Monthly Archives: August 2016

Postcards from a Traveller’s Table: Sizzling Santorini

Departing from the cruise ship on a tender at 8.30am, we had committed to explore before the heat became depleting. Up the Fira mountainside via a cable car that was less than mechanically reassuring in its jerking, screeching assault, we reached the top to be greeted by the unmistakable stench of donkey dung!

A mission to locate a pharmacist quickly achieved (aloe vera for burnt bits and a potion to combat ‘holiday tummy’) and we left a disappointingly littered and graffitied main road to explore the promised white-washed iconic Greek buildings snuggling up along winding cobbled streets.

And, it was lovely – really lovely. The picture postcard-perfect cobalt-blue sky and turquoise Aegean sea combined to provided the perfect backdrop to this beautiful village of vibrant white homes gently sprawling down the mountain-side to meet the water – just idyllic. However, the thing about cruising is that you only ever get to have time for a quick snapshot of a visit. For us, with our family-wide food obsession, our plans for each port inevitably focus on the identification of a restaurant for lunch. Not for us the long coach trips visiting historical monuments or being shepherded around places of interest by a militant with a lollipop. We’ve firmly cast aside any thoughts of cultural exploration in favour of food…every time! Sorry, but there it is and I’ve given up feeling bad about our lack of cultural curiosity!

So, lunch followed a morning of relaxed meandering through bougainvillea-decorated narrow and winding cobbled streets of artisan shops, tempting us to part with our Euros. Homemade Greek jewellery, hand-blown glass ornaments (picked up a rather lovely albeit large piece for home) jostled with tee-shirts and sneakers printed to order (some rather rude!), core ingredients for every Greek-kitchen and all manner of sweet delicacies guaranteed to expand the waistline (my downfall will surely be homemade baklava). Oh, and what is the Greek obsession with male sex organs and the scary sizes to which they produce wooden versions doubling as corkscrews?!

Moving on. Hot but breezy, our morning of browsing culminated in an al fresco lunch on the mountainside overlooking the sea – the warm breeze and delicious cold local white wine were great accompaniments to a fabulous light lunch, the star of which was John’s choice of a prawn risotto with Pernod (a dish that I have since replicated successfully and blogged).

Back down the mountain in the cable car (after queuing in the sizzling heat for an age) and our view is that we must come back to this little group of volcanic islands for a proper holiday and that we should do it before it is ruined by the hoards of tourists being regularly disemboweled from cruise ships (9,000 in one day when four of them turn up at the same time!)071916_3775 copy 071916_3771 copy 071916_3769 copy 071916_3768 copy 071916_3767 copy 071916_3766 copy 071916_3763 copy 071916_3762 copy 071916_3761 copy 071916_3760 copy 071916_3758_1 copy 071916_3757 copy 071916_3754 copy 071916_3753 copy 071916_3751 copy 071916_3750 copy 071816_3809_1 copy

 

Roasted Chicken Breasts with Broad Beans and Herbs

 

I spotted this recipe and thought that it looked like a good, easy and quick mid-week family supper dish. Reading through the ingredients though I did have doubts as to whether it would be that interesting. We were all really, genuinely pleasantly surprised. The dish is lovely, light, fresh and very summery. Our plates were quickly cleared and the recipe pronounced as a definite for regular repetition. Give it a go – really great!

 Serves 4

 What you need…

 4 large, plump chicken breasts

500g new potatoes

200g skinned broad beans (I use frozen)

Splash rapeseed oil

2 garlic cloves, chopped

300ml chicken stock

Juice of ½ lemon

Handful of basil

Handful of rocket

Large dollop of mascarpone

 What to do…

Preheat your oven to 200°c / 400°f / gas 6.

Lightly oil a baking tin, chuck in the chicken breasts and season. Pop them in the oven and roast for 25 minutes or until cooked but still juicy.

Meanwhile, in salted water boil the potatoes (halve any large ones so that they are all roughly the same size) for 15 minutes or until tender, adding the broad beans 3 minutes before the end (longer if cooking from frozen – maybe 7-8 minutes).

In a frying pan over a moderate heat, warm the oil and then sauté the garlic for 2 minutes. Add in the chicken stock and simmer for 5 minutes before adding in the potatoes and beans. Stir in the lemon juice, herbs and mascarpone.

Slice the chicken and serve on top of the beautifully saucy vegetables! Nothing else required – just perfect as it is!

