Scandinavian Meatballs

Scandinavian Meatballs

I’m calling these “Scandinavian” because I consulted my Norwegian grandmother’s recipe for the meatballs themselves and stole elements of a Diana Henry recipe for Swedish meatballs (in her book “Roast Figs Sugar Snow”) to make the sauce.

Surprisingly, even though my mother gave me her mother’s meatball recipe years ago, I had never used it before. I make meatballs a lot, but usually Italian-style ones in a tomato sauce to serve with spaghetti. It’s good to have a change and these, dare I say it, are just as good or possibly better. If Italian flavours are what you’re after it’s simpler just to make a ragù.

The addition of baking powder to my grandmother’s meatballs is a revelation: it makes them wonderfully light and airy. You can serve these with lingonberry sauce or jam. My son bought me some at SkandiKitchen in London. Ikea sells it too, but if you haven’t got any, cranberry sauce would also go well. I served them with braised, spiced red cabbage and plain boiled potatoes, which struck me as being very Norwegian. I’d like to think my grandmother would approve and that she’d be pleased I served them on her Porsgrund china plates. IMG_3152

Scandinavian Meatballs

Ingredients

Meatballs:

  • 500g pork mince
  • 500g beef mince
  • 1 heaped tsp salt
  • 1 heaped tsp baking powder
  • 1 heaped tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 heaped tsp ground ginger
  • 100g breadcrumbs, soaked for about 30 minutes in 150ml milk until all the milk has been absorbed
  • About 1 tbsp sunflower or groundnut oil

Sauce:

  • 400ml chicken or beef stock
  • 20g butter
  • 1 tbsp sunflower or groundnut oil
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 200g sour cream
  • 3 tbsps chopped fresh dill

Method

  • Mix all the ingredients for the meatballs thoroughly in a large bowl. You could do this in a food processor
  • Using wet hands form the mixture into balls. I’ll leave the size to you
  • Fry in a little oil until brown. I “fried” them, drizzled with oil, on the large Aga baking tray for five minutes on the floor of the roasting oven before turning them over and frying for a further five minutes or until they were nicely browned. Doing it in the oven like this stops the Aga losing heat and means you don’t get fat splashing over the Aga top
  • Heat the butter with 1 tbsp oil in a large saucepan or sauté pan on the simmering plate. Add the flour and cook, stirring until the flour is golden
  • Take the pan off the heat and gradually add the stock, stirring well after each addition
  • Put the pan back on the simmering plate and bring the liquid up to the boil, stirring constantly
  • Add the sour cream and then the meatballs
  • Cover and place in the simmering oven for at least 30 minutes (but as you know, they will be fine if left there for much longer than that) until the meatballs are cooked through. (If you are short of time you could cook them for about 15 minutes in the baking oven.)
  • Taste for seasoning, add the chopped dill and serve

 

 

Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce

Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce

The combination of pasta and tomato sauce is one of my favourite things, and I make it a lot. I probably make Felicity Cloake’s “perfect” sauce the most but not every time. Another favourite is the one I told you about here.

Whenever we eat this I’m transported back to when my boys were young. I would make it for them at least once a week; clean plates were guaranteed. Of course one could easily pick up a tub of sauce from the supermarket, and sometimes on busy days I would do this, but in truth it doesn’t take long to prepare your own. I’d like to think that’s what Italians would do. In fact I happened to be chatting on the phone to an Italian friend when making tomato sauce yesterday, and he gave me a few tips. You see I had bought some fresh San Marzano plum tomatoes in my local Waitrose IMG_3587 and wanted to make my sauce with these instead of the usual tinned tomatoes. I’m sure in Italy this sauce is made with fresh tomatoes a lot of the time, but until relatively recently we couldn’t even buy fresh plum tomatoes here so we all use tinned. I knew the San Marzano was considered to be a superior tomato and a quick Google search revealed that it’s also sweeter and less acidic than other plum tomatoes. I normally add a little sugar when cooking tomatoes but didn’t in this case: they were sweet enough.

