Monday, November 8, 2010

Skye Gyngell's Chicken, Basil and Rice and a Christmas Pudding

I acquired another new cookery book today, How I Cook by Skye Gyngell.  Published by Quadrille, this is a beautiful book of recipes which I immediately sat down and read from cover to cover. 

It is refreshingly simple, elegant and most appealingly under-styled - along with beautiful photographs of the food and side notes about salting quail, making meringues,  picking hedgerow blackberries, it is all very seasonal, specific and special. 
Her style is easy and relaxed and she places a large emphasis on the importance of feeding friends without the last minute panic of chopping as the guests are arriving.  This is how she cooks at home and I am drawn by the plausibility of it all.   The recipes are familiar to us, bagna cauda, ratatouille, dauphinoise but with her own take. I like every one of these recipes as they are unpretentious and to master these is to grasp the very crux of home cooking - recipes which have been tested over generations which deliver results.
It is sensibly divided into meals from Breakfast, Sunday Lunch, Simple weekday dinner to two of my favourites, Alfresco Eating and Afternoon Tea, throughout which Gyngell has introduced seasonal ingredients.  Nowhere have I seen a recipe for a simple cucumber sandwich or a chicken and watercress sandwich, almost too simple to put pen to paper for but here we have the quintessential Afternoon Tea just like my Aunt Catherine makes to this day.  These wonderful English traditions must be kept alive and I am so glad to see them here.
I especially like the special occasions section where there is a lovely Christmas Eve Menu with my favourite Vacherin served with Walnuts and Muscat Grapes.

It was so full of inspiration that I immediately set to work on Skye's Christmas Pudding recipe.  I have been meaning to make my own Christmas pudding this year as at thirty four old years, it's nigh time I made my own and stopped relying on my mother!  So using Skye's recipe I have the initial preparations made and tomorrow they will be installed in their ceramic shells for a few short weeks before they are devoured and gone forever.

I also made her Chicken with Rice and Basil tonight as a one pot supper for our family.
This is totally delicious and went down a treat, except that my four year old ate most the risotto leaving very little for the rest of us!

For Skye Gyngell's Chicken with Rice and Basil to feed 6, you will need :

1 organic free range chicken, jointed into 6
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tblsp olive oil
1 red onion, peeled and finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
100g Carnaroli or Arborio rice
750ml dry white wine
large bunch basil
extra virgin olive oil to drizzle

Season the chicken joints well with salt and pepper. Place the olive oil in a large casserole dish (I used my larger Le Crueset) over a medium heat and brown the chicken pieces on the skin-side only.  This will take 5 minutes and then set aside on a separate plate.
Pour off any excess fat, leaving a little in the casserole dish - I noticed that the oil I used burned a little so I had to wipe out the pan with kitchen towel after removing the chicken pieces.  Turn the heat down and add the red onion and sweat for ten minutes until soft and translucent.  Add the garlic and crumble in the dried chilli (I did not do this as I was feeding it to my children so I would say that the chilli is optional).  Stir once or twice then add the rice and stir it through.
Increase the heat slightly, add the wine and return the chicken pieces to the pan.  Put on the lid an cook on low - the recipe says 20 minutes, but the chicken pieces that I had were large so it took a good 30 minutes.  The rice by this stage was soft but was delicious nonetheless.

Tear the basil into pieces and scatter over the cooked chicken and rice.  Stir it through, taste and season accordingly.

Serve drizzled with some extra virgin olive oil.  Gyngell suggests serving this with buttered spinach and/or glazed carrots but I made some of her slow-cooked courgettes with mint which were really good with it.

'Slowly I am learning that if I practice things I feel overwhelmed by, they become easier and my confidence grows' Skye Gyngell, How I Cook, Quadrille 2010.

1 comment:

  1. This is a brilliant book from a great cook - go out any buy!