They sell something very similar to these in one of my local delicatessens, but rather more mayonnaise-y – and they sell them for about £1 per pepper, which is a simply amazing markup when you consider that a whole jar of the things, unstuffed, will only cost you about £2.50. Add a small can of tuna and a few ingredients which you probably have in the fridge already, and you’ve got (if you’re making them at home) a very inexpensive and very easy canapé, which you can make well in advance of any party you might be serving them at.
I spent years under the illusion that Peppadews (a brand name rather than a botanical name) were some sort of fruit which wasn’t related to the chilli. I think that perhaps I was a victim of some 1990s marketing. They’re actually a round chilli pepper, which grows in the Limpopo region of South Africa (cue chants of “great, grey-green, greasy Limpopo river” from all those of us who absorbed Kipling’s Just So stories at our mothers’ knees), and is processed to remove the seeds, then preserved in a sweet pickling mixture. Removing the seeds reduces the chilli’s heat, and it also leaves a nice, tidy hole in the top of the chilli which is just right for pushing stuffing into.
You want something salty, savoury and assertive in a stuffing here, that won’t get overwhelmed by the sweet and strong fruitiness of the chillies. Tinned tuna and capers are a really good match here. To fill a jar of little chillies (which will serve 4-6 as a nibble with drinks), you’ll need:
1 jar Peppadew peppers
1 small can tuna
Juice of ½ lemon
1 heaped tablespoon crème fraîche
1 stick celery, cut into tiny dice
½ shallot, cut into tiny dice
1 tablespoon capers, drained
2 heaped tablespoons chopped parsley
Easy as anything: just mix everything except the Peppadews thoroughly in a bowl, and use a teaspoon to stuff the peppers with the mixture. Chill before serving.
I’m back from a week at Disneyworld, where I actually lost weight, which should tell you all you need to know about the food there. Shouldn’t complain; it’s not every week you get to accompany your husband on a work trip to somewhere with rollercoasters, but there is only so much deep-fried food a girl can take. I ended up subsisting on toffee apples; a surprisingly effective weight-loss regime. More on all that in a later post; it was, after all, the Epcot Food and Wine Festival while we were there, so I do have something besides churros and overcooked steaks to write about.
Back to the matter at hand. The only recipe I’ve ever seen for Poulet Antiboise comes from Elizabeth David’s A Book of Mediterranean Food. In that desert-island situation that never actually happens, but that we all like to fantasise about, Elizabeth David’s are the cookery books I’d rescue from the hold of my sinking ship – and I wouldn’t use them to make fires with. That fate is reserved strictly for that useless brick of a book from Prue Leith’s cookery school.
A Book of Mediterranean Food is David’s first book, and is now available (in the link above) in a hardback edition with her next two, French Country Cooking and Summer Cooking – well worth buying rather than the paperbacks, which tend to fall to bits if you use them much in the kitchen. These books were the fruits of her period living in France, Italy and Greece, and they ooze sunshine and good times. David’s style is unlike the very didactic recipe writing, full of precise times and measurements, that everybody uses these days (usually at the insistence of those reading and cooking from the recipes – a few years ago I decided to start specifying amounts of herbs in grammes rather than handfuls or sprigs, for example, after one too many worried emails asking me precisely how much basil you can fit in a fist). Her recipes are descriptive and give a clear idea of flavour and method, but without always giving particularly precise measurements, timings or even ingredient lists; all of which should leave you, the creative cook, with a world of experimentation and enthusiastic improvisation to enjoy over each dish.
This is a gorgeous recipe, where a chicken is buried in a giant heap of softened onions in a big casserole dish, then roasted until the onions collapse and make their own sauce with the chicken’s savoury juices, and served with typically Provençal flavourings. Rather than stirring olives into the sauce and serving the lot with fried bread triangles as in David’s original recipe, I’ve made a sort of deconstructed tapenade to spread on grilled crostini, which works a treat alongside the chicken’s richness. I’ve decreased the battleship-floating amount of olive oil that you’ll find in the original, added some shallots to the mix and added cooking times, temperature and a weight for your chicken below. I followed David’s original instruction to add a tablespoon or so of cream to the sauce at the end of cooking, but I’d encourage you to taste it first and decide whether or not you think it needs it; it’s just as good if you leave it out, so it’s not made it into the ingredient list below. Some French sautéed potatoes are a great accompaniment to this dish.
To roast one chicken, you’ll need:
1 roasting chicken, about 1.5kg
6 large onions
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 heaped teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
10 slices from a ciabatta
5 anchovy fillets
2 heaped tablespoons capers, drained
15 black olives, stoned (I like Greek dry roasted olives that come in a jar, like Crespo, for this recipe – additionally, they’re wonderfully cheap)
100g stupendous tomato sauce or sundried tomato paste
A handful of parsley. Ha. Take that, measurement emailers.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC (370ºF). Ferret around inside your chicken and remove any lumps of poultry fat, seasoning it inside with plenty of salt and pepper. Leave it to come to room temperature while you prepare the onions.
Slice the onions and shallots thinly, and sauté them with the cayenne pepper in the oil until soft but not coloured in a heavy-based pan large enough to take the chicken. I use a 29cm oval Le Creuset number which is perfect for pot-roasting a chicken. They’re pricey, but well worth asking for as a Christmas present; mine gets an awful lot of use.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the chicken, burying it upside-down in the onions, which should smother it completely. Put the lid on and roast for 90 minutes (you don’t need to check or baste the chicken while it’s cooking), by which time the chicken will be cooked through and tender, and the onions will have collapsed.
