Thursday, 11 October 2012

Hurry up, go slow


Fast is fine but accuracy is final. You must learn to be slow in a hurry.

From the film Wyatt Earp

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Roasted chicken with clementines and arak

My late, lovely father-in-law, the Major, used to describe his army career as a succession of hurry up, go slow - intense periods of activity followed by lots of waiting around for something to happen.

I’m very good at the hurry up bit. I think most of us are, to the point where it’s a habit, backed up by a society which reinforces the notion that speed is good. Scan the newspaper, while talking on the landline and checking your Twitter feed on the mobile? Guilty.

It seeps into my downtime too. How lovely to listen to that play on the radio – I can clean the oven at the same time. If I have a long bath now, I bet I can finish the last 100 pages before bookclub tonight. Let’s take the dog for a walk, I can check my emails at the same time. Get a pedicure? The perfect opportunity to catch up on all those favourited features. And so on.

I need to stop it. I think we all need to stop it, or at least be aware that we’re doing it. Multitasking  is as old-hat as those 80s shoulder pads. It slows down your brain, scrambles your effectiveness and switches you to a permanent ‘frantic’ setting, which is terribly dull and, I’m quite sure, promotes wrinkles.

My perfect Sunday involves a leisurely walk around the flower market  followed by filling the house with a load of people for a lunch which will trickle into the glimmers of evening and possibly involve an improvised dinner too.

Last weekend we were having half a dozens pals over for Sunday lunch. On Saturday, I spent a pleasant hour or so going through Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s gorgeous new book, Jerusalem, picking out a menu I could pretty much prepare ahead, all the better to be enormously lazy on Sunday.

I picked out a butternut squash and tahini spread, where the squash is roasted with cinnamon and mixed with tahini, garlic and yoghurt (I would have liked to blog this for you, but it vanished too quickly to shoot, so delicious was it) to go with the charcuterie and olives and bowl of cherry tomatoes; the roasted chicken featured here needs marinating overnight and then simply bunging in the oven for 40 minutes or so, and  the set yoghurt pudding with poached peaches only requires flinging onto plates before you bring it to the table (I’ll share that recipe next week).

So on Sunday, I went to the market, played with some flowers, arranged a few things on plates, drank a chilly glass of prosecco and opened the door to cheerful people bearing wine and beer and hydrangeas. Lunch sprawled through the afternoon and into the evening. The last of our happy band left at 11.30.

So hurry up by all means. But don’t make it into a habit. Only do it if it allows you to go slow when it counts. Do what you’re doing. Be where you are.

Roasted chicken with clementines and arak, from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

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Just out of the oven. I made double the quantity so I used three trays – don’t crowd that chicken!

This seems like a bold, intense and unusual combination of flavours but they work beautifully together, creating a deliciously savoury dish enlivened and lifted by the clementines and fennel. I made twice as much, hoping to have some leftovers to tuck into during the week. I didn’t have any leftovers. It all vanished.

Serves four

100ml arak, ouzo or Pernod
4tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp grain mustard
3 tbsp light brown sugar
2 medium fennel bulbs (500g in total)
1 large, organic or free-range chicken, about 1.3kg, divided into 8 pieces, or the same weight in chicken thighs with the skin and on the bone
4 clementines, unpeeled (400g in total), sliced horizontally into 0.5cm slices
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
2 ½ tsp fennel seeds, slightly crushed
Salt and black pepper

Chopped flat-leaf parsley to finish

Rice or bulgar to serve

Put the first six ingