Friends for Sunday lunch today, and I finally got to cook Simon Hopkinson’s eponymous bird. Masses of butter + lemon up the bum + initial blast of heat + a good long rest = great roast chicken. Fed up of potatoes and root veg, so served it with a version of a jewelled, nutty Ottolenghi wild rice salad and – current green salad of choice – watercress dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.
Ottolengh-ish wild rice saladg
Combine 250g cooked red camargue / wild rice mix with: 35g roughly chopped pistachios; 70g dried cranberries; 70g roughly chopped dried apricots; roughly chopped big handfuls of tarragon, mint and parsley; fat crushed garlic glove; juice of half a lemon; slosh of olive oil; splash of roast chicken juices.
Dessert was also courtesy of Mr O: a glossy pear and cranberry cake – sticky and sweet but light – served with creme fraiche, and let down only by the fact it could have done with another five minutes in the oven (baking skills need work).
Guests called lunch elegant. Score. Too embarrassed to make them wait while I photographed their lunch, but fyi, my cake looked like a cheap knockoff of this:
Monday, my spiritual Sunday, is slow cooking day. Today I made a bacon, parsnip and borlotti bean stew. Regular recipe reading means I know these days that all good stews start with a carrot/celery/onion/bay/thyme base, but sadly it took me a while to spot that pattern. I wish someone – Delia, Nigel, my Mum – had pointed these basics out, though Nigel did teach me the great trick of adding a parmesan rind to the pot for depth of flavour.
Bacon, parsnip and borlotti bean stew
Serves six, takes 45 mins minimum (15mins prep + 5 mins frying + 15 mins simmering + 5 mins finishing)
Veg: 1 large onion, 2 sticks celery, 2 carrots, 3 parsnips, head of english greens / a savoy cabbage
Herbs: 2 bay leaves, few sprigs of thyme, large bunch of parsley
Meat: 4 rashers of bacon
Basics: 25g butter, 2tbsp olive oil, 2 litres of stock, 2 tins of borlotti beans
Odd extra: parmesan rind
Prep: Finely chop the onion, and cut the celery and carrot into small cubes. Peel the parsnips and chop into bigger cubes, about an inch square. Roughly chop the bacon (doing the meat last saves on washing up).
Heat the butter in a saucepan (big enough eventually to hold everything) until it foams and starts to smell slightly nutty. Add the bacon. Coat in the butter and fry for a few minutes, until the fat starts to get a little bit golden and crisp, but stir only occasionally, otherwise the delicious crusty bits won’t form. Then turn down the heat to the low side of medium, add the olive oil, wait a few secs till it heats up, then throw in the bay and thyme, and tip in the onion, celery and carrot. Leave to slowly swelter for ten minutes, and in the meantime, make up the stock.
When the veg are soft, stir in the parnsip chunks – to coat in the flavoured fat – then pour in the stock, plop in the parmesan and season. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for a minimum of 15 mins (so the parsnip is cooked), but the longer it cooks, the deeper the flavour.
Ten minutes before you want to eat, drain and rinse the beans, slice the greens/cabbage into thick ribbons and roughly chop the parsley. Add the beans and greens to the pot (to warm through and wilt respectively) and continue to simmer for five minutes. Check for seasoning and serve with more parsley on top than your instincts tell you should be enough.