Monday, 25 March 2013

Week 9 - Roast Chicken

This is the recipe my staple roast chicken is based on and it really hasn't changed much from the first time I tried a roast for my friends up in the snowfields. It may seem like a lot but this meal was so simple to make and is a favourite of the Sunday roasts in our house.

I thought I would try a new way with beets, usually it's just beets with seasoning in foil so this balsamic sounded interesting. They turned out so sweet and were a nice change instead of heavy roast vegetables. Also something I learnt recently is you can eat beetroot leaves, they are so yummy just try using them like spinach.. with garlic and butter!

This gravy really is the best, the flavour you get from the roast vegetables, plus I added the chicken wings, is amazing. It can get a little runny so make sure you leave it on the hob for a good 10-15 minutes if you like your gravy with a little more colour and substance.

Chook ready to be cooked!

Coming out of the oven


Book: Ministry of Food for the Chicken & Gravy and Return of the Naked Chef for the Beets

Recipe: Perfect Roast Chicken with Balsamic Beetroots and Gravy


Serves 4-6


1.6 kg higher-welfare chicken
2 medium onions
2 carrots
2 sticks celery
1 bulb garlic
olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon
1 small bunch fresh thyme, rosemary, bay or sage, or a mixture


1 heaped dessertspoon of plain flour
1 wine glass of red or white wine, or a good splash of port or sherry
1 litre of stock


455g fresh raw beetroots, scrubbed

10 cloves of garlic, unpeeled and squashed

1 handful fresh marjoram or sweet oregano, leaves picked

salt, freshly ground black pepper

10 tbsp balsamic vinegar

6 tbsp olive oil



Take your chicken out of the fridge 30 minutes before it goes into the oven. Preheat your oven to 240°C/475°F/gas 9. There's no need to peel the vegetables just give them a wash and roughly chop them. Break the garlic bulb into cloves, leaving them unpeeled.

Pile all the veg and garlic into the middle of a large roasting tray and drizzle with olive oil. Drizzle the chicken with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper, rubbing it all over the bird. Carefully prick the lemon all over, using the tip of a sharp knife (if you have a microwave, you could pop the lemon in these for 40 seconds at this point as this will really bring out the flavour). Put the lemon inside the chicken's cavity, with the bunch of herbs.

Place the chicken on top of the vegetables in the roasting tray and put it into the preheated oven. Turn the heat down immediately to 200°C/400°F/gas 6 and cook the chicken for 1 hour and 20 minutes. If you're doing roast potatoes and veggies, this is the time to crack on with them, get them into the oven for the last 45 minutes of cooking.

Baste the chicken halfway through cooking and if the veg look dry, add a splash of water to the tray to stop them burning. When cooked, take the tray out of the oven and transfer the chicken to a board to rest for 15 minutes or so. Cover it with a layer of tinfoil and a tea towel and put aside. Now is the time to make your gravy.


Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas 6. Tear off a strip of kitchen foil big enough to hold the beets in a parcel. If the beets are large, cut in half to speed up their cooking time; if small, use them whole.

Place them in the middle of the foil with the garlic and marjoram, season generously with salt and pepper and then fold the sides of the foil into the middle. Before you seal the parcel, add the vinegar and olive oil. Scrunch or fold the foil together to seal at the top. Place in the preheated oven and cook for around 1 hour, until tender. Serve in the bag at the table.


While your chicken is resting using a spoon, carefully remove 90 per cent of the hot fat from the tray by angling it away from yourself and scooping off the fatty layer that settles on top.

Put the tray back on the hob over a high heat. Add the flour, stir it around and, holding the tray steady with a tea towel in one hand, use a potato masher to mash all the veg to a pulp – don't worry if it's lumpy. You can rip the wings off the chicken and break them up into the tray to add more flavour at this point.

When everything is mixed and mashed up, add the alcohol to give a little fragrance before you add your stock (the alcohol will cook away). Keep it over the heat and let it boil for a few minutes. Pour the stock into the tray, or add 1 litre of hot water. Bring everything in the pan to the boil, scraping all the goodness from the bottom of the pan as you go. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, or until you've achieved the gravy consistency you're looking for.

