Simple pleasures

A right coq up


They don’t make music like they used to do they? It’s just noise now… in my day you could understand the lyrics… young people today… don’t know they’re born… And what do they think they look like?… 

We eat at Numero Uno in Clapham this week, a restaurant of the classic Italian-restaurant-in-England type from the good old days of package holidays and candles in Chianti bottles. Long before everything was sourdough this and artisan that. It was rubbish.

Well it wasn’t actually, Bee and I had a very nice time, the food was fine, in a kind of fine way. The type of food that would have been seen as ‘classy’ Italian back when Gazza was crying to Nessun Dorma in slow motion. There was even a waiter in crisp white shirt and a black waistcoat polishing glasses behind the counter. Yes, it was fine.

There’s been more Italian at home. We had risotto, creamy, rich and comforting arborio rice with prawns and courgettes filled a Sunday evening hole after a roast lunch with apple crumble for pudding at the in-laws. Now there’s a meal. 

The children have eaten trofie with ragù which they hoovered up, I’ve had clams for lunch, as I wrote about here (although I think one or two may have escaped as there’s a very strange smell coming from behind the bin) and last night we had home made orecchiette with jerusalem artichokes and pancetta. 

And while we are still tilted away from the sun for a little while longer, I made coq au vin. This is a proper winter dish; rich, meaty, dark, and served with a smooth mash and garlic green beans it was just the thing to send us to bed weighing a ton. I’d forgotten that it’s not really a quick meal for midweek, so I may save it for a languorous Saturday afternoon cooking session in future. But it’s delicious. Noah had it for his supper the next day too. Maya didn’t eat hers because she was having a tantrum over not having been given a lollipop at the hairdressers like her brother. Her loss. A night with no supper seems a high risk stake over a lolly if you ask me, but children do get stuck in their emotions sometimes… 

1 chicken, about 2kg. Get the best you can. In the restaurant we used to use Label Anglais, but that seems a little excessive for a Tuesday.

A bottle of red wine, preferably Burgundy, but something similar if not.
2 large carrots
green bits of a leek
1 bulb of garlic
2 medium onions
2 sticks of celery
Rosemary sprigs
For the garnish:
8 baby carrots
A handful or two of pancetta cubes
6-8 small round shallots, peeled and left whole
A handful of button mushrooms
Some more rosemary
A few slices of crusty white bread
A lot of chopped parsley

There is a quick version of this recipe in my head somewhere, I’m sure, which probably involves marinating the meat overnight, draining and browning it then simmering it with the veg and wine for an hour before straining out the veg and serving. Even that is fairly involved. Try it the following way first, then you can adjust as you like.

Joint the chicken into 8 pieces (legs, thighs, breast, wings) then marinate the meat with the vegetables, rosemary and wine overnight. 

Drain the meat, reserving the marinade and vegetables and fry the chicken all over until browned. Set aside, drain and fry the vegetables.

Add the wine marinade back to the pan, bring to the boil for five minutes then simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove the vegetables then add the chicken. Bring to the boil then simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour. Skim the surface every so often to remove the impurities.
While that’s cooking, roast the garnish ingredients with a little olive oil and seasoning until golden and cooked through.

Cook enough potatoes to make mash for four people, steam them dry then put through a ricer. Beat in some hot, melted butter, cream and milk until silky and season very well. 
Slice the bread into triangles and fry in some olive oil until golden then dip in the chopped parsley. 

Divide the mash between four bowls, top with the chicken and a good ladleful of the sauce. Add the roast vegetable garnish, top with a crouton and a good sprinkling of parsley and black pepper. 

This week
Three Billboards outside Epping, in Surrey. As brilliant as everyone says. Worth watching more than once. The two lead parts are brilliantly played, as are all the supporting roles.

Rumours by Fleetwood Mac. An old favourite, and yes, they don’t make them like that any more do they? 

We had supper at Chit chaat chai in Wandsworth one evening. The star of that meal was the lamb and potato patties with a green chutney and crisp, spicy fried okra on the side. They are worth travelling for.
Out stealing horses by Per Petterson. I felt like I was in the cold Norwegian forest, alone with the emptiness, staring wildly into the void.

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