Thursday, 12 April 2007

Kitchen Diaries: A roasted chicken with new garlic and a fresh pea pilau

Roast chicken with pea pilauHaving recently purchased this gorgeous book, I have been paging through it for days on end, obsessing over which recipe I was going to try first. It's been driving my husband crazy. Something chicken related seemed most likely, and I was planning on the chicken with mustard seed and coconut milk, but it was actually a roast chicken with a pea pilau (June 3) that materialised in the kitchen last night. 'A roast on a week night?' you might exclaim, as I’ve heard a work colleague politely enquire of a friend a while back, making out it is a little ambitious – crazy even - for a work consumed Londoner to contemplate.

Anyway, Nigel recommends just olive oil, salt and black pepper to season the bird, but I could not resist adding a few pinches of fresh thyme to the freshly ground spices, nor prevent plunging a few sprigs into the birds inner recess. I calculate the time it would take to cook seeing as my chicken was 200g lighter than the 1.5kg he recommends. My calculator says roughly 54 minutes in total. I whack it into the oven – breast side down, as instructed and start on the garlic.

roast chickenNew summer garlic was out of the question seeing as it's only April, anyway two whole heads of standard garlic sounded like a bit much, so I reduce this to one small head; separating the cloves and tossing these into a pan of boiling water before adding them to the roasting tin. I was a little heavy handed with the salt on the chicken and feel a little nervous about what this is going to taste like. I check my watch – Nigel says to turn over the bird for the last 20 minutes.

Five minutes before I need to turn it over, I check the bird. It's looking all golden and smelling divine. I shake the tin a bit to move the garlic, which look like they’re browning a bit too fast, burning even. Perhaps more garlic in the pan would have prevented this. I turn the chicken over and see the breasts are all delicious golden as well. A few minute later, feeling really pleased, I start on the pea pilau.

Nigel does not say what rice to use, but I’ve got a bag of basmati and measure out a cup. I cook the onions and add the cinnamon bark and cloves. I guess that just a few is best to prevent being overpowered by clove. I also add a sprinkling of turmeric for a hint of colour – I've grown up with pilau that has a hint of yellow and just had to do the same as my mum does. I boil up some frozen peas in readiness. After two minutes I realise the rice has absorbed all the water Nigel recommends and is starting to stick to the bottom of the pot. I end up adding two more cups of water, but still have a very sticky situation once the pilau is done. Smells fabulous, though.

garlic gravy The gravy was really easy to make. I didn't have any vermouth and substituted a glass an a half of white wine instead of two (I did not want too runny a gravy), and that worked well. Most of the garlic was charred through and only three fat cloves were squishable. Anyway, I think two whole heads would have been too garlicky for a week night.

The chicken was delicious, if not slightly dry on the legs and the thyme was a good idea in the end. The salt was perfect. Definitely one of the most stress free roasts I've ever made.

I purchased Nigel's Kitchen Diaries cheap through Cook the Books' Amazon store.

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