Thursday, 31 October 2013

Chicken and Chorizo One Pot

Aside from a little pre-frying and chopping the majority of the cooking for this is all done in one pot which is always a winner.

Most butchers and supermarkets sell thighs in a packet, sometimes along with drumsticks and they are usually more economical than breast meat – not to mention fattier, hence filled with far more flavour.

This is a warming, casserole packed full of flavour and is lovely on cold winter nights. I served it, this week, with some simple plain boiled rice and salad, but you could have it alone with fresh bread or with potatoes.

The chorizo gives a Spanish hue and with that end, I added a splash of Cava, purely as I had some in the fridge, but any dry white wine will do.

Serves 4:
Here’s how:      

8 chicken thighs or drumsticks
200g chorizo
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
1 courgette
Tin of cannellini beans
2 tbsp Cava or dry white wine
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp dried thyme
1 red chilli
½ cup of chicken stock
Salt and black pepper
2 tbsp hot paprika

Firstly slice the onion and chill and crush the garlic and add to a casserole dish. Chop the courgette into small cubes and add to the dish. Drain the beans and add to the dish with the chopped tomoates and the cava or wine.

Next chop the chorizo into small chunks, and add to a pan on a medium heat – no oil is needed here. While these are cooking, pour a couple of tablespoons of olive oil onto a chopping board and season liberally with the salt and pepper. Then add 1 tbsp each of the dried thyme and the paprika and coat each of the chicken pieces in the oil.

Once the chorizo is seared, use a slotted spoon and add to the casserole dish.

In the same pan, sear the chicken pieces 2-3 at a time, ensuring to sear all over. Then add each piece to the casserole dish.

Finally add the ½ cup of stock to the dish and stir through to ensure each piece of chicken is covered with the liquid and stir through the remaining herbs and spices, salt and pepper.

Place the lid on top and cook for 45 minutes to an hour at 180 degrees. If you prefer a thicker consistency you can add a little cornflour in towards the end, but it is a lovely juicy consistency perfect with rice or bread. Enjoy!

Prawn Saganaki

In some parts of Greece I understand this dish is called youvetsi – after the name of the dish it is cooked in, but to me it will always be Prawn Saganaki, as it was when I first tried it in gorgeous Corfu.

A lovely Greek lady, Angelliki, gave me the basics for this recipe when I enjoyed it at her hotel taverna back in 2008, when I was working as a holiday rep and would hungrily demolish many a meal prepared by this lovely lady. She was an inspiration in many ways – as well as working many hours with her husband Costas at the hotel they only managed, not owned, she prepared the majority of the food that was served there, and had two beautiful young children who she was always running around after too. They were a very generous couple always trying to feed me up and happily, were open to sharing the odd recipe too. A tiny couple of tweaks, to accommodate what is readily and affordably available in sunny Essex and here is the recipe below.

If you can get hold of them the sauce is much improved my having large shell-on prawns, and these also make for an impressive looking dish too, but for an affordable mid-week meal, ordinary prawns are just fine. I serve with a side salad and some simple fresh bread and it makes for a delicious taste of the Med, especially comforting now the colder nights are drawing in.

Here’s how:

200g fresh, raw prawns
Tin of chopped tomatoes
1 large onion
2 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp fresh oregano
1 tbsp fresh parsley
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp fresh lemon thyme
150g feta cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsps dry white wine (Retsina for traditionally Greek saganaki)

Firstly you need to make a good tomato sauce as the basis. I do this in an oven-proof skillet above the hob so you can continue the cooking all in the one pan. The depth to which you prepare the sauce depends on how much time you have – obviously if you want a rich sauce, cook for longer, but if time is short, then a quick sauce is more than sufficient – especially mid-week.

To prepare your sauce add the olive oil to the pan and place over a low-mid heat. Dice the onion as finely as possible and crush the garlic and add both to the pan. Once softened (after 5-10 minutes),  add the wine and cook off – this will take another 5 minutes or so on a medium heat.

Next add the chopped tomatoes. Again you can of course use fresh tomatoes for this dish as and when they are available. Add a pinch of salt and black pepper here and the teaspoon of brown sugar and stir through. Add half of the chopped parsley and oregano and all of the lemon thyme to the sauce and cook over the hob for thirty minutes – or longer if you have the time.

In the meantime, chop the feta in cubes – I prefer this to crumbling the cheese as in the finished dish you are left with lovely gooey, delicious feta.

