Sunday, December 23, 2012

Lazy Housewife Roast Chicken Recipe

This is now one of my fail-safe recipes. I start on this at 5.30pm by turning the oven on to 220C, prep the ingredients, and put the dish in at 5.45pm when the oven is up to temperature. At 6.15pm I remove the lid and let the chicken continue to brown and crispen up for 15-20 minutes, hoping that husband gets home by 6.40pm or whenever to eat it with us.

The important thing is to cover for the first two-thirds of cooking to prevent meat from drying out.

I used to cook this in a roasting tray and cover with tin foil. I thought this was wasteful of tin foil. I tried buying a lid to fit the tray, but failed. Then while trying to bake sourdough bread discovered my husband's father's mother's enamel roasting tin that is rather ancient, hidden and forgotten in a dark corner in the cupboard.

It looks like this, and I am borrowing an image and link from a well-known retailer for which I am not paid:

It's a one-dish meal, which means that once the roaster goes in the oven I can sit back and relax.

What do you expect from this "Lazy Housewife"?

Ingredients (to feed three):

4 organic chicken thighs
3-4 organic potatoes (use more or less as required)
3 organic carrots (about 250g)
Olive oil [NB. I've switched to peanut oil.]
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 220C (fan).
  2. Wash and chop carrots to about 1/2 inch discs. Put in roaster.
  3. Peel, wash and cut potatoes into chunks about 1and 1/2 inches. Add to roaster.
  4. Drizzle olive oil over carrots and tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Put lid on, give it a good shake. The vegetables act as a draining rack for the meat.
  5. Lay out the chicken on top of the vegetables skin side up. Brush skin with olive oil, add salt and pepper to taste. Cover with lid and place in oven which should be up to temperature by now for 30 mins.
  6. Remove lid and return roaster to over for another 15 to 20 minutes. The skin should crispen up nicely. Make sure that it does not burn, unless you like it quite black.
If you have other fruit and vegetables handy or left over: tomatoes, sweet potatoes, peppers, lemons, even apples, you could throw these into the vegetable layer. The juices would make the dish even tastier.

You can also change the seasoning, adding honey and mustard or something else. Do note that if any sugar is used, the skin would turn black rather quickly.

On occasion we cook for a larger group and we found the larger oval roaster very useful.


Sunday, December 02, 2012

Baking Bread -- is easier than you think

This is based on a post I put up earlier for friends in Singapore. After baking my bread today I came across this article.

It does not take all that long to knead, but you must be patient with waiting for the dough to rise. I now gather all the ingredients together before starting and can get a lump of dough ready for first proofing within 20 minutes.
It's cheaper to buy a packet of yeast rather than the 7g sachets. In the UK and if you have room, you could also have bigger bags of flour delivered. Better still if you could get locally-grown and/or milled flour.

You need STRONG flour. White, wholemeal, granary, whatever, or a combination.

I now regularly use 1 kg of flour, usually a mix of wholemeal and white and/or granary. I normally make one loaf (about 950g wet weight) and turn the rest into rolls of about 70g (wet weight), some of which I take into the advice charity on Mondays just in case we get clients who have gone hungry or are homeless.
For Basic Bread
• 1000g strong flour
• 20g salt (you might use 15-18g instead)
• 4 tablespoons sunflower oil (optional)
• 10g quick action yeast
• 600 ml of warm water (200ml in my 1000W microwave for a minute, make up with cold water to 600ml)

  1. Add all the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Give it a good quick stir (with fork, knife, hand, whatever, doesn’t matter).
  2. Add the oil if using. (At this point I normally let the oil left on the measuring spoon to drip slowly onto my ceramic board which I use for kneading the dough. I found that oil on the board is better than flour to stop it sticking.)
  3. “Rub in” the bits of flour that will now stick to the oil.
  4. Add the water.
  5. Mix the ingredients by hand in the bowl until a dough is formed. Have fun! This is when it gets gooey. Make sure flour on the bottom and sides are incorporated. Dough is ready when it all sticks together quite nicely.
  6. Lift the dough out and knead it on the work surface for 10 minutes. The dough might be very sticky for the first couple of minutes. If it continues to be difficult to knead, a little extra flour can dry the dough up a bit. Usually by the end of kneading, whatever dough is stuck to your fingers would also be incorporated.
  7. KNEADING: (Source: the bread book by Sara Lewis, 2003, page 16) – This is essential to mix and activate the dried yeast and to help stretch the gluten in the flour so that the bread can rise fully. Begin by turning the dough out on to lightly floured surface. Stretch the dough by turning the front half away with the heel of one hand while holding the back of the dough with the other hand. Fold the stretched part of the dough back on itself, give it a quarter turn and repeat for five more minutes, until the dough has been turned full circle several times and is a smooth and elastic ball.
  8. Once kneaded return the dough to the bowl and leave it to rise in a warm. Most recipes tell you to cover with oiled cling film. Being anti-plastic I use wet tea towels. Let the dough rise to twice its size (or at least one and a half times). It could take, for me, more than an hour. I normally set the clock and concentrate on doing something else.
  9. When the dough has doubled in size,  take it out of the bowl and put it back on the oiled surface. Make sure you scrape the sides if necessary.
  10. At this stage I would normally divide the dough into two lots. 950g is kneaded very quickly, and rolled into a roll that fits into an oiled 2 lb loaf tin. If you do not have a loaf tin, just make one big “cob” and put it on a lined baking tray. The rest is divided into nine rolls of about 70g each. Again kneaded quickly, shape into a roll and place on a lined baking tray. I use a baking tray liner to stop it sticking.
  11. Cover with tea towel as before and leave to rise a second time, this time for a much shorter period. This is usually 30 minutes for me. At the 10-minute mark, it’s time to put the oven on: 220 deg C (fan).
  12. Once the bread has doubled in size, or reach the top of the loaf tin, remove the cloth and place straight into pre-heated oven for 15 minutes.
  13. Cover loaf tin with foil and return to over for another 20-25 minutes. You might wish to turn the oven down to 200 deg. (You will know what to do after baking a few times.) Usually the smaller rolls are cooked by now. When you tap the bottom of the bread it should sound 'hollow'. Leave on wire rack to cool.
  14. Then remove loaf and tap on bottom to check if it sounds hollow. Cool on wire rack.
Slice the loaves before freezing and you would find that they are perfect for making sandwiches (when thawed in time) and for toasting.

I cannot stress enough how it is not difficult to bake bread at all. There are many advantages to baking your own bread.

You know what goes in it. You can choose and vary the ingredients. Add cheese, herbs, reduce salt, add honey, etc.

Homemade bread might get stale, but it does not get mouldy, which used to be a problem for us and we just had to throw it away. My mum used to steam stale bread to revive it. We just tend to toast it.

If you must turn on the oven to do one loaf you might as well do a few loaves. Share the extra ones with a neighbour or take turns to bake.

In the long run it is cheaper especially if you are able to buy the ingredients in bulk.

If you find it takes too much effort, you could bake less and eat less, which is not a bad thing if you wish to lose weight!

Please do tell me how you get on.