Recipe: barbecue chicken

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At times I get the most peculiar cravings. I guess it ties in with my way of eating; regardless of what it is I eat for pleasure, not just fuel. And most of the time my cravings are a combination of things my body needs and my favourite foods. Typical cravings are usually something with avocado, anything with burrata and sometimes proper comfort food. Often cheese of some kind, and sometimes fish.

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One beautiful summer’s day in Norfolk my body screamed for barbecued chicken. The sticky, charred kind. Maybe I needed protein but whenever I crave something fairly healthy I always try to give my body what it wants.

As we were in Norfolk and had access to a barbecue it was also much easier to make this happen, than if we’d been in London, so I went all in. I threw together a homemade barbecue sauce and marinated the whole spatchcocked chicken in it for a few hours and then got my darling boyfriend to light the barbecue. The coal one, thank you very much, not the gas barbecue!

And apart from the sugars in the marinade burning too quickly it was a great success. We both thoroughly enjoyed the charred and tender chicken, both that night and the leftovers two days later.

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But, this almost too charred chicken was not photogenic, and I was also slightly worried about the carcinogenic properties of all that burnt sugar. And decided to perfect the recipe (and reduce the charring) the next time.

And that next time arose a few weeks later in Sweden when my boyfriend was over and we were having dinner with my parents. My foodie family was just as excited about the chicken as I was and my boyfriend loved it last time, so it worked out really well! The trick is to add the barbecue sauce towards the end so it doesn’t burn too much; just that right amount that makes it taste to good!

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Barbecue chicken, serves 4 + leftovers

2 smaller (just over a kilo each) whole fresh chickens

salt and pepper

1 tbsp neutral oil 

Barbecue sauce:

150 ml ketchup

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 

1 tbsp brown sugar (or any sugar if you prefer but brown works best) 

1 tsp smoked paprika powder 

1 tbsp tomato paste

2 tsp soy sauce 

2 tbsp water

2 tbsp neutral oil 

salt, pepper

Rinse and trim the chickens. (I usually cut away any loose skin and fat, the ends of the wings that is just bone etc.) Then spatchcock the chickens (instructions here) so they cook quicker and more evenly. Season with plenty of salt and pepper all around and brush with oil. 

Build up the coal barbecue so that you have the coal and briquettes all on one side of the barbecue, where you have a higher temperature, as opposed to the empty side which still emanates heat but isn’t as hot. 

Start off by browning the chickens all around on the direct heat (on top of the coals), for approx 5-10 minutes. Then move them to the indirect heat (empty side) and place them bony side down. Put the lid on and grill for another 15-20 minutes, turning as you go. Brush on a thick layer of barbecue sauce all around the chicken and char the meaty side first (as this is most important to get right) until just enough charring, then turn over and char the other side. The chickens should be ready after another 10 minutes on the grill, but cut through the meat (both the thickest part of the breast and in a joint) to make sure the juices are all clear. Remove from the grill and cover with foil and let rest for 5 minutes. Cut into smaller pieces (our almost fell apart so this was easy) and tuck in!

 

 

London: birthday dinner at The River Café

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It seems very fitting that the hottest day in the UK, probably ever, also happened to be my birthday. As my boyfriend will tell you, when it comes to body temperature and sun worshipping I have more in common with lizards and humans.

But even I was a little warm this day. At least indoors. The whole week it had been around 33C, sunny and humid and I think most people were hoping for a thunder storm to clear the air.

Of course I wasn’t, as I was hoping we could sit outside for dinner at The River Café, and luckily the birthday girl got her wish (after a quick downpour earlier in the evening but sans thunder and lightning) and we had the most wonderful evening on the beautiful terrace overlooking the Thames.

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It was a lovely balmy evening and we immediately ordered champagne and plenty of water while we browsed the menu and tried to decide what to order – because I honestly wanted to eat every single thing on the menu – but we settled on a nice selection.

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First we had the most wonderful fritto misto with scallops. The perfect starter for a hot day and we thoroughly enjoyed the simplicity and the perfection of it.

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As I can never ever resist pasta (or carbs of any kind) we shared two half portions of pasta; the buffalo ricotta ravioli of dreams and the most delicious girolle pasta.

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For the main course we shared the sirloin with various beets and rosemary potatoes. Wonderful flavours (although I would have expected the meat to be a bit more tender at a restaurant like this)!

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And of course we had to order the famous chocolate nemesis cake for pudding, but also had some roasted almond ice cream on the side.

Even though we shared everything we were so full after this feast of a meal! And it was just perfect for a low key, but still special, birthday celebration.

