My nephew and godson Matt went to university a month ago and, by all accounts, he is having a blast (not that he’s told ME; hello Matt, are you ever going to reply to your aunt’s text?!). He loves food and cooking and, though I was pretty certain he wouldn’t be eating much other than toast and kebabs in his first term or year, I still thought I should send him off with some useful kit.
I bought him a chef’s pan like the one below, because it is my favourite, my most useful pan. You can make everything in it, from soup, to casseroles, to stews, to fried things and it is, a key factor when you have no dishwasher, very easy to clean.
I also bought him one of the first cookbooks I ever used and loved, Nigel Slater’s Real Fast Food, which, along with Delia Smith’s (oh yes, my secret is out now…) Complete Cookery Course, were my first cookbook purchases ever (I was given The Pooh Cookbook as a child, but that’s another story) and taught me so much. And, finally, I gave him Three Good Things which, for me, has the same qualities as Real Fast Food: short lists of ingredients, short methods, fantastic results.
I doubt the pan has left its box, and fully expect the pages of the books are still pristine. But, if he were tempted to use the pan, then this recipe for chicken sofrito would be a perfect place to start. It’s the sort of recipe I would usually skate over since it takes up two pages (of Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem, which is not a small book) and has no photo. But, despite first impressions, I noticed that it had a very short ingredients list (10, and that’s including salt and pepper) and that the method seemed pretty straightforward and, aha, I was right.
Most of the words on those pages are explaining the history of the dish and, though I am happy to know that this is Sephardi and its name comes from the Spanish verb sofréir, I am more happy to know that it works, is easy and delicious, and cooks beautifully in two pans (one for the chicken, one for the potatoes) in 90 minutes with very little prep. It’s a make-for-your-own-dinner or make-for-friends kind of recipe which is fine as it is, even better with something green like a salad to go with it. You don’t need a chef’s pan to make it, any large deep lidded pan, or casserole dish will do. I am really glad I bothered to read those two pages and you will be too; I wonder how many Matt has managed to read in his first weeks…
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
sunflower oil, 1 tbsp plus extra for frying
sugar, ¼ tsp
salt and pepper
chicken, about 1.5kg or 4 large pieces (like chicken legs)
sweet paprika, 1 tsp
ground turmeric, ¼ tsp
lemon juice, 2 ½ tbsp (1-2 lemons, depending on size)
Charlotte potatoes, 750g (Ottolenghi peels them; I don’t bother)
garlic cloves, 25
1. First, take a pair of scissors and cut the chicken all the way along the backbone to open it up. You want it to lie flat in the pan.
2. Put the tablespoon of oil into a large, lidded frying pan or casserole dish over a medium heat then place the chicken breast-side down and cook it for a few minutes until the skin is golden.
3. While the chicken is browning peel, trim and quarter the onion and mix together the sugar, paprika, turmeric.
4. Once the chicken has coloured, sprinkle it all over with the sugar and spice mix, add 1½ tablespoons of lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
5. Turn the chicken over so that the skin faces up, add the quartered onion, cover, lower the heat and cook (in total, including the time with the potatoes) for 90 minutes. NB The recipe says to check on it every so often, to ensure that there is always a little liquid at the bottom of the pan and to add a little boiling water if necessary but I have made this three times and never needed to add any.
6. When the chicken has been cooking for about half an hour, wash the potatoes, if necessary then dice them.
7. Heat about 3-4cm of sunflower oil in a medium saucepan (enough to cover your diced potatoes and garlic cloves) then add the potatoes and unpeeled garlic cloves (in batches, if necessary). Fry them until they have coloured a little and the potatoes have started to crisp then, when done, remove from the oil, drain on some kitchen paper and season with salt.
8. When the chicken has been cooking for an hour, lift it out of the pan, add the potatoes and garlic and stir them into the chicken cooking juices. Put the chicken back on top of the potatoes, cover again and cook for another 30 minutes.
9. The chicken should be free of any pinkish juice and falling off the bone after 90 minutes and the potatoes will be lovely and soft. Sprinkle over the last tablespoon of lemon juice and serve.