Recipe: Roast Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

This classic recipe is something I’ve been wanting to make for a while. I’d read about it occasionally in foodie magazines, there’s variations featured in a couple of my cookbooks. But I’ve always been a bit scared to try it. I mean, I love garlic but 40 cloves!? Every part of my brain said it wouldn’t work, but eventually I gathered up the courage and just gave it a go. And I’m sure glad I did!

Instead of being harshly garlicky, the slower simmering of the cloves means the garlic cooks down and becomes sweet and fragrant. The chicken is tender and moist, to the point of falling apart. The sauce is light, yet flavourful. Served with mashed potato (with some of the soft garlic stirred through) and green vegetables, I find this is the perfect summery alternative to a more traditional roast chicken.

Recipe – 1 large chicken would served 5/6 (or gives plenty of leftovers)

  • 5-6 banana shallots peeled and halved lengthways
  • 1 whole chicken
  • ½ lemon
  • 25g butter
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 40 garlic cloves (I used 3 bulbs), unpeeled
  • 1 small glass of white wine
  • 250ml chicken stock (from a cube is fine, homemade is extra yummy)
  • 1 tbsp dried tarragon
  • 1 tbsp crème fraîche

Remove any string from the chicken and place the lemon inside the cavity. Generously season the chicken inside and out with plenty of salt and pepper. Heat the butter and oil in a large flameproof casserole. Brown the chicken over a medium-high heat for a couple of minutes on each side. Add the whole garlic cloves and shallots to the casserole, nestling around the chicken, and poking some of the garlic inside the cavity with the lemon.

Pour over the wine and chicken stock. Cover the casserole with a tight-fitting lid and bring the liquid to a simmer on the hob, then transfer to the oven and cook for 1¼ hours at 200C. Check that the chicken is cooked by piercing the thickest part of the thigh and ensuring the juices are clear.

Transfer the chicken to a warmed plate to rest whilst you make the sauce. Skim off any fat in the casserole pan and discard, then return to the hob and stir in the tarragon and crème fraîche. Squeeze in half of the garlic cloves (reserving the rest for another day, or use in the mashed potato). Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer, stirring, then season to taste and serve alongside the chicken.

Not only does this dish taste delicious, but the cooking smells are insanely good!

Are you a fan of Sunday roasts, or do you like to mix things up a bit?

Recipe: Lamb Baked in Hay

This is the perfect dish for Easter Weekend. We don’t eat lamb overly often (because pricey, and we have a wedding to pay for), but this is the one weekend where we will definitely be indulging. And because we only enjoy lamb on occasion, we need a recipe that will work. A recipe that will enhance the meats natural flavours and sweetness, keep it moist, render the fat and deliver a yummy meal. And this recipe is a good’un.

Roasting a leg (or half a leg) in hay gives meat a delightful smokiness. Using a casserole dish keeps it tender, and the whole thing is just really rather yummy. In actual fact, cooking in hay is a method that was used throughout history to keep the intense heat of the fire/oven away from the meat (I imagine chicken would be amazing cooked in hay!), so it cooked slowly and evenly. Not only does this ensure super-tender meat that can be carved easily, it also adds a wonderful flavour.

Recipe – for 1/2 Leg of Lamb, can be easily scaled up or down with adjustment to the cooking time

  • 1/2 leg of lamb
  • A few handfuls of hay – available from pet shops – ask for ‘eating’ hay
  • 100g butter, softened
  • 6 springs of rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed

Soak the hay in water for about 15 minutes, then drain and use to line a casserole dish large enough to fit your lamb (if you need to, use a roasting tin and seal tightly with foil before cooking).

In a bowl mix the butter, chopped rosemary and garlic, then smear the mix all over the lamb. Season well with plenty of salt and pepper, then place the lamb on the hay. Cover with the rest of the hay, the cover the dish with it’s lid. Make sure there are no loose bits of hay hanging out as these can smoulder or catch light when in the oven. Cook at 180C for 2.5 hours, for tender meat (less if you prefer your lamb roast to be pink). Allow to rest (covered in foil) for around 15 minutes before serving – we like to to serve with boulangerie potatoes, mint sauce and plenty of veg.

We usually cook half a leg of lamb which leaves leftovers for at least one, usually two meals. Try my Ultimate Shepherds Pie, or Spicy Lamb Flatbreads.

Will you be eating Roast Lamb this weekend?

Student Summer: Simple Sunday Chicken

One of the things I missed most when I moved to university was a good Sunday lunch. Well, a roast dinner – they aren’t just for Sundays really! Sure you could go to your nearest ‘Spoons (or as I did – the local cafe that did roast dinner baguettes) but it wasn’t quite the same. In the end I turned to my own oven, and after nearly two years of experimenting I’ve come up with a basic Sunday Roast Chicken that doesn’t break the bank, and doesn’t take an awful lot of skill. Perfect for students really!

 photo 2014-08-09203043_zpsf27a197c.jpgThe best thing about this is that it is completely and utterly adaptable. Sausages going spare? Throw them in! Fancy something more summery? Add tomatoes and some lemon juice. In the mood for spice? Rub spice mix into the chicken. If you want more traditional roast potatoes then you’ll probably want to use a large dish so they aren’t covered by the chicken – but I think they are pretty great as they are. Another great bonus is that pretty much everything is ready at the same time – all you need to do is cook some green vegetables, and you can do that whilst things are resting. Exactly as the title says, simple!

On a savvy-spendy note, chicken thighs are super cheap compared to breasts, and I’ve actually started really liking them now I appreciate crispy skin. They are also really difficult to dry out, so a bonus if you forget about them in the oven!

 photo 2014-08-09203447_zpsad055189.jpgIngredients

  • Chicken thighs – 1-2 per person depending on appetite. You can use any leftover meat the day after, or freeze it for a bit.
  • New potatoes – chopped into bitesized chunks
  • Garlic – 2 cloves per person
  • Salt, pepper, and any other seasoning you fancy
  • Olive oil

 photo 2014-08-09175130_zps5643c4ed.jpg photo 2014-08-09181122_zps80ba6ee8.jpgTo start off, par boil your potatoes in salted water for five minutes. Drain and toss with the garlic (don’t bother to peel) and olive oil. Season.

 photo 2014-08-09195552_zps1f0caab7.jpg photo 2014-08-09195645_zps99b0fcd4.jpgPlace the chicken skinside up ontop of the potatoes, and drizzle with a little more olive oil. Use your hands to rub the olive oil over the skin, then season again.

 photo 2014-08-09203054_zps0e474cd6.jpgPop in a pre-heated oven (200C) for 45 minutes – the chicken skin should be golden and crisp. To check – remove a piece of chicken and place on a plate, then piece the thickest part and press down. Juices should run clear without any pink; if not your chicken isn’t quite cooked. Cover with foil and rest for 10 minutes whilst you prep and cook any other veg, then serve up.

This recipe is so quick and easy, plus so tasty and reminiscent of home. It’d be a perfect dish to make if you and housemates joined up for meals – my second year house tried to do Sunday dinner together, although we rarely did a full roast, and it was definitely a highlight of the week! When Currys asked me to produce a recipe for their student cookbook this was the first thing I thought of – so I had to share!

Are you a lover of the Sunday roast?