Sunday Lunch: Roast Chicken and Apple Crumble

Sunday Lunch: Roast Chicken and Apple Crumble

I could be wrong but I get the impression fewer people are doing a roast on Sundays these days. Some of my emptynester friends say they only bother when their offspring return home or if they have guests. Even after my youngest went off to university last year I continued to cook a Sunday roast, partly because it’s the one occasion each week when we haul my frail and elderly mother-in-law upstairs from her flat below to join us and partly because, well, it’s delicious. My children tell me they’ve always enjoyed the weekly ritual and this pleases me because it means it’s worth the (not necessarily huge) effort. When I was pottering about in my kitchen, one recent Sunday morning, it struck me that one doesn’t have to spend very long preparing the roast and that simple does not have to mean dull. And of course if you are too busy during the day pursuing the leisure activity of your choice, you and your family can have this meal in the evening rather than try to fit it in at lunchtime.

So this post is about proving that it needn’t be hugely time-consuming or arduous and outlining how I made roast chicken and apple crumble in two hours flat. It is also to show you that not all Aga cooking is long and slow, which is not to say that slow roasting isn’t an excellent way of making the most of an Aga: you can put your joint of meat in the simmering oven before bed on Saturday night or bright and early on Sunday morning and have meltingly tender meat for lunch or supper on Sunday. I did this recently with a pork belly and it was one of the best roasts we’ve ever had.

On this particular Sunday I took the bird out of the fridge about an hour before I wanted to cook it, to let it come up to room temperature, and then, having popped out to buy the Sunday papers, I started on the lunch preparation. I roasted the potatoes around the chicken. They absorbed the buttery garlicky juices and the flavour and texture were superb. I love them done this way (and it saves time and washing-up) but they were not crisp. If you want crisp, you’ll have to par-boil them for 5 minutes and then roast them in very hot duck or goose fat in a tin on the floor of the roasting oven for about thirty minutes.

Roast Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 whole free-range chicken weighing about 1.5kg
  • Unsalted butter
  • Several (quantity up to you but a minimum of 8) garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • About 8 bay leaves
  • A sprinkling, ie to taste, of Lakeland Herb Sea Salt
  • Potatoes: one or two per person, peeled and chopped into large chunks. I used these red potatoes on this occasion but any variety will do. In the summer I use new potatoes: just halve the larger ones and there’s no need to peel them

Method

  • Place your chicken in a roasting tin with enough room around it for the potatoes
  • Spread butter generously all over the bird and sprinkle with the herb sea salt or if you don’t have any, just salt and pepper
  • Place one garlic clove and one bay leaf in the cavity
  • Slide the tin onto the second rung of the roasting oven and leave it there for 20 minutes before removing it, basting it with the buttery juices and placing the potatoes and remaining garlic cloves and bay leaves around it, turning them to coat them in the butter too
  • Return the tin to the roasting oven, this time on the fourth rung, for about an hour. Half way through, turn the potatoes and give the chicken another baste
  • The chicken is done when a thigh is pierced with a sharp knife and the juices run clear
  • Remove the bird to a large plate or board, keeping it near the Aga and maybe covering it with a clean tea-towel. Discard the garlic and bay leaves and place the potatoes in a serving dish in the simmering oven to keep warm while you make some gravy
  • All I do for this is deglaze the roasting tin with some white wine on the simmering plate and then pour all of this through a sieve into a small pan to bubble away for a few minutes, adding more wine or some stock and whatever else you fancy: for example, you could whisk in a little crème fraîche. Decant this into a small jug and keep it warm on the back of the Aga while you get everyone to the table and find someone to carve your bird
  • I will leave the choice of accompanying vegetables to you but the other day I served ours with steamed Savoy cabbage tossed with a little butter and lots of black pepper added

Apple Crumble

(Serves 4-6)

You can be making this while the chicken is roasting. This is the basic recipe; feel free to add cinnamon and/or some raisins to the apples; or reduce the amount of apple by 25 per cent and replace with blackberries when in season.

