Coronation Chicken

To celebrate Her Majesty the Queen’s 90th birthday and the Patron’s lunch today I have revised a classic recipe. You could call this a retro fusion recipe, originally thought to have been created for the silver jubilee of the Queen’s grandfather George V in 1935. Coronation chicken is a cold dish often used in salads and sandwiches and is one of the only dishes that I will use curry powder for! The mix of the gentle spices with the creamy mayonnaise, tender chicken and sweet fruit has been enjoyed for decades and is still one of my husband Jim’s absolute favourites. Poaching the chicken is a great way to cook to add gentle favour and ensure the chicken stays very moist. The recipe can of course also be made with leftover cold chicken from a roast dinner or other meal as well.

Enjoy the dish and many happy returns to her Majesty. 👑

Ingredients (serves 2)

115g dried fruit (I used a mix of golden sultanas and dried apricots)

1 large chicken breast (approx. 250g)

2-3 slices ginger root

4-5 black peppercorns

1 small onion, thickly sliced

Enough cold water to cover the chicken in the pan

6 tbsp mayonnaise

1 tbsp salad cream

1 tsp mild or medium curry powder

salt and freshly ground pepper

juice of half a lemon

Method

  1. First poach the chicken. Place the sliced ginger, onion, peppercorns in the pan. Add the chicken breast and cover with cold water.
  2. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer, cover the pan and poach the chicken for 15 mins.
  3. Then turn the heat off and allow the chicken to continue cooking in the pan for another 10 minutes.
  4. Check chicken is cooked all the way through, using a meat thermometer which should read  a core temperature of 75ºC in the middle of the chicken. Or you can cut open the chicken and check the chicken is completely cooked through with no pink traces at all.
  5. Take the chicken out of the pacing liquid and allow to cool to room temperature (60 mins) and then refrigerate until completely cold. Cut chicken into bite sized pieces or slices, around 2cm wide.
  6. Mix together the mayonnaise, salad cream with the curry powder then season with salt if needed and plenty of fresh black pepper.
  7. Add in the chopped chicken and dried fruit and stir very well. Finally add a squeeze of lemon juice.
  8. The filling is great in vol au vents or as a jacket potato filling, but the classic use is as a sandwich filling. I like crusty white bread with shredded crunchy iceberg lettuce for a great combination.

Exam stress-busting recipe

Well the time has finally arrived. My daughter’s GCSE exams have started, so as you can imagine the stress levels in our house are through the roof. It seems hard to comprehend that she has come to this point already. Through my happy tears at her Leavers’ Assembly, I found it hard to process the fact that she has become this rather wonderful young adult when it seems like yesterday that she stood proudly in the playground on her first day at school, with her unruly hair in braids and fiercely clutching her brand new book bag.

I have asked several friends how to cope with the stress and what I should be doing as a parent to alleviate the symptoms, though clearly I can do nothing about the cause. I read somewhere that whatever you say as a parent will be wrong. If you seem very caring and interested in what they are doing and get involved in revision, you are stifling them and poking your nose in and you couldn’t possibly understand. If you try and stay out of it you are accused of not caring. So parents should just accept that whatever you say will be wrong and get used to the sound of slamming doors.

My friend Sue from the Lemon Tree explained that her strategy with her son Harry was just to feed him. That was the best thing she could do to support him with his workload. This sounded like a good idea to me so I am planning to cook all the things that Lily likes and that I think will help her work and function as effectively as possible. We’re always told that fish is great brain food, and it’s not always the easiest thing to get our children to eat, so I thought I would share my family fish pie recipe with you. It’s got all that lovely fish, but couched in a wonderful cheesey mash and a silky parsley sauce which makes it one of my all-time favourite comfort foods too. I’ve used white fish, salmon and prawns in my recipe, as the children are not mad-keen on smoked fish, but some lovely smoked haddock in the fish mix also works a treat.

Here’s the recipe for you. If you are one of those households supporting stressed-out, exam-crazed teenagers, give it a go and hopefully it will allow them to relax for a minute, get some good fuel inside them before they launch back into the study and revision. Good luck to them all!