My friend Antonio said there was no need even to cook them: I could just chop them up, add a little olive oil, basil and seasoning, and add them to hot pasta. I will do that next time but I had already chopped an onion which was softening in some olive oil in the simmering oven. His next tip was to slightly undercook the spaghetti, drain it and then finishing cooking it in the sauce. He also said to add some grated parmesan at the same time as adding the pasta. I will describe everything I did below.

Fresh Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • 700g fresh San Marzano plum tomatoes, chopped (no need to peel)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 fat clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • About three basil stalks, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • A handful of basil leaves
  • Grated parmesan, to taste

Method

  • Add the olive oil and chopped onion to a sauté pan or wide saucepan and heat gently on the simmering plate
  • Cover and place in the simmering oven until the onion is soft
  • Add the basil stalks and garlic and cook for a minute on the simmering plate before stirring in the tomatoes, red wine vinegar and some salt and pepper
  • Place the pan in the simmering oven for about an hour but it could well be ready before that and will not come to any harm if you leave it for longer than that. I covered my pan for part of the time but am not sure it makes much difference
  • Meanwhile cook your spaghetti according to packet instructions but for 1 or 2 minutes less than prescribed
  • Drain and add it immediately, with some of the cooking water still clinging to it, to your sauce
  • Add some grated parmesan to the pan
  • Toss it all together for a couple of minutes with the pan on the simmering plate; the pasta will absorb a little of the sauce and finishing cooking
  • To serve, add the basil leaves, shredded if large, and have some more grated Parmesan on the table for whoever wants it

Rocket dressed with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper is the perfect accompaniment, as is this bottle of Valpolicella.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pappardelle with Porcini and Pancetta

Pappardelle with Porcini and Pancetta

Baked pasta is comfort food and this particular baked pasta dish is more comforting than most. It is no less delicious and perfectly flavoured than I would expect from Simon Hopkinson. I found the recipe on the BBC website. I seem to remember watching him make it in his TV series, “The Good Cook”, a few years ago. I never got around to buying the accompanying book of the same name but am seriously considering doing so now.

This is so simple to make; simple recipes often are the best. I never thought I’d be regularly cooking recipes for only two people but the truth is it’s often just my husband and I at the kitchen table these days, and if my elderly mother-in-law isn’t up to cooking, there’s always enough to take a small portion of whatever we’re having downstairs to her. Don’t look at the quantity of pasta and worry that it’s not enough; I promise you it is. This is a filling dish. It’s also good for you: I recently read that mushrooms, especially porcini, are the best food source of two anti-ageing antioxidants. So that’s a bonus.

Pappardelle with Porcini and Pancetta

Ingredients

  • 500ml milk
  • 20g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 40g butter
  • 25g plain flour
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 100g pappardelle
  • 50g pancetta, cut into small cubes
  • 2 tbsps grated parmesan cheese

Method

  • Bring the milk up to simmering point in a pan on the simmering plate
  • Add the porcini mushrooms and remove from the heat
  • After 10 minutes or so drain the milk through a sieve into a bowl, pressing out as much liquid from the mushrooms as you can
  • Melt the butter in a clean saucepan on the simmering plate. Add the flour and stir for a couple of minutes with a wooden spoon until you have a smooth roux
  • Pour in the porcini flavoured milk in one go and whisk vigorously until smooth and starting to thicken. Season, cover and place in the simmering oven for at least 10 minutes (can be longer: as ever where the simmering oven is concerned, it will come to no harm) while you cook the pappardelle according to the packet instructions until it’s al dente. (I bring a large pan of water to a boil on the boiling plate and add salt before adding the pasta.)
  • Drain the pasta and then in a large bowl mix it with the porcini, pancetta and sauce. Tip this into a lightly buttered oven-proof dish and sprinkle over the parmesan
  • Place in the middle of the Aga roasting oven for about 25 minutes until it’s bubbling and golden brown
  • Serve with a green salad and you might want some extra cheese too

 

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Navarin of Lamb

Navarin of Lamb

The Country Wives were kind enough to publish this recipe on their website recently.

