In January, my urge for food appears to show inwards, away from any type of deprivation, searching for consolation and a buffer in opposition to a chilly, darkish world. These first weeks of the 12 months name for soups, broths and pastas, mashes, beans and braises, whereas on the similar time demanding jolts of brightness, whether or not that be within the type of crunch or acid tang.
The finest description of such brightness I do know is available in Claudia Roden’s introduction to her Book of Middle Eastern Food. She writes of consuming a weekly meal of ful medames when she was a schoolgirl in Paris. She describes how each Sunday, alongside together with her cousins and brothers, she would go to kinfolk. They would every ceremoniously put together their very own plate of this conventional Egyptian dish, sprinkling the fava beans with olive oil and seasoning, squeezing over lemon, then inserting a sizzling hardboiled egg of their midst. “Delicious ecstasy” is how she describes it, the beans’ earthy style assembly the acid tang of the lemon, mellowed by the oil and the crumbling egg, a heat yellow among the many brown. She additionally describes how in Paris, ful medames – thought of a poor man’s dish in Egypt – turned invested with all of the glories and heat of Cairo, her residence city and the embodiment of all that for which they had been homesick.
It has been greater than 20 years since I first learn this passage (which remains to be the richest introduction to any meals guide I personal), however I can nonetheless keep in mind pondering it was the primary guide to place an concept into phrases for me, that meals and flavour are a repository for feeling and reminiscence. Cairo and Roden’s ful medames had been 1000’s of miles from my Hertforshire and Lancashire pub childhood – a spot I used to be extra prone to evoke with a bacon sandwich and a pint or a slice of malt loaf. Yet, away from residence myself, I might establish together with her longing. Her concept chew of one thing might conjure up one other place or time resonated.
Whether I made a bacon sandwich or purchased a loaf of Soreen, I don’t keep in mind. I do, nonetheless, keep in mind making a Camden Town try at ful medames: white beans with olive oil, salt and pepper, a hardboiled egg and a squeeze of lemon. I needed to run to the cornershop to purchase the lemon. Now, it wasn’t that I didn’t know the facility that a number of drops (or a half of moon in a gin and tonic) may wield, however Roden’s “acid tang” summed up effectively the concept that a number of drops of juice, had been a type of culinary highlighter pen reinforcing different flavours – on this case, the beans and the crumbling yellow yolk, to be eaten looking of the window of a flat in north London that rattled each time a practice handed.
January is, after all, a superb time for acid tang as lemons are at their finest and most plentiful from now till March. I’m reminded of this every single day as I stroll my son to highschool previous the handfuls of lemon bushes rooted within the gardens on Rome’s Aventine Hill, their leaves defiantly inexperienced, branches laden with fruit stuffed with liquid sunshine to be squeezed on to no matter is in your plate – beans and egg, salad, a hoop of calamari or a bit of fish – or in the present day’s hen and potatoes.
In this recipe, there are additionally anchovies (which soften obediently into the oily foundations, serving as the nice seasoner), garlic, strident rosemary and chilli. And these are all drowned in wine like a ringmaster taming the sturdy personalities right into a wealthy and silken gravy.
Whether or not it’s scrumptious ecstasy, it’s actually a dish invested with some on a regular basis glories, regular consolation and deep vibrant flavour.
Chicken with potatoes, anchovy, rosemary and lemon
I normally start cooking this dish on the range prime and end it within the oven, however you would do all of it on the hob. However you select to proceed, the cooking ought to lead to tender items of hen in a pool of concentrated sauce, its crown as golden as syrup.
4 tbsp olive oil
1 hen – about 1.5kg – jointed into 8 items
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
6 anchovy fillets
A sprig of recent rosemary
A pinch of dried pink chilli
Zest and juice of ½ lemon
Salt and black pepper
1kg potatoes, peeled and minimize into 2cm wedges
250ml dry white wine
1 Set the oven to 180C/350F/gasoline mark 4. In an ovenproof frying pan or casserole massive sufficient to accommodate the hen and potatoes in a single layer, heat the olive oil after which brown the hen on all sides, beginning skin-side down. Once browned, raise the hen on to a heat plate.
2 In the remaining oil and hen fats (pour some away in case you really feel there may be an excessive amount of), gently fry the garlic and anchovies over a low warmth, nudging them with a picket spoon in order that they disintegrate into the fats. Add the rosemary – holding the sprig entire for a gentler flavour, or chopping it for a stronger 1. Add the chilli, lemon zest, salt and black pepper, and stir.
3 Add the potato wedges to the pan and stir once more till every is glistening with the oil.
4 Return the hen to the pan (it could be a squash, however the substances ought to all shrink throughout cooking). Pour over the wine and permit to bubble on the range prime for 10 minutes earlier than placing the whole thing within the oven for 40-50 minutes, basting each 15 minutes or so and squeezing over some lemon juice over the past 10 minutes of cooking. By the tip of it, the underside of the hen and potatoes must be tender, surrounded by a number of oily gravy, and the highest golden.
- Rachel Roddy is a meals author based mostly in Rome and gained the Guild of Food Writers meals author and cookery author awards for this column. Her new guide, Two Kitchens (Headline Home) is out now; @rachelaliceroddy
Rachel Roddy from theguardian.com