Blood oranges are available in the shops at the moment, and at the time of writing Covid-19 has not caused us to panic buy them. They are delicious eaten on their own as one of our five-a-day or baked in a tart or cake, but why not try using them in savoury recipes too?
In this all-in-one-tin dish, the chicken acquires a delicious crisp, caramelised skin and its juices combine with all the other ingredients to make a wonderfully flavourful supper.
I got the idea from a Sainsbury’s recipe by Sarah Randell, but there were quite a few stages to it and in adapting it for the Aga, I realised the process could be made much simpler.
Chicken, fennel and blood orange traybake
4 bone in, skin on chicken thighs
1 red onion
1 fennel bulb
2 blood oranges
350g Charlotte potatoes (or any waxy type)
2 tbsps olive oil
6 unpeeled garlic cloves
6 small rosemary sprigs
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
2 tbsps clear honey
100ml Madeira or Marsala
Quarter the potatoes lengthways
Peel the onion, halve it and then cut each half into four wedges
Trim the fennel and slice into thin wedges
Place the potatoes, onion, fennel, cinnamon, garlic and rosemary in the small Aga roasting tin, season and toss everything in the olive oil
Season the chicken thighs and tuck them in among everything else in the roasting tin
Mix the juice of one of the oranges with the honey and stir in the Madeira/Marsala
Pour about half of this over everything and slide the tin onto the second set of runners in the roasting oven for 15 minutes
After this time pour over the remaining juice/honey/Madeira mixture and return the tin to the roasting oven for about 25 minutes, but check it after 15
Quarter the other orange and then chop each quarter in half and add these to the roasting tin for the final 10 minutes or so of cooking
If you want to slow things down you can place the tin in the simmering oven once the chicken has a good colour, after about 30 minutes, and leave it there until you’re ready to eat
Meanwhile put the pistachios on the small Aga baking tray and bake in the baking oven for 4-5 minutes until nicely toasted. Leave to cool and then chop roughly. Sprinkle over the finished dish
I served this straight from the tin since it was just the two of us, but you could of course transfer everything to a nice serving dish or platter. Don’t waste any of the delicious juices in the tin and spoon some over each serving. Serve with a green vegetable or salad.
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.
1 whole free-range chicken weighing about 1.5kg
Several (quantity up to you but a minimum of 8) garlic cloves, unpeeled
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
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
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.
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
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
Or is it pilaf? I believe the words are synonymous, but perhaps it depends if your dish is Middle Eastern (pilaf) or Indian (pilau). This one is a pilau because it’s based on one of Meera Sodha’s from her wonderful book Fresh India, which I mentioned here and a copy of which I now own.
A pilau is made with long grain rice and is a great way of using up leftover ingredients, which is what I was doing the other night when I made it. I added asparagus because at this time of year during the British asparagus season, hardly a day goes by when it isn’t on our menu at home.
My husband, a lover of all apple-related desserts, says this is his new favourite Sunday lunch pudding. New to us, he means, because fruit cobblers have been around for years. For some reason they did not feature in my repertoire. Until now. I’ve made a couple of cobblers in recent weeks and my husband’s at the “I could eat this every week” stage. He’s even sent a photo to our youngest, who’s returning home from university for the Easter holidays soon, telling him what a treat he has in store. Who would not want to cook for someone so enthusiastic and complimentary?
When researching cobblers I started off with Delia, then found a Mary Berry example and a couple of other online recipes, and came up with this. I plan to vary it according to available ingredients; apple and blackberry would definitely work, as would rhubarb and ginger.
