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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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.


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


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




Slow-Cooked Chicken


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


  • 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


  • 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

Fricassée of Chicken with Tarragon




This morning I tweeted a line I’d read in the Sunday Times about the Sunday roast being on its way out but that this wasn’t the case in my house.  Wonderfully, the replies I received confirmed that my family is not the exception.  It doesn’t have to be eaten at lunchtime (everyone’s Sundays are busy) but I believe it’s a ritual and tradition worth preserving.

When I was a student and sharing a flat with three friends, where cooking was concerned we had the typical student repertoire of the era, comprising 1001 things to do with mince. But believe it or not, one of our staples was also chicken fricassée.  I’m afraid I can’t remember the recipe in detail but it wasn’t like the dish I made for Sunday lunch today. Our student recipe involved sautéeing pieces of chicken and mushrooms and then adding a little flour, stock and milk (and possibly some cream) to make a white sauce.  We used to serve it with rice.

The origin of the term “fricassée” is French, possibly from “frire” (to fry) and “casser” (to break in pieces), which might explain why all the fricassée recipes I found in a quick Google search this afternoon used chicken pieces rather than a whole bird.  The one I made for lunch today, based on this recipe by Michel Roux which I read in the Times during the week, is the only one I’ve seen which involves roasting a whole chicken.  (Apologies if you’re not a Times subscriber and the article is behind the paywall.)

Anyway, we really enjoyed it; the tarragon sauce is delicious.  Sometimes it’s good to return to a simple classic.  We don’t need always to be finding the next fashionable thing to cook.

I made changes to the Roux recipe; very brave of me, I thought, considering his chef’s credentials and renown, but I honestly didn’t think we needed quite that much cream and also, when you have a roasting oven as hot as the Aga’s, why would you need to brown the chicken before putting it in the oven?


  • 1 whole chicken (mine weighed 2kg)
  • Butter
  • 3 shallots
  • Tarragon vinegar (I didn’t have any so used good quality white wine vinegar)
  • About 100ml white wine
  • About 100ml chicken stock
  • About 150ml double cream
  • Handful of tarragon leaves (adjust amount according to your preference)


  • Place the chicken in a roasting tin, spread butter all over it and season.
  • Roast in the roasting oven for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, basting a couple of times during cooking.  I placed mine on the rack on the third set of rungs for the first 20 minutes, then moved the rack to the bottom of the oven with the tin on the fourth set of rungs.  The cooking time will obviously depend on the weight of your chicken.
  • Remove the chicken, place on a dish and leave to rest (perhaps on the warming plate of your Aga)
  • Pour off most of the fat, add a knob of butter and sweat the shallots gently for about 5 minutes.  Add 1tbsp vinegar and the white wine and let it bubble up for a few minutes.  At this stage I poured everything into a small saucepan: easier than continuing in the roasting tin.
  • Add the chicken stock and boil until reduced a little.  Add the cream and repeat.  Check for seasoning.  Add the tarragon leaves at the last minute.  Pour into a jug for serving.  We ate our fricassée with new potatoes, broccoli and carrots.



Chicken Tagine


We’ve had a weekend guest.  One of our oldest friends, who was at medical school with my husband, came down on Friday evening so that he could go walking in the Wiltshire countryside with my husband on Saturday.  His wife couldn’t come this time because she’s a busy GP and was doing a Saturday surgery.  While the men were out all day I had a lovely time pottering about in my kitchen.  I didn’t spend the whole day indoors (morning: farmers’ market; afternoon: took Son3 to the station) but it was so dark and wet outside, I wouldn’t have complained if I had.

I’m a big fan of the series “How to make the perfect…” written by Felicity Cloake in the Guardian.  She cooks popular dishes by well known cooks and chefs in an attempt to arrive at the “perfect” version.  Her efforts are written up in detail and make excellent reading.  I would urge you to check it out and I think most of the recipes are available via the Guardian website.

Last night I made her chicken tagine and we absolutely loved it.  I made a couple of adjustments though.  First, I could not find saffron anywhere in Bristol.  Okay, admittedly I didn’t try every single shop but you know what I mean.  Therefore I threw in a teaspoon of ras-el hanout instead.  This is not an exact substitute, obviously, but seemed to me to be an authentic addition.  Secondly, I used green olives instead of violet ones because I love green olives and felt they were just right in this dish.

Now, I’m sure you Aga cooks out there are dying to know how I cooked it.  Well, I started the onions on the simmering plate and then transferred them to the simmering oven for a while to soften before adding the spices and remaining ingredients.  Once I’d added the chicken thighs, olives and water I let it all come up to simmering point on the simmering plate, put a tight lid on and transferred it to the simmering oven.  I reckon it could have stayed there for two or three hours but was cooked after one.  As you know, little harm comes to anything left indefinitely in the slow oven of an Aga.

A couple of things.  I used less water than the recipe prescribed, perhaps just 100ml.  I was taught at an Aga demonstration I attended when mine was first installed that you always need less liquid than the recipe demands because it simply doesn’t evaporate in an Aga to the same extent as in a conventional oven.  And finally, I want to mention how much I love that in this recipe you don’t have to brown the chicken pieces in advance.  In fact, browning meat might be my most hated cooking-related activity, because it always makes a mess with fat splashing everywhere, including in my hair.

Anyway, I will definitely be using this recipe again, and, I hope, with saffron in it, unless there’s some sort of worldwide shortage I haven’t heard about.