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Salsa Verde

There is something amazing about Salsa Verde. Perhaps it’s the versatility of it; it really does go with everything from meat and fish to vegetables and potatoes. The perfect accompliment to a summer barbecue. It’s a recipe that packs a punch, so if you appreciate strong bold flavours, you’ll fall in love with it for sure.

Salsa Verde translates simply to ‘Green Sauce’. There are literally millions of versions out there, Italian, French, Spanish, Mexican. You name it, almost every country appears to have their own version incorporating different herbs and cold raw ingredients. The recipe below is my perfect balance of flavours.

A small amount of this Salsa Verde will totally transform any dinner into something truly remarkable. It keeps well in the fridge and even gets better with time. That’s if you have any left; it was so popular with my barbecue guests I had none left to save. Much to my disappointment.

You can keep it refrigerated for about a week and a half, or you could freeze it. Pop it into ice-cube trays and use them to jazz up pasta dishes and soups.

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Spicy Vegetable Rice with Prawns

I figured that if it’s good enough for Jamie Oliver and his 15 minute meals, it’s good enough for Miss Friday’s midweek meals. I’m talking about Uncle Ben’s Express Rice; I had a pouch of his Wholegrain Tomato and Basil Rice with Quinoa lurking in the back of my cupboard, which was the inspiration behind tonight’s dinner. Of course I had to pimp it up a little.

I’m a huge fan of short cuts, and I make no bones about it either – especially during the week when time is tight, or for those evenings where you’d rather not be slaving over the hot stove all night. Yes, even I have days like that.

So, using what I could find in my fridge (a few random left over vegetables) and store cupboard (herbs and spices) I created a speedy midweek meal that also happens to be wonderfully healthy. I had some jumbo king prawns to use so I decided to make this delicious spicy rice dish. It reminded me of a jambalaya, now I realise the ingredients are quite different, but you’ll appreciate what I mean from the picture.

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Spicy Vegetable Rice with Prawns
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Dinner
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • Uncle Ben’s Express Tomato and Basil Wholegrain Rice
  • 225g cooked jumbo king prawns
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red pepper, small dice
  • 1 red onion, small dice
  • 1 courgette, small dice
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Knorr herb infusion stock pot
  • 600g chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp spicy smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp dried chilli flakes
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the chopped vegetables and garlic, cook for about 10 minutes stirring until the vegetables have softened. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  2. Then add the chopped tomatoes, stock pot, and vinegar, allow to cook for a further 2 minutes before adding the sugar, paprika and chilli flakes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the rice in the microwave and add it to the pan, mix well to incorporate all of the vegetables.
  4. Finally, add the jumbo king prawns and simmer for 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

 

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Donna Hay’s Classic Spaghetti & Meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs have got to be the ultimate comfort food. I love them, the boyfriend on the other hand has never been convinced – that was until he tried this recipe. I’ve tried plenty of recipes before, but never have I found one as good as this. It’s a Donna Hay recipe, she uses a combination of pork and beef mince which is definitely the secret. The bold fragrant aroma of sage and fresh basil work beautifully in unison in this dish – a real palate pleaser. The sauce is so fresh tasting, I’ve made it twice now and both times it was delicious. This recipe simply wouldn’t be complete though without a large glass of read wine.

I urge you to try this recipe, it makes a large batch (far too many meatballs for two, about 30 if I remember rightly) which is great as they freeze so well in batches ready for a speedy week-night supper when you are in a hurry; the sauce also freezes well.

Given all the changes to my blog recently I’ve been cooking from recipes and books for a while, rather than being adventurous myself, it saves time and produces a fool proof delicious meal every time, so I bring you this one from the wonderful Donna Hay.

All that is about to change though as I embark on what is likely to be a labour intensive festive cooking extravaganza, meaning I’ll be putting my creative culinary skills to the test. I’m helping out at my cousin’s Christmas open day (he owns a Butchers and Delicatessen) and has asked me to provide an array of festive baked goods for people to sample and order ahead of Christmas. I guess that means I’ll have a busy December lined up, I’ll be sick of the sight of mince pies. It also means I’ve been running about like a headless chicken in search of hamper baskets, cellophane and various other wrapping items at a reasonable price.

