September is one of my favourite months. The weather is normally quite good and we often get some late summer ‘sunny’ days, which seem like a gift as summer is supposed to be over! After years of Felix being at school and having to follow the school calendar, September also feels like the beginning of a new year – a new beginning. It is a month which brings us gently out of our holidays and into routine, and if you know me by now, you’ll know that I love a bit of routine! With the cooler evenings, I often find that my dinners reflect this change – this week I found myself making lists of menus which included comfort food recipes such as mashed potato and pork chops with a creamy sauce! But don’t worry, I haven’t jumped into the autumn quite yet, instead this week’s first menu reflects the end of summer’s harvest of figs – Pot Roast Chicken with Figs (with Perfect Roast Potatoes or Concetta’s Potatoes). Any leftover figs are delicious served up cold the next day with cold meats, particularly with prosciutto. Meanwhile the second menu uses all the lovely fresh vegetables we have around at the moment with a subtly spiced Thai vegetable curry, a lovely vegetarian option.
Pot Roast Chicken with Figs (Serves 4-6)
I love pot roasting chicken as once in the oven it just looks after itself. It is less fatty and messy to cook than a traditional roast, plus the juices caught in the bottom of the pot create a lovely sauce and the chicken comes out perfectly moist! This recipe with the figs is rather luxurious, and naturally very tasty. Any leftover figs are great the next day cold (and sticky!) with prosciutto or other cold meats – what a beautiful lunch!! I found this recipe in Diana Henry’s wonderful cookbook ‘A Bird in the Hand’, which concentrates purely on chicken recipes – it is a very comforting cookbook. I like to serve this dish with Perfect Roast Potatoes or Concetta’s Potatoes (recipes below).
1½ tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons Armagnac
125ml dry white wine
125ml chicken stock
4 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
12 -18 figs, stalks snipped, halved
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
20g cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
Sea salt and black pepper
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper, heat the oil in a large casserole dish (with a lid) and brown the chicken all over.
- Pour off most of the fat and fry the onion until soft and golden.
- Deglaze the pan with the Armagnac, scraping the base of the pan with a wooden spoon to remove all the sticky bits, then add the wine, stock, thyme and bay leaf. Season with black pepper.
- Return the chicken and any juices that have run out of it. Cover, put in a preheated oven, 180’c, for 70 minutes, then remove the lid and cook for another 20 minutes. Baste every so often
- Remove the Chicken from the pan and keep warm. Skim off the fat from the cooking juices and strain into a frying pan. Boil to reduce them, until they become slightly syrupy.
- Reduce the heat and add the figs, vinegar and honey. Cook for about 4 minutes.
- Remove the figs with a slotted spoon and whisk in the cubed butter to make a rich and shiny sauce.
- Serve the Chicken, either whole or jointed, on a warm platter with the figs surrounding it and the sauce in a jug on the side.
Perfect Roast Potatoes
Everybody has their favourite roast potato recipe. I must admit that having tried various recipes, I have always returned to the one I found years ago in Delia Smith’s ‘Winter Collection Cookbook’ – you can’t beat it in my opinion. I use either olive oil or goose fat (I buy it in jars), depending on my mood. The olive oil gives a lighter, cleaner taste, whereas the goose fat has a richer flavour – both crisp up the potatoes equally well.
1.8kg Maris Piper or other floury, roasting potatoes
110g olive oil or goose fat (see note above)
- Place the fat in the roasting tin and place in the oven, 190’c, on the highest shelf so that the oil preheats whilst you prepare the potatoes.
- Peel the potatoes and cut into evenly sized pieces.
- Place the potatoes in a saucepan, cover with boiling water and add the salt. Simmer for 10 minutes until the outer edge of the potatoes is fluffy – test with the points of a fork.
- Drain the potatoes well and return to the saucepan. Place a lid over the pan and shake it vigorously. By shaking the potatoes in the saucepan in this way the cooked edges will become floury and fluffy – perfect for crisping up in the oven.
- Remove the roasting tin from the oven and place the potatoes in the hot fat – careful as the oil may spit! Baste them well and return to the oven for about 40 minutes until they are golden brown and crisped.
- Sprinkle with salt and serve straightaway – do not allow them to sit around otherwise they will loose their crunch (if they are cooked before you are ready, turn off the oven and leave them inside – but with caution, they don’t like to wait!)
A Staple Side Dish – Concetta’s Potatoes (Serves 4)
4 large potatoes – such as Maris Piper (roasting potatoes)
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried sage
Sea salt and black pepper
2 cloves garlic, crushed
- Peel and slice the potatoes, and parboil in boiling water for 4 minutes.
- Place in a roasting tin, sprinkle over the rosemary, sage and garlic, season with salt and black pepper and drizzle over some olive oil – mix well.
- Place in a preheated oven, 200’c, for 35-40 minutes until crispy and well browned.
Thai Vegetable Curry (Serves 4)
You have probably noticed from the recipes that I share that I am a big meat eater, so pure vegetarian dishes a not a regular feature on Menu Mistress – however I am trying to change this! Having said that, this Thai Vegetable Curry is something that I have cooked on a number of occasions (I always feel very virtuous when I do!), it is a very comforting curry, with clean tastes; the water chestnuts really give it a lovely crisp texture. I use only one green chilli as I don’t like really spicy food, however you could use two to increase the heat factor.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 tablespoons fish sauce
15g palm sugar (you could substitute this for brown sugar or maple syrup)
400ml coconut milk
400ml vegetable stock
2 sweet potatoes (around 600g), peeled and diced into 1.5cm cubes
12 button mushrooms, quartered
8 stalks Tenderstem broccoli
1 x 220g tin sliced water chestnuts, drained
For the Green Curry Paste:
1-2 green chillies, deseeded and chopped (see note above)
3 shallots, peeled
2 lemongrass stalks, roughly chopped
4cm piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 bunch of coriander (stalks, leaves and roots – if possible)
2 garlic cloves, peeled
½ teaspoon sea salt
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
- First make the curry paste by placing all the paste ingredients in a blender or food processor and blitz until smooth.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a pan over a medium heat. When hot add the curry paste, fry for 4-5 minutes until fragrant.
- Add the fish sauce and palm sugar, and cook for 3 minutes. Add the coconut milk and vegetable stock, and simmer gently for 20 minutes.
- Strain the sauce through a sieve into a clean saucepan, discarding the rememants in the sieve.
- Bring the curry sauce to a simmer, season with salt (if needed). Add the sweet potato and cook for a further 10 minutes, then add the mushrooms.
- Cook the broccoli in a separate pan, for 4 – 6 minutes until just cooked .
- Add the broccoli, peas and water chestnuts to the curry and heat through.
- Serve with rice.