The title for this recipe is very long, isn’t it? It’s another Diana Henry one but I’m making no apologies. I wanted to try freekeh (a cereal food made from unripened wheat which has been roasted and crushed into small pieces) because I’d never used it before so I pored over my various cookbooks and this was the recipe which appealed the most on the day. It’s perfect for the summer weather we’re having now. Instead of cooking the chicken in a griddle pan, you could barbecue it outside.
I’m enjoying the weather. We’ve barbecued twice this weekend, which has been lovely. My husband was supposed to be taking it easy after a small operation on Friday, but was up to standing at the grill while I got on with preparing vegetables and salads.
For the Chicken
- 4 skinless boneless chicken thighs or breasts
- 4 garlic cloves, grated or crushed
- salt and pepper
- juice of 1 lemon
- 6 tbsp olive oil
For the Salad
- 100g dried sour cherries
- 2 preserved lemons
- 200g freekeh
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp honey (or maple syrup)
- 3 tsp white balsamic vinegar
- juice of ½ lemon
- good pinch of ground cinnamon
- laves from 10 sprigs of mint, torn
- 10g chopped flat-leaf parsley
- If you are using breasts and they’re particularly thick, cut them in half horizontally. Marinate the chicken if you have time, even if it’s only for an hour or two. Mix the garlic, seasoning, lemon juice and olive oil in a dish and lay the chicken it it, turning it to coat. Cover with clingfilm and put in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before cooking
- Place your griddle pan on the floor of the Aga roasting oven to get it really hot
- Put the cherries in a small saucepan and add enough water to just cover. Bring to the boil on the boiling plate, then remove from the heat and leave to plump up for 30 minutes
- Remove the flesh from the preserved lemons and discard. Cut the rind into slivers
- Put the freekeh into a saucepan and cover with water, adding the regular olive oil and seasoning well. Bring to the boil on the boiling plate, then cover and transfer to the simmering oven for about half an hour, or until just tender. Drain
- In a serving bowl mix the virgin oil, honey or maple syrup, white balsamic, lemon juice, cinnamon and plenty of salt and pepper. Add the drained freekeh and stir
- Drain the cherries and fork them into the grains with the preserved lemon and most of the herbs
- Place the heated griddle pan on the boiling plate and put the chicken on it (leaving the marinade behind)
- Let it sizzle and splatter for two minutes, then turn it over. At this point you can place the griddle pan back on the floor of the roasting oven and leave the chicken to cook there for about 8 minutes until it’s cooked through. You can keep the griddle plan on the boiling plate and then move it to the simmering plate if you prefer but placing it in the oven minimises the amount of fat splattering everywhere
- Taste the freekeh. You might want to add more lemon juice. The mixture should be moist and well-seasoned
- Divide between four plates and serve the chicken on top or alongside, scattering the remaining herbs over. I served ours with some tzatziki
Our weekend in the garden:
At a shoot lunch towards the end of the season, my husband was served what he termed “the best pudding I’ve ever eaten”. He loved it so much he asked his hostess, Clare Pelly, for the recipe so that he could make it at home. Only joking; I mean so that I could make it for us all. I don’t mind at all: I’m happy to be the cook in our relationship because I enjoy it and because I’m better at it than he is, just as there are many things I don’t like doing which he is happy to do and is better at than me. I imagine this is how most successful partnerships work.
As it turns out, I’m very grateful to him for getting me the recipe for this “best ever” pudding because it’s absolutely delicious. Clare is also an Aga cook and the pie is particularly suited to Aga cooking because it can be baked on the floor of the roasting oven, which gives wonderful, crisp pastry.
For 1 x 10″/26cm or 2 x 7″/18cm flan tins
- 8oz/200g plain flour
- 4oz/100g butter
- 1 tbsp icing sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 tbsp cold water
- 2lbs/900g cooking apples
- 2oz/50g raisins
- 4oz/100g plain flour
- 4oz/100g caster sugar
- 2oz/50g butter
- 10floz/285ml double cream
- 2oz/50g caster sugar
- 2tsp cinnamon
- Pre-heat conventional oven to gas mark 6/200ºC
- To make the pastry, sift flour, rub in butter, stir in icing sugar and bind together with yolk and water. Wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for about 30 minutes
- Roll out thinly and line your prepared tin(s) with it. No need to bake it blind
- Peel, core and slice your apples and mix with the raisins
- Make a crumble by sifting the flour, stirring in the sugar and rubbing in the butter
- Spoon half of this into the tin
- Cover with the apple/raisin mixture and pour over the cream
- Spoon over the remaining crumble mixture and sprinkle on the topping
- Bake on the floor of the roasting oven for about 30 minutes until it’s bubbling and caramelised or brûléed on top. Your pastry should be lovely and crisp, although you won’t know this until you’ve cut into it
- Conventional oven: after 25 minutes turn it down to gas mark 5/190ºC for 10 minutes
- Can be served hot, warm or cold
I always worry about the Aga cooling down if you give it too much to do at once but yesterday I cooked a pheasant, some roast potatoes and this pie in the roasting oven in the space of one and a half hours and everything was perfectly cooked.
