Monday, 27 July 2009

Roast Chicken

Roast chicken is something of a British classic in my opinion - and very simple to do! Simply take a chicken, season it with salt, freshly ground black pepper and some herbs. In this case, I've used parsley and basil, which I find add a good flavour to most dishes. Chop a couple of carrots, an onion and some celery and place around the chicken, as shown in the picture. The idea of these vegetables it add flavour to the gravy, which we will make from the juices that come from the meat. I usually lightly drizzle olive oil over the chicken and the vegetables as well. Then, simply place in the oven. It's best to follow the cooking guidelines on the label of the chicken as times will vary depending on the size.

As it's cooking, take it out of the oven a couple of times to baste it. Simply tip the tray up and use a spoon to cover the roasting chicken with the juice that will have formed in the tray. Once the chicken is cooked, it's time to make the gravy. This is really easy and I don't know why more people don't make their own gravy when the cook a roast - the flavour is so much better then the dried gravy granules that you can buy. Remove the chicken from the tray and leave on a plate to rest, covered with a sheet of kitchen foil to keep the heat in. Using a sieve, strain out the contents of the roasting tray into a suitable container, such as a measuring jug. Then, pour a few table spoons of cold water into the roasting tray and stir this around to pick up the last of the juices. Pour this into measuring jug with the rest of the strained juice. You will probably find that the gravy separates into two layers, the top one of which is fat. It's probably not a good idea to have too much fat in your gravy, so you can use a spoon to carefully remove as much of this layer as you can. Once that's done, you can thicken the gravy if you want. To do this, simply mix a little flour into some cold water in a cup. Then, place the gravy into a small pan on a low heat and slowly add the flour and water mixture whilst stirring, until you get the desired consistency. That's it! It might sound a lot, but it really is very simple and the same procedure can be used to make gravy from other meats as well as chicken, such as roast beef.

I like to keep a roast simple, so in this case I served it with boiled potatoes, English green cabbage
One of the great things about roast chicken is that you can use all the left overs to make the most amazing fresh chicken stock, but I'll cover that in another post. Enjoy!

Friday, 24 July 2009


Well, I haven't posted for a little while now, but needless to say the plants have been getting on well! The tomatoes especially have been growing like anything and are now producing fruit: I am really looking forward to being able to eat some of these! Although, judging by the number of flowers on the plants, I'm going to be inundated with tomatoes. I shall probably have to make some chutney, so that I don't have to waste any. But, that will be great as I can then have tomato goodness through at least some of the winter.

The sweet pepper plants are also doing OK, although they suffered a major attack of white fly. I dealt with this by spraying them a strong solution of washing-up liquid in water, which isn't terribly good for the plant, but is much worse for the white fly. I gave them three treatments in all and it seems to have done the trick, so fingers crossed!
As you can just see in this photo, these are starting to produce fruit as well, which is exciting! Hopefully the washing-up liquid wont have done too much damage.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Pad fried British chicken breast with sautéed vegetables

This is a great recipe for chicken breast, which I absolutely love. Like nearly all of my cooking, it's very simple, although does perhaps require a little more effort than many of the recipes on this site.

First of all, lightly season a chicken breast with salt, freshly ground black pepper and some dried basil. I tend to use dried herbs for this kind of cooking, saving the fresh stuff for use in salads and stuff, where it has more impact.

Then, heat some oil in a pan, you going to want it to be really quite hot to start with, but not quite smoking. Place the seasoned chicken breast into the pan and fry on a high heat on each side until brown. This will take around 2 to 3 minutes for each side. The idea here is to seal in the juices of the meat. Once sealed, turn the heat down and cook for about 20 minutes, turned occasionally. If the chicken breast is really thick or you want it to cook more quickly, then you can 'butterfly' it. To do this, simply cut it length-wise down the middle, but not all the way through, so that you can open it up, in a manner similar to opening a book. This way, the two halves will be thinner and so will cook much more quickly.

While that's cooking, it's time to sauté the vegetables. In this example, I used the most exciting British vegetables I could find. At this time of the year, that includes quite a lot, so I have used red and yellow sweet pepper, courgette, aubergine, mushrooms and spinach. Simply slice and chop all the vegetables, as you would for a stir fry. I fried some chopped onion first and then added the aubergine, followed by the mushrooms, the courgette, the pepper and finally the spinach, waiting for around 2 minutes between each and stirring continuously. I used a good handful of spinach leaves, which looks a lot when you first put it in the pan, but the leaves shrink to a fraction of their original size as they cook. Season with salt, freshly ground black pepper and some dark soy sauce. Cook for a further 5 minutes or so, stirring regularly.

I find that you can often tell when the chicken breast is cooked through by poking it with a sharp stick, or a fork, whichever is most convenient at the time. The idea is to make a small hole through the skin and into the meat. If the juice that comes out of this hole (you might need to press down on the chicken breast around it) runs clear, then it is probably cooked. Like all recipes, I suggest you try this out just on yourself to begin with, so you can remove the meat from the pan and cut it in half to check. With practice, you'll get it right.

Once everything is cooked, slice the cooked chicken breast into strips and serve on a bed of the sautéed vegetables, with boiled new potatoes. Nice.