Hay Roast Chicken and Morel Mushrooms

Hay Roast Chicken
I don’t recall how I first heard about cooking things in hay but I saw an episode of a show with Tom Kerridge in it on the BBC that reminded me recently.

“Now that right proper grub” he said (or something like that, probably) in his West Country twang.

I was a little sceptical to be honest. I love the smell of cut grass and hay, it reminds me of growing up at home playing in the woods and fields at the back of the house, but to flavour meat? Hmm.

It certainly looks the part – chicken, baking parchment and straw – this is hipster heaven. I believe Mr Kerridge added some cider to his but I stuck with some chicken stock I had in the freezer. Chicken simmered in chicken stock: it’s pretty chicken-ey.

I’m not sure about the hay effect, but then I did use greaseproof baking parchment to cover the meat as I didn’t have enough muslin cloth left to do the job, maybe it did too good a job job of separating the bird and the hay. I find whole chicken a sod to flavour at the best of times though – get past the skin and it’s a often a fairly bland affair even after days of marinading.

The flavour, almost sweet and nutty, was definitely more noticeable from the bottom half, where it came in contact with the hay and the stock, so it was probably my fault for not being organised enough with the equipment. I’ll do this again one day.

To serve it I had some nice morel mushrooms, mixed cabbage and a reduction made from the cooking liquor with a little Muscat for good measure. Hay or not, this was a nice dish mind you and it made it a bit of fun for the kids. Lastly, to go with the theme, some shoestring fries – they kind of look like hay you see…..

Serves 3-4:

  • 1 whole chicken. Preferably one happily running around freely before it met it’s maker.
  • A few handfuls of hay.
  • 6 garlic cloves. Unpeeled and bashed with the side of a knife.
  • 3 bay leaves
  • A few sprigs of thyme
  • Muslin cloth (preferably not the parchment I used here).
  • About 500 ml of chicken stock
  • 3 or 4 morel mushrooms per person, depending on size.
  • Butter
  • Flat leaf parsley
  • A splash of muscat (couple of tbsp)
  • Salt
  • White and savoy cabbage thinly sliced and mixed
  • 2 small frying potatoes – Maris Piper or similar
  • Oil to deep fry

Wrap the chicken in muslin cloth with the garlic, bay leaves and thyme and tie. The parchment I used here was OK, but this would have been better.

Chicken with thyme and bay

Place in the bottom of a snug fitting lidded pot and pack the hay down the sides and over the top. Heat the stock and pour it over, place the lid on and cook for around 2 hours at 160ºC/320ºF – check it with a temperature probe.

Chicken in hay

Once done, remove the chicken and using a carving fork in the cavity, rinse off any hay under a tap. Pre-heat the oven as hot as it will go and put the chicken back in briefly, on a baking tray to crisp up/colour. Not too long or it will dry. Leave to rest under some foil and finish the rest.

Strain the liquor twice – through a regular sieve and then through a very fine one, or muslin cloth if you have either of them. Set aside in a jug.

Prep the veg – slice a mixture of savoy and white cabbage thinly and matchstick the potatoes (keep in water to stop them going brown, but dry well before using).

Place the cabbage in a steamer for a few minutes until softened, but not ‘school-dinner soggy’.

Fry the morels in a good knob of butter. Once nearly done, add a good splash of muscat (a couple of tbsp), stir and remove the morels, keeping them warm.

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Aided by my glamorous assistant…

Pour in the cooking liquor and reduce until it thickens and flavours intensify. Taste and season if necessary. Add the morels back to the pan, turn off the heat and stir through some chopped parsley and another knob of butter. Keep warm.

Pre heat the deep dat fryer.

Carve the chicken on a warmed plate and place on top of the cabbage. Spoon on the morels and a few tablespoons of the reduction – it should be very rich.

Last of all briefly fry the potatoes at around 170ºC/340ºF until crispy, it will take only a minute of two. Season with seat salt and serve them straight away or they can go soft.

A nice citrusy New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc went very down very nicely too.

Hay roast chicken with morel mushrooms

Roast Chicken and Ratatouille

Ratatouille and Roast Chicken

The problem with writing about food, particularly recipes, on a website such as this is that according to the nifty stats page, it has been viewed by a fair number of countries across the world now. That’s actually great, a testament to the power of the internet, but it creates a problem for me in that I write about dishes FROM across the world. What I mean is, for example, I recently had a hit on my Stir fried Indian recipe FROM India. What did they think of it?

Did they find it interesting, or did they wet themselves laughing at my attempt to create something from their wonderfully rich cuisine. Similarly, I had a hit from China on my Beef Chow Mein post. I hope they didn’t spray their  cup of tea all over the screen as they read it (although I think that one was pretty hard to get wrong…).

And so, I often find myself wrapped up in ‘authenticity’.  I think it’s a worthy cause and a tribute from the host country who spent years lovingly honing it. However, food IS for enjoying, right? If you prefer cream in your Carbonara, why not put it in? Or Chorizo in your Cesar Salad? I know they are not technically correct but is that the main consideration?

A lot of question marks there then but I think the answer is authentic is often the best as it’s been made that way for a reason. The flavours are well balanced for most people’s tastes.

Today, being short sunny respite in the otherwise shower of ‘number 2s’ that is the British summer of recent years, I felt like something a bit lighter and realised I had all the ingredients of Ratatouille. So, I dutifully took out the the Holy tome that is La Gastronomique which suggested simply tomatoes, courgette, aubergine (Zucchini and Egg Plant my American friends,  why do we have such different names for these?) and peppers, sauted in olive oil and unspecified ‘herbs’. The wider internet suggested all sorts of extras and omissions. I was going to write about this but as usual, The Guardian has covered it already…

Roast chicken is a perfect partner for this super-healthy dish and I immediately set about making it less healthy with the addition of Chorizo. I didn’t actually intend to, but it was worth it. I gather this is pretty authentic, but either way, it was pretty tasty…

Ratatouille Ingredients

Serves 2-3

  • 4 tomatoes, halved
  • 1 courgette
  • 1 aubergine
  • 1 onion
  • 1 red and 1 green pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 tbsp light olive oil
  • A little extra virgin olive oil to serve.
  • Thyme and parlsey (chopped – about a tbsp)
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 (or 3) chicken ‘supremes’ on the bone.
  • 8 (or 12) slices Chorizo sausage.
  • A little oil
  • Salt and pepper

Start with the chicken: In an oven proof pan, season then fry the chicken, skin side down, under well browned. Flip over and add the Chorizo. Put in a low oven for about 25 minutes.

Slice the onion thinly and finely chop the garlic. Fry in the olive oil in a heavy pan (with a lid) until soft. Chop the vegetables into large chunks and stir into the pan gently. Add the herbs and a little salt and pepper. Put the lid on and gently simmer for 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Stir gently occasionally and add a little water to get things going if needed.

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Use a temperature probe to check the chicken is just cooked in the middle (65OC/150OF should do it) without overdoing it. Leave to rest in the pan.

Season the ratatouille if needed and serve it immediately with the chicken and Chorizo with a nice Sauvignon Blanc in the garden. Nice.

Ratatouille MixedIMG_0566-imp