Ingredients

  • 4-5 cooking apples
  • 110g/4oz unsalted butter
  • 110g/4oz plain flour
  • 110g/4oz ground almonds
  • 110g/4oz golden caster sugar plus an extra heaped tablespoon
  • A heaped dessert spoon of demerara

Method

  • First make the crumble by placing the butter, flour, almonds and sugar in a large bowl and using your fingertips to rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. You can of course do this in a food processor
  • Peel and slice the apples, putting the slices straight into the dish you want to bake the crumble in. Add some lemon juice to stop the apples from turning brown
  • Sprinkle the crumble mixture on top, smooth it over and then press it down with the back of a spoon
  • To finish, run a fork lightly over the surface and sprinkle over the demerara
  • Bake in the baking oven, with the rack on the fourth rung, for about half an hour until golden brown on top and the apples feel soft when a knife is inserted into them

Chicken with Sherry Vinegar and Tarragon

Chicken with Sherry Vinegar and Tarragon

When we had our Aga installed in our new kitchen twelve years ago, we considered making space for a conventional hob and oven so that we could turn the Aga off during the summer months as many Aga owners do. We decided against it though, partly because the kitchen lay-out didn’t really allow for it and partly because I felt that if I was going to be an Aga cook it should be the whole year round. I have not regretted this decision. Until this summer that is. I have found myself occasionally cursing the Aga while melting into a puddle on the kitchen floor. It has just been so hot that the last thing I want to do is stand near the Aga, let alone open its doors and place things in it! If it weren’t for the ability to open wide the large sash windows of our Victorian house, I might have left home by now!

That was a rather long-winded way of explaining that the reason I haven’t posted any Aga recipes lately is because I haven’t been cooking many. Mind you, I don’t think it’s only Aga owners like me who’ve not felt much like cooking during this heatwave. I get the impression we’ve all been making salads and barbecuing. But at some point last week it cooled down a little and even rained. Last Sunday dawned wet and windy: normal summer had returned and I was perfectly happy pottering about in the kitchen  “around the Aga” making lunch. I opted to make an old favourite from Delia Smith’s Summer Collection book delia-smiths-summer-collection-140-12847l1 which was hugely popular when it came out in 1993. All my friends seemed to be cooking from it, whether it was Piedmont Roasted Peppers, Thai Salmon Filo Parcels or Pesto Rice Salad. Some of the ingredients in the recipes (fresh coriander, lemongrass, pesto, chillies, couscous) were new to us or at least not part of our daily repertoire and not always easy to get hold of. The Chicken with Sherry Vinegar and Tarragon recipe is Delia’s Spanish take on the classic French Poulet au Vinaigre, and I’ve adapted it slightly for the Aga.

 

Chicken with Sherry Vinegar and Tarragon

(Serves 4)

Ingredients

  • 8 chicken thighs or a whole chicken jointed into 8 pieces
  • 150ml sherry vinegar
  • 425ml medium-dry Amontillado sherry*
  • 12 shallots, peeled and left whole
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh tarragon leaves
  • 1 heaped tbsp crème fraîche
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • A few more sprigs of tarragon to garnish

Method

  • Season the chicken pieces and brush with a little of the oil
  • Heat a large frying pan or sauté pan on the simmering plate and add the chicken, skin side down, to brown it. You can do this by leaving the pan on the simmering plate, but to stop your Aga losing heat (remember the 80/20 rule which says you should do 80% of your cooking in the ovens and no more than 20% on the hot plates), you can place the pan on the floor of the roasting oven to do this. Once golden brown, turn the chicken pieces over to do the same on the other side
  • Remove the chicken to a plate, return the pan to the simmering plate and add the remaining oil followed by the shallots to brown them a little
  • Add the garlic cloves to colour them slightly
  • Return the chicken pieces to the pan, scatter the tarragon leaves over, then pour in the vinegar and sherry
  • Bring it up to simmering point and transfer it to the simmering oven to braise slowly. You know the drill: it will not come to any harm in there. Probably needs about an hour so here so if you want it to cook more quickly I suggest you put it in a hotter oven (baking oven if you have one) for 30 minutes or so. Halfway through the cooking time turn the chicken pieces over
  • When you’re nearly ready to eat remove the chicken pieces, shallots and garlic from the pan while you whisk in the crème fraîche. The sauce should be thick by now but you might want to bring it to the boil on the simmering plate to reduce it a little further
  • Check the seasoning and then either return the chicken and shallots to the pan (if it’s nice enough to serve it in) or pour the sauce over the chicken in a suitable serving dish
  • Garnish with the tarragon sprigs

 

* As you know, with Aga cooking there is less evaporation meaning that less liquid is required. I have given Delia’s quantities here but in all honestly there was a lot of sauce and I think I could have used about 100ml less sherry.

