Having a birthday over Easter, and particularly on Easter Sunday, has good points and bad points. The bad part was that lots of my favourite places were closed; the good part was that I had my family around for the whole weekend and birthday celebrations started on Saturday evening with a meal at the lovely A Cena (as they weren’t going to be open on the Sunday) where we had a fabulous meal and the nice people there gave us a complimentary bottle of prosecco for my birthday.
For the birthday itself a barbecue had been planned. But the weather wasn’t playing: heavy rain was forecast all day. Thus the plan changed and I decided to do a Greek tray bake of chicken with olives and lemons from Tonia Buxton’s Tonia’s Greek Kitchen which I’d brought back from the cookery course with Tonia and Total Greek Yoghurt last Thursday. The recipe looked delicious but simple so I wouldn’t have to spend too much time in the kitchen (although actually I love spending time cooking for the family!) and we’d be free to go off during the day and do others things. The rain meant a walk round Kew Gardens wasn’t on (or not for someone like me who hates rain and gets more and more grumpy with each raindrop!). We headed instead to nearby Ham House, partly because it’s a National Trust place and we’re members so could go in for free, and partly because I hadn’t been there for years although it’s only a walk away and I’d recently seen historian Lucy Worsley’s programme about it on TV. I soon remembered why I hadn’t been back in about 20 years: it’s said to be one of the most haunted places in England and we all felt very uncomfortable there. When I happened to say while we were in the Long Gallery that I didn’t much like it, I felt a cold shiver spread through me, and was ready to do a fast escape! We all felt much happier downstairs in the servants quarters, where we saw a 400-year-old table still in use in the kitchen, and we also loved the kitchen garden where gorgeous parrot tulips grew amongst the herbs and vegetables. Then we went into the cafe and had a delicious homemade soup for lunch so that by the time we left, ghosts were (almost) forgotten and we were feeling warm and happy again.
Back home a meal slowly evolved over the course of a lazy afternoon. The day before I’d used a large pot of Total Greek yogurt I’d been given on Thursday to make some labneh and the whey had been draining from the yoghurt overnight. As Rachael is vegetarian she wouldn’t eat any of the chicken, so I thought some labneh and frying some halloumi cheese would be a good thing to do. The labneh I served very simply, turning it out into a shallow dish, drizzling over some extra virgin olive oil and scattering over some chopped fresh oregano from the garden.
When I came to prepare the halloumi later, at the last minute I decided to make the olives, garlic, capers, fresh coriander and pine nuts topping we’d made on Thursday to serve over sea bream. It worked really well with the halloumi too! I fried the halloumi until nicely browned, transferred to a plate and then added all the other ingredients, chopped, to the pan and cooked for a few minutes before spooning over the cheese.
The chicken I started preparing a couple of hours or so before we planned to eat. I jointed the chicken first into 8 pieces then poured some extra virgin olive oil into the bottom of a large shallow ovenproof pan. As I put each piece of the chicken in, I rubbed it in some of the oil skin-side down then turned it over so the skin was upside, ready to cook. Then I cut a large red onion (or 2 medium sized) into wedges, with the grain, and tucked them in between the chicken. Then I cut 1 lemon into 6 wedges and tucked them in too as well as the cloves from 1 head of garlic.
At this point I covered the chicken and kept it in the fridge until an hour before we wanted to eat. Just before putting into a 180C oven, I poured in a small (200ml) bottle of white wine and seasoned with sea salt and black pepper. After 35 minutes, i removed from the oven and added a handful of green Greek olives. Then I returned to the oven for another 15-20 minutes until the chicken was nicely browned and cooked through.
Next, remove the chicken and vegetables and olives to a warm plate and bubble the juices to reduce them a bit, add some chopped flat leaf parsley and check seasoning, then pour over the chicken. I served it with some new potatoes roasted with fresh rosemary and a big green salad with plenty of fresh dill in it, Greek style. It was a wonderful table of food we had for supper!
The chicken was delicious and a great success. So easy to do and good to be able to get a lot of the preparation done ahead of cooking time. The weather may have rained on our Easter Sunday and my birthday but we brought some Greek sunshine into the day with this lovely meal.