Chinese Spiced Roasted Chicken

The last of the chicken thighs. Do not be surprised if you don’t see another chicken thigh on here until Easter, such are my feelings of ennui regarding the thigh at the moment. Another particularly easy recipe, just perfect after a busy day with a bowl of rice and perhaps, if you can face the effort, some stir fried veg. See how this chicken has made me? Too listless to consider chucking some chopped veg in a wok! I must confess, I didn’t have high hopes for this dish – my tolerance for dark chicken meat has waned recently, and there was nothing that sang out at me from the recipe.  But it was beautiful, rich and slightly sweet and, unsually for me, no chilli hit (that’s a  good thing, I think). This is one of those dishes far more than the sum of its parts – kitchen alchemy at work, which is the very best we can hope for. Anyway, you don’t need to use thighs – drumsticks or wings just as good.  To serve 4.

  • 8 chicken pieces, thigh or otherwise
  • 4 tbsp light soy
  • 6 tbsp yellow oil – groundnut is perfect
  • 1 tbsp rice wine
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • 1/2 tsp finely grated ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Combine all the ingredients apart from the chicken in a bowl. You may find the garlic easier to chop very finely if you chop it along with the salt, as this helps break it down. Put in the chicken and leave to marinate for at least an hour (any more than about three hours, store in the fridge, but remember to get out to bring to room temperature). Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 and cook chicken in a roasting tin for 45 minutes to an hour, basting every 20 minutes or so with the marinade. Remember to turn the chicken over around halfway through to make it slightly crisp all over. Enjoy hot or cold, perfect for picnic workaday lunches.


Dinner Out: Firehouse Rotisserie, Bath

Sometimes, when eating out, I think it’s ok to make a non-choice. That’s not to say that it isn’t a decision, or a valid decision, but sometimes you don’t want to think of somewhere new, or challenge yourself. Especially when you have a fussy son who only wants to eat pizza. Sometimes you just want reliable. And Firehouse Rotisserie is reliable, for the most part.

The restaurant is clean and airy, the staff are friendly (and friendly to fussy son, which is important to me) if a touch forgetful. The menu isn’t long, or particularly varied, but what they do sell is of a high quality, very tasty and suited to most palettes.

We started with some bread and olives, which were delicious. The bread had been warmed in the oven and came with a lovely pesto which was gorgeously parmesany, and the olives came in a lovely olive oil and balsamic vinegar, which was also perfect for dipping the bread in.

For our mains, the fussy one had a margherita pizza (herby sauce, light base, stringy mozzarella), I had the half rotisserie free range chicken, with thyme, lemon, bacon and aioli. Tender chicken, and gorgeous thick bacon. Mr Greedy had the confit duck, which was very rich, with lovely cheesy creamy mash. Perhaps a little too rich for my tastes, but lovely nonetheless. I had ordered a bowl of fries with my main, which never arrived – I found this a bit irritating, but also a bit of a relief because it was all more than enough. Maybe they were subtly trying to tell me that my bum would only spread further with the addition of deep fried carb. Who knows?

We had to wait a long time for dessert – a touch irritating in a half empty restaurant with a son desperate for a chocolate brownie. I was  a little torn what to have, unusually for me as I don’t have that sweet a tooth I wanted everything but I settled for chocolate brioche bread and butter pudding, but it was tepid and badly warmed as it was fridge cold in spots and luke warm in others. Texturally though, it was a triumph. Mr Greedy won the prize for the best chosen dessert with a strawberry shortcake.

At £73 for three of us with wine and coffees, I don’t think it was fantastic value for money, but given its location and food quality it wasn’t terrible. Any cheaper than that and you’re going down to paper napkins and battery chickens. In all, I’d give this a 3.5 out of 5 – a good half a mark lost for serving my dessert poorly warmed.

Easy Leftover Chicken Soup

They say that chicken soup cures all that ails you. Obviously this isn’t accurate. Heartbreak, cancer and mother-in-laws still seem impervious to this wonder drug, but it is true that it can make you feel better about a lot of stuff. If you already have a  cooked chicken carcass for whatever reason, then not only is it pennies to make, but a low effort way to stretch a roast chicken to an extra meal. I think this is fairly important, especially given the price of quality free range or organic chicken.

I don’t often make my own stock, in all honesty. There is nothing particularly difficult about stock making, but having the time and the raw materials to hand at the same time is something a bit beyond me. You can get perfectly good stock these days in little bottles, so the incentive is not often there. But for this soup, there is no reason not to. This is not, though, a recipe for a perfectly clear amber stock, suitable for sauces and demi-glace, but rather a fairly lax way to get a tasty soup out of existing ingredients. You will only be cooking the stock for an hour or so, and I am not going to start suggesting skimming, or anything of that nature. There are other recipes out there for that.

For the stock base:

  • 1 cooked chicken carcass, mostly picked of meat
  • 1 carrot, cut into three
  • 1 leek, cut into three
  • 1 celery stick, cut into three
  • few of pepper corns
  • bayleaf, thyme leaves (if you have them)
  • pinch of salt
  • cold water to just cover

Put all the ingredients into a pot, and bring to a simmer slowly. Simmer for an hour, do not boil. Leave to cool, and then strain through a fine sieve.

For the soup:

  • anything you like, really. I made my soup tonight with a couple hundred grams of gnocchi, 50g cooked chicken and some parsley, but some other nice things to add might be:
  • cabbage or chinese leaves
  • carrots
  • mushrooms
  • beans
  • rice or pasta
  • any herbs
  • cooked ham or bacon
  • peas, sweetcorn
  • splash of cream

If using dried pasta or rice then heat the soup to a gentle boil and add these, allowing plenty of time for them to cook before adding the other ingredients. Gnocchi is good because it cooks in less than three minutes – about the same time as it takes to heat through cooked chicken, peas or sweetcorn. Add the remainder of ingredients for however long it takes to cook them usually.

