All my favourites in one dish: Diana Henry; a new one tin recipe; chicken thighs; sourdough. This is one of those perfect for the Aga one tin dishes which has the added bonus of using up some of the sourdough I have been making. My sourdough is improving and everyone seems to enjoy eating it but this new pastime has brought out the perfectionist in me and I haven’t yet achieved my ideal loaf. I am beginning to understand what drives people to keep baking sourdough. Part of the enjoyment is reading books about it and watching video demonstrations. I am aspiring to make Chad Robertson’s “basic country bread” as described in his wonderful book “Tartine“. I am reading it avidly and am grateful to my youngest son for leaving it at home when he returned to university this week. The other sourdough book I’m finding invaluable is James Morton’s “Super Sourdough” which my sons gave me for Christmas.
Anyway, back to the chicken recipe. It’s from Diana Henry’s latest wonderful book “From the Oven to the Table” and I hope you find it as delicious, interesting and distinctive as we did. The great thing is it’s very easy to up the quantities, using an additional roasting tin, without much extra work. You would need to allow some extra time in the oven and swap the tins round halfway through to make sure all the chicken pieces achieved that golden brown crispiness.
175g sourdough bread, torn into pieces roughly 5cm square
450g small waxy potatoes, cut into chunks
1 large onion, peeled and cut into wedges
6 thyme sprigs
1-2 tsps (according to preference) chilli flakes
1 head of garlic, cloves separated but not peeled
150g pancetta or bacon, ideally in one piece cut into chunks, but I used rashers which I chopped up
8 skin-on bone-in chicken thighs
2 tbsps sherry vinegar
220ml amontillado sherry
5 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
150g spring onions, trimmed
100g bitter salad leaves such as radicchio or chicory
25g toasted pine nuts
Put the bread, onion, potatoes, thyme, chilli and garlic cloves in the large Aga roasting tin
Add the pancetta or bacon and the chicken thighs
Pour on the sherry vinegar, 70ml of the sherry and 4 tablespoons of the olive oil
Season and toss everything round with your hands, finishing with the chicken thighs skin side up. Make sure the bread isn’t too exposed, or lying at the edges, or it will become too dark
Slide onto the second set of runners in the roasting oven and roast for 25 minutes, tossing the ingredients round and turning the tin round once. Keep the chicken skin side up
Mix the spring onions with the last tablespoon of olive oil in a bowl and lay them on top of the tin, adding another 50ml sherry
Return to the oven for a further 15 minutes
Pour the remaining sherry into a small pan with the raisins and bring to just under the boil on the boiling plate. Leave these to sit, then add them to the roasting tin for the last 5 minutes of the cooking time
For us this was a kitchen supper so I served it from the tin and placed a salad bowl of red chicory dressed with balsamic and olive oil on the table. Alternatively, you could transfer everything to a large serving dish and mix in the leaves
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.
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
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
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
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)
Cavolo nero is a cousin of kale and both belong to the brassica family. Its long leaves are so dark green in colour, they’re nearly black or “nero”. It originates from Tuscany where it was first believed to be grown in 600BC.
I can’t say when it first started to appear in our greengroceries and supermarkets but it doesn’t seem like long ago. Since I first discovered it, relatively recently, I’ve used it mainly in minestrone and in pasta dishes. It has a deliciously rich and intense flavour.
Not surprisingly, cavolo nero works well in pasta dishes and this recipe by Stevie Parle, which appeared in the Telegraph a couple of years ago, is delicious.
300g cavolo nero (you can strip the leaves from the stem if you like but since it’s going to be puréed I don’t think it’s necessary. I just chopped mine up.)
2 garlic cloves, peeled
3 tbsp pine nuts, lightly toasted
150ml extra virgin olive oil
Grated parmesan to taste
Bring some salted water to the boil with the garlic cloves in a large saucepan and add the cavolo nero. Cook for 5-10 minutes until tender and drain, keeping the garlic cloves
Transfer this and the pine nuts to a food processor and blitz. Add the olive oil and parmesan (maybe a couple of handfuls), process again and season. You will have a dark green sauce
Meanwhile bring another pan of water to the boil and cook the penne according to packet instructions
Drain the pasta, reserving a ladleful of the cooking water, return it to the pan and toss with the sauce, loosening it with some of the cooking water
Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and serve with more grated parmesan