I used to buy an awful lot of cookbooks; I would spend time experimenting with recipes that I was drawn to in them, honing my skills as a home cook, and ‘training’ my natural ability to marry various ingredients to bring out the flavour of a dish. I love to be influenced by different cuisines that ‘speak’ to me, and to learn about ingredients that are perhaps not as familiar to me as others. However, I have now stopped being constantly seduced into buying by new cookbooks that seem to appear on the bookshop shelves almost daily, and I do feel that I have become a bit of a recipe creator myself.
Still, I do have some favourite and faithful cookbooks on my shelf of many. In them are the recipes I have been making for years, sometimes falling out of the habit of cooking them, and other times returning to them with a ravenous enthusiasm that sees me cooking them week after week, until I take a break again.
This delightfully wholesome, simple family meal has been one I have come back to again this summer, and cooked a handful of times in a row. It’s by an all time favourite cookery writer, Tessa Kiros,whose evocative and heartwarming book ‘Falling Cloudberries’ pleased me so much when I first found it, that I ended up buying two copies around 12 years ago. Well, I didn’t want to run the risk of one copy falling apart (‘Falling Cloudberries Falling Apart’)! I love the simplicity of Ludi’s Chicken, so named because both Tessa and her sister Tanja, whose recipe it is, call each other Ludi. The honest flavours and the way in which it aesthetically pleases guests no end when it is brought to the table, is so appealing. It looks like a star that took a long time to form, despite being a simple meal to create. Plus, great quality organic cold pressed olive oil, along with herbs, lemon juice, and mustard, are some of my favourite ingredients to use.
Make sure you buy the very best chicken that is free range, organic, and from a poultry farm you trust for its ethical methods of animal welfare. I believe that we should eat far less meat, but ensure that when we do, it’s the very best quality.
So here’s Tessa’s sister’s recipe…
Ingredients to serve 4 people:
A medium chicken 1.3kg-2.2kg in weight
Juice of 2 lemons, 2 half shells saved
4-5 large waxy potatoes, peeled and sliced lengthways into thick wedges
2 red onions, peeled and sliced lengthways into wedges
2 bay leaves
6 garlic cloves, left unpeeled
2 tbsp best quality olive oil
2 heaped tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 tbsp dried oregano or thyme, or a mixture of both
A small cup of white wine
Sea salt and black pepper
Preheat the oven to 180ºc
Place your chicken in a large deep sided roasting tin, and put two of the garlic cloves, and the two saved lemon shells in the cavity, along with a good sprinkling of sea salt. Season the top of the chicken with salt, and pepper too. Now put the potatoes around the chicken, along with the bayleaves, onions, and the rest of the garlic. Mix the olive oil, dried herbs, mustard and lemon juice together thoroughly in a jug. Pour this marinade over the chicken and the potatoes, and rub it in with your hands so everything is coated well. Now carefully pour a cupful of water over everything, making sure you don’t wash the marinade off the chicken.
Roast for a hour, before removing it from the oven to pour the wine in. Give the potatoes a stir, and return the pan to the oven for another hour or so. Check it once again during this time to make sure the liquid hasn’t dried up. Add more water if it needs it; after the hour, the chicken should look nice and brown, and the potatoes soft and golden, with lovely lemony juices remaining in the pan.
I serve it with my sauteed kale and courgettes, which continues the simple theme of this favourite, wonderful meal. In the winter, you can use any seasonal greens instead of the courgettes.
A homage to Tessa, and Tanja, or should I say Ludi and Ludi!