Smear the paste on the meat, getting into all the cracks and crevices. Roll up the lamb (fat on the outside) and secure with the stretchy butchers string. Push in any paste which escapes and coat the ends of the lamb with it too.
  7. Take the tin out of the oven and turn the potatoes over so that the cut sides are face down. Bunch them up (in one layer) so that you can place the rack so that it will cover as many of them as possible.
  8. Lay the lamb on the rack, anoint the fat with a little olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Any potatoes which are not directly under the lamb should have a tiny bit of olive oil drizzled over them too. As the lamb roasts, the fat and the lamb juices will run down onto the potatoes and infuse them with a huge amount of flavour.
  9. Roast for 1 – 1 ¼ hours then remove the lamb and set aside loosely covered with foil, to rest for at least 20 minutes. Keep the potatoes warm under some foil while you get on with any other vegetables – I love green beans with this.
  10. Remove the string and carve into juicy slices – the thickness is up to you – I prefer ½ cm thick slices – not too thin and not too thick either. The paste will have formed a sublime sauce of sorts, inside the lamb which will ooze out as you carve – make sure that everyone gets a little!

© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2013, 2014. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Greek Inspired Roast Chicken with Bread

Greek Inspired Roast Chicken with Bread | Selma's TableWhen I first moved to London on my own in the early nineties, I worked as a P.A. to a Greek hairdresser. He and his English wife had been crowned London Hairdresser of the Year a couple of times – a reputation which they were really living off at that point. We were paid a pittance for the opportunity to work there and shine in the reflected glory of their name. I learned a great deal about the “show biz” end of hairdressing there – the photo shoots, the big national and international hair shows, the video shoots, the trade events.  When there was an event on, the hours were long and it was expected that everyone that needed to, would pitch in as necessary. I could be typing scripts and cue sheets and the almost daily changes until midnight – this would be for the elaborate hair shows that would be taken, models, wigs, outfits and all to Japan where this company had a big sponsor. For photo shoots it was usually a 6am start to get to the studio and start prepping the girls for hair, make-up and clothes. Themes, storyboarding and clothes styling were my involvement for this sort of thing, though to begin with I would be briefed with the ‘vision’ then make the phone calls to source clothes for the vision and finally bring back what I could scrounge, as hair shoots don’t really come high on any PR or designer’s list of where to loan out clothes to show their lines. Nonetheless, I managed to come back with racks of clothes for the shoots to take to the studio or the trips where his wife would oversee the vision. Eventually I was trusted enough to be invited to these events to help select the clothes and dress the models. It was a far cry from the happy, busy, personal growth and client focused, customer service driven, suburban salon I had worked in before.

Occasionally, the couple would invite the Art Team back to their house for some food (it was never a meal) to brain storm or invite all the staff over for a barbecue if an event had been particularly gruelling with the salon staff having to prop things up while the Art Team were on a punishing schedule, out of the country or working on a trade event. And it is,  of course, the Greek food that is of interest in this case – in those days, I had only eaten Greek food at that wonderful Bayswater institution, Halepi, in West London –  and also another in Claygate that included plate smashing as part of the post-meal entertainment. The barbecues that we were invited to at their house were memorable – some of his family members would be there; the men presiding over a number of small coal grills, tending to  an assortment of meats and Greek sausages as well as half a lamb on a spit. The salads were many and varied too. But the dish I remember the most was that of lemony, oregano scented potatoes – gorgeous waxy Cyprus potatoes that braise slowly in a little stock, lemon juice and oregano.

Greek Inspired Roast Chicken with Bread | Selma's TableThis Greek Inspired Roast Chicken with Bread recipe takes it’s cue from those potatoes, though it is much more than that, of course. It is a another one-pot meal where the flavours and textures all mingle to produce a wonderful dish that is more than just a sum of it’s parts. Some of the bread and vegetables absorb the juices from the chicken and become gooey and soft whilst the rest roast and get crispy and chewy and sharp with the lemon – you can add things like artichoke hearts too if you wish or splash in some stock or wine towards the end for more of a wet roast. It is immensely adaptable to what you have in your pantry and I hope that it acts as a springboard for you – do try it with the bread though – it’s an unusual and fabulous addition!

In the photos you will note a couple of sweet potatoes which I have not included in the recipe below as I wanted to have these for my lunch the next day and not as part of this dish. We love having rocket/arugula with this – the sharp, peppery flavour is another wonderful contrast.

