Food Glorious Food

I have a favour to ask. Alex pointed out to me recently that most of my recipes are for chicken and that he would like more ideas for cooking cheaper cuts of beef and lamb. That has me stumped. I don’t have a big repertoire of red meat dishes, and those that I do cook are not usually the cheaper cuts. So if you have an old standby, an economical and simple beef or lamb recipe, please share it with me in the comments section.

In the meantime I want to share this recipe (adapted from Sarah Graham’s book Bitten) for roast chicken which, after many years of roasting chicken, I have decided is the only way to go for meat that is succulent and full of flavour. We buy all our chicken from a woman called Zoff who farms free-range chickens here in the Midlands. My four, fat floozies are definitely not intended for the pot.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 4 Tbsp finely chopped mixed herbs (Sarah Graham uses fresh lavender leaves and fresh thyme leaves, but I like to use chives, sage & thyme)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 whole chicken
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and quartered
  • About 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup white wine
  • ½ cup chicken stock
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  2. Mix the butter with the herbs and seasoning.
  3. Use your fingers to stuff the herb butter under the skin of the chicken.
  4. Place the lemon halves and any leftover fresh herb leaves and stalks in the cavity.
  5. Place the chicken in an ovenproof dish, drizzle with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper, add in the onion and garlic and pour in half the wine. Cover with a lid or tin foil and cook for 45 minutes.
  6. After 45 minutes, pour the juices from the chicken into a small saucepan, and then return the chicken to the oven, uncovered. Cook for a further 10-15 minutes until the skin is golden and crispy.
  7. Add the remainder of the wine and the chicken stock to the saucepan, and leave to simmer for about 10 minutes until it starts to thicken. (I know it is not the done thing in foodie circles but I have to confess that I always use a bit of Bisto to thicken gravy.)

I like to keep ready-made herb butter in the freezer. It’s a good way to preserve herbs and since butter is back in favour (yay!) you can pop it into any number of veggie dishes as well. You simply mix 250 g butter with chopped herbs (you can do this in the food processor – chop up the herbs first and then add the diced butter). And a tip from Jamie Oliver is to:

“Get yourself a good-sized piece of greaseproof paper and place the butter into the centre. Fold the paper over and roll it around until you have an even-sized log. Twist up the ends to seal then pop in the fridge or freezer until needed.”

I always think of it as a waste of electricity to roast something on its own in the oven. I usually put a baking tray of potatoes and pumpkin / butternut in the oven as well. But I know that Alex is not crazy about roast potatoes and pumpkin (what is wrong with that lad?) so perhaps one could tuck a few other vegetables in around the chicken to cook in the wine, like carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, courgettes, green beans and perhaps some mushrooms.

Otherwise, a Mediterranean Vegetable Bake would be tasty with roast chicken. This is an adapted Jamie Oliver recipe.

Ingredients

(basically anything will do as long as they are roughly the same size, but here are some suggestions)

  • 1 red and/or 1 yellow/orange pepper, halved, deseeded and cut into 4 pieces.
  • 1 red onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges.
  • 2 courgettes, sliced into 2cm chunks
  • 1 brinjal / aubergine, cut it into quarters, then into 2cm chunks.
  • 1 handful cherry tomatoes
  • 1 handful button mushrooms
  • 3 cloves of garlic, in their skins but squashed
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
  • Olive oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  2. Arrange the vegetables in a large roasting tray and season with salt and pepper. (I like using Melissa’s Cook’s Sea Salt with Chilli, Lime and Coriander.)
  3. Scatter the rosemary over the veggies and drizzle well with olive oil. Toss to coat thoroughly.
  4. Roast the veggies for about 50 minutes (so put them in at the same time as the chicken). Give them a good stir every now and then to ensure that they cook evenly. They should be soft and caramelised.

And here is another tip from Jamie:

“If the vegetables seem crowded in a single roasting pan, divide them between two. Overcrowding the pan will stop enough heat getting to the vegetables and they will steam rather than roast.”

(I never knew that!)

Alex phoned me a couple of weeks ago to say he was cooking one of my recipes for chicken breasts in spicy yoghurt and wanted to know how long to cook them for. He made me laugh when he complained that in Cape Town the only place he could find deboned chicken breasts was in Woolies but the trouble with shopping at Woolies was that you always came out with a lot more than you intended buying when you went in. I commiserated with him as this is a problem I know only too well.

I’m reading a book at the moment called A Private History of Happiness by George Myerson. It is a compilation of 99 written accounts of things that made a wide range of characters throughout history happy. Following each account, George Myerson gives a short commentary on the writers and the context of the stories, with information about what was going on in their lives at the time. I have been reading one story a day and it has made me more mindful of those little moments in one’s day when everything just seems right.

Myerson writes:

These focused glimpses of other lives and times add up to a bigger idea. They bring real human happiness before our eyes. We can see here the potential for joy hidden inside ordinary life….. For many of us in the twenty-first century, happiness has become a riddle, a goal that remains strangely nebulous. Politics and economics, education and psychology all have happiness as their promise or end. But we need to grasp the happiness that is a strand of everyday life if we are to make good on any of these promises.

Who would’ve thought that such a moment of happiness could spring from a casual conversation between mother and son, about recipes and shopping at Woolworths?

Alex sent me this picture of his Chicken Baked in Spicy Yoghurt, with the ready-made salad and garlic rolls that he had not intended to buy. I was impressed by the addition of the fresh herb garnish.

Alex sent me this picture of his Chicken Baked in Spicy Yoghurt, with the ready-made salad and garlic rolls that he had not intended to buy. I was impressed by the addition of the fresh herb garnish.

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