Saturday, 2 October 2010

Nigella's chicken

A question people ask me about being pregnant that I don't like is "Are you happy?" or "Are you excited?"

I know I'm wrong to dislike this question, but I do anyway, in the same way that I am completely wrong to be so irritated by people on the tube who tell me that my bag is open. They're only being helpful: I am in the wrong, they are in the right to point out that my bright purple wallet is up for grabs. So why do I feel such a powerful urge to tell them to fuck off?

Anyway, I suppose the are-you-happy question gives me the creeps because the truth is that no, I'm not happy and no, I'm not excited. That is, I'm not any more happy or more excited than I usually am, just generally, in life, just because I'm going to have a baby. If, on February 6th I was going to be given a new car, or a kitten - yeah that would be exciting.

But a baby? 

No. I feel the same way about the baby as I do about my A Levels, in that I am completely and massively unneccessarily over-prepared and the positive feeling I am feeling, is the feeling of looking forward to the challenge of putting my book-learning to good use.

There is nothing, literally nothing, I don't know about babies. And I know quite a lot about toddlers, too. I can look at a quiet and slightly grey 3 year-old and say "She's going to puke" - and she does. I can hear a baby screaming and say, accurately: "wind".

I have read everything - everything - obsessively about the subject, watched programmes, videos, talked to people endlessly. And please don't give me any of that nothing-prepares-you-for-an-actual-baby CRAP because I have also spent days and days and days looking after my sisters' issue, mopping up sick and keeping them awake until naptime, pushing them on swings, dressing and undressing, playing peek-a-boo and getting them to eat all of their pureed stuff and then eating all their Petit Filous.

I also forced my husband, who hates builders and all building work, to finance the building of a new floor on the top of our house because none of the other rooms would do as a nursery. I've made a will, appointed legal guardians should both my husband and I drop dead after the little sucker is born. It's got its own bank account. I've got a night nanny. I'm interviewing day nannies. I am going on an infant First Aid course because I know a baby that stopped breathing at 2 months in the middle of the night and the night nurse saved its life. (But what if it does it during the day when the night nurse has gone?)

Prepared? Yes. Like I'm about to invade Russia. Happy? Excited? No. But I refuse to believe that that's a bad thing.

Nigella's Kitchen started the other night and I enjoyed it very much. Her mother's "Praised" Chicken caught my eye because it's just the kind of thing I'm crazy about - whole vegetables, meat, broth and rice - quite plain but wholesome and delicious.

This is not Nigella's exact recipe because, but if you want to seek it out, just Google it.

Nigella's chicken

1 chicken
1 medium carrot per person
1 celery stick per person - plus some leaves if your celery comes with leaves on
1 large bunch flat parsley
2 bay leaves
sprig thyme - this is optional
4 cloves garlic
vegetable oil

1 Brown the chicken whole in a large casserole dish in a good slug of vegetable oil for about 3-4 minutes each side. I think you all get the drift by now that I don't think you should use olive oil for this kind of activity. Nigella says to crack the breastbone of the chicken to flatten it but I'm sorry, I just can't. Neither would I be able to kill a lobster by doing that thing with a knife in the back of its head.

2 Turn it breast-side up and then pour in a large glassful of white wine or vermouth. Let it sizzle down for a bit, about 2-3 mins and throw in your whole, peeled, garlic cloves

3 Add the carrots and celery, cut roughly into halves or thirds but no smaller

4 Chop the stalks off the bottom of your bunch of parsley, tie with string and add to the pot. Same with some celery leaves, if you're using these. Throw in the bay and the thyme, but it's no big deal if you don't have either of these. I daresay a small quartered mild onion might work well, too.

5 Scrunch over a good 10 twists of pepper and two or three pinches of salt. Then add water, just from the tap, until it comes up to about mid-thigh on the chicken. If you want a lot of broth, add more but don't cover the chicken.

6 Put in a 180C oven for 1 hour with the lid on and then 30 mins with the lid off to brown the top. Serve with red carmargue rice, yum yum, which takes 30 minutes to cook properly, so stick it on when the lid comes off. Scatter with chopped flat parsley.

My husband really liked this, even though he's not that crazy about plain food. So there you go.


  1. Oh I am so happy you tried this chicken...and i like the changes you made to N's recipe...although have a go at breaking the breastbone...the only thing i need a is pot large enough! Really enjoying your writing! :)

  2. Oh my gosh! I'm cooking this right now... but I forgot the garlic! I never forget garlic, in fact I'm guilty of adding garlic to things that don't even ask for garlic. I'm going to go and smash some up now and chuck it in. Hopefully it will be ok. We saw this on tv this morning and it looked so yummy :)

    Also, can totally relate to the book learning thing. Not the same as a baby, but I had a wisdom tooth taken out last month. I now know all there is to know about wisdom teeth, and their common complications. I know quite a bit about babies too, but that's because my sister has one and I need to know I won't kill it when she leaves me with it momentarily!