Taste the sauce and if you feel it needs it add further salt and/or pepper. Remove the lemon thyme stalks as they are unpleasant to bite into and will have imparted their flavour into the sauce now

Arrange the feta around the dish and sprinkle the rest of the parsley and most of the remaining oregano and place into a pre-heated oven at 180-200 degrees for fifteen minutes.

Remove the dish and add the prawns, scattering around as evenly as possible.

Return to the oven for a further five minutes, checking that all of the prawns have turned pink to show they are cooked through, and remove, ready to serve. Prawns take very little cooking so remove from the oven as soon as they have all turned pink to avoid being left with rubbery, overcooked prawns which are not tasty! Instead you should have delicious, succulent and juicy just-cooked prawns – lovely. Scatter over the remaining oregano before serving – enjoy!

The Gallivant Hotel, Rye

I was a guest at The Gallivant recently as part of a preview for Wild Boar Week, which is in full swing now. Whilst I have already shared some thoughts on this in my previous post, here is a recommendation for a truly wonderful seaside hotel in glorious East Sussex.

The Gallivant is described as ‘shabby chic’, and whilst it certainly fits that criteria; it is more on the chic side. The d├ęcor throughout is full of neutral creams and beiges, with stylish flashes of blue and nautical touches here and there, which seems very fitting as the hotel is within stumbling distance of Camber Sands stretch of golden sandy beach.

I enjoyed a double room, and given that prices for a B&B here start at a reasonable £115, I was impressed at the level of comfort and luxury in the large room. I walked into an already warm, well lit room – which was very welcome as it was a cold, blustery, wet October evening. There was a large double bed, a small living area with a little sofa, table and chair as well as tea making facilities.

A large TV stood on a unit with a DVD player, several books and magazines about the area and some reading material – including a Harry Potter book – I was happy as that would be my reading matter to fall asleep to later.

A smart and immaculately clean bathroom finished the room, and after a quick freshen up I joined the rest of our party for a meal at The Beach Bistro, the restaurant headed up by Trevor Hambley which is part of The Gallivant’s exquisite charm. This was a bespoke meal in honour or Wild Boar Week and you can read about this here: Wild Boar Week and The Gallivant Hotel, Rye.

I had a very comfortable night’s sleep in the room – the bed was divine, and on retiring to the room and in the morning before breakfast, the small touches which elevate The Gallivant to such a high standard of seaside hotel were made apparent. The Gallivant bathrobe and beach bag are handy little touches, along with The White Company toiletries that adorn the bathroom. But something which I thought was fantastic was the traditional tea caddy in the living area. With a proper teapot, a couple of mugs and a caddy full of different teas and coffees I was spoilt for choice in the morning and the final, personal flourish of The Gallivant which I thought was just great was the homemade biscuits left for the guest in a little jar. It’s such a personal little touch but it’s these little things that make The Gallivant a home away from home – it was a shame to leave that day.

Breakfast at The Gallivant is a laid back affair – with a self-service selection of cereals, toast, homemade preserves, homemade bread and pastries, fruits and yoghurts along with a range of juice. The cooked selection was wide and varied, and I was sad to still be full from the evening before, so I opted for a simple breakfast of toast with homemade strawberry jam – very satisfying. If you were in the mood for something heartier than myself; you can indulge in a full Enlglish breakfast, eggs in a multitudes of ways, sandwiches, porridge and even French toast – all served in The Beach Bistro.

We enjoyed a woodland walk as part of the Wild Boar Week festivities that morning and on our return, ahead of checking out of The Gallivant we had a final lunch, prepared for us by lovely Trevor Hambley at The Beach Bistro and what a gorgeous lunch it was. We had requested something light after our hearty wild boar meal from the night before and Trevor certainly delivered.

As with the night before our meal arrived picture perfect on beautifully unusual crockery - just another of the little touches that make The Gallivant such a delight.

We had pan-fried fillets of gurnard with potatoes, sea purslane (a kind of sea vegetable) and an extraordinary orange and saffron hollandaise sauce. It was fresh, fragrant and magnificent. The fish was light and flaky – cooked to absolute perfection and the accompaniments expertly chosen. Another great meal.

We shared a final pear tarte tatin as we had all enjoyed it so much the night before – and if you do choose to visit, this is a must order. The picture alone speaks for itself I think.