Donna Hay Meatballs

Click here for Donna Hay’s Classic Meatballs recipe!

 

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Halloumi Salad

This vibrant salad is bursting with flavours; the peppery salad leaves and red onion are delicious with the cool herby yoghurt and salty halloumi. I’m going to be honest, I quite often find salads the most boring thing to eat, but a well thought out salad with balanced flavours is actually quite a delicious little dinner.
I’m trying my hardest to be good at the moment, and failing quite miserably for the most part. You may or may not have seen my previous post on indulgent chocolate buttons. I’m constantly torn between my love of food and not wanting to be fat, a battle I fear I’ll always face. But, when I am disciplined enough to be healthy, I feel quite chuffed with myself, especially when a healthy dinner turns out to be so tasty. So, if you are like me and practically turn your nose up at the thought of having a salad for dinner, just give this a go, it’s truly delicious.
It’s hard to beat grilled halloumi, but if you’re not a fan feta would work well too; essentially, it’s the salty element of this salad that I love the most. Even my meat eating carnivore of a boyfriend was happy to have a supper without meat, for once! This dish would make a wonderful side for a BBQ too now that we are coming into Spring.
  
* 250g Halloumi
* 100g Watercress, spinach and rocket salad
* 225g vine tomatoes
* 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
* 50g croutons (either bought or homemade)
* 150g low fat natural yoghurt
* Handful chopped basil
* Handful chopped dill
Preheat the oven to 160⁰C.
Mix the chopped basil and dill into the yoghurt and set aside.
Remove the tomatoes from the vine, cut in half and place on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the tomatoes for about 10-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, assemble the salad; place the salad leaves, red onion and croutons in a large salad bowl, top with the roasted tomatoes and yoghurt dressing.

Place a griddle over the heat and add the halloumi and fry for about 4-5 minutes on each side ensure both sides are lightly browned. Pop the halloumi on top of the salad and serve immediately. 
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An Italian Dinner Party

I’m certain that a few people will loathe me for saying this, but it’s too bloody hot to eat at the minute. Maybe it’s the muggy weather, but food seems to be the last thing on my mind. There I said it. Truth be told, it’s been an awful week anyway, which may be another reason I’ve taken a side step from the kitchen. My good friend Richard decided to fall out of a window and break his back and his ankles. Ouch! So, with working and doing my Florence Nightingale bit I’ve not even had time to think about pulling out pots and pans, nor, quite frankly, could I be bothered to.
Anyway, enough about me and what I’ve been up to, I wanted to share this recipe/ menu plan with you in light of how busy I’ve been this week. This really is the simplest menu to put on for your friends. Everything can be served cold, which is perfect in this weather, and it also means you can prepare everything ahead of time – no last minute rushing around and working up a sweat which, lets face it, isn’t difficult in this weather.
You’ll notice the Italian theme with the menu, yes; I’m still stuck on Italian food. It’s so simple and tasty, what’s not to love? I decided to take the Jamie Oliver approach with this menu, by which I mean sticking everything on a big platter and letting people help themselves, it’s easier and a huge platter of steak looks great in the centre of the table, doesn’t it?

Italian Canapés

For the arrival of my friends I made some canapés. Perhaps the easiest thing to prepare, but they look really impressive and colourful, people comment on the effort you’ve made, when it actually takes you no longer than 2 minutes, great! Make the canapés by poking a little ball of mozzarella, a sun-dried tomato, a piece of Italian cured meat and a little basil leaf onto a cocktail stick. I’d make about a dozen for four people. Serve with some Italian olives.



