I really did not know where to start with this post, as recent events have overshadowed the frivolity of writing a blog. But then I thought of all of you who had messaged me to see if I was safe, and said to myself, no, it is not frivolous, here we are creating a community of like-minded, tolerant, supportive and genuine people from all walks so of life from all over the world, from many different religious and cultural backgrounds, each with their own story to tell, and each telling it in their own unique way. Through writing, sharing poetry and philosophy, photography, gardening, cookery, loving nature and celebrating life.
I have travelled to wonderful palaces with ‘The Green Eye’, explored Italian villages with ’Ishita’, experienced the oppression of living in an Arab state with ‘Lynz’, listened to a Rabbi with a dog’s ears with ‘Rachel’, eaten amazing breakfasts with ‘Mila’ and been cooking in the kitchen with ‘Karina’ making her wonderful salads.
I have listened to bells with ‘Osysth’ and learnt all about Annie Sloane paint from ‘Zoe’.
Whilst ‘Michelle’ has taught me what I can eat from the garden and brought a wonderful sense of balance, and Marisa has given me my ‘Christmas Baking Challenge!
Plus many others of you who have enriched my life in your own unique and special way.
I was tempted to post some lovely positive images of Paris, but my originally intended ‘next’ post was the last from my recent trip to Liverpool, so I am going to stick with that, as to deviate further would be allowing terrorists to continue to have influence.
So here goes……. Sefton Park is a beautiful 375 acre ‘landscaped garden’ in south Liverpool on the site of the ‘Royal Toxteth Deer Park’ dating from 1591.
In 1867, 375 acres of this area was designated to the creation of a park, with £250,000 for its development being donated by the then Lord Sefton, hence the name.
Sefton Park ‘Palm House’, which opened in 1896 is a grade II listed three tier domed conservatory.
The Palm House is integral to my childhood and I visited here almost every Sunday, no matter the season or weather, on our after lunch family walks with family.
When I was a child going into the Palm House, was like entering another world that seemed to me enormous, mysterious and a little bit scary.
I can still remember the warm damp air enveloping me as I went inside, and the musty, earthy smell of soil and plants and the green moss that clung to the marble statues.
Giant Tropical plants and recently cleaned statues!
The Palm House is in fact surrounded by statues of the ‘great and the Good’ including ‘Andre Le Notre’ who designed the gardens at Versailles.
Somewhere in a battered cardboard chocolate box with purple and yellow crocuses on the lid, are photographs of me mimicking the poses of these statues’.
André La Notre and Christopher Columbus
I will return in spring or summer and do a more in depth post on the park itself, as I think that it is worth it.
Usually I have some clever way of linking the culture to the cooking, but this time, my dubious talent has deserted me and my only defence is that this recipe is SO good that I just wanted to share it immediately with you all, the fragrance of the spices and the contrast between the tender chicken and light crisp filo pastry topping is sublime.
This dish can be eaten equally as a light lunch with salad, for dinner with the addition of some steamed baby potatoes, or a smaller portion as an entrée.
It is also excellent to serve as part of a buffet, and this will be going on our table at some stage over the Christmas period
It looks like a lot of ingredients, but they are mainly spices and this dish is really very simple.
Serves 2-3 as a main course, 4 as an entrée
2 free range skinless chicken breasts cut into ‘stir fry’ size portions 4 sheets of filo pastry
A good handful (une poignée) of raisons (raisons secs)
A good handful of flaked almonds (amande enfillé )
A good handful of fresh, or small handful of dried coriander leaves
1 medium Shallotte grated or very finely chopped
1 clove garlic crushed (une gousse d’ail ecrasé)
1 tablespoon (2 cuillers a soupe) of olive oil
1-2 tablespoons of melted butter (du beurre fondu)
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1 teaspoon (1 cuillers a café) of:- Ground cinnamon (canelle en poudre), ground ginger (gingembre), paprika (piment)
½ a teaspoon of:- Turmeric, cumin, freshly ground black pepper
Freshly ground sea salt to taste
Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and sauté the onion over a low heat for 3-4 minutes
Add the garlic and all the spices and cook for a further minute
Add the chicken and coat in the spices
Add 200ml of hot water and the raisons and season generously with the salt, bring to the boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently for around 30 minutes, until the chicken is tender.
Remove the chicken and set aside keeping warm
Stir in the lemon juice and reduce the liquid as the mixture should be moist, but not ‘soupy’
Add the almonds and coriander and return the chicken
Cut two sheets of pastry to line the bottom of a baking dish and cover with a damp tea towel
Brush the bottom of the dish with the melted butter and top with one of the filo circles
Brush this with more butter and top with the remaining circle
Transfer the filling into the dish
Cut a further two sheets of pastry to cover the top, brush one with butter and ‘scrunch’ it onto the top
Scrunch the second sheet onto the top and finish by brushing this with the remaining butter
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees/gas mark 4 for 30-40 minutes until the top is crisp and golden
The smell while this dish is baking is beyond words – you will just have to make it and savour it for yourselves…….
P.S. in summer I add a little fresh mint to this dish also – happy cooking