Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Chicken, Za'atar and other stories

It's been a hectic few days since we got back from France. Trying to finish one book, publicising another and launching a student cooking campaign. I'm not sure where the time has gone

It hasn't left much time for cooking that's for sure but this weekend we made best use of the annual Organic Food Festival in Bristol and did our weekend shopping there.

Interestingly it wasn't that expensive. Sheepdrove, our local organic butcher had a special offer on frozen chickens for £5 each which was unmissable so Sunday night's meal was built around that. Because it had been a balmy late summer's day (what on earth's happened to the weather since?) we served it warm having stuffed it with herbs and garlic. We also had a huge platter of yellow and green courgettes (above) I'd lightly fried in olive oil and tossed with some blanched green beans and some new crop DesirĂ©e potatoes, boiled in their jackets, all from one of my favourite local organic suppliers Wrington Greens. I tossed the courgettes and beans with a fantastic dried herb mix I'd bought in Nice earlier this summer (a fines herbes blend of parsley, tarragon, chervil and chives) which really enhanced their flavour though fresh herbs would have obviously been good too. (Most of ours seem to have shrivelled up while we were away).

The next day we had cold chicken with the remaining veg, some fried up potatoes and garlic and some mixed leaves from Wrington which are always wonderfully flavourful. And there's a huge batch of stock which I'm going to use for noodles tonight and risotto tomorrow. Ten servings from one medium-sized bird which isn't bad.

The other good buy at the festival was a huge bag of Za'atar, a Middle-Eastern blend of dried thyme, sumac and roasted sesame seeds. This particular one had been imported from Palestine by a company called Zaytoun which also brings in a very nice olive oil. You can use the Za'atar to scatter over flatbreads, dips and grilled meats or simply dunk bread in oil and then in the mix. It was actually more than I needed but I felt I wanted to support the producer so I've been giving small jars and bags of it away to my friends.

The only disappointment of the weekend were some ultra-cheap peaches I bought at the local greengrocer which had that awful woolly texture that imported peaches tend to have even at this time of year. I rescued them by skinning them, submerging them in sweet wine, scattering over a few crushed cardamom pods and chilling them for a few hours but they still weren't wonderful. Which underlines yet again that locally grown food is best, organic or not.


Catherine said...

I'm envious of the chicken at that price. I used to buy them in Waitrose, where they were always reduced, but that was in Norfolk - my local one in Ealing doesn't seem to stock them.

Fiona Beckett said...

Well it is a rarity although Sheepdrove does periodically do offers on its chickens. Just wish I'd had a bit more freezer space!

local lass said...

The Barley Wood Walled Garden is great and the cafe is fantastic - if a little difficult to find. We stumbled upon it when looking for somewhere to eat near Bristol Airport, and have been back 3 times despite living 500+ miles away (long story!). It's signposted as The Secret Garden off the A38 a couple of miles south of the airport. A great find, with really friendly staff, good value - especially the delicious home produced ham.

local lass said...

oops - should have made it clear that you need to click on the Wrington Greens link to find out about the Barley Wood Walled Garden and the cafe.

Fiona Beckett said...

I have been there Local Lass - you're right it's a lovely place tho' I'm not sure I'd be up for driving 500 miles to get there ;-)

local lass said...

Nor would I, normally, but I had an enforced stay in the area and had to keep meeting/dropping off people at the airport, and it was a welcome haven - and had a great sculpture exhibition as well.