Roast Chicken and Feta Salad with Minted Yoghurt Dressing

Chicken and Feta Salad with Minted Yoghurt Dressing

This salad was borne from a desire to use up leftover roast chicken but was such a treat that I made a huge batch of it again the next day, this time roasting up a couple of chicken breasts especially for the event.

Now, I’m not one for do-ahead salads. For starters I don’t like cold salads, they need to be brought up to room temperature first so by the time you’ve decided you’re hungry you might as well have knocked it together there and then rather than twiddling your fingers for half an hour whilst the chill is knocked off your lunch.

Pre-dressed salads are also usually a problem, as heavy dressings render delicate leaves a soggy mulch, or worse if there’s garlic involved create a pungency to the whole affair which detracts from the light bright flavours you began with. My Chicken and Feta Salad with Minted Yoghurt encountered no such issues though and after having made a fair amount to last for a few days I popped it, dressing and all, into the fridge until I was ready to eat it over the next few days.

Chicken and Feta Salad with Minted Yoghurt Dressing

This salad holds no leaves to wilt or garlic to intoxify so the fresh flavours are kept intact. In fact, they are improved upon as the feta simply soaks up flavour so over the next couple of days it took on more depth from the lemon and mint. There is also no oil in the dressing so there is no chance of the dressing weighing down the other ingredients.

Okay, so I did have to take my salad out of the fridge for a bit so the flavours could re-ignite in room temperature but after about 15 minutes of impatience I dove in and found I hadn’t lost anything in its preservation.

Chicken and Feta Salad with Minted Yoghurt Dressing

Now you must be fussy when gathering ingredients for this salad, not only should you insist upon the best tomatoes you can find and of course organic free-range chicken, bone intact and skin on so it retains moisture during its roasting, but this salad also benefits hugely from the inclusion of extremely good feta. Supermarket feta is so hit and miss, more often than not a bit dry and crumbly and until you’ve overdosed on the good stuff in Greece you may not even know how much you like it. I am lucky though to be within spitting distance of Ally Pally farmers’ market on a Sunday where there is an excellent producer eager to offload his wonderful olives, pickled garlic and sundried tomato antipasti. It’s his feta that is the star of the show though, tangy, dense and sublimely creamy, although you have to get to the market early as he always sells out.

Chicken and Feta Salad with Minted Yoghurt Dressing

Roast Chicken and Feta Salad with Minted Yoghurt Dressing

Serves 2

2 chicken breasts on the bone
2 teaspoons olive oil
Juice of ½ lemon
150g cucumber, halved and de-seeded
200g tomato, roughly chopped
3 celery sticks, sliced thinly
½ red onion, halved and sliced thinly
120g feta

For the dressing:
1 tablespoon yoghurt
2 teaspoons mayonnaise
good handful of fresh mint leaves, diced finely
juice of ½ lemon
1/8 teaspoon salt
pepper

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Mix the olive oil and lemon juice with some seasoning then rub all over the chicken breasts.
  3. Place in a roasting tray and roast in the oven for 40 minutes, basting halfway through.
  4. Remove the chicken from the oven and leave to rest whilst you prepare the rest of the salad.
  5. Toss the cucumber, tomatoes, celery and red onion in a large bowl and crumble over the feta.
  6. In a separate small bowl whisk together all your dressing ingredients and pour most of it evenly over the salad.
  7. Toss it all together and heap into bowls.
  8. Remove the chicken from the bone, then slice and serve over the salad, drizzling over a final bit of dressing.

Sweet Potato and Feta Tortilla

Sweet Potato and Feta Tortilla

This feels like the first time in a couple of weeks where I have been able to take a breath. My prolonged absence from blogging wasn’t intentional at all but it is only now that I have been able to sit down properly and decide what I’m going to have for dinner instead of relying on cobbled together salads of no import, chocolate or fish and chips from Stroud Green Road.