Bruschetta Starter

You can’t get more Italian that bruschetta, it’s a simple, colourful and wonderfully rustic starter to serve for a crowd. And, you can be as creative as you like when it comes to the toppings. I’d recently seen a recipe for goat’s cheese and dill bruschetta in Olive magazine, so I knew that was a must, but with one of my friends being pregnant, I wasn’t entirely sure which cheeses were safe, so I thought I’d make few other variations.
Slice and toast the ciabatta bread, remove from the oven and rub with a raw garlic clove, drizzle with olive oil and top with any of the following combinations:
  • Chopped cherry tomatoes, basil and mozzarella
  • Soft goat’s cheese, dill and semi-dried tomatoes
  • Mozzarella, salami and semi-dried tomatoes
  • Mozzarella and salsa verde

The variations of toppings are endless. Experiment and create different types to suit your guests. I had a pregnant friend, a friend who doesn’t eat goat’s cheese and a friend who’ll eat anything (you know who you are!). Serve your bruschetta as is, or with a bowl of king prawns and a quick homemade lemon, mustard and mayo dip.


Homemade Italian Salsa Verde (for the main)

2 garlic cloves
80g fresh basil, roughly chopped
80g flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
60g fresh mint, roughly chopped
6 anchovy fillets
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp capers
1 tbsp good Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Blend the garlic and herbs in a blender until very finely chopped (you may prefer to do this by hand). Add the other ingredients and blend to combine, pouring in the oil slowly whilst still blending. You should be left with a thick pesto like consistency; it may be a little thinner, which is fine.
The salsa verde will keep in the fridge for 1-2 days

Steak Salad with Salsa Verde and New Potatoes – Main Course

Take a large serving platter and scatter with rocket, watercress and baby spinach.

Using rump or sirloin, season and fry the steak for as long as necessary. I like mine rare so a couple of minutes each side is enough. Rest for 10 minutes and slice thinly. Arrange the stake on the bed of salad and drizzle with a little olive oil, parmesan shavings and toasted diced ciabatta bread. Serve with homemade salsa verde and buttered new potatoes. 



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Authentic Tuscan Ragú


The best Italian food is simple, rustic and colourful

There must be a million ragú recipes out there, but this wonderfully versatile sauce plays such a big part in authentic Italian cookery, so one more won’t hurt. Made with the freshest ingredients and slow cooked to perfection, there is no doubt that a huge pot of rich, mahogany ragú bubbling away on the stove will set your taste buds tingling. The red wine and mix of different meats, beef and lamb mince and chicken livers really set this recipe apart from the rest and creates the most wonderful depth of flavour.
The versatility of this ragú is what I love the most; enjoy it with freshly made pasta or in a lasagne. But, for me its best served on toasted ciabatta bread, topped and vine tomatoes, freshly chopped basil and a few shavings of parmesan, all washed down with a delicious Italian red wine. Make a big batch and freeze it for delicious, but quick, weeknight meals.

I’ve mentioned a few times, I’ve recently discovered a love of authentic Italian cookery, so I was delighted when I received an email from the folks at To Tuscany, explaining that they were running a foodie blogger competition, and they wanted me to enter. The idea is to post a Tuscan inspired recipe, which is something I was only too pleased to set about making. Having thought about the basics of Italian cookery, and the simplistic approach Italian’s seem to adopt when cooking, I knew the recipe had to encompass three things, fresh ingredients, good preparation and enjoyment. There is nothing the Italian’s love more that sitting down to enjoy a lovingly prepared meal over a lazy afternoon. And, given that seasonality plays such an important part in Italian cookery, only the freshest ingredients would do.
I’m excited at the prospect of a foodie competition, mostly because it allows me to put my thinking cap on and get creative, but also because I want to win a week in one of your Tuscany villas. Really I do! Imagine sitting in the warm Tuscan sunshine enjoying a glass of the finest Italian wine and munching your way through some delicious bruschetta, knowing you’ve earned your way there by creating a delicious Tuscan recipe. Fingers crossed!
Given that ragú is probably one of the most common Italian recipes, and one that is showcased in various different versions all across Italy, it may seem an obvious choice. But, ragú is all too often ruined by people mistaking it for a simple flavour combination; it’s a far cry from simple, dull or boring. Made with the best quality ingredients and just the right about of love your ragú will have the most wonderful depth of flavour, making you feel as if you’re enjoying an authentic Italian dish on a hill-top hamlet in Tuscany. We can but dream…

