Delia’s Fast Roast Chicken

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“If you sometimes feel depressed or let down, if you are suffering from the pressures of life, or simply having a plain old day, my advice is to roast a chicken”

This is the start to chapter 4 of Delia How to Cook, Book 2 which is where I decided to start,  because there was a chicken in the fridge and becasue it is February and I find February a hard month to get through and Delia is right, a chicken roasting in the oven (especially one with a lemon up its bum) just makes the day feel a little bit more golden.

So I started with Fast Roast Chicken with Lemon and Tarragon and I was worried, really worried about the timing of this because I have it ingrained within my internal cookery book that a chicken cooks at 20 minutes a lb plus 20 minutes so to be told that my 3lb chicken would cook in 45 minutes had me feeling very nervous…

But it works, it does, bang on 45 minutes the chicken came out and it was done perfectly…and the gravy was spot on and we were all happy and feeling that little bit more spring like…and there were leftovers (2 stir fries and a chicken sandwich).

This is probably the easiest recipe to do from the point of view that all the family will eat it…chapter 1 is patchy, chapter 2 (fish) is for me alone…

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Doing Delia – take 2

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About 18 months ago I decided to work my way through Delia Smiths’s How to Cook. To begin with I did quite well but I hit 3 problems and ground to a sudden definite stop…pretty much a stop to cooking not just a stop to the project.

Why ?

1.  The first 3 chapters are about eggs… I got bored

2. Fat…Delia uses oodles of cream and butter. The book is swimming in the stuff, I stuck it out for page after page but then after making the Banana and Butterscotch trifle I couldn’t take anymore and went on a diet (and lost interest in cooking anything).

3.  The Egg and Lentil Curry recipe – this is one of the first recipes in the book. I have bought green lentils on at least 3 occasions but never yet made the curry… I told myself it was because we had no lime pickle but this time for the “Doing Delia” project I finally bought a jar…but still didn’t make the curry. Why ?

Me: “Do you want Egg and green lentil curry for tea ?”

Husband: “Sounds piggin’ horrible”

and he’s right of course, the sound of it just doesn’t lend itself to thoughts of a tasty meal…(I won’t go into what your thoughts will turn to because I bet you are already thinking that aren’t you !). But Delia obviously thinks a lot of the recipe as it’s not the only book to include the recipe…and must think it so good that she doesn’t care that it might put people off from trying the rest of the book (guess that’s the power of TV for you).

And How to Cook Book 1 is not the only book, there are 3 books in the How to Cook series so the solution it would seem is to do the other 2 books first  because there seems to be slightly less cream (marginally), no repeating a key ingredient for 3 chapters and, more importantly, no lentil and egg curry !

As I don’t own Book 3 I shall start in the middle of the series with Book 2… I will be back…but for now there is Heston on Channel 4…

Delia’s Egg, Chorizo and Pepper Gratin for the ill prepared.

I am not sure if this recipe means that I am well prepared or ill prepared. This was the final recipe from chapter 1 (other than the eggs benedict) and can be found here.

When I decided to make it I did not have fresh peppers, onions, tomatoes, Gruyere cheese or even gratin dishes however I did have most of the ingredients in the freezer plus a fairly elderly garlic clove.

So last night’s dinner was sort of an homage to Delia’s “How to Cook” and her “How to Cheat” as I used frozen onions and peppers which I defrosted first and then strained off a lot of the water. The tomatoes came from a jar labelled “sun dried tomatoes in oil with chili” and I added half a tin of chopped tomatoes towards the end of the frying bit of the cooking as I was a little concerned that it would be too small a dish for 2 people.

Once I’d completed the frying stage I divided the mixture into 2 and spread each part across the glass lid of a casserole dish which I was using as stand in gratin dishes, placed ready sliced emmental over the top and baked in the oven for 15 minutes before serving with some half baked French bread I found lurking in a cupboard.

Admittedly it’s probably not as good as the original as only the eggs were fresh, but I think it has potential as a “supper dish”, especially if I can do it from store cupboard standbys – mine was a little over cooked I think as at the last minute Husband nipped out to the shop in order to comply with the final instructions in the recipe “serve with a robust red”.

