Friday, June 23, 2006

Nigella's Infamous Roast Chicken Recipe

While we're on the subject of Nigella Lawson, the woman cannot stop banging on about roast chicken. And she cheerfully admits it herself (that and rhubarb, peas and marsala!). The other day I was in the mood and though I've tried many a roast chicken recipe, they are often fiddly - turn breast side down for half an hour then roll again, slice the legs, cut off the drumsticks and put them back in on their own ... etc etc. This looked very easy - ridiculously simple. I doubted it would work, but I gave the Roast Chicken Poster Girl's version a go. And, ridiculously, it worked.

It is simplicity itself - a whole chicken at room temp. Slather on some butter, drizzle on some oil and sprinkle on some salt (in Nigella-world, salt = Maldon and rightly so). Oh, and a lemon in the cavity. I don't use the zest of citrus unless it's organic, so I cut the pith and peel off these, cut them in half and bunged them in. One chicken takes around 1 1/4 hours, with fifteen minutes for resting. I have adopted another of Nigella's suggestions, which is to roast 2 at once and this takes around 2 hours.

The thighs ARE cooked, the breast meat is NOT too dry, it all seems ludricrous, given the lack of basting and turning, but there you go. Sometimes women in twin sets do know what they're suggestively suggesting ... and the sauce is absolutely delicious.

For a slightly spicier variation a week later (see, it's gone straight to the pool room - sorry, repetoire!), I added some Nando's hot peri peri sauce to the chickens. And about a kilo of julienned carrots went into the dish to roast alongside the chooks. While they were resting, I tossed a packet of Asian egg noodles in with the sauce and carrots and put the dish back into the oven for another 10 minutes, to warm and crisp on top. The noodles were a great addition, but I must warn you to go carefully with them - they soak up all those chickeny, fat-loaded juices and half an hour after eating, a certain someone was rolling around on the couch groaning "why did I eat so much?". But the beauty of the double chicken roast is that there are plenty of leftovers for chicken sandwiches and soup the next day. And no one glares as a drumstick is snapped up, because there are still another three to be eaten. Plenty of food and very easy. I suppose that's the Nigella way. Now I just have to find a cardigan and practise saying "deep, deep, pleasure"*. Humph.

* this is a quote from one of the early tv series - I suspect Nigella Bites. Figman always says it mockingly when I mention the N-word because he thinks she became more about the "come-hither" and less about the food as the shows went on. And he couldn't stand the constant out-of-focus shots blurring all over the place. But he has never turned his precious nose up at anything I've cooked from her books.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Post Party Pasta or Nigella's Rigatoni Al Forno

I've added another entry to Cooking for Children: Birthday Party Food, so check out tankeduptaco's Flourless Chocolate Cake. I have to say that I don't agree with Nigella Lawson's proclamation that children only care about icing. They deserve decent cake too! But I took a leaf (or recipe rather) out of Ms Lawson's Feast during the birthday celebrations, and cooked up Rigatoni Al Forno. She says that this is excellent for soaking up the booze and that she prefers it to lasagne - though it has the same basic sauces, you escape the tedious layering.

You whip up a jugful of white sauce and make a slow cooked meat sauce (2 hours cooking time minimum). The meat sauce contains 2 cups of red wine (I used shiraz cabernet) and I found the taste too dominant. Figman however, loved it. But when (yes, decidedly when) I make this again, I intend to substitute a cup of passata for half the wine and if I were serving it to children, I'd probably cut the wine altogether.

So the sauces were made on the morning of said party and popped aside. I even managed to grate (double) the cheese beforehand, so all I had to do during the tail end of the festivities was boil the water, cook the pasta, mix, sprinkle and bake. Supposedly the recipe serves sixteen. I had doubts about my biggest roasting dish and also the numbers for dinner, so I only cooked (only!) a kilo of rigatoni. It should have been 1.5 kilos. And when I swirled the sauces in and tipped it into the roaster, I scooped out a couple of bowls as I was petrified that it would bubble over during cooking. Even so, and despite being 2/3 of the recipe and in the biggest dish you could imagine jamming into my oven, it still bubbled over! I was cleaning bits out of the bottom of the oven today. Just so you can see how giant the dish was, I present ...

I have to put it on an angle even to get it INTO the oven. But the rigatoni was pretty good. Figman told me not to give up making lasagne, but I must admit, this is a lot easier. Girls went to bed while the boys stayed up eating more and more pasta and watching random bits of the World Cup.

Picture of meaty goodness inside (though that sounds like an ad for a pie!).

