Chicken legs with red peppers, spring onions, and chickpeas

5 December 2019

To my family’s dismay, I rarely make anything other than thighs and drumsticks when I cook chicken. Everyone clamours for breast, but legs are far superior, in many respects — more tender, tastier, reheat-able, up-scalable.

As I am often the one to cook during the week, I decide (!), and one of my favourite weeknight meals is chicken legs. It’s infinitely adaptable, I rarely prepare it in exactly the same way twice (there are already a couple of recipes on these pages here and here); I make it nearly once a week. In the end, they relent — it tastes really good.

This version comes a bit late, seasonally, but perhaps one can occasionally make an exception. In October, when I bought peppers in excess in an attempt to keep squashes and potatoes at arms’ length for a little while longer, I made this dish quite often. It started loosely from the idea of ‘poulet Basquaise‘ — a regional dish from the Basque region broadly defined as chicken with peppers, tomatoes, and ham, which was well integrated in the French canon when I was growing up. My idea began there but quickly veered off-topic, geographically speaking.

As for the chickpeas, I’ve not yet assimilated the reflex of advance soaking and cooking, so I’m sticking to the tinned variety for now. Like everything, it is just a matter of habit. One day.

Note: The chickpeas are missing in the picture because I added them the next day

Chicken legs with red peppers, spring onions, and chickpeas
Enough for 6, hopefully with leftovers

6 chicken thighs
6 chicken legs
2 large onions
6 garlic cloves
Mildly flavored oil — I usually use sunflower oil or mild olive oil
2 bunches spring onions
Light soya sauce
Tamari soya sauce
Rice wine vinegar
1x400g tin (can) of chickpeas

Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F).

Take the chicken legs out of the refrigerator.

Peel and slice the onions; smash and peel the garlic cloves.

Drizzle the bottom of a roasting dish with oil. Place the sliced onions and garlic evenly in the dish. Slide into the oven for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, trim at either end and remove one outer layer of the spring onions. Wash under cold water to remove any grit. Slice crosswise into halves or thirds.

Wash the peppers, cut them in half and remove the seeds, then slice each half lengthwise into strips and each strip in half. Drain and rinse the chickpeas.

Take the dish out of the oven and arrange the chicken legs over the onions and garlic, then add the peppers and spring onions. **Place them in the spaces between the pieces of chicken because if the vegetables are placed on top, the chicken skin won’t brown.** Season the whole dish generously and evenly with light soy sauce, tamari, and rice wine vinegar.

Return to the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, then add the chickpeas. Continue roasting in the oven for another half hour or so , until the meat is nicely browned and the vegetables cooked through.

I like to serve this with rice. It will taste just as nice, if not better, reheated the next day.

Seasonal | What to do with all the quince

13 November 2019

The sky was bright blue this morning, trees a deep yellow, there’s an assertive chill in the air. Before the long winter of apples creeps up on us, there is still quince (and also, it is true, some rather delicious pears). So, for those with an over-productive (redundancy) quince tree, or others, like me, who binge-buy quince as soon as they hit the stalls, here are a few recipes and ideas of what to do with all the quince. Some for right now, others for later — preserves to battle the February doldrums.

For now

For later

For a gift

Spicy lamb and quince stew

31 October 2019

What do you do with all the quince? A friend with a quince tree pleaded for a recipe that isn’t membrillo. I agree. Though I don’t have a tree myself, I’ve often been in the (happy) predicament of too many quinces, either because I buy kilos and kilos compulsively as soon as the season hits, or because I’ve received bags from friends’ prolific gardens.

I started playing with a savory lamb and quince tagine-style dish nearly ten years ago when I began writing down recipes on these pages, but was stalled in my attempt by Thomas — ever the culprit — who complained about the various attempts and the repetition, in minute variation, of a dish which he purported not to like. It has taken me all this time to take up where I had left off, and I’m afraid to say the result has met with similar disapproval in the family, this time with children reinforcement. It appears my nearest and dearest do not like the combination of fruit and meat. And it’s not just the quince, I’ve encountered the same resistance with figs or prunes. But I beg to differ. I love the dance of sweet and savoury.