One of the great things about The Gallivant and The Beach Bistro is that 80% of the seasonal menu is sourced from local fisherman, farmers and artisan producers throughout East Sussex – and with the sea a stone’s throw away and the Romney Salt Marshes just next door, where the lamb in particular is revered it is a true foodie haven.

I had a great overnight stay at The Gallivant and would have no qualms returning or recommending this gorgeous beachside retreat to others and I have to say it’s not just a summertime hotel either. With glorious Rye only a ten-fifteen minute drive away, I think it would make an idyllic Christmas shopping break. We had some time in Rye before heading home on Saturday afternoon and it is such a glorious little English town, it’s hard not to fall in love with it. With olde world tea shops a-plenty, quirky little gift shops and cookware shops with unusual items within, it is a lovely place to while away a few hours.

From London St Pancras you can travel to Rye for only £11 return on Southeastern trains, changing at Ashford and picking up the Southern Trains line to Rye which takes 90 minutes in total. There is also ample parking space available if you live, like me only an hour and a half or so away from The Gallivant.

To make a booking or find out more about The Gallivant check out the website:

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Wild Boar Week and The Gallivant Hotel, Rye

We are slap bang in the middle of Wild Boar Week, a celebration of wild boar in beautiful Rye, East Sussex.

Starting this weekend on Saturday 26th October until this Sunday 3rd November – Wild Boar Week has a number of exciting events, woodland tours and culinary deliciousness taking place across the area and recently I was lucky enough to be invited to enjoy a preview of such activities.

I travelled from London St Pancras station via Southeastern changing at Ashford and taking the Southern Railways route on to Rye. These tickets were kindly, complimentary, however can be purchased for a very reasonable £11 return – taking only 90 minutes.

Our home for the next 24 hours was to be The Gallivant – a stylish, shabby-chic hotel by the glorious Camber Sands beach – a place that, for me and I’m sure many Londoners, has fond memories of childhood days spent on this long, golden beach.

The Gallivant is an elegant beachside retreat – decked out in whites and blues and with rooms so comfortable, you immediately feel you are welcomed into a home away from home. You can read more about my stay here on Thursday 31st October, when a second post will be live.

Back to Wild Boar Week; after settling into my double room, I joined the three other guests, our lovely host Diana, and a gentleman who was to give us a comprehensive introduction to wild boars, Mike Peplar and his charming wife, Tracy for a bespoke wild boar dinner that is available throughout this week at The Beach Bistro, the on-site restaurant.

Mike and Tracy Peplar moved to the area a few years back and have become so enchanted by the local woodland, living off of the land, foraging that they have bought several acres of the area and you can read about their adventures at Peplars in Rye.

We enjoyed a wild boar themed menu devised especially by The Beach Bistro’s head chef, Trevor Hambley.

Our starter included gorgeous whole local scallops, cooked through to succulent perfection with just a touch of caramelisation on the outside, to make them a little bite from heaven. Coupled with a crisp sliver of bacon, a concoction of Kentish apple puree and some greenery and then completed with the wild boar component; a risotto cake filled with rich, meaty boar-flavoured rice. The risotto had been shaped into rounds, covered in breadcrumbs and deep fried and all dressed with a tiny bit of balsamic glaze – all to die for and a put together beautifully to make a very pretty plate.

For the main course it was a real meaty treat and once again a very attractively plated dish. Generously thick slices of perfectly tender, pink-centred wild boar, meaty and gamey without the earthiness of meat such as venison were fantastic, a revelation. The piece de la resistance though, had to be a very British classic – a suet pudding filled with slowly braised, beautifully soft and melt-in-the-middle boar leg meat in a rich and unctuous gravy. Suet puddings are such a comforting food, and this absolutely transformed me to childhood in an envelope of warm fuzzy happiness. This simple dish was completed with a side of seasonal vegetables – it was all that was needed against such wonderful cooking.

Our dessert was a shared affair and a glorious one at that. A gorgeous pear tarte tatin was the centre piece of this board of confection and was absolutely gorgeous coupled with the homemade vanilla ice cream. Brandy snaps filled with a pistachio mousse and dipped in pistachio shards were not only innovative, but delicious too – I’ll be trying to re-create these at home. Cinnamon donuts too, were an unexpectedly divine addition to the selection of sweet treats and iced berries with a warm hot white chocolate sauce poured over them were another example of the simple yet impressive and effective style of cooking that prevails at The Beach Bistro. A triumph.

