Thursday 1 January 2015

5: Gino D’Acampo–A Taste of the Sun–Cooking the Books


Starter:      Prawn Skewers with Lemon, Butter & Chilli

Main:         Crispy Chicken baked with Lemon and Fennel

Dessert:     Lady’s Kisses


Thank goodness, a simple week with 'to hand' ingredients and fast and easy recipes from Gino. Along with Christmas preparations, present wrapping, tree decorating, food ordering, general Christmas thinking...all the women will know what I mean, that it doesn't just 'happen'. I mean, I know it's a magical time but really?! I'm one of the lucky husband always cooks Christmas dinner, with my mum roped in as sous chef. The usual 70s dish of prawn cocktail for starters, with an addition of smoked salmon, then a less traditional forerib of beef for mains. I was told I hadn't given enough warning this year though as my husband was desperately searching around for how best to cook this lovely joint so he can begin to prepare himself! 

Sorry, just like to let you what's running through my head at any one time! The first dish I made this week was the main as a lovely crispy fennel arrived, as if by magic, in the veg. box so that was a given. The next was the prawns, something simple I really should do more often, and the third the biscuits, chosen as I had all the ingredients and F loves biscuits. Especially sandwiched with Nutella! 

Starter: Prawn Skewers with Lemon, Butter & Chilli

Easiness: 8/10, easier if you pan fry the prawns without skewering first!

Taste: 7/10

Make again: 7/10

Cheats & Changes: I didn’t skewer the prawns and used ready cooked


Easy peasy this one,simple to both prepare and cook. Make a chilli lemon butter: cream the butter, add finely grated lemon zest and juice, and finely chopped red chillis. Thread the prawns onto a skewer then brush with the butter. Grill or pan fry till the prawns are pink or hot all the way through. Drizzle over more lemon juice, sprinkle chopped flat leaf parsley on top, toss and serve with crusty bread to dip. Simple but a classic flavour combination, and you can change quantities as desired.

Main: Crispy Chicken baked with Lemon and Fennel

Easiness: 7/10

Taste: 6/10

Make again: 5/10

Cheats & Changes: None


The chicken dish is just as easy as it's simply a case of slicing and roasting. Cut the fennel into eights through the core, slice onions and lemons. Strip thyme leaves. Put all in an ovenproof dish and top with chicken thighs, skin up, seasoning and drizzling with extra virgin olive oil. I used breasts as that's what we'd ordered this week, but thighs would have been better and juicier. Cook for about an hour until the chicken is cooked through and the veg soft. If using breasts, put the veg in first for 35 minutes on its own, then add the breasts for the last 20/25 minutes of cooking time. You may want to pan fry them skin side down first to crispen them.


This is a change from all the usual one-tin chicken recipes as I’d never usually add fennel to chicken, preferring it with fish, but it does work. Nice for a change, but doesn't give a lasting impression – I probably wouldn’t make it again in a hurry, unless I was wondering what to do with a ‘bottom of the fridge’ fennel.

Dessert: Lady’s Kisses

Easiness: 7/10

Taste: 9/10

Make again: 8/10

Cheats & Changes: 0

Readers will know I struggle with biscuits, often overlook them in fact, but I think that through this challenge, I'm going to improve as I'm beginning to choose them quite often! I’ll make no apologies for a very similar idea to last week, but these were even better. So yummy in fact.


When I next make them, however, I’m going to make them slightly thinner and smaller as it was too much of a mouthful, even for me!

The recipe’s here but it’s a case of combining usual biscuit ingredients, baking, leaving to cool then using Nutella to sandwich them together!  These really are quick, easy and delicious!


All that remains to be said is Happy New Year. I hope this year time slows slightly and that I remember to live and treasure every moment.

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Would love to hear your thoughts and ideas!
Merlotti x

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