Sometimes you just can’t beat a simple British classic. And sometimes, when the weather is truly British and you feel as if you dwell not under but inside a stubborn grey cloud, the only food which really warms and soothes is cloud food. The sort of food which you imagine clouds are made of-food like a goose-down pillow. Creamy mashed potatos, bread sauce, roast chicken, apple crumble, clotted cream, buttery cheesey pasta, cauliflower cheese, freshly baked scones crumbling hot in the mouth and crumpets dripping with half melted butter. And so on a particular miserable sunday I comemmorated the cloudy sky with a feast of all things great, hearty and homely. A cloud-menu for two:
Roast Chicken, Bread Sauce and Trimmings
For the Chicken
1 chicken (soul now happily in the clouds)
1 stick celery
1 bulb garlic
sprig thyme and sage
Chicken stock and white wine
butter, salt, pepper.
At about 1.15 pm roughly chop onion, celery and carrot, place with knob of butter and sprigs of herbs in pile at bottom of roasting tray Add to this 5/6 bashed garlic cloves (this shall be the flavour throne on which your chuck shall nobly sit) Cover chicken in butter and salt and pepper,put half onion and half lemon up his bum, then sit him upside down on top of veggies. This ensures a moist breast (what a combination of words that was)-you’ll turn him later to get the breast skin crispy and golden. Pop him in the oven at 180.
Now peel 4/5 potatoes and 3 parsnips, then cut chunks and batons respectively. Boil in salted water for about 10 mins till slightly soft but not cooked all the way through. Strain and shake in the pan to fluff up the edges-this ensures crispiness. Heat 1/2 pot of goose fat with a glug of light olive oil in a roasting tray in the oven for about 5 mins-till smokin’. Add pots and parsnips into this-they should sizzle and spit. Put these in the oven under the chicken. These should be in by about 1.30 if you’re keen. That’s the hard bit over.
Now melt a knob of butter in a pan, add a white onion chopped in half and studded with about 5 cloves. Add to this a generous grating of nutmeg and a bay leaf. Pour in about a pint of whole milk and let the whole thing infuse for a while on a low heat (20 mins or so). Sit down and have a large sherry. To this oniony clovey milk add just under 1/2 loaf fluffy white bread- crusts removed, and stir it all in until it’s dissolved. If too thick add more milk-the bread absorbs lots.
Check potatoes and turn over in the fat to brown evenly.
For the veggies do as you see fit- i did braised sprouts with some wilted spinach which was good (and quick) but anything works.
At about 2.10 turn your chicken the right way up.
At about 2.25 take chicken out and skewer his thigh-if the juices coming out are clear he’s cooked-if pink he’s not. Put him on a board and cover with foil. Put roasting tray with the yummy veg on the hob and add a tablespoon of plain flour. Stir around and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the stock (if you have it-if you dont use a bit of the water from your boiled veg) and a healthy glug of white wine and leave to bubble away for a few minutes. If you want to strain it or pick the vegetables out you can do, i scoop them out and serve them later.
Now take potatoes out, carve chicken and serve all with lots of bread sauce.
Apple Crumble and Clotted Cream
I never use the same crumble recipe twice-in fact i usually make it up as i go-but this one was especially good. Normally the sign of a good crumble for me is when the fruit pokes up through the rubble of the crumble in a jammy caramelised edge. This is the stuff of dreams. Here’s (roughly) how to achieve it.
2 coxes/mushy eating apples
large knob butter
freshly grated nutmeg and shake of cinnamon
slosh brandy and splash of water
Fry apples (peeled, cored and sliced) in large heavy frying pan with butter, squeeze of lemon and handful of caster sugar. Test for sweetness-add more sugar if necessary-but retain some tartness. Slosh in brandy and water and cook until some of the apple is broken down fully-and it’s formed a sort of sauce-there’s nowt worse than dry crumble.
Put this in the bottom of a pie dish.
Now pour 50g ground almonds and about 200g plain flour into bowl. Rub in with your finger about 180g butter, leaving some bits a little bigger. Rustic is best. Stir in 100g caster sugar and 50g demerara. Try the raw mix and check it tastes good. Sprinkle over cooled apple and then put in the oven at 180 for about 50 mins-until golden and bubbling. Serve with clotted cream.