When cooler temperatures and rain put paid to our barbecue plans on Sunday, I decided to make Navarin of Lamb, a delicious braise which uses a variety of spring vegetables. I didn’t have in my kitchen any of the baby turnips or carrots which are traditional but knew I could make the dish with what I did have, and the recipe below is the result. Use any good veg you can find, with this recipe as a guide.

Navarin of Lamb

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 600g lamb neck fillet cut into large dice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil and a knob of butter
  • 1 small onion, peeled and sliced
  • 1 celery stick, sliced
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • I clove garlic, bruised
  • Sprig or two of thyme
  • Sprig of rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 100ml white wine (or red if that’s what you have)
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • 225g baby new potatoes
  • 100g carrots (baby carrots left whole or “old” carrots peeled and cut into thick batons)
  • 150g frozen baby broad beans
  • 150g frozen petits pois

Method

  • Heat the oil and butter in a shallow, heavy-bottomed casserole on the simmering plate and add the onions, celery and pieces of lamb
  • Stir to coat everything in the fat and then move the casserole to the floor of the roasting oven for a few minutes to brown the lamb
  • Return it to the simmering plate and add some seasoning, the tomato purée and wine. Let this bubble for a couple of minutes and then add the garlic, bay leaf, herbs and stock
  • Bring to the boil, cover and place in the simmering oven for 1½ hours but longer would be fine: in an Aga nothing dries out
  • About half an hour before you want to eat, place the potatoes and carrots in a saucepan with a little salt, a teaspoon of caster sugar, a knob of butter and 100ml of water. Bring to the boil on the boiling plate, cover and transfer to the simmering oven
  • Cook the peas, drain and rinse in cold water so they retain their colour
  • Cook the broad beans, drain and rinse in cold water and slip off the skins
  • Remove the lamb from the casserole to a plate, discard the garlic, herbs and bay leaf and bring the broth to the boil on the simmering plate to reduce it a little
  • Return the lamb to the casserole and, having checked they’re tender, add the potatoes and carrots and finally the peas and broad beans
  • Taste for seasoning, sprinkle with some chopped parsley and serve

 

Coq au Vin

Coq au Vin

Following on from my boeuf bourgignon post, here’s another classic recipe. Coq au Vin is in fact just boeuf bourgignon but with chicken. Discuss. Seriously, sometimes I wonder why we keep looking for new ideas when the classic, tried and tested recipes are so good; I mean, there’s a reason they’ve been around for so long. It has not escaped my notice, by the way, that the two I mention here are French.

If you Google “Coq au Vin” you will find many different ways of making it but the ingredients don’t vary much. I based mine on Delia’s recipe. Good old Delia: she provides clear instructions and retains all the essential elements without sacrificing flavour. And because we are Aga cooks, we can be relaxed about the cooking time and leave our dish bubbling gently in the simmering oven for longer than the 40 minutes – 1 hour most recipes recommend. Chatting about this in my “I love my Aga” Facebook group, there was discussion about how to thicken the sauce. You could dust the chicken pieces with flour first, but I rather like the method I give here which is to whisk in a butter and flour paste at the end.

I don’t know if anyone uses the cock bird to make this dish anymore. In fact, I don’t know if it would be possible to get hold of one. A chicken, jointed into 8 pieces has become traditional here and I confess that when I made this recently, I just used good quality chicken thighs I bought from Waitrose.

