I cook lunch most Sundays. I like taking the time in the middle of the day to sit down with friends and family and spend a couple of hours eating, drinking and talking. So, what do I cook?
It's never anything very complicated - after all, Sunday mornings come after Saturday nights and it's often not the best time to experiment! I might start with an Italian cold seafood salad with big prawns, scallops and mussels, briefly cooked in a little garlic and oil, all bathed in olive oil, spiked up with lemon juice, chilli flakes and lots of finely chopped parsley; seared scallops wrapped up in Parma ham then grilled and served with a rocket salad; or a prawn cocktail with frisee as the base, tiny cubed tomatoes and cucumber, prawns fried in garlic before cooling and binding with the mayo mixed with tomato ketchup, smoked hot paprika and a dash of Tabasco. Mains include roast chicken cooked with lemons and sage with roast potatoes; slow cooked lamb shoulder served with boulangere potatoes, or a slab of slow cooked pork belly with crackling. As for puddings I love tarts above all - perhaps a pear frangipane, or lemon, or plum….
So, what did I do this Sunday? To start we had smoked salmon, torn into strips, piled up on a salad of baby salad leaves and finely shredded fennel. This was dressed with a citrussy olive oil dressing and I added tiny capers and cornichons. Pudding was a simple chocolate mousse, made with Elizabeth David’s recipe of 1 oz chocolate and I egg per person. Melt the chocolate then stir in the egg yolks. Beat the egg whites until soft peak then fold into the cooled chocolate mixture. Spoon into glasses then chill. I added a dash of brandy and decorated with a swirl of cream and toasted flaked almonds.
The main event was designed to do away with the hassle of roast potatoes, last minute carving and gravy making. Chicken baked with wine then served in a creamy mushroom sauce:
Chicken with Mushroom Sauce
I medium sized chicken, free range and organic if possible
1 lemon, cut into 8
Bunch of thyme
Glass of white wine
400g mixed mushrooms – I used oyster, shitake and chestnut
Glass of dry vermouth
Glass of white wine
250 ml chicken stock
150ml double cream
Chopped fresh thyme
Chopped fresh parsley
Untruss the chicken, bring the wings from under the body and fill the cavity with the chopped up lemon and a handful of fresh thyme. Smear some butter over the chicken, season and put into a roasting tray. Pour round a glass of white wine, cover with foil, and cook at about 180 for an hour or until the legs wiggle easily (technical term) and juices run clear.
While the chicken is cooking slowly fry the shallots in 25g butter until transluscent. Add the vermouth and white wine, bring to the boil and reduce by half. Push through a sieve making sure you pulverise as much of the shallot as possible. Return the stock to the pan.
Once cooked remove the chicken onto a plate in a warm place. Strain off the cooking juices and skim off the fat. Add to the stock in the pan and make up to about 500ml with the chicken stock. Fry the mushrooms off in some olive oil over a high heat until cooked and slightly browned. Bring sauce up to simmer and add the cream, then, once it has come to the boil and reduced slightly, add the thyme and mushrooms. Taste and season, adding a little lemon juice to cut the cream and heighten the flavours.
Joint the chicken and place in a shallow warmed serving dish. Pour over the sauce and sprinkle with lots of parsley. I served it with new potatoes tossed in butter and chives, and purple sprouting broccoli. Lovely for a slightly chilly Spring Sunday!