If you know me then you know that my culinary skills aren’t something worth mentioning, ever. It basically stretches to instant noodles, omelettes, pasta, appetisers and boiled potatoes. I can just about make edible rice, but trying to cook it without either burning it or over-boiling it is the bane of my existence, and so I try and avoid cooking rice wherever possible. One day I may invest in a rice-cooker. Since moving to London in January 2014 however, my housemate has provided me with an introductory course on the fundamentals of the kitchen and basic cooking principles. I remember one of my very first tasks was to buy spinach. Realising that I had only ever seen spinach in cooked form, I was left perplexed at the local supermarket when confronted with various (unlabelled) green leafy vegetables. The Sales Assistant helper-guy had a good laugh at my expense when I asked for further guidance on identifying some spinach and I left feeling like I needed to make a drastic change in my life.
Nearly a year on and I can add Thai Green Curry to the extensive list of dishes that I can cook. I have also started keeping a list of recipes/instructions in my Healthy Life notebook to keep track of my progress, and although this may be incremental to some, is monumental for me as this is something that does not come naturally to me. At all.
This Christmas, my housemate and I decided to have a mini-feast, that I would primarily cook but with her overseeing help/expertise/guidance. I thought I would share this recipe with you all, because it turned out to be a great dinner, and although cooking a Christmas meal for the first time ever for me was a relatively daunting prospect, it went rather smoothly and was actually a lot easier than I thought!
Recipe: Christmas Feast
List of things you’re going to have to fork out for if you don’t have them in your cupboards already:
- Fat chicken
- All sorts of vegetables that you like: parsnips, potatoes, carrots, brussels sprouts, green runner beans, broccoli, courgettes etc.
- Stuffing mix – there a lots of types available, but I used Onion & Herb and Apple and something…
- Chicken OXO cube
- Gravy granules (Bisto brand)
- Bread Sauce (this took me ages to find in Sainsbury’s– it’s in a packet/sachet and has nothing to do with bread)
- Half a yellow lemon
- 1-2 cloves of garlic
- Thyme – fresh or dried
- Butter (margarine will not do)
- Half an onion
- Olive Oil
- Start by pre-heating the oven for 15 minutes at Gas Mark 6; I don’t know what it is for other ovens so you will have to work that out for yourself 😉
- Peel all the vegetables that are peelable, then cut and wash them in a pretty fashion. Cut the half onion nicely. With the sprouts, the outer leafy layer needs to be removed and the rooty part chopped away.
- Next grab a cooking tin or pot that is oven friendly. You will be cooking the chicken in this. According to my housemate, you can get a disposable tray for about a pound and apparently it’s made of foil (???)
- Pour a little bit of olive oil into this tin/pot/tray, half of the cut onion, 1-2 cloves of finely chopped garlic. Put this tray on the gas/electric hob (although I’m pretty sure this is somewhat dangerous but this is what I did on the instruction of my housemate) and cook for 10 minutes until the onions are soft and squidgy.
- While the latter is heating, wash chicken and dry it. If the chicken has strings wrapped around it you can leave them on because it doesn’t matter.
- Insert half a yellow lemon inside the chicken.
- Massage 2/3 of a tablespoon of butter into the chicken’s skin, avoid using margarine, the shit stuff will not do. Really massage the butter all over the chicken like it’s your baby.
- Sprinkle thyme, salt and pepper over chicken and then also sprinkle thyme inside chicken. If you can get you hands on fresh thyme then use that, otherwise the powder stuff will suffice.
- Now place the chicken in the tin/pot/tray with its heated content and stir it around a bit. Then break an OXO Chicken Cube between your fingers over the chicken.
- The chicken is officially ready to go in the oven. Place it on the middle shelf.
- Now prepare another tin/tray for roasting parsnips and potatoes. Pour some olive oil into this; it should be no more than 2mm in depth in the tin and then put this in the oven on the top shelf to heat for about 5 minutes.
- Take this tray out and place potatoes and parsnips in it, sprinkle with some salt and pepper and give it all a little stir. You should do this quickly and then return to the top shelf on the oven asap; try not to let all the heat escape out of the oven whilst doing this as it only adds further to the cooking time.
- Note: you should let the chicken cook for 1 hour and 30 minutes, and the vegetables (potatoes and parsnips) for about 45 minutes.
- While the chicken and potatoes and parsnips are cooking, you should boil the other vegetables on the hob. Fill ¼ of a pot with water, placing the brussels sprouts at the bottom and then layering all the other vegetables on top. Let these veg simmer or steam for about 30 minutes checking regularly that they are ok.
- During this time, you can make the stuffing. Empty the contents of the sachet into a bowl and add hot water according the instructions on the back. Once you have rolled them into cute balls, you can place them in the oven. I placed them in the same tray as the potatoes and parsnips to one side, and swirled them around a bit in the olive oil already in the tray. They should take no longer than 15-20 minutes to cook. They should look nice and crispy once done, but not burnt.
- Next step is to make the gravy. I used Bisto Gravy Granules for this. It’s really simple, you just mix it with hot water and swirl it all around until it dissolves. You can use the hot water from the boiled vegetables for more flavour if you like.
- Last thing to put together is the bread sauce. Follow the instructions on the back of the pack. The end result should be a porridge-like consistency.
- Put everything together on a plate like this and pour gravy all over it, and you are done!
And you should get some unhealthy dessert to top it all off! Happy Christmas everyone and enjoy the holidays while they last! 😀