with Hilary Cacchio

When I first moved to the Vallespir my friend Jacqui found it highly amusing that visiting the local vinegar producers within the region was one of my top priorities despite the fact that I was sleeping on an air-bed having not found the time to buy a bed!

I have been impressed by the difference in the styles and tastes of the vinegars available from the Vallespir vineyards. The latest addition to my collection of single estate vinegars is from Treloar Vineyards, which nestles into the base of Mount Canigou. It is wonderfully sweet yet savoury.

I was told by one vineyard in Cosprons that I am the only English visitor they have ever received, I can only hope that I made a good impression on behalf of England! The use of vinegar is not new to Catalan cookery and was probably introduced by the Moors.

Throughout the spring and summer the farmer’s markets in the Vallespir are laden with baskets of tiny potatoes (the size of marbles) and bunched fresh onions (like huge spring onions) and these ingredients, along with the wealth of show-stopping vinegars from the region inspired this dish. I would suggest that you use locally reared free-range or organic chicken joints. The Boudin Blanc/Butiferra Blanca is optional and white pudding could be used as an alternative*. A pleasant twist to this dish is a handful of Padron Peppers added when you remove the chicken then cook the dish for a further 10 minutes to enable the peppers to absorb the flavours (you can buy Padron Peppers from Brindisa and Waitrose).

* People are often wary of white pudding, but I must say, the tastiest roast pheasant I have ever encountered (in Glenisla, Scotland) was stuffed with white pudding. My friend Janet always stuffs her Hogmanay pheasants with white pudding and then slow roasts them in the bottom of the Aga, and the white pudding absorbs all the meaty juices and flavour from the pheasant. Ultimately, if you don’t like it, don’t use it, but maybe give it a try before ruling it out entirely.

Chicken Baked in Vinegar

Ingredients:

♦ 2 Large Coeur de Boeuf Tomate (Beef Tomatoes) or Marmande tomatoes chopped into bite-size pieces
♦ 4 Cloves of Garlic (ideally new season) with the skins removed and chopped in half lengthways if particularly large
♦ 2 Tendre Oignons, peeled and chopped into quarters (or eigths if the bulbs are particulaly large) and roughly chop the green shoot (you can use spring onions)
♦ 200g Tiny New Potatoes
♦ 45 mls Good Quality Red Wine Vinegar (I use Treloar)
♦ 45 mls Extra Virgin Olive Oil
♦1/4 Tsp Pimente d’Esplette or Cayenne Pepper
♦ 2 Cuisses de Poulet (chicken leg and thigh joints)
♦ 200g Boudin Blanc or White Pudding cut into 2cm pieces (optional)
♦ Bunch of Parsley roughly chopped
♦ 4 Handfuls of Rocket
♦ Seasoning
♦ 24cm Paella Pan

Preheat Oven to 150C
In a medium-sized bowl whisk together the vinegar, oil, Pimente d’Esplette/Cayenne Pepper, and seasoning. Add the tomatoes, garlic, onions, and new potatoes into the bowl and toss them to coat thoroughly.
Put the chicken joints into the paella pan and pour the tomato/onion/potato mixture over the chicken, ensuring it is well-coated. If you are using Boudin Blanc/white pudding, sprinkle it over the chicken too. Put the paella pan into the preheated oven for one hour.
After one hour, toss the chicken and the vegetables in the pan to recoat with the juices and vinegar, turn the oven up to 200C, and return the paella pan to the oven for 30 minutes.
When the 30 minutes is up, remove the chicken and keep it warm. Turn the oven up to 225C and return the vegetables to brown for about 10 minutes. After which, return the chicken to the paella pan and sprinkle over the parsley.
Spread the rocket over a large serving platter and tip the chicken, vegetables and cooking juices from the paella pan onto the platter.
Serve immediately.

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HilaryVisit Hilary’s blog  for a slightly more modern take on Catalan recipes, or order her new book, Sourdough Suppers’ on Amazon.fr or ebay.fr or by email at hilaryjj@btinternet.com

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