Boned and stuffed chicken

Boning a chicken isn’t actually that hard, so long as you have a sharp flexible knife and you have some instructions and take your time. The most important thing is to keep the skin as free from holes as possible. Continue reading

The end of summer, time to say goodbye to summery food

It is nearly October now and, despite the recent warm sunny weather the mornings are misty and cool and the leaves are turning brown. Continue reading

Another Sunday, another roast dinner

And once again, it is my favourite roast chicken.

This is a pretty traditional take on the Sunday roast; chicken seasoned with salt and pepper and roasted with thyme, potatoes roasted in duck fat, roast parsnips and a bed of Savoy cabbage, cooked with some smoked bacon lardons and thinly sliced carrots, all finished off with gravy made with the roasting pan juices and stock.

It isn’t fancy cooking but it is comfort food par excellence.

You can drink anything you want with a classic roast chicken; red wine, white wine, beer, cider or nothing. Personally, I like a good red, ideally one with some age to it and today we had a bottle of 2008 St Nicolas de Bourgueil. This was a Vieilles Vignes wine from Domaine Guy Hersard, a producer whose vines are grown predominantly on sandy, gravelly soil. As with all wines from this appellation, the grapes are 100% Cabernet Franc.

For pudding, I made another classic, a bread and butter pudding.

This is a great pudding. Often I make this with brioche but today I used the more traditional white bread.

First you soak some sultanas in brandy (or cold tea).

You make little triangular buttered sandwiches which you have sprinkled with Demerara sugar and place them in an oven dish. Then you scatter over the brandy-soaked sultanas.

You cover this in a custard base, made by whisking cream, milk, two eggs and two egg yolks, flavoured with vanilla extract, to which you add the soaking brandy (if you have used cold tea, throw it away).

Finally, grate some fresh nutmeg over the top and bake this until the custard is lightly set and the bits of bread that protrude are golden and crisp. I like my custard almost liquid here, I don’t really want it fully set. If you do prefer it firmer, use four whole eggs.

You don’t really need anything else with a bread and butter pudding, but a dollop of clotted cream is a lovely indulgence.

Chinese New Year roast pork

It was Chinese New Year on Monday 23rd and we are now in the Year of the Dragon. We were watching the BBC1 TV programme Saturday Kitchen yesterday and Ken Hom was on, cooking a roast pork and egg-fried rice dish to celebrate the new year.

We love roast pork, especially with lots of lovely crackling so Sunday dinner was decided for us.

I had to modify Ken’s dish a bit because I was late getting to the butcher and all of the belly pork had sold out, so I bought a piece of boned and rolled loin and opened it out. The skin side had already been scored by the butcher, which I wouldn’t have bothered with if I’d had a piece of belly, but I scalded the skin with boiling water and wiped it dry just as I would have if it had been belly pork.

The meat side was rubbed with five-spice powder, caster sugar and crushed Sichuan peppercorns and the joint was left out on a rack so that the skin would stay dry.

It was roasted in a hot oven, on the rack in a dish of water, for about an hour and a half, less time than for belly, but loin lacks the fat to keep the meat moist.

The egg-fried rice was made with Thai fragrant rice that had been cooked earlier and allowed to cool on a tray. First, the rice was fried in hot sunflower oil and then two large eggs, beaten with pepper, salt and sesame oil were added and stirred into the rice. Before serving, the rice was garnished with chopped spring onions, which were stirred into the rice.

In addition to the pork and rice, I served some steamed pak choi, which was dressed with a simple sauce made from some oyster sauce, sesame oil and sweet chilli sauce.

To go with this, we had a nice bottle of red Burgundy from the Cave des Vignerons de Buxy, the 2007 AOC Bourgogne Côte Chalonnaise Rouge Château du Cray, which is really drinking well now. It has a lot of good Pinot Noir character and soft red berry fruitiness and the tannins are really soft and integrated.

Coincidental lamb koftes

On Friday we had already decided that Saturday night would be kofte night and it made me smile this morning to see that Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, writing in The Guardian magazine, had a merguez-style kofte recipe. Well, I like merguez too, so this seemed too good an opportunity to miss.

I decided to use his recipe for tonight’s meal, because it looked good, but I didn’t bother with leaving the meat mixture overnight (well, I didn’t actually have the time) and I mixed the sesame seeds into the mixture rather than coating the koftes, because I used my griddle to cook them instead of a frying pan. Also, I didn’t add any poppy seeds. Apart from that, it was pretty much as described in the link, except I bought both minced beef and minced lamb from the butcher and they were sufficiently fatty.

To go with them, I made a red and white cabbage, red onion and grated carrot salad, with a lemon juice and olive oil dressing, some thinly sliced Turkish green peppers dressed with olive oil, salt and cider vinegar, cacik, hummous, a splash of hot chilli sauce from a bottle (Encona is great here) and pitta bread.

They were pretty tasty, but I think that next time I will put the minced meats in a processor to make the mixture a bit more close-textured. I’ll definitely use this recipe again though.

To drink we had a bottle of Hochar Père et Fils 2005, from Majestic, which is the second wine of the famous Lebanese winery, Chateau Musar. This was a fabulous rich wine, made from classic southern French grape varieties and with real depth and fruit. It is lighter than the main wine from the estate but is still a wonderful, mouth-filling red wine that works brilliantly with Middle Eastern and North African flavours.

Walnut tart with brandy icing

This recipe is taken from Keith Floyd’s excellent book, Floyd On France, which accompanied one of his earlier, and better, BBC TV series.

The tart is a traditional recipe from south-western France, where walnuts are a major crop and turn up in all manner of dishes. Continue reading