The Aigua Blava Cookbook #1

Image of the garden from the apartment's terrace

This blog 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.

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.

Image of the sea and garden from the terrace

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

  • Servings: we cooked for 3
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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

Image of the ingredients ready for the oven


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 40-50 minutes, or 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.

Image of lemon and garlic chicken with rosemary, somewhat squished

14 thoughts on “The Aigua Blava Cookbook #1

  1. I love that photo-in-a-wine-glass. So clever. I quite often ‘do’ chicken in the manner you describe. But it really does depend on having a damn’ tasty chicken, doesn’t it? I still haven’t tasted any half as good (poseur alert) as the ones we bought down the road when we lived in France, despite their muscly little legs. I’m looking forward to your Catalan season.

    • Thank you, although you do have to turn it upside down to ‘read’ it! And yes, you really do need a good chicken. That’s why I often buy guinea fowl in the UK instead. The Catalan food thing will be an occasional series, a cunning ploy to make you keep coming back to check … 🙂

  2. Love the heritage. You had me at “Dissecting the inner ear on one page, paprika chicken on another.”. I grew up in a medical family and we even had a real skeleton in a suitcase under one of the beds. Though, only while my sister was studying medicine. One of the advantages of Dad being the City Coroner, I suppose.

    • Both of my in-laws were doctors tho’ I don’t think we ever had a real skeleton in the closet. I’d like to have met your dad. I still remember the story of him smuggling proper food in when you were in hospital.

      • He was a wonderful person. He was a very private person in many ways. He had a book written (typed without a copy). It was lost in a fire in the family home. The shock of the fire nearly killed Dad. He never mentioned the book again and didn’t try to rewrite.

      • Too true Linda (the memories not the facile). I’m not so far off the age at which he died. Hopefully, I’ll see more of the second half.

  3. Gorgeous pictures – like Margaret (who incidentally is my friend and lives down the road from me) I LOVE the wineglass one. Lovely recipe too, the sort of thing I love to cook when away from home and don’t have my store cupboard to hand.

    • Thanks, Penny. I didn’t realise you two knew each other. A bit of a long shot but I have to drive from Suffolk to Teesside in June – would I be passing anywhere near you? Can’t remember where you are exactly, sorry.

  4. Hi
    Margaret and I are both just a few miles north of Ripon. If you come up the A1 you’d be detouring off a few miles but wouldn’t take long. I’m away in the Cotswolds from the 9th to the 21st. Would be great to meet you!

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