Sorry about the intermittent service over the last few months. I said that we were moving. Not just from one flat to another, but from one city to another. And we did. It took ten weeks from moving out to moving in. The pans were packed away, I shouldered my rucksack and headed off to a spare room somewhere in West London.
I have no Issues with living out of a rucksack for a few months, I’ve done it before. But it’s somehow different – and more difficult – when you don’t have a home to go back to. I was accutely aware that the space I was staying in wasn’t my own. And although it was a lovely spare room, it was still someone else’s dining room floor.
And when you are staying with someone else, no matter how lovely they are, even if they’re family, you’re aware of your surroundings. Making sure stuff goes in the right places, having to explore cupboards, finding out that their staples are different from yours…
And then there’s getting used to a different oven. I inadvertently made asparagus crisps on one occasion. On another I filled the living room with a fish scented miasma. Everything took half as long and the unfamiliarity was unsettling.
And now? Now everything is unpacked into our new kitchen. The one in the house near the sea. And despite the hour and a half journey back into London every day, I’m feeling deeply satisfied. This was well worth the wait. It’s just a shame the oven doesn’t work…
Unpacking, culling and resorting the cookbook collection has led to some rediscoveries, among them this rather lovely chicken and lemon casserole from Katie Caldesi. Simple, aromatic and somehow eminently suited to our new location.
Chicken and lemon casserole
Serves four people with vegetables
One of the best things about this sort of dish is that it’s very forgiving in terms of time, and pretty flexible when it comes to ingredients. So long as you cook it for at least an hour, and keep the carrots, celery and onion, you can experiment to your heart’s content.
You could have tarragon instead of rosemary, or thyme and oregano. Try adding a bit of chilli to it, or some capers and olives. You could even go all Moorish and instead of lemon and rosemary, use saffron, cinnamon and orange.
1 chicken – jointed into 8 pieces
3 carrots – diced
2 onions – diced
3 celery sticks – diced
3 cloves garlic – crushed
100ml white wine
300-400ml vegetable stock
5 bay leaves
5 sprigs of rosemary
Cover the bottom of a heavy casserole or deep frying pan (which has a lid) with some olive oil, put over a medium heat and brown the chicken pieces. Set to one side.
Throw in the onion, carrot, celery, a strip of lemon zest and the herbs and fry gently until they’re soft and the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and continue frying until you came really smell the garlic.
Add the wine and let it bubble away for a couple of minutes, then put in the chicken pieces and squeeze the lemons into the dish, adding the empty halves of one. Pour over the stock, put the lid on and cook over the lowest heat for an hour or more. Season and serve.