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Chicken in Sherry Sauce

I have only  ever been on one packaged holiday and it was to Lloret de Mar, on Spain's Costa  Brava and I must say that  I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was in 1965 and  the hotel building boom was getting underway and the hotel where my girl friend and I were lodged  was surrounded by building sites and scaffolding.

  But  being young and madly in love obviously had something to do with our cheerful acceptance of the dust and the noise  which continued throughout the day and sometimes into the night.  Our hotel fought back bravely and competed with the din by the continuous playing of Palito Ortega’s “La Felicidad” , the Righteous brothers’ “Unchained Melody” and Tom Jones’s “It’s not Unusual”. These three 1965 hit songs appeared to be the sum total of the management’s record collection.

During the day we would escape along the packed beach of Lloreta, passing the ancient  San Joseph’s tower, and in ten minutes be on the empty sands of neighbouring Fenals, where garlicky scampi, shrimp and squid were on offer from  the beach’s only building  - a bamboo shack.

Every evening, the two of us would leave  the deafening boom of the poolside music and wind our way through the old part of town to a traditional tavern,  to drink in comparative peace the  dry sherry or red wine and nibble at slices of the air cured hams  which hung in profusion from the ceiling. Ah!  Happy days. But I still remember l how sad we were to see the destruction of so many beautiful old mansions and villas to make way for more hotels and what would be the future massive influx of tourist.

A couple of years ago I stopped Lloret de Mar, while driving along the coastal road from France  to Barcelona and it was hideous. The good news is that the Spanish are to knock down many of the jerry-built  obscenities and allow re-construction in keeping with the environment.

Being in the mood for romantic reminiscences of old Iberia, for Sunday lunch I plan to prepare  Chicken in Sherry Sauce. It is a simple dish to be found in all regions of Spain and like the majority of their dishes it is easy to prepare and is  what I would  call rustic. Being that sherry is required for the recipe, it will also be an excellent excuse for me to open a bottle of medium sweet Spanish Jerez and sit back and dream of times past. 
It is important to use a really strong casserole dish - the spanish terracotta ones are the best for this recipe.

• 1 chicken jointed
• 4tbsp olive oil
• 100g ham (slices)
• 1 onion
• 150g mushrooms
• 150g sherry
• 1 bay leaf
• Salt and pepper

1. Heat the olive oil in a casserole dish and add the chicken pieces and cook until they are browned
2. Chop the onion and ham and slice the mushrooms >
3. Add the onion, ham and mushrooms to the casserole dish and sauté for 5 - 10 mins
4. Pour in the sherry add the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper
5. Cover and simmer until the chicken is tender (approx 20 mins) - Fly at a Smile-Price