Back-of-the-fridge dinners


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Sunday is when I run errands. I start early at the flower market, then on to Fabrique to pick up some bread for the week and a couple of cardamom buns for Sunday tea, next The Turkish Food Centre on Ridley Road for yoghurt, feta, olives, spices and finally – nearly home – the greengrocers’ for big bunches of herbs, fruit and veg. Sorry if this is beginning to sound a bit Goop. I warn you it’s not going to get much better. If it helps, you would almost certainly be horrified at the state of my jump-out-of-bed-and-get-going fashion stylin’.

To make room for all of the fresh stuff, on Saturday I rummage through the fridge and cupboards for anything that needs using up. Ends of cheese, wilting half heads of celery, softening spinach, dairy leaping over its sell-by date, olives lurking at the bottom of tubs, a remembrance of drinks parties past, everything short of a biohazard ends up in salads, soups, casseroles or pies. There is a pleasing randomness to Saturday night tea at our house. Here is this weekend’s experiment.

Saturday night chorizo and fennel

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A few slightly vintage chorizo sausages, some bulbs of less-than-perky fennel, a bendy leek and a stick of celery I could almost certainly have wrapped into a bow if I’d so desired were the inspiration for this supper. Take your time browning the fennel and softening the onions – it really adds to the flavour. If I’d had some feta lurking at the back of the fridge, I’d have crumbled that over the top at the end too.

Serves 4

3 bulbs of fennel
A few tablespoons of olive oil
250g cooking chorizo, cut into 4cm chunks
3 onions, finely diced
1 leek, white and pale green part only, finely sliced
1 stick of celery, finely diced
3-4 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 red chilli, finely minced – remove the membrane and seeds if you like a milder flavour
2 teaspoons ground cumin
200ml white wine
100ml red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon tomato purée
400g tin chopped tomatoes or whole cherry tomatoes
400ml chicken stock
Small bunch of parsley, tough stalks removed, finely chopped
Small bunch of coriander, tough stalks removed, finely chopped
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Trim any brown bits off the fennel and save any fronds to finish the dish. Cut each bulb into 6-8 wedges lengthways, depending on its size. Keep the root and core intact so the wedges hold together.

Warm a splash of olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed casserole over a medium heat and sauté the chunks of chorizo until they take on a bit of colour then remove them to a bowl with tongs or a slotted spoon – you want to leave enough of the nice, red, spicy fat in the pan to fry everything else. Raise the heat a bit and put the fennel wedges into the same pan. Sauté on both sides until they take on some colour. You’ll have to do this in a couple of batches. As each wedge is done, put it in the bowl with the chorizo.

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Make sure to get the fennel nice and golden.

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I love these tinned tomatoes.

When you’ve cooked all the chorizo and fennel, lower the heat and tip the onions and leek into the same pan. Add a pinch of salt and cook, stirring from time to time, until very soft, about 30 minutes. Add the celery and sauté for a further 5 minutes. Add the garlic, chilli and cumin and sauté, stirring, for a minute. Pour in the wine and vinegar and simmer quite hard until most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in the tomato purée, chicken stock and tinned tomatoes. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add the reserved chorizo and fennel, cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes until the fennel is very tender. Simmer, uncovered, for a further 5-10 minutes until thickened slightly. Season, stir in the coriander, parsley and any reserved fennel fronds and serve.

Quick slow lamb

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In anticipation of the chives going underground for winter, I’m throwing handfuls of them into almost everything.


On our way home from Columbia Road Flower Market yesterday we stopped off at the Turkish Food Centre at the end of Ridley Road market. We bought halloumi, feta, a box of figs, oranges and lamb and loaded them into the back of the car with the bunches of Chinese lanterns and hydrangeas.
I went into the garden to pick out seasonings for the lamb. At this time of year, I use even more soft herbs than usual – fistfuls rather than handfuls – anticipating their vanishing underground until next spring. I cut some lovage, thyme, bay leaves, chives and a couple of mild chillies.

