chicken with marigold petals & rampant herbs – may in my kitchen

My chicken with red peppers & marigold peppers was inspired both by Sophie Grigson and a visit to herb guru Jekka McVicar’s herb farm. I loved the open day at Jekka’s fabulous Herbetum and came away with some enticing new herbs to plant and enthusiastic plans for cooking with the herbs already to hand outside my kitchen. DSC07308 DSC07316 DSC07322 I reached for a copy of Sophie Grigson’s herbs, which I bought a few years ago from a second-hand bookshop and adapted her recipe for ‘Chicken Red Pepper and Marigold Fajitas’ to use up some of the leftover cooked cockerel I had in the freezer from Easter lunch: Chicken with Marigold Petals & Red Peppers 1 tablespoon cumin seeds 1 tablespoon coriander seeds 1 teaspoon dried oregano 2 tablespoons olive oil 2 red peppers, deseeded and cut into strips 1 onion sliced 2 garlic cloves sliced 1 chilli, sliced A handful of cooked, leftover chicken A teaspoon of chopped fresh lovage juice of 1/2 lime petals of 3 marigold flowers A handful of chopped fresh parsley Dry fry the cumin and coriander seeds in a frying pan until they give off a heady aroma. Grind them in a pestle and mortar with the oregano. Heat the oil in a wide frying pan over a moderate heat and cook the peppers, lovage, onion, garlic and chilli for a couple of minutes. Sprinkle over the spices, season with salt and pepper, stir, cover and reduce heat to low then leave to sweat for 10 minutes or until tender. Raise the heat and add the chicken, stir fry until heated through then stir in the lime juice and serve strewn with parsley and marigold petals. This would be fabulous with fajitas as Sophie suggests, or with rice. I’d been baking focaccia with rosemary (Ruby’s fingers are still perfect for those indents where all the lovely olive oil, rosemary and sea salt gather) that morning – we had a weekend away around the Jekka McVicar herb farm visit and much as I enjoy the treat of a couple of meals out, I’m always crazily keen to cook when we return home. So we happily scoffed a tasty mismatch of food at lunchtime. DSC07323DSC07324 Skipping away from my kitchen for a minute and back to that wonderful herb farm, it was brilliant to see such an amazing selection of unusual herbs. The brilliant thing about Jekka’s Herbetum is that you can also see well established versions of the herbs that are on sale growing in lovely raised beds, with great labels that suggest ways to use them, often culinary. For instance I couldn’t resist buying a ‘Jekka’ thyme after seeing this lovely profusion of flowers and being very taken with the suggestion of using the thyme flowers in salads. DSC07267 And when we felt how soft this low-growing thyme ‘Minimalist’ was, both Ruby and I Ioved the idea of planting it somewhere where we could walk over it. DSC07268 I hadn’t seen mace growing before and couldn’t resist buying some to cook with at home. DSC07273 So many lovely herbs to choose from: DSC07283 Ruby decided she wanted to buy a herb too and found it as hard to choose as her Mum: DSC07262 My enthusiasm for planting seems to have rubbed off too. In a dubious way. For Ruby, it’s not herbs in pots; my daughter decided she’d love to grow dandelions in her hair: I’ll spare you the pics of the shower cap propagation method she used later. DSC07302 Back home, the rampant herbs that I spy from my kitchen window are tempting me to experiment more in the kitchen: DSC07307 I’m hoping the bergamot seeds I bought will germinate as I enjoyed a wonderfully fragrant tea made simply with dried bergamot flowers at Jekka’s herb farm and am hoping to replicate it at home. While I wait for bergamot to grow, I’ve been enjoying some lovely tea samples kindly sent by Teavivre. Sipping some freshly brewed Ripened Tangerine tea while watering my seedlings or savouring the organic fragrant black tea has made me realise how much of a rut I’ve got into with my mid morning coffee. Will definitely be varying it now, especially as I’m finding a morning cup of green or black tea very refreshing in the lovely sunshine we’re having. These teas are much more interesting than reaching for a tea-bag:

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I do like what Teavivre told me about their visits to the Tea Plantations in China too: “Our regular trips allow us to not just find the best teas, but also visit our supplier’s farms to personally verify their growing and production methods.” They tell me that they use organically farmed tea wherever possible. Will write more about my herby experiments soon, wondering about making tea-bread while I have these interesting teas too. In the meantime I’m off to have a peep at some other kitchens around the world in Celia of  Fig Jam & Lime Cordial’s fab In My Kitchen. Although I seem to have meandered away from my kitchen in this post, growing and planting are so intertwined with what I cook, so would love to join in. And as this is a very herby post, would love to join in this month’s herbs on Saturday which Karen of Lavender and Lovage hosts. If you like growing and cooking with herbs too, it’s a great place for recipe ideas. lavenderandlovage_cooking2

buttermilk & fermented pickles – february in my kitchen

in my kitchen…….

