End of summer: Crispy Panzanella

Grape tomatoes.

Image via Wikipedia

Well, it’s officially nearing the end of the summer, and that means that it’s our last chance to make use of some seasonal produce before… well, let’s not kid ourselves – pretty much everything from the summer is still available all winter round, albeit at a price. But my late summer favourites are strawberries, tomatoes and corn on the cob, and it’s now that these babies come into their own. All of these are on sale at supermarkets, but if you get yourself to a farmers’ market, you can get them even cheaper. Punnets of strawberries for a couple of quid, tubs of cherry tomatoes for 70p, I even bought five ears of corn for a pound a couple of weeks ago.

Here’s a great recipe I found in a foodie magazine ages back, for a crispy crouton and spicy tomato salad. Although it’s called Panzanella in my recipe folder, panzanella is usually made with bread that’s a bit soggier than the stuff you’ll find here. This recipe gives you fresh tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, drizzled with a spicy, garlicy dressing, and pepped up with crunchy, crispy croutons. It’s one of my favourites, and you can make it all year round thanks to the supermarkets. But why not make it now, when everything’s at its cheapest and best?

Recipe for Crispy Panzanella


  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • One red chilli
  • Sea salt
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 200ml olive oil
  • Small red onion
  • 450g tomatoes
  • Black olives
  • Half a cucumber
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 very small loaf, torn into small chunks
  • Handful of basil leaves


  • Turn the oven onto medium heat and drizzle some of the olive oil over your bread chunks. Sprinkle with a little sea salt and bake in the oven until crunchy and golden brown.
  • Cut your salad ingredients (pepper, cucumber, tomato, onion).
  • Crush the garlic and chilli together in a pestle and mortar with some sea salt until you get a pungent paste.
  • Mix the vinegar, sugar and olive oil together, and whisk in your chili, garlic and sea salt.
  • Mix together the dressing with the vegetables, and allow them to sit for around an hour.
  • Wait until just before serving to pour the veggies and sauce over your croutons, to keep them crispy and fresh. Tear over the basil leaves and serve.

Chicken in Milk

Anyway, this recipe is a bit of a weird one – a whole chicken baked in milk with lemon zest, garlic and sage… Courtesy of Jamie Oliver (again) from Happy Days with the Naked Chef. I’m starting to think that Mr. Oliver is the king of the whole chicken – I thought it was Nigella that was always roasting a bird…

Here’s the costing.

Tesco Organic chicken : £7.27
Half pack of butter (!) : 47p
Bunch sage : 68p
Half a cinnamon stick: from cupboard
2 lemons (unwaxed): 62p
One bulb garlic : 30p
1 pint milk : 45p

Grand total : £9.79.

Week Six : Organic chicken

There’s the chook – another organic one. Mr. Oliver – do you have shares in an organic chicken farm…? I never can tell the difference. Will I be lynched for saying that? It seems like a foodie crime.

Week Six : Ingredients
This recipe makes me weep – look at that giant block of butter at the back there. Guess what you do with that beauty? Use it for frying and then…. throw it away. Oh no, I don’t think so! I used some of it to cook some pink fir apple potatoes, and very nice they were too. Throw it away, psh.

Right, so the first thing you need to do is turn these:

 Week Six : Lemons

into this…

 Week Six : Lemon zest

Looking at the picture for Jamie’s version of this, his lemon zest is more like lemon peel. I did try to do it like that, but my knives defeated me.

 Week Six : Aromatics

So these are the flavourings of your chicken in milk. Cinnamon, garlic and lemon zest – and of course, your sage.

Get your butter, melt it in a pan, and then brown the chicken off. There’s a lot of butter and the chicken is very big and delicate, so it’s slightly easier said than done to move the chicken around in the pan without breaking its skin. I ended up using two wooden spoons like a pair of forceps.

 Week Six : Browned chicken

Did it in the end though – and doesn’t it look delicious? DO NOT EAT, though – this is slightly underdone…

Chuck away the butter (sob sob) and then return the chicken to the pan with the half a cinnamon stick, the sage, the zest of two lemons, the 10 cloves of unskinned garlic and the milk.

 Week Six : Chicken in milk

Looks appetising, but kinda weird.

Now, you roast and baste, roast and baste. Roast and baste for an hour and a half, which is the standard cooking time for roasting a 1.5kg bird (see, I’ve learnt something!). If you’ve diligently basted and roasted, this is what you end up with:

 Week Six : Chicken in Milk

Looks pretty exotic, I think! The idea is that the lemon zest slightly curdles the milk and you end up with a split lemony milk sauce which you eat along with the chicken, some mashed potatoes and some wilted greens. We ate ours with roasted pink fir apple potatoes and some spinach.

