Home Cooked Chicken, Olive and Preserved Lemon Tagine

We love a good dinner party. One sunny, summery, Sunday evening when Sandra was visiting, Nathan, my housemate, made a gorgeous tagine.

Candles, gorgeous white wine, and some nibbles (baby plum tomatoes with mint leaves, olives, feta stuffed spicy peppers) to start the evening off.

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Nathan used Jamie Oliver’s chicken, olive and preserved lemon tagine but used boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of a whole chicken and he used fresh lemon instead of preserved lemon. This gave it a very fresh and tangy flavour – great for the summer weather.

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The couscous had some fresh coriander and toasted almond slices thrown in which gave it a nice flavour and a good crunch.

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On the side there was a greek yogurt mixed with harissa for a little spice and creaminess to have with the tagine.

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All in all a refreshing, tangy meal for a bright summers evening. Thank you Nathan!

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Chicken, Olive and Preserved Lemon Tagine – “Jamie Does Spain” – Jamie Oliver

Serves: 4-6

Ingredients
1 whole chicken (approximately 1.5kg), preferably free range or organic, skin-on, jointed into 4 (get your butcher to do this for you)
olive oil
1–2 large bulbs of fennel
2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
a small bunch of fresh coriander
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
2–3 small preserved lemons, deseeded and chopped
80g black and green olives, stoned
a good pinch of saffron
500ml hot organic chicken stock

For the spice rub
1 heaped teaspoon coriander seeds, bashed up
1 level teaspoon ground cumin
1 heaped teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method
Mix all the spice rub ingredients together in a small bowl. Put your chicken pieces into a large bowl, massage them with the spice rub then cover with clingfilm and put into the fridge to marinate for a couple of hours or, even better, overnight.

When you’re ready to cook, heat a generous lug of olive oil in a tagine or casserole-type pan and fry the chicken pieces over a medium to high heat, skin side down first, for about 5 to 10 minutes until gorgeous and golden brown.

While your chicken fries, chop each fennel bulb into 8 wedges and add these to the pan along with the onions, coriander stalks and garlic. Stir well and fry for a couple more minutes, then mix in the preserved lemons, olives and saffron. Pour in the hot stock, give everything a good stir, then cover with a lid or foil and simmer on a low heat for 1½ hours, or until the meat starts to fall away from the bone. Halfway through, have a check and give it a good stir. Keep an eye on it and add a splash of water if it looks dry.When the time’s up and your chicken looks perfect, stir gently. If it’s still a bit liquidy, leave it to blip away with the lid off until thickened slightly. Have a taste, season with a pinch of salt and pepper if you think it needs it, then sprinkle with the coriander leaves. There’s enough love and care in the tagine for it not to need anything fancy, so serve it simply, with a large bowl of lightly seasoned steaming couscous.

Beigel Bake – an East London Institution

The Brick Lane Beigal Shop – a family run business full of East London history, tradition and astoundingly delicious bagels. My Great Grandparents on my Jewish side used to shop for their bagels and their challah there.

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On Sundays you will find a line around the shop and out the door into the road, but if you are out in Brick Lane for the Sunday Market, I can give you a right-handed-three-fingered-girl-guides promise that it is worth the wait.

Esme was visiting London so I took her there to try these traditional London Bagels.

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As you walk in, the smell of freshly cooked bagels, challah and pastries fill your nostrils, making your eyes a lot bigger than your stomach.

There is a variety of fillings to choose from. My favourites are the smoked salmon with butter (£1.30) and the salt beef with English mustard (£3.20).

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The chew of the bagel is what makes it and these bagels have the perfect chew and are not dry whatsoever.

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The salt beef is home made and delicious. It falls apart and melts in your mouth and is not too salty. With the English mustard to give the perfect kick.

Wong Kei – A London Chinatown Institution

At 4 stories high, with the ability to seat 500 diners, Wong Kei is a London Chinatown institution. Known for its straight forward, no-fluff, fast service (which some may find rude) – the restaurant is always full of students, tourists, and Chinese customers. The atmosphere is always buzzing and the great thing is, you can eat yourself into a food-coma, without breaking the bank. It has a special place in my heart from the days of being a university student in London.

Liz and I went for some good hit-the-spot Chinese food after a long hard day of work.

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We ordered a Crispy Shredded Beef as it is Liz’s favourite. It was the first time I had tried it there and it was very good.