Coq au Vin

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • A 2kg chicken jointed into 8 pieces or 8 good quality, large chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
  • Salt and pepper
  • Butter and olive oil
  • 225g unsmoked streaky bacon, chopped
  • Button onions or shallots, 2-3 per person, peeled and left whole
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • A couple of sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Approx. 500ml red wine
  • 225g mushrooms, sliced thickly
  • A butter and flour paste (beurre manié) made by mashing 1tbsp soft butter with 1tbsp plain flour
  • A handful of chopped, fresh parsley

Method

  • Season the chicken pieces
  • Melt the butter with the oil in a frying pan on the simmering plate and add the chicken pieces, skin side down. Transfer to the floor of the roasting oven for 5-10 minutes to brown
  • Take it out, turn the chicken pieces over and return to the roasting oven floor for a further 5 minutes or so
  • Remove the chicken and put it in a casserole that has a lid
  • Add the onions and bacon to the frying pan making sure they’re coated in the fat and fry until coloured (on the roasting oven floor again)
  • Tip the onions and bacon into the casserole and add the garlic, thyme, bay and red wine, which should not cover the chicken completely
  • Bring this to simmering point on the boiling plate and then put the lid on the casserole and place it in the simmering oven for two to three hours, turning the chicken pieces over halfway through. If you want it to cook more quickly, I reckon you could put it in the baking oven or maybe even the roasting oven, but I did not try this so I can’t vouch for it
  • About 30 minutes before you want to eat, add the mushrooms
  • Remove the chicken, bacon, onions and mushrooms and keep them warm
  • Place the casserole on the simmering plate and when the wine is bubbling, whisk in the beurre manié and let it simmer until the sauce is thick and glossy. Taste for seasoning
  • Return everything to the sauce, sprinkle over the parsley and serve

 

 

 

 

Roasted Lamb Ragù

Roasted Lamb Ragù

Casseroles are perfect winter food: they require long, slow cooking and are warming and comforting. They are also ideal if you are cooking for a large number of people because the quantities can easily be increased. Furthermore, if you are entertaining you can make your casserole ahead so that on the day it only requires reheating and you can concentrate on spending time with your guests.

Despite knowing all of this, for me there’s a problem: I hate making casseroles because I hate the meat-browning stage of the process. My kitchen is always left with a film of grease on every surface and my hair looks like I’ve spent the day working at the local chippy.

Browning the meat for a casserole, we are told, seals in the juices and assures flavour, so it probably isn’t a stage we should skip. But what if we could? One of my Aga recipe books suggests browning the meat for a casserole in the roasting tin in the roasting oven, which seems to me to be the answer. After all, you need a high temperature and the Aga roasting oven is hotter than the highest setting of most conventional ovens.

Then the other day this recipe for roasted lamb ragù caught my eye in the Waitrose Food Magazine under the heading “A Genius New Way to Cook”; you roast literally everything together in the oven, including the meat. Waitrose says you can try it with other combinations of meat, spices and herbs, and I’m thinking of trying to make one of my favourites – boeuf bourguignon – in this way. Anyway, this ragù was absolutely delicious and I will definitely be making it again and using the same method for other combinations of ingredients. (She says, with a flick of her ungreasy hair.)

Roasted Lamb Ragù

Serves 4

(Pre-heat conventional oven to 200ºC)

Ingredients

  • 2 leeks, halved lengthways and finely sliced
  • 2 carrots, finely diced
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 clove
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 bay leaves
  • A few thyme sprigs
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 4 anchovy fillets
  • 900g lamb neck fillets
  • 250ml red wine
  • 250ml chicken stock
  • 2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes

Method

  • Toss the leeks, carrots, celery, garlic, spices, herbs, honey and anchoivies in the large Aga roasting tin. Season
  • Season the lamb neck fillets and lay on top
  • Place the tin on the third set of rungs in the roasting oven and roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, turning everything at least once. You want the meat to be browned and the vegetables soft and turning golden
  • Stir in the wine, stock and tomatoes and place in the simmering oven for 2 or 3 hours. You know the drill: no harm will come to it if left for longer. Mine was in the oven all afternoon
  • (Or turn a conventional oven down to 160ºC, cover the tin loosely with foil and roast for one hour and 30 minutes.)
  • Roughly shred the meat, turning it in the juices and put the tin back in the roasting oven for 20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally until the meat is browned in places and the ragù is glossy and thick
  • (Or turn the conventional oven back up to 200ºC, remove the foil, shred the meat as above and roast for a further 30 minutes.)

