Roast Chicken and Jersey Royals with Lemon, Golden Raisins and Pine nuts. All across the fertile fields of Jersey, you can now see acres of plastic sheets . These are covering the wonderful Jersey main season potato crop. The earliest growers would have been harvesting from polytunnels and glasshouses in late February. The outdoor potato harvest lasts from early April through to June depending of course on the climate conditions. The valuable growing land here is in such short supply that the potatoes are grown and harvested on near vertical fields. But don’t worry you don’t have scramble up a cliff side as Jersey Royals are available all over the island and in supermarkets around the UK.
What makes Jersey Royals so special?
The above average temperature of Jersey, the easy draining soil and the use of the abundant local seaweed as fertilizer, all helps to shape the flavour of this most wonderful of root crops. However, we need however to go back to 1878 ( fear not, this is only a minor historical digression and an essential part of our tale ) for the origin of the Jersey Royal or to be more precise the Jersey Royal Fluke. A pair of abnormally large potatoes were purchased and later cultivated by Hugh de La Haye. They were the forerunners of the modern Jersey potato industry. Today over 1500 tonnes a day are exported during the season’s peak and the Jersey Royal enjoys EU protected status.
Many purists would say that all you need to eat Jersey Royals with is lashings of Jersey’s finest butter ( I’m a big fan of Classic Herd’s ) and a generous sprinkling of Jersey sea salt. They are the perfect accompaniment to the islands finest seafood, wonderful in salads. I want, however, to suggest to you something a little different. A one tray oven-baked dish that would be perfect served with a dressed green salad and a nice cold beer. The Jersey Royals have a great texture when roasted and are perfect with the chicken. Enjoy.
If you cannot get hold of Jersey Royals you can use any firm early new potatoes Cornish are an idea substitute. If you don’t like chicken drumsticks just substitute four extra thighs. This recipe is Gluten Free.
Chinese New Year and Kung Pao Chicken. Today we welcome in the Chinese New Year 2019 the year of the pig. This year to celebrate I have made a trio of Sichuan inspired dishes. A vegetarian Mapo tofu, spicy Sichuan Salt and Pepper Prawns and today’s recipe the classic Kung Pao Chicken. Now you should beware many western versions of this lack the serious dual hit of fiery red chilli and the mouth tingling Sichuan pepper. In fact Sichuan peppers were banned from America for quite sometime? The US version is often just a variant of General Tso’s Chicken with carrots, onions and bell peppers in a sweet and sour sauce. You will find Western versions are often much tamer than the authentic dish.
Why is it called Kung Pao Chicken?
Kung Pao chicken ( 宫保鸡丁 ) is believed to be named after a Governor of Sichuan province who held the official title ‘ Gongbao ‘ or palace guardian. I’m sure you have seen the similarity already. Because of this Imperial connection it was renamed during the famous Cultural Revolution. The new name was the rather less catchy ‘ fast fried chicken cubes ‘. It’s more famous name was restored in the nineteen eighties.
Authentic Kung Pao Chicken
You make real thing from stir-fried soy marinated chicken, leeks and raw peanuts. Your flavour comes from Sichuan peppercorns and red chillies. They are first heated in hot oil with perhaps some ginger and garlic. Then you serve the finished dish with simply steamed rice.
The perfect Christmas roast turkey dinner. Most families in the United Kingdom traditionally sit-down on Christmas afternoon for their festive Christmas Dinner. Today you find the centerpiece is usually a roast Turkey served with stuffing, sausages wrapped in streaky bacon ( pigs in blankets ), crisp roast potatoes, parsnips, Brussel sprouts and lots of other vegetables, and cranberry sauce. This is followed by Christmas pudding and brandy sauce, maybe sherry trifle and mince pies. But how have we got here?
A bit of Christmas Dinner history
‘If he is to get on in life, he must get on umbly, Master Copperfield!’ In medieval England, if you were very rich you might have eaten venison for Christmas. Killed in your hunting grounds and the bits or umbles – the heart, lungs, liver, tongue, and kidneys would be chopped, mixed and baked in a pie to be given to the poor. The original [h]umble pie. Down the pecking order ( sorry ) you might find goose or woodcock covered in butter and saffron and roasted. For dessert, you would find frumerty a thick, spiced porridge. This was made with currents and enriched with egg yolks. Alternatively there might be a boiled plum pudding. The ancestor of today’s Christmas pudding made with suet and dried fruit. It would be flavoured with clove, ginger, and cinnamon. Plum is an old term for raisins.
A boar’s head would be the centerpiece of the Christmas feast for a Tudor nobleman. It is believed that the tradition is centuries-old. It came from pagan celebrations of the Norse god of the harvest. If you could not get hold of the highly prized head, you would have a ham which is now a staple of many Christmas meals. Sugar, spices, and nuts were considered highly exotic and very expensive. Highly decorated marzipan sweetmeats were a sign of your wealth and importance.
