You can tell it’s a desperate day in our family when I bung a chicken in the oven and we eat it with jacket potatoes and frozen peas. We all feel a lot happier afterwards.
But ‘Bird in the Hand‘ by Diana Henry is my go-to book for when I’ve bought some chicken but don’t quite know what to do with it. It works for when people are coming round, when I’ve committed to catering for a lot of people or when I want to cook to impress. It doesn’t matter if I’ve bought a whole chicken, chicken breasts, thighs or drumsticks. The chicken with dill and leeks was one of the first recipes I tried and made a ‘great leave it in the oven and then serve up’ Sunday lunch.
There are quite a few that can be made in my 30cm shallow Le Creuset pan with chicken thighs such as this chicken with prunes in red wine, and there are recipes for all the seasons such as the chicken with honey, lavender and peaches which tastes of a summer holiday in Provence.
to the roast chicken, garlic and potatoes in the pan with watercress, cashed blue and walnut butter which feels all cosy and autumnal
to the chicken with Marsala, olives and blood oranges which will cheer up even the most dreich January day. I know cookery writers are often criticised for their use of esoteric ingredients, but for me it’s part of the interest of cooking something new. Diana Henry says ‘some people will tell you that white marsala doesn’t exist’ but I found it in my local Waitrose. ( how middle class is that?)
When this recipe was first published in the Daily Telegraph as Jubilee chicken in 2012, it was the main dish for a hundred and fifty neighbours at our Golden Jubilee street party after a Prosecco fuelled work session in my kitchen. This is is a photo of another time I made it just for my family.
The book is also great when I’ve got some leftover roast chicken and fancy making more than a risotto, a fricassée or a pie. I love the flavours in this chicken, date and lentil brown pilau and it didn’t look as if I had just used the remains of our dinner the next day but as if I had made a whole new dish.
It’s a stalwart on my cook book shelves now and although the subject matter is narrow, just chicken recipes, it always gives me inspiration. Diana Henry says it’s not difficult to make a good meal when you’ve got some chicken in the fridge but this book has made it a great deal easier. Whenever I’m stuck, it’s got me out of a hole
Warm salad of griddled chicken, freekeh, preserved lemon, sour cherries and mint
The one drawback to the book is the duff index where most of the entries start with the word ‘chicken.’ I spent a happy rainy afternoon making my own more user friendly version.
Much to my husband’s surprise, I don’t actually take a photo of everything I cook and the list of recipes I’ve made is endless. To give an idea of the range of recipes in the book, I’ve also chicken, Serrano ham and shaved pear salad with quince dressing, chicken leek and cider pie with cheddar and hazelnut crumble and warm salad of chipotle-griddled chicken chorizo and quinoa with lime creme fraiche for fifty.
Next up is the Mexican chicken and pumpkin with pepita pesto, the chicken, spinach and cheese polpette and the festive chicken with prunes, chestnuts and baby onions.