We had ours with delicious sourdough bread, purchased that day from the wonderful Hart’s Bakery in Bristol, and a green salad dressed with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. If we hadn’t had delicious, fresh bread to hand, I’d have served the ragù with pasta. Tagliatelle would be perfect.

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Recipe: Red Cabbage

Christmas Recipe: Red Cabbage

Before you all shout “it’s much too early to think about Christmas”, I agree with you. Except when it comes to cooking. There are things you can prepare to get ahead and things you simply must make weeks, or even months, beforehand.

For me the Christmas/New Year period is not really a time for trying out new recipes. It gets so busy with the house full and lots of comings and goings that I prefer to stick to tried and tested recipes. We all have our traditions and my family is no exception; our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day meals do not vary much from year to year. Then for a few days after that most meals comprise leftovers in some form or other. During the whole Christmas period last year there were never fewer than 5 of us in the house and most days we were 7 or 8 with a maximum of 12 of us sitting round the table for the Christmas turkey. In recent years we’ve also stayed at home on New Year’s Eve instead of going to a party and I’ve cooked a special dinner. One year I splashed out on a whole beef fillet which was so popular it has now become our traditional New Year’s Eve meal.

Last year I told you about my Christmas cake and Christmas pudding and I wrote a post about the Norwegian apple cake we always have on Christmas Eve. In the coming weeks I plan to write up a few more of my Christmas recipes and tell you how I’ve adapted them for Aga cooking. I’m starting with braised red cabbage because it’s a delicious accompaniment to many winter dishes and there’s no reason you shouldn’t cook and enjoy it right now. It also freezes brilliantly: I nearly always do this and then defrost it and zap it in the microwave on the day I plan to serve it. This recipe is based on one by Delia Smith.

Braised Red Cabbage

(Pre-heat conventional oven to 150ºC)

Ingredients

  • 1 red cabbage
  • 1 cooking apple, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • About ¼ of a whole nutmeg, grated
  • About ¼ tsp ground cinnammon (optional)
  • About ¼ tsp ground cloves (optional)
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 10 g butter
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  • Remove the outer leaves from the cabbage, quarter it and remove the hard stalk
  • Shred each quarter but not too finely
  • Place the cabbage in a casserole and mix in the apple, onion, garlic, sugar, salt, pepper, nutmeg and other spices if using.
  • Pour over the wine vinegar and dot with the butter
  • Cover with a lid and place it in the simmering oven for at least four hours; as ever though, it will come to no harm in your Aga if left for longer than that. (Conventional oven: 1½ to 2 hours.)
  • Take it out and give it a stir every now and then. It is done when it is tender

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken Forestière with Truffle

Chicken Forestière with Truffle

My husband was in London recently and on a whim, bought a black truffle that had just arrived in a new Italian Deli on the King’s Road and brought it home; he adores truffle. It was expensive (about £7) but you don’t need very much and can make it last for several meals. I wasn’t sure I could do it justice at first but the beauty of this small black nugget of earthy flavour is that you don’t actually have to do anything to it for it to enhance a meal. What made it really expensive was the Affetta Tartufi I bought (see photo below)! I’m always interested in quality when buying for my kitchen.

I made mushroom risotto one night: my husband acted the Italian waiter and with “pennacchio” shaved some of the truffle onto our bowls: delicious.

Then last night I cooked chicken forestière and again, we shaved truffle onto the finished dish. We don’t cook as seasonally as we used to, do we? But I do like to try. For example, I wouldn’t dream of using strawberries in December, even if they were available to buy in the supermarket. I also only cook asparagus when the British version is in season in May/June.