An Omelette and a glass of wine (Chapter 2)

No, I haven’t suddenly gone all Elizabeth David on you, I have simply reached chapter 2 of Delia, and can’t at the moment face writing about chapter 1, besides am waiting for chapter 3 of Delia before I tackle the Eggs Benedict in chapter 1.


Anyway I have for most of this week been making omelettes. I started with the Spanish omelette or tortilla as that was closest to my usual omelette cooking (the infamous “hope omelette” made out of the leftovers in the fridge – as in “I hope this tastes ok”). The other reason for making this first is that we have some potatoes starting to chit!


This is probably not something I would do often as you have to keep coming back to it. I prefer cooking that is either over and done in 10 minutes or something you can leave in the oven and ignore – with this you have to slowly sweat the thinly sliced onions and potatoes for 20 minutes or so before mixing with the eggs and cooking slowly again for another 25 minutes, and then leave it to stand for 5 minutes – it was surprisingly nice for such simple ingredients – although next time I will sweat the onion mixture for longer.


Second night and it was back to the start of the chapter for a standard omelette – after reading and ignoring several pages about how to choose the perfect omelette pan (we have one, its non stick, it works, end of discussion). I have never made this sort of omelette before,(mine are more like pancake calzone), but they are surprisingly quick, surprisingly simple – not sure why people make such a fuss about them.  After making the standard recipe you can then add what you like to them – Delia has half a page of alternatives, which I am not going to do at this point, otherwise my family will be in revolt – I just made a plain one for me and a cheese one for Husband. There’s not a lot else to say about them except that yes Delia is spot on here with her method.


Tonight was a cheese souffle omelette for Husband and a mushroom frittata for me – the mushroom frittata wasn’t brilliantly successful as I halved the quantities (original serves 4) and I just used big field mushrooms rather than a mixture oh and red leicester rather than gruyere as that’s what we had in. The souffle omelette ? Was that a hit ? Question ? “how is it ?”, Husband’s answer (note, always ask people how the food it whilst they have something in their mouths, then all they can do is smile and nod) “It’s on-erful…”…when he’d recovered he did say that it “ticks every box for me”

So after Chapter 2 I would say there are 2 recipes that may become regulars, the souffle and a Tortilla…possibly won’t do the french omelette too often, its ok, but omelettes in this house are often a way of using up left overs so will stick with the “hope omelette”.

I Cheated

 I have flicked a few pages ahead in Delia – to be honest I was getting a bit bored of boiling eggs – and I know I can boil an egg (I am after all the inventor of the egg sandwich diet)… what I can’t do successfully is fry an egg.

Not being able to fry an egg isn’t a big hardship in this house as apart from the occasional fried egg sandwich or a plate of egg and chips (best with champagne !) we don’t eat them – I could therefore I guess claim lack of practice for my ineptitude, but no, I am just useless at frying eggs.

 Anyway, for last night’s tea we had all the ingredients for corn beef hash, so I decided to try and beat the frying voodoo – second attempt I should add, as I’d made both this and the Chorizo hash at Christmas when I’d first thought of “doing Delia”.

 Well, to cut a long story short, last night was not to be the night the hex was removed. Things were going well at the onion frying stage, I missed out the potato cooking as we already had 300g of cold potatoes in the fridge (fully cooked though), deciding to be a tidy cook I was putting the top back down on our very cheap bottle of rapeseed oil, when pushing slightly too hard the flimsy plastic bottle collapsed, shot off the surface spilling oil all over the surface, all over the floor and all over me.

Top Tip – don’t wear dry clean only skirt when cooking, make an effort and iron something else so that it’s not your only spare piece of clean clothing…aprons can’t protect you from everything.

After cleaning up the mess, I finished the hash, followed Delia’s instructions to the letter and still managed to make a mess of the fried eggs!

Moral of this story: Don’t try to cheat, the gods will always find you out and punish you in one way or the other…the good news is that oil does wash out of fry clean skirts with the assistance of Johnson’s baby shampoo…now I just have to find a way of ironing the creases out of the skirt without burning the material…

Doing Delia

 Conjures up horrible pictures that title. Hopefully however most of you reading this won’t have such a smutty mind as me and interpret it in the way it was meant.