Fish Pie

Ingredients (serves 4)

500ml milk

300g salmon fillet

300g white fish (cod or haddock)

125g raw large prawns, peeled and de-veined

1 small onion, quartered

1 bay leaf

4 black peppercorns

75g butter

50g plain flour

handful of finely chopped fresh parsley

salt and pepper

200g washed baby spinach (optional)

1 kg potatoes (Maris Piper or King Edward are best)

50g butter

50ml milk

50g grated mature cheddar cheese

Method

  1. Heat the milk in a large shallow pan. Heat the milk to just short of boiling – you should just see a few small bubbles around the edges of the pan. Add the fish in large chunks (approx. 4cm) along with the onion and bay leaf and 4 black peppercorns. Reduce the heat and simmer for 8 mins, turning the fish once during that time. Lift the fish onto a plate and strain the milk into a jug to cool. You will need approx. 450ml milk, if there is slightly less top it up with fresh milk. Flake the fish into large pieces in a large ovenproof dish. Then add the raw prawns and mix thoroughly.
  2. Make the parsley sauce. Melt the butter in a pan very slowly then add the flour and stir well until you have a paste. Add the reserved milk from poaching the fish very gradually, stirring briskly all the time. Keep the heat on and keep stirring until the sauce thickens, this should take about 5 minutes. When the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon you can take the pan off the heat, season with salt and pepper and add the finely chopped parsley.
  3. Scatter the spinach leaves on top of the poached fish, then pour the sauce over the fish mix in the baking dish, making sure the fish and spinach are completely covered in the sauce. Now preheat the oven to 180ºC (fan).
  4. Peel and chop the potatoes into big chunks the cook in salted, boiling water until soft and cooked through. This should take 25-30 minutes. Drain off the water and allow the potatoes to dry off in the open pan. Then mash with the butter and 50ml of milk and season well with salt and pepper.
  5. Finally add the mashed potato to the top of the fish, scatter over the grated cheese and bake in the oven for 40 minutes until golden and bubbling on top. Serve with peas or any steamed green vegetables.

ChipLitFest

Despite the opinions of many, I am still a believer that social media can be a force for good. A chance Twitter conversation with the author Clare Mackintosh led to my being invited to appear as part of a stellar line up at the Chipping Norton Literary Festival this year. The festival, dubbed ChipLitFest, took place over 4 days in April in the beautiful Cotswold market town of the same name. With names such as Joanne Harris, Fay Weldon, Brian Blessed, Ben Miller, Prue Leith and others on the bill it was a no-brainer when festival director Jenny Dee asked me if I would like to be involved.

For people who have visited the town, you will know that it is a lovely-looking place, with all the honey-coloured stone houses and cobbles that you would expect to find in such a setting. First stop was the town hall for my cooking demonstration. I prepared dishes from my cookbooks (we covered chilli mojito, dhal bora, baked ginger cheesecake and pumpkin and prawn curry) for a really delightful audience. I always enjoy live cooking demonstrations, but there are some occasions where everything falls into place; the audience laugh at my jokes, the dishes timings work perfectly, I don’t forget to include all the important things I’d wanted to say, I have audience participation, in short everything works perfectly. This was one of those occasions.

Once our work was done, we were able to enjoy some of the generous hospitality laid on by the festival directors. First a stop at Jaffé & Neale, the independent bookstore in the centre if the town which had set up a wonderful green room.There we could hang out with the other authors, though I was far too starstruck to say anything to anyone.

We joined a team for the ChipLitFest literary quiz . We didn’t disgrace ourselves entirely, achieving mid-table mediocrity. Janet Ellis on the table next to us was clearly very motivated (and pretty vocal) and her team ran out eventual winners. The fun didn’t stop there, next it was on to the authors dinner where we met children’s fiction authors Jo Cotterill (Electrigirl), John Dougherty (Stinkbomb and Ketchup Girl) and Paul and Henrietta Stickland (Ten Terrible Dinosaurs) I think tiredness and mild hysteria had set in by then, so we had an intensely funny evening, punctuated by MasterChef-themed drinking games, i.e.: when anyone said ‘jus’ or ‘deconstructed’ we had to take a drink!

Before heading home on Sunday we were pleased to be able to squeeze into an event about food blogging run by Kathy Slack who writes a blog named Gluts & Gluttony – inspired by recipes she had developed from gluts of fruits and vegetables from her allotment and focussed on growing your own organic vegetables and what do do with the resultant produce. This was a great hands-on session at the town’s premier fine-dining restaurant Wild Thyme. Kathy had some very good advice for food bloggers with the main themes being consistency of message, posting regularly and deciding if your blog is a photo-blog or about the writing. And if it is about the writing, edit and edit again so you have clarity of message. Definitely a lesson I need to learn!

My favourite lesson was about long and irrelevant introductions. For example if you are blogging a restaurant review, don’t waste the first 200 words talking about waiting for the babysitter or how you got to the restaurant, just get on with it. I must try to remember this! Finally we got to practise food styling with a rhubarb and ginger cake provided by Kathy and it was highly entertaining to watch 20 people poking, prodding and photographing their cakes rather than just tucking in.

I participate in events up and down the country but this one was special. As well as performing and catering for the audiences, I got so much back. It was meticulously organised by a small army of volunteers, the variety and quality of events was excellent, and as participants we were looked after so well. I’ll definitely be going back, and for anyone with a love of books and literature I would absolutely recommend you get yourselves there for ChipLitFest 2017.