What came first, the chicken or the egg?

We ate our one Easter egg last week…In fact it was an Easter chicken with a few eggs and a nest, quite cute really but just far too tempting sat there on the side. Of course, we bit its head off first so it didn’t feel any pain. Not really sure what chickens and eggs, bunnies and chocolate have to do with Jesus but I’m not a Christian so maybe I’m just not in on the secret. I am in on the eating of such things though, in fact this week I have eaten all four…

I have been in France over Easter, staying with the OH on the boat helping out with the refurb. ready for the season. Its been great cooking for other people again, especially two starving boys who really appreciate it 🙂 This week we’ve had spiced aubergine and quinoa, courgettes in lime served with goat’s cheese polenta, a smashing spag bol and for our Egg-stra special Easter meal I cooked an actual chicken for a delicious roast.

Now, I have always been more of a red meat roast eater, with the occasional pork belly thrown in for variety. Chicken is a difficult one for me; I don’t eat cheap meat, especially not factory farmed stuff and if I’m going to spend the extra to get a nice chicken, I’d actually rather buy a duck or perhaps a game bird. My choice was distinctly limited however in the only shop in the tiny town, a 3km cycle away from the middle of no-where port I am currently in. We really are in the arse-end of no where…so chicken it is.

Roast Chicken with French themed trimmings

Chicken, butter, sage, garlic, bay leaves, salt, olive oil.

For the trimmings: Potatoes, carrots, tarragon, butter, sugar, fennel bulb

For the gravy: Juices from cooking carrots and fennel, stock cube, juices from the chicken after leaving it to rest, corn flour, white wine, mustard

Roast Chicken Firstly, turn on the oven. I am contending with the beast that is the boat oven and so any time I want to cook anything I have to get it on early so its got plenty of time to surprise me with its O to inferno skills… Pop the chicken in a roasting pan with plenty of oil to stop it sticking. Peel the skin gently away from the breast of the chicken to make a pocket against the meat. Carefully rub sage into the meat, poke in a few slices of butter, a clove of garlic sliced thinly and two bay leaves. Rub salt and a little oil into the skin on the top, legs and wings. Stick it in the oven, 30 mins per 500g and then an extra 30 mins on top at about 180 degrees C.

Potatoes While the chicken is busy getting its roast on in the oven, prep the veg. Peel and slice the potatoes and carrots. Chop the fennel bulb in half. For the potatoes, pop them in a pan of cold water, bring it to the boil and simmer for about 7 mins. Drain them, put a lid on the pan and then shake it to lightly fluff the edges – do not over boil as you’ll end up with mash when you do this. Put another baking tray in the oven with a little oil, some of the fat from the chicken would be great too for adding flavour. Make sure the pan is toasty and then tip the potatoes on, coat them in the fat and then put straight in the top of the oven. Roasties normally take about 40 mins to get really crispy so put them in 30 mins before the chicken comes out. The last tens minutes of cooking, you want the oven up really hot, so once the chicken is cooked take it out to rest then bang the temperature up.

Carrots I never used to like cooked carrots, until my dad discovered that cooking them in sugar and butter vastly improves them (as with most things, its like cheese and deep frying…). He calls these Vichi Carrots; apparently they’re French. Slice them into rounds, pop them in a pan and just cover them with water. Add a couple of teaspoons full of tarragon, a teaspoon of brown sugar, one of butter and some seasoning, be generous with the pepper. Boil the pan dry and then let the carrots cook in the butter to caramelise the sugar.

Fennel In the restaurant at the port (the only one for miles and miles) we had a delicious supper the other day and one of the side veg was fennel. I asked the chef how he prepared them and then tried it out for myself. Boil the fennel until the layers go slightly transparent and its soft all the way through. Then slice it into quarters, leaving enough of the base to keep all the layers together. Fry cut side down in lashings of butter and season liberally with salt and black pepper.

Gravy I always like to make my own gravy, nothing beats my mothers though, despite my using exactly the same method. Put the pan you cooked your roast in on the hob with a low flame underneath. Pour in a good glass of wine to lift all the scrummy bits off the surface and stir. Add the water from cooking the vegetables, use a little to mix some cornflour into a paste and then add this too, it will help thicken the sauce. If you need some more flavour add some stock, some roasts are juicier than others so you may not need this. Finally add a dollop of Dijon mustard and pour into a jug or straight over the plates of food.

I have always been a huge fan of roasts, I have had lots of practice making them and as long as you stay calm, have a glass of wine in had at all times, it is relaxing and not stressful at all to bring it all together. You can always stick things in the oven to keep warm if your timings are a little off. No one will mind if its late, just make sure they have a glass of wine in hand at all times too 🙂

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