Tuesday 19 May 2015

Diana Henry's A Bird in the Hand

Chicken with leeks, apples & cider (p 192)
A couple of months ago I posted about Diana Henry's chicken with leeks, apples and cider, the first dish I'd made from her new book, A Bird in the Hand. Well, since I bought the book, we've been eating a lot of chicken. A LOT of chicken. I'm not done with it yet, but I had to draw a line in the sand somewhere, so I thought I'd run through the recipes we've tried so far. I haven't been particularly methodical - I just cooked things I felt like eating rather than strategically providing a broad view. It's worked out pretty balanced, I think, although the recipes I've cooked have veered more towards Asian flavours. I think that is a seasonal thing - I tend to cook more European dishes in winter, so I have lots of things bookmarked that probably won't happen until October.

It's been produced by Diana's usual team, so the design and photographs are typically beautiful. The only real qualm I have with the book is the index, which I only found useful if I remembered the exact name of the dish I wanted to cook. For something like this where chicken is in everything, having dishes indexed by major secondary ingredients or cooking methods would have worked better, I think. I found myself using Eat Your Books a lot for this, once it was indexed.
Turkish-spiced chicken in a wrap with Greek yoghurt
Turkish-spiced chicken with hot green relish (p 32) was one of the dishes served at Diana's book launch party. It's incredibly delicious. Not super hot, but spicy and spiky with salty, herbal, acidic flavours. We don't have a griddle so I cooked the chicken in a cast iron frying pan - it didn't need extra oil for cooking because of the oil in the marinade.
Thai chicken burgers with Asian slaw
I couldn't get minced chicken for the Thai chicken burgers with Asian slaw (p 20), so I put chicken thigh fillets, the lemon grass, onion, ginger, lime zest and coriander through the mincer, then added the breadcrumbs and other seasonings. As you can see from the disconcerting purple speckles on the burger, I used a red onion. They were succulent, with a pleasant lightness from the breadcrumbs and had a very good flavour. The Asian slaw was excellent - just the thing if you find a mayonnaisey slaw cloying.
Royal chicken korma with chapattis and tomato katchumber
The book is divided into sensible (the starter/main/dessert structure doesn't really work with chicken!) but overlapping chapters - every day dishes, comforting dishes, salads, feasting dishes for when you have more time and so on. The Royal chicken korma (p 146) could easily fit into The Spice Route: scented, perfumed, hot chapter, but really it is in the right place in Feast: let's celebrate. It is a fiddle. I have a well-stocked spice cupboard, so I only needed to buy the perishables but even so when I looked down the lengthy ingredients list and read the method my heart sank. But take courage! This is probably the best curry I have ever, ever made. Disgorging and deep frying the onions for the spice paste gives an extraordinary depth of flavour. It is not a dish for every day but it is sublime. And I say that as someone who would never order a korma in a restaurant because I find them bland, sweet and dull.
Vietnamese lemon grass and chilli chicken - served with sauteed cabbage
Infinitely quicker and simpler, but still utterly delicious, was the Vietnamese lemon grass and chilli chicken (p 22). The red chillis I have been getting recently have no heat at all, so I used two without de-seeding and still needed to add a slosh of hot chilli sauce to give it a boost.
Roopa's lemon grass and turmeric chicken
Roopa's lemon grass and turmeric chicken with potato salad and date and tamarind chutney (p 50) is in The Spice Route chapter, but could so easily have fit into Feast. Not that it's particularly involved or that time consuming, but the potato salad accompaniment makes it taste extremely special. I used ground turmeric instead of fresh so my spice paste wasn't very pasty, but it still stuck nicely to the chicken. The potato salad with the chutney ends up tasting a bit like an aloo channa chaat, which is a very good thing for a potato salad to taste like.
Rice cooked in the fragrant chicken juices
The lemon grass and turmeric chicken also produced vast quantities of juices, far too much to serve with the chicken. So I saved it and cooked some basmati rice in it to have with a mutton methi curry later that week. It was so luscious I would do the chicken again just to make some more rice.
Balinese chicken, bean and coconut salad
This Balinese chicken, bean and coconut salad (p 112) was another one from the book launch party. Deliciously fresh and zingy, with a creamy underpinning from the coconut, it's lovely fresh and even though the herbs wilt a bit and lose some crunch, it's very tasty as leftovers.
Soothing North Indian chicken