We were forced to vacate the house for a week or so whilst our builders have been in, rescuing the sorry state that had become of our floorboards and giving our hallway and landing a new lease of life so it didn’t feel we were living in a run down shack. Many houses along our road have been sold recently and we’ve been passing them every day watching them being renovated and putting ours to shame. I decreed we simply had to do something about it before baby arrives and forces us suddenly to not care about such trivial matters as rotting floorboards and splattered tea stains on our walls.

Sweet Potato and Feta Tortilla

Not that the builders have left us yet, there is still one lonesome soldier finishing up the odds and sods, meaning that for the moment most of our belongings are still sequestered away in boxes in every room that isn’t being worked on. It makes searching for things like my camera cable and the plate that I simply must photograph my tortilla on nigh impossible. I did manage to find them both in the end but it was to the detriment of any sort of order that the boxes and rooms might have been in earlier today. My heavily pregnant state also doesn’t allow me to tidy any of it away which will be a lovely surprise to Luke when he arrives home late tonight after a long journey home from his meeting in Liverpool.

Not only has our house been taken over by builders but also in equal measure by cake as I have still been committed to my brilliant market stall and my kitchen has been the one room that has been builder free. This past weekend I took on a new challenge of hosting the café at Hornsey Flea Market. It was a long week of baking prep, actual baking and then two long days at the market which was a fantastic experience. The flea market was so wonderfully busy, it was estimated about 9000 people came through our doors throughout the weekend, most of whom needed some sort of sustenance. It was lovely to branch out and do some savoury baking as well as my usual flotilla of cakes which is how I developed my Sweet Potato and Feta Tortilla. It was a great gluten-free and vegetarian alternative to all the sausage rolls, pancetta and gruyere tartlets, spicy chicken croquettes and butternut squash and chilli scones which I was selling.

I made quite a few of these tortillas and they sold magnificently but I did keep one back for myself as it really is quite a special recipe. This tortilla simply bursts with flavour and spring like freshness, rich with the sweet potato but cool with feta and then packed with fresh coriander, parsley and mint. For ease I bake the tortilla in the oven instead of the traditional method of cooking in a large frying pan and having made the tortilla both ways in the past I haven’t noticed a difference to the end result.

Sweet Potato and Feta Tortilla

I recommend serving the tortilla for a weekend lunch, perhaps in the garden to make the most of this unseasonably beautiful weather. Dress the tortilla up with a herby salad and serve with a crisp glass of white wine.

Sweet Potato and Feta Tortilla
Serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large Spanish onion, finely sliced
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed into 2cm squares
½ teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
200g feta
5 medium eggs, whisked together
28g fresh coriander, roughly chopped
28g fresh mint, roughly chopped
28g fresh parsley, roughly chopped
75g roasted red peppers, shredded

  1. Heat the olive oil in a flat bottomed saucepan then add the onions. Cook on a gentle heat for about 20 minutes or until the onions are caramelised.
  2. Add the sweet potatoes and stir to thoroughly coat them in the olive oil. Place the lid on and cook for about 45 – 60 minutes or until the potatoes are softened.
  3. Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 170° and line and grease an 8 inch baking tin.
  4. Take the saucepan of the heat then crumble the feta into the pan, stirring with a metal spoon to combine but not too much as you don’t want the potato and feta to break down.
  5. Pour in the eggs, add the herbs with plenty of seasoning and mix together.
  6. Spoon the mixture into the baking tin, smoothing down so the surface is flat.
  7. Place in the oven and bake for about 40-45 minutes until just browning.
  8. Leave to cool for half an hour the tin before turning out. The tortilla is best served warm.
  9. Serve with the roasted red peppers piled on top.