I am in a good place mentally and as a result don’t have the urge to bake quite so much at the moment – also since Spider’s birthday there has been a lack of occasions in my diary requiring cake. I’m not cooking either as Husband, realising quite how knackered I am after the commute has taken charge of putting food on the table in the evening.

In fact I am in danger of becoming a non-cook…

I thought I’d better challenge myself to something, just to keep my hand in. I am therefore “doing Delia”…which correctly interpreted means that I shall be working my way through her “How to Cook” books 1 & 2…

I am not however going to report my progress for the first 10 pages as I’m sure the world does not need to know how I got on with “learning to boil an egg”…anyone got any Lime Pickle though or can suggest a substitute as her first proper recipe is a curry which uses that as one of its main ingredients…

Delia’s instructions for boiling an egg can be found here

Just Bento’s bento box challenge

Just Bento and Just Hungry are two of my favourite sites. I stumbled across them last year when I started taking a packed lunch to work again…something I should have been doing anyway but rarely remembered except on occasions when my Mum hands me sandwiches when I dropped Spider off.

The spur to being more organised was Spider’s pre-school starting a lunch club. As it was on mondays it was an incentive to think about packed lunches over the weekend for the rest of the week (admittedly perhaps FQ and I did spend slightly too much thinking about it and from time to time wasted hours discussing what to put in our childrens lunch bags). Anyway, it worked, for the space of a term I remebered to take lunch with me everyday.

I should point out that when I don’t take food with me, I don’t buy lunch elsewhere – I just don’t eat. Which is a bad thing for many reasons and can contribute to a weight problem as your body gets used to storing calories when it gets them !

I used the internet to get ideas for lunches as I have a limited interest in sandwiches and quickly discovered Lunch in  Box which reminded me about bento boxes, and searching for that brought up Just Bento. Both these sites are jammed packed with ideas not just for lunches but for speeding up preperation of lunches and greater use of the freezer for staple items (I am as you may realise from early posts totally dedicated to my freezer).

I have treated myself to a genuine Bento Box from the Japan Centre but I haven’t used it much – mainly because there was no lunch club last term and as a result I stopped taking lunch – besides  I  found  a cheap partitioned plastic box from a supermarket much more versatile (and its dishwasher safe !).

Anyway, not only is lunch club back this term but Just Bento is running a bento box challenge, starting on the 11th January – it has 3 stages to it Basic, Going Deeper and Weight Loss (in theory the size of your box can be related to the amount of calories it can hold – but that I guess depends on the type of food you are putting in it).

So this is my new years resolution, make lunch for work daily and to keep me on track I am taking the Just Bento challenge…cooking my way through Delia How to Cook 1 & 2 is a personal challenge and not a resolution and I’m giving myself a year for that one due to financial constraints…

Egg-spert in the kitchen

I know, that is an appallingly bad pun but its “difficult to get excited about a hard boiled egg” (digression – when I was 18 I travelled round europe. In Amsterdam I met some americans, and for want of anything else to talk about I asked them what they thought about their new president (George Bush sr) to which one of them replied “he’s a hard boiled egg” and then explained “its hard to get excited about a boiled egg”).

Anyway, for want of any other plan for the year I decided I may was well cook my way through Delia, especially as we appeared to have all the ingredients for her Egg and Lentil Curry with coconut and pickled lime (except the pickled lime and half the spices are with FG) and the Chorizo Hash with peppers (chorizo is one of my kitchen stand bys).

I was all set to do the Chorizio this evening (Husband doesn’t really do curry) and asked Husband to pick up some potatoes to which he replied by volunteering to do baked potatoes with an idea he’d had involving pate (which needs using).

Anyway, since the potatoes would take 1.5-2 hours (how to cook volume 1 page 174) in the oven I volunteered to do a rice pudding also (page 212)…the potatoes I have done as per the recipe and the rice pudding I have amended a little. With the rice pudding I have upped the temperature a bit (and lowered the potatoes) and shortened the time. I didn’t have any evaporated milk so I watered down some condensed milk…I also halved the quantities as there would only be 2 of us eating it.