In the cool, grey light of the kitchen, I set about cooking the lamb, mostly from instinct and driven by the news that a storm was coming. The height of my ambition for Sunday afternoon was to sit on the sofa, fire lit, telly on, dog at my feet, eating something cosy from a tray. In the end, we ate it at the kitchen counter. My husband is a civilising influence.

End-of–the-garden lamb shank casserole

This past year, largely because of my friend Catherine Phipps’ The Pressure Cooker Cookbook, I have learned to love the pressure cooker. For an impatient person like me, its greatest draw is that it cuts the cooking time of recipes like these lamb shanks from a few hours to 30 minutes. I’ve given timings for making this in a normal casserole too, but I urge you to give pressure cooking a go.

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2-3 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
3 carrots, 1 diced and the other two cut into thick chunks
1 stalk of lovage, diced (reserve the leaves for later), or 1 small stick of celery, diced
3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
2 mild chillies, membrane and seeds removed, diced, or a good pinch of chilli flakes to taste
1 tbsp flour
4 lamb shanks, 4 pieces of lamb neck cut from the middle
About 250ml red wine
1 tbsp concentrated tomato purée
600ml chicken, beef or vegetable stock
1x400ml tin chopped plum tomatoes
100g pearl barley, rinsed, or you could add a drained, rinsed tin of chickpeas if you like
Bunch of chives, finely chopped
Bunch of parsley, tough stalks removed and finely chopped
Some dill’s nice too, if you have it
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

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Seasoned lamb shanks and neck.


Warm a tablespoon of the oil in a heavy-bottomed casserole or a pressure cooker over a medium-low heat. Add the onions, bay leaf, thyme and a pinch of salt. Sauté gently until the onions are soft and translucent, stirring from time to time, about 15 minutes. Add the diced carrot, lovage or celery, garlic and chillies. Stir for another couple of minutes. Tip everything into a bowl and reserve.

Season the lamb with salt and pepper and dust lightly with the flour. Warm the rest of the oil over a medium-high heat and brown the lamb on all sides. Do this in batches so you don’t crowd the pan, removing the browned pieces to a plate as you go. When all of the lamb is browned, drain all but a tablespoon or two of the fat from the pan then deglaze it with the red wine, scraping up any bits which have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Simmer until the wine is reduced by half then stir in the tomato puree, tinned tomatoes and stock. Add the reserved vegetables and barley or chickpeas and simmer everything together for 5 minutes. Add the lamb with any juices from the plate, season with salt and pepper and stir.

If you are using a pressure cooker, put the lid on the pan, seal and bring up to full pressure. Reduce the heat slightly and cook for 30 minutes. Vent immediately. Add the carrots, seal and bring up to full pressure; cook for 2 minutes and vent immediately.

If you’re cooking the lamb in the oven, cover the casserole tightly with foil, put the lid on and cook in a 160°C/325°F/Gas 3 oven for 2 hours. Remove from the oven and add the carrots. Return to the oven for a further 30-40 minutes, until everything is very tender.
Stir in the chopped herbs (add some chopped lovage leaves or celery leaves if you have them), adjust seasoning if necessary and serve with plain boiled rice or potatoes, sprinkled with a few more herbs.

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Sunshine in Winter


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Tooolips

My friend Laetitia came to lunch last week. On a cold and blustery day, she brought the sunshine with her in the form of a huge bunch of orange tulips. I’m afraid we call them tooolips, in recognition of our shared devotion to Ina Garten. Ina often uses them to adorn the table when entertaining her fabulous coterie of East Hampton decorators, cooks and party planners. They add a jolt of colour without requiring Constance-Spry-level flower arranging skills. As Ina would say, ‘How easy is that?’.

Laetitia and I spent a happy few hours laughing and chatting and talking about books and gardens, over a lunch of soup, salad and cake. In the middle of the week it felt indulgent, like playing truant from a life ruled by deadlines. It brought a bit of the weekend into the weekday, which is always a good thing.

 

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Cos, red amaranth, feta and toasted pumpkin salad.

