Walking Marco (& Animal Portraits)

All summer long, we’ve been unable to walk our pup.  He hurt his back leg at the back of June and since then we’ve been under vet’s orders to rest him as much as possible.  It’s been rubbish.

Slowly but surely, however, the wee one’s leg has got better and better and better until, just this last week, I’ve been able to take him out for “interesting”  walks (i.e. not just around the block) once again.  Bliss.

Whilst I’m here and talking about dogs, let me share this painting with you:

Isn’t it lovely?  It’s by my artist friend, Donna McGlynn.  She paints and draws portraits of pets and other animals.  If you’d like to see more of her work or are interested in having your own pet drawn/painted, she has a website here and an Etsy page here and a Facebook page here.

Week Night Dinners: Balsalmic Chicken with Cherry Tomatoes

Chicken breast is not something I cook with very often.  Leg meat is tastier and doesn’t dry out so easily so it’s the chicken cut of choice in my kitchen.  I have three exceptions to this rule though:

  1. Grilled rosemary & garlic chicken cutlets
  2. Fajitas
  3. Balsamic chicken with tomatoes

All three are dishes where the chicken is cooked so quickly it doesn’t get a chance to dry out and all three are ideal for a speedy weeknight dinner.  The third dish is one of my favourites at the moment.  Served with couscous and a vegetable (roasted fennel in the picture), it’s a rather elegant little meal.  As it provides most of the flavour, a good balsamic vinegar is essential for this recipe.  For example, this lovely one my Dad bought me on holiday…

I could eat it with a spoon.  :)

Balsamic Chicken with Tomatoes (adapted from the patronisingly bossy but undeniably brilliant, Tasmin Day Lewis)

(serves two generously)

Butter

2 cloves  garlic, crushed

2 free range chicken breasts, cut width ways into 2cm slices

400g cherry tomatoes, halved

3 tblspn good quality balsamic vinegar

Handful of basil leaves, shredded

Sugar

Salt and pepper

  • Melt a knob of butter over a medium high heat in a frying pan.  Add the chicken and saute  for a couple of minutes until sealed all over.
  • Add the garlic and stir well.  Cook for a minute then add the tomatoes, vinegar and another knob of butter.  Reduced the heat and simmer gently for 15 minutes until the tomatoes have turned into a sauce and the chicken is cooked through.
  • Add the basil and season with salt, pepper and sugar.
  • I like this served on top of couscous.

Willow Warbler

Three weeks until the marathon.  Today we do our last long training run: 18 miles.  There is a chance, therefore, that the food-based post I’d been planning on writing this afternoon might not happen…  Here’s a picture of a pretty wee bird for now.  Just in case.

Week Night Dinners: Shakshuka

One of our favourite meals at home right now is Shakshuka, a Middle-Eastern dish of eggs poached in a fragrant stew of peppers and tomatoes.  To make from scratch, this takes almost an hour but if  you make to make the pepper/tomato stew on a Sunday afternoon or some evening when you do have plenty of time, dinner, a few days later, can be on the table in 20 minutes.

Shakshuka

(Serves 2)

Olive oil

1 onion, sliced

3 red or yellow peppers, sliced

250g tomatoes (I use cherry tomatoes)

Pinch of saffron

Pinch of sugar

2 bay leaves

1/4 tspn cayenne pepper

1 tspn cumin OR smoked paprika (either version is lovely)

1/2 tspn sugar

4 eggs, room temperature

Parsley & bread to serve

  • Heat a glug of olive oil in a medium frying pan.  Add the onion and cook for 5 mins over a medium/high heat.  Add the peppers and cook for 10 minutes more, lowering the heat if necessary.
  • Once the peppers have started to soften add all the spices, the tomatoes and about 100ml of water.  Bring to a simmer then lower the heat.  Let this cook gently for 20 mins, adding a splash more water if it gets too dry.  Season and taste, adding more cayenne if needed.
  • If you’re making the stew in advance, stop here.  Turn off the heat, cool and pop in the fridge.
  • Bring the stew to a slight simmer.  Use a spoon to create 4 little pockets in the sauce.  Break an egg into each and sprinkle with salt.  Turn the heat down as low as it’ll go and pop a lid on the frying pan.  Leave for 10 mins.
  • When you remove the lid, the eggs should be cooked through but still have a runny yolk.
  • Sprinkle the dish with chopped parsley and serve with crusty bread to mop up the juices.