Following a hearty breakfast at The Gallivant, Mike Peplar led our group on an enjoyable woodland tour of a few hours. Mike showed us wild boar tracks, and other evidence of their presence within the woods – such as the random huge holes that they dig around the woods, which can make them unpopular with local farmers!

As well as talking us through some interesting facts about wild boars, Mike was able to identify the different types of tree, flowers and the like as well as a shared interest amongst our group – mushrooms. We saw some exquisite looking fungi, some of which almost looked magical and it has certainly picqued my interest on the matter.

You can find out more about Wild Boar Week and any events taking place here:

On Thursday 31st October I will posting a further review, detailing more about my stay at The Gallivant and The Beach Bistro, but in the meantime you can read more about them here:

For timetables and station information or to purchase tickets online, visit and/or

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

A London Lunch No: 11: Poppies Fish & Chips

There is frankly no greater British food than fish and chips.

Now I’m a great believer in the fact this tends to be much more enjoyable when the sea is in sight, sound and smell; however there are a few absolute gems in the centre of London and Poppies is one of them.

The Spitalfields outlet is decked out in 1940’s and 50’s attire including the uniforms of the staff and the music played - this quirkiness only adds to its’ charm.

I actually visited here on Sunday evening with three girlfriends and enjoyed a fantastic supper, but Poppies is certainly open for lunch time deliciousness too, and it’s definitely worth considering.

I have to recommend the classic cod and chips which is generously portioned, even the ‘regular’ one is plenty for a hungry lunchtime meal. The chips are fresh and fluffy on the inside but crisp and gorgeous on the outside. The cod is fresh, flakey and cooked to perfection with a contrasting crunchy batter on the outside. Simply served with a wedge of lemon and a pot of tartare sauce – this kind of lunch proves that no bells or whistles are required to satisfy a hungry soul.

The regular cod and chips is priced reasonably at £10.90 and with a welcome alcohol license and a very good bottle of Moscato on offer – I would say Poppies is the perfect Friday lunchtime pit stop for city workers, and weekend haunt for anybody in the area.

Poppies Fish & Chips on Urbanspoon

Feed Four for £5 - Spaghetti with Prawns

This a quick, satisfying and incredibly cheap dinner for four that is packed full of flavour and can be thrown together in less than half an hour and you will find the majority of the ingredients in your stock cupboard at all times – you’ll just need to pick up the prawns.

I’ve worked out this meal costs roughly £1.11 per person – in my home, it makes a decent sized dinner for two and then two lunchbox fillers that will be much more welcome than a sandwich. 

Bulk it up with some fresh salad or some garlic bread. I make my own garlic bread by rubbing slices of a fresh loaf or French stick with fresh garlic on both side adding a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to each and then adding to a hot griddle pan for a couple of minutes on each side, till nicely charred.

This makes the perfect mid-week meal – especially towards the end of the month when purses might be lean but appetites are still demanding. This is the first post for the Feed Four for £5 series of posts. If you have any recipes that Feed Four for £5 please do Tweet them to me @Bistro_Becs and use the hashtag #feed4for5er

Here’s how:

500g packet of dried spaghetti
200g fresh, raw prawns
Half a tin of chopped tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp dried chilli flakes
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley or 2bsp dried
Pinch of salt and black pepper

Firstly add the olive oil to a pan and place on a low heat. Slice the garlic finely and add to the pan to soften with the chilli flakes. This will create a pan full of flavour before adding anything else to it.

Get your pasta cooking with a generous pinch of salt according to the packet and in the meantime chop up your parsley ready to scatter through the pasta. I have some growing on my windowsill, but dried is fine for this dish too as buying fresh herbs on a regular basis can prove to be quite costly at £1 for only 100g that will go off fairly quickly.

Add the tomatoes to the pan and stir through with a wooden spoon. Add some seasoning to your taste and when the pasta only has a few minutes remaining, throw the prawns into the sauce, ensuring each is close to the pan so they cook through evenly. Prawns only take 2-3 minutes to cook and they are very easy to judge as once they become pink they are ready.

Before draining the cooked pasta add 2 tbsp of the cooking water to the prawns and again, stir through. Once the pasta is drained add to the pan with the prawns and the sauce and stir through gently to ensure all the pasta is coated nicely.

Finally stir through most of the parsley and then serve adding a touch more parsley over the top for a pretty garnish and enjoy!