(As promised, here’s yesterday’s post, which has been lying dormant in a sleeping netbook. I have taken steps to ensure that powerouts will not happen again. Thank you for your patience and consideration in this difficult time.)
We had rellies over this weekend, which always puts me in a nurturing, big-food mood. I love to gather people around our big round table and give them something good to eat. We lunched out heartily, so I was a little worried that my dinner would be picked over and poked about the plate without much interest. I was wrong.
I’ve always been a fan of the simple roast chicken, which takes so little effort and gives so much. The trick is not to ponce about, but allow the pure, clean flavours of the main attraction to shine through, with just a couple of accompaniments. On occasion we’ve simply had chicken with fresh warm bread and lots of aioli, but that’s a TLC and I treat that I don’t do for anyone else.
My way with chicken? A lemon up the backpipe (jabbed all over with a knife so that it squirts hot juice into the flesh as it cooks), olive oil massaged over the whole of the creature (think of how you would put suntan lotion on the one you love. Massage it in. Don’t be shy. You’re cooking with love), lots of Maldon salt and fresh ground pepper. That’s all. The chicken gives out enough fat to either baste your spuds or to make a thin, intense gravy. This time around I did neither, choosing to go a little French with a potato boulangerie (finely sliced potato and onion layered in a deep dish, covered with stock and baked) and a green salad of lamb’s lettuce and, in a trendy touch, pea tops, which look a bit like watercress and taste a bit like Bird’s Eye’s finest. The boulangerie was sloppy enough to create the lubrication the dish needed. It was great, and five empty plates told me all I needed to know. Then we had chocolate cake. Clearly, lunch had worn off.
The carcass was dealt with after we’d waved our guests goodbye the following day. It was stripped of any remaining meat (not much) then dumped in a pan, covered with water, and joined by peppercorns, the lemon (after I’d squeezed the sweet, tart juice over the leftovers) and a bay leaf. That bubbled away quietly to itself for a bit, maybe an hour or so, until I had a straw-coloured broth.
I’d done an emergency run to the shops the previous morning, and spotted Toulouse sausages on special, and a clever pack of beans and veg designed for a casserole. Sunday dinner fell into place in an instant.
The sausages were quickly fried off in a big pan after a dust with flour, which instantly gave them a tasty crust. Then the bean mix, and everything was tossed together to make friends. Once they were singing away happily, the remnants of a bottle of red from the night before went in, reduced down to cook off the booze and enrich the flavours. Then some of the stock from the chicken, enough to cover, and a squirt of tomato puree. I tipped the whole lot into my little red casserole dish with the lid, and into an oven at 200c/Gas 6 for an hour. The resultant stew was rich, unctuous, rib-sticking. There were whole cloves of garlic in the bean mix, which had softened enough to squish to a paste. The whole shebang was served with the remains of the Saturday loaf, and the leftover spuds from the boulangerie, pan-fried with leeks and mushrooms until a crust formed.
There’s enough stock left over to make a risottoish thing with the lemony chicken leftovers. One cheap chook has supplied enough to help out three meals. You don’t get that with a tray of pieces.