Skopolos

I can only apologise for my tardiness in posting lately. I have been away but I felt the wrench of leaving my blog behind nearly as much as it pained me to say goodbye to my three little monsters for a week. However, it was generally decreed that we all needed a jolly good holiday. Willow and Wesley went south to be puppy-free where they could play with their toys to their hearts’ content at my mother’s in Berkshire and Billy Buddy went in the opposite direction to my in-laws to spend the week on the canals of Cambridgeshire. Meanwhile, before any of our parents could change their mind and demand their money back we hightailed it to the nearest airport and boarded a plane for the remote Greek island of Skopolos.

It has been over a year since our last holiday, our much talked about adventure in the deep south of America, but this year has been so busy that we craved the complete opposite of that experience. My husband has been sweating it out in the unrelenting demands of a job in the city and ever since I quit working as a TV producer last year I have been toiling to carve out the rewarding existence I had promised myself. The addition of Billy Buddy to our household was the final piece of lego to turn our lives back to front and upside down. Stroud Green Larder and Billy have given my days a fulfilling and haphazard structure but loving what you do so entirely means that it’s sometimes too hard to take a break.

The past few months I have been dreaming of white-washed buildings, cobblestones underfoot, awe-inspiring vistas, the crystal clarity of the azure ocean but most importantly, a pool, a Kindle chock full of the pulpiest material and gin and tonics on tap.

It’s a bit of trek to Skopolos, our taxi collected us from North London at 1.30am to take us to Gatwick. The early hour was only made bearable by a very chatty cabbie who was giving us all the gossip of his celebrity passengers; Gary Barlow – miserable, Michael Barrymore – horrendously drunk, Nadine from Girls Aloud – the most normal of the band, Jude Law – a top notch bloke.

34

The flight to Skiathos in Greece is only 3 hours, but then you taxi it down to the port and then jump on the catamaran to the neighbouring island of Skopolos. Due to lack of sleep and then plane delays which meant we had to hang around on the runway for an age and then missed our catamaran connection, the journey felt as torturous as the time I was forced to watch the extended cut of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. By the time we had dragged our rental car up the vertical incline of the Skopolos mountains to reach our villa nestled in olive trees we were fit to drop. And we did, directly into our pool’s embrace, not to emerge for the whole week.

18

You may not have heard of Skopolos but you may have seen it as it was the prime location for Mamma Mia. Luckily the island has mostly survived unscathed by the experience, the only impact this had on us was that we had a great game location- spotting on our various trips out. Now I don’t like Abba music at all, which is strange as I am not at all discerning in my music tastes. However, I do love the film due to its sheer cheeriness, and the best scene without question is Meryl Streep’s fabulously over the top performance of The Winner Takes it All and her utter commitment to wresting such unbridled emotion from every single lyric as she’s flinging her arms and her shawl about on the stone cragged steps leading up to her daughter’s scenic wedding chapel.

The chapel of Agios Ioannis, where this scene was filmed, is considered the ultimate in tourist destinations, and was so even before the film. Our visit was purely magical and not just because of its location where waves crash wickedly beneath the plummeting steps carved steeply into the rock, but because of what we found at the top. It was a surprise as we were struggling up the perilous incline when a be-suited and flustered man tore down the stone stairway, nearly sending us to our doom, followed in hot pursuit by a blonde beauty in a scarlet dress and high heels giggling about what a hurry they were in. I mean I was struggling in my trainers, how she ran down the steps in her skyscrapers without plunging into the sea is absolutely commendable. It soon became apparent when we climbed the last few steps what their hurry was as a bride was looking on bemused at the commotion, tucked behind a flour white wall before her grand entrance, as her maid of honour and the best man raced to fetch the forgotten wedding rings, 100m below in the car.

22

It was there then that we witnessed the most romantic wedding I have ever been to. A delicate aisle made from white gauze set the scene just outside the matchbox sized chapel, as high as the clouds, where ribbons breezily hung from a stooped tree as the sun set in the background of this most intimate of gatherings. It made Mamma Mia seem like a circus show. The wedding party were delightfully tolerant of the cluster of five or six tourists lolling about discreetly, snapping away at their special moment.