As much as the food is wonderful here (and it really is!), I think what makes this restaurant so wonderful is the combination of the food and the ambiance. You’re in a beautiful spot in London by the river surrounded by fun and interesting people all enjoying themselves, and I think that is part of the allure of some restaurants. They have ‘it’ even though as you break down each element they may not all be perfect, but together they work so very well.

The River Cafe, Thames Wharf, Rainville Rd, London W6 9HA

Back in London and a country weekend

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When the third week of August started I was back on British soil, having landed at Heathrow late the night before. Not one for wasting time I started working on the Monday morning and finished unpacking in the evening. But as the fridge was empty and the week ahead busy with social events I opted for a takeaway instead of cooking. My favourite gyro from The Athenian.

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The next evening after work I met up with Gaby for a catchup over prosecco and pizza at bustling Franco Manca. But after dinner we moved to a nearby hotel bar for another drink in a quieter place. We might be getting old, but I for one have never been a fan of shouting conversation.

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On the Wednesday evening I met up with a group of ex-colleagues at our usual place, over prosecco and nibbles. As everybody rushed to catch their trains I found myself with plenty of time to spare before bedtime (as the night owl I am) and went home to watch TV.

The next evening my boyfriend and I went to the cinema and watched Blinded by the Light. I really enjoyed it and although it’s foremost a feelgood film I found the story (based on true events) really charming. Before the cinema we usually have burgers at the nearby GBK for dinner but this time we tried our luck at Nando’s instead since we’re both a bit tired of GBK. Especially the service. I just wish there were some better fast food restaurants around, like Shake Shack or Franco Manca, but in the meantime Nando’s hit the spot. Mainly because they have mashed potatoes. Yum!

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On the Friday we drove to Northamptonshire where we were staying the weekend with a group of others. On the Friday we had a lovely casual dinner and when everybody but us had turned in we ended up watching a comedy program I actually found funny. It was pretty harsh but still (or maybe because of it) really funny!

The rest of the day consisted of croquet, swimming in the pool and rosé in the sunshine followed by a more formal dinner. On the Sunday I didn’t feel very well and so had to stay in bed all morning, but at least I managed to get up in time for lunch so I could say goodbye to everyone. The rest of the afternoon we took it easy and in the evening I took the train back to London.

 

Recipe: bruschetta bar!

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On several occasions over the last month I have trialled a great new concept for entertaining, *drum roll* –  the bruschetta bar!

I can’t take any credit though, as What’s Gaby Cooking was the one who cleverly coined the term!

As you readers already know, I’m an avid fan of everything crostini and bruschetta and this blog is evidence of that (you’ll find the classic bruschetta; one with burrata; crostini with a mushroom spread to die for; with ricotta, ham and peaches; smoked salmon spread etc etc) but instead of serving already topped crostini of one or two varieties, the bruschetta bar is more of a DIY job. It’s so much easier for the organiser; just fill a big platter with heaps of crostini and a nice spread of toppings, and more fun for the guests who can create their own flavour combinations and partake more. It feels more relaxed and the toppings can be varied after season, inspiration or whatever you can find in your fridge and larders. I can even see this becoming the ultimate fridge forage dinner with lots of fun bits!

I must say I’m a little peeved I didn’t come up with the idea myself (especially as I for one party organised a blini bar and the concepts are pretty similar AND for dinner parties in the past I have served crostini this way too ), but I’m also so grateful for other bloggers inspiring me and sharing great ideas!

As I said, I have trialled this concept a few times already and all the different occasions had slightly different spreads, so to give you a few ideas I’ve listed them all below.

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The all-in birthday celebration. This was my first, AND it was for my birthday, so of course I went all out. I did focus on pasteurised cheeses and less charcuterie though as one of the guests was pregnant, but if that wasn’t the case all I would have done differently would be to add more charcuterie and choose different cheeses!

Serrano ham
Saucisson
Sliced cheddar
Classic bruschetta topping
Ricotta
Boursin cheese
Creamy chantarelles
Philadelphia with sunblush tomatoes
Large white beans with olive oil, garlic and smoked paprika 
Pea pesto
Fresh figs
Acacia honey 
Vanilla jelly
Truffle mayo
Grilled peppers in oil

Extra: two types of crisps, small carrots and cucumber to sticks, two dips, nocellara olives, prosecco, rosé and sparkling elderflower.

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The last minute spread with caprese salad. This was super last minute so we threw together what we found in the supermarket we passed on our way home.

