Olly Smith is well known as a wine writer and presenter, respected for helping the nation to find and appreciate good wine.
But he's also a keen food lover and has written his own cookery book Eat and Drink full of his favourite recipes, with an emphasis on food that great to drink with. The collection is wide-ranging and includes recipes handed down in the family as well as his own creations and adaptations. The writing style is very much like his energetic speaking style and very down to earth. And there's an endearing ode to Roger Moore than runs throughout the book.
I confess that I do like photographs in cookery books and those are missing here. But it's an easy read with many appealing recipes including a tangy orange and squidgy almond cake, north sea chicken in a hijack sauce, lavender-studded roasted lamb rump, orange blossom rum babas, great granny Lennard's crunchie pie and sticky bourbon beef. Do those not sound wonderful?
What drew me to the recipe below is that it starts a lot like my slow cooker chicken, where I cook the whole bird for several hours; the cooking liquid is alternatively water with white wine, or water on its own and I'll usually throw in onions, carrot and leek peelings, if I have them, and a bay leaf or two. This recipe starts off somewhat similarly but then mixes the wine-poached chicken into a sauce made from the reduced cooking liquid and green grapes.
Jolly Olly's Chicken Veronique
1 kg organic or free range chicken
50 grams butter
1 onions, roughly chopped
100 grams button mushrooms, sliced thinly
500 ml fruity white wine
500 ml chicken stock
300 ml or 1/2 pint double cream
200 grams white grapes, halved
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Note: We discovered as we were about to start cooking, that our mushrooms had gone off, so we omitted them from the recipe. I adore mushrooms, so will make sure I include them next time.
- Preheat the oven 180 C / 350 F/ Gas 4 and season the chicken with salt and pepper.
- Heat an ovenproof casserole dish, big enough to fit the chicken snugly, until medium hot. Add the butter and heat until foaming and then add the chicken and seal on each side for 1-1.5 minutes until golden brown. Remove the chicken and set aside.
- Add the onion to the dish and cook for 5 minutes until softened, then turn the heat up, add the mushrooms and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Place the chicken back into the pan on top of the vegetables and pour in the white wine. Bring to the boil, then add the chicken stock and return to the boil.
- Season with salt and pepper, cover and place in the oven for an hour until the chicken is tender and cooked through. Remove the chicken and set aside to cool.
- Return the dish to the hob and bring to the boil. Add the cream and cook until the whole mixture has reduced by a third. Check the seasoning, add the grapes and then set aside.
- Strip the chicken of all the meat and shred into 5cm strips (the carcass can be used to make stock). Add the chicken to the sauce and mix well.
- Place back on the heat until bubbling, check the seasoning once more, then serve with some basmati rice.
No photos, I'm afraid because a) I forgot to take any during the earlier stages and b) the finished dish is definitely not photogenic!
I adapted the recipe to use my slow cooker for the first part, so didn't pre-soften the onions, nor seal the chicken; since one strips away the skin when taking all the meat off the carcass, I couldn't see the point in sealing and the onions softened completely during the long period in the slow cooker.
I did use stock, as per Olly's ingredients, but don't think that was necessary - I didn't find the cooking liquid any deeper in flavour than what I've always achieved using wine and water only.
Rather than put the cooked bird aside, make the sauce and put it aside, then strip the bird and add back to the sauce and reheat I re-ordered the steps and set the chicken aside only while I transferred the cooking liquid sauce on the heat. I stripped the chicken meat while the sauce was reducing and then, once it was reduced, put the meat straight into it, so the meat quickly reheated in the hot sauce.
We had it with potatoes, which were put on to boil while the sauce was reducing.
Because I switched to using the slow cooker, we probably had a larger volume of liquid to reduce than had we used Olly's recipe as it's written so it took a fair old time!
The finished result was delicious!
Olly Smith's Eat and Drink is currently available from Amazon for £8.84 (RRP £14.99).