Authentic Tuscan Ragú Recipe

Recipe makes a large batch for freezing

250g Beef mince
250g lamb mince
200g Chicken livers, finely chopped
5 tbsp Italian extra virgin olive oil (such as De Cecco Il Classico)
800g chopped tomatoes
5 tbsp tomato purée
200ml of red wine
Salt and black pepper
Handful of freshly chopped basil
10 vine tomatoes, halved
4 tbsp parmesan shavings
A combination of the following ingredients finely chopped is what the Italian’s call Soffritto, which forms the basis of many authentic Italian meals:
2 Red onions
2 Carrots
2 Celery sticks
1 sprig of rosemary (optional in most Soffritto recipes)
2 bay leaves (optional in most Soffritto recipes)

Start by heating the oil in a pan and gently frying the red onion, carrots and celery. Add the rosemary and bay leaves. Cook until golden, about 12-15 minutes. Remove the rosemary and bay leaves and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Add the meats to the pan and continue to cook for a further 15 minutes. Once browned add the wine and stir well. Cook until the wine and fat from the meats has evaporated.
Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato purée and season to taste.
Serve with toasted ciabatta, topped with a generous spoonful or ragú, a few chopped vine tomatoes, freshly chopped basil and parmesan shavings.

Bon appétit!

 Wine Paring – Piccini Super Tuscan – medium bodied, it’s a blend of Sagiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, particularly good with red meat, pasta and rich tomato sauce – Perfect indeed!


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Chilli & Garlic Prawns



A super simple supper that’s packed with flavour and goodness; what’s not to love? The simplicity is what I adore about this quick mid-week meal. It’s also something that is immensely healthy; with not a carb in sight it’s a good recipe to help you achieve that bikini bod. Unfortunately for me, I’m a little late, I’ve been on my holidays and never did establish that super trim tummy in time… but it’s never too late to try. I’ve pledged to get back into my running shoes next week, after a whole year off! God help me, I’ll regret all that paella I ate on holiday. However, all is not lost, with a few more meals like this one in the bag I’ll get there in no time.
Prawns are really the key here, because they have such a low calorie count, 100g of prawns has 105 calories, compared with 164 calories for half of a small chicken breast. Yes, I said half. If you are really not a lover of fish/ shellfish, why not try Quorn style chicken pieces, you can have 100g for just 89 calories. The trick is in creating a recipe that is stacked with flavour, but still manages to be low in calories and fat content. By skipping the noodles you’re saving around 200 calories, and trust me, with a recipe this delicious, packed with enough vibrant vegetables, you’ll hardly even miss them.
So, how do we create a tasty stir fry base? Simple, place your prawns into a dish, cover with the oils, soy, chopped chilli, garlic and basil. Refrigerate and allow the flavours to mingle for as long as possible, I suggest an hour or so, but if you’re in a hurry 15 minutes should suffice. You can add any stir fry vegetables to this recipe, the more colourful the better. I opted for sweet peppers and mange tout purely because it’s what I had in the house, but baby corn and spring onion would also be great flavours in this recipe. Be wary of using red onion, it would over power the delicate flavour of the prawns. Adding a large handful or bean sprouts would also be a nice addition.
8-10 shelled raw prawns
Handful of mange tout
2 spring onions
3 baby sweet peppers (red, orange and yellow)
½ large red chilli, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Handful of basil leaves, roughly chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
Marinate the prawns (as above). Meanwhile finely chop the peppers and spring onions, add these to a hot wok with a little oil. Once softened add the mange tout and the prawns and spoon in half of the marinade. Cook only until the prawns are pink and cooked through. This will only take a few minutes. I add the mange tout in at the end because i like it crisp to bite.

