Friday, 24 September 2010


Posted by Tania Kindersley.

There is a lot of politics about at the moment, mostly of the black is white cats are dogs variety. (A tax-cutting party gets the most seats in the Swedish election? My entire world view is shaken.) I could go on, and on, and on, but it's Friday, so I shan't.

I am going to talk about chicken instead.

I have been doing some cooking for my mum. I thought I would make her a lovely beef stew, to herald the coming of autumn. I went to the butcher and got the best rump; I poured in half a bottle of fine Brouilly; I used organic carrots and swedes. I spent all day making it. I was in a state of high excitement. And, despite the perfection genie, or perhaps because of, it really wasn't awfully good. I don't know what it is with me and beef stew; it never turns out the way I want. This time, I looked up ten different recipes, thought and thought and thought, moved with care and deliberation, and still it was not as I had imagined. It was not disgusting, but it was just blah. It would not make you sigh with delight, which is my stated goal when giving anyone anything to eat.

In a panic, I thought: I must take her something else. There were some nice chicken thighs in the fridge, and half a bottle of dry sherry left over from last week. So I did a braise. It turned out quite stunningly satisfactorily, so honour is restored. (Although I shall go on secretly fretting about the bloody stew for some days.)

Here it is, for four:

Take four plump free-range chicken thighs. Fry them in olive oil for about fifteen minutes over a medium heat in a big pan. I do skin side first, to make sure they are crispy on top. I added five cloves of unpeeled garlic, for extra flavour.

Then, deglaze the pan with plenty of dry sherry. White wine will do perfectly well if you do not have it. I used a very, very big glug, probably a glass full. Let this simmer merrily for a few minutes, then add a pat of butter. This will make the sauce unctuous and filled with flavour. I used good salted butter. Add about a third of a litre of chicken stock, or hot water with half a tablespoon of Marigold bouillon powder. Then let the thing simmer on a low to medium heat for about another fifteen minutes.

While this is happening, quarter some new potatoes and cook them for ten minutes, or until yielding. Peel some baby shallots and simmer them in stock or Marigold for the same time. Chop some leeks, and cook for five minutes. I did all this in separate pots, because I am always wary of Crowding the Pan, but theoretically, you could shove everything in with the chicken and do it all together.

Check the chicken. I just took one out and poked the deepest bit of flesh with a sharp knife to make sure it was cooked all the way through. Taste your sauce for seasoning. It will have reduced down a bit. My guess is that it will need a good go of black pepper. It may need a pinch of sea salt, or even a naughty dash more sherry. Throw in a big handful of chopped parsley.

And there you are. A lovely combination of rustic and elegant. It took half an hour from start to finish.

This is just out of my head. You could play around with it. I think it would be lovely with sage or thyme.  Or some torn watercress, wilted in the final moments of cooking. Probably not carrots though; I think this is a green and white dish.



Quick added food bonus:

I mentioned something nice with potatoes and bacon, earlier in the week. This is not really a recipe, more just a comforting thing to eat on a cool autumn evening.

I peeled and cubed and boiled some waxy potatoes in chicken stock. While that was happening, I fried up some finely sliced smoked bacon until it was crispy. I removed it from the pan, turned the heat right down, added a glug of olive oil, and very, very gently fried some sliced shallots and three or four sliced garlic cloves until they were soft. In the last five minutes, I threw in some very fined sliced red chilli. Once the potatoes were done, I drained them well and then gave them a bit of a fry in a little olive oil, in big frying pan. The aim is not so much to get them crispy, but to brown them a little and let the flavour of the oil infuse them. Then I mixed it all up together, threw over a bit of chopped parsley, and had my lovely, quick, simple weekday supper.


Pictures of the week:












Have a splendid Friday.


  1. You can tell it's autumn by the muted colours - like someone turned down the dial... IF it were me cooking what sounds like a really fabulous chicken dish, I would throw in all the veg with the chicken as the sweetness of the leeks and shallots would provide such a delicious counterpoint to the astringency of the sherry. And it would save on t'washing up. Just a thought.

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  3. I suggest you don't put such a "fine" red wine in it (is Brouilly really decent? Not a label/region I am familiar with) and in any case French wine with swede turnips seems ALL wrong to me, despite the dynastic connections between Scotland and France. The French wouldn't feed a human swede turnips (their loss) and I think on the whole swede goes better with lamb.

    For a mkore reliable beef stew I suggest you use a cheaper cut, cooked long and slow, and definitely a cheaper wine (so you are less disappointed if it bombs out!), with no veg other than onions/shallots, mushrooms and maybe carrots. Just possibly some celery.

    I'd simmer the fried-off floured diced beef in red wine & stock to cover an hour before intoducing any veg. Then add very finely diced carrots and celery. About 45 mins before the end add button mushrooms (previously fried in butter and drained) and finally small (pickling-sized) onions or shallots, skinned and browned off whole in butter, about 30 mins before serving.

    If you miss out the carrots & celery that's a pretty classic boeuf bourgignon, especially if the beef is browned with a small amount of diced bacon.

  4. Lovin' the blog. I have found that blade steak (cheaper cut,or whatever is the equivalent in your part of the world)makes the best stew. And slow, very slow.

  5. Oops! Just read Goldenoldenlady and she has already said something similar:)

  6. Delicious! And not just the food...

  7. I'm going to third the idea of going with a cheaper cut of meat for the stew. Do you have a slow cooker? I've just got one and I could rave about it for hours.
    Your food photography is amazing - is there a cook book in your future?

  8. Looks delicious! I've been a bit of a lurker on your blog, as I really enjoy reading it. It's well written and informative, so that is why I have nominated you for a 'One Lovely Blog' award! To find out more, visit my blog at

  9. Excellent cooking advice; thank you.

    And Spangle, special thanks for the VERY kind award.


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