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I like the roast meats there so we got a plate of Pork Belly and BBQ Pork on rice (£6). They pour a sweet gravy over it all to complete it. The Pork Belly has crispy skin on it, which gives a crunch to it and the BBQ Pork has a sweet and smokey flavour to it.

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I love Chinese vegetables. Growing up my mother told me that if I ate my greens, my hair would grow long and silky, and being a very girly little girl, this made me like my greens even more.

We ordered Choi Sum with Oyster Sauce, which was fresh, crunchy, and sweet (£4).

The service isn’t the best and you might have to eat on a table with other people, but overall, its a good eat.

http://wongkeilondon.com/

Meat Mission

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After trying Meat Liquor, I fell in love with Yianni’s burgers and I am keen to try all his other restaurants.

We went to Meat Mission the other day. Based in Hoxton, this is Yianni Papoutsis and Scott Collins’s third restaurant. There was no queue on this Wednesday evening and we were seated straight away. Walking in, I felt a slight deja vu, as the atmosphere is very similar. loud music, similar creatures painted on the ceiling, the kitchen rolls and trays. This had a bit of a church like feel to it though.

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A couple of things I do want to try on this menu are the Dirty Chicken Burger and the Sundae Roast! But I was feeling like a beefy burger this very evening and went for the Red Chili Cheese Burger.

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The thick, juicy, meaty burger brought back the great memories of my burger at Meat Liquor.

And we went for a side of the Chili Cheese Fries to share. To be honest, the burgers are pretty filling on their own, but our eyes were bigger than our stomachs at the time.

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Smothered in chili con carne, cheese, chopped up gherkins, onions and mustard. Tasted amazing.Yianni, always a pleasure to visit one of your restaurants. Still my favourite burgers in town.

http://www.meatmission.com/

approximately £7.50 per burger

Tay Do – My Pick of the Great Pho Mile – Hoxton, London

Kingsland Road, aka The Great Pho Mile, is famous for its delicious Vietnamese restaurants. Restaurant after restaurant all the way down Kingsland Road, there are a number of choices. I am sure that everyone has their favourite one. Mine, is Tay Do Cafe.

Why? Well, I believe the tradition of the Pho Mile is the BYOB (bring your own booze) as well as the good food. Unfortunately all the restaurants on the road no longer allow the bring-your-own-booze policy, except for Tay Do. I like that they have continued this East London tradition – plus their food is fabulous and the menu is huge so there is something for everyone’s taste buds.

Yep, I am a huge fan. In fact, I am such a fan that I went twice this week. Once with Hayley, Kuda, and Jean for a girlie catch up dinner and the other time was for Charlotte’s birthday (with Tash, Astrid, Kate, Emma, and Renata).

Some of the starters that we had were:

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Chicken Satay.

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Fresh Prawn Summer Rolls – These are my favourite! They taste so healthy and refreshing with vermicelli noodles, mint, coriander, spring onion, large prawns wrapped in a rice wrap. A signature Vietnamese dish!

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Fried Spicy Squid – also delicious. They are fried with onions, red chilies, and spring onions and are very flavoursome.

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Vegetable Spring Rolls.

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The night of the girlie catch up, I had a bowl of Pho with thinly sliced beef. Pho is another signature Vietnamese dish. The beef stock takes hours to cook and it is boiling hot, then poured onto the flat white rice noodles and raw thin beef to cook them.

A side dish of bean sprouts, lime, mint, and chilies are presented for you to make the soup your own creation.

It is a fabulous dish for a cold rainy night to warm up your belly. (approximately £8 each)

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On Charlotte’s birthday I ordered a lemon grass and beef bun – and yes it is another signature Vietnamese dish. This is a very refreshing dish for hot summery weather. It is dry vermicelli noodles with a lemon grass, onion, garlic, sliced beef stir fry on top and a sweet chili fish sauce on the side to pour over it. Once you pour the sauce over it, mix it all up with the stir fry, and voila! (approximately £9 each)

Tay Do Cafe – My pick of The Great Pho Mile!

http://www.taydo.co.uk/

Pizza East – Shoreditch, London

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We went to Pizza East in Shoreditch for some freshly made pizza. It is one of my favourite pizza places in London. The atmosphere is buzzing, on one side there are large wood fire ovens where the chefs are cooking away, and on the other side there are breads, meats and cheeses being sliced. Its a large space and everything is made right in front of you.

