Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Kat vs How to Eat: Roast chicken with garlic and shallots

Blackheath Farmers' Market - let me in!!
To market to market to buy a fat pig chicken

And so the challenge begins....

I awake bleary eyed on Sunday, mildly hungover, the grey pouring in through the windows in exactly the way the sunshine should. I remember that someone somewhere has stolen an hour of my life and settle on David Cameron as the likely villain, before rolling over sticking the duvet over my head and sulking for a further two. Eventually the sun bursts through the clouds and I am filled with overdue enthusiasm for my planned market trip. I get up, make a cup of tea and find myself in bed again. Some time near midday I finally find the gumption to get up, dressed and onto the bus, swinging my Cath Kidston basket and considering myself terribly chic and totally Blackheath darling. Someone on the bus smells of fish and I am wearing my winter coat while everyone else is in summer dress. The illusion fades. In fairness it’s freezing and I have the moral high ground but suddenly I feel less sure of myself.

My mission: Purchase a chicken to roast à la Nigella for my dinner. I stop at the cash machine and ruminate on the novelty of paying for things with actually money, to someone with an actual connection to the produce and without the deafening cacophony of “have you swiped your Clubcard?” rebounding around the car park. I do one full circuit of the market, trying to avoid eye contact with the stall holders who clearly want to relieve me of all my money for some vintage cheddar with pickled onions that I didn’t know I needed. I risk some furtive glances and actually everyone is smiling and helpful. I have no idea how the queueing system works so I stand back and observe. Turns out it’s a free for all but in a terribly British, no shoving, please... after you kind of a way. I buy an organic free range chicken for £10 from a handsome man who I feel compelled to buy a box of eggs from too. He asks me if I want to choose them. I don’t know what the right answer is so I say no, any will do.

Next I go in search of potatoes. They have names I don’t know and I am tempted to pull Google out my pocket before realising I’d make myself look quite foolish if anyone realised what I was doing so I took a punt and bought some Marfona potatoes. Later at home I consult with the Potato Council of Great Britain and learn they are 3 on the waxy-floury scale and good for baking. Oh well, they’re getting roasted anyway.

There’s plenty more I would like to have a go at buying but it will have to wait another day as I am already £15 lighter, Cath is groaning by my side and I need to get cooking. I get the chicken home, unwrap her and see bits of feather still sticking out. Oh joy I think as I pull them out and the skin wrinkles around like a pug’s face. Then I discover that some kindly soul has left the giblets in for me. URGH I think and throw them in the freezer for consideration at a later date. A good friend indoctrinated in me the custom of always naming a bird before giving her a roasting, so I christen her Gertrude. I shove half a lemon up Gertrude and, as instructed, sparingly smear olive oil on her breast as if it were ‘an expensive handcream’. I’m told to also roast alongside her the cloves from 2 heads of garlic, still in their skins and also 20 shallots. I’m a little sceptical that’s not a recipe for hermitude (made up word alert) but I crack on regardless. If it’s OK by Nigella it’s OK by me!

I prepare the baking potatoes for roasting, mix up some stuffing, chuck some mange tout on to steam and serve up. It soon becomes apparent I have no idea how to carve a chicken, I usually find the nearest man and demand it's his job but I try. Poor Gertrude deserves a more dignified end than the one she gets but I comfort myself that she had a happy life frolicking around in the fields. I finish the hatchet job on the bird and get everything on the table more or less warm, cooked and tasty, success!

Kitchen wisdom gained:
  • I may never be able to produce an entire roast dinner without giving myself a grievous burn.
  • Feeding people roast garlic against their will is not recommended.
  • Position your oven shelves where you will need them before preheating the oven/putting the chicken in. It saves on steam facials strong enough to melt your make-up clean off your face as you seek to rectify the problem.
  • Chicken – 30 minutes + 20 for every 500g – 190C (must commit to memory)
Domestic Goddess points out of 10: 7 – I wimped out of making my own gravy and reached for the Bisto. I learnt lots from my trip to the market though and feel confident I could do it all again without the aid of the book.

Final Score: Kat 1 - Nigella 1


Adam said...

From vegetarian to giblet storer in under a decade!

I often have to wham google even inside the "have you swiped your club card" factory. so I'm sure you can get away with a bit of similar subterfuge in the delights of the market when needed. OMG how that messages annoys me. It knows FULL WELL I haven't because it never asks you when you have. Definitely a reason to go t'market.

Anonymous said...

Nandos does a cracking garlic chicken for under £15 and you get chips, fizzy drink and even sides! From your kili tent buddy...

Katastrophy said...

It's one sarcastic Momma of a self-checkout, that's for sure!

Katastrophy said...

Nice! When are you taking me?

Josie said...

Loving this new blog Kat! Very entertaining indeed...I can but dream of a life where I'm able to have a cup of tea, return to bed and contemplate doing an activity of my choice for the day, or even catch a little more sleep!
Market shopping is lovely, aside from having to pay with real money and actually seeing the cash exchanging hands which always makes me feel a little bit poor as I see my supply of coins depleting!
I never get the hang of market queuing either being a typical reserved British citizen and always rely on over zealous market stall holders to spot me loitering and supply me with all the groceries I didn't know I needed!
I can't wait to find out what you're going to cook or bake next! Have you seen HFW's "Veg Everyday" book btw?
Love Josie x

Katastrophy said...

Next up on the menu is mayonnaise this evening, I am a bit scared it will split but if it does I guess I'll still learn something!

I love a bit of HFW. I don't have that book, I do have the River Cottage Family Cookbook though and I LOVE it. I'll take a look and most likely add to my ever expanding Amazon wish list :)

Thank you for reading by the way! xx