Lamb is perhaps a more traditional roast for Easter Sunday but I fancied a nice roast chicken so bought one in the farmers’ market yesterday. I didn’t want to do anything very fancy with it so decided to flavour it simply with just some lemon and thyme and add a dash of cream to the gravy at the end. I bought sweet potatoes to roast along with the ‘ordinary’ potatoes as an accompaniment but the organic vegetable shelves were surprisingly bare when I was buying most of my shopping in Waitrose early morning, so I decided to cook some French-style peas.
Well, what I had in mind was Petit Pois à la Française remembering gorgeous examples in France, slightly sweet, cooked in stock with mild onions and some bacon. As often happens when I’m cooking something ‘classic’ for the blog, it didn’t turn out to be quite as straightforward as I’d anticipated. Amongst my large cookbook collection I had trouble finding a recipe; there wasn’t even one in my three Raymond Blanc books. I found two in old books – I mean old … both were books I commissioned and edited back in the late 1970s! The recipes were similar but one called the dish Petit Pois à la Française while the other, Peas Bonne Femme. Both had spring onions, shredded lettuce and stock but no bacon. I definitely remembered bacon. I’d bought bacon. I went online. I found a Gordon Ramsay YouTube video for making Peas Bonne Femme. Yes he used bacon, little white onions and frozen peas … but no stock, no lettuce. So … I threw all the ideas into a proverbial culinary hat and came up with my own version. I chopped 4 rashes of streaky bacon and sliced – in quite thick slices – a bunch of spring onions, using only the white parts. I browned these in a little olive oil. I also added a little sugar to help with the caramelisation I wanted to deepen the flavour.
Meanwhile I heated a few frozen homemade chicken stock cubes ready to add later. Next I shredded half a Little Gem lettuce and a few fresh mint leaves.
I stirred them in and then added 500g frozen petit pois, stirred and added the stock – not quite enough to cover. I seasoned well with salt (but check because of the bacon and stock) and freshly ground black pepper and then brought to a boil and allowed to simmer gently for about 10 minutes. I didn’t want the peas to lose their freshness and colour but I still wanted to give them enough time to take up some of the flavours from the other ingredients. And they did taste very delicious!
The chicken had, of course, gone into the oven earlier. I smothered it in olive oil, grated over the zest of 1 lemon and a good sprinkling of dried thyme, and salt and pepper.
I cut away the remaining pith from the lemon and put the lemon in the cavity of the chicken.
I like to cover my chicken for the first half of roasting with some greaseproof paper smothered with butter to keep the breast moist.
I put the chicken into a 200C/180 Fan oven for about an hour and 15 minutes. I basted it quite often to help the flavours develop and keep moist, taking off the greaseproof paper about halfway through so the skin could brown. When it was cooked, I lifted the chicken on to a carving board and skimmed excess fat off the juices. The juice from the lemon had run into the pan which would add to the flavour of the gravy. I added a tablespoon of plain flour, mixed well and then added some chicken stock until I got the consistency I wanted. I squeezed in more lemon juice, tasting until I got the lemon flavour I was looking for. I checked seasoning, adding plenty of black pepper, then poured in a little single cream. Violà! One gorgeous lemon sauce to accompany the chicken. I have to say by this time things had got slightly hectic. Jonathan and Lyndsey had arrived with Baby Gale and Lyndsey’s mum, Julie. The baby started crying and I offered to take him for a while (because I can’t resist cuddling him at every opportunity), leaving Jonathan to carve. I didn’t take a photo of the whole roast chicken! But I did remember in time to get one of the chicken nicely cut into portions (the way I like to serve it) and put onto a warm serving plate.
I’d roasted the mix of white and sweet potatoes. I’d cut them into fairly small (about 2cm) cubes and had very briefly blanched in boiling salted water before draining and laying in a roasting dish. I poured over some extra virgin olive oil and turned the potato pieces with my hands to coat them. Then I chopped 1 medium red onion and added that with a few garlic cloves, leaving their skins on, and 2 large sprigs of fresh rosemary from the garden. They joined the chicken in the oven to cook for about 45 minutes.
I just love the mix of potatoes and when you roast the garlic cloves whole, you can open them and scrape out a lovely gooey garlic paste to put on the potatoes when you eat them. The meal was always going to be slightly flexible in timing to fit in with Baby Gale. We sat down a little later than expected but everything kept warm OK. We tucked into some prosecco and some fresh foccacia that I’d bought in the Duck Pond Market in Richmond this morning (I’d been quite – but happily – surprised to find them open on Easter Sunday) with some olives and roast almonds.
While Baby Gale slept, we ate the main course. It was all quite simple but gorgeous flavours. It seemed an appropriate meal for Easter Sunday. There was another little gap when Baby Gale woke up but it gave us time to make room for our dessert. I’d bought a selection of wonderful cakes in Paul Bakery in the morning. This was a cheat perhaps – except this is exactly what the French do … buy patisserie from the expert. And really, it’s such a treat to go in and choose from all the wonderful cakes on offer. I’d bought 4 and cut them into quarters, making a kind of instant Café Gourmand with the cafetière of coffee I made to go with them.
The meal stretched leisurely over a couple of hours, which is such a nice way to eat on a Sunday lunchtime. We all ate well, Baby Gale got some cuddles, Zeph the Yorkie got his favourite treat because he was so well behaved – some pieces of roast chicken! A very Happy Easter to you all!!!