Well here we are in 2010the beginning of a whole new decade and the opportunity to begin again afresh and inspired for the future. I do hope that everyone’s Christmas was a lovinghappygilded time with lovefood and laughter at the fore. I personally had one of the best Christmas’ ever and it got me thinking – in a philosophical way - about those moments when we are given the opportunity to be brave and try something newor alternativelyplay it safe and do things as they have always been done. I know the latter option is designed to keep you safe and in your comfort zone; while the first offers you chance of new experiences and happinessor indeedthe path to disaster. Either waythe New Year gives a tangible commencement to start afresh and to evolve; to make new choices and aim for greater (albeit sometimes scarier) things and sofor me2010 stands for believing in myselffor doing things a little differently to how I have done them before and of coursefor creating and cooking glorious recipes that taste deliciousfeed the soul and make me delighted to be an Intolerant Gourmet.
For my first post back I wanted to make something that complements the coming seasons and the crisp frosts and cold chills of our current January days. Now is the time for root vegetables: parsnipsceleriacsuede and sweet potato are the perfect antidote to these dark and wintry evenings; their vibrantfiery colours cheer even the most chilled of hearts. There is something truly delectable about the combination of roasted meats and the sweetstarchy delight of root vegetables: crushed suedegarlic and carrot with a slow roasted shoulder of lambcrisp celeriac chips with a seared rump steak and treacle glazed ham hock with parsnip puree.
So delicious and all wonderful recipes (email me if you would like more details!) but for this particular dish I wanted to wake up our lazy Christmas taste buds with a delicate zing of flavours and spices and so created the Moroccan Chicken Pie. Herethe mellowdouble slow roasting of the chicken is woven with the gentle flavours of cinnamonalmond and saffron to make a delicious and warming pie. I admit that there is a serious amount of onion in this recipebut trust meit cooks down to create a sweetfragrant and delicate creamy sauce and is the perfect mellow accompaniment to the spiced chicken. I like to top it with a thick layer of sweet potato mashseasoned with heavy virgin olive oil and salt and pepperand cooked until crisp on top and bubbling at the edges. I recommend having some simple steamed spinach and/or leeks on the sidehowever you choose to serve itI think you will find that this is the perfect antidote to any winter blues and truly fills the soul with joy.
MOROCCAN CHICKEN PIE
For the pie filling:
6 tbsp olive oil (for roasting)
8 chicken drumsticks
2 lb white onions
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp saffron
100g flaked almonds
A bunch of coriander
For the pie topping:
4 lb sweet potato
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 180c (160c Fan). Place the flaked almonds on a baking tray and toast until golden in colourset aside to cool. Finely chop the coriander and peel and finely chop the onions - if the idea of chopping so many onions upsets youyou can use a food processor to grate themit is not the method but the size that is important here.
Pour the olive oil in to a large roasting dish and combine with the finely chopped onioncinnamon and saffron. Season well and mix together before placing the chicken drumsticks on top of the onion. Roast in the oven for 1 ½ hours – you can abandon it for an hour and busy yourself with other thingsit shouldn’t come to any harm but if you notice the onion starting to colour too much nearer the end of cookingjust cover loosely with some tinfoil - until the chicken is meltingly tender and the onion has become a soft golden cream.
Meanwhilepeel the sweet potato and cut in to 1 ½ inch chunks. Place in a large saucepan of saltedboiling water and cook until completely tender and beginning to come apart. Drain and return to the saucepan with the extra virgin olive oil and plenty of seasoning. Mash until completely smooth and creamy and then set aside.
Once the chicken is cookedturn the oven off and allow to rest for a little (enough for you to be able to handle the meat without burning yourself) strip the meat from the drumsticksdiscarding the skin and bonesand cut in to small pieces. Return the chicken to the tray of onionsadd the toasted almonds and chopped coriander and stir until combined.
Re-heat the oven to 200c (180c Fan) layer the base of a large pie dish with the chicken filling and then carefully top with the sweet potato mash until completely covered. Return the pie to the oven and cook for around 30 minutes or until the potato is golden and bubbling on top.