Now, I am very fortunate that I am a cat lover. Or cat obsessive, whatever. If I were to live in a sci-fi novel then I would definitely like to live on a planet of cats and Greece does not have that long to go before that sci-fi sitch is made a reality. There are cats ev-er-ry-where, which was quite honestly brilliant! Our villa even came with 3 cats, a little kitten whom we christened Jessop before we had even got out of the car on day one, her pregnant mum, Penny and her Dad Agamemnon, named just because we were in Greece – we weren’t much more imaginative than that. There were cats weaving in and out of your legs as you ate your meals in courtyard restaurants, there were cats sleeping on stone steps, doorways, shop windows and street benches. The local cats are known to all the residents and we were given a running commentary on all the cats in one bar we went to, one particular cat that slunk by was singled out for being a ‘bad cat.’ When we enquired as to why we were told that he liked to bite the other cats. A bad cat indeed. Since our return we are contemplating putting Willow and Welsey on diets. Our fat lazy housecats seem quite at odds with the felines we have been frolicking with all week, when I first saw Wes I thought he had been eaten by yogi bear so ginormous he seemed in comparison.

16

24

17

Like many travellers I like to go on holiday to eat, but probably more so than most as I am horribly greedy. Greek food is a little hit and miss. I have had excellent Greek food in the past, but the problem is that a lot of places we went to were offering very lazy versions of moussaka, stifado and kleftiko. However, there were a few dishes which stood out. One of the specialities of Skopolos is the Skopolos cheese pie, a curl of filo pastry stuffed with thick molten cheese, easy to get very wrong I should imagine depending on where you order it. It sounded so intriguing though and I am thankful that I tried it at Anna’s, a lovely courtyard restaurant swaddled within the twisty stone streets of Skopolos Town where pomegranate trees plump with fruit droop becomingly over your table. The Skopolos cheese pie I ate there was studded with strawberries and graced with almonds. The crisp of the pastry contrasted delightfully with its soft oozing interior.

This was not the only time where I appreciated the art of filo and surprisingly I ate a most delicious minced meat pie from a tiny bolthole in Skiathos on our stop through whilst journeying home. It was so simple but the pastry was crunchy around the soft meat and chewy at the edges. I rarely cook with filo and this is definitely something I will rectify on my return.

10

Skopolos is rightly very proud of their plum trees which are prevalent throughout the island, so in turn you cannot open a menu without seeing plums or prunes paired with some sort of roasted meat. The best example of this was at Angelo’s Restaurant in the harbor of Skopolos Town where I was served meltingly tender goat with fat plums, perfectly cooked rice and two fist sized roast potatoes. I am terrible as I love the Greek habit of serving rice with white potato, for some reason this carby combination is one of my creature comforts and this was easily my favourite, if not the most sophisticated, meal I ate on the island.

15
I am always inspired by the local ingredients on holiday and like to stay in my own villa if I can so I can experiment. The cooking is just as fun as going out to restaurants, working from a limited larder where the focus of your cooking is sharpened. I made a stew of cinnamon chicken, a celebration of the best produce Skopolos had to offer – with large juicy prunes and richly fragrant honey. I used chicken in my version as we ate a lot of red meat out at the restaurants and I was looking for something that night a little lighter. If I were to make it at home, I would make it with chicken thighs which are more flavourful and probably lose the sausage but if you are working with chicken breast which is a lot leaner then the sausage gives the dish a bit of oomph to brazen out the sweetness of the sauce.

