Saturday, 21 April 2012

chicken with chorizo, peppers and sage

this is an angela hartnett recipe from her book called 'a taste of home'. i don't think 'home' is anywhere in particular, so don't go thinking italy, which is what she is usually known for. it's more about homely food, in the best sense of the word: not fussy, no strange ingredients by and large, and not very difficult to prepare.

my first encounter with angela hartnett was on the day i got my citizenship. we went to her restaurant at the conaught for a posh lunch, and ended up drinking and eating some three hundred quid's worth of stuff, which at the time (and for a lunchtime service) was a lot of money. still is, in fact. R and G paid for me, which i will never forget. the food was pretty amazing - i had lamb, which included both the slow cooked neck and a best end - and it's hard to go wrong with that. we had pedro ximenez with desserts, and i have been trying to buy a bottle ever since.

going to islington town hall to become british was a weird occasion, not altogether devoid of poignancy and meaning as i'd fully expected it to be. citizenship ceremonies - any kind of ceremony, to be more accurate - and cynicism tend not to go together particularly well. being a fully paid up cynic, i expected to feel nothing, partly justifying my lack of any kind of...i don't know... moment by the fact that it took nine long years to get there, and several refusals that i still think were unjustified and unforgivable. (the story of the appeal hearing in birmingham is worthy of a post alone).

before i went, my parents told me to at least honour the occasion by wearing a suit, rather than going casual as i'd planned to do. i reckon my mum had one eye on the photographs - as i should have done too but what the hell do you know about that sort of thing when you're young(ish). nothing in my life so far had exactly been permanent, so the idea of worrying about what i might look like in photos 20 years later never really crossed my mind. anyway, i wore a suit, to keep them happy.

on the day, i suddenly somehow realised that this is all actually quite a big deal, and that - although you think which passport you carry is irrelevant - in reality, it matters. to you and everyone else. so i thought about what being british means, about a set of values i think brits live their lives by, and about whether i was happy to be a part of it.

i also thought at least as much about what i was no longer going to be, which is not an easy one to untangle. i left the country with an old yugoslav passport, at a time when the country itself officially no longer existed. (it made for an interesting conversation at budapest airport.) if someone gave me one of those passports now, i'd gladly accept it but the chances of that happening are zero. we were and are an accident of history. i then took out a bosnian passport, issued by a woman whose daughter was one of my best friends but who had a dim view of all serbs after her boyfriend and her dad - both of whom i knew, of course - died in the war. her dad - this woman's husband - was an MP who got shot at point blank by a serb during the siege. (i read it in the times while in liverpool, and thought my heart might break.) by the time i was applying for the british passport, we'd sold the flat in sarajevo and i no longer had an address there. my parents were in serbia, with serbian passports. stateless, i actually felt pretty free - a citizen of the world.

of course, i took the passport but i did so so knowingly and willingly. now think everyone should attend a ceremony, even if the thought of singing 'god save the queen' with loads of eastern europeans and west africans makes you cringe slightly. it focuses the mind a lot more than signing a bit of paper would.

but back to angela. i'd made this recipe once already but i cheated by not frying up the chicken first and not using any herbs (i didn't have any). oh, and i forgot the lemon zest. my advice would be - don't skip the herbs and the lemon. for a dish with not many ingredients, the flavour from those is pretty crucial. otherwise you just have some roast chicken.

not sure about the browning bit though. it takes time, your kitchen ends up covered in a film of oil and for what? the skin is no crispier than i get in the oven, at a slightly higher temperature of 200C. so, not sure i'd bother next time.

CHICKEN WITH CHORIZO, PEPPERS AND SAGE

1 chicken, jointed into 4 or 6
olive oil
3 red peppers, chopped roughly
100g chorizo, chopped roughly - i used cooking chorizo but normal stuff will do. just don't try and use already sliced stuff as it will come to nothing when cooked. you need chunks of the stuff. 100g was around 2 sausages
2 garlic cloves
2 tbs chopped sage
1 tsp chopped thyme
1 lemon
salt and pepper

season the chicken pieces and fry in hot oil until brown - 4-5 minutes for both sides, or thereabouts. remove them from the pan and set aside. next, add a bit more olive oil and cook the chorizo for 2-3 minutes, then add the peppers, garlic, sage and thyme, and cook for another two minutes. preheat the oven to 180C.

put the chorizo mixture in the bottom of a roasting dish and place the chicken pieces on top. zest the lemon and sprinkle all over chicken, then squeeze the juice of one half over it. bake in the oven for 45 minutes, turning the chicken half way through cooking.

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