‘My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people don’t know.’ During the 17th century, turkeys started to become part of the Christmas feast. Although goose would remain the most popular roast well into the Victorian era. It was common for goose “Clubs” to be set up, allowing working-class families to save up over the year towards buying a goose. Sherlock Holmes solves a tricky case involving the theft of a precious stone the blue carbuncle when it is found in a Christmas club goose.
Gingerbread has an incredibly long history, near to a thousand years. Originally it was often sold in monasteries, pharmacies, and markets. Gingerbread was prized for its supposed medicinal properties and was used to aid digestion. It became so popular its manufacture was highly regulated in Germany and supervised by a guild. The guild lifted the restrictions on who could bake gingerbread at Easter and Christmas. By Victorian times Gingerbread men were baked and hung on the Christmas tree.
A dickens of a christmas
In the 18th and 19th century, Twelfth Night, the fifth of January, was one of the most important dates in the festive calendar. Twelfth Night was the last feast of the Christmas celebrations ( Epiphany ). The centerpiece of the parties, which involved eating, drinking and playing games was a cake. A forerunner to today’s Christmas cake it evolved from an enriched fruit bread to a more familiar fruit cake decorated with almond and sugar pastes. A dried bean was included in the recipe. Whoever found it was crowned ‘Lord of Misrule’ or ‘King of the Bean’ and presided over the festivities.
The perfect Christmas roast turkey dinner
When Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837, the turkey was still an expensive choice, only for the very rich, for Christmas dinner. A famous Christmas dinner scene appears in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, where Scrooge sends Bob Cratchit a large turkey. In northern England, roast beef was commonly served on Christmas Day while in London and the south of England, a goose was still the favourite. Those too poor to afford beef or goose made do with rabbit. However, by the end of the 19th century, most people feasted on turkey for Christmas dinner.
Mincemeat was from Tudor times, when chopped meat mixed with dried fruits, sugar, and spices. This recipe continued right up to the Victorian era when less and less meat was included in the recipe. The mince tart you eat today is filled entirely with dried fruits, sugar, spices, and suet to keep it moist. Most premade mincemeat mixtures now use vegetable fats rather than the traditional suet in keeping with mincemeats origins.
So today’s recipe is for the Christmas centerpiece a roast turkey. I have memories of my mum getting up at 6am to put the oven to prepare a monster of a turkey for the family. As in popular legend, it did seem that we ate turkey leftovers for days after. You should never put stuffing into a turkey cavity as it will not cook properly and could be a health risk but I do like to stuff the breast end of the bird which helps keep the meat moist. I have included my favourite stuffing recipe.
So today’s recipe is for the Christmas centerpiece a roast turkey. I have memories of my mum getting up at 6 to put the oven to prepare a monster of a turkey for the family. As in popular legend, it did seem that we ate turkey leftovers for days after. You should never put stuffing into a turkey cavity as it will not cook properly and could be a health risk but I do like to stuff the breast end of the bird which helps keep the meat moist. I have included my favourite stuffing recipe.
Now I am a chef who loves his Sunday lunch and I cannot place the thinnest spatula between beef, lamb, and pork but as a family, we have a clear favourite, the great roast chicken. I am picky however and for the best taste, I prefer a nice free-range bird the skin crisp, the meat moist and succulent. In the depths of wet, windy Channel Island winters I love all the wonderful, traditional garnishes to go with the said roast. Bread sauce, sage and onion stuffing, bacon and chipolata rolls with mounds of fluffy potatoes roasted in duck fat and lashings of gravy.
But this glorious very hot summer and we are looking to our nearest neighbour, remember France is only a few miles away and serve up the roast chicken with some herbs and garlic, sauté potatoes and crisp green salad. Simpler, quicker and next time I must remember the chilled French wine or Normandy cider to serve with it! I stuff the cavity with a big handful of fresh herbs tarragon, parsley,thyme and lots of oregano, add a lemon, then sprinkle with Jersey sea salt and a good twist of fresh black pepper from the mill and add lots of sliced garlic.
Garlic Roast Chicken serves 4
The big secret is cooking the whole chicken in a baking paper parchment to keep it incredibly moist and flavourful. This method of cooking is called ‘en papillote’ and the poultry or fish is sealed in parchment or foil with herbs and other aromatics and cooks in its own steam.
4 lb ( 2 kg ) free-range Chicken from a reputable supplier
Preheat your oven to 375 F / 190 C / Gas Mark 5. Place a large sheet of baking paper into the middle of a roasting tray. The parchment must be large enough to fold around the chicken and seal. Place your chicken on the paper, fill the cavity with herbs and lemon halves, rub the butter over the skin, cover with the sliced garlic and season generously. Fold the parchment over the chicken and fold to form a loose parcel.
Place in oven and roast for one hour and a half to two hours depending on the size of your chicken or until the leg juices run clear when pricked with a small sharp knife. ( A meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of the thigh should reach 180 F ). Remove from the oven and cover in a T towel and rest for twenty minutes before carving. Simple.
What to Drink? Continental style Pilsner larger or bitter, hoppy I.P.A ale is a great match with the garlic chicken if you prefer wine try a classic White Burgundy or sparkling Rose wine.