  3. sometimes reading your blog is like standing next to a tube train rushing by... nice chicken... hope your new nursery is nice. x

  4. Can understand your lack of excitement. When I finally have one in the next year or two, the thought of having a baby doesn't excite me. In fact it terrifies me. The only thing about having a baby that excites me is being able to buy all the gorgeous baby clothes I swoon over.

    Nigella's chicken looks good. If it's plain, my husband will love it.

  5. Dare I ask what a night nurse does? In my experience, it's that stuff that you take to knock you out when you're feeling like crap. Can you actually employ someone to do night duty for a baby??

  6. Sorry, that should have read "night nanny" and I've changed it... yes you can employ someone to do pretty much anything these days.

  7. Wicked! - I wanna get me one of those....

    Liked your carrot cake post... Am feeling a bit blue today too - well guilty actually - after accidently spending twice as much as I meant to on my wedding dress. So instead of sitting here, fretfully trying to justify my idiotness, I'm going to go and make your carrot cake AND the toad in the hole. Thanks for the idea!

  8. just watched the episode on catch up TV and you're so right about crushing the breast bone... she's like an evil chiropractor who works in an abbatoir part-time!

  9. wow, a night nanny. AND a day nanny. that's quite Victorian. will you just occasionally drop into the nursery in a waft of perfume and shake the little blighter's hand before going onto to dinner at Claridges?

    oh ignore me, i am most prob jealous, having had four years of brutal lack of sleep, and i also have a horrible bathroom that my husband can in no way afford to finance replacing. sigh.

    having endured Nigella's Kitchen last week, i liked the look of this chicken, and bonus! she didn't cook it whilst wearing a satin dressing gown or a coat.

  10. I know, I don't expect sympathy for being so staffed-up and massively spoilt, (although I'd like to point out that I'm not having the night nanny and day nanny at the same time), but what can I say? I am a massive, gibbering coward and can't face the first six weeks by myself. Worried that I will chuck the kid out of the window.

    The chicken really is brilliant. I daydream about it.

  11. Hello! I hope you're well. I discovered your blog a couple of weeks ago & am more than a little bit enamoured with you (I'm a Taurus! I can't cook rice! I feel exactly the same about babies! Omg.) If that's a bit creepy, well... tough. I'm going to continue reading your blog and loving you for it anyway. Sorry.

    Anyway... i'm making this tonight - can I ask why you suggest not covering the chicken (contrary to N)?

  12. Hello

    No, not creepy at all.

    My husband loves a bit of crispy chicken skin and if you cover it, you don't get the top crispy. That's the only reason... but cover it if you want.

    I am envious. There's like NO food in my house and dinner tonight is going to be a real improviation... E x

  13. Being the angel that you are I turned to you for divine intervention on Wednesday. I tippy tappied my way to Recipe Rifle for soul food as I was broken by a hen dooo that should have lasted one Saturday night but rolled into five. We made the Hangover part 2 look like a melhancoly dinner party at Sophie Dahls house. I couldn't go back to work before Wednesday, 3 out of 4 of my friends who are teachers at a posh private school called in sick (sorry mumsnet) By day 6 I staggered home looking like a cross between Bet Lynch and Friar Tuck, I needed to cleanse my soul and was reaching for the brillo pads and rosary beads. However, my saviour would be Your Nigellas chicken to sort me right out. Bought all the ingredients then got to the Sainsburys aisle and no fresh herbs..well Basil that's it. It drove me insane, there's a full aisle of crisps but NO FRESH HERBS. Its always the same. So, I went to my local Tesco...same again nothing. I live in Brixton which houses the only M&S with more security guards than customers and Tesco has an entire back wall of CHICKEN. So I guess I have to plant some ? Or get back with my ex boyfriend who has a range rover and lives near a Waitrose...both more suitable options than using dried herbs. No herbs in Brixton,,,Really ???? I'm sure this is all fascinating news to your readers...just post me some herbs please readers. Yours dry bone.

  14. Tonight I went to the York & Albany nipped in to the kitchen got talking to Jamie chef from Streatham. I gave him my herb dilemma and he gave me a bag of parsley and thyme !! These herbs are so fresh and amazing and big looking I have taken lots of pictures like the big gaylord that I am. I will be doing YOUR Nigella Chicken tomorrow ( and eating it on my own). God bless Gordon Ramsey and Nigella
    Once again using your blog as if it were my personal diary
    Friar Tuck

  15. It's kind of like Dore someone's chicken in a pot, but she puts CABBAGE in. Unbelievable eh? Amateurs.

  16. I’ll have to try that. Looks yummy! We often serve chicken and I am always on the lookout for a great chicken recipe since the meat is so good.

  17. Why do you not recommend olive oil for this sort of activity? Sorry if I've missed something obvious.

    1. no not at all - olive oil burns when you fry it and tastes bitter, so for frying you should use ground nut, sunflower or peanut oil

  18. Thank you. And thanks too for your blog; I have had, for me, unusually high levels of cooking success from your scones and from your curried fish in yoghurt. I am grateful, and will definitely try some more of your recipes.