In hindsight, the title of this blog is a bit inaccurate. I should have called it, “Bake AND Cook in Belfast”, since, if I’m honest, I prefer cooking to baking. I feel slightly ashamed to admit this, but it is a sad truth. Baking is much more precise and scientific than cooking, and I was never much of a scientist; I feel my chosen subject area – modern languages – is much more suited to cooking than baking.
I learned how to cook when I was living in France; I spent eight months in the Centre region as part of my degree, and was fascinated by the French attitude towards cooking. My colleagues kindly invited me to dinner at their houses on a number of occassions, and made everything look so effortless; one lady whipped up an INCREDIBLE chocolate mousse for dessert in five minutes flat, casually informing me, “pas de souci” (loosely translated as, “no worries!”), when I exclaimed over her culinary skills. Every meal had three courses, with wine to match each one, and they casually tore bits of bread off a loaf and munched them down with gusto throughout the evening. And nobody was stressed! The meals all lasted about three hours (I was never home before midnight when I went to someone’s house), and the wives meandered around the kitchen, making casseroles or soups or assembling cheese boards while the husbands chose the wine and carved the meat.
I was in awe. I longed to be like these women; I longed to be French. Or Nigella Lawson.
Nigella is the other reason why I love to cook. She is a true Domestic Goddess. And, burkini aside, I think she is amazing. She, like my French colleagues, makes entertaining effortless, and I hope, one day, to be as casually cool as she is while making dinner for endless friends every Friday night after a 40-hour week.
(I realise this isn’t how Nigella really spends her time, but still, a girl can dream).
So, for my last soiree with the boyf, I decided to channel Nigella, but put an Italian twist on things, just to mix it up a bit!
Pollo alla Pinot Grigio
(serves 6; adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Coq au Riesling)
- 12 skin-on chicken thighs on the bone
- 175g pancetta
- 1 leek, finely chopped
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 300g button mushrooms
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1 bottle (750ml) pinot grigio
- salt and pepper
- tagliatelle, to serve
1. In a casserole, fry the pancetta over medium heat; once they begin to crisp up and release yummy fat, pop in your chicken thighs, skin side down (you may need to do this in batches). Brown the thighs to get the skin nice and crispy, then take them out of the casserole and set to one side.
2. Add the leek and onion and fry with the pancetta until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and fry for one minute.
3. Pop in your carrots and mushrooms, then add your chicken thighs, bay leaves and the wine. Season well with salt and pepper, cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Serve with tagliatelle, or your favourite pasta.