If you love your garden, or would like to learn to love your garden, you should really have a bit of Laetitia in your life too. Her books, The Virgin Gardener and Sweetpeas for Summer are full of simple and beautiful ideas for transforming your outside space, and for bringing some of the outdoors indoors too. She’s that precious combination of practical and funny, honest and inspiring. She brings the sunshine with her, and in February we could all do with a little bit of that.

Ham Hock and Cannellini Bean Soup

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I love a ham hock. It’s one of the cheapest pieces of meat you can buy and is enormously versatile. Boil it, roast it, toss it in salads or sandwiches, use it in pasta dishes or pies, or shred it and add it to soups like this one.

Serves 6

For the ham hock:

1 ham hock
A bouquet garni of 2 parsley stalks, a couple of sprigs of thyme and a bay leaf tied together with kitchen string
¼ tsp black peppercorns


For the soup:

A generous knob of butter or couple of tablespoons of olive oil
2 onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
A sprig of thyme
2 medium-sized carrots, diced
1 medium-sized leek, halved lengthways, rinsed well and finely sliced
1 celery stick, finely diced
A few mushrooms, thinly sliced, optional
2 garlic cloves, minced
1x400g tin cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
About 1.3l ham cooking liquid
About 250g cooked ham
A small bunch of parsley, tough stalks removed and roughly chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


To serve:

Extra virgin olive oil
Shavings of Parmesan

Place the ham hock in a large pan of cold water and leave to soak overnight. Drain and rinse. Place the hock in a pan with enough cold water to cover, the bouquet garni and peppercorns. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer gently for about 1 ½ hours until the meat is tender and pulling away from the bone, skimming off the scum from time to time. Strain, reserving the stock, and when it’s cool enough to handle, shred about 250g of the hock into large-ish chunks.

Melt the butter or warm the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over a medium-low heat and gently cook the onions with the bay leaf and thyme until the onions are soft and translucent, about 15 minutes. They shouldn’t take on any colour. Add the carrots, leek, celery and mushrooms if using and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, beans and ham and stir for a further minute. Pour in about 1.3 litres of the ham stock, bring to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, taste and add some grinds of black pepper. You probably won’t need to add salt as the ham itself is quite salty. Stir in the parsley. Serve in warmed bowls with a trickle of olive oil and some Parmesan shavings over the top.

There’s Something About Turkey

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My default setting for dealing with leftovers is to throw them all together and cover them with pastry. Eat and repeat. Until January, when some law about dusting off the juicer and salad spinner comes into play.

Please excuse the less-than-stellar sunshine brightness of these photographs. They were taken in my parents’ kitchen which, like the kitchens in many Victorian houses, is in the far northern corner of the house. In the days before refrigeration, it gave the food a fighting chance of staying fresher for longer. Even now in this kitchen you can happily leave butter out between September and June without any risk of it being easily spreadable on anything other than the hottest of toast. It is the perfect kitchen for making pastry.

Until recently, the kitchen was even more crepuscular. A thicket of trees comes almost up to the house, shading the mossy path to the front door. The house is at the top of a valley and even the gentlest of breezes whips and licks around its walls in the most ferocious fashion. In a storm last spring, a huge tree was whipped and licked right into the kitchen wall.

Tree for Debora

My parents, who were in another part of the house at the time, didn’t notice. They were alerted by the postman who came to the back door rather than the front and explained his usual route was barred by several tons of unruly tree. It took my brother and nephew a whole day to clear a path to the house, then a gang of men with proper machinery arrived and, over several days, transformed the tree into neat logs and mountains of chippings.

So I suppose what I’m saying is sorry about the pictures but it could have been a whole lot worse.

Turkey Pot Pie

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Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients for the pie. At Christmas, I usually have all of this stuff kicking around in the kitchen and I suspect you may do too. If you’re missing anything, don’t worry. Just add a bit more of something else. Essentially, it’s leftovers in a sauce with pastry over the top. Adjust any of these ingredients depending on what you have – if you have any leftover ham, that would certainly be good. The only important thing about making this pie is that you make it without having to go to the shops. That’s the best seasoning of all.

