I would happily have a snooze every single afternoon, so by the end of the working week I am almost delirious with nap deprivation. So the afternoon siesta at weekends is therefore a crucial component of the process of getting dinner on the table. My family are well aware of this, and also know that the quality of the forthcoming dinner is in direct proportion to the quality of the nap. They have have become adept at making themselves scarce at precisely the right time, which is usually when I assume a zombie-like demeanour and start mumbling monosyllabically. “Must. Have. Nap.”
However the urge to head off to bed at this point must be resisted and groundwork must be laid before retiring, so I can flake out in the knowledge that “the dinner is on”. The ideal kind of weekend dinner is therefore one that can be bunged in the oven before the nap, and then the finishing touches added the other end of sleepy-time, when feeling more human.
Today was St. Patrick’s Day, and this year I resolved to bring the kids to the parade for the very first time. Being a parade rookie we arrived far too early AND the parade was delayed so I ended up placating two cranky and restless kids with crisps and 7-Up to try and keep them in our prime spot right at the barrier. When it finally kicked off it was wonderful, and the kids were enthralled, but by the end of it all I was just exhausted – Zombie Woman was taking over. Fortunately darling husband picked us up just in the nick of time, and whisked me home for my power nap while he took the kids to the park. So having thrown a bird and some spuds in the oven I retired for 1.5 hours. Bliss.
Now the other side of said power-nap I feel reborn, able to function, hold a conversation even! I WILL feed my family, make gravy, and puree carrot and celeriac (ok maybe mash them roughly – tastes more “rustic” that way).
Recipe to follow. Happy St Patrick’s Day!
Slow Cooked Bird.
Chicken or small Turkey, any combination of fresh herbs (e.g. tarragon, rosemary, thyme), 3-4 garlic cloves, 1 small carrot and / or onion, cup of white wine and cup of water.
Rinse the bird well in cold water, pat dry, rub with olive oil and sprinkle liberally with sea salt inside and out. Put all other ingredients (roughly chopped) in the roasting dish. Place the bird on a rack (breast down if you prefer) above the stock. Cover the bird with tinfoil but don’t wrap completely, the idea is that the steam from the stock keeps the bird nice and moist. Cook at around 160 degrees (you will need to increase the normal cooking time by about 20%). About 20 mins before the end of cooking remove the tinfoil, pour off most of the pan liquid (you can keep some for the gravy, just allow to sit for a while and pour off the fat), return to oven at a higher temperature to brown. At the end of cooking time check the bird is cooked through (pierce below the thigh and juices should run totally clear) remove from oven and allow to rest for at least 15 mins before carving.
To serve: gravy with a spoon of cranberry sauce, baked potatoes (Cook at bottom of oven for around 1.5 hours – move to top if they don’t seem to be cooking fast enough), celeriac and carrot mash, boiled peas. Cook’s treat: scrapings of delicious caramelised roast garlic and veg from the pan.
Tip: You can either make your gravy the old school way with pan juices, but if you want to go low fat I recommend a heaped teaspoon of Bisto powder instead (not too much – remember it has tons of salt so don’t add any extra!). Gravy is a very personal thing, but whichever base you use make sure to use the boiling water from your vegetables which really adds to the flavour and vitamin content. Make sure your gravy has enough liquid and that you sieve out any lumps – there really is nothing worse than congealed lumpy gravy!
If anyone has any gravy tips your ideas and comments are welcome!