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

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Warm Salad of Griddled Chicken, Freekeh, Preserved Lemon, Sour Cherries and Mint

Warm Salad of Griddled Chicken, Freekeh, Preserved Lemon, Sour Cherries and Mint

The title for this recipe is very long, isn’t it? It’s another Diana Henry one but I’m making no apologies. I wanted to try freekeh (a cereal food made from unripened wheat which has been roasted and crushed into small pieces) because I’d never used it before so I pored over my various cookbooks and this was the recipe which appealed the most on the day. It’s perfect for the summer weather we’re having now. Instead of cooking the chicken in a griddle pan, you could barbecue it outside.

I’m enjoying the weather. We’ve barbecued twice this weekend, which has been lovely. My husband was supposed to be taking it easy after a small operation on Friday, but was up to standing at the grill while I got on with preparing vegetables and salads.

For the Chicken

Serves 4

  • 4 skinless boneless chicken thighs or breasts
  • 4 garlic cloves, grated or crushed
  • salt and pepper
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 6 tbsp olive oil

For the Salad

  • 100g dried sour cherries
  • 2 preserved lemons
  • 200g freekeh
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp honey (or maple syrup)
  • 3 tsp white balsamic vinegar
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • good pinch of ground cinnamon
  • laves from 10 sprigs of mint, torn
  • 10g chopped flat-leaf parsley

Method

  • If you are using breasts and they’re particularly thick, cut them in half horizontally. Marinate the chicken if you have time, even if it’s only for an hour or two. Mix the garlic, seasoning, lemon juice and olive oil in a dish and lay the chicken it it, turning it to coat. Cover with clingfilm and put in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before cooking
  • Place your griddle pan on the floor of the Aga roasting oven to get it really hot
  • Put the cherries in a small saucepan and add enough water to just cover. Bring to the boil on the boiling plate, then remove from the heat and leave to plump up for 30 minutes
  • Remove the flesh from the preserved lemons and discard. Cut the rind into slivers
  • Put the freekeh into a saucepan and cover with water, adding the regular olive oil and seasoning well. Bring to the boil on the boiling plate, then cover and transfer to the simmering oven for about half an hour, or until just tender. Drain
  • In a serving bowl mix the virgin oil, honey or maple syrup, white balsamic, lemon juice, cinnamon and plenty of salt and pepper. Add the drained freekeh and stir
  • Drain the cherries and fork them into the grains with the preserved lemon and most of the herbs
  • Place the heated griddle pan on the boiling plate and put the chicken on it (leaving the marinade behind)
  • Let it sizzle and splatter for two minutes, then turn it over. At this point you can place the griddle pan back on the floor of the roasting oven and leave the chicken to cook there for about 8 minutes until it’s cooked through. You can keep the griddle plan on the boiling plate and then move it to the simmering plate if you prefer but placing it in the oven minimises the amount of fat splattering everywhere
  • Taste the freekeh. You might want to add more lemon juice. The mixture should be moist and well-seasoned
  • Divide between four plates and serve the chicken on top or alongside, scattering the remaining herbs over. I served ours with some tzatziki

Our weekend in the garden:

 

 

 

Chicken and Sweet Potatoes with Miso, Ginger and Spring Onions

Chicken and Sweet Potatoes with Miso, Ginger and Spring Onions

 

Another of my Easter weekend dishes was this simple chicken traybake, which is also a Diana Henry recipe. It appeared in the Telegraph’s Stella magazine a few weeks ago. I tried it then and knew my family would like it. It’s perfectly suited to Aga cooking.