A large knob of butter
1 large onion, diced
1 bay leaf
A couple of sprigs of thyme, plus more for seasoning later
1 large parsnip or 2 small, cut into 1cm dice*
2 carrots, cut into 1cm dice*
1 celery stick, diced (optional)
250g chestnut mushrooms, halved, or quartered if large
2 garlic cloves, diced
1 rounded tbsp plain flour, plus more for dusting
About 700ml chicken or turkey stock, or leftover gravy if you have it, hot
100ml white wine
Leftover cooked turkey, skinned, and cut or shredded into large chunks
1 bunch spring onions, trimmed and cut into 1cm pieces
A couple of handfuls of frozen petits pois
2-3tbsp crème fraîche or double cream
1 tbsp Dijon mustard, wholegrain or plain
500g ready-roll, all-butter puff pastry or shortcrust pastry
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten with a little water

*You can use leftover roasted carrots and/or parsnips if you have them. Leave them whole and add them towards the end with the turkey.

Melt the butter over a low heat and add the onions, a pinch of salt, bay leaf and a couple of sprigs of thyme (on the branch). Sauté gently, stirring from time to time, until the onion is soft and translucent, about 15 minutes. Add the parsnip, carrot (unless using roasted ones, add these later) and celery if using and sauté for a further 5 minutes until slightly softened. Turn the heat up and add the mushrooms and another pinch of salt. Sauté, stirring from time to time, until the mushrooms have given up their moisture and started to brown slightly. Add the garlic and stir for a minute. Sprinkle over the flour and stir for a couple of minutes. Add a ladleful of the hot stock or gravy and stir, scraping up any bits which have stuck to the bottom of the pan, then add the rest of the hot stock or gravy along with the wine. Bring to a simmer and let it all bubble away for 5 minutes until the sauce is thickened slightly.

Add the spring onions, peas and turkey (and roasted veg if using). Remove from the heat. Stir in the crème fraiche and mustard. Stir in about a tablespoonful of fresh thyme leaves, removed from the stalk and roughly chopped. If you have any parsley, chives, tarragon or chervil kicking around, you could also add a sprinkling of these, either alone or in combination. Season with salt and pepper. Cool.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas mark 6. Either leave the turkey mixture in the pan you cooked it in, so long as it’s ovenproof, or pour it into an ovenproof dish.

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Dust the work surface with a little flour and roll out the pastry so it’s large enough to cover the surface of the ovenproof casserole or dish with about 5cm to spare. Brush the edge of the dish with a little of the egg wash, drape over the pastry, crimp it to the edges and trim. You want an overhang of about 2cm. Brush the top with egg wash, sprinkle on some salt, pepper and thyme leaves. Place on a baking sheet and cook for about 30-35 minutes, until the filling is bubbling hot and the pastry is golden.

Do the Stokey Pokey

IMG-20121028-00008 Paul and Sam at the grill.

There he got out the luncheon-basket and packed a simple meal, in which, remembering the stranger’s origin and preferences, he took care to include a yard of long French bread, a sausage out of which the garlic sang, some cheese which lay down and cried, and a long-necked straw-covered flask wherein lay bottled sunshine shed and garnered on far Southern slopes.
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