Greek inspired Roast Chicken with Bread

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted from Aliwaks Roast Chicken with Bread and Garlic

INGREDIENTS

  • 1.5 kg free range/organic chicken
  • 1 tsp Harissa paste
  • 1 Tbsp Sundried Tomato and Basil Paste
  • Juice of two lemons, separated and plus one whole one
  • 3-4 slices of stale sourdough bread
  • 1 head of garlic – cloves separated but skins left on
  • 2 leeks, cleaned of any sand
  • 2 – 3 Tbsp Green and Black olives stuffed with sundried tomato, garlic and rosemary
  • 8 Sundried tomatoes
  • 700 g waxy potatoes
  • 1 Tbsp fresh or 1 tsp dried oregano
  • Sea salt
  • Greek “Olive Branch” EVO oil

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Mix the Harissa, sundried tomato paste and the juice of one lemon together to make a runny paste.
  2. Untruss the chicken. Remove as much visible fat as you can from the cavity and discard along with the trussing. If there are giblets, freeze them to make gravy another time.
  3. Smear the paste all over the chicken and inside the cavity and leave to marinate for 1 hour at room temperature.
  4. In the meantime, slice the bread into large cubes, slice the leeks into 1 inch segments and peel and halve the potatoes and arrange in a large roasting dish. Scatter over the garlic cloves, olives and the sundried tomatoes. Squeeze over the juice of the second lemon and sprinkle with oregano and sea salt.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 220C/425F
  6. Stuff the chicken with a halved lemon
  7. Lubricate the bread and vegetables with some olive oil and arrange the chicken on top, making sure that it is sitting on some of the bread and the potatoes which will absorb the chicken juices. Pour over any remaining marinade that has been left on the plate, back over the chicken.  Drizzle a little oil over the chicken and sprinkle with sea salt to help the skin crisp up.
  8. Cook the chicken for 20 minutes at 220C/425F and then turn down the heat to 180C/350F and give the pan a shake, turning over any bread and vegetables that are not covered by the chicken. Roast for another 40 – 55 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken and until the juices run clear at the leg joint.
  9. Turn off the oven. Remove chicken to rest for at least 15 minutes, loosely covered with foil. Keep the vegetables and the bread warm, also loosely covered, in the residual heat of the oven.
  10. Carve the chicken as you wish but make sure that everyone gets a good mix of crispy chewy, roasted vegetables and bread as well as some which have absorbed the chicken juices – it is a real textural revelation!

© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2013, 2014. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Black Summer Truffle Pesto Roast Chicken

black-summer-truffle-pesto-roast-chickenA few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to attend Taste of London’s fabulous food and restaurant event in Regent’s Park. The weather was glorious and the event was well attended but didn’t feel crowded at all. Amongst all the Michelin starred chefs demonstrating on live stages and 5* restaurants selling taster sized portions of  their most loved dishes, were lots of producers, artisans and brands selling their wares. IMK July 2014I blogged about the event in this post  with lots of photos – https://selmastable.wordpress.com/2014/07/10/in-my-kitchen-july-2014/  and promised to post a recipe using the new Black Summer Truffle Pesto which I bought from Sacla who had a stand at the event.

black-summer-truffle-pesto-roast-chickenThe pesto is amazing (if you like truffle) and I urge you to seek it out while it’s available as it may be a limited edition. Simply spread on toasted sourdough and topped with a poached egg, breakfast the next day was a little bit of  food heaven on a plate…

black-summer-truffle-pesto-roast-chickenI love to spatchcock chicken. Spatchcock is the term used to refer to cutting out the backbone which opens out and flattens the bird – it’s so easy to do, really cuts down on cooking time and makes carving very easy too. It also makes it very easy to separate the skin from the flesh so that seasoning,herbs, pastes or lemon slices can be stuffed under the skin, as the skin is no longer stretched taut over the flesh. My poultry shears have seen better days so I normally use my the heel and point of my sharp chef’s knife to cut out  the backbone. Skewering it is great if you are barbecuing and need to flip the chicken over a few times but when roasting in the oven, it is unnecessary. This is a brilliant video showing how to spatchcock a chicken, presented by the lovely Sarah Cook who also ran the Food Styling course I took at Leith’s a few years ago – http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/technique/how-spatchcock-chicken