150g self-raising flour
50g cold butter, cubed
50g caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
4 tbsp milk
3 or 4 large Bramley apples
A handful or two of sultanas
1 heaped tsp ground cinnamon (to get a strong and fresh cinnamon flavour we buy cinnamon sticks from Cinnamon Hill and grate them as and when required)
75g demerara sugar
Make the cobbler first by placing the flour and butter in a large mixing bowl and rubbing the butter in until it resembles breadcrumbs. You can of course do this in a food processor, but it’s very quick by hand
Stir in the caster sugar
Add the egg and milk and combine until it’s like wet scone mixture
Peel and slice the apples and place in a dish. You can grease it if you like but I don’t and it’s been fine
Stir in the cinnamon, sultanas and Demerara sugar
Place dollops of the cobbler mixture on top of the apples; there will be gaps
Bake in the baking oven for 30 minutes or so until the top is golden brown and the apples are soft
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
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
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
At a shoot lunch towards the end of the season, my husband was served what he termed “the best pudding I’ve ever eaten”. He loved it so much he asked his hostess, Clare Pelly, for the recipe so that he could make it at home. Only joking; I mean so that I could make it for us all. I don’t mind at all: I’m happy to be the cook in our relationship because I enjoy it and because I’m better at it than he is, just as there are many things I don’t like doing which he is happy to do and is better at than me. I imagine this is how most successful partnerships work.
As it turns out, I’m very grateful to him for getting me the recipe for this “best ever” pudding because it’s absolutely delicious. Clare is also an Aga cook and the pie is particularly suited to Aga cooking because it can be baked on the floor of the roasting oven, which gives wonderful, crisp pastry.
For 1 x 10″/26cm or 2 x 7″/18cm flan tins
8oz/200g plain flour
1 tbsp icing sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp cold water
2lbs/900g cooking apples
4oz/100g plain flour
4oz/100g caster sugar
10floz/285ml double cream
2oz/50g caster sugar
Pre-heat conventional oven to gas mark 6/200ºC
To make the pastry, sift flour, rub in butter, stir in icing sugar and bind together with yolk and water. Wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for about 30 minutes
Roll out thinly and line your prepared tin(s) with it. No need to bake it blind
Peel, core and slice your apples and mix with the raisins
Make a crumble by sifting the flour, stirring in the sugar and rubbing in the butter
Spoon half of this into the tin
Cover with the apple/raisin mixture and pour over the cream
Spoon over the remaining crumble mixture and sprinkle on the topping
Bake on the floor of the roasting oven for about 30 minutes until it’s bubbling and caramelised or brûléed on top. Your pastry should be lovely and crisp, although you won’t know this until you’ve cut into it
Conventional oven: after 25 minutes turn it down to gas mark 5/190ºC for 10 minutes
Can be served hot, warm or cold
I always worry about the Aga cooling down if you give it too much to do at once but yesterday I cooked a pheasant, some roast potatoes and this pie in the roasting oven in the space of one and a half hours and everything was perfectly cooked.
The first time I made this pie we were a little disappointed that the cinnamon flavour wasn’t very strong. Cinnamon is one of my husband’s favourite things so he did a bit of research. First of all he saw that the cinnamon I’d used (by Bart’s) was a blend “sourced from several Fairtrade producers” and that the cinnamon considered to be the best is from Ceylon. So from the website cinnamonhill.com I bought some Ceylon cinnamon sticks and the next time I made the pie, we used the fine Microplane grater to grate some for the topping and reader, I can confirm it tasted noticeably better.
I don’t see myself as much of a maker of puddings or desserts; I’m nervous about pastry and anyway, during the week there simply isn’t time to make a dessert. In all honesty I’d rather bake a cake to have with a cup of tea in the afternoon and then just eat some chocolate to satisfy my sweet tooth at the end of a meal. But, as I wrote here, I’m not eating chocolate anymore.
On Sundays, as I think I’ve mentioned before, my mother-in-law usually makes a pudding for us all. I’ll make one if we have friends round or to take to friends if we’re invited to lunch or supper. I’ll also make a dessert when it’s my turn to host book club or film club.
