Monday, 1 March 2010

Cooking for the jet-lagged.

I actually thought really hard about this.  You kind of have to, if people are going to do you the honour of travelling 4,349 miles (7,000 km, 7,654,240 yards, 275,552,640 inches, 699,903,706 cm) to stay with you.  What would I want to eat when I'd been on a plane for all that time?  Nothing complicated.  Nothing unfamiliar.  Something sustaining but not heavy.  Real Food, to counteract fake plastic plane food.

Chicken Stew, with Homemade Bacon, Leeks and Mushrooms...

(Every picture I took of this meal turned out to be out of focus, hence they're all going to be tiny...)
I love stew.  I've said this before.  This might not be a quick meal to prepare, but it's not complex.  It's amazing what happens when you just leave something in the oven for a while.  

For about 6 people, or 3 with masses of leftovers
1 of those packets of thighs and drumsticks that have four or so of each - free range, obviously.  Or 1 whole free range chicken, jointed, if feeling energetic. Bone in is important, but frankly any sort of chicken portion would be fine
250g bacon lardons
3 large leeks
450g mushrooms (any field sort - chestnut or mini portabellos would be extravagant)
500ml good chicken stock, either home-made or using an organic cube
3 or 4 bushy sprigs of thyme
50g butter
Olive oil, black pepper

Prep the veg.  Cut the darkest green parts off the tops of the leeks and about half a centimetre off the root end.  Slice them in half lengthwise and fan each half out under the tap to clean it.  Slide the  leaves back together and slice crosswise into centimetre slices.  Cut the mushrooms into quarters unless very small or very large.

In a large heavy casserole, melt the butter with a splash of olive oil to keep it from burning.  Gently fry the leeks without colouring for around 20 minutes until soft.  In the meantime, in another pan over high heat, brown the chicken with a little olive oil in batches.  Remove to a plate.  Turn the heat down and without cleaning the pan fry the bacon until coloured on all sides and the fat is beginning to run.  Remove to a plate.  Fry the mushrooms in the fat that ran out of the two meats.

By now, the leeks will have softened.  Turn the oven on to 150℃. Combine as best you can the chicken, bacon, and mushrooms with the leeks in the large casserole.  Tuck in the thyme sprigs and add a generous grind of black pepper.  Don't add salt at this stage, unless you know that the bacon you're using isn't that salty - my homemade had plenty for the whole dish.  Pour over the stock and top up with boiling water (and maybe a glass of white wine) until the meat is virtually covered.  Bring the lot to the boil and then put it in the oven for around an hour.  Test to see if the meat is falling off the chicken bones, it might need another half an hour.

....with mustard mashed potatoes to soak up the juice

Mustard mash is my favourite sort.  I loved mashed potato when I was a kid, it was my favourite sort.  It even beat roast.  Still does.  One of those other things I learned to make when I was very young, along with custard.  Sunday lunchtime in my mum's kitchen aged around 8.

For 6 or thereabouts
6 large baking potatoes, peeled and diced
1 fat clove of garlic, peeled
As much crème fraîche as you can fit on a dessert spoon (optional, you could use greek yogurt or just leave it out)
50g butter
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp grainy mustard - I have some that's JUST grains, no mustard liquidy stuff, which is very mild

Put the potatoes and garlic in cold water with a pinch of salt and bring to the boil.  Cook until soft right through.  Drain and mash with the butter.  Add the crème fraîche and stir, and as much milk as required to bring it to a smooth consistency.  Season to taste with mustard, salt and pepper.

I could eat mashed potato and the juice from the stew together forever.

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