Once a week I roast a chicken, a nice fat free-ranger from my local butcher. It is comforting to know it is there, in the larder for when I feel like a slice or two in a sandwich or with a salad, though the best bit by far is tearing away at the carcass for the juicy bits hiding underneath. Now and then I go for some of his chicken pieces too, especially wings and legs, to make a quick midweek supper with. Nothing fancy, just lovely, easy ideas I can knock up in a few minutes.
Baked chicken wings, lemon grass & lime
A 'stalk' of lemon grass can be a relatively inaccurate measure. If you buy them from a Chinese or Thai grocer they will be plump and thick and sometimes 16 or 20 cm in length, yet those from the supermarket can be small and rather thin in comparison. Oriental food shops are the best bet for thick, juicy looking stalks without blemish. They will keep quite well in the fridge, so I pick up a bunch whenever I see a really good one. If you are stuck with the weedy little supermarket version then you will need 4 or 5.
Enough for 2
hot, red chillies - 2
spring onions - 3
garlic cloves - 2 large ones
lemon grass - 3 large stalks
a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger
coconut cream - 4 tbs
a tablespoon of groundnut or olive oil
the juice of a lime
chicken wings - 12
limes to serve - 2
Halve the chillies, discard the seeds, and put them in a food processor with the roughly chopped spring onions, the peeled garlic cloves and the lemon grass very finely sliced. (I often discard the tough outer stalks, using only the tender inner hearts.) Peel the ginger, cut it into thick shreds and add it to the lemon grass. Add the coconut cream and the oil, a good pinch of salt and blitz till you have a thick paste, adding a little water or coconut milk if you have to.
Tip into a roasting tin then add the chicken wings, tossing them with the marinade. Leave for 30 minutes then bake at 200C/gas 6 for about 35-40 minutes till deep gold and sticky on the outside.
Drizzle with lime juice and serve with halved limes.
Roast chicken with ramsons
Wild garlic (ramsons) is around now. It has all the silkiness of spinach leaves and a soft scent of young garlic. The leaves appear in the wild in early spring but can increasingly be found in farmers markets too. Any garlic stall will have them for the next few weeks. I used to have some at the top of the garden, but now rely on friends to bring them back from the country.
a good-sized chicken for roasting (about 1.5kg)
butter - 50g
a couple of bay leaves
a glass of white wine
wild garlic leaves - a good handful per person
Set the oven at 200C/gas 6. Mash the butter with a little olive oil and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper. Massage it into the skin of the chicken. Cut the lemon in half and tuck them inside the bird with a bay leaf or two.
Roast the chicken for about an hour till the skin is golden and the juices run clear. (Pierce the chicken at its thickest point, if the juices have blood in them, continue cooking. If they run clear it is ready.)
Remove the chicken to a warm place and let it rest, covered loosely with foil. Put the roasting tin over a low gas; when the roasting juices start to bubble pour in the wine and scrape at any pan-stickings so they dissolve into the juices. Throw in the garlic leaves, stirring into the hot juices so that they start to wilt and soften. Check the seasoning then serve the juices and softened ramsons with slices of the roast chicken.
Grilled chicken, fresh herb sauce
The leg is my favourite cut on the bird, all that juicy, muscly brown meat. The thick, free-range ones I buy can take a long time to cook right through to the bone, so I tend to cut the bone out. It's easy enough if you wheedle a very thin, sharp knife between flesh and bones. If you don't feel up to boning a chicken leg you could ask your butcher to do it.
4 chicken legs
For the sauce:
2 large handfuls flat leaf parsley
a large handful of mint
a large handful of basil
2 tsps smooth mustard
Remove the bones from the legs with a sharp knife. Lay the four pieces of chicken, one at a time, between two sheets of clingfilm and flatten them a little with a heavy object such as a rolling pin. You want them to be of a fairly level thickness. Season each with salt and black pepper and a little olive oil.
Get a grill or griddle pan hot. Grill the chicken on both sides till cooked right through and crustily golden on the outside.
For the sauce: put the parsley, mint, basil and mustard into the jug of a blender. Pour in enough oil to reduce to a thick but pourable sauce. Slush might be a more appropriate word. Season with salt black pepper and sharpen to taste with lemon juice. Serve with the grilled chicken.
Roast chicken thighs with tarragon butter
I often stuff a few stems of tarragon inside a roasting bird, and sometimes add the leaves to a creamy chicken stew. This aniseed-scented herb is exceptionally good in a herb butter for cooking with roast chicken pieces. Tarragon only likes moist heat, so I tend it warm it gently at the end of the cooking time rather than putting it into the recipe from the start.
8 fat chicken thighs
For the herb butter:
2 tablespoons tarragon leaves
a few drops of tarragon vinegar
Season the chicken all over with salt and black pepper, drizzle lightly with olive oil and a few drops of tarragon vinegar. Roast at 200C/gas 6 for about 45-50 minutes till sizzling and golden. Check that the juices run clear with a skewer. (If they show any sign of blood then return them to the oven.)
Soften the butter a little in your hand (if you wrap it in cling film first you won't get all greasy) then add the tarragon and then the vinegar, squishing it all together with a little salt. Roll into a rough cylinder and chill in the fridge.
When the chicken is ready, lay thinish slices of the tarragon butter on top, return it to the oven for a few minutes and allow it to melt. Serve with the buttery juices from the pan.
· Nigel Slater has won the OFM best book award for Eating for England (Fourth Estate, £16.99)