Raspberry and Cinnamon Torte
The raspberry and cinnamon torte I wrote about in my tumblr days is one of our favourites:
This bakewell cake by Fay Ripley, which my Twitter friend @lesleyj28 alerted me to recently, could serve as a dessert or a teatime cake. I pounced on the recipe because it contains everything that’s delicious and good about a bakewell tart (almonds, raspberry jam!) but no pastry. I love pastry but (see above) don’t love making it. Without the need to make pastry, this cake is mixed and baked in no time. I used to watch Fay Ripley in Cold Feet on the telly (LOVED it) and had heard about her recipes but had not tried them before. As I began to make this, I realised how similar it is to my torte. It is a little more “cake-y” (two eggs instead of one), has jam in it and doesn’t contain cinnamon but apart from that it’s the same. In fact, if I made it again, I’d probably replace the vanilla extract with cinnamon, but that’s just my personal preference. Also – a small point – I didn’t have any flaked almonds in the cupboard so scattered over chopped almonds instead: a poor compromise on Fay’s recipe, we later all agreed.
150g butter, softened
150g golden caster sugar
150g SR flour
150g ground almonds
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 tsp raspberry jam
150g raspberries (I used frozen because it was all I had)
50g flaked almonds
Grease a 22cm springform tin and base-line with bake-o-glide or baking parchment
In a mixer, food processor or with an electric hand whisk combine the butter, sugar, flour, almonds, eggs and vanilla extract (oh how I love the all-in-one method!)
Place half the mixture in the cake tin, smoothing it out, and dot the raspberry jam over, half a teaspoon at a time. Scatter the raspberries over
Drop spoonfuls of the remaining mixture over the fruit but don’t worry if there are gaps; it will spread in the oven
Scatter over the flaked almonds
Bake for about 40 minutes in the Aga baking oven (or a little longer in a conventional oven at 180ºc). Not easy to test this cake with a skewer because the raspberries make it a little wet in the middle. It should be golden brown and springy to touch when done
Couldn’t be simpler.
I love making raspberry muffins too, although I see them as more of a coffee or teatime thing than a dessert. I also wrote about these on my tumblr:
Just out of the oven and cooling before winging its way to the birthday boy in London.
I have made A LOT of apple cakes in my time. Personally, I’d rather eat apple cake than crumble or pie. It’s more versatile for a start, because it works well as a pudding and as a teatime cake. My sons tease me about how I make a distinction between cakes that work as puddings and those that don’t.
The apple cake I made this morning is for my son W, who turns 26 tomorrow. I remember lying on the maternity ward after he was born on 11 February 1990, watching Nelson Mandela walk to freedom on my neighbour’s tiny televison set. But I digress.
Sadly, I will not be seeing W on his birthday this time. I’m staying in Bristol to keep an eye on Granny. But it’s fine, because we’re all getting together very soon. His dad took the cake up to London with him this afternoon.
I discussed what cake W might like with his brother G, and we agreed apple cake was probably his favourite, and it didn’t matter that it’s perhaps not very birthday cake-y. I decided to make this one.
We also love my Norwegian grandmother’s apple cake, which we eat all year round but ALWAYS on Christmas Eve; it’s tradition. Perhaps I’ll let you have that recipe another time.
W has just been in touch to say they had some cake tonight because they’ll be at work tomorrow and eating out in the evening. Any excuse! Anyway, I hadn’t realised W hadn’t tried this particular apple cake before. He says he loved it, especially the cardamom. I’m glad they ate some today when it was at its freshest. No-one wants to eat stale cake.
Mamma Moore’s Apple Cake
Grease and line the bottom of a 23cm/9″ springform cake tin
225g self-raising flour
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of ground cardamom seeds (I grind them in a pestle and mortar)
A grating of fresh ginger or 1 tsp ground ginger
100g cold butter, cut into small cubes
450g cooking apples
a little lemon juice
100g caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
50g demerara sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Sift flour, bicarb, salt and spices into a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly
Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs
Peel the apples and cut into small, thin pieces. Toss them in lemon juice as you go, to keep them from browning
Mix the apples, caster sugar and eggs into the butter/flour mixture and gently fold through until everything is thoroughly mixed
Turn into your cake tin and level off the top
Mix the Demerara and cinnamon and sprinkle over the batter
With the rack on the third set of rungs, bake in the baking oven for about 35 minutes. Test with a skewer
Leave in the tin to cool a little before turning out
Delicious served hot or warm with whipped or clotted cream