Harissa chicken with bean and sweet medlar-pickled-onion couscous




Now here is a dish to awaken the taste-buds in a summer that stays somewhat reticent!  A little warmth from the harissa and chilli with a tang from the shallot pickle.

Medlar fruit in the stratta garden

  • 12 chicken thigh fillets
  • 2 tbsp rose harissa paste
  • 1 green chilli, deseeded and finley chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 500g fresh broad beans, podded (or 175g frozen)
  • 200g couscous
  • 2 shallots, finely sliced
  • 60ml stratta sweet medlar vinegar
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 25g flat leaf parsley


Toss the chicken thighs with the harissa, chilli and garlic.  Season and ideally leave to marinade for an hour in the fridge.

Cook the broad beans for 2-3 minutes in salted water.  Drain and run under cold water then remove the outer pale green skins.  Set aside.

Put the couscous in a bowl, season and pour over 300ml boiling water.  Cover and set aside for 10 minutes.

Put the shallots in a bowl with the medlar vinegar; set aside.

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium high heat.  Fry for 15-18 minutes, turning often, until there is no pink meat and the juices run clear.  Transfer to a plate, cover with foil and leave to rest.

Fluff the couscous with a fork and add the remaining 1tbsp olive oil.  Finely chop the parsley stalks and most of the leaves and stir into the couscous with the shallots, their pickling liquor and broad beans.

Serve the chicken on the couscous with a sprinkling of parsley on top.





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Winter Fruit Salad

A tasty way to end a meal in mid-winter when Jack Frost is about and the snow lays crisp and even.DSC_0044

  • 4 firm pears – conference or concord
  • 2 eating apples
  • 150g dried apricots
  • 50g dried figs
  • 4 plums
  • glass of port or red wine (if using red wine add a tablespoon of soft brown sugar)
  • 125ml stratta mulled fruit vinegar


Peel and cut the pears and apples into chunks.

Place all the ingredients in a pan, bring to the boil and then simmer very gently for about 20 minutes.

Leave to cool and allow the flavours to develop for at least a few hours before serving. This dish is best prepared the day before and served slightly warm with a good quality vanilla ice-cream.




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Baked Aubergine

As promised last week, here is the recipe for the baked aubergines we cooked to accompany the lamb in the last blog.  This is one of our winter favorites and we always make sure we cook far too much so we have some left-overs to eat on the run in between bottling and looking after the grandchildren!

Five oils 250ml

  • 2 large Aubergine
  • Small tin of chopped plum tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium onion
  • 100ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 50ml stratta smoky Moroccan infused olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons stratta redcurrant balsamic vinegar
  • Cracked Black Pepper
  • Sea Salt
  • Optional – 2 teaspoons harissa paste


Split the aubergines length-ways

Criss-cross the flesh in diamond slashes 1 cm apart making sure not to pierce the skin.

Place in an oven proof dish skin side down and use the 100 ml of olive oil to cover all the cut surfaces.

Pop into a preheated oven at 170º for 20 minutes

Whilst the cooking gets underway,  finely chop the onion and garlic and mix with all the remaining ingredients.  If you like your food a little spicy, now it the time to add in the harissa paste.

When the 20 minutes is up, spread this mixture onto the aubergines making sure to cover all the cut surfaces.  Bake for a further 20-30 minutes until the aubergines are soft and unctuous.

Serve immediately with a dollop of plain yoghurt or crème fraiche.




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Slow roast smoky Moroccan lamb with couscous

On a cold wet January evening this dish warmed the cockles of our friends’ hearts.  We added oven baked aubergines as an accompaniment (more of this in the next blog) and included a dish of plain yoghurt to soften the edge of the chilli for those who prefer less heat.


Warming lamb with friends

For the lamb

  • 1 leg of lamb on the bone
  • 1 kilo red onions, peeled and thickly sliced
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons stratta smoky Moroccan oil
  • 1 fresh chilli
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • Sea salt and freshly milled black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons stratta redcurrant balsamic vinegar


For the couscous

  • 400g couscous
  • 2 tablespoons stratta lemon olive oil
  • 600ml water plus 2 chicken stock cubes (or your own chicken stock)
  • Handful fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • Handful fresh mint leaves
  • Handful fresh coriander leaves
  • 100g black olives, pitted and halved
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • Sea salt and freshly milled black pepper



Preheat oven to 140°C.

Crush the garlic and finely chop the chilli, mix them into the smoky Moroccan oil along with the redcurrant balsamic vinegar.

Scoring the surface of the lamb will help the flavours be absorbed into the meat.

Place all of the red onions in a large roasting tin and put the leg of lamb on top.  Pour the Moroccan mixture over the lamb and rub in well.  Finish with some sea salt and freshly milled black pepper.

Roast for 4-5 hours, uncovered, basting occasionally.  Gently lift the lamb out onto a serving dish and cover with foil to rest.

Use the chicken stock to de-glaze the roasting pan so that you end up with a rich onion sauce.



Dissolve the chicken stock cubes in the boiling water.

Stir the lemon oil into the couscous along with salt and pepper.  Add the hot chicken stock, stir, cover and leave for 5 minutes.  Use a fork to fluff up the couscous before finally adding in the remaining ingredients.   Serve immediately.

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Jack Monroe’s vinegar and tonic

Our daughter popped round earlier to help us with some recipe ideas for the blog this year.  She suggested that we look at Jack Monroe’s website for inspiration… and what did we find but an ingenious use for our sweet fruit vinegars.

Never one to miss the opportunity, we immediately reached for the black mulberry vinegar and a dash of tonic and are now itching to experiment some more.  In the past we have diluted with water or added a splash into prosecco, but the tonic gives it a fabulous edge.  In fact, the supreme judging panel at the 2011 Great Taste Awards used our raspberry vinegar (diluted in spring water) as a palate cleanser between tastings!  The raspberry went on to win best ambient product in the UK that year!