The milk sauce didn’t split that much. It was very unusual, to say the least – pretty much what you would expect when you infuse garlic, lemon and sage in milk. The cinnamon didn’t show up so much – I blame it on the fact that cinnamon sticks really vary in how long they are. Is that a foodie joke: how long is a cinnamon stick?

 Week Six : Chicken in Milk side on

The scores:

M gave it 7.5. He said it was ‘all right’. This is his standard answer to things when he doesn’t know what I want him to say.

I gave it 7. It was nice, very unusual, but I can’t see the point of doing it other than it was exotic and weird. Maybe the lemon didn’t really work so well for me, because the sauce was just a little odd. Nice, but the kind of thing you’re not totally sure about and stop eating halfway through. Maybe a bit rich…

On the other hand, it did provide me with a pint of curdy lemony milk and chicken stock which I used in a potato soup, and some creamy chicken flesh that went really nicely in a risotto…

Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic

This recipe is one I’ve cooked before, but I wanted to cook it again, partly because it’s good and partly because I wanted to blog about it. I can’t remember the first time I heard about it, but I was definitely in my teens. I also have a copy of French chef Camille le Foll’s book Les Classiques de Camille (available in English as well) with a recipe for it. So I was totally aghast when I was watching an old episode of Nigel Slater’s Real Food (complete with a very young looking Nigella Lawson) with him and a bunch of snobby foodies (one of them was Alastair Little) talking about the dish as though it was a totally bizarre urban legend. You can actually watch the episode here, and they start talking about ‘the myth’ around 11 minutes on. Alastair Little said he never heard of it, so proceeded to make up a version. I’d love to be so smug as to think that just because I’d never heard of a recipe, it must be made up. Maybe one day.

Needless to say, I think Alastair Little is a ponce. Very good at cooking, but every time I see him on TV, I wish I hadn’t.

Anyway, I had heard of chicken with 40 cloves of garlic, and I’ve cooked it, and it is nice. So I thought I’d cook it again. Here’s the costing.

Wallace Red Freedom Endorsed chicken : £4.73
Fresh parsley : £1.19
Bunch sage : from garden
Thyme : £1.19
Rosemary : from garden
Bay leaf : from garden
150ml olive oil : store cupboard
3 bulbs garlic : 89p

Grand total : £8.00 exactly. Spooky. And, shameful, because I grow all these herbs in my garden, but they are sort of dwarf, mini versions I dare not pick any leaves from, in case they die…

Week Five : Chicken

So here’s the chicken – no specific type needed, so I thought I’d get this Freedom Endorsed chicken from Sainsbury’s which was on special offer. Sorted.

Next step was to separate out the cloves of garlic – no peeling needed, thank goodness. If you ever wondered what 40 cloves of garlic looked like, this is for you.

Week Five : 40 cloves of garlic

Surprisingly few, right?

Week Five : Macro garlic

But still, so good looking. Ah, garlic…

Week Five : Seasonings

Anything that starts with garlic, herbs and olive oil has to turn out good, right?

Chop a sprig of parsley, sage, thyme and rosemary and sprinkle it over the chicken together with salt and pepper, and cover with the olive oil. A lot of olive oil. Then, pop the bay leaf inside the chicken, and scatter the garlic around the edges.

Week Five : Chicken ready to go

Then you roast it for an hour and half, either covered with foil or a lid.

Week Five : Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic

Once you take it out, the garlic should be delicious and soft, and you can squeeze it out of its skin… and eat it! Yum. Or spread it on the delicious chicken meat.

Week Five : Garlic on bread

Serve it with crusty bread and a green salad. I also made roasted cherry tomatoes from the garden, sprinkled with a little sugar, dried thyme, salt and olive oil.

Herby tomatoes

So, what’s the verdict? Was it too garlicy…?

No such thing.

The scores.

M gave it 8. He likes garlic.

I gave it 8.5. I like garlic too. And, it’s a quick and easy recipe, unusual and very delicious! If you like garlic… you will love this.

Hello autumn!

Autumn feels like my season. Ever get that with a season? Something about it just makes me feel like I’m coming home. It helps that my birthday is in October, but I love the fact that autumn is a real season of celebration. Halloween, harvest, bonfire night, Thanksgiving – even Christmas, although it’s obviously in winter, is ever-present. The crisp air of a sunny, cold day, the colour of the leaves, the smell of bonfire smoke. Ah, I love autumn.

Sugar pumpkin

I bought a couple of beautiful sugar pumpkins at the farmer’s market last month – I love having pumpkins and gourds on my windowsill all through autumn and winter, but when I saw this recipe in Good Food magazine this month, I had to eat it. A whole mini pumpkin, stuffed with garlic and thyme infused cream and milk, with a generous helping of parmesan cheese? Yes please!

Hello autumn!

I ate this for lunch and it was really good, but way too much for me. And I felt like a slug afterwards. But, you know, it was still totally delicious and I don’t regret a thing, except maybe my thighs…

Hello autumn! I’ve missed you!