Season with freshly ground black pepper, easy on the salt, the soy will make the dish salty enough. 
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Lamb with Roasted Red Onions and Basil (Nigellissima)

 
This morningafternoon I woke with a rather fuzzy head and what can only be described as a gargantuan appetite. A few too many gin and tonics last night may indeed be the reason behind my pounding headache, but the hunger was all too evident. The problem is, I am very often sick with a hangover so food is out of the question, even water doesn’t sit well in my stomach when I’m it this pathetic state. I waited, almost all day; I toyed with the idea of leaving my onsie on to pop to the supermarket in search of ingredients for dinner, then I reasoned with myself that this was probably socially ‘uncouth’ behaviour and a little, dare I say, trampy? So, having dressed and washed myself, I spent the next half an hour searching through various recipe books for something that would hit the spot. I came across a recipe for roasted red onions with basil in Nigella’s Nigellissima book.  
Nigella suggests lamb to accompany the dish, which I thought was pretty darn perfect, so off I popped to the supermarket in search of my ingredients, and some headache tablets.
 
This dish is perfect as it is, I didn’t feel I needed any carbs, but obviously you could have new, roasted or even sautéed potatoes with it. The fennel seeds, balsamic and basil are all punchy flavours that are delicious with the sweet roasted red onions and slightly rare lamb. Having cooked up this little feast, I was actually quite disappointed that I didn’t have company to share it with. I’ve a friend coming for dinner on Tuesday so I might try it with roasted brussels sprouts and red onions. If you’ve never had roasted brussels – make sure it’s something you try, they are a far cry from the soggy, cabbage smelling, over boiled ones your mum puts on your Christmas dinner plate. Sorry mum! But, honestly I’m almost certain that even those of you who wince at the thought of a brussels sprout will enjoy them roasted. 

For Nigella’s Roasted Red Onions with Basil Recipe click here!

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Speedy Spaghetti with Sardines



Today is a special Friday as the time has finally arrived, moving day is tomorrow. Yippee! I couldn’t be more excited for my fresh start. So obviously the past few weeks have been busy ones, which has meant my kitchen has been rather neglected, hence the lack of recipe posts recently. It’s been a wash with reviews and bits and bobs really, and for that I apologise, but I didn’t want to abandon the blog all together. We all have times where life is just so hectic that we barely have time to think about dinner, let alone begin the tremendous task of pulling out pots and pans, so this post is dedicated to those of you who, like me, are experiencing life in the fast lane.


To be honest, this is almost a variation of Spaghetti alla Puttanesca, you’ll notice many of the same ingredients, but I’ve mixed it up a little. I was trying to empty my food cupboards ahead of the move and I found a lonely tin of sardines in tomato sauce. Why I even bought these in the first place is a mystery to me, but having discovered this recipe I’m kind of glad I did. And, before you’re inner food snob turns its nose up at the idea of fish in a can, think tuna but a little different. Really, it’s not that scary is it? Of course you could always use fresh sardines, but that completely defeats the object of this being a speedy store cupboard supper.

Given that this recipe is made with store cupboard ingredients it has some amazingly punchy flavours, the capers, balsamic vinegar and sardines give it the edge, but it’s completely off set by the small quantity of sugar and sweet basil – delicious!

I’ve realised that sometimes the most satisfying of recipes are discovered when you’ve not spent a small fortune on ingredients and haven’t slaved away for hours.  There is something much more rewarding about having salvaged ingredients from the depths of your cupboards and thrown it all together in 10 minutes. It’s that moment when you taste it and think – actually this is quite good. I even managed to make a little garlic ciabatta roll to accompany my pasta in this time.  Yes, I think I have developed an unhealthy obsession with garlic bread recently, although, I plan to have a stab at this Fasting Day diet some time soon. I know I’m not exactly overweight, in fact I worked out my BMI yesterday at it appears I am a healthy weight. Although, I’m not quite in the middle of the healthy weight scale, which I’d like to be; I think a goal of loosing 5lbs is sensible.