Lamb stews with quince are common in Persian and Moroccan cuisine, which is where I’ve taken inspiration, loosely, for this recipe. Having looked at and tried a number of versions, including the delicately flavoured Iranian stew Khoresht-e Beh with just saffron and turmeric, my preference today is for a dish with more assertive spices. On the question of the quince, however, I am undecided: Some recipes add the raw quince to the stew directly, others suggest to first brown the wedges in butter. I don’t have a stark preference, so I propose both, depending on the cook’s whim, time, and inspiration.

Spicy lamb and quince stew
Serves 6
This stew can be made the same day or one or two days in advance

1 kg (2 lbs) de-boned lamb shoulder, cut into approximately 8 cm (3″) pieces
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
3 medium onions
2-3 garlic cloves
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, ground
1 tsp turmeric
Generous pinch saffron threads
Generous pinch Cayenne pepper (to taste)
1/2 cinnamon stick
A thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
Rind from 1/2 untreated lemon, peeled into a ribbon
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp mild runny honey
3 medium quinces
Butter if using to fry the pieces of quince


Preheat the oven to 125°C (250°F).

Season the pieces of meat with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet over high heat, brown the meat in olive oil in batches, a few pieces at a time, for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. **It’s important not to crowd the pan or the meat will stew rather than brown.**

Peel and slice the onions and garlic.

In a heavy, cast-iron dish with a tight fitting lid big enough to hold the stew, add a little olive oil and brown the onions. Season with a good pinch of salt. Once the onions are nicely browned, add the garlic, stir for about a minute, and turn off the heat.

Place the browned lamb onto the onions and garlic, ideally in a single layer, fitting snugly in the pan. Sprinkle the ground cumin, turmeric, saffron, and cayenne over the meat. Add the cinnamon, ginger, lemon rind, and bay leaf to the dish, and the honey in a thin drizzle. Season with salt and pepper. Pour enough water to barely cover the meat, cover with a tight fitting lid (or seal with aluminum foil) and place in the oven.

Cook in the oven at a low simmer for about 1 1/2 hour —>

If the stew is for the same day —> peel and core the quinces and cut them into quarters, add them to the stew (after the 1 1/2 hours), and continue cooking for a further 45 minutes or so until the fruit is tender. Remove from the oven and let settle and cool down for about 15 minutes before serving.

If the stew has been planned a day or two ahead —> remove from the oven, let the meat cool down, and place it in the refrigerator overnight. About 2 hours before the meal, remove the stew from the refrigerator and preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F). Peel and core the quinces and cut them into quarters. Add them to the stew. Return the stew to the oven for about 45 minutes until the fruit is tender. Remove from the oven and let settle and cool down for about 15 minutes before serving.

I like to serve this with rice.



Eating out | The Pig and Butcher

8 October 2019

Six years later and the Pig and Butcher is still a reflex when my main criteria is to enjoy the company. We used to come here more often at the beginning, when we first moved to London. Then we migrated a tad farther north, other restaurants started popping up all around, and we had even (!) more (!) children — (just one more). It remains the place to meet favourite friends. To find refuge on the weekend, outnumbered by too many kids as is our lot, and nonetheless enjoy a meal. Here the food, the light, the service all conspire to make one feel very much at home.

It is true that, occasionally, a starter has disappointed, but the dense, housemade sourdough with beef drippings never will. And mains are, invariably, excellent. Choose simpler options to start such as rillettes and save your appetite for steak or fish — which, notwithstanding the pub’s name, is always perfectly cooked.

The place heaves for Sunday lunch, and it’s worth attempting. It’s boisterous and happy and always delicious.

For a post-exhibition family Sunday lunch (remember to call ahead), a local evening with friends (or just a friend), for a beer at the bar, for simply dessert when dinner nearby offered not a trace of a sticky-date-pudding to sound off the birthday celebration. It is a restaurant to feel entirely comfortable, to fuel conversation — lively or intimate — for friends to catch up.

The Pig and Butcher
80 Liverpool Rd, Islington, London N1 0QD

Tel: 020 7226 8304

Seasonal | What to do with all the plums

3 October 2019


Like me, you may have an impulsive and mildly excessive reaction to every new fruit season. Come September, I start buying plums compulsively, often with no clear plan in mind — too many to eat straight out of the bowl, even for a family of six. Toward to end of the season, the urge accelerates, a few more pounds, before it’s too late!

Here are some ideas to make the most of these last days of plums.



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