Lemon Chicken with Provençal Couscous and Peach and Blackberry Pandowdy

by Kristin on September 14, 2010

Heading down the hill on my way home after a walk this past weekend and thinking that I was glad I’d worn my fleece, I could see smoke coiling from the chimney of a neighbor’s farmhouse. While I’m not ready to say it’s autumn just yet, I did think to myself that this meal might well be marking the end of summer.

In Ireland, blackberries grow wild in the hedgerows and the countryside is full of them at the minute. I was lucky enough to be able to get all the blackberries I needed for this dessert just by stepping out my back door and picking them from in amongst the hedges that line the perimeter of my yard. I’m not so lucky when it comes to peaches though. They’re one of my favorite summertime treats, but the peaches that you buy in Ireland don’t have the same juice-dribbling-down-your-chin lusciousness as the ones you can get in the States. When I was back there in July, I got my fill of all the summertime staples I used to take for granted but now miss: bratwurst, frozen custard, iced coffee, sweetcorn, watermelon and, yes, peaches from the farm stand. I’m not giving up hope of having an Indian summer, but I’m taking a cue from my neighbor and will be stocking up on turf and firewood again all the same.

If your pastry-making skills aren’t the best, this is the perfect dessert for you. A pandowdy (the word actually means ‘unfashionable’ or ‘without style’) is like an upside-down pie, with the filling right in the dish and the crust on top. It’s a rustic dessert and is meant to look like one, so you don’t have to worry about perfect presentation – you can even make it in a cast iron skillet. As for me, I’m no pastry expert, and in fact used to avoid any recipes that called for it because I was so bad at it, but I’ve had great success using a tip I learned watching Rachel Allen’s Bake program this spring – roll out the pastry between two sheets of cling film. It won’t stick to your counter and you won’t have to add any extra flour for dusting, meaning the pastry will stay light and flaky. Try it!

Lemon Chicken with Provençal Couscous
lemon chicken adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten and couscous from The Irish Independent, July 3, 2010

Serves 4

Please don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients for the couscous, it’s only a few spices and vegetables. This is the best couscous dish I’ve ever made – I promise it will be worth the effort of a bit of measuring and chopping.

for the lemon chicken:
1/3 cup (80 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 or 3 lemons)
1/3 cup (80 ml) olive oil
2 or 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 large rosemary sprigs or a few sprigs of fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)

for the Provençal couscous:
1/2 pint (300 ml) chicken stock
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon chili powder
juice of 1/2 orange
6 oz (175 g) couscous
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, finely diced
1 red pepper, halved, deseeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 yellow pepper, halved, deseeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 small zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the chicken, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Pour it over the chicken breasts in a casserole dish, then tuck in the fresh herbs around the chicken. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, but ideally overnight. The next day, preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Remove the chicken from the marinade, shaking off any excess, and place on a baking tray. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, or until cooked through.

Meanwhile, to make the couscous, bring the stock, spices and orange juice to the boil and cook gently for 10 minutes. Pour the couscous into a large bowl and pour a quarter of the liquid over it. Stir, cover completely with cling film and allow to steam for 10 minutes. Break up with a fork and pour in another quarter of the stock. Cover once more and let it rest for another 10 minutes. Loosen with a fork again. Add the rest of the stock and cover once more. Once the couscous has absorbed all the liquid and fluffed up, it is cooked. If there is any excess liquid after the couscous has fluffed up, you can simply drain it off.

While the couscous is steaming, you can get on with the vegetables. Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat. Sauté the onion for 2 to 3 minutes in the olive oil, then add the peppers and garlic. Cook for 2 more minutes, then add in the zucchini. Cook for a further 3 to 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender but still hold their shape. Season with salt and pepper, then mix the vegetables through the couscous.

Serve the chicken on warmed plates with a portion of Provençal couscous.

***

Gingered Peach and Blackberry Pandowdy
adapted from Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson

Serves 8 to 10

I know this recipe looks awfully long and involved, but honestly, it’s so straightforward my five-year-old daughter helped me to make it. This is the pastry recipe from Rustic Fruit Desserts, but if you have your own tried and true pie pastry recipe, just use that.

for the pastry:
1 1/4 cups (150 g) flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup (110 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup (60 ml) ice water, or more if needed
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

for the filling:
2 lb (900 g) peaches, pitted (anywhere between 4 and 8 peaches, depending on size)
1/2 cup (100 g)  sugar
juice of 1 large lemon
2 tablespoons cornstarch (cornflour)
2 tablespoons (15 g) chopped candied ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 dry pint (2 cups/about 300 g) blackberries, either fresh or frozen
vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream, to serve

To make the pastry, put the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl, stir to combine, then put the bowl in the freezer for about 10 minutes, until super cold. Add the butter cubes to the flour mixture and toss evenly to coat. Cut the butter into the flour mixtures using a pastry blender, electric mixer or your hands, until the butter is about the size of peas. Stir the water and lemon juice together, then slowly drizzle over the dry ingredients, tossing with a fork to distribute the liquid. The pastry will be shaggy but should hold together when squeezed in the palm of your hand. If it doesn’t, add a few more drops of ice water. (Alternatively, just blend the flour mixture and butter in a food processor and slowly add the liquids until the dough has reached the right consistency.)

Tip the pastry onto a lightly floured surface and press down on the dough, folding it over on itself a few times until it holds together. Try not to handle it too much, or you’ll develop the gluten too much and your pastry will be tough. Shape the pastry into a 1-inch-thick disc, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. (If wrapped well, the pastry will keep for up to 3 days in the fridge of 3 months in the freezer; defrost frozen pastry discs overnight in the fridge.)

When the pastry has rested and you’re reading to make the pandowdy, preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Butter a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan.

Wash the peaches, pierce the skins all over with a fork, then slice each peach into 10 to 12 slices, depending on how big the peach is. Put the peaches in a bowl, add the sugar and lemon juice, and toss gently until the fruit is evenly coated. Set aside for 15 minutes to draw out some of the juices, then strain the juice into a small saucepan. Cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the juices have reduced by half. Rub the cornstarch, candied ginger, ground ginger, and salt together in a bowl.

Remove the pastry from the fridge. Tear off 2 large pieces of cling film and place the pastry between the pieces. Roll it out between the sheets of cling film until it’s a little larger than the diameter of your pie pan or skillet. If you want, you can place the pie pan or skillet upside-down on top of the pastry and use it to cut the pastry to size, otherwise just eyeball it.

Add the cornstarch mixture and reduced juices to the peaches. Add the blackberries and stir gently until evenly combined. Pour the fruit mixture into the prepared pie pan and top with the pastry circle. If the crust is a bit larger than the pan or skillet, just tuck it inside (remember, it’s rustic!). Place the pie on a baking sheet to collect any drips. Bake for 50 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the fruit is bubbling. If you find that the top is browning too much, cover it loosely with foil for the rest of the cooking time. Cool for 1 hour before serving with some ice cream or a dollop of sweetened whipped cream.

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