I’ve been so busy lately that my cooking has been all about “easy”. That doesn’t mean to say, though, that I have been rummaging in the chiller shelf of my local supermarket.
I won’t say I’ve never eaten a ready meal – I’ve nuked my fair share in the microwave on 12 hour overnight shifts when I was too tired or too lazy to take in my own food.
But ready meals are expensive, they’re often full of sugar and salt and mystery e-numbers and given the choice if I’ve only got a few minutes to prepare supper and I’m near my own cooker, I’d far rather knock up an omelette.
Given a little more time, there are lots of possibilities. There’ve been whole books devoted to quick suppers and you probably have your own favourites. This is one of mine.
The recipe for this garlic and fennel roasted chicken dish comes from Dhruv Baker, winner of the 2010 MasterChef competition on BBC1. I’d like to thank him for giving me permission to reproduce it here. Any additional comments are my own.
You can do the prep the day before and leave it to marinade overnight if you have time but it’s not essential. Either way, don’t let it marinade for much more than 24 hours, as I once did, as it will lose the freshness and zing that makes it so appealing.
I think it benefits from a moist side dish but a simple green salad is fine and takes seconds to prepare.
If you’re not watching your carbs or you just want to bulk out the meal, you’ve also got time to boil some new potatoes in their skins (no peeling or scraping tonight) and toss them in butter and cumin, as suggested by Dhruv, or butter and parsley, as I did.
Garlic and Fennel Roast Chicken
8 chicken thighs or drumsticks (or a whole chicken jointed in 8 pieces)
2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp crushed chilli flakes
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
5 fat cloves of garlic, skin on, lightly crushed with the back of a knife
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
4 tblspns of olive oil
Put all the ingredients in a bowl, mix well and marinate for a few minutes or up to 24 hours. That’s it – prep done. How quick is that?
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4
Put a little oil in a large oven-proof frying pan and quickly brown the chicken in batches, then pour over the marinade and transfer to the oven. Roast for 40 minutes, or until cooked through.
Now just relax. Pour yourself a drink, have a shower, watch the television, read a book, whatever – the cooking’s taking care of itself.
It’s probably a good idea to put a timer on, especially if you’ve followed my advice about the drink.
When the pinger goes off, remove from the oven, lift the chicken out and skim off the excess fat from the pan.
Taste the remaining juices, add a little water if necessary and season them.
Serve with the pan juices spooned over. Add a chunk or two of lemon to squeeze over if you like. I don’t know why, but sometimes the lemon flavour comes through more strongly than others. As always, taste and adjust.
From fridge to table in under an hour and with the absolute minimum of fuss. Thanks Dhruv. I wouldn’t win any prizes for presentation on MasterChef but I can promise you it tasted really good.