The sun is beating down as I’m writing this. I’m feeling a bit sheepish as these recipes don’t necessarily fit the weather. I’m not going to be too hard on myself though as it being Ireland, wintery days are never far away.
The chicken dish I am sharing this week is one that I love but hardly have anymore as my people at home are not fans. They’ve had it once too many times and are never slow to tell me. Such is life when you have a chef at your beck and call.
I have a well trotted out story about this dish. We used to have a version of it at home growing up that we would fondly refer to as chicken mush. It tasted lovely but was always a tad overcooked, hence the name. I remember the flesh clung to the bottom of the pot like an disrobed gown, and the bird’s skeleton peered over the top of the pot as if desperately trying to escape its fate.
The inspiration for it comes from that wonderful French classic poule au pot. These old dishes make me swoon. I’m sure my alter ego is some portly French bon viveur awaiting the onset of gout.
The common theme for this week’s dishes is the humble turnip. It’s like an old flame. I never tire of it. I always look forward to using it abundantly once autumn sets in. Cider is omnipresent when I use turnip. I put some in with the chicken and I’m also glazing the turnip with it to lend a wonderful sweetness. I don’t use fancy cider, there’s no need. This one-pot dish is soothing, and the smoke from the bacon brings the turnip to another level.
Simple techniques can transform a dish. These mashed turnips are elevated by the cooking of the butter. It foams and changes into a nutty, complex creation. I’ve added a hint of cinnamon and sage for layers. I’d eat these turnips on their own all day long, my stretchy pants at the ready. Hopefully you have the self-discipline that I don’t possess.
ONE-POT CHICKEN WITH CIDER
1 x 1.6kg chicken
½ turnip, peeled and sliced
2 carrots, peeled and halved
1kg parsnip, peeled and cut into chunks
4 small onions, peeled
100g broth mix (barley, split peas, lentils)
1 packet (125g) smoked bacon lardons
Some fresh thyme and a bayleaf
1 ltr chicken stock
Salt and black pepper
- Set your oven to 165 degrees Celsius.
- Put the chicken in a large pot and place all the ingredients around the bird, then pour in the stock and cider.
- Bring the stock to a gentle simmer, cover and put in the oven for one hour.
- Remove the lid, turn up the heat to 185 degrees and cook for another 20 minutes.
- Allow to cool a little before prising the chicken from the bone. Serve in deep bowls with mashed potato. It won’t be pretty, but it will be delicious.
PORK CHOPS, GLAZED TURNIPS AND SMOKED BACON
½ tbsp duck fat
4 thick pork chops, bone on if possible
½ a turnip, peeled and cut into ½cm slices
125g smoked bacon lardons
10 sage leaves
Salt and black pepper
- Set your oven to 185 degrees Celsius.
- Take a large frying pan or small roasting tray. Melt the duck fat in it and allow it to smoke a little.
- Carefully add the chops, season them, brown on both sides and on the fatty edge for a couple of minutes.
- Remove the chops from the pan and add the turnips.
- Colour the turnips gently on one side then turn them over.
- Add the cider then lay the chops on top of the turnip.
- Dot the turnips with butter, scatter the smoked bacon around then tuck the sage leaves in among the turnips.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chops, until cooked through.
MASHED TURNIPS WITH SAGE BROWN BUTTER
1 medium sized turnip, peeled and cut into small chunks
A small bunch of sage, 4-5 leaves
1 stick of cinnamon
Salt and black pepper
A little grated nutmeg (optional)
- Boil the turnips until cooked, then strain and mash them.
- Meanwhile put the butter into a medium sized pot; it needs to be bigger than you think otherwise it will overflow.
- Cook the butter over a moderate heat, after three minutes or so it should start to foam, the bubbling and hissing will stop and it will quieten.
- Turn down the heat and allow it to become nutty around the edges.
- Add the sage and the cinnamon and remove the pot from the heat. Allow to infuse for a few minutes.
- Strain the butter on top of the turnips and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
- Mix everything together. You can keep this warm or reheat it at your convenience.