Caprese salad (mozzarella, sliced tomatoes, basil and olive oil)
Thinly sliced truffle salami 
Creamy girolles
Grilled peppers in oil
Serrano ham
Creamy gorgonzola

On the side: fig jam, honey

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The greatest hits. When you have time to think about the spread and the supermarket has it all in stock (I’m looking at you burrata!). Perfect as a starter for four people.

Burrata, sliced red and yellow tomatoes, basil and olive oil 
Thinly sliced truffle salami 
Prosciutto
Philadelphia with sunblush tomatoes
Homemade pesto (just swap wild garlic for basil)
Grilled peppers in oil

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The pot luck spread. When the book club girls come over and you organise the spread together.

Burrata, sliced red and yellow tomatoes, basil and olive oil 
Philadelphia with sunblush tomatoes
Store-bought fresh pesto
Brie
Cranberry cheese 
Mild goat’s cheese log
Grilled peppers in oil
Chorizo
Saucisson
Salami
Prosciutto
Spansk soft rind cheese
Large Spanish beans in oil

Extra: two types of crips and dip 

My second week in Sweden!

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The second week in Sweden by dear boyfriend came to visit. So on the Monday morning on my way to pick him up from the train from Copenhagen airport I stopped at Ikea to buy a few things. It was almost empty and a breeze  to shop (i.e. the opposite of the Ikea shopping experience in the UK!).

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After I had picked him up we drove into central Malmö and went for a nice walk in the sunshine to the west harbour, and afterwards we had lunch at Saluhallen, the foodhall. We shared a huge burger and a crab ravioli and neither of us could decide on what we wanted.

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In the evening we had dinner with my parents. Starting with bubbly and parmesan biscuits, then barbecued chicken (so yummy!) with slaw, crispy potatoes and tzatsiki.

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For pudding mamma had made crema catalana which we enjoyed with berries.

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The following day we had some friends coming for fika, and so to avoid a sugar overload we started with a savoury quiche and salad and then had a lovely apple and blueberry cake with vanilla and blueberry ice cream to finish. We played a bit with the children in the garden and had a lovely time catching up!

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In the evening we bought pizzas and had a very chilled night in watching a Swedish sing-along show (!) and a good documentary.

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The following day we had a morning swim in the sea and then started prepping for our little dinner party that evening.

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As a starter we had melon and prosciutto as well as a caprese salad and for the main course we had shrimp rolls, skin-on oven fries and a nice salad. For pudding I had made lemon posset that I served with whipped cream, apricots from the garden and blueberries. Such a lovely evening!

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Thursday my boyfriend played golf with my best friend’s husband and his dad most of the day so I met up with a childhood friend in the morning.

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We played on the beach with his children until suddenly a rain storm drew in, so we took refuge at a nearby restaurant that was just opening for lunch. As we had finished eating the dark clouds disappeared and we could go outside for a nice walk in the sun and an ice cream. After I had said goodbye to them I quickly went to the supermarket and stocked up for dinner that evening and then met up with my best friend Emma for a glass of wine while I was prepping dinner and we waited for the golfers to come back.

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To make it easier with my goddaughter’s bed time we had our started – the much loved bruschetta bar – before she went to bed, and the rest of the dinner after.

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So while my friends put her to bed I finished cooking the pasta carbonara with girolles and for pudding we had a lovely frozen daim cheesecake. It was one of those lovely evenings where you forget about time and just sit there chatting, laughing and sipping wine until you suddenly realise it’s late and we should all go to bed.

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We stayed over so the next morning I got to play with my goddaughter some more before we went back to the summer house. As it was my boyfriend’s last day in Sweden we made the most of the afternoon with a little outing to Smygehuk (the southernmost point in Sweden) where we had delicious (and huge!) prawn sandwiches, then went for a little walk and finished off with an ice cream before we went back home to pack.

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After I had dropped him off at the train to the airport I had a very simple supper with my parents; grilled hotdogs! We were still full from the prawn sandwiches so didn’t want a full-on dinner so sausages were perfect!

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On the Saturday I did some sunbathing before we went home to our other house to pick a few things up and get a few things done. In the evening my parents and I had a little mini crayfish party, as we all love seafood and especially crayfish at this time of year. First we had a girolle toast, then the Swedish crayfish with bread and cheese and aquavit!

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The next day (my last in Sweden, sob…) mamma and I went to a flea market where I bought some bouillon bowls and plates (I’m such a crockery addict!).