Chicken forestière, with its wild and chestnut mushrooms, feels like the perfect autumnal supper so I’m going to tell you how to make it here (adapted from a Diana Henry – who else? – recipe from her book A Bird in the Hand for my AGA):

Chicken Forestière

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 8 chicken thighs or 4 chicken legs, skin on, bone in
  • 20g dried wild mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, halved and sliced
  • 75ml Madeira (or if you don’t have any, sherry would work)
  • A couple of carrots, cut into batons
  • 175ml of chicken stock
  • 150ml double cream
  • 150g whole button or quartered chestnut mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

Method

  • Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour over 50ml boiling water. Leave to soak for about 20 minutes
  • Meanwhile, season the chicken and heat a sauté pan on the simmering plate and place the chicken in it in a single layer. No need to add oil at this stage.
  • Brown the chicken on both sides, taking care not turn the pieces over until they can easily be moved, or the skin will tear
  • Remove the chicken from the pan and put it in a dish
  • Pour the chicken fat into a frying pan and put this to one side
  • Add the tablespoon of oil to the sauté pan and cook the onions (slowly in the simmering oven if you like) until soft
  • Deglaze the pan with the madeira and add the carrots, stock, wild mushrooms and their soaking liquor
  • Bring to the boil, cover and cook for 10 minutes on the simmering plate or if you have time for 30 minutes in the simmering oven
  • Return the chicken to the pan with any juices that have run out of it. Cover and cook, choosing the simmering oven if you have plenty of time (an hour or more) or a hotter oven if you are in a hurry. I wouldn’t leave it in the roasting oven for more than 15 minutes. You could start if off there and then finish it off in the simmering oven
  • Stir in the cream and return to the simmering oven for at least 10 minutes with the lid off
  • Now place your frying pan on the boiling plate to heat the chicken fat and cook the mushrooms briskly until they are golden brown. Season and add to the chicken, stirring gently to combine everything
  • Taste for seasoning and scatter over the chopped parsley
  • The addition of the shaved truffle to individual servings is recommended but not essential

We had ours with steamed new potatoes, broccoli and green beans.

 

 

 

Ceviche (For When the Aga is Switched Off)

Ceviche (For When the Aga is Switched Off)

For the first time in the eleven years I’ve owned an Aga, the engineer who came to service mine last week was not able to carry out the work. It was my fault: Aga advises owners to turn it off 24 hours before the service but I in my infinite wisdom thought the evening before would be soon enough, forgetting that this year’s appointment was at the early hour of 8am. I did not realise that it would not have cooled down enough by then for the engineer to work on. I am telling you this so that you can learn from my mistake. Another tip is to lift up the lids and open all the doors to help it cool down more quickly.

If like me you have no other oven, you have to plan cold meals for when your Aga is switched off. (Mine takes about 5 hours to come back to full temperature; newer ones might be quicker; older ones possibly much slower.) I have the perfect recipe for such times, especially if it’s summer: ceviche. Ceviche is a South American dish of marinated raw fish or seafood. This one is ceviche de sierra by Diana Henry and is packed full of all the Mexican flavours I love, including chillies, lime and coriander.

Ceviche de Sierra

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 4 fillets extremely fresh mackerel, bream or sea bass, skin removed
  • 3 limes
  • 1 shallot, very finely sliced
  • 1 large, ripe avocado
  • 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 red and 1 green chilli, halved, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 10g bunch coriander, leaves only, roughly chopped
  • 3-4 tbsp pomegranate seeds

Method

  • Slice the fish into broad strips
  • Put them into a dish with the juice of two limes and the shallot
  • Halve the avocado, remove the stone and slice the flesh
  • Peel the skin from each slice, then put them into a shallow serving bowl or on a plate
  • Season and toss in the juice of the third lime
  • Add the fish and shallot, oil, chilli and coriander and toss gently together
  • Sprinkle on the pomegranate seeds and serve

 

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Chicken with Za’atar and Aubergine Yoghurt

