Another from my Sunday Times recipe series, again very relevant right now - November and the run-up to Christmas are definitely a time when a little bit of scrimping wouldn't go amiss... They aren’t cheap eats in the completely threadbare student sense, but ideas for entertaining on a tighter budget. After all, feeding friends at home is perennially the new going out, isn’t it? They involve cheaper cuts and types of meat and poultry and fewer or less luxurious ingredients. No, it’s not exactly rocket science. They are also easy, so you needn’t worry even if entertaining at home previously meant buying in extra M&S or online ready meals.
Lazy baked chicken with soy and ginger
I could just as easily have called this Chinese-style roast chicken. Either way, it’s slowly cooked under foil, then uncovered to turn a luscious golden brown. There’s no messing about making gravy: you’ll find it’s all there, intense and fragrant, with the onions in the roasting tin at the end. All it needs is rice - or noodles or quinoa, or even just some bread. A salad afterwards is a bonus, but not essential. Cutting corners: if you are short of time, cook the chicken on 190C/fan oven 170/Gas Mark 5 for 1 hour 25 minutes, removing the foil and adding the sesame oil after 1 hour; if you have no sake/wine/sherry/vermouth, add another 100ml of stock with a generous squeeze of lemon juice; if you have pumpkin seed oil or a good quality walnut oil, you can use that if you don’t want to invest in sesame.
Serves 4 (or more)
Oil or a butter paper for greasing the tin
2 large onions, peeled, halved and finely sliced (not chopped)
1 large chicken
4 or 5 garlic cloves, peeled and squashed
30g fresh ginger, peeled and sliced as thinly as possible
2 star anise
Freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp sugar (preferably light brown)
4 tbsp soy sauce
300 ml chicken stock
100 ml sake (or dry white wine, sherry or dry vermouth)
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
Parsley or coriander, chopped (optional)
Heat the oven to 150C/fan oven 130C/Gas Mark 2.
Lightly grease a roasting tin and lay the sliced onion in it.
Untie the chicken and, if there’s a wodge of fat just inside the cavity, pull it out and discard it. Put the garlic, ginger and star anise inside the bird and sit it on the onions and grind pepper all over (no salt because of the soy sauce). Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar, then 2 tbsp of the soy. Pour the stock and sake over it. Sprinkle it with the remaining sugar and soy sauce.
Cover the chicken loosely with a large piece of foil, but seal the foil tightly round the edge of the tin. Bake for 2 hours, then remove from the oven.
Raise the heat to 180C/fan oven 160C/gas Mark 4. Uncover the chicken, baste with the pan juices, then pour over the sesame oil. Cook uncovered for 30 minutes. Rest the bird for 10 minutes before carving.
Fish the ginger out of the cavity, as far as you can, ready for those who want it, and keep back some of the pan juices and onion to pour over rice/noodles/quinoa. Sprinkle with parsley or coriander, if using.