Cooking Sunday lunch

Today it is my turn to cook our Sunday lunch. Yesterday I chose a few of Gail Duff’s recipes from a book on seasonal cooking that was first published in 1976. It has become one of my favourites. I also did my shopping then, so I am able to make an early start this morning; I sling a quartered onion, a carot and a bit of celery into a pint and a half (don’t you just love old money) of water, along with a bay leaf and a sprig of rosemary from my herb garden. This simmers while I fry off and sweat some chopped carrot and onion in my big saucepan. Quick cup of coffee, then I strain and pour my vegetable stock onto the sweated carrots, bring it to the boil and let it simmer for about 15 minutes.


Soup ingredients


Meanwhile I lug my big Le Creusset pot onto the top of the stove. I get hold of the chicken and rub a mix of powdered nutmeg and cinnamon over the breast and thigh skin. I chop some small leeks and a few sticks of celery into one inch bits and stuff them around the bird which now resides in the pot. I pour in enough water to cover the thighs, bung a bit of parsley in and bring it to the boil. Then I turn down the gas and put the lid on. It can simmer away for an hour.


Chicken ready to cook


Next I prick a baking potato and put it in the oven. This is mildly inconvenient because the oven door doesn’t close very tightly, so we have to lean our steel waste bin up against it to keep it closed. I have a few other things to be getting on with: I squeeze a couple of oranges; I chop some parsley; I pick a sprig of fuschia that is flowering in the garden and put it on the table in a wine glass. I turn off the soup to cool a little and then put it through the blender. At this point I add in the orange juice together with a little zest, and check the seasoning. It will be finished later with a little double cream.


Rubbish bin used to keep door closed


When the chicken is done, I turn off the heat and leave it to cool in the stock liquid. Meanwhile, the baked potato is ready and I take that out, halve it, scoop out the skin and mash the flesh with some butter and the chopped parsley. That gets spooned back into the potato skins. I then peel a cooking apple and cut some thin slices to place them like the sails of an ancient barge across the boat and return to the oven for more cooking. When the chicken has cooled down, I drain it and carve off all the meat, cutting it into cubes where possible. I also reserve the leek and celery from the pan and sieve about a pint of the liquid for my sauce; I shall make that after we have eaten our soup. I also remember to grate about a couple of ounces of Cheddar cheese.


Fuschia from the garden


So, time is getting on. I add some cream to the carrot and orange soup and heat it through. Before I plate up, I slip in a couple of drops of Tabasco sauce just to give it a tiny lift, and then I bring it to table. This soup tastes divine. I have some croutons to go with it, although I would have preferred fresh bread rolls.


Cream of carrot and orange soup


Back in the kitchen, having eaten the soup, I cook a roux in my large saucepan and then make a sauce with the liquid, from the chicken pot, that I have previously reserved. Once I have reduced the sauce a little, I remove it from the flame and beat in the grated cheese. Finally, I add the chicken meat and the vegetables, making sure that everything becomes well-coated in the sauce. I plate up the main course with the apple and parsley baked potatoes from the oven, and take it to table. I have to say that this meal has been a huge success.


Main course


I am the sort of cook who washes up and tidies up as I go, whenever possible. The consequence of this was that within about 30 minutes of finishing the meal, I had my kitchen in pretty good order (and that is without the use of a dishwasher). A meal like this needs to be planned in advance. I can improvise in the kitchen and sometimes do that with good results, but today’s meal was not that kind of cooking for me. The question arises as to whether it is worth the effort. I think the answer to this is fairly straightforward. Firstly, if you can’t be bothered to do this sort of thing, then just go get a burger or have a pizza delivered; there is no moral imperative to cook well. Secondly, if you like the idea of doing something like this, then break things down into manageable chunks and enjoy each phase. I find looking through recipe books and planning a meal to be good fun. So that amounts to a pleasant hour in the evening, earlier in the week. Because I planned the meal in advance, I was able to make a shopping list with ease and sort that out the day before. I find shopping for a special meal is more interesting than ordinary domestic household supermarket shopping, so there again that is not too bad. I like to make an early start, and if necessary I will complete some things the day before. You won’t enjoy it if you become stressed. You will become stressed if you do not manage your time properly. I like a few quiet breaks as things progress. Ideally, I will go have a cup of coffee and read my current whodunnit or page-turner for 20 minutes. Once again, it breaks down what can seem a huge task into something more manageable.

It is often the case that the closing stages are sometimes fraught, but there has to be a little excitement in it too. I have to say that I rather like the Keith Floyd approach wherebye it becomes absolutely necessary to pop a thimbleful of white or red wine into the stock pot to give it that authentic je ne sais quoi and then, well, once the bottle is open it seems a shame not to have a glass whilst stirring the pot and chopping the carrots. Anyway, I think it is time for an afternoon nap. Talk to you later, my dear blogophiles.

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