Tarragon cream chicken

This recipe is absurdly quick and simple – it’s good for unexpected guests because you’re likely to have most of the ingredients in the house already (and may well already find them all lurking in your fridge). It’s rich and delicious, and it only needs a salad and some crusty bread to accompany it and soak up the creamy juices.

If you can get your hands on some fresh tarragon, use that. Dried tarragon, however, is surprisingly good here. There are no similar short-cuts you can take with the parsley, though; dried parsley is useless and revolting, so you’ll have to find some fresh.

To serve three, you’ll need:

Three chicken breast fillets
3 tablespoons flour
400ml crème fraîche
3 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon (or 3 teaspoons dried)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Half a lemon
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper

Chop the chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces and dust them with the flour and a little salt and pepper. Melt the butter in a sauté pan and heat it until it starts to bubble. Add the chicken to the pan and sauté until it is cooked through and starting to brown at the edges. Turn the heat down low.

Tip the crème fraîche, herbs and mustard into the pan and stir well. Bring up to a simmer and add the lemon juice and some salt and pepper. Taste for seasoning, adding a little more lemon juice if you like, and serve immediately.

Roast duck with tarragon creme fraiche sauce

This is probably the worst photo I’ve ever put on this blog – this duck is out of focus and really ought to have been photographed later, once it was plated up. There’s a reason for this – the little guy was smelling so good that the hordes gathered around the table had the duck carved, chewed and well on the way to being digested about fifteen seconds after the shutter closed.

I’ve mentioned roasting ducks before in relation to collecting the fat for use in potato dishes later. This recipe should ensure you a perfectly crisp, deliciously seasoned and glazed skin, fragrant and toothsome flesh, and plenty of delicious creamy gravy to anoint the meat. A large duck like this (the plate it’s sitting on is a giant one) should serve four.

1 large duck
2 spring onions
1 lemon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground paprika
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon onion salt
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
1 bunch tarragon
1 bunch parsley
250 ml stock (use a good pre-prepared stock or make your own with the bird’s giblets)
3 tablespoons crème fraîche
1 tablespoon quince jelly (use redcurrant jelly if you can’t find quince)
1 glass white wine
1 teaspoon cornflour
1 ½ teaspoons light soya sauce

Remove the bag of giblets from inside the carcass before you begin, and use the contents to make stock. Take any poultry fat out of the inside of the duck along with any excess skin, and use it to make gratons.

Dry the duck carefully inside and out with kitchen paper. Use a fork to prick the skin all over the bird (this will help excess fat to escape and help the skin to crisp beautifully), and place the halved lemon and the spring onions inside its cavity. Mix the salt and the spices together in a bowl, and rub the skin well with them, keeping a teaspoon of the mixture to one side. Sprinkle any remaining rub inside the bird. Place on a rack in a baking tray in an oven preheated to 200° C (400° F) for 45 minutes per kilogramme plus 15 minutes, basting every half hour with its own fat. (The duck will release a lot of fat; that rack is there to make sure that the bird doesn’t sit in the fat and burn.)

Chop the herbs very finely and combine them with the quince jelly in a separate bowl.

To make the sauce, take the stock and bring to a simmer, reducing until flavourful. Stir the cornflour into the cold glass of wine and tip the mixture into the bubbling stock with the crème fraîche and the teaspoon of rubbing mixture you reserved when you prepared the duck. Keep the pan on a low simmer.

Ten minutes before the end of the cooking time, use a teaspoon to ‘paint’ the uppermost skin of the duck with the jelly and herb mixture and return the bird to the oven. Keep a teaspoon full of the jelly/herb mixture and stir it into the sauce. Taste the sauce and add more jelly or tarragon and salt if you think it needs it.

The duck will be beautifully glazed, its skin crisp and savoury from the spice rub. Rest the bird for five minutes once it comes out of the oven and serve with roast potatoes, a sharp salad to cut the richness of the flesh, and some green vegetables. Remember to decant the fat from the roasting tin into a large jar to keep in the fridge for roasting and frying potatoes.

Pork stuffed with an apricot and tarragon butter

Pork fillet is a lovely cut of meat, but it lacks the fat found in other bits of the pig needed to make it really glossy and toothsome when cooked. The easiest and most delicious way to remedy this is to cut channels into the meat and stuff them with a flavoured butter, wrapping the whole fillet in Parma ham to keep things together.

I chose an apricot and tarragon butter here; the two flavours are great together and complement the pork beautifully. I used the Magimix to make the butter, but if you don’t have a food processor, just chop all the solid ingredients finely and blend with the butter in a mortar and pestle. To serve four, you’ll need:

1 pork fillet (tenderloin)
4 oz salted butter
8 semi-dried apricots
1 fresh chilli, deseeded
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 large handful fresh tarragon
1 large handful fresh parsley
4 shallots
Juice of half a lemon
2 teaspoons soya sauce
8 slices Parma ham

Put the butter, lemon juice, soya sauce, apricots, herbs, spices and shallots into the bowl of a food processor and whizz until finely blended. Cut channels into the meat by pushing a knife straight into it at 5 cm intervals, and stuff the butter into them, smearing any extra over the surface of the joint. Wrap the joint tightly in Parma ham and secure with string.

Roast the fillet at 200° C for 40 minutes, and rest for five minutes before serving with potatoes and a green vegetable, the pan juices poured over the meat.