So far, there has only been one dish that has really disappointed. The soothing North Indian chicken (p 185) just didn't work for me at all - very bland, and the yoghurt split even without boiling the sauce after adding it. The following day I turned the leftovers into a sort of biryani, stirring it through rice seasoned with cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and turmeric, which was much more to my taste.
Negima yakitori cooking
I've made negima yakitori before, so I was very interested in Diana's version (p 172). Mine were not the dainty morsels of her method, because I wanted to use my big, flat, metal skewers, but the flavour was excellent. I particularly appreciated the instruction to start grilling the seasoned chicken before basting with the sauce - so many recipe writers don't seem to understand how quickly things burn if they are marinated in a sugary sauce before cooking. The skewered spring onions add a lot of moisture and flavour to the chicken, and the little sprinkle of shichimi togarashi at the end adds a nice spicy kick.
They were very small aubergines - which we also basted with some of the yakitori tare
For Easter we decided to do something really extravagant and indulgent. Not just the indulgence of Roast chicken with truffles (p 150): we made it with a 3.95kg cockerel.
Steam rising from Roast cockerel with truffles
Obviously we ignored the cooking times for the massive beast, following the instructions on the box instead. We also ignored the serving suggestion of sauteed potatoes and watercress, going instead for Sunday lunch accompaniments of roast potatoes and sweet potatoes, and some peas. The buttery truffle sauce meant that no butter was needed on the peas. This was lovely, definitely worth getting a slow-grown chicken for, and we still have half a jar of black truffle slices left, so we're considering doing it again at Christmas (which is probably the next time fresh cockerel will be available).
Extravagant Sunday roast
Clearly an almost-4kg bird left us with a good supply of leftovers. Which amongst other things got turned into Vietnamese chicken and sweet potato curry (p 204), a super quick, fragrant and delicious use for leftover cooked chicken. And I think it would be very good with leftover pork too. Because of the sweet potato in it we decided we didn't need any other starch with it and just had generous bowlsful. I had a couple of courgettes that were slightly past their prime, so I chucked them in for a complete one-pot meal.
Vietnamese chicken and sweet potato curry
Chicken piri piri (p 156) is a Portuguese dish, but there is a pretty big Portuguese community in South Africa and a couple of South African piri piri chains, so Paul has very definite ideas about it.
Piri piri
I used a bottled piquillo pepper instead of roasting my own. And I used 2 of my home grown pickled habanero chillis because of the aforementioned problem with red chillis being really mild at the moment. The marinade had kick. Rather than using bone-in chicken portions or spatchcocked poussin, I spatchcocked a large chicken - because the weather was beautiful and we wanted a long, slow cook in the Weber.
Marinaded spatchcocked chicken
South African barbecuing is usually done over wood, so Paul added hickory chips to our charcoal, which added a really deep brown patina to the skin as well as a strong smoky flavour. As well as smearing the piri piri on both sides of the spatchcock, I lifted the breast skin and smeared some under it, so the flavour and heat of the chilli really penetrated. Another very, very successful dish.
Chicken piri piri, grilled sweet corn and tomato salad


Joanne said...

Well now I"m going to have to get her new cookbook! Everything you made from it sounds so good!

Suelle said...

My husband reckons if you get one good recipe that you will use again and again from a cookbook, then it's worth the expense. So I think you've got your money's worth out of this book! One to look out for.

Kavey said...

We've only made two recipes so far but loved both!

grace said...

uh, wow. that's a lot of chicken, which just so happens to be my most favorite form of protein! methinks i should probably go ahead and seek out this book.

Gemma said...

I've only made a couple of recipes so far (although that does include making the Vietnamese chicken with lemongrass and chilli 3 times!) but there are so many that I have bookmarked!

Faux Fuchsia said...

that chicken and leek and cider looks amazing and so does the truffled roast chicken. Want to make it all NOW. x

Alicia Foodycat said...

Joanne - it's an excellent book

Suelle - I am tougher than him, I need at least 2-3 recipes to give a book house space.

Kavey - there are still loads of recipes I have bookmarked to try.

Grace - we go through phases! It might be a while before I buy chicken again, having eaten it twice a week for a couple of months

Gemma - that recipe is so delicious, I'm not surprised you keep making it

FF - thoroughly recommend the truffles!


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