Anyway, that’s all doing its stuff with no interference from me and I have just stated hard boiling some eggs (page 17)…only with a slight difference. I can get excited about hard boiled eggs, a good egg sandwich for me is a little bit of heaven. Spider can’t stand them ( a texture thing possibly) but lunch club starts again this week and I need something to perk up his lunch box…so when they have boiled I will be sticking them in ice cream biscuit moulds and plunging them in cold water – for moulded hard boiled eggs please check out Lunch in a Box.

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Picture when they are done…at the moment I’m waiting for the eggs to warm up…Delia doesn’t approve of keeping eggs in the fridge…well tough, I may be following your recipes but I refuse to toe the line !

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Delia, Diets and Dilemmas

OK I know its a cliche going on a diet for the new year but it seemed timely in view of the government’s latest healthy living campaign besides I’ve also taken a break from alcohol – thought it was time to give my liver a wee rest following the extensive use I’ve made recently of the 2 bottles of gin I had for Christmas.

Also it fits in with my attempt this year to change the way I cook, meals being dictated more by what I have in than by cookbooks (finished my kitchen stock take, was pleasantly surprised by some of the things I found lurking in the freezer, threw a few frozen kitchen experiments away). I’ve also started Fitday again as I found that useful for keeping an eye on calories and exercise…and will be taking up the Bento challenge on the 13th. I don’t intend to mention this again in the next 6 months but Islay if you are reading the starting weight is 11st 11lb…

The cookbook cull continues and I have a dilemma over Delia. I do not read Delia for pleasure ( I prefer cooks with passion for food, the only passion I’ve ever seen Delia demonstrate was her infamous shouting at the crowd when Norwich were losing) , I wasn’t even taught

how to cook from watching her programmes ( I learned from watching Mum and trying to pass an o level in Home Economics – allegedly I even know what those symbols are on clothes labels…allegedly). However there is a generation and a half out there, about 30-65 which keeps a copy of Delia’s cookery course in their kitchen as a sort of lifebelt…It’s like that game “What would Madonna do” (or perhaps that only happens in India Knight novels) instead when you don’t know what to do in a cooking crisis you ask “what would Delia do”. Me I phone Mum and she consults her copy of Delia’s Complete Cookery Course. ..I only have her How to Cook Books 1 and 2.

There are things I would like to do properly, for example I can’t make rice but Husband can. One day after grimacing his way through my latest offering he took control, went into the kitchen for the How to Cook and next time we had rice he cooked it – and sickeningly it was perfect.

So do I stick it on Amazon as secondhand or do I bite the bullet and as a new years resolution work my way through it…we do have an abundance of eggs in the fridge at the moment…and cheese…and Husband did enter my life some years ago complete with his own omelette pan…

Further Adventures in Pizza

Today’s pizza has been brought to you by the letters T and…well OK that’s not going to work as I’d have to list 6 letters. Yes we’ve been having another go at pizza, my role this time has been restricted to buying some mozzarella, easi-blend yeast and then sitting on the work surface reading out the recipe whilst my minions scurry around the kitchen obeying my every whim – except it doesn’t quite work like that as there’s lots of “are you sure that’s what the recipe says” and “HOW much olive oil !”

Teenager has been chef for the evening with Husband as comis. No need for the fridge technique as we’ve had time to spare this evening. The other main difference was the recipe. Like a lot of people who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s Husband and my immediate reaction to a recipe that doesn’t work out as planned is “well what would Delia do ?” So we dug out her cookery course and I sat there on top of the washing machine reading the instructions out to the Teenager.

Apart from the fact that the bottom of my cooker is covered in melted mozzarella (put the topping too close to the edge of the pizza), it was a very successful and fun evening – don’t know if it was the new recipe or the yeast that resolved yesterdays problems but we have had a very successful movie night… the rest of the day has been a bit of a disaster but its been nothing too serious – I’m saving the Brownies for tomorrow though as I seem to have lost my cooking mojo.