We had our first dinner party in the new flat: roasted chicken and potatoes with probably the final tomato salad of the year (woe and twain!). It was a necessarily small affair with one guest, our friend John, a medievalist, accomplished home cook and loyal Canadian ex-pat (below, see picture of said young candlelit intellectual). Our London entertaining will be curtailed by a severely limited number of chairs, unless we meet some eccentric Brits for whom food has no savor unless it is consumed at ground level. (If you're out there, give us a call! We'll have a feast for you!)
Somehow, this particular chicken seemed to have a faint gamey scent. We couldn't decide if this peculiarity was due to the halal butchering methods or if perhaps it had been raised on scraps from a table somewhere down the block. Possibly both; we're pretty sure the meats at our neighborhood butcher shops have a very local provenance, and not in the way that food writers enthusiastic about organic local farms use the phrase.
On the other hand, we bought nuts and Arab pastries from a tiny shop across the street. The sweets were completely soaked in honey, and the filling included crushed pistachios and coconut as well as walnuts, a truly decadent baklava that is sure to cause trouble in this Shepherd's Bush household. Already, there have been debates over who really deserves the leftover piece on the counter.
In addition to the satisfaction of bringing a beautiful looking bird to the table, roasting a whole chicken has the added benefit of leftovers. Our favorite recipe for today's poultry tomorrow follows; fortunately the strong spices will mask any olfactory flaws in your neighborhood fowl.
This is a leftovers recipe, so it is by nature imprecise; consequently we will adopt the narrative mode of cooking instruction more common in nineteenth-century texts than in later, more scientific approaches to the art of cuisine. Chop a small onion and saute it in some olive oil until tender. Add two cloves chopped garlic and some crushed red pepper, to taste, and stir briefly. Then add a little wine (either white or red works) and about a cup of chopped tomatoes (this is optional if you prefer a more chicken-based dish) and season with cumin, coriander, salt, pepper and a bit of cinnamon. Stir in your chopped leftover chicken and let simmer for five or ten minutes. When the flavors have blended, add some lemon zest and lemon juice and a bit more olive oil, preferably the strong fruity kind. Sprinkle with freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley and serve over rice or couscous. You can add a little cinnamon to the rice when fluffing it, for extra flavor.
Serves 2, approximately!