 Tips…

If you want to improve on the presentation, use skin-on chicken breasts so that you have the lovely golden cooked crispy skin (my chicken breasts were retrieved from the freezer and just happened to be skinned).

I used basil and rocket in this recipe because that’s what I had, but the addition of parsley and more particularly, tarragon would be lovely.

 Inspired by…

Delicious (online)

 How easy…

Very, very easy.

Prawn Risotto with Pernod

An excessive experience with Pernod on my 20th birthday put me off the stuff for life but on a recent trip to Santorini, we enjoyed a wonderful lunch overlooking the Aegean sea and John’s choice of prawn risotto with Pernod was absolutely gorgeous, to the point that I resolved to try and replicate the dish when we returned home. This is the result and it is really lovely: the Pernod just adds a wonderful depth of flavour that works perfectly with the prawns – simply delicious. 23 years later, I have also re-established a tentative relationship with this the anise-flavoured liqueur…. one that will remain firmly as a recipe ingredient and nothing more!

Serves 4

What you need…

Knob of butter

Splash of olive oil

2 banana shallots, chopped

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

4 tomatoes, chopped

400ml white wine

4 tablespoons Pernod

400g Arborio rice

500ml hot chicken stock

100g frozen peas

Sea salt and black pepper

480g raw prawns, shelled

2 tablespoons crème fraiche

Parsley, chopped, to garnish

What to do…

Melt the butter and warm the oil in a large saucepan over a moderate heat. Add the shallots, garlic and fennel seeds and cook for about 5 minutes until soft.

Tip in the tomatoes and cook for a further 2-3 minutes, until they start to break down a little.

Pour in the rice and stir so that it’s evenly covered.

Add half the wine and all of the Pernod. Stir continuously until most of the liquid is absorbed and then add the rest of the wine, continuing to stir.

Reduce the heat to low and add the hot chicken stock one ladle at a time, stirring it in and ensuring each ladleful is absorbed before adding the next one – this is the bit that takes the time – chatting and gentle wine-slurping encouraged during this process.

When you have just a couple of ladles of stock left, tip in the peas and then finish adding the stock as before, until it has all been absorbed.

Season with sea salt and black pepper. Taste and add more seasoning if required.

Add the prawns and stir them in gently until they are just turning from grey to pink. Stir in the crème fraiche and then turn off the heat and pop on the saucepan lid and just walk away for 2 minutes – this final touch just finishes the risotto rice off beautifully.

Serve on warmed plates or bowls, garnished with parsley. Enjoy and just imagine the sun sparkling on the Aegean sea – lovely!

Tip…

I use frozen and chopped garlic as well as shallots from the Waitrose Cooks’ Ingredients range: saves a lot of faffing about.

Inspired by…

A little restaurant in Santorini and the best ingredients from a selection of googled recipes.

How easy…

Very easy but you need to have time on your hands: risotto is not a dish to be rushed – it’s a slow and gentle process, best accompanied by a glass of white wine and someone to chat to.

Just Yummy Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is just such an easy recipe: great to do with the little ones or for them (if you’re willing to share). The cookies are everything they should be: sweet, buttery and with plenty of chocolate going on: who could resist?!

Makes 18 or so

What you need…

2 x baking sheets, lined with Bake O Glide or parchment paper

150g unsalted butter, room temperature

80g soft light brown sugar

80g granulated sugar

A pinch of sea salt

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg

250g plain flour

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

100g dark chocolate chips

100g milk chocolate chips

What to do…

Using a standalone electric mixer, beat together the butter, sugars, salt and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined. Chuck in the egg and beat some more until incorporated.

Sift in the flour and bicarbonate of soda and mix in well. Then, tip in the chocolate chips and fold them into the mixture evenly (we can’t have cookies deprived of their chocolate!)

Roll the dough into a long log – about 5cms diametre – wrap in cling film and pop into the fridge for 3 hours.

Preheat your oven to 170°c / 325°f/ gas 3½.

Remove from the fridge and slice the log into 1cm pieces. Shape the slices into balls and pop onto the baking sheets, leaving plenty of space between each one for spreading. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden.

Remove from the oven but leave on the baking sheets for a minute or two whilst they firm up and then transfer to a cooling rack, popping one in your mouth just to check that they taste as good as they smell. Maybe have another just to be doubly sure…. When cool, serve on a pretty plate and watch them be demolished!

Inspired by…

Nathan Outlaw

How easy…

Rather too easy: I can see me knocking these up on a regular basis!