Yesterday I spent the afternoon roasting vegetables – cauliflower, parsnips, and the humble swede. Why? Simple – it really enhances their flavour when used in soup or a casserole. And roasted cauli is pretty damn good served as a vegetable, while using it with Rooster potatoes (not roasted), gave me one of the best soups in my repertoire to date.
One thing I discovered, though – my mini oven does a far better job of this than my cooker’s oven – the reverse of what I expected.
What I’ll make with it is a veggie variant of an old favourite which, because free range and/or organic chicken portions (thighs and/or drumsticks are best), are absurdly expensive (about £15 a kilo, compared to around £3 – £4 a kilo for a whole bird), I haven’t made for years. It’s also a good time because I have both King Edward and Rooster spuds, and both are very good in this.
In its original form in was a casserole of chicken, butterbeans, parsnips, and potatoes, flavoured with lemon zest and garlic (I could have sworn I had the original recipe on my blog, but no). I’m not a great fan of lemon on cooking, as the juice is way too assertive and acidic, but used with discretion lemon zest (and two days ago, using a Rex peeler, I very carefully peeled the zest from five lemons, bagged and froze it), can be excellent, and much more gentle than juice. Not entirely sure what I’m going to do with the lemons themselves, but they’re in the freezer too, for now.
I would certainly never squeeze lemon juice onto fish, either, as fish is far too delicate and it will end up tasting of sod all but lemon,** but with this dish it normally has quite hefty flavours which the zest complements rather than dominates.
**I’ve been taken to task about this, as I’m happy to slosh malt vinegar onto fried and/or battered fish, but I can still taste the fish that way, whereas with lemon juice, I can’t. Plus I grew up not far from a malt vinegar brewery and I love the stuff.
Anyway, back on topic, and today I’ll use half the roasted veg, and freeze the rest, and instead of chicken I’ll use the Quorn “chicken” Family Roast I roasted a couple of days ago.
I’d use a full pack of chicken portions – 3 of each, thighs and drumsticks, browned and cooked skin-on and on the bone (both bones and skin contribute to flavour and mouth-feel, the latter you don’t get in the veggie version), then bones and skin removed and the meat cut into bite-sized pieces, so I suspect that might translate into 2 Quorn family roasts, but I have just one. I do have tofu, but that’s unprocessed and still frozen, so that’s for another day.
For today, then, it’ll be:-
Quorn Family Roast This comes in just one flavour, pretend chicken, and during the roasting process loses rather a lot of its substance (you are told you leave its covering in place while roasting, but to pierce it – the degree to which it should be pierced – once or twice or 50 times – is ignored). I poked about 20 tiny holes in it. I suspect 2 or 3 small slits, in the top, would be better at preventing loss. What leaked out, and then baked itself onto the metal dish, appeared to have been liquid and, from the smell, it’s probably lost quite a lot of flavour. If I use this again I think I’ll leave the covering intact and steam it. That will prevent any losses.
In the past I’ve used Quorn Chicken Fillets with success, and I think they might be a better choice than the roast. They’re certainly easier to use – they just need to be thawed and cut into strips. We’ll see.
Half a 500g pack of parsnips, peeled, cored, and roasted
A (small), roasted cauliflower (Sainsbury’s don’t seem to have any decent-sized ones, as Tesco do)
Half a small swede, peeled, diced, and roasted
A couple of carrots, not roasted
Handful of Echalion shallots
A few Rooster potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced, so they’ll break down and thicken it. This, in the absence of chicken bones and skin, will improve both the flavour and mouth feel. I was toying with the idea of using Xanthan gum, bu this will be better.
Butter beans. I have slow-cooked butter beans, and some very good butter bean stock, but lack of foresight (look, I’ve hardly slept for 3 months and I’m coming unravelled), meant they were both still frozen. I thought I’d have to use canned beans, then I had a flash of inspiration.
I’ve gently thawed the frozen stock, then used it to work the same alchemy on the frozen beans. They can sit on the back burner while I get on with the prep. By the time that’s finished I can strain off the stock for immediate use, reserving the beans to be added later, as they just need heating through.
The beans, by the way, are the Spanish Judion de la Granja, a very substantial bean, and tasty too (looking at Google for the meaning of the name brought up lots of entries from my own blog – gratifying but not helpful. Finally found out that “Judion de la Granja” simply means “From the farm in La Granja”.
So that’s it for now. The full recipe will be posted just as soon as it’s made and I’ve eaten some of it.
Watch this space…