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Monday, 4 April 2011

A day aromatically infused by chicken stew, a deep red wine and Jane Birkin.

me in my usual writing position on the settee.

Today wasn’t the best in the sunshine stakes and so, as Monday’s light rain hit my kitchen windows, I decided that I would go through all my enormous stack of France magazines and tear out all of the most interesting bits and discard the rest. My editing process graced me with some interesting articles on the French language and culture and a lot of exciting articles by Rosa Jackson about French food. I will put this collection of foodie articles in a file tomorrow for future reference. The action of doing this was, literally, food for thought – and should add to my ongoing education.

While I was doing this I put on some soporific music by Jane Birkin and later on, as I cooked my evening meal, I had my Rick Stein’s French Odyssey DVD on TV as background noise, all very very familiar after multiple viewings. As Rick’s vocals floated through my house and informed me of barbecued or grilled sardines, inspired salads, stiff fresh fish, meaty Toulouse sausages and cassoulet au confit de canards I was suddenly in the south of France in my head.

Madeleine cake and coffee
Meanwhile, après un visite à mon Co-operative local, I gathered enough food items to make a chicken stew avec lentilles. I have become used to using a lot of natural flavours in my good, honest , dishes. So with the quartered chicken I added lots of chopped lemon, and lemon rind, black pepper, fresh thyme leaves and cooked it through for an hour in vegetable oil. I have used super fresh sage in the past but couldn’t get it from my local greengrocer this time so I used a small amount of freshly picked thyme leaves aux jardin. Whilst I cooked I had a good cup of Carte Noire coffee and a couple of my fragrant home-made Madeleine cakes. They were so delish that they could have been shipped in directly from Commercy. These too had been made with a generous amount of sharp and fresh lemon rind a few days ago.

Slightly later on, the Côtes de Rhône, a robust and beautifully rounded, deeply coloured red wine, got opened and the imbibing of a couple of deep glasses added to the mood and fun of cooking. This wine was a bargain half price (£4.99) offer again from the local Co-op store.

The chicken had been cooking in the oven for just over an hour on a middle heat (gas mark 7) and after I took the foil lid off the dish and returned the lemony aromatic chicken to the oven I started to prepare the potatoes and carrots and leeks. Now it was just a case of peeling the carrots, cleaning the spuds, chopping the leeks and par boiling the lot before adding to the stock pot with some chicken stock. I got rather carried away watching Rick Stein and within half an hour I was aurally confused by a remote rattling sound coming from the kitchen. On inspection I discovered the potatoes boiling madly on the stove and the lid dancing a manic dance to its own crazy bubbling tune. I turned it down and checked the carrots and leeks in a separate pot. Another ten minutes and they were perfectly done.

lemons and lemon rind

chicken with lemon and thyme

cooked chicken pieces

I use an old 1970s alarm clock in case I need to time any cooking. It's the only clock I have and perfect for the rough timing methods I use and I estimated that the chicken stew would take about an hour and a half to cook. Originally I had dissected  the  whole chicken into two boneless breasts, two thighs and legs and skinny wings for the dish. If you just follow the joints and muscles on chicken they are easy enough to joint yourself.

In the latter stages I added eight cloves of Lincolnshire garlic (finely chopped) to the casserole to add yet more flavour.

Finally the cooked chicken got drained of the little bit of excess fat and the meat was added to the stock pot (the lemon pieces got thrown away) and I popped in a packet of Merchant Gourmet lentils and a generous shake of some sea salt and another few grinds of black pepper for flavour. I left the whole dish to warm through on the stove for another ten minutes and enjoyed a hearty bowlful with another sumptuous glass of red wine and some Dijon mustard. Parfait!

me in the kitchen.


Gailsman said...

You do love your cooking and food Phil. You ought to have your own cooking show on TV. Perhaps you could film your creating and be an overnight YouTube phenomenon.

Jean said...

Phil, you are so amusing. I admire the way you look after yourself properly, with good food, great wine and self-discipline. When I was by myself (between husbands), I lived on Guinness, gin and cornflakes. Bravo !!

Karen said...

You cook the most scrumptious sounding (& looking) food. And I agreen with really should have a TV programme.

Peter said...

Great blog entry again Phil - really interesting, great food and cracking photographs.

I was particularly impressed to see you in your chefs whites!

Keep up the good work my friend.


Dom at Belleau Kitchen said...

what a feast Phil! Nice work!... I love your style and blog voice... very witty x

PapaCheong's 拿手好菜 said...

Wonderful pics....everything looks so tasty.