Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Roast chicken with mascarpone, lemon zest and pancetta

IF one day I were to discover an old lamp in an attic and conjure up a genie, then my first wish would be a couple more inches (in height, stop sniggering at the back, dammit). And there lies the problem, getting into the loft in the first place. To be more specific, getting into my parents loft.
You see, the old folks are moving to a new place. They have decided that at the combined age of 380 they need something a bit smaller, on the ground floor, with a warden on call to meet their every need.
The trouble is that going from a three-bedroom house with garden to a one-bedroom flat means that you must start offloading stuff that you have no room for. Apparently, some of my things dating back to the Jurassic era are still stored at their house so, when I offered, tentatively, to lend them a hand my dad, quick as a flash, said: "There are some things in the loft you could get down for us."
Right. Well that's all well and good until you realise the only ladder on offer has about three steps. When I clambered up onto it I already had an awful feeling.
Somehow I managed to get the door open but I could only just reach the opening with my fingertips. The humiliation. I offered to stand on the very top of the ladder, on a wafer-thin bit of metal on which even the best circus performer might find it difficult to maintain his balance, but by then my step-mother, worried look on her face, was shouting: "No, no get down! It's not worth it, not for a few old football programmes." Phew! Saved by the bell.
Then she rubbed salt in the wounds. "It's alright, my nephew Gerald is coming round on Saturday, he's about 6ft 4. It will be no trouble for him." Well, whoopee-do Gerald. What's worst, I bet he finds that Aladdin's lamp.

Well I stuck to my guns for all of about five days. The Fat kid is now a girl racer. That's a female driving a boy-racer car. I finally took the plunge and bought her a Black Renault Clio Dynamique. Very sporty. Alloy wheels, low-profile tyres, one of those strip braking lights across the back window. All-singing, all-dancing. Then came the teething problems.
When we arrived to pick it up I noticed that the driver's side tyre was almost flat. "No problem," said Joe second-hand car salesman. "I'll pump it up for you."
"But it looks like there's a big gash in the thing."
"Oh, I'm sure it's nothing."
"But my daughter has to drive it all the way back to Southend. And she has a baby with her."
"I'm sure it will be ok. But if it needs sorting when she gets back, we'll pay."
We got it back to my place. "How does the radio work?" the Fat Kid asks.
"How am I supposed to know?" I respond helpfully. "I know as much about this car as you do."
Eventually we get out the logbook, find a code to tap in and seemingly get it working. No reception, though. Don't know whether it's sorted yet.
Back in Southend, the Fat Kid calls me the next day. "Tyre's completely flat," she says.
"Well, get someone to put the spare on and take it to Kwikfit or something and get it done. Get a receipt as well."
Twenty minutes later. "It's me." What a surprise, Fat Kid. "Pete tried to take the tyre off but the spanner doesn't fit. It's the wrong spanner."
"Well, call the AA out then. You're a member. They've got lots of spanners."
"Oh, yeah." Doh, Fat Kid. If she started thinking she'd be dangerous, love her.
Later again. "The AA man has changed the tyre but says I need the other one changing too. It's illegal."
Long and short of it, Second-hand Joe agreed to pay for them both, I "lent" Fat Kid some MORE money and now she has two new low-profile tyres and is cruising the Southend Seafront looking proud as punch. Don't know if the radio is working, mind.

Withers, Rosey and I decided to have a small wager in the Halfway before Wales' first rugby international. Rosey asked: "When do we think Wales will cock up and blow all that early optimism?"
I went for 10 mins. Wrong.
In fact, it was 45 seconds.
Welcome to the ever-recurring story of Welsh rugby and bitter disappointment. Back at work this week, and I'm already thinking of how many different ways to say: "WE WERE STUFFED!"
By 8pm I was pretty pie-eyed, and said cheerio to Withers with all the intention of having a kip before watching the Superbowl live.
Next thing I wake to look at the alarm clock. "3.30".
Time the Superbowl ended? "About 3.20". B*ll*cks.

Last Sunday I had a crack at a little Italian recipe for Roast Chicken I saw on Sky before my TV completely packed it, was hauled off to the TV repair shop and left me unable to watch England finally win some cricket matches and actually lift a trophy in Australia. Am I a jinx? Looks like it.
I cooked it with roast potatoes, a variety of veg and did my own gravy for possibly the first-time ever (where Sunday lunch is concerned, anyway).
What you need:
Free-range chicken.
Tub of Mascarpone.
Zest of one lemon.
3/4 slices of pancetta. Or the little packet of cubes (though slices may be better)
Sprig of Thyme, Sprig of Rosemary and half the lemon.
2/3 onions, sliced.

Heat the oven to about 200, gas mark 4/5.
Wash the chicken, remove any giblets.
Mix half the tub of Mascarpone with the chopped pancetta and the zest of the lemon. Add black pepper as required.
Then at the opposite end to the cavity of the chicken, Make a "pocket" under the skin with your hand.
Push the Mascarpone mixture up into the pocket. Brush any left over the top of the chicken.
Place thyme, rosemary and half a lemon in the chicken cavity.
lay a bed of sliced onion in the baking tray and put the chicken on top.
Following the cooking instructions on the wrapper, cook the chicken for as long as it says, but DON'T use foil. When the juices run clear the chicken is ready.
Remove and rest on a serving platter, cover with foil.
Put roasting tin on the hob and scrape around the onions, which have been cooking in the chicken juices.
Add a decent amount of flour and mix up, then add a good splash of white wine and as much chicken stock as you will need, considering the amount of guests. Bring to the boil stirring all the time. Then simmer, but continue to stir now and again.
When gravy is thick and veggies are ready, strain the gravy to remove the onions then serve everything up and pour over the gravy.

Thanks go to the lovely Lydia for the Thai meal she bought me as a belated birthday offering. You've joined the friends, not just acquantainces, club. Unfortunately, I haven't got any badges made up yet.

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