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

 

Advertisements

Waffles

 

 

When I was young we used to go to Norway for the summer holidays every other year.  My brother and I would go with our mother for about six weeks and my father would join us for two or three weeks.  We’d stay mainly with my grandparents in Oslo but would also visit my aunt and cousins in Kristiansand on the south coast and my uncle and cousins in Stavanger on the west coast.

Norway was, and still is, an idyllic place to be on holiday if you love being outdoors and don’t like hot, sweaty crowded beaches or crowds full stop.  It is relatively unspoilt with some of the world’s most stunning landscapes.  Not that I’m biased or anything.  Many Norwegians have a holiday home, or “summer house”, either in the mountains, by the sea or on one of the thousands of tiny islands dotted along the coastline, where they spend a lot of time during June and July when the days are long and it barely gets dark at night.  We would spend our days fishing, messing about in boats, or clambering over rocks looking for shrimps and crab.  Even in Oslo, the capital city, peaceful lakes and forests are but a short tram ride away.  As a child growing up in Oslo my mother used to ski to school.  During the long, cold winters it was the easiest way to get around.

So often one’s memories of childhood holidays are evoked by the food one ate and this is very true of our Norwegian stays.  There were the shrimps bought straight from the boat as it arrived back at the harbour in the early morning; the freshest ever mackerel, gutted, filleted and painstakinglingly de-boned by my grandmother or aunt and fried in butter until the skin was golden and crisp; juice made from homegrown blackcurrants, raspberries and redcurrants; the most divine homemade strawberry jam, more runny and less sweet than any you’d buy in a shop and all the better for it; tiny home-baked bread rolls which accompanied every picnic we went on, and there were a lot of picnics.  And then there were the waffles which would be served every time we were invited to friends or relatives for tea or coffee.  At least, that’s how I remember it!

I suspect there isn’t a Norwegian household without a waffle iron.  I remember my mother buying her electric one in Norway because you couldn’t get them here at the time, but the other day in my local shop, Kitchens, I noticed several on display so times have obviously changed.  You will see from my photos that my waffle iron, which my mother gave me years ago, is no longer pristine, but it works well.

As a Bank Holiday treat I made waffles for breakfast this week and I thought you might like the recipe.  Cardamom is the key ingredient I think but it’s a small amount and the flavour is subtle; strangely enough, I don’t remember noticing cardamom in the waffles I ate as a child.

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 250ml whipping or double cream
  • 500ml milk
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom, ground
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 400g plain flour

Method

  • Beat the eggs and sugar together.
  • Sieve the flour with the baking powder and cardamom
  • Using an electric hand whisk or mixer, add the flour mixture and milk/cream to the egg alternately to make a thick batter
  • Ladle into the waffle iron and cook
  • Serve with jam and/or butter or clotted cream, but they are also delicious plain