I’m going to keep a food diary for the week and include this in my review blog post; I’ll include the recipes from my fasting days too. Do you think it’s possible to loose 5lbs in one week? Ha ha, I’m not sure I’ll last any longer. I’ve never before attempted a diet so this will be interesting. Perhaps I should have done this a few weeks ago. I’m off to Majorca on the 4th June so I doubt if I’ll get my perfect bikini body by then, but then again, I’ll be over indulging in paella and sangria anyway, so who cares?

230g spaghetti
2tbsp olive oil
120g tin sardines in tomato sauce
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp capers, drained
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp caster sugar
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 red onion, finely diced
Half a bunch of freshly chopped basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan to serve

Boil the pasta according to the pack instructions.

Meanwhile heat the oil in a pan and add the onion, garlic and chilli, fry this for about 5 minutes until the flavours have infused. Roughly chop the sardines and add them to the pan along with the capers, chopped tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, sugar and salt and pepper. Continue to cook until the pasta is done.

Drain the pasta (reserving a little of the water). Add the pasta to the sauce, mix well ensuring that all of the pasta is coated. If the sauce is a little thick use some of the starchy water to loosen it.

Scatter with freshly chopped basil and parmesan, serve immediately.
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Stuffed Chicken Thighs

Thursday is great, but it’s even greater when you’re not working Friday. That’s right; you’re getting your Miss Friday post a day early this week, I’ll be off gallivanting on my best friends hen weekend tomorrow (excited face). We are off into town (London) for a couple of days and will be, amongst other things, wine tasting and overindulging in curry. I cannot wait.

I found this recipe over at the wonderful Italian Food Forever blog written by Deborah Mele. If you’ve not checked it out yet I suggest you do. I’ve spent many a lunch hour roaming through her endless pages of delicious looking Italian recipes.

Now, Italian food is something that I’ve only recently discovered properly. It appears there really is more to it than pasta and pizza. Who knew? What I love about this recipe is that it’s absurdly simple to throw together, but then that’s the essence of Italian food all together. Chicken thighs are a favourite of mine, I’ve always preferred the brown meat over the breast, for one of two reasons really; it’s much more moist and flavourful and it’s cheaper.

The sauce that accompanies this dish is so tasty, although I added a little lemon juice to mine. In fact, I made a few adjustments to the original recipe. I used Gruyère cheese instead of Provolone as suggested. I know it’s not very Italian, but I couldn’t get Provolone and in my confusion opted for Gruyère rather than the quite obvious substitute of Mozzarella. I needed something with a good melting quality… that’s right, I really am that stupid. Although, fortunately my stupidity, on this occasion, resulted in what turned out to be a very tasty supper. 




8 Large boneless and skinless chicken thighs
8 Slices prosciutto
120g Grated Gruyère
170g Fresh breadcrumbs
120g Grated parmesan 
1 Large egg
60g Chopped fresh basil
60g Chopped fresh parsley
60g Toasted pine nuts
3 tbsp milk
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper

To finish:
100ml dry white wine
100ml chicken stock
Juice from half a lemon
2 tbsp butter
60g chopped fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 200⁰C.

Use a meat hammer to pound the thighs to an even thickness. Salt and pepper each thigh, and top each thigh first with a slice of prosciutto, and then a little of the grated cheese.

Mix together the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, egg, basil, parsley, pine nuts and enough milk to moisten, season with salt and pepper. Take a scoop of this filling and place at one end of each thigh.
Roll up firmly, and tie securely with kitchen twine. (I used cocktail sticks; I mean really, who has kitchen twine?)

In an ovenproof frying pan, heat the olive oil and butter until very hot. Brown each of the thighs well on all sides. Bake the thighs for 25 minutes or until cooked throughout. Remove the thighs from the pan, and cover to keep warm.

Deglaze the pan with the wine over high heat, scraping up all of the browned pieces. Add the chicken stock and reduce this mixture by half over high heat. Add the butter, basil and lemon and mix well then season with salt and pepper.


Serve warm with the pan juices drizzled over top.