9

The Greek Salad at Angelo’s

One of the most refreshing things about the restaurant menus on Skopolos, besides telling you exactly which dish was made from frozen produce, was the wide and varied range of salads on offer. They are given their own section, they are not only served at lunchtime and they are celebrated just as much as any other dish on the menu. We always included a salad with every meal we ate, which some of the restaurants found a bit odd as we would order it alongside our main dishes which is not really the done thing. We also made sure we ate at least one Greek salad every day. There was one fateful day where we ate it twice, but that was considered a touch too far in the feta aftermath. The Greek salads you get in Greece are worlds away from any Greek salad you could possibly make at home. The reason is simple, you just cannot get Mediterranean tomatoes in the UK. It’s the unabashed heat of the roasting sun which ripens the tomatoes on the vine which give the fruit its flavour and polytunnels in the Isle of Wight just do not do the same job. The flesh is soft and warm without any hint of fluffiness and the juice inside is sweet and luscious. The cucumbers are remarkably unseedy with firmly rippled emerald skins and tight bodies. If you are going to make a Greek salad at home, purchase the best feta you can find which crumbles to the touch, choose the tomatoes which have travelled to your farmers’ market the least distance and ugly organic cucumbers which are far superior to their slimy supermarket counterparts. The addition of honey and cinnamon to the dressing is not authentic but once I cheekily included the honey first time round it brought such a rich forest flavour direct from the mountains of Skopolos that I couldn’t bring myself not to include it every time. The cinnamon I snuck in just because it turns out that at the moment I can’t bear to prepare any meal without a pinch of the auburn spice to add a pep of warming sweetness and Greek cinnamon is quite wonderful.

We eat a lot of tzatziki at home, the version noted below is a little different to the one I normally prepare where I usually grate the cucumber and add a touch of coriander and plenty of mint. In Skopolos though mint is swapped out for dill and it makes the dish taste entirely different but just as delicious. The tzatziki we were treated to in restaurants were punched through with handfuls of garlic to complement the accompanying herb and fish roe fritters which we ate in the beautiful Agnanti restaurant in Glossa or the flowers stuffed with rice and spices which we ate in great mounds at the restaurant of Molos on the harbor of Skopolos.

13

Skopolos Tzatziki

200g greek yoghurt
¼ cucumber, finely diced
2 tbsp finely chopped dill
2 garlic cloves, crushed
a pinch of sugar

Mix all the ingredients together with plenty of seasoning and serve.

Cinnamon chicken with prunes and honey
Serves 2

1 chicken breast
¼ tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
120g pork sausage
1 glass white wine
1 tbsp honey
10 prunes, stones removed and chopped
Plenty of seasoning.

  1. Dice the chicken, then sprinkle with seasoning and cinnamon and set aside whilst you begin cooking the dish.
  2. Place the olive oil in a large saucepan and bring up to heat. Add the onion and garlic and sweat them gently until just turning translucent.
  3. Add the cinnamon chicken and the sausage and stir together until the chicken begins to brown.
  4. Splash in the white wine, turning up the heat to middling. Then add the honey, prunes and some more seasoning.
  5. Toss everything together then simmer for 10 minutes until the prunes are plump and the honey has melted.
  6. Serve with rice or a simple Greek salad.

Greek Salad
Serves 2

100g feta, crumbled
2 good sized tomatoes, diced
¼ cucumber, diced
¼ red onion, finely sliced
1 tsp honey
A pinch of cinnamon
Squeeze of lemon juice
A generous tablespoon of olive oil

Don’t be shy with this salad, chop your ingredients heartily and mix it all together with abandon.

Roasted Butternut Squash Mash with Feta, Pistachio and Mint Pesto

Roasted Butternut Squash Mash with Feta
In my kitchen there is usually a butternut squash sitting in my vegetable rack, awkwardly resting atop onions and sweet potatoes and always threatening to topple. Despite the amount of space it takes up I do like to have one hanging around. It lasts for a while after you bring it home, it’s tough skin seems to protect it for a week or two, so it’s good to keep in for when all your other vegetables are gone.