I love where I live. I love that I can buy lightbulbs, shoes, packets of nails or buttons, chillies, guavas, curry leaves, home-made pesto, embroidery thread, books, bras, sardines, bread, cat collars and dog treats, baking tins, parcel tape, compost and pruning knives, wrapping paper, baklava and mixing bowls all within a ten-minute walk from my front door. But for years, to buy really good meat I had to get on the bus to Highbury or wait until Saturday for the farmers’ market. I’m not a wait-until-Saturday kind of girl.
A year or so ago the shutters went down on a small restaurant which had no discernible menu or, indeed, customers. Work began inside. Rumours ran up and down Church Street faster than a hipster on a fixed wheelie. Would it be another café? One more shop plundering the surely-soon-to-be-exhausted vintage clothing mines? Horror of horrors, another estate agent? Then something wonderful happened. The long, narrow interior suddenly sparkled with white tiles. Fridge cabinets appeared along the walls. A notice appeared in the window. It was going to be a butcher. If there were a single thing that would improve the quality of my life, it was this. No more bus trips, no more waiting for Saturday.
And what a great butcher it is. The meat is excellent, the staff cheerful, helpful. They open in the evenings and on Sundays. When I pop in for a chicken or a shin of beef or a bit of scrag end, they always pop a bone into my bag for the dog. Usually the bone is bigger than the dog. Often, so thrilled is Barney with his present, he hides it, burying it in some corner of the garden to be retrieved weeks later, filthy and rotting, and deposits it on a rug or (shiver) bed as the most precious of gifts.
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So a nice thing happened, to make up for the filthy and rotting yet most precious of gifts. Paul Grout, one of the shop’s owners, invited me to judge The Stokey Pokey Sausage competition. Customers submitted their favourite sausage recipes and Paul and his staff whittled them down to their top five, which they made up in gorgeous, generous links.
Last Sunday afternoon, I trotted along to the shop thinking I really should be wearing a hat and gloves, the Mrs Miniver-ish uniform of the lady judge. At the garden in the back of the shop, the grill was lit, delicious, savoury smoke wafted into the damp autumn air and we warmed ourselves with the first mulled wine of the season. My fellow judge was Jane Curran, food editor of Woman & Home magazine (and fellow Gooner; when we’re together talk as much about football as we do about food). We chewed and sniffed, scribbled and debated the merits of seasonings and textures, and whether a chicken sausage could ever trump a pork sausage.
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In the end, we decided it couldn’t. Even though it was delicious, we thought the combination of chicken, fajita spices, onion, red and yellow peppers and green chillis would make a better burger or meatballs. So the winner was Harry Crabb, with his pork, garlic, nutmeg, allspice, milk powder and white wine sausage. Harry told me it was his mum’s recipe, one she’d got from an Italian woman who’d been her pen friend since they were girls, whose family the young Harry and his siblings had visited and who had visited them here in England. If you’re local, Harry’s sausage will be on sale in the shop from this weekend. It’s really good. I suggest you try it.

IMG-20121028-00013 Paul announces the winner.
IMG-20121028-00018 Harry with his prize.

Paul’s Sizzling Sausage Tips If you’re not local but you’d love to have a go at making your own sausages, here are Paul’s top tips for success. He knows his sausages. He also runs the excellent Butcher at Leadenhall in Leadenhall Market and used to be the butchery and charcuterie manager at Harvey Nichols. He also teaches courses in the shop if you fancy a bit of hands-on instruction.

  • Always use good meat It’s very important to remember that what you put in is what you get out. It’s absolutely not true that sausages are the ‘dumping ground’ of the butcher’s shop. Go to a butcher you trust to give you well-bred animals which have lived and fed on the land. Ask for a recommendation as to the best cuts for sausages.
  • Sausages need fat Don’t be afraid of the fat. This is another reason why it’s important to use good meat. We are what we eat and well-fed animals will produce tasty fats. A good, juicy sausage will have about 20% fat to meat content. Sausages with little or no fat content will be dry and unpalatable. For small batches, it should be possible to buy a cut which offers meat and fat together, such as pork belly, lamb shoulder or beef chuck.
  • Don’t overwork the meat When chopping, mincing and mixing, handle the meat as little as possible and keep it cold. If the meat is overworked, or becomes too warm, the mix will become ‘sticky’ in the mouth. Mince the meat once, add the flavourings (herbs, spices, vegetables and seasonings) and mix quickly. Let the mix rest in a cool place. (NB If using root vegetables, it’s important to cook them off and allow them to cool before adding them to the sausage mix. The time it takes to cook your sausages will not be enough to cook your vegetables.)
  • Always use natural casing (skins) Use pork skins for ‘bangers’ and lamb skins for chipolata or cocktail sausages. It’s never acceptable to use ‘man made’ skins – yuck!
  • Let your sausages rest Having made your sausages, it’s good to let them rest. The skins will dry a little and become firm with the meat and any unwanted liquids will drain away. Too much liquid in your sausages is one of the reasons why they burst in the pan. Too much fat, or poor meat, are other reasons for exploding sausages which is why, historically, sausages were known as ‘bangers’.

