So, in my last Random Recipe post, I said that Steve and I were now going to be competitive with our random recipes and it would be war! Well, it didn't work out that way this month. Instead, we were rather pleasant to one another and collaborative (not like us!).
This month, we were to choose a random recipe from the cookbook we had received most recently as a gift for Dom's latest challenge. I had received a copy of Nigella Lawson's Kitchen from my Mum-in-law for my birthday. Have I mentioned before that I have a very glamorous Mum-in-law who inspires me with her cooking and baking dressed up to the nine and in her high heels? We share a love of Nigella's books and I think my Mum-in-law really has the special Nigella glamour - you know - feeding your family with lovely, tasty, homely food but doing so with style!
Anyway, Steve randomly opened the book at Nigella's Praised Chicken recipe. This recipe was her Mum's and is obviously very special to her. It is a very healthy, hearty and inexpensive dish - ideal for families and it can have unending variations to it. So, we thought it would be perfect for our war - we would each do our own version and choose a winner.
Steve was going to go first and was really going to make it pretty much exactly as Nigella's basic recipe. The afternoon he was due to make it, though, I had volunteered him to help some friends of ours move temporarily out of their home while they had some work done so, as he dashed out the door, he asked me to make it as he wouldn't have time. I followed the basic recipe exactly and we served it according to Nigella's suggestions.
It was a lovely meal. I loved the simple, peasant aspect to it and I really felt the kids were getting something really good for them. It was also quick and easy to sling together. It fed us again the second day and we also managed to make soup with the leftover so it worked out as a really cost effective meal.
The following week, Steve made another version but he actually wasn't terribly adventurous and didn't stray far from the basic recipe (I think he had wanted to do a version with lots of chilli and other strong flavourings but worried that the kids wouldn't eat so much if he did that). I think we will certainly make this dish many times more and will try lots of changes. I really want to put some fennel and pastis in my next one.
I am so glad we tried this recipe. The versions we made, don't really have any 'wow' factor to them but I just love the simple, healthy, homeliness of them and think this will be a staple dish here.
Recipe - Adapted from Nigella's basic recipe (Kitchen, p 223).
1 large, free-range chicken
2 tsp garlic oil
100ml white wine or dry white vermouth
2-3 leeks, cleaned, trimmed and cut into approx 7cm logs
2-3 carrots, peeled and cut into batons
1-2 sticks celery, sliced
approx 2 L cold water
1 bouquet garni or 1 tsp dried herbs
fresh parsley stalks or few sprigs, tied or banded together
2 tsp sea salt flakes
2 tsp red peppercorns, or good grinding pepper
to serve -
chopped fresh dill
1. Get out a large, flame-safe, cooking pot with a lid in which the chicken can fit snugly.
2. On a washable board, untruss the chicken, put it breast side down and press down until you hear the breastbone crack.
3. Put the oil in the pan to heat, then brown the chicken for a few minutes breast side down, and turn up the heat and turn the chicken over. Still over a vigorous heat, add the wine or vermouth to the pan and let it bubble down a little before adding the leeks, carrots and celery.
4. Pour in enough cold water to cover the chicken, though the very top may poke out, then pop in the bouquet garni and the parsley stalks along with the salt and red peppercorns.
5. The chicken should be almost completely submerged by now and, if not, add some more cold water.
6. Bring to a bubble, clamp on the lid, turn the heat to very low and leave to cook for 1 1/2 - 2 hours.
7. Serve the chicken and accompanying vegetables with brown basmati rice, adding a ladleful or two of the liquid over each shallow bowl as you go, and putting fresh dill and mustard on the table for the eaters to add as they wish.
Steve's Variations -
Steve used cider instead of the white wine and added onions instead of the celery, and bacon lardons and pumpkin seeds. The bacon gave a lovely extra dimension of salty flavour and the pumpkin seeds were an inspired addition for some lovely crunch.
Check Dom's Blog very soon for next month's Random Recipe Challenge.