A quick Jamie Oliver menu idea for your royal wedding party

The custom of afternoon tea and scones has its...

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For my wedding watching party, I’m thinking classic English tea party – cucumber sandwiches, Victoria sponge, scones and a great big teapot full of tea! But there’s a great menu in Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals which would be perfect for adapting to a wedding watch party; his British Picnic, which features sausage rolls, mackerel pate, asparagus crunch salad and Pimm’s Eton Mess. In fact, I might steal some of these dishes for myself… they sound awesome! The sausage rolls have fennel seeds and sesame seeds added to them, the pate features horseradish sauce along with the mackerel, lemon and cream cheese, and the crunch salad has watercress, pickled onions and pear… Interesting! It’s on page 252, if you’re up for it…

Kate and William: planning your wedding watch!

Distracted (what did you expect?) away from my Jamie project, I’m anticipating Kate and William’s wedding on 29 April – an excuse for a nosh-up if ever I heard one. I’m an unashamed royalist and can’t wait to throw an English themed tea party to celebrate, so expect plenty of planning posts as the day grows nearer…

Meanwhile, in anticipation, I present to you some important party-related details: nails and earrings.

It seems as though there are plenty of Kate and William related products out there for people to snap up – most of it is tacky, but I’m loving this nail varnish from Butter London, available to pre-order for £12 from their site: http://www.butterlondon.com/collections/no-more-waity-katie/no-more-waity-katie-0. Check out the hilarious name – not so funny if you’re Kate Middleton, I guess…

I also reckon you need themed earrings… I’m thinking crownsOr crowns with pearls, even more classy…

Or, to score extra bonus points, combine crowns with pearls and sapphires (Kate’s engagement ring stone):

Or, Accessorize has some pretty English-country-garden style stud sets here. And, let’s face it, you can’t go wrong with plain, simple pearl studs… Got to stay classy!

More planning tips later, including decorations, menus and party games!

Schmalzy Chicken

This week’s chicken was a relatively simple affair. I decided to invite dear old mum and dad over for lunch, so we could swing by St Francis, a local animal rescue centre, where they were putting on a fund raising event. We’d (well, they) just adopted a lovely new dog by the name of Ben, so we decided to take him back to see all his old chums. He had an absolute blast, being treated like a right celebrity.

Anyway, that’s beside the point – the point was, I decided to make the chicken recipe simple, because I was serving it as part of a traditional British Sunday lunch. Americans, this is what we also eat at Christmas – only a much more elaborate version. It’s also the nearest thing you get to a Thanksgiving style meal here – swap the turkey for the chicken, and you see what I mean.

So, the recipe was Nigella Lawson’s Schmalzy Chicken, which is from possibly my favourite book of hers, Feast. The recipe is simplicity itself, and I don’t think I’m going to get a cheaper chicken dish out of this entire year – mostly because I bought one of Tesco’s ‘3 for £10’ chickens. Well, two, in fact. And lamb steaks.

Week Three: Tesco Chicken

So, that’s the semi-abused chicken. And here’s the costing:

Tesco Chicken: £3.33 (to infinity)

Grand total: £3.33

Yep, that was all I bought. The recipe calls for salt and a chicken. I’m down with that.

The idea here is that you render down the chicken fat you find inside the carcass, and then rub it over the chicken and roast it, so that the chicken gets meltingly tender and soft, and all deliciously savoury. I had a cunning plan to use three times the amount of chicken fat you would normally get from a chicken, by saving the fat from the inside of next week’s chicken. But, I didn’t tell M and he threw it away. Foiled! The other third was generously donated by the fat I skimmed off the top of Jamie’s chicken broth.

Rendering the chicken fat

Rendering the chicken fat is just  a fancy way of saying you cook it until all you have left is a pool of ‘schmalz’ and a wizened little piece of chickeny stuff. You can eat this, or shove it up the chicken’s bum to flavour it. That’s what I did…

Week Three: Pre-Schmalzy Chicken

This is the chicken pre-schmalz, sitting in the roasting pan that M’s mum gave me. It makes the chicken really moist thanks to the lid, but it also had the side-effect of not letting the chicken brown so much all over.