Meat N16, 104 Stoke Newington Church Street, London N16 OLA           020 7254 0724
Open Tuesday to Friday 9.30am-7pm; Saturday 9am-5pm; Sunday 9.30am-4pm

Hurry up, go slow

Fast is fine but accuracy is final. You must learn to be slow in a hurry.

From the film Wyatt Earp

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Roasted chicken with clementines and arak

My late, lovely father-in-law, the Major, used to describe his army career as a succession of hurry up, go slow – intense periods of activity followed by lots of waiting around for something to happen.

I’m very good at the hurry up bit. I think most of us are, to the point where it’s a habit, backed up by a society which reinforces the notion that speed is good. Scan the newspaper, while talking on the landline and checking your Twitter feed on the mobile? Guilty.

It seeps into my downtime too. How lovely to listen to that play on the radio – I can clean the oven at the same time. If I have a long bath now, I bet I can finish the last 100 pages before bookclub tonight. Let’s take the dog for a walk, I can check my emails at the same time. Get a pedicure? The perfect opportunity to catch up on all those favourited features. And so on.

I need to stop it. I think we all need to stop it, or at least be aware that we’re doing it. Multitasking  is as old-hat as those 80s shoulder pads. It slows down your brain, scrambles your effectiveness and switches you to a permanent ‘frantic’ setting, which is terribly dull and, I’m quite sure, promotes wrinkles.

My perfect Sunday involves a leisurely walk around the flower market  followed by filling the house with a load of people for a lunch which will trickle into the glimmers of evening and possibly involve an improvised dinner too.

Last weekend we were having half a dozens pals over for Sunday lunch. On Saturday, I spent a pleasant hour or so going through Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s gorgeous new book, Jerusalem, picking out a menu I could pretty much prepare ahead, all the better to be enormously lazy on Sunday.

I picked out a butternut squash and tahini spread, where the squash is roasted with cinnamon and mixed with tahini, garlic and yoghurt (I would have liked to blog this for you, but it vanished too quickly to shoot, so delicious was it) to go with the charcuterie and olives and bowl of cherry tomatoes; the roasted chicken featured here needs marinating overnight and then simply bunging in the oven for 40 minutes or so, and  the set yoghurt pudding with poached peaches only requires flinging onto plates before you bring it to the table (I’ll share that recipe next week).

So on Sunday, I went to the market, played with some flowers, arranged a few things on plates, drank a chilly glass of prosecco and opened the door to cheerful people bearing wine and beer and hydrangeas. Lunch sprawled through the afternoon and into the evening. The last of our happy band left at 11.30.

So hurry up by all means. But don’t make it into a habit. Only do it if it allows you to go slow when it counts. Do what you’re doing. Be where you are.

Roasted chicken with clementines and arak, from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

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Just out of the oven. I made double the quantity so I used three trays – don’t crowd that chicken!

This seems like a bold, intense and unusual combination of flavours but they work beautifully together, creating a deliciously savoury dish enlivened and lifted by the clementines and fennel. I made twice as much, hoping to have some leftovers to tuck into during the week. I didn’t have any leftovers. It all vanished.

Serves four

100ml arak, ouzo or Pernod
4tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp grain mustard
3 tbsp light brown sugar
2 medium fennel bulbs (500g in total)
1 large, organic or free-range chicken, about 1.3kg, divided into 8 pieces, or the same weight in chicken thighs with the skin and on the bone
4 clementines, unpeeled (400g in total), sliced horizontally into 0.5cm slices
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
2 ½ tsp fennel seeds, slightly crushed
Salt and black pepper

Chopped flat-leaf parsley to finish

Rice or bulgar to serve

Put the first six ingredients in a large mixing bowl and add 2 ½ tsp of salt and 1 ½ teaspoons of black pepper. Whisk well and set aside.

