‘Cooking is not about being the best or most perfect cook, but rather it is about sharing the table with family and friends’
The quote above, which I completely agree with, comes from Skye Gyngell’s latest offering, ‘My Favourite Ingredients’. The book was released in hardback last year; however, it has just been released in paperback. I have been very lucky and have received a copy to review from Quadrille Publishing.
My first impressions when I received the book were excellent. The layout and the photography are beautiful and it is well written, with simple and clear recipes. The quote above struck a chord with me, as that is how I feel about cooking. Cooking does not need to be complicated or turned into a work of art; cooking is simply about sharing food with your family and friends and having a good time.
The book has lots of sections in it. Each one dedicated to one of Skye’s favourite ingredients, which include; garlic, olive oil, cheese, fish and shellfish, and nuts. Recipe highlights from the book include; monkfish and coconut with curry leaves and lime, fried egg with sage, chilli and garlicky yoghurt, and chocolate and hazelnut cake.
I believe the only way you can review a cookbook properly is by actually cooking a recipe from it. I could just tell you about how beautiful the book is, but if it’s not going to help you in the kitchen, then there is not much point. You need to know if the recipes actually work and I can now tell you, that the one I tried, does.
I decided to cook chicken with fennel and garlic, as it looked quite simple and all the ingredients are in season at the moment. I adapted the recipe slightly as it was designed for 4 people and it was only the two of us. Instead of a whole chicken, I used boned chicken thighs and halved the quantities of everything else. I also added a small bit of water in to make more stock to cook the chicken in. I cooked mine in the oven and make it a bit thicker than the book suggests in the picture.
The original recipe (reproduced in full with permission from Quadrille Publishing) is below. Overall, it is a very simple and straightforward dish to make. It is excellent dish to make at this time of the year, with the continuing cold and wet weather. Stuart described it as ‘excellent winter grub to warm you up on cold day’. Please have a go at making the dish and let me know how you get on and if the recipe works for you, as well as it did for me.
If you would like to purchase the book, you can get it from Amazon here.
Many thanks to Mark at Quadrille Publishing for sending me the review copy. It is much appreciated.
Chicken with Garlic and Fennel
- 1 organic free range chicken, about 1.4kg, jointed into 8 pieces
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 2 red onions, peeled and finely sliced
- 1 dried red chilli
- 1 tsp saffron threads
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 2 fennel bulbs, trimmed and fibrous outer layer removed
- 250ml white wine
- 2 x 340g jars (or tins) good quality peeled plum tomatoes
- Pared zest of 1 orange
- 3 bay leaves
- 5 thyme sprigs
- 1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (optional)
Season the chicken well all over with salt and pepper. Put the olive oil into a flameproof casserole (large enough to hold all the ingredients comfortably) and place over a medium heat. When hot, brown the chicken in batches, turning to colour them all over- they should look really golden and pleasing to the eye. Once browned, remove the pieces and set aside. Pour off any excess fat from the casserole, leaving around 1 tbsp or so.
In a separate pan, gently warm the fennel and coriander seeds until they release their fragrance, then tip into a mortar and pound with the pestle to grind finely.
Add the onions to the casserole and cook over a low heat until sweet and translucent, about 5 minutes. Crumble over the chilli and add the ground spices, saffron and garlic. Season with a good pinch of salt and a little pepper, and stir well to combine. Cut the fennel bulb into quarters and add to the pan.
Pour in the wine, turn up the heat a little and let it bubble and reduce for a minute or so, then add the tomatoes. Return the chicken to the pan and add the orange zest and herbs. Turn the heat down and put the lid on the casserole. Cook very gently for 40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and started to fall off the bone.
Taste and adjust the seasoning. If you’re like me, you’ll want to add a splash of extra virgin olive oil to bring the whole dish together. Serve with bread – or something else to mop up the delicious juices.
Until next time,