I’m a February baby, so I can be rude about this month, which has to be the gloomiest of them all. An excellent remedy to beat the cold and grey of deepest winter is to sink into the pleasures of the kitchen. Embrace affordable ingredients, but work magic with them: transform humble root vegetables into irresistibly silky, caramelised morsels, and stale bread into sweet, golden crumbs for a quick, no-churn ice-cream. As a boon, a whole chicken, roasted at the weekend, will then give you stock for warming soups during the week. Last, don’t forget that soon it will be spring.
Spiced chicken salad with sticky pomegranate roast parsnips (pictured top)
The combination of allspice, black pepper and molasses gives this chicken a rich, comforting, crisp blanket; I like to add fresh coriander, but dill or tarragon would also work well.
Prep 25 min
Cook 1 hr 10 min
Serves 4-6, depending on the size of the chicken
1 large chicken
2 large garlic cloves
Salt and black pepper
2 tsp ground allspice
3-4 tbsp olive oil, plus 1 tbsp extra for the dressing
1 handful fresh thyme sprigs
2 large red onions, peeled and cut into wedges
3 tbsp pomegranate molasses
3-4 little gem lettuces
1 small bunch coriander
For the dressing
1 heaped tsp dijon mustard
½ tsp soft brown sugar
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
Take the chicken out of the fridge about an hour before you want to cook it. Peel one clove of garlic and crush it with plenty of salt and pepper, and the allspice. Rub this and a tablespoon of oil all over the chicken, season the inside of the bird with more salt and pepper, and pop in half the thyme, the butter, and the remaining clove of garlic. Leave the chicken to sit at room temperature while you prep the rest of the ingredients.
Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6. Wash the parsnips, top and tail them, then cut into thin wedges – the skinnier they are, the more caramelised they will become in the oven, so cut to thumb-width (conversely, if they’re too skinny, they will burn). Tip the parsnips into a wide baking tray, add the onion wedges, scatter with the rest of the thyme and season generously. Drizzle over the molasses and the rest of the olive oil, and toss with your hands to ensure that everything is glossy and generously coated. Arrange the chicken in the baking tray surrounded by the parsnips and onions, then roast for 50 minutes.
While the chicken is cooking, break apart the lettuce leaves, then wash and dry them. Roughly chop the coriander. Put all the dressing ingredients, including the extra tablespoon of olive oil, in a clean jam jar, seal and shake.
After 50 minutes, check on the chicken by cutting the thighs away from the body and piercing them with a skewer to see if any blood runs out. Depending on the weight of the chicken, the body may need another five to 10 minutes in the oven and the thighs another 10-20 minutes. The vegetables should look caramelised and smell wonderful. Leave the veg to rest with the body somewhere warm while the thighs finish cooking.
Arrange the leaves on a wide platter, top with the roast vegetables and scatter with the coriander. Carve the chicken into chunks and place on top. Pour the chicken juices into the dressing, shake again and use to dress the leaves. Serve at once. A little bread to mop up would be delicious. If you have a lemon, a squeeze over the salad always lends an extra va-va-voom.
Marmalade and caramelised crumb no-churn ice-cream
What better reason to make marmalade than to fold it into this considerably easier-than-pie ice-cream?
Prep 20 min
Cook 15 min
Freeze 3 hr 30 min+
600ml double cream
250g marmalade, the darker, the better
Zest and juice of 2 oranges
200g condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 tbsp whisky (optional)
For the crumbs
120g good bread, such as sourdough
A couple of large pinches sea salt
50g caster sugar
Blitz the bread in a food processor to make rough crumbs no bigger than the size of a half-hazelnut. Melt the butter in a large frying pan on a high heat, and season with sea salt. When the butter is foaming and turning a nutty brown, pour in the sugar and the crumbs, and toast, stirring continuously, on a medium heat for 10-12 minutes, until the crumbs have turned an enticingly deep caramel and are deliciously crisp. Tip out on to a large plate or tray and set aside.
To make the ice-cream, gently whip the cream to soft peaks, until only just holding its shape; don’t overwhip it, or you’ll make butter, not ice-cream. Spoon the marmalade into a food processor, add the orange zest and juice, and whisky, if using, and pulse a few times to break up the marmalade rind into smaller pieces. Fold the condensed milk and vanilla into the whipped cream, then pour into a freezer container. Cover and freeze for 30-40 minutes, then gently fold in the marmalade mix and all but a few tablespoons of the breadcrumbs. Return to the freezer for at least three hours, or overnight.
Serve in little glasses with a few of the remaining caramelised crumbs sprinkled on top.