Trim the fennel and cut each bulb in half lengthways. Cut each half into 4 wedges. Add the fennel to the liquids, along with the chicken pieces, clementine slices, thyme and fennel seeds. Stir well with your hands then leave to marinate in the fridge for a few hours or overnight (skipping the marinating stage is also fine, if you are pressed for time).

Preheat the oven o 220C/200C Fan/Gas Mark 7. Transfer the chicken and its marinade to a baking tray large enough to accommodate everything comfortably in a single layer (roughly a 30cm x 37cm tray); the chicken skin should be facing up. Once the oven is hot enough, put the tray in the oven and roast for 35-45 minutes, until the chicken is coloured and cooked through. Remove from the oven.

Lift the chicken, fennel and clementines from the tray and arrange them on a serving plate; cover and keep warm. Pour the cooking liquids into a small saucepan, place on a medium-high heat, bring to a boil then simmer until the sauce is reduced by a third, so you are left with about 80ml. Pour the hot sauce over the chicken, garnish with some chopped parsley and serve. Serve with plainly cooked rice or bulgar.

Recipes for Summer Rentals: III

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Not a great beauty, but so delicious.

The slummocking is going very well. A khol eye pencil languishes untouched at the bottom of my makeup bag and the mascara’s chances of remaining in daily rotation are looking increasingly perilous. The Babyliss Big Hair thing has been pushed rudely to the edge of the dressing table to make way for a jam jar of flowers from the garden. I am a breath away from going to the village shop in my slippers.

In London, I often make Jamie Oliver’s Chicken in Milk, or variations of it. Rather like the Tuscan dish, arista al latte, or pork cooked in milk, slowly simmering the bird in milk ensures it’s so tender it’s pull-apart easy to carve.

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My holiday larder is bare of a few of the things in Jamie’s recipe – sage, cinnamon – and even if I climbed the steep hill to the village shop (in my slippers), I doubt they’d have them either so I ditched them. I did add a bay leaf and sauté a sliced onion in the fat before returning the chicken to the pot. The milk curdles into cloudy little lumps, which you can spoon over the chicken, or pass them through a sieve and reduce to make a smooth, thick sauce. I also stirred some chopped chives into the sauce – if you wanted you could use parsley, chervil, tarragon, chives, alone or in combination, whatever you have.

Essentially, for tender, easy, holiday chicken, brown a whole, seasoned bird in butter, pour in enough milk to come about halfway up the pot, add some lemon zest and the seasonings you like. Bring to a gentle simmer, cover tightly and cook either over a very low heat or in the oven at 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5 for an hour and a half, basting if you remember. Leftovers are great in salads and sandwiches the next day.

Today’s pictures from the beach…

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It’s sometimes hard to tell who’s exercising whom.

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Beach bum

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Tiny mussels clinging to the rocks like iron filings.

Today’s holiday reading:

The grocer had been a Socialist all of his life, and his chief pleasure now was for Sarge to come in at tea-time and sit on the empty biscuit tins, chewing a handful of currants, and asking his advice. The young people upstairs were wonderful to him and he would have joined the Communist Party now, at his age (“What, at my age?” he would chuckle, measuring out sago into blue bags) but that he feared Sarge would then stop arguing with him. “My young people upstairs,” he would boast at his daughter-in-law’s, where he lived now his wife was dead. “Of course they walk in and out of the shop when they like. They’ve got their keys, and how else are they to come and go?” Then he would wait for the inevitable expression of doubt, so that he could add proudly: “We are not landlord and tenants. We are Communists and trust one another.”

People were always coming and going up the stairs. He came to know most of them; Chris, for instance, and then Eleanor. It was different from his daughter-in-law’s, where people only came to tea on Sundays and dinner must be early because of it and scones made first and tempers lost.

From At Mrs Lippincote’s by Elizabeth Taylor, 1945