Saturday, October 2, 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.

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