Saturday, 14 July 2012

Mary Berry's Provencal Chicken

"Why is there a whole chicken in the fridge?" was the first thing the husband said to me today at around 11am.  "Because the Ocado man bought it with him" I replied.  The husband eyed me suspiciously.  We never have whole chickens.  It was dead, plucked and shrink-wrapped, I hasten to add.
Poor perspective - this was the Pamela Anderson of chickens

The husband doesn't "do" roast dinner.  We might have roast beef once a year after which he complains that there's too much washing up and that he shouldn't have eaten such a heavy meal at 7pm.  Oh and I forgot the bit where he scrapes the gravy off of every bit of meat, searching for the slightest hint of blush in the flesh.  He needn't worry - I now microwave his so it's as tough as old shoe leather (such a waste).  I then announce that roast dinner is too stressful and I will never cook it again.  A year passes, we forget the fuss and the whole drama plays out all over again.  Just like Groundhog day.  Except he's a bit balder and I'm a little greyer.

So when I finally admitted we were having roast chicken for tea, he rolled his eyes like Miss A does when I tell her she's got to eat what the grown-ups are eating and I know she'd much rather have a chocolate Philly and peanut butter sandwich.  This set the atmosphere for the rest of the day.  A bit of sulking.  Lots of suspicion.  But he's the one who's supposedly on a health kick and when he asked me yesterday why I only feed him stuff from Tiers Four and Five of Michi's Ladder, he got a short shrift because he won't eat anything from the first three tiers.

In essence, the recipe is for a pot roast chicken in a red pepper, tomato and carrot sauce.  There was nothing for him to not like.  True, he doesn't 'do vegetables, but I figured it was pretty much like a fresh version of Heinz tomato soup (overly sweet and orange) which he loves.

It's pretty simple to make.  Stick everything in a casserole, cook for an hour and a half, blitz the cooking juices and carrots, carve and serve.  A few roasties on the side and veg for me, peas for him (peas aren't a vegetable according to the husband) and we were done.

Ready for the oven
I put the plate in front of him, served his sauce on the side in case he didn't like it.  He tentatively dipped the second bit of meat into the pot and asked why I couldn't make all of our chicken as soft and juicy as this.  I didn't know whether to breathe a sigh of relief or slap him.  I've been on tenterhooks all day.  Despite him saying he'll eat whatever I put in front of him, no matter how much he rolls his eyes, it still stresses me out and I'd prepped both regular gravy and a ham and cheese sandwich just in case.  Phew!

This now means that I will have to find lots of other recipes where the chicken is poached rather than baked (his technique, not mine).  But hey, I've got a tick in the box for this blog.  I got him eating something new.  Result.

Because it was only the three of us, there was so much sauce left, that I've saved it for lunch tomorrow to eat as a soup.  Which is a good excuse for me to make Dan Lepard's soup bread from today's Guardian as tomorrow's recipe.  Double result.

And I then realised that today is also Bastille Day so I've also ticked the 'National Celebrations' box with this recipe.  Without even trying.  Yay me.

Recipe - serves 4-6

  • 1.8kg free range chicken (without giblets)
  • 350ml fresh chicken stock
  • 50g carrots, diced if large and whole (I used baby Chanteray ones)
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 bulb garlic
  • small bunch parsley
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 250ml red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • Maldon sea salt and cayenne pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 190c/170c fan.
  2. Separate the garlic cloves and peel half.  Place the unpeeled garlic cloves in the chicken's cavity along with most of the parsley (reserve a few sprigs for the garnish).
  3. Season the chicken well with sea salt and cayenne pepper
  4. Put the chicken in a lidded casserole dish.  Arrange the peeled garlic cloves, red pepper and carrots around the chicken and pour over the stock.
  5. Cover and bake for 1.5 hours or until the juices run clear when a skewer is poked into one of the legs.
  6. Whilst the chicken is baking, boil the vinegar until reduced to about 2-3 tbsp.  Put into a blender with the basil, oregano and tomato puree.
  7. When the chicken is cooked, lift it out onto a plate and pour the cooking juices and vegetables into the blender.  Blitz until you have a smooth sauce.  If it's a little runny, put in a saucepan and simmer for a few minutes until reduced.
  8. Carve the chicken and pour the sauce over, garnishing with the remaining parsley.

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