Do save the backbone by popping it in a bag and into the freezer – it does make a great stock when you add to the other chicken bones you have been saving. You don’t have to get fancy with a simple basic chicken stock for risottos, pastas or casseroles. I always strip any meat from a roast chicken carcass to save for quick suppers, salads and sandwiches. Then, I snap the leg bones and the carcass so that they will fit in a pot later  and put these in a freezer bag together with any roasted carrots, herbs and sticky bits (but not lemons as these make the stock bitter)  and in the freezer if not making stock straight away. Place (frozen) in a large saucepan with a lid, cover with water, bring to a gentle boil and immediately turn down the heat to as low as you can and simmer for 2 hours – one hour if you are pushed for time. Strain and use straightaway or let it cool and keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.

black-summer-truffle-pesto-roast-chicken

This is wonderful with some parboiled, crushed and roast new potatoes and a pile of green beans finishing with and a mustardy green salad to mop up the juices on the plate. I apologise for the quality and lack of more photos but it was getting late so the light was low and tummies were rumbling!

Black Summer Truffle Pesto Roast Chicken

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 20 mins prep, 50 min cooking, 15 mins resting
  • Difficulty: Moderate
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Adapted from the Sacla website

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 x 1.5 kg chicken – free-range or organic preferably especially if you are going to make a stock with the bones.
  • ½ jar of Sacla’s Black Summer Truffle Pesto (or whizz together some parmesan cheese, pine nuts and truffle oil into a paste)
  • unpeeled cloves from ½ a garlic bulb
  • Lots of sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 x lemon, cut in half and one half cut into 4 wedges
  • Salt and pepper
  • wine glass full of dry white wine
  • 50 g of finely grated parmesan cheese

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F.
  2. Get your roasting tin out. and place a good handful of thyme sprigs on it as a bed for the chicken.
  3. Remove ½ of the pesto from the jar and place it in a small bowl or plate – this will stop any contamination – something that I am a little obsessive about. Divide the paste into quarters to make it easy to use once you get going.
  4. Get a good pinch of sea salt onto a small plate and a good grinding of black pepper too – see note 2 about contamination!
  5. Spatchcock the chicken. Remove from packaging, undo the trussing or string and discard. Turn the chicken over onto it’s breast and cut along either side of the backbone, starting at the Parson’s nose (tail). Flip it over, open it out and with the heel of your hand, press onto the breasts, while you lean into it to give it some weight – this will help to flatten it out.
  6. Flip it onto it’s breast again and using your fingers, spread with ¼ of the truffle pesto. Season with a little salt and pepper and place onto the roasting dish.
  7. Starting at the neck/breast end of the chicken, using your fingers and hands, gently, being careful not to tear the skin, separate and ease the skin away from the flesh  – go all the way to the top of the legs. You will have to get your hands right under the skin – not great if you are squeamish!  Place half the truffle pesto on the flesh, under the skin and spread it as evenly as you can, as far as the  tops of  the legs. I find it easier to do one side of the chicken at a time. Pull and adjust the skin so that it is in place and covering the very top of  chicken  and wipe off any excess paste that is clinging onto your hands onto the chicken skin. Squeeze over the juice from half the lemon. Sprinkle on a little salt and pepper.
  8. Now go and thoroughly wash your hands. With hot water and soap and get someone to turn the taps on for you – did I mention I was obsessive about contamination?
  9. Scatter the unpeeled garlic cloves around the chicken. Dribble the cloves and the chicken with a little olive oil. Pour in the wine around the edge of the tin. and place in the oven. Set the timer for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, turn the heat down to 180C/350F and continue roasting for another 20 minutes.
  10. Remove tin from the oven and turn up the heat to 200C/400F. Using a spatula, spread the remaining truffle pesto onto the skin and sprinkle over the parmesan cheese. Place back in the oven for 10 more minutes. Check to make sure that it is cooked through – no blood running in the section between the leg and the body and remove chicken and garlic to a serving plate, loosely covering with foil and allow to rest for 15 minutes.
  11. In the meantime, drain off any oil in the roasting tin leaving behind all the lovely juices. Place tin on the hob/stove top. Bring to a boil then simmer, scraping down the sticky bits from around the sides and bottom of the tin with a wooden spoon. Let this reduce until you have a enough for a little jus or gravy. If you are making green beans, get them on now.
  12. Serve with lemon wedges, parboiled and crushed roasted new potatoes, green beans and a salad. The caramelised garlic just pops out of their skins and is wonderful spread on the potatoes or bits of chicken as you eat.

© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2013, 2014. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.