Home is where the Hearth is

Grey stormy days and longer darker windswept wet nights affect us all. As much as I enjoy the cold crispness of a late Autumn or mid-Winter morning, when the sun has that orange glow, for the most part, the weather this time of year is, depressing. Normally I would I have had a top-up of sun by now. Popping over to my other home in Spain, alas, COVID has other plans.

Its is certainly true that we should be grateful for what we have not longing for the things or faces, we don’t. Spending a day a part because of medical needs and the subsequent homecoming, together with the relief that the worse is behind, is more gratifying than seeing the sun in the sky.

With this in mind, a meal was needed that commemorated more than celebrated. The dish: needed to be homely, or rustic in style; needed to be light for those with a limited appetite who are recovering.

Chicken never fails and a casserole seems to be the international choice “recovery food”, so I set about making my country chicken. Every cuisine has one, the French provencal, the Greek Stifado, and of course the Welsh Cawl.

Cyw iâr y Cefn Gwlad (homeland Chicken)

Ingredients

1kg Chicken pieces including drumsticks, breasts and thighs anything you can source or have in the freezer

100g chopped mushrooms

2 cloves of garlic sliced

100g Asparagus 

Equal sprinklings of tarragon, sage and thyme

250ml of white sauce*

Method

Place all the ingredients in a heat proof wide roaster. Cover with baking foil and cook for 2hrs in a medium oven approx 150-160C fan.

After 2 hours, remove the foil and turn over the chicken ensuring the meat is cooked. Add more time if necessary uncovered.

When satisfied that meat is cooked (any juices come away clear and no pink areas), remove the meat from the roaster to a large plate or salver. Decant the sauce and vegetables, herbs etc, to a saucepan and bring to a lively simmer. Add a teaspoon of cornflour to thicken the sauce whisking constantly. When the flour is absorbed, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and stir occasionally allowing the sauce to reduce.

*Sauce

With the sauce you have two choices, cheat and buy a readymade cook-in sauce or make your own. Either is more than acceptable as this is not one of those ‘kit box’ meals, you are actually cooking. I recommend a white sauce for this dish, namely Honey and Mustard. A sweet and sour twist of sorts.

If you are going down the homemade version then try 

1 1/2 tbsp + 1/2 tbsp olive oil
honey (85g)
2 cloves garlic minced
chicken stock (250ml)
Dijon mustard (70g)

Start by heating the oil in a sauce over a medium heat. Never get olive oil ‘smoking’. Add the mustard, garlic and a little stock and mix vigorously, Begin adding the honey and combine, using the stock to dilute until you’ve mixed all ingredients together. The sauce should fall off a spoon easily. Yes its runny but not watery!

The Extra Mile

To add to the presentation, flavours, and of course, maintaining a menu that is light and easy for those ‘under the weather’, I chose to serve the chicken accompanied by roasted hassle back potatoes and steamed chantenay carrots.

There is a huge difference between eating and dining. Dining brings a sense of occasion; the opportunity to gather around a table not a tray on your knee facing a TV. Taking as much or as little as you need from the centre whilst talking the whole time with your guests. We eat to live and dine to love life.

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