The first time I made this pie we were a little disappointed that the cinnamon flavour wasn’t very strong. Cinnamon is one of my husband’s favourite things so he did a bit of research. First of all he saw that the cinnamon I’d used (by Bart’s) was a blend “sourced from several Fairtrade producers” and that the cinnamon considered to be the best is from Ceylon. So from the website cinnamonhill.com I bought some Ceylon cinnamon sticks and the next time I made the pie, we used the fine Microplane grater to grate some for the topping and reader, I can confirm it tasted noticeably better.
I don’t see myself as much of a maker of puddings or desserts; I’m nervous about pastry and anyway, during the week there simply isn’t time to make a dessert. In all honesty I’d rather bake a cake to have with a cup of tea in the afternoon and then just eat some chocolate to satisfy my sweet tooth at the end of a meal. But, as I wrote here, I’m not eating chocolate anymore.
On Sundays, as I think I’ve mentioned before, my mother-in-law usually makes a pudding for us all. I’ll make one if we have friends round or to take to friends if we’re invited to lunch or supper. I’ll also make a dessert when it’s my turn to host book club or film club.
Raspberry and Cinnamon Torte
The raspberry and cinnamon torte I wrote about in my tumblr days is one of our favourites:
This bakewell cake by Fay Ripley, which my Twitter friend @lesleyj28 alerted me to recently, could serve as a dessert or a teatime cake. I pounced on the recipe because it contains everything that’s delicious and good about a bakewell tart (almonds, raspberry jam!) but no pastry. I love pastry but (see above) don’t love making it. Without the need to make pastry, this cake is mixed and baked in no time. I used to watch Fay Ripley in Cold Feet on the telly (LOVED it) and had heard about her recipes but had not tried them before. As I began to make this, I realised how similar it is to my torte. It is a little more “cake-y” (two eggs instead of one), has jam in it and doesn’t contain cinnamon but apart from that it’s the same. In fact, if I made it again, I’d probably replace the vanilla extract with cinnamon, but that’s just my personal preference. Also – a small point – I didn’t have any flaked almonds in the cupboard so scattered over chopped almonds instead: a poor compromise on Fay’s recipe, we later all agreed.
- 150g butter, softened
- 150g golden caster sugar
- 150g SR flour
- 150g ground almonds
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 6 tsp raspberry jam
- 150g raspberries (I used frozen because it was all I had)
- 50g flaked almonds
- Grease a 22cm springform tin and base-line with bake-o-glide or baking parchment
- In a mixer, food processor or with an electric hand whisk combine the butter, sugar, flour, almonds, eggs and vanilla extract (oh how I love the all-in-one method!)
- Place half the mixture in the cake tin, smoothing it out, and dot the raspberry jam over, half a teaspoon at a time. Scatter the raspberries over
- Drop spoonfuls of the remaining mixture over the fruit but don’t worry if there are gaps; it will spread in the oven
- Scatter over the flaked almonds
- Bake for about 40 minutes in the Aga baking oven (or a little longer in a conventional oven at 180ºc). Not easy to test this cake with a skewer because the raspberries make it a little wet in the middle. It should be golden brown and springy to touch when done
Couldn’t be simpler.
I love making raspberry muffins too, although I see them as more of a coffee or teatime thing than a dessert. I also wrote about these on my tumblr:
Just out of the oven and cooling before winging its way to the birthday boy in London.
I have made A LOT of apple cakes in my time. Personally, I’d rather eat apple cake than crumble or pie. It’s more versatile for a start, because it works well as a pudding and as a teatime cake. My sons tease me about how I make a distinction between cakes that work as puddings and those that don’t.
The apple cake I made this morning is for my son W, who turns 26 tomorrow. I remember lying on the maternity ward after he was born on 11 February 1990, watching Nelson Mandela walk to freedom on my neighbour’s tiny televison set. But I digress.
Sadly, I will not be seeing W on his birthday this time. I’m staying in Bristol to keep an eye on Granny. But it’s fine, because we’re all getting together very soon. His dad took the cake up to London with him this afternoon.
I discussed what cake W might like with his brother G, and we agreed apple cake was probably his favourite, and it didn’t matter that it’s perhaps not very birthday cake-y. I decided to make this one which my Twitter and blogging friend @MsAlliance introduced me to a while ago. One thing to note: at point 5, I combine the demerara with the cinnamon and sprinkle the mixture over the cake before putting it in the baking oven. Today I put the rack on the third set of rungs and baked it for 35 minutes.
We also love my Norwegian grandmother’s apple cake, which we eat all year round but ALWAYS on Christmas Eve; it’s tradition. Perhaps I’ll let you have that recipe another time.
W has just been in touch to say they had some cake tonight because they’ll be at work tomorrow and eating out in the evening. Any excuse! Anyway, I hadn’t realised W hadn’t tried this particular apple cake before. He says he loved it, especially the cardamom. I’m glad they ate some today when it was at its freshest. No-one wants to eat stale cake.