There are some vegetables I find easier to cook with than others, I simply have more ideas for what to do with them. The ones I feel I'm limited in inspiration for include broccoli, or more accurately calabrese. I don't hate it, not at all, I just find it hard to incorporate into my daily made-up recipes. Maybe that's because it has quite a strong flavour, can be easy to over or undercook and the texture doesn't always marry well with other ingredients.
I did have an idea this time though, as I'd ordered a lovely chicken to be roasted on Sunday. Remember my butternut yorkshire? No, probably not, but the point is that I made a little mental leap, from toad in the hole, to butternut squash in the hole, to a giant yorkshire pudding filled with broccoli. Tastes better than it sounds, trust me.
Ok, so first raise your chicken. I meant to write roast just then but, actually, raising the chicken is a really good point so that's a freudian slip worth expanding on. Crappily treated chicken should make people feel bad, not just as they buy it (thus fueling the horrific cut-price poultry industry) but also as they eat it: dry, bland, chewy and stuffed full of unneccessary additives.
Once you have a chicken which led a life that you aren't ashamed of, then you can roast it. I don't remember where I picked up this tip, but stuffing the chicken's cavity with a lightly microwaved peirced onion or lemon helps to keep it beautifully moist.
I do know where I picked up my other tricks though: my Mum. She taught me to separate the skin and stuff the space in between with garlic, herbs and butter. She also taught me to cook the chicken upside down for all but the last thirty minutes of cooking, ensuring that you get wonderful, juicy meat and a nice crispy skin as well.
So, prepare your chicken and pop it in to roast upside down. If you got giblets with the bird, pop them in a saucepan with a couple of bay leaves, peppercorns, carrot, onion and celery with a litre of water, turn the heat on and leave it to simmer away into a nice gravy base.
Make up your batter: a teacup of flour, a teacup of milk, a pinch of salt and one or two eggs depending on your tastes. Make a paste with the egg, a little milk and the flour first, then make it into a batter by adding the rest of the milk slowly. Leave it be for a while, as resting makes better batter!
After the chicken is about half done, pop two companion trays in with it. One with oil in - to heat it up so that the yorkshire will sizzle - and the other one lined with greaseproof paper, for the roasties.
I usually cut my potatoes into thirds if they are quite large potatoes, or on the diagonal if they are small ones. I left the skins on because I like them. This method came to me from the lovely Chef Darius: drop them into vigorously boiling, salted water for literally just 2 minutes then drain. I usually shake them in the pan to scuff them up a bit too.
When there's only about half an hour left, heat up some oil in a frying pan until really hot. Add the potatoes to the hot oil and turn them over in it until utterly coated. Then turn your chicken right side up and salt the skin. Add the potatoes and oil to the greaseproof paper tin, mix small broccoli florets to the batter and pop your yorkshire into the other one. Thanks Darius!
I also had some sweetcorn this week, so I put them into a foil parcel with butter, salt and pepper and shoved them in the oven too.
At this point, it's worth going for a nice sit down in the living room for half an hour. Preferably get someone else to lay the table and turn the spuds after fifteen minutes, if not you'll have to do it and that's no way to relax.
After the last half an hour, take the chicken out and let it rest on the side for 10-15 minutes while you make up the gravy. Leave the yorkshire and sweetcorn in the oven, but turn it off so it's just kept warm, not cooking. Put the spuds on kitchen towel to drain off some of the oil.
Gravy is easy, add some of the stock you made earlier (or just boiling water) to the chicken tray, sat over a low hob. Stir and scrape vigorously to get all of the residue off the pan, the water should turn a beautiful gravy colour. At this point, if you can be bothered, you can add pre-fried onions and garlic or cornflour for thickening. None of that is necessary though, I didn't and it tasted wonderful anyway.
Serve up with great aplomb and gorge yourself silly, safe in the knowlege that at least the broccoli is good for you.