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We had some calamari to start. Freshly battered and fried so that it was crisp on the outside with some tartar sauce on the side.

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I am a margherita pizza kind of girl. Some people might find it plain, but I think that it is the best way to enjoy a good pizza, without any toppings to distract from the taste of a good pizza base, home-made tomato sauce, and fresh buffalo mozzarella.

Pizza East have a good selection of pizzas with interesting toppings and if you are a topping kind of person, I would recommend trying the spicy sausage.

Great pizzas and great atmosphere!

http://www.pizzaeast.com/

approximately £10 per pizza

The Great Roast Dinner #1: Roasted Pork Chops with Dried Apricots and Sage

The Sunday Roast – a great English tradition (other English traditions include, but are not limited to, calling people “Treacle” and drinking out of fancy teacups with your pinky finger sticking out in the air). You always hear people talking about the best roast dinner – whether it be their mother’s recipe that has been passed down for centuries, the newest gastro pub that just popped up around the corner, le nouveaux recipe from a celebrity chef, or the roast they had at a Michelin Star the other day.

So I am currently on the search for the best roast dinner. But is there a best or can you appreciate them all differently? That, my friends, is the question.

Nathan, Hannah, Glenn and I have been housemates (more like one big family) at the passage for just over 2 years now, and it has begun the end of this era, as Glenn moves out to live with Tess (dramatic tone intended). Hannah is currently on a business trip, but Nathan and I went over to Glenn and Tess’s new place for a roast dinner.

Glenn decided on Jamie Oliver’s Roasted Pork Chop with Dried Apricot and Sage.

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It was an absolute delight. Very different from the usual roast dinner, it has lots of amazing flavours and textures to it.

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The pancetta and garlic roasted with the potatoes and then cooking the pork on top of the potatoes at the end, gave them a great smokey flavour. Slicing into the pork to find a sage and dried apricot filling was great. It gave a hint of sweet and crunch from the apricot and an earthy flavour from the sage. All together it was a great combination.

As the sun was still shining outside (in England you need to enjoy the sunshine when you can), we wandered out for dessert in the garden – scones with clotted cream, Bonne Maman’s strawberry jam, fresh raspberries and fresh strawberries.

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Thank you for a lovely meal, Glenn!
And Mr. Oliver, hats off to you, what a scrumptious recipe!

Jamie Oliver’s Recipe for Roasted Pork Chops with Dried Apricot and Sage, from his book “Jamie’s Italy”:

Ingredients:
1kg | 2 lb 3 oz potatoes, peeled and diced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 thick pork chops, on the bone
20 fresh sage leaves
1 bulb of garlic, 1 clove peeled and finely chopped
4 slices of prosciutto
55 gr | 2oz butter, finely diced
4 dried apricots, finely chopped
olive oil
6 thick strips of pancetta or smoked bacon (1cm | 1/2 inch thick, if possible)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas 7.

1. Put the potatoes into a pan of salted water and bring to the boil. Boil them for 3 or 4 minutes, then drain them and allow them to steam dry.

2. Lay the pork chops on a board and insert a small knife horizontally into the side of each chop to make a hidden pocket. Make sure the tip of the knife stays in the middle of the chop. as you don’t want to cut through the meat to either side.

3. Set aside 8 of the sage leaves. Add 8 more sage leaves to a food processor with a peeled and chopped clove of garlic, the prosciutto, butter, apricots and a pinch of salt and pepper and give it a whiz. Then divide the mixture in 4 and push it into the pockets of the pork chops.

4. Dress the 8 large sage leaves that you set aside with a little oil and press one side of them into some flour. Press a leaf, flour side down, on to each side of the chops (so you have 2 leaves on each chop). :Leave the chops on a plate, covered with clingfilm while you get your potatoes ready.

5. If you’re using thick strips of pancetta, slice them into matchsticks. Put them into a large roasting tray with the potatoes, the remaining sage leaves, and the whole unpeeled garlic cloves. Drizzle with a little olive oil and put the tray into the preheated oven. After 10 minutes put a frying pan on the hob and get it very hot. Add a touch of olive oil, and put in the seasoned pork chops. Fry for 10 minutes. until golden and crisp on both sides, then remove the tray of potatoes from the oven – they should be nice and light golden by now – and place the chops on top. Put the tray back into the oven for 10 to 15 minutes. depending on how thick the chops are, then remove the tray from the oven and serve.