Changes Made: Unfortunately had no celery, but would usually pop it in the gravy. Also no foil so tried to cook the beets in baking paper, which turned out fine. I am also a big fan of butter under the skin of the chicken so I added this step after seasoning and massaged into the breasts. 

Results: Amazing.. as usual! I actually really loved the beets instead of an array of roasted vegetables, we also had some potato bake on the side which was good too. The chicken was so tender and the lemon squeezed over at the end gave little bursts of contrasting acidity.

The carrots for some reason did not soften much when roasting in preparation for the gravy so did not get a chance to mash up much.

Next Time: Slice the carrots a little smaller. 

Week 8 - Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin pie is something I have always wanted to cook, something about roasted pumpkin, pastry and spices just got my mouth watering. This turned out really well and would have been the perfect dish for a family gathering.

I thought I had a photo after I topped it with the pumpkin seeds but technology seems to have failed me.  Will update when I make the seeds again as they will make the best snack!

Roasted with deliciousness 

Fresh out of the oven


Recipe: Pumpkin Pie


Serves 8

500g ready-made dessert pastry
1 large butternut squash, quartered and seeds removed
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons maple syrup
6 tablespoons caster sugar
3 large free range eggs, beaten
200ml double cream


Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas 6. Roll the pastry to the thickness of a pound coin. Get a 22cm loose-bottomed tart tin, line with the pastry and bake blind for 20 minutes. Set aside.

Lay the squash in a baking tray. Sprinkle with the nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon and drizzle with the maple syrup. Cover the tray tightly with a double layer of tinfoil and bake for 45 minutes until soft. Reduce the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4.

Allow the pieces of squash to cool, then scoop out the flesh. You should have about 600g of cooked squash flesh. Don't forget to scrape out the bits in the tray and the maple syrup. Put in a food processor and whiz until smooth. Transfer to a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of the sugar and the eggs. Mix well and stir in the cream.

Fill the cooled tart case with the mix and bake for 45 minutes. Meanwhile, wash the stringy bits of squash off the seeds, dry them and lay them flat on a tray. Sprinkle with the remaining sugar and place in the oven with the pie for the last 10 minutes until crispy.

Remove the tart from the oven. Sprinkle with the seeds when cool. Serve with cream or ice cream, if you're feeling naughty.

Changes Made: I only had filo pastry and did not have the motivation to make some pastry. 

Results: This was really good! The process of roasting with the syrup and spices made for some amazing flavours. I loved the idea of almost crystallising the pumpkin seeds and I loved snacking on the leftovers. The fill was OK, but it needed the texture difference and sweetness that short crust pastry would have bought. Looking forward to pulling this one out on Christmas. 

Next Time: Definitely some short crust pastry, I know it's not that hard to make!!

Monday, 18 March 2013

Week 7 - Zucchini

This week is very simple but so scrumptious you will want to cook it every day like I do! I have always enjoyed zucchini in stews, casseroles and pasta but not much as a stand alone side dish. 

This took less than 5minutes but the flavour I still remember!

Browning in the pan

Finished product

Book: Cook with Jamie

Recipe: Simple sautéed courgettes (zucchini) with chilli and lemon


Serves 4

4 small zucchini's
olive oil
1 dried red chilli, crumbled
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
juice of 1/2 a lemon
a knob of butter


Slice your zucchini with a mandolin slicer or sharp knife so they're just under 0.5cm thick. Heat a large frying pan over a high heat and pour in a good splash of olive oil.

Drop the zucchini slices into the pan and fry for 2 minutes with the chilli and garlic until the zucchini begin to brown. Season well with salt and pepper and add the lemon juice and butter and cook for another 2 minutes. When the lemon juice has evaporated, take the pan off the heat, divide the zucchini onto plates and serve.

Changes Made: One large zucchini instead of 4 small ones, thats it!

Results: Amazing, so simple, had it with satay chicken and rice but will definitely be making it for a snack. 

Next Time: Nothing different!