Tuesday, 26 June 2012


 Tempura - an enjoyable summer battering

Fish and chips is one of the best things when the mood is right, although the batter can cause a food coma to come on rapidly and immediately after consumption. Fritto misto is also one of the best things when in Italy and by the sea. 

When the food coma is not an option [you need to do things/speak to people/move around freely] and you're not leisurely hunting for lunch on the Italian coastline I suggest applying a light tempura batter to anything that you have to hand.

In this instance I had half a courgette, leftover asparagus, quite a few small carrots and two squid in my kitchen.

Firstly, cut your veg and fish to size:
Carrot and courgette batons
Asparagus (whole)
Squid - cut into rings

Get a plate of cornflower to toss the veg in before it goes into your batter.

Make the batter by mixing 80g cornflower, 80g self-raising flour, 210ml sparkling water, 2 tsp rapeseed oil (I used olive oil), 1/4 tsp salt and whisk to get a smooth runny paste. 

You can add in and herbs and spices to flavour the batter – I split it and added lemon rind to half (to go on the squid, asparagus and courgette) and fennel seeds to the other half (for the mountain of carrots). Dip everything in the batter ready to go into the frying pan.

You then want to fry everything in batches so that it cooks evenly and does not stick together. I opted for shallow frying in about 300ml of vegetable oil. Get the oil hot in the pan on a high heat and then turn down to medium.

Piece by piece put the vegetables and squid into the pan without too much excess batter. Soft veg should take about 1 minute and harder veg like carrots 2 minutes. Remove and place on kitchen paper to get rid of unwanted oil.

There are lots of dipping sauces out there but on this occasion I went with lemon wedges and salt as it was supposed to be a quick lunch break!
One happy lunch buddy

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Jubilee Week Roundup

Pizza Oven - the beginnings - a delightful dome - reminds me of something in Florence...
Devonshire cream tea in Torbay - with ginger scones and all mind!
Marcus Wareing's banana bread - made in a jelly mould. Crinkle cut.

100% Forest of Dean wild boar salami. Satisfying.
The Silver Spoon chicken with pomegranate (and Italian dried mushrooms). Che libro!

Brustengo - another Italian dish, also known as bubble and squeak! It goes very nicely with HP sauce (sshhh!)

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Chicken Breasts stuffed with Sun Dried Tomatoes, Olives, Basil & Feta

by Ceri X     

It's all quiet on the Keston front this week.  The girls are away for a seaside holiday, so I am on my own which has meant pottering around the house; cooking and generally recovering from the weekend.  Last weekend was spent in the first of many fields of the 2012 season at the lovely Fire in the Mountain festival in Wales.  Whenever I return from a festival; the 4 days of fun, work and generally giving my body a hard time (booze, cold, rain, sleeping on a floor in a tent, crew food, more booze) means that I come back craving some healthy, tasty food that I have cooked myself.  Today, I decided on chicken stuffed with sun dried tomatoes, olives, basil & feta to be eaten with salad & asparagus. 

The humble chicken often gets a bad press, but I believe if you buy Happy Chickens that have been able to run around in daylight and you cook it well, not much can surpass its flavour. You can buy happy chickens from most supermarkets these days and it's worth looking out for the freedom food stickers/ rspca assured labels to make sure.  Or just hot foot it down to your nearest good butcher who will be able to tell you all you need to know about just how happy it was and where it was raised.  Stuffing a chicken always looks more impressive/ complicated than it actually is, so goes down well at a dinner party.  It's quick, simple, very tasty & the whole thing takes under 40 mins.  I'd call that a weeknight win of a meal!

So having located my happy chicken; feeling summery, healthy and in need of some vitamins and keen on Mediterranean flavours, I came up with the following:

Ingredients: Serves 2.

2 Free range chicken breast- (I prefer skin on for flavour)
A few green olives sliced in half- 8-10 should do
8 fresh basil leaves
8 sundried tomatoes
12 cubes of feta (I bought the olives with feta in the mix), Mozzarella works just as well.
Olive oil
Dried oregano
Salt & pepper
4 cocktail sticks

Salad- use whatever you fancy

Asparagus spears (approx 6/ 7 per person)- June is 100% Asparagus season, so I'd urge you to get amongst it.  It's AMAZING!!

1. Heat the oven to 200 degrees (or 180 for a fan oven).  Slice the chicken breast down one side, but don't cut all the way through (to make a pocket type space for the stuffing).  Place the basil leaves, sundried tomatoes, olives  & feta inside and close up the chicken breast.  Push a couple of cocktail sticks through to hold into place.  Rub some salt & pepper onto the skin, drizzle with a little of the oil from the sundried tomato container and finally sprinkle some oregano on the top.  A delicious variation on the cocktail sticks, is to wrap parma ham around the chicken breast to keep the stuffing in place, which is well worth a try too.

2.  Place the breasts on a baking tray and into the oven.  Cooking will be approx 20- 25 mins.  The chicken is cooked when juices run clear.  Be sure not to over cook as chicken goes dry in this case and loses that lovely juicy quality and much of the flavour.

3.  Meanwhile, assemble your salad on the plate.  Use whatever you fancy, I used mixed leaves, tomato, olives, basil leaves, avocado, cucumber & shredded carrot.

4.  Dress the salad.  I don't really believe in buying salad dressings when they are so very simple to make.  If you haven't done it before, it's all about having a go and mixing up ingredients & flavours you enjoy.  Here is a very simple base recipe.

Pour 100 ml of olive oil into a clean, empty jam jar, followed by 50 ml of balsamic vinegar (cyder or white wine vinegar will also do the trick).  Mix in 1 tsp of wholegrain mustard & 1 tsp of honey.  Season, then give the jar a good shake with the lid on.  You now have dressing (hooray!).  You can vary this using lemon juice and or different herbs/ vinegars.  If you feel your dressing is too thick, you can thin it out with a bit more vinegar and vice versa with olive oil/ honey if it is too runny.

5.  To griddle the asparagus start by snapping the woody tough end from the bottom of the spears.  Place the spears on a hot griddle pan which has been drizzled with a bit of olive oil (or under a heated grill).  Turn the spears a few times to keep the cooking even.  Once cooked through (I like  mine a bit crunchy still, which should take approx 6 mins depending on the size of the spears), drizzle with a little of the dressing and/ or juices from the chicken & serve onto the plate with the dressed salad & chicken.  Remove the cocktail sticks from the chicken and voila; a very lovely Wednesday night  happy chicken dinner for one :) The girls will be sad they missed it.  I am looking forward to seeing them on their return & roll on summer!  Happy June everyone :) Xx