Roasted Butternut Squash Mash with Feta | Stroud Green Larder

Preparing butternut squash though, is one of those kitchen jobs which I find such a bore. Despite what some chefs suggest I don’t like leaving the skin on – it’s too much of a chew, so I have to resort to the laborious peel of it. We got a new peeler recently though, it’s an OXO Good Grips Y Peeler one since you asked, and actually it makes much easier work of the peel (unlike our Jamie Oliver peeler which, I’m sorry Jamie, is terribly flimsy). You still have to take the skin off in a couple of layers but it’s much better than to try and wield a paring knife along the undulating curves of the vegetable.

Roasted Butternut Squash Mash with Feta | Stroud Green Larder

Although once you’ve peeled it, that’s only half the job done as then you have to tackle those seeds which are like unwanted squatters, absolutely impossible to evict, despite every effort to dig at them. These days I just cut around them which does mean losing a little good squash but certainly saves my sanity. I remember watching Saturday kitchen ages ago and one of the random members of public that they have eating at the table asked the chef of the day what the easiest way of preparing a butternut squash was. I watched keenly, eager to find out some key technique which I had been missing all these years, only for the chef to turn to the man with disdain and say ‘Practice.’

Roasted Butternut Squash Mash with Feta | Stroud Green Larder

Roasted Butternut Squash Mash with Feta | Stroud Green Larder

I am also particular about how my butternut squash is cooked. I can’t bear it al dente and simply cannot fathom the inclusion of it in those pre-packaged stir fry vegetables from the supermarket. I believe it should be roasted until the flesh is silky smooth but slightly chewy on the edges where the sugars have begun to caramelise. This means then that I favour a long, slow roast. If I am going to mash the squash then I chop it into even 1 inch sized pieces and tuck it into the oven for an hour or two until it’s reached the tenderness I desire. I often mash it quite haphazardly as well so it’s beautifully textured rather than pureed. If I’m not going to mash it, then smaller pieces can be acceptable for a quicker roast but then I am after much crispier edges.

Roasted Butternut Squash Mash with Feta | Stroud Green Larder

Roasted Butternut Squash Mash with Feta | Stroud Green Larder

Butternut squash can be quite dense and I usually need a portion of greenery to accompany it to lighten the load. The brightness of the mint within this pesto sings in complete harmony with the squash. The feta and pistachio give a fresh creaminess and sweet savouriness to the proceedings with a zing of lemon to perk it up. We ate this with some lamb chops which had been grilled for just long enough that the thin layer of fat had crisped up but the inside was still pleasurably medium rare. It really felt like something special.

Roasted Butternut Squash Mash with Feta | Stroud Green Larder

Roasted Butternut Squash Mash with Feta, Pistachio and Mint Pesto
Serves 4-6 as a side

2 x butternut squash (about 1.3kg each)
60ml olive oil
75g shelled pistachios
28g fresh mint, leaves removed from stalks
10g parsley, leaves removed from stalks
1 clove garlic
75g feta
Juice of ½ lemon
Black pepper
150ml extra virgin olive oil

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180°C.
  2. Peel the squash and remove the seeds. Then cut into 1 inch thick pieces.
  3. Pour the olive oil into a large roasting dish and follow with the pieces of squash, making sure they are all coated in the oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Place the dish in the oven and roast for about 2 hours, checking occasionally to turn the squash over. The squash is ready when it is completely soft in the inside and the edges are just caramelising.
  5. Whilst the squash is roasting you can make the pesto. Place the pistachios in a food processor and blitz until finely ground.
  6. Add the mint, parsley and garlic and blitz again until chopped very finely.
  7. Scoop the feta into the food processor, squeeze in the lemon, and grind in some black pepper then whizz up again so that all the ingredients come together to form a thick paste.
  8. Then with the food processor still on, stream in the olive oil slowly so that it incorporates into the paste and forms a smooth pesto. Set aside until the butternut squash is ready.
  9. Once the squash has been removed from the oven, then take a masher to it. How smooth you want the squash is up to you.
  10. Serve the butternut squash mash with healthy drizzles of pesto.