Archives for posts with tag: chicken

My friend Jo has a great knack of being able to listen to her body. She is just so aware of what it needs and makes sure that she hears what it asks for and replenishes it in response. I still have lots to learn from her.

paleo diet

The Paleo Diet principles

I have been thinking about her approach this week for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I have been talking to a few people about what we should be eating. There are just so many theories, diets, viewpoints and opinions in the food world about the best way to nourish our body. Whether it is the publicity that followed Gwyneth when she said she doesn’t allow her kids to eat bread, pasta & rice or the latest diet craze: The Fast Diet (where you literally fast for 2 days a week) there is a huge focus on the whole topic. Some of the guys at work advocate the Paleo diet which harks back to Paleolithic era and how the hunter gatherers ate before the era of processed meals and convenience food. This makes a lot of sense to me because we were created as hunter gatherers and our bodies are much the same despite the growth of processed food. The latest news on processed bacon and sausages backs up the fact that this is not good for you. Overall, sanity reigns when I talk to my current boss who has a simple view on it all. He says you should keep it natural and eat like your grandmother ate. It seems to be working for him.

This brings me to my second reason for contemplating the way we eat. I was fascinated to observe my own need for certain foods ¬†this weekend. I think it is a culmination of the chaos in my life but somehow I came home on Friday night needing to cook in order to get some stability, comfort and homeliness into my mad existence. When I translate that into food, it inevitably leads to cooking and specifically, roasting chicken. Why is that? Well I guess anyone with Jewish heritage will understand the connection to chicken in all its guises. When I am ill, I want chicken soup, when I fancy a snack I want chopped liver and when I need nurturing I want roast chicken. It must go back to my childhood and certainly my grandmother’s food.

We all have these sensory desires. It’s like when you come back from a long trip desperate for beans on toast or when you smell something and it takes you back to an early childhood moment in time. My friend Luci talked with passion this week about a salad dressing she used to have in South Africa that she and her husband miss so much. I am going to try and find it when I go over there next week.

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In the meantime, I can see that my chicken meal ticked all the boxes: eating like grandma did, fulfilling my sensory needs and even meeting the Paleo rules. I cooked it in my favourite falconware tin and matched it up with a wonderful squash from the walled garden at work that head gardener Andre gave me, plus some red onion and parsnip. Perfect.

Now I feel very settled, nurtured and ready to tackle the week.

Sunday roast chicken from Brawn

It seems to me that chicken is back in fashion. For far too long it was anything but the humble old chuck with steakhouses, hotdogs, fish campaigns et al taking precedence but thankfully things are coming back full circle.

I am not sure if it is the latest press about red and processed meats that has made us revisit the priorities, but I for one am thankful. I honestly think my last meal would be a classic roasted chicken of good origin and simply done. Maybe it is all those memories of Friday night dinner at my Mum’s, but roast chicken and then chicken soup made from the bones are like medicine to me. I roast my chicken simply with lemon juice and soy sauce (!) which makes a wonderful gravy at the end, as long as you don’t let it catch. And don’t forget the roast onions in the base which caramelise wonderfully in this rich umami liquor.

I remember the day that we decided at M&S to advertise roast chicken and give away a bird to anyone spending over £35 on their basket. This was an operation like no other, simply trying to decide how many chickens that would be needed and how we would get them to the right store on time to meet the demand from the TV ad. Even in the face of chocolate puddings, Christmas treats and lots of other enticing dishes, the roast chicken was right up there in the most popular products we ever gave away and I for one am not surprised. Chicken remains in 2 of the top 5 M&S sandwiches, as well as 4 of the top 5 selling salads.

However, it was only when I saw Daniel Clifford’s chicken dish win the main course of Great British Menu this week that I realised the return of the chicken was truly here to stay. He certainly earned his chef credentials in turning this magnificent dish out for the Olympic meal. If you want to re-create this centrepiece, it is a mere 53 stage process to follow the recipe on the BBC website. I for one vote to leave that to the expert.

Slow poached chicken, sweetcorn egg, spinach with bacon & peas from the wonderful Daniel Clifford

The other interesting thing is the prevalence of named varieties of chicken with everyone finding their own preference. At M&S we bred the Oakham chicken which was slow growing and deemed by the majority of customers to be tastier than the average bird. Then, in the restaurants, they too have a their own choice of bird. At Brawn, they serve a Landaise chicken in the centre of the table, although it was a little disconcerting to find they removed one leg because we were a table of three! At the new Mark Hix restaurant, Tramshed, they do the same with a Woolley Park Farm bird complete with feet in tact. In fact, it is either that or steak, so the epitome of limited choice. Good old Mr Hix – he is always so spot on with these things. And now I read that Nick Jones of Soho House and Pizza East fame is opening a new Chicken Shop below the next Pizza East concept opening this August in Kentish Town. Serving only specially marinated rotisserie chicken, this will be a destination for me.

Spit & Roast: simple and tasty (the chicken, not these guys!)

If waiting til August is too much to contemplate, then try Spit & Roast found in Hackney, or through the Eat Street clan. These guys source free range Suffolk birds for their recipes and specialise in buttermilk fried chicken as well as fabby buffalo wings. I am definitely encouraging the teams who work with me to book these guys. And if anyone is required for sampling, they know where to come.