Chicken with Za’atar and Aubergine Yoghurt

This summer our second son is getting married. The excitement is building in the family – it’s the first wedding – and we are all busy in our different ways with preparations. Busiest of all are our daughter-in-law to be and her parents but now that his Part III architecture exams and coursework are out of the way, our son has also got stuck in. He’s been painting signs and designing and printing menus and orders of service. His super-efficient future wife has drawn up lists and rotas so that we all know what we’re doing in the build up to the day. The wedding will be in a church near her family home in Cornwall and the reception in a marquee in the garden. We have rented a cottage nearby so that we can be on hand to help and also have a holiday afterwards. Our son has chosen his brothers as the best men and all being well, they have sorted out a speech and who will deliver it (maybe it will be all three of them, I don’t yet know) and who will be responsible for the ring. Our youngest son is going to read a poem at the service and one of the bride’s sisters will be giving a reading.

My husband has chosen the wines (a tough job but someone’s got to do it, he says) with the help of willing tasters like me: a light and fruity Pinot Noir (Villa Maria Cellar Selection) from Majestic Wine Merchants; a Sauvignon Blanc (Cloudy Bay) from Avery’s, Bristol; and champagne from Waitrose. The caterers are booked, so we’re nearly set.

Every single one of us will be in the marquee on the day before the wedding, laying tables and decorating it with flowers. The logistics of getting everyone to Cornwall have been complicated but we seem to have cracked that now: youngest son will be arriving there on the eve of the wedding from a week’s walking and camping on the Isle of Arran and my sisters-in-law are going to ensure that my somewhat frail 92 year old mother-in-law gets there too.

We haven’t had a “whole family” holiday for three years so I’m looking forward to this one, even though it will not involve much lazing around. It’s a very happy occasion and a great excuse for us all to be together. I’m sure we will eat out (seafood please!) but I will also cook some meals in our rented kitchen. I want to keep these as simple as possible (nothing new there!). I will miss my Aga of course and hope I haven’t forgotten how to cook on a conventional cooker.

I’ve made this delicious chicken dish by Annie Bell a couple of times recently. It is one I can imagine making in Cornwall, provided the kitchen is equipped with big enough roasting tins.

Serves 6 (I made it first for 4 and then for 3, using two pieces of chicken per person and scaling down the other ingredients)

For the chicken

  • 2 lemons
  • 150ml extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 heaped tsps za’atar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
  • 1.8-2kg free-range chicken thighs and drumsticks
  • 50g pine nuts

For the aubergine yoghurt

  • 2 aubergines
  • 1 small or ½ garlic clove, crushed
  • 150g natural Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus an extra couple of tbsp to serve
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley or coriander, plus extra to serve

Method

  • Slice one of the lemons, discarding the ends, and juice the other. Combine the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, onion, za’atar, cinnamon and sliced lemon in a large dish. Add the chicken pieces and coat thoroughly with the marinade. Cover and chill for several hours or overnight.
  • For the aubergine yoghurt, preheat a conventional oven to 220ºC. Prick the aubergines all over with a skewer to stop them bursting, and roast for 45-60 minutes (in the Aga roasting oven) until wrinkled, blackened and soft, then leave to cool.
  • Cut off the ends, peel off the skin, halve lengthways and coarsely chop
  • Place the flesh in a sieve and press out the excess liquid using the back of a large spoon
  • Briefly whizz to a coarse purée with the garlic and some salt in a food processor
  • Transfer to a bowl and stir in the yoghurt, olive oil, lemon juice and parsley or coriander. Drizzle over the extra oil and scatter over some more herbs. Set aside
  • If you’ve turned it off, switch your oven back on to 220ºC
  • Season the chicken pieces and arrange, skin side up in a single layer in two roasting tins (the large Aga ones)
  • Option: if you have space you could add halved new potatoes to the tins. I did this
  • Drizzle the marinade over everything and tuck the lemon slices in between
  • Roast (in the Aga roasting oven) for about 45 minutes, swapping the tins round halfway through and sprinkling over the pine nuts after 15 minutes (I forgot to do this the second time I made this dish; it was still delicious but I recommend you try to remember them)
  • Serve with the yoghurt sauce and a green salad