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Then I packed my bags while mamma and pappa organised fika for my best friend and her family, so I could see them one last time before I left. We had Danish open-faced sandwiches with prawns and brussels pate respectively and a chewy toffee cake with lightly whipped cream afterwards. It was a short fika but lovely seeing my friends and god daughter once more.

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The journey back to London was easy, so I hung out in the lounge a bit before my flight, enjoying a light supper of smoked salmon and potato salad before I boarded, already missing Sweden. Thank you for two lovely weeks! ❤️

Recipe: chewy toffee cake

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I had the best neighbours when I was little. Agnes and her husband Claes. Claes was nice, but it was Agnes I adored. Mainly because she spent so much time with me. I could come and go at theirs as I liked. She let me try on allof her high heeled shoes in her shoe wardrobe (I aspire to having one of those one day) and she played with me. I think she adored me too, as she seemed to enjoy playing with me as much as I enjoyed playing with her.

This cake recipe is hers, and one I wrote down a very long time ago, but it has since been forgotten in my quest for new and exciting recipes. But when I was home this summer mamma suddenly thought of it and we found the recipe neatly written down by hand in my first recipe book. It’s full of treasures and one day I will take the time to read them all.

Thank you, Agnes, for being an extra granny through my childhood. And for this cake!

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Chewy toffee cake, serves 8

2 eggs

240 g caster sugar 

1 tsp vanilla

3 tbsp cocoa

1/2 tsp salt

100 g melted butter

90 g plain flour 

1/2 tsp baking powder

Beat eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add vanilla, cocoa, salt, and butter and mix. Then add flour and baking powder. Mix well. Pour into a buttered springform and bake for 20m minutes in 175C oven. It should still be a little gooey in the middle. Leave to cool and serve with lightly whipped cream. 

First week in Sweden!

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The last week in July I was on holiday in Sweden. On the Monday morning I flew to Copenhagen where mamma and pappa waited for me with (quite literally) open arms and brought me and my heavy bags to our summer house.

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We started with fika. Mamma’s homemade bread rolls, Swedish cheese and the best prawn mayonnaise ever. And a Swedish ice cream to finish.

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After I unpacked mamma and I went down to the beach to check it out and soon after it was time for fika number two, with cinnamon buns this time.

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In the evening we packed a little basket with champagne flutes, a cold bottle of Champagne and some crisps and went down to the beach and enjoyed it on the sand dunes. It was just so wonderful and in that moment I definitely felt like I was on holiday!

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When the bottle was empty we went back up to the house and had shrimp rolls with skin-on oven fries for dinner and for strawberries and cream for pudding. It felt so lovely being back home!

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The next day I had about 30 minutes in the sun before I needed to get ready for an afternoon with friends. My best friend and her family were hosting and we had such a nice time relaxing in the garden and eating barbecued burgers and Nutella semifreddo.

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On the Wednesday we had our annual family meet up with a few cousins and aunt.  It was so nice to catch up, eat lovely food and enjoy each other’s company.

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In the evening I introduced my parents to the bruschetta bar and as expected it was a great success!

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The next day it rained a lot so I couldn’t sunbathe as I had planned. Instead mamma, pappa and I went on a little road trip to Österlen.

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We stopped at a few beaches, had ice cream, stopped at a harbour, went to a few shops and finished our day with pizzas at Kronovalls Slott. Such a lovely day!

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On the Friday the weather was lovely again and I had lunch with friends at my favourite café in Höllviken, Märtas, eating my usual prawn sandwich.

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Afterwards we went for a walk, had an ice cream and walked some more.

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Then it was time for a dinner party at my friends’ house. There were a group of us and plenty of children so we had a drink outside by the swings while the children were playing before we sat down for dinner. Such a lovely day and evening catching up with dear friends!

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The weather was lovely on Saturday too, which was perfect four a trip to Copenhagen with Maria and Daniel. I love our little tradition so much! We don’t really plan ahead (because in Copenhagen you don’t need to!) but still manage to eat great food, experience new things and we have a jolly good time doing it all!

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This time we had lunch at 108, then more lunch at Torvehallerne, ate ice cream and finished it all off with a late dinner at Bæst, which we loved last year! In between meals we explored the city and did some shopping. A perfect day!

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Sunday was one of (very) few unplanned days so I sunbathed a little; first in the garden and later on the beach with mamma and in the evening some friends came for dinner. We started with G&T’s and the best parmesan biscuits ever, followed by barbecued pork fillet, crispy potatoes, tzatsiki and a tomato salad. For pudding we had elderflower parfait and berries. Such a lovely end to my first week in Sweden!