I made a few mince pies this week. They’re now in the freezer but I might get them out this weekend as my youngest son is returning home from university and I think he’ll appreciate them. Apart from that and the Christmas cake, I haven’t done a huge amount of Christmas preparation but now that it’s December I will be getting my act together. I have had to postpone my plan to write up some of my Christmas recipes because I don’t have any decent photos to accompany them. I will aim to take lots of photos during this Christmas period so that I can write up the recipes in good time for Christmas 2018.
Meanwhile the Sunday roast continues to happen in our house and last Sunday it was gigot boulangère. If ever there was a dish that lends itself perfectly to Aga cooking, this is the one. If you love lamb and love boulangère potatoes, then this is one for you. On Sunday morning, after a cup of tea in bed with the papers on my iPad, I got up at 8 to prepare this dish. My neighbours may have caught a glimpse of me fetching some rosemary and nearly catching my death in my garden in my dressing gown. In less than an hour though lunch was in the oven, to be more or less ignored until we were ready to eat it at 2pm.
- 1 leg of lamb weighing about 2.4kg
- 1.8kg potatoes
- 2 onions, peeled and sliced
- 2 garlic cloves
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 100ml white wine
- Pound the peeled garlic with 1 tsp salt flakes (I use Maldon sea salt) in a pestle and mortar until you have a rough paste
- Add 1 tbsp olive oil and about 1 tbsp chopped rosemary to this
- Give it a stir and season
- Set aside
- Drizzle some olive oil into the bottom of your large Aga roasting tin, which you have lined with bake-o-glide
- Peel and thinly slice the potatoes. At this point many cooks would tell you to use a mandolin, but I don’t possess one so I use a nice sharp knife
- Cover the base of the tin with a layer of potatoes followed by the onion slices, chopped rosemary and some seasoning and then the remaining potato slices
- Pour over the white wine
- Stab the leg of lamb all over with the point of a sharp knife and then rub in the garlic and rosemary paste you made at the start, massaging it into the slits you’ve made
- Lay the lamb on top of the potatoes and hang the roasting tin on the third set of runners in the roasting oven and cook for 45 minutes
- Transfer to the simmering oven for at least 4 hours but, as always, longer is fine, if not better
- To serve, place the lamb on a large dish or board for carving, and the potatoes in a dish with all the juices. I put a bowl of redcurrant jelly on the table. Some mint sauce would have been nice too
Pound garlic with salt and add chopped rosemary, olive oil and pepper to make a rough paste
Layer slide potatoes with sliced onions, chopped rosemary and seasoning
Rub the paste into the lamb and place it on top of the potatoes
The cooked boulangère potatoes
- Conventional cooking: pre-heat the oven to 200ºC and cook the potatoes for about an hour before placing the lamb on top and roasting it for about 15 minutes per 500g depending on how you like it done.
- There were only three of us for lunch on Sunday so I asked my butcher, Ruby and White, to give me just half a leg of lamb, as you will see in the above photos. I halved the quantities of the other ingredients and used the small Aga roasting tin.
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)
- 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.