29/05/2015 06:56 BST | Updated 28/05/2016 06:59 BST

The Aigua Blava Cookbook #1


My food blogging has its genesis in a hand-written cookery book, now in its second volume, that I began 17 years ago in Aigua Blava in Catalonia.

I am fortunate enough to have married a man who, with his siblings, inherited an apartment in this lovely village on the Costa Brava. I'm even luckier to have married into a family who are as fond of food and cooking as I am. I am custodian of my late mother-in-law's cookery books, one of them written in the back of the medical notes she made when she was training to be a doctor. Dissecting the inner ear on one page, paprika chicken on another.

2015-05-26-1432650520-9327580-reflection.jpg I think it was my sister in law Sarah who first suggested I write down the recipes we were cooking when we were in Spain. We called it the Aigua Blava Cookbook.

That morphed into Mrs Portly's Kitchen and now takes in food from around the world. But Mediterranean cooking is still at the heart of much of what we make, even if the raw ingredients come from our Suffolk garden.

Sarah is one of the best people with whom to share a kitchen. We take it in turns to be chef and KP when we're in Spain and have to rein ourselves in from what's become known in the family as Competitive Cooking, if only to save our waistlines from expanding faster than our culinary repertoire.

This is a preamble to sharing a series of the recipes we've cooked together over the years. Some of them are Spanish, some specifically Catalonian, others are an English take on Mediterranean ingredients. This is a dish I made when we were in Aigua Blava recently, using the excellent chicken available locally. It would work just as well with guinea fowl or with spatchcocked poussins.

Lemon and Garlic Chicken with Rosemary (we cooked for 3)


3 large chicken legs (drumstick and thigh)

1 bulb of garlic, unpeeled, sliced in half horizontally

3-4 sprigs of rosemary

2 unwaxed lemons (or scrub waxed ones under a hot tap)

3-4 large waxy potatoes

Olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper



Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a deep frying pan and brown the chicken joints all over. Set aside.

Cut the potatoes into chunks and toss in the remaining oil in the pan.

Slice one of the lemons fairly thinly and scatter over the base of a lightly oiled, non-stick baking tray. (Mine wasn't non-stick and you can see the results in the final picture.)

Lay the chicken joints on top and add the potatoes. Tuck in the halved garlic bulb and the rosemary.

Cook, uncovered, for about 45-60 minutes, until the chicken skin is crispy and the juices run clear when you poke a knife into the thickest part of the meat. If the potatoes aren't quite done, take the chicken and lemon slices out and rest somewhere warm while you continue to cook the potatoes. They should be golden brown.

Squeeze the softened garlic from its skins and stir into the potatoes. Serve with the remaining lemon cut into quarters. A crisp lettuce salad is good with this.