Chicken: the good, the bad and the unbeatable roast:29th July-3rd August

posted Aug 8, 2012, 12:15 PM by Dinner Lady
The Four and a half bellies are enjoying an Olympic staycation. This is a Two aging bellies guest blog written by Dinner Lady's mother, Gigi.  
Dinner Lady and the Four and a half bellies will return at the end of the month.

A quarter of a century ago I would make at least one trip a week to the local supermarket, often accompanied by some or all of my three healthy and lively children ranging in age from 3-12 years.  No internet ordering and delivery in those far-off days. I'd push the trolley up and down the aisles, shopping list in hand, stocking up on all the basics necessary to support ordinary family life - at the same time as keeping a beady eye on the younger generation's goings-on. By the end of each trip I'd accumulated an enormous amount of stuff in the trolley which then needed transferring to plastic bags, lugged into the car, then lugged back into the house, unpacked and sorted.

Now an occasional visit to the supermarket satisfies the needs of us two elderly grandparents, and a glimpse into my tiny trolley would reveal the delicate goodies in it - small amounts of exotic cheeses, a few rolls of bread, some fish, maybe a little pate, a few well chosen vegetables, and of course, bottled water for our fancy coffee machine and wine.  And the occasional roll of toilet paper or some other such necessity. This hardly feels like a proper shop when I think back 25 years ago, and it did take me a while to get used to such minimalist shopping.  But it seems to suffice, augmented occasionally by the random picking up somewhere of a piece of fish, maybe, or some particularly nice home-made sausages perhaps.  

So our meals are often rather haphazard.  This week, for example, we have eaten Badt-e-badt on the day we returned from holiday; Moroccan chicken from the freezer (I still tend to make too much food each time I cook); turbot from the freezer (a job lot of fish purchased at my front door from a travelling fish merchant from North Shields) and home grown spinach; gammon steaks bought on holiday from a garden centre in Norfolk; and fish fingers and cucumber.  Food gleaned here and there with not much planning involved. 

A short while ago I spent a week with the Four and a half bellies.  Dinner Lady and I planned a picnic as a summer holiday treat. I bought some plump, luscious looking chicken drumsticks from the local supermarket thinking how much fun it would be to gnaw on the bones in the local park. However, after cooking, the lovely drumsticks had morphed into mingey, scraggy-looking and unappetizing disasters. I realised that what I had actually bought was a pack of water-filled, mass generated apologies for real chicken drumsticks. No more shopping for chicken from anywhere but my beloved local family butcher in the future.  

It made me think back to when I was young and chicken was a rare treat. The thought of the smell of that real free range chicken roasting in the oven, its skin slowly turning golden and crisp, and the idea of the roast potatoes sizzling away beside it, both produce a gushing of my salivary juices. And that started me thinking about my dear mother, Dinner Lady's grandmother, who was such an amazing cook. Her forte, perhaps, was good old-fashioned plain English cooking at which she excelled.  But she was always keen to experiment and here is an unusual recipe she gave me for a chicken dish, as different as you can imagine from her bog standard but unbeatable roast chicken. Incidentally, the recipe for Chicken a la Stanley, handwritten on the back of a torn envelope, is typically vague on particulars, leaving you, the cook, to decide how best to interpret it.

Chicken a la Stanley

Melt 4 teaspoons of butter, add onions and a chicken, cut in pieces.  Cover, cook slowly for 10 minutes. Add stock and cook, covered, until meat is tender. Remove the chicken, rub the stock and onions through a sieve. Thicken with 3 tablespoons of butter and flour mixed together. Add cream. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce around the chicken pieces, garnish with bananas cut in diagonal slices and sauteed in butter.  

So I think I'll go off to the local butcher to buy the chicken.  And then I shall go to the supermarket to buy the bananas and a few other things I need for the week.  A poor excuse for a shop. These days it's only when a visit from Four and a half bellies is being planned that I feel like a real food shopper again, and I can hold my head up high as I walk the aisles with a loaded food trolley - buying all the treats I can think of for the Bellies.