In the middle of summer, on a muggy kinda of day, where the fog lays like a thick blanket, I always feel like lighting the fireplace in my wee cottage, even it it´s in the middle of summer. And I´ll admit, for days like this, I long a bit for autumn...
Not that I want summer to give heed for a cooler autumn, but I yearn for a reason to curl up inside with a blanket, a good book, with the fireplace crackling like a tender love song from a friend in the distance, and a comforting meal roasting in the oven.
Foggy days are the best days to go shopping in my village for ingredients to cook up that comforting meal, simply because its all so magical with its thatched cottages, cobblestoned streets, old churches and old school pubs.
My greengrocer´s lovely boutique, is always filled to the brim with fresh produce, both from local farmers and a wee bit more far flung places like Spain and Italy, and he always, almost intuitively knows what I´m looking for, or perhaps he takes the opportunity to slightly guide my impressionable soul towards the produce he wants sold...either way, as I entered he held up a basket with ripe and juicy red plums, that I, of course, simply couldn't resist.
"Let´s have 10 plums", I suggested, and he simply looked at me with his hands resting on his hips, "alright let´s have 20 plums", I said shyly smiling, before he got in there with both hands and happily filled my shopping tote up with these deliciously red little treats.
Of course these juicy round fruits taste like heaven, but I also adore their deep ruby like colour, that makes the sauce that I had in mind for my comfort meal that day, more like a sweet deep purple, the yummiest colour.
This is one of the many reasons I adore living in the countryside. The fresh produce, the small shops and their owners that now you by name, and the space, the green rolling hills in which I daily find such inspiration, are the perfect backdrop for my cooking.
Down through narrow streets I made my way, and payed my local butcher, who kindly gave me a few marrow bones for the Mr Whiskey, and a plump free range and organic chicken to roast up, a visit. He is such a character, and I remember well the very first time I stepped inside his shop when I first moved to the countryside.
I don't remember what I was planning on cooking that day, but he came to with a big piece of meat, took one good look at me as he placed it on the scale and said... "You would know what to do with this piece of meat would you, my love..?"
I had to smile.
Perhaps he mistook my look of sheer joy at the sight of the fine piece of meat for bewilderment at what to do with it...so I just smiled, which usually keeps my mouth out of trouble...
Foggy days are ever so magical.
On foggy summer days, which simply are some of my favourite days, as the air is warm and the landscape is wrapped in the lovelies veil of a fairytale, nothing really beats nestling up inside a wee tea room or local pub for a warming little afternoon tea with cake.
It´s become a ritual really, to have cake on the first day of the week, foggy or not, to sort of start it off on the right kinda foot, if you know what I mean...
Those lovely little rituals that breaks up the everyday filled with routines and chores, are like sprinkles on a cake.
So which a bursting tote, filled to the brim with plums, chicken, herbs and potatoes, I walked passed the old church in my village and took a seat by the window at a local pub for a warm afternoon tea, with a guilt free side of the loveliest sticky toffee pudding you have ever tasted...i simply must persuade the cook to share the recipe with me.
But that is for another day...
Plum roast chicken with basil and lemon
(for 4 people)
Prep time: 15 min
Cooking time: ca 1 hour and 10 min
One free range organic chicken of ca 500g
About 6 medium sized red or purple plums.
A handful of fresh basil
4 cloves of garlic
ca 75g of unsalted butter
A dash of fresh chives (optional)
Freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 200 C
I usually don't rinse the chicken in cold water, put rather pat it dry with a kitchen towel.
I also make sure to take it out of the fridge about 30 min before I´ll begin preparing it in order for the chicken to rest before hitting the oven. At this time I also take out the needed butter for it to soften a bit.
After about 30 min I gently stuff with my fingers, butter that is at room temperature, right underneath the skin on the back of the chicken.
(If you´re uncertain how to do this, go here to watch a tutorial, however feel free to butter first and season after, I find that is much less of a mess.)
Butter a medium sized pie dish with ca 3 cm edge, but you can use any roasting tray as long as there are about 3cm walls/edges to your tray to keep all the juices in, as you roast the chicken and the plums.
I usually butter the tray first and then put the whole chicken in with its backside up.
Feel free not to butter the dish, I however, I am quite the butter fiend, and I find that is simply makes the chicken more delicious...
When you´ve gently stuffed the butter underneath the chicken skin and evenly massaged it out to cover the whole back and legs, I do the same on the outside of the chicken.
I gently massage butter at room temperature all over its back, and crooks and crannies, leaving some butter knobs in little folds and nooks, before generously seasoning with ocean salt and freshly ground pepper.
Slice up a lemon into four wedges, and leave two in the carcass with a handful of fresh basil, and a few gently crushed garlic cloves with the skin on.
Around the chicken arrange the pitted and halved plums.
With the back of your hand or a knife, gently crush a few more garlic cloves with their skin on, and tuck in with the plums.
Your chicken is now ready to roast!
Roast it for about 45 min in the middle of the oven on 200 c before lowering the heat to 180 c for the remaining 30 min.
Total time in the oven is about: 1 hour and 15 min, or until the chicken has a deep and golden glow.
The plums will bubble away, and lovingly mix in with the juices from the chicken as it roasts. Every ingredients will caramelise, melt, bubble and create the most aromatic sauce for which to serve with your chicken later.
All you need to do now is to put yourself a lovely red, perhaps a Melbac, enjoy some slices of a great Italian salami, and set the table.
I usually serve this chicken with new potatoes with the skin on, scrubbed and washed, then boiled in salt water for about 20 min.
When ready bash them a few times in the pot with the lid on, butter a wee baking tray, and throw them in with a generous know of butter, and season with salt. Put in the oven for about 5 min with your chicken.
Serve warm with some fresh chives finely cut on top.
Ps: If you only are one or two people, roast this chicken up anyway, and make a lovely plum and basil chicken ragu with pappardelle with the left overs, recipe coming up next.