While the chicken is cooking, prepare your tapenade. Chop the capers and olives roughly. In a small frying pan, fry the anchovies with a teaspoon of olive oil, poking occasionally with a wooden spoon until they have “melted”. Add the capers and olives to the pan and sauté for a few minutes to meld the flavours. Remove to a bowl.
Grill the slices of ciabatta and shortly before serving, spread each slice with a teaspoon of tomato sauce and a teaspoon of the tapenade. Sprinkle with parsley and serve alongside the chicken.
I’ll admit it – one of the motives in coming up with this recipe was in ensuring that the first word I typed on Gastronomy Domine in 2010 could be “Spatchcocked”, a word which hasn’t got any less fun since I last typed it.
It being just after the festive season, the shops are still full of meats a little beyond the ordinary, so my local supermarket has shelves full of lovely fatty bacon collars (three are in the fridge at the moment, waiting for a little boiling swim in some Chinese aromatics which will turn them into interesting hams); veal mince (superb in a cottage pie); turkey crowns (I walked straight past these grimacing); pheasant and venison mixtures for stewing; and poussins, ready-spatchcocked.
I really enjoy cooking a bird prepared like this. Cooking times are reduced massively by flattening a bird out, so the meat can be passed very quickly under the grill, leaving you with wonderfully moist meat. If your poussin hasn’t been spatchcocked, it’s very easy to do it yourself – there are instructions here for spatchcocking a full-sized chicken.
I just couldn’t bring myself to go outside into the freezing winter with the barbecue, so I’ve cooked this under the conventional grill rather than over charcoal. If you’re in a position to use charcoal here, please do – it’ll be delicious.
Reckon to serve one poussin per person (try saying that after a glass of post-festive Prosecco – incidentally, Prosecco is a very nice match to this dish with its Italian aromatics). Some packaging will suggest that one bird will serve two. It won’t. They’re small, they’re bony and they’re fiddly to eat. Much better to serve a generous whole poussin to each person than to find yourselves squabbling over too little food. To marinade two flattened-out baby birds, you’ll need:
75ml extra-virgin olive oil Juice and zest of 2 lemons 1 bunch (about 15g) fresh oregano, chopped finely 3 tablespoons capers, chopped finely 4 fat cloves garlic, crushed 1 heaped teaspoon Italian chilli flakes (use more or less according to how spicy you fancy it) 1 teaspoon salt A generous grinding of pepper
Mix all the marinade ingredients and smear them all over the poussins in a large bowl. Refrigerate for 24 hours with a cover, turning a few times.
When you are ready to cook, position the birds on a rack under a hot grill, as far from the element as possible, skin-side down. Spoon over some of the marinade and grill the non-skin side for about 12 minutes. Flip the poussins over so the skin is uppermost, baste with some more marinade, and cook for another 12 minutes, until the skin is golden brown. Check the meat is cooked through by piercing a thigh at the thickest part – the juices should run clear. if the juices are bloody, leave the birds under the grill for another five minutes and repeat the test.
Sprinkle the cooked poussins with a little more oregano, and serve with buttered rice and a sharp salad.
I’m having some trouble writing coherently today because I have one eye (OK – two eyes) on the news – I’m obsessing somewhat about the US election, and I really, really hope the polls are accurate. The BBC is currently showing helicopter footage of a queue of voters in Virginia – it’s so long that a helicopter is the only way they can film it.
Here’s a really fantastic lamb dish to serve to someone you’re trying to impress. Loin fillets are seared in olive oil and roasted briefly, so they’re still lovely and pink in the centre, then served with a butter sauce made dense and salty with shallots, anchovies and capers. The anchovies give amazing savoury depth and richness to the dish and go fabulously with lamb, but when cooked like this they don’t taste fishy – in fact, they melt into the sauce so completely that you will be able to serve this to anchovy-haters with no problems.
To serve two, you’ll need:
2 lamb loin fillets Zest and juice of 1 lemon 2 shallots 4 anchovies 2 teaspoons capers (use tiny ones in wine vinegar) 1 tablespoon cream 100g salted butter 1 clove garlic Salt and pepper Olive oil Fresh basil to garnish
Crush the garlic and rub it all over the lamb with the lemon zest, a little salt and plenty of pepper. Put aside for an hour at room temperature. Preheat the oven to 200° C.
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan until it starts to shimmer, and sear the lamb all over in it. The pan must be very hot – you’re aiming to brown the lamb to a lovely mahogany colour. Place the whole, seared fillets in a roasting dish and put in the oven for ten minutes. When the lamb has had ten minutes in the oven, take it out and rest it in its cooking dish in a warm place for another ten minutes while you make the sauce.
While the lamb is resting, make the sauce. Melt the butter in the frying pan (over a lower heat now) and add the finely chopped shallots. Simmer the shallots in the butter for five minutes, then add the anchovies and cook, stirring, until they have melted into the sauce. Still over a low heat, stir in the cream and capers, then use a balloon whisk to beat the lemon juice into the sauce. Start with half the juice and taste as you add more until you have a sauce which is tart and buttery all at once.
Slice the fillets into medallions and arrange on the plate with a drizzle of the sauce and some basil to garnish.