Week Three: Schmalzy Chicken

At first glance, this doesn’t seem like so much of a triumph, but that’s because you can’t taste it. Moist and delicious! The taste wasn’t complex at all, but somehow more ‘chickeny’ than chicken normally is… Amazing! And, with a cheapy chook, too. I wouldn’t say this was a miracle, but it certainly was a revelation. Shame I couldn’t get the skin any crispier, though – should have left the lid off.

Week Three: Proper British Roast with Schmalzy Chicken

This was the meal we ate our chicken with – a good old roast. Peas, fancy carrots, roast potatoes, stuffing balls, pigs in blankets, and gravy. Delicious.

So, the scores.

My dear old mum gave it 9. She would – everything I do well reflects on her, of course. Any chicken cooked by a child of hers is sure to score no lower than a 9.

My dad gave it 8. Very tasty and moist, he reckoned.

M gave it 7. It’s a simple recipe, and a simple, clean taste, but there’s nothing spectacular about it.

I gave it 7.5. It’s easy to do, tastes good and is cheap – what more could you want? Shame I couldn’t brown it all over, cos with crispy skin this could have been really special.

There wasn’t much leftover chicken here, but what there was got made into the most unphotogenic curry you ever did see. Except you’ll never see it, hah.

British bacon and asparagus sushi

Even though nobody cares but me, every so often I sort of get myself into this little crusade to link together British and Japanese cooking. Don’t laugh, it’s actually not completely far fetched. Did you know that some very essential Japanese sauces, like okonomiyaki and tonkatsu sauce, are based on Worcestershire sauce? Did you also know that curry rice came to Japan from India by way of British companies? Come on, you can’t tell me you thought that brown gloop came from anywhere but the UK…

So, every so often I come up with something that’s sort of Japanese, but using British ingredients, and it’s never worked so well as it did with this scattered sushi recipe. It’s really simple, and it’s really good – and it’s great for hot summer days, too. Probably one of the main reasons this works is because the vinegar in the sushi rice dressing mimics the acidity of tomato ketchup. Hey, whatever it is, it tastes lovely.
British bacon sushi

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups Japanese rice (around 430g)
  • 6tbsp sushi rice vinegar (or check label)
  • 1 tbsp sake (optional)
  • 1 piece dried konbu (optional)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • Large pinch salt
  • Pinch sugar
  • Vegetable oil
  • Packet streaky bacon (smoked or unsmoked – your choice!)
  • 500g asparagus tips

METHOD

  • Make your sushi rice – I recommend you buy a rice cooker, as it takes all of the guesswork and stress out of cooking rice.
  • Firstly, wash the rice thoroughly and leave it to soak for half an hour. Then, drain and add your sushi rice to the same quantity of water in your rice cooker. Add the sake and konbu if using, then switch on and leave to cook. Once it has finished, leave it to rest for 15 minutes.
  • Turn the rice out into a damp, flat container (like a pyrex oven dish) and add the sushi rice vinegar. Using a damp wooden spoon, turn the rice gently to coat it in the seasoning. At the same time, fan the rice to cool it and help it to absorb the dressing. Continue until no visible steam rises from the rice, and place it under a damp kitchen towel.
  • Make thin Japanese omelettes by combining the eggs, egg yolk, salt and sugar in a bowl. Add the cornflour dissolved in 4 tsp water. Heat the oil in a frying pan, and add enough oil to coat the base. Thinly cover the pan with the egg, and heat until almost set. Then, turn the omelette over to finish it off. Do not allow it to colour. Continue until all the egg has been cooked, then roll the omelettes up and shred them finely.
  • Fry the bacon until very crispy. Snip into small pieces.
  • Steam the asparagus, and when cooked, remove the tips and slice the stems into small coins.
  • Divide the rice into four bowls, and top with the bacon, asparagus and omelette.

There you go, a summery fry-up. Well, sort of.