New Baby Chicken

It’s amazing how a situation, and experience, can change how you perceive things. Its definitely the case with food. Fish and chips for example always tastes better on the beach, and the memory of the ice cream I had relaxing on the walls of old Dubrovnik is undoubtedly effected by my happy memories of that holiday.

When our daughter was born, my wife and I returned from hospital with our new baby desperate for a good meal. Hospital food is not necessarily the best, although I remember my wife gobbling down all the food given to her during her time in the hospital. So, on our return I set to work making a decent meal.  I don’t recall why, perhaps it was suggested by my wife, but I ended up making a Jamie Oliver recipe (from one of the comic relief mini-books). A tray bake chicken dish, which used pancetta wrapped around chicken stuffed with basil butter. The herby butter oozed out of the chicken, helping to keep the chicken moist, but also infusing the potatoes with a delicious basily butteriness. It was exactly what was needed for a mother recovering from childbirth, and a father coming to terms with the enormity of parenthood. Comforting and buttery, yet fresh with the acidity of the tomatoes and the vibrant flavour of basil. We’ve had the same dish, or very similar versions of it, many times since, but its never ever come close to matching the first one. That’s why it will forever be known as New Baby Chicken.

New Baby Chicken

You will need (serves 2)
600g potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm dice
salt and black pepper
olive oil
Small bunch fresh basil
50g softened butter
2 skinless chicken breasts
6 slices streaky bacon
Large handful cherry tomatoes, halved
Small bunch of salad leaves (whatever you’ve got, but rocket or watercress go well)
Juice of half a lemon
4 tbsps extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 220°C and par·boil the potatoes in salted water, then drain and let them steam dry until cool. Toss them in a little oil and seasoning, before baking in a  roasting tray for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, tear the basil leaves and pound them in a pestle and mortar with a little salt until the luscious green juices of the basil are released. Add butter and work the basily liquid into it, to form a green flecked basil butter.

To prepare the chicken turn your first chicken breast over, fold back the small fillet underneath, cut a long, shallow slash into the main breast meat. Spoon a couple of teaspoons of basil butter into this cut and fold the small fillet back into its original position. Next, lay the streaky bacon on a chopping board and, using the side of the knife, flatten and lengthen each rasher. This makes your bacon go further, but also helps it to crispen up better.  Lay out three rashers, slightly overlapping, on a chopping board. Place a chicken breast upside down at the centre of the bacon and wrap the rashers around the chicken breast. Repeat with the remaining chicken and bacon.

chicken and potatoes in the pan

When the potatoes are nearly cooked, throw the tomatoes into the tray with a splash more oil, and place the wrapped chicken breasts on top. Pop back in the oven for about 15-20 minutes. Serve with a salad of leaves and a quick lemon juice dressing (mix the juice of half a lemon with 4tbsp. of oil).

new baby chicken



Favourite Five Gluten Free

favorite five

Those of you who follow @spadeforkspoon on Twitter may have noticed an increase in tweets about gluten free cooking over the last few weeks. This is because my son has recently been diagnosed as coeliac and therefore needs to follow a gluten free diet. Adapting meals to fit in with his new dietary requirements has been a bit of a challenge, but we’re getting there. Little Button Diaries asked me to create a Gluten-free Favourite Five for their blog. So, take a look and see what made the final five.

What would be in your favourite five gluten-free dishes?

Hunter's Chicken (Pollo alla Cacciatora)

I’m writing this as the skies darken in the late afternoon and outside there is a distinct nip in the air. Not that looking in the greenhouse would reveal the autumnal weather, with all the tomato plants still fruiting, and even flowering. This has been the first year we have really managed to successfully grow tomatoes, not least because its the first year we have had a greenhouse at the plot. Our four plants have kept us in tomatoes for most of the late summer and continue to do so with gusto. So, most meals now seem to have some tomato content. Yesterday’s meal was a recent discovery, and a perfect dish for a chilly autumnal evening. Hunter’s Chicken (Pollo alla Cacciatora), is a traditional Italian dish, cooked and eaten by many families, and as such has many variants depending on what was hunted to go in it. Like Felicity Cloake (whose recipe I based mine on), I reckon rabbit was probably the meat of choice, but chicken legs with their juicy dark meat is what I used.

20131021-113018.jpgWhat you will need(Serves 4) Knob of butter 2 tbsp olive oil 4 chicken legs, divided into thighs and drumsticks. Seasoned flour, to dust 2 heads of garlic, cut horizontally Small bunch of rosemary 1 carrot, peeled and diced 1 stick of celery, diced 1 anchovy fillet (chopped) Half a glass of white wine 250ml decent chicken stock If like me you have a glut to use up, 150g really ripe fresh tomatoes, skinned and chopped (or an equivalent amount of plum tomatoes in juice) 250g quick cook polenta Knob of butter 50g Parmesan Heat the butter and oil in a large, heavy-based casserole dish over a medium-high heat. Next dust the chicken pieces in the seasoned flour, then fry them in batches until golden brown on all sides. Take the chicken out of the pan and set aside. Slowly fry the garlic, rosemary, carrot and celery, until it is softened and started to colour. Pour in the wine and use a spoon to scrape the deliciously crispy bits off the bottom of the pan as the liquid reduces. Add the stock and tomatoes, and return the chicken to the pan. Bring to a simmer, cover, turn down the heat and cook gently for 45 minutes, until the meat is falling from the bone.

I served the chicken with polenta (a staple of northern Italy), which I made using the instructions on the packet and added parmesan and butter before serving.