Saturday 16 December 2017

Recipes: Rachel Allen offers the first of her wonderfully simple recipes

As she begins her role as LIFE's new cookery writer, Rachel Allen offers the first of her wonderfully simple recipes -- two substantial salads perfect for an Irish summer

Welcome to my new column. I'm thrilled to be writing for LIFE magazine and sharing my recipes with you here. I'll be writing a column each Sunday featuring seasonal recipes based around various different themes.

I always try to write recipes that are easy to follow, aren't too difficult to make and don't use too many hard-to-find ingredients that are only available in specialist food shops. Rather than just recipes you'd like to cook, I hope these are recipes you really will cook.

As well as recipes, each week I'll be discussing food news, be it about my new favourite ingredient, a restaurant, farmers' market or place to stay. I'm really excited about this column and hope you'll enjoy reading it as much as I'll enjoy writing it.

This week I have two great summer salads. They're quite substantial, as this ` is still an Irish summer and we can't survive on leaves alone! I adore the sauce for the Sicilian salad, where the divine cooking juices from the chicken are mixed with mayonnaise and dressing.

The lamb salad is a really fast dish -- you can throw it all on to the plate but it still tastes gorgeous, with the cool flavour of mint and the salty tang of feta. You can roast the lamb fresh or, if you have any, some leftover cooked lamb would work perfectly in this recipe.

Sicilian Chicken salad

Serves 6-8 people.

You will need:

1 medium to large chicken

1 lemon, cut in half; finely grate the zest of one half, then cut that half in slices

2 garlic cloves -- crush one

1 sprig of rosemary

2 bay leaves

1-2 tablespoons chopped rosemary

About 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons sultanas or raisins

2 tablespoons pine nuts

1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or balsamic cider vinegar

12 medium new potatoes

5 tablespoons mayonnaise, see recipe below

1 tablespoon capers, drained

A small handful of flat parsley or rocket leaves

Preheat the oven to 180 C, 350 F, Gas 4. If necessary, pat the skin of the chicken dry with kitchen paper. Stuff the cavity with one of the lemon halves, the whole clove of garlic, the sprig of rosemary and one of the bay leaves. Transfer to a roasting tin. Put the chopped rosemary into a little bowl, add the crushed garlic clove and a little of the extra-virgin olive oil. Mix, then rub this mixture into the breast and legs of the chicken. Season with some salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast the chicken in the oven until it is cooked for about 1?-2 hours, depending on the size of the chicken.

While the chicken is in the oven, put the sultanas or raisins, whichever you are using, into a bowl, cover them with boiling water and allow them to plump up.

Spread the pine nuts over the base of a dry frying pan, then stir them over a gentle heat until they are toasted on all sides -- this will greatly enhance their flavour. Allow them to cool.

To make the dressing, whisk together five tablespoons of the extra-virgin olive oil and the balsamic vinegar or balsamic cider vinegar, whichever you are using. Add the finely grated lemon zest and season with some salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Cut the new potatoes into generous 1cm (?in) thick slices, then place the slices in a wide saucepan with just enough water to almost cover them. Add a splash of olive oil, the other bay leaf, a slice or two of lemon and a good pinch of salt. Bring to a gentle simmer and cover with parchment paper, but leave a little gap so that the steam can evaporate. By the time the potatoes are cooked -- about 20 minutes -- there should be barely any liquid in the pan. Keep a good eye on the potatoes so that they don't break down, as they need to be whole but tender for the salad. Remove the potato slices from the saucepan and cover the base of a large serving plate with them. Drizzle over about half of the dressing and leave to cool.

When the chicken is cooked, allow it to cool slightly before cutting the meat into chunky pieces. Pour the cooking juices from the roasting tin into a bowl and set it aside for a minute to allow the fat to rise to the top. Arrange the pieces of chicken over the top of the potatoes, and don't remove the crispy skin -- it's delicious. Carefully spoon the fat off the top of the juices and discard it. Then put the mayonnaise (see recipe below) in a bowl and, while whisking all the time, slowly add in the chicken juices and the remaining dressing. Season to taste. Drizzle over the chicken and potatoes.

Drain the sultanas or raisins, whichever you are using, and sprinkle them over the top, along with the toasted pine nuts and the drained capers. Scatter over the flat parsley or rocket, whichever you're using.

For the mayonnaise, you will need:

2 egg yolks

Pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 dessertspoon white wine vinegar

225ml (8fl oz) oil -- I like to use 200ml (7fl oz) sunflower oil and 25ml (1fl oz) olive oil

Makes 300ml (10fl oz). Put the egg yolks into a bowl. Add the salt, the Dijon mustard and the white wine vinegar and mix. Gradually add the oil, drop by drop, whisking all the time. You should start to see the mixture thickening. Keep adding the oil as you whisk until there is no more oil left. Season to taste.

Greek lamb salad with feta and beans

Serves 4.

You will need:

1 tablespoon olive oil

350g (12oz) piece of lamb fillet or lamb leg off the bone

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the redcurrant dressing, you will need:

4 teaspoons redcurrant jelly

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salad, you will need:

1 x 400g tin of beans (such as butter beans, black eye or cannellini beans), drained, or 150g (6oz) dried beans, soaked overnight in plenty of cold water and boiled in fresh water until soft

110g (4oz) salad leaves (about 4 large handfuls)

Small handful of mint leaves

About 24 black olives, pitted and halved

200g (7oz) feta cheese, crumbled roughly

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Drizzle the olive oil over the lamb and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Put into the oven and roast for 15-20 minutes, depending on how pink you like your lamb.

Remove the lamb from the oven and allow it to cool slightly. Cut it into long, thin pieces.

As the lamb is cooking, make the dressing. Place the redcurrant jelly in a small bowl, add the red wine vinegar and the extra-virgin olive oil, then season with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper and whisk together until well mixed.

Using one big serving platter or individual bowls, toss the pieces of lamb together with the beans, whichever ones you are using, the salad leaves and the mint leaves.

Scatter the pitted, halved black olives and the roughly crumbled feta cheese on top. Drizzle over the redcurrant dressing and serve.


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