Alternatively, for a soup with a bit more body you can sweat off a chopped onion and a couple of cloves of garlic in a pan before adding veg like parsnips and potatoes and a dash of white wine before adding the stock. Up to you. Anything cooked should go in in the very last few minutes.

Chicken Thighs Stuffed with Parma Ham, Mozzarella, Pesto & Olives

Waitrose keep sending me chicken thighs. This is not some altruistic move on their part – they are not suddenly overcome by thoughts of my welfare and wishing to feed me up, neither is it one of those lovely PR treats that bloggers get sent (I got sent a chocolate fountain and a box of coco-pops squares once by a lovely man at Kelloggs, and some fancy tea – sadly I had nothing to say about either thing and forgot about them. I kept meaning to ebay the chocolate fountain, and then I dropped it on the way to storing it above a cupboard). No, nothing as exciting as this. Simply, it’s what happens when the person doing your shopping in store in preparation for home delivery notices that your chosen cut of poultry or game is out of stock and doesn’t have the imagination to replace with something else. This has happened three weeks in a row now, a kilo of thighs each time. I’ll be doing my own shopping next week.

Anyway, I’ve started to run out of ideas and enthusiasm for these things. Let me introduce you to recipe 29#, which was actually very nice. Feel free to vary the stuffing – if you don’t like any of the ingredients, you can simply omit them. On a better day, I would have made a tomato, wine and garlic sauce to braise these in (it wasn’t a good day. At All.) and I think they would be nicest served with sauté potatoes or a simple risotto.

  • 4 skin on chicken thighs, either boneless or you will need to remove the bone yourself. This is an easy enough job, and it will give you a sense of achievement to do it , but it does need a small sharp knife. This is a great little clip to show you how.
  • 4 slices parma ham
  • 1 ball italian mozzarella, sliced
  • pitted black olives – 8, slice in half
  • pesto. A jar will do or 100g from a deli or make your own
  • sprinkle of parmesan (optional)
  • toothpicks or string to hold thighs together

Firstly, you will need to flatten your thighs. Get a meat mallet or rolling-pin and some good clingfilm. Put the thigh on a chopping board, skin side up and cover with the film. Then bash, firmly and consistently until the thigh is flat and longer/wider. Turn the thigh upside down so the flesh side is facing you and pile on the ingredients in the following order: Pesto, approx two teaspoons, spread all over the thigh, parma ham, mozzarella slices, olive halves and a sprinkle of parmesan and season with salt and pepper.

Now, roll your chicken up, like a swiss roll. Try and keep some tension in the flesh if you can, to stop the ingredients going everywhere and to ensure a fairly tightly rolled thigh. Inevitably some of the stuffing will attempt to escape, and inevitably you will need to stop mid-course and regather something, but it is not a highly technical operation. Secure with toothpick or string, or in my shameful case, a wooden skewer and stuff any bits that have fallen out, back in. When you’ve done all four, put them in a suitable roasting tin and either pop them in the fridge if you’re cooking in advance, or alternatively preheat your oven to gas 6.

Cook for approximately 30- 35 minutes.  There will be a lovely gravy in the pan, which you should pour on top of the thighs when you serve them.

Comfort Food. Chicken with sage, white wine & cream sauce.

It has not been the weekend I was expecting. I got in at 4am on Saturday morning after a long night of curry and carousing, to find Mr Greedy puffy and hot, coughing in his sleep with red swollen eye sockets. Because I was quite drunk and very tired I simply collapsed into bed and allowed him to deal with Greedyboy when he woke up at 5.30. Yes, I am that considerate. But you can’t look after a kid when you’re still drunk and looking after a kid whilst you’re just ill is perfectly possible. Trufax. I know this because I have had to do it on countless occasions. All the same, poor Mr Greedy.

As a result of this, neither were up to doing much the next day, and neither of us really wanted the birthday dinner that we had booked for the same evening, although I do think, to Mr Greedy’s eternal credit, he still would have taken me had I really wanted to go. No; dinner called for comfort, soothing and demanded to be eaten on the sofa, watching ‘Men Who Stare At Goats’,  followed by a very early night. I feel I was taking a bit of a risk, making a rich sauce to go with the chicken, given our tender states, but it worked well.

To serve 2:

  • 4 chicken thighs, skin on
  • olive oil
  • 4 large sage leaves
  • small glass white wine
  • small pot of double cream
  • salt and pepper

In a heavy based pan, heat the oil over a medium-high flame and put in the chicken thighs, skin side down. Put the sage leaves on top top the chicken pieces. Leave the chicken where it is for at least 5 minutes, until the skin has had a chance to brown and crispen – if you start moving it around before this point, not only will the skin tear and stick, but it is unlikely to brown properly, leaving you with limp greasy skin, and that will not do at all. When you are satisfied the skin is browned and crispy, you turn the chicken pieces over in the pan, the sage leaves should fall to the bottom, and put the lid on. Turn down the heat a smidge and cook the chicken for 10-15 minutes, until the bottom of the chicken is brown, and when pierced with a knife the juices run clear. If your thighs are big and meaty, bank on at least 20.

Remove the chicken to a warm plate or serving dish and drain off the majority of the fat that will be left in the pan, reserving the sage leaves. Pour in your wine and deglaze the pan with it, scraping up all the chickeny bits with it and let it bubble away for a couple of minutes until it begins to reduce. Now pour in your cream, and stir well. The cream will reduce quickly, so do keep an eye on it. Season with salt and pepper, and when you have a nice thick sauce, put your chicken back in and heat it back through with the sauce for a moment or two. And serve, with a green veg and whatever carb you’ve got to hand.