Ingredients

For 4-6 people, depending on hunger levels and the size of the chicken thighs

  • 8 chicken thighs
  • 700g sweet potatoes, washed and cut into wedges
  • 2½ tbsp white miso
  • 1 ½ tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp rice wine
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2.5cm chunk ginger root, peeled and grated or finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 red chilli, halved and finely chopped (use the seeds for extra heat)
  • 12-18 spring onions
  • 3 tsp black or toasted white sesame seeds (or a mixture of the two)

For the final basting

  • 1 tbsp white miso
  • 1 tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • ½ tbsp dark soy sauce
  • ½ tbsp rice wine

Method

Pre-heat conventional oven to 190ºC/gas mark 5

  • Place the thighs in a large roasting tin with the sweet potato wedges (they should be able to lie in a single layer)
  • Mix together everything else except the spring onions and sesame seeds. Pour this over the chicken and sweet potatoes, turning everything over so the ingredients are well coated, finishing with the chicken skin-side up
  • Roast for 45 minutes at the top of the roasting oven, basting every so often, and turning the wedges over
  • Mix the final basting ingredients together and about 15 minutes before the end of cooking time, take the tin out of the oven and pour them over, adding the spring onions at the same time. They should become soft and slightly charred
  • When cooked, sprinkle with the sesame seeds and serve
  • I served ours with pak choi stir-fried in a little groundnut oil with black pepper and soy sauce

IMG_4483

 

 

Slow-Cooked Chicken

img_4353

A friend came to supper the other day who said he had exactly the same Aga as mine. He confessed he didn’t think he and his wife made the best use of theirs and proceeded to ask me some questions. I was surprised to find they didn’t even know what the ovens were for: they only used the roasting and baking ovens (although they didn’t know this is what they’re called) and the simmering oven for warming plates. They didn’t use the warming oven at all! I told him they needed to buy an Aga book and that I’d read my Mary Berry one, which came free with my Aga, from cover to cover. He said they had the book but hadn’t bothered to read it.  In their defence, they “inherited” their Aga when moving into their house whereas I made a deliberate choice to become an Aga owner and cook and saw it as a kind of project. It made me realise there are people out there who didn’t choose to have an Aga but have got one by default and that they might find blogs like mine useful.

I was sorry therefore that the supper I cooked for our friend and his parents, old friends of my husband’s family, was not one of my best. I wanted to use up the pheasant breasts I still had in my freezer and found this recipe. It looked and smelled delicious and tasted good, but the meat was a little rubbery and dry. I find this happens with chicken breasts too and I don’t know what the answer is. What is more, I chose the recipe because it was a slow braise, which in my opinion ought to have ensured tender, succulent meat. On reflection, I think breasts, whether of the pheasant or chicken variety, should not be cooked for very long, so my suggestion for adapting this recipe for the Aga would be only to cook it (in the simmering oven of course) for the initial 45 minutes.

Legs and thighs, on the other hand, lend themselves to slower cooking. The dish in the photo above is braised chicken pappardelle. I got the recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Guardian column, and you will see he provides two further slow-cooked chicken recipes. I pounced on the article when I saw it, as I always do when I see the words “slow-cooked”; I immediately think “Aga simmering oven”. I have now made all three recipes and they’re all superb, but today I’m going to tell you how I made the one above in the Aga.

Braised Chicken Pappardelle

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken legs (thighs and drumsticks)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to finish
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 3 carrots, cut into 1.5cm chunks
  • 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5g thyme sprigs
  • 500g vegetable stock
  • 50g anchovies in oil, drained and finely chopped
  • 400g pappardelle (I used a good quality dried one)
  • 40g rocket leaves

Method

  • Put the chicken in a bowl and toss with the oil, a quarter teaspoon of salt and a generous grind of black pepper
  • Put a large, heavy-based casserole for which you have a lid on the simmering plate.  Sear the legs for ten minutes, turning them once, until the skin is dark golden brown, then remove from the pan.
  • Add the carrots, onion, bay leaves and thyme to the pan and cook until softened. You could do this in the simmering oven of course. Stir in the garlic and cook for a further minute
  • Return the chicken to the pan and add the stock, anchovies and a good grind of black pepper. Cover and cook in the simmering oven for at least an hour but two would be better
  • Lift out the chicken from the pot and bring everything to the boil on either the simmering or boiling plate and cook until the liquid is reduced to about 300ml
  • Meanwhile pull all the meat off the chicken bones in chunks or, as I prefer, shreds, and discard the bones and the thyme
  • Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions until al dente and drain
  • Add the chicken and pasta to the reduced sauce and vegetables and mix well
  • Divide between four plates or pasta bowls, layering with rocket leaves as you go
  • Drizzle with olive oil and serve