Friday, 13 January 2017

Tarragon Roasted Chicken and Root Vegetables

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Roast chicken has to be one of my favourite comfort food dinners, ever. 

That crispy skin, juicy meat and all those starchy root veggies cooked in the same tray. 

I mean, seriously. Look at it. 

I'm writing this with the rain lashing down outside in big, ploppy drops and have my biggest, thickest jumper on along with thick grey and pink slipper socks with white bobbles on. My Jack Russell terrier has burrowed underneath my duvet, upstairs. It's cold, wet and grey. 

And I totally need a roast dinner like this.

Chicken and tarragon is a classic combo - although I also love tarragon with egg yolk, in a mayonnaise, and also with lamb, where its aniseed sweetness cuts through the fattiness of the meat. But I do love this. 

The chicken is cooked along with the veggies, which gives them a soft tenderness and a deep, rich flavour, after sizzling gently for an hour and a half in all that chicken fat and juices. Plus, cooking them all in the same tray reduces the amount of washing up you have to do (always a bonus, right?). 

And, don't forget, you can always change up the veggies you use. Leave out the potatoes if you like and use parsnip chunks instead - sweet potato, celeriac, carrots, butternut squash - it will all work well here. 

Treat yourself. 

Tarragon Roasted Chicken and Root Vegetables
Serves 4
2 large sweet potatoes, cut into large chunks
8 small new potatoes, washed well
2 large carrots, washed, trimmed and chopped into big chunks
1 tbsp olive or avocado oil
1.2kg whole chicken, giblets removed
2 tbsp olive oil (or avocado oil)
1 tbsp dried tarragon
quarter teaspoon garlic salt
pinch of sea salt

First, prep the veggies. Cut the sweet potatoes into large chunks and clatter them on a large roasting tray. You can line the roasting tray with foil to make washing up easier, if you like, first. Add the new potatoes, if using, and the carrot pieces. Make sure to leave the pieces quite large, otherwise the vegetables will cook too quickly and turn to mush. 

Drizzle with a little oil and put to one side. 

Mix together the dried tarragon, garlic salt and the remaining 2 tbsp oil until you have a loose paste. Rub this all over the skin of the chicken, making sure to get it over the legs and wings and underside, too. Place the chicken on top of the vegetables and slide into an oven, preheated to gas mark 5/190C/375F. Roast for one and a half hours, or until the chicken is fully cooked through and there are no pink juices remaining. 

Once everything is cooked, season with a pinch of salt and then carve the chicken, serving it with the beautifully soft vegetables underneath. 

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Monday, 9 January 2017

Parsnip Gnocchi with Basil Oil

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You know one of the things I miss, since I stopped eating pasta and potatoes? Gnocchi. I used to either fry it in olive oil, sprinkle with salt and then eat it at the kitchen worktop, dipping it in brown sauce - I'm a classy girl - or I'd boil it and then toss it in tomato sauce, layering it up with mascarpone cheese and spinach, into a pasta bake. I don't necessarily miss the tomato sauce or the cheese (cheese is still a no-go for me) but I do miss the chewy, pillowy texture of gnocchi. 

Parsnip Gnocchi with Basil Oil

And then I saw a recipe on Paleo Pumpkin which took white sweet potatoes and turned them into fluffy little balls of gnocchi. What a great idea. Except white sweet potatoes always seem to irritate my stomach. A few weeks later, I dug out an old pasta cookbook to give away to a friend and as I flicked through the glossy photos one last time, I saw that conventional gnocchi can be made out of pumpkin or butternut squash. So there must be a lot of other veggies, aside from potato or white sweet potato, that you can make gnocchi out of. 

One of my favourite potato substitutes is parsnips. I love them roasted in garlic, cut into skinny fries and eaten with mayonnaise. They're lovely mashed or cut up and cooked and sprinkled with dill. And I thought they'd make lovely gnocchi. Starchy, sweet and earthy. 

Parsnip Gnocchi with Basil Oil

They were soft, doughy, a little bit chewy - after years of not eating gnocchi they hit the spot. 

Perfect with some basil oil poured over the top. 

Parsnip Gnocchi with Basil Oil
Serves 3-4
For the gnocchi:
500g parsnips
5 heaped teaspoons cassava flour (be prepared to add a little extra if needed)
quarter teaspoon garlic salt
water, for boiling

For the Basil Oil:
25g fresh basil leaves
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
pinch of nutritional yeast
pinch of garlic salt

First, peel the parsnips and trim off the ends. Chop them into similarly-sized chunks and place them in cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer until the parsnips are fork tender. 

While the parsnips are cooking, make the basil oil. Blend the basil leaves, olive oil, nutritional yeast and garlic salt until combined but a bit chunky - I like to see some leaves in there - and put to one side. 

Drain well, and return them to the hot pan. 

Leave the parsnips over a low heat for 30 seconds or so, tossing them, to evaporate any excess moisture. Turn off the heat and add the garlic salt. Add the cassava flour - one heaped teaspoonful at a time - and stir it into the parsnips. Keep going until you end up with a soft but firm dough that's kneadable. 

Dust a wooden board with a pinch of cassava flour and form the dough into two long sausage shapes, rolling with your hands. With a sharp knife, cut little gnocchi off the sausage shape and put to one side. Roll the gnocchi with the prongs of a fork. 

Rinse out the pan you boiled the parsnips in and half-fill with boiling water from the kettle. Add a small pinch of salt. Boil the gnocchi for about 1-2 minutes, until they've fluffed up and are floating on the top of the water. Drain gently and serve hot, with the basil oil drizzled over the top. 

Note: The gnocchi dough doesn't do well kept raw in the fridge - it turns very wet and mushy. If you're making this, make the amount that you'll eat straight away. If you need to, you can halve the recipe to make less. 

Parsnip Gnocchi with Basil Oil

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