And I know this isn't a sport blog but speaking of the football AUSTRALIA V JAPAN - THREE - ONE! THREE - ONE!!!!! There are some things worth staying up till 3am for. Though I don't recommend stuffing your face with leftover rigatoni al forno while you do!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Cooking for Children 2: Birthday Party Food Roundup

My house looks like a herd of bison just ran through it. And in case you can't guess, I have just hosted a birthday party for a small child. 30 adults and children trekked out to the countryside for afternoon tea (with dinner for the last ones standing). At a certain point, I thought "what on earth possessed me to DO this?" But everyone had a good time and it's another year before we'll do this again. And by then I'll have picked up some tips from these other bloggers and perhaps, it'll be a piece of cake!

Hannah's Mum at No Eggs Or Nuts has the additional challenge of cooking without (you guessed it) eggs or nuts, but she came up with this charming Bob the Builder cake. With so many parents having to be careful of allergies these days, this is an excellent cake to have in the repetoire for the small ones!

Gabriella True from My Life As A Reluctant Housewife has TWIN BOYS (yes I think something like that needs to go in capitals!) and this is the Safari Cake which celebrated their first birthday. She also made them a smash cake each, which is an excellent idea when they are tiny.

Ramya at Cascading Flavours made this lovely Carrot Cake for a birthday treat. Aren't those icing carrots cute? As a child I loved carrot cake, but I must admit, I loved the cream cheese frosting the best!

Fellow Melburnian tankeduptaco at Food for Thought also went for Flourless Chocolate Cake, but it looks considerably bigger than mine which was a little on the small side. Let's face it, you don't want to run out of cake at a party! And don't miss his musings on birthday party food here and here.

Laura Rebecca of Laura Rebecca's Kitchen dreamed up this Hawaiian Island Cake for Sadie's Hawaiian Luau-themed birthday. Check out the gummy fish and the hula dancers! It reminds me of summer pool parties.

I enjoyed reading Alanna's reminiscences about childhood birthday parties over at Kitchen Parade. And I picked up a couple of handy tips for the cake I baked, after carefully reading her recipe for Chocolate Cinnamon Whipped Cream Cake. I must try that Whipped Cream Cocoa Icing when I make a layer cake!

Now my birthday boy is fairly indifferent to cake. At other children's parties, he takes a bite of cake and then hands it back to me, going off in search of something more exciting ... like sultanas? But he adores chocolate. So I decided on a cake that was more chocolately than cakey - one from Matthew Evans' column "Any Fool Can Cook" in the weekend Good Living liftout. I am a bit of a connoisseur when it comes to flourless chocolate cakes and I have to admit that I adore this one. It's simply eggs, chocolate and butter, with a little bit of vinegar thrown in. And entirely suitable for these kiddies in that there was no alcohol or other flavouring. I slicked some all-fruit raspberry jam over the sunken surface when it had cooled, and then filled the crater with whipped cream. Some chopped chocolate helped provide contrasting background for the Happy Birthday sign and also a crunchy texture to offset the soft sweetness of the cake. And was it popular? Was it ever! It's a cake that needs eating with a fork, so perhaps not entirely suitable for all parties, but there were plenty of parents on hand to supervise here.

I tried to be a little less in the kitchen during this party and decided to do less and socialise more. I ordered large turkish breads with garlic and cheese toppings and served them warm and sliced. Bowls of flavoured rice crisps. I baked a tray of chippolatas for miniature do-it-yourself-hot dogs - tiny buns and a choice of ketchup, mustard, chutney and fried onions. Anyone who hung around for dinner was served up Nigella's Rigatoni Al Forno, but that's another post altogether.

Thanks to everyone for participating! There were technical difficulties with a couple of entries, so please contact me if yours isn't up here. And Happy Birthday to all your little ones!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Sitting On Fence

Aack, I solicit you for party goods and then I disappear off the face of the internet! I am undecided between pulling a Benjamin Disraeli ("never complain, never explain") and an overshare (guess who spent last week scrubbing vomit out of a childseat?").

Let's just say that eating and drinking have been pretty much off the menu round here, let alone drooling over photos of cakes and reading recipes. But we have all crawled out of bed, washed an unbelievable number of Wondersuits and it's time to pack away the glucose sweets and flat lemonade. Hurrah! And time to party.

Cooking for Children 2: Birthday Party Food Roundup should be up by tomorrow. It is a public holiday here after all. Although, even though I have not been twice British Prime Minister, I don't have to explain. I do do an extraordinary lot of complaining though ... hmmmm