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……buttermilk, ripening cheese and a tub of home-made ricotta are proof of my recent fixation with dairy products. As you may know, thanks to the lovely unhomogenized Jersey milk from a local dairy farmer and the creamy Buffalo milk I was given recently, I’ve been experimenting with labneh, mozzarella and paneer. The arrival in my kitchen of a beautiful book, The Creamery Kitchen, has fired my enthusiasm further.

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I’ll write a full review of ‘the creamery kitchen’ very soon, once I’ve tried cooking the delicious looking buttermilk parmesan scones and buttermilk fried chicken, maybe the mascarpone too. It’s full of lovely, traditional recipes, the sort that would’ve once been passed down from generation to generation in an era when most people made some butter, maybe cheese in their own kitchen. Some are exotic (saffron and cardamom labneh or lamb skewers with za’atar labneh), a few are a little more complicated; others are reassuringly simple, such as buttermilk. If I’d known that all that you have to do is add white wine vinegar or lemon juice to whole milk  and set aside to thicken and sour for 15 minutes, I’d have made buttermilk to add to American style pancakes, cornbread and Irish soda bread ages ago.

I’m reading Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, one of my childhood favourites, to Ruby at the moment and buttermilk seems an entirely appropriate thing to have in the kitchen while I’m transported to a time and place where Aunties deliberate over calico or gingham for dressmaking and Rebecca’s mother singlehandedly makes butter, cream and cheese back at the farm while bringing up seven children (making me feel very inadequate the more I think about it!). Loving the very strong/slightly eccentric girl characters in books like Rebecca and Roald Dahl’s Matilda at the moment. Surely better role models than all those Princesses in towers? Although after listening to the 6 year old chatter in my car this morning on the school run (“Shall we dress in camouflage as teachers?”) I fear these strong characters may be having an immediate influence.

in my kitchen……

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…….a few other things are fermenting. Inspired by the great Whey to go post at Fromage Homage’s blog, I’ve had a go at lacto-fermentation to make use of all that leftover whey from my cheese experiments. I’ve tried it with beetroot – partly as it’s still plentiful in the garden. Also, it has to sit on the kitchen windowsill for 4 days. I think I imagined a jewel coloured kilner jar like the gorgeous ones in Diana Henry’s Salt Sugar Smoke. Instead I seem to have a cloudy jar of suspect may smell rancid. Reassured by the Fromage Homage notes that the cloudy stage passes, I’ll remain optimistic as usual.

I’m also having a go at semi-hard cheese. Inspired by the recipe here. The plan is to avoid glitter and coat it merely with sea salt and olive oil (unlike the lard in the recipe) although I have to say that the glittery cheese was tasty once I’d scraped the sheen off. Not sure the glitter added anything though!

My cheese is currently at the stage where I’m meant to leave it for 2 days unwrapped for the rind to dry out. With two resident cats, leaving a cheese that is rapidly developing stinky tendencies uncovered on the kitchen work-top isn’t ideal. So I’ve covered it with a colander hoping that the air can still circulate and dry the rind.

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In my kitchen we’re very lucky to have a good supply of free and pretty wild protein at the moment. Thanks to Pete the fish-catcher we have lots of lovely trout, currently being cooked simply in foil to be eaten with roast root veg – leftovers mixed with a little home-made soft cheese, lemon juice and horseradish for a simple pate. The blustery February days are giving me a craving for warming spices and the trout is also going into Thai curries along with our Mother Hubbard squash and chard from the garden. I fancy trying it in a tandoori salmon recipe soon too – interested if anyone knows if this works with trout?

Pheasant is our other plentiful free food at the moment, thanks to farmer friends. It horrifies me when I hear of big, corporate pheasant shoots where 200 pheasants are shot and nobody is bothered about eating them. When they’re shot for the table though or from a small scale farmer’s shoot, I reason that, if you’re going to eat farmed foods, these have a pretty wild, free-range life. And are delicious roasted with bacon and prunes or substituted for guinea fowl in pies like this. I also made pheasant curry, inspired by this recipe in Mad Dog’s TV dinners.

I’ve been spicing up veggies from the garden and local eggs in dishes like gypsy eggs and chickpea cauliflower too. Both lovely with my favourite flat-bread.

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in my kitchen……

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….I’ve also been noticing what a great helper I have these days. It doesn’t seem a minute since there was flour everywhere and licking out the bowl from cake-making was Ruby’s main kitchen activity. Cleaning out the cake bowl is of course still very popular but it recently dawned on me quite how capable she’s getting. One of those realizations that has mixed emotions as I don’t want the time when she’s happy to cuddle up with me and read Matilda to pass too quickly. Still, useful when it comes to baking….

Linking in once again with Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial’s fab In my kitchen where we get to have a lovely peep at other kitchens around the world.

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