Sunday, April 28, 2013

Roast chicken, with its stock

Prolific cookery writers produce innumerable recipes for roast chicken, so perhaps I may allow myself to publish what is not the first example of its kind to appear here. (My entry on Heston’s roast chicken is the most viewed item on this blog.) I tend to stick to a technique for a while, and then to move on to another one. This is my current favourite. The timing is for a chicken of 1.5kg.

Gently work loose the skin above the breast bone, insert a knob of butter, and try to push it around so that it smears the breast meat. Rub the outside of the chicken with a little oil (olive or vegetable). Shove into the cavity of the bird whatever flavouring agents you like – lemon, onion, garlic cloves, herbs. Season with salt and pepper.

Put the chicken into an oven dish, along with any giblets you have (apart from the liver), and a halved onion. Pour in (but not over the chicken) 200ml water. If you do not have giblets, cut off the wing-tips and use those.

Roast at gas mark 6/200C for about 30 minutes, by which time the skin should have started to brown. Turn the giblets and onion pieces. Continue to roast at gas mark 2/150C for a further hour – but check that the chicken is continuing to cook at a steady pace, adjusting the heat if necessary.

Remove the chicken from the dish, and pour the stock into a small saucepan, adding the giblets and onions too. Having removed the lemon/onion/herbs first, you can hold the chicken by the wings with paper towels in order to pour the juices from the cavity into the saucepan as well.

I have a grill drawer above my oven, and I keep the roasted chicken in there to keep warm. It will hold for at least half an hour.

If you have just the right amount of stock (which is your sauce), simmer it further in a covered pan. If you want to reduce it, simmer it in an uncovered pan. Or you could top it up with more water before simmering it.

Check the seasoning. Strain the stock/sauce into a heated jug, and serve with the chicken.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Spaghetti carbonara, plus

With pasta sauces, less is more. But sometimes, nutrition is as important a consideration as authenticity. With two daughters to feed, and having in the house the ingredients for a carbonara and only a few vegetables (including the remnants of a packet of frozen petit-pois), I produced this. Our tastes are not particularly refined. Serves 3.

Olive oil
350g spaghetti
Olive oil
150g pancetta, cubed
1/4 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 banana shallots, finely sliced
Bunch of purple sprouting broccoli, sliced from the top, with the toughest parts of the lower stems discarded
70g frozen petit pois
3 eggs, lightly beaten
Scraping of nutmeg
50g parmesan or pecorino, grated
Salt and pepper

Bring a large pan of water to the boil, salt it generously, and immerse the spaghetti, allowing the submerged portions to soften so you can stir in the rest. Cook at a lively boil, stirring regularly.

Meanwhile, gently fry the pancetta in a heavy pan in a splash of oil. Allow it to brown and shed its fat, then throw in the garlic and shallots. Stir regularly. The shallots should soften in four to five minutes.

Keep testing the spaghetti. (The packet instructions will give a rough guide to the cooking time, but cannot be taken as definitive.) When it is nearly ready, throw in the broccoli and peas. After a further minute and a half, tip the contents of the pan into a colander.

Tip the drained spaghetti, broccoli and peas into the pan with the pancetta and shallots. Toss everything. Turn off the heat, and pour in the eggs (to which you have added the nutmeg, and possibly salt and pepper – but go easy with the salt). Toss again, until the spaghetti mixture is coated with lightly curdled egg. Tip in the cheese, and toss again.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Bananas and Greek yoghurt

Many people like to swirl honey or golden syrup into their Greek (or “Greek-style”) yoghurt. To my taste, these additions smother the acidic edge that makes the yoghurt so delicious.

Instead, I add just a sprinkling of caster sugar. For a quick pudding, I use for each sliced banana 3tbsps of yoghurt and half a tsp of sugar.