Jack Monroe Inspired Vinegar and tonic

Thank you so much Jack Monroe for creating, and to Vicci for leading us to, this delicious drink.

Cheers, John and Mary

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Mary’s mulled sprouts

Sprouts at Christmas can have a mixed reaction, but Mary has devised a delicious alternative to the unappealing overcooked mush that sometimes masquerades as an accompaniment to festive fare.  This dish combines the freshness of the sprout with the salty smokiness of the bacon, the rich texture of chestnut and the deep spiced fruitiness of the mulled vinegar.

Christmas sprouts

  • Around 250g Brussel sprouts
  • 2 rashers of streaky smoked bacon (sliced) or 75g pancetta cubes
  • 8 Chestnuts – cooked and peeled – chopped into small chunks
  • 1 onion finely sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon stratta mulled fruit vinegar


Par boil the sprouts, remove from the water.

Cut the sprouts in half and set aside.

In a sauté pan heat the olive oil and add the onions until they soften a little.

Add the bacon and chestnuts and sauté until the bacon is cooked and the chestnuts are heated through.

Add the sprouts to the pan along with the stratta Mulled Vinegar.

Toss all the ingredients together for a moment.





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Poached Mackerel Fillets

We get our mackerel on Wednesdays mornings from Paul Day of Sussex Fish at East Dean Market. He is based in Seaford but is also to be found at Borough Market in London on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The finest fish from the finest monger!


  • 4 Mackerel fillets
  • Glass of white wine
  • Dessert spoon Gooseberry or Elderflower vinegar
  • Finely sliced onion (red or white)
  • Fresh Thyme and Winter Savory
  • Cracked black pepper corns and a little sea salt
  • 2 bay leaves


Bring all ingredients, except the mackerel, up to a simmer in a wide based pan.

Lay the mackerel fillets in the liquor, pop on a lid and allow them to poach for about 4 minutes.

Lift the fillets out and reduce the sauce by half over a fierce heat.  Finish with a knob of butter.

Serve with couscous and a generous helping of steamed chard.

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Oven Roasted Winter Vegetables

Now is the season of mists and mellow vegfullness!  For a full bodied meat-free Monday dish you need look no further than your autumn veg rack.  The following may appear a somewhat loosely formed list of ingredients but it depends firstly on what you happen to have gathered from your garden, allotment or local farmers’ market, and secondly which your favorites are!

  • 1 kilo mixed winter vegetables comprising any of the following – but definitely including the onions and garlic!
  • Sweet Potato
  • Beetroot
  • Parsnip
  • Butternut Squash
  • Carrot
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ segment of stratta salt preserved lemons
  • crushed black pepper

Salt preserved lemons

Peel and crush some garlic cloves into a goodly dollop of extra virgin olive oil along with black pepper to taste.

Take a segment of the lemon, scoop the pulp back into the jar, rinse the rind and slice finely.

Chop your mixture of winter vegetables into chunks and toss them well in the olive oil with the lemon.

Roast in a hot oven for around 45 minutes until cooked, turning twice along the way.

Serve with couscous or chunks of warm crusty bread.

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Spiced Pear Glazed gammon

Continuing our autumnal fruit theme, Mary has developed this fabulous way of finishing a gammon in the oven.  Graham Love grows wonderful fruits up at Greenways Farm near Cowbeech and he cropped some perfectly firm pears that Mary prepared, poached and spiced into the vacuum jars.

The spiced pears are great partners for cheese, scrummy additions to winter fruit salads and we have a great friend who simply reaches for the clotted cream!!

Meanwhile, back to the baked ham –

spiced pears

  • 1 ¾ / 2kg gammon piece
  • 600ml perry or cider
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon juniper berries
  • Spiced Sussex pears from stratta!

Cover the gammon with cold water, bring to the boil and skim.  Pour in 450ml of perry, add the bayleaf, black peppercorns and the juniper berries and gently simmer for an hour and a half.  Lift out of the pan, cut off any string and remove the skin.

Place the joint in a roasting tin, score the fat and press in 3 or 4 quarters of the spiced pears which have been well drained and mashed.  Add the remaining perry and a little of the spiced pear juices for basting during the glazing. (oven gas mark 6, 200C for about 20 minutes)

Serve, hot or cold, with a few thin slices of spiced pear.

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Squash and Rocket Salad with Pears

This time of year, as the days shorten and the air chills down, it is time almost to be thinking of hearty stews but with conference pears at their very best and the occasional warmer spells here is one for such days.

If you have a butternut squash to hand – this is a delicious and easy recipe to try.


Sarah Raven suggests that this dish can be used as a side dish without the rocket (perhaps with pan-fried lamb or pork fillet), on its own as a first course warm salad with the rocket added at the last minute, or simply as a salad, served cold.

Serves 6

  • About 1kg prepared butternut squash cut into large chunks
  • Herbes de Provence infused olive oil (stratta)
  • Sea salt and freshly milled black pepper
  • 3 firm pears, peeled, cored and sliced in to 4 pieces (Tom Maynard http://www.maynardsfruit.co.uk/) (In the picture above we were prepping for quite a crowd!!)
  • Butter
  • 4 handfuls of rocket or mixed salad leaves
  • Finely chopped winter savory or rosemary
  • Slivers of Lord of the Hundred cheese (http://www.traditionalcheesedairy.co.uk/)


Toss the squash in the olive oil and seasoning and roast in the oven (170C/gas mark 3) for about 45 minutes until softening and beginning to char.

Sauté the pears in the butter with the herbs until the pears are slightly brown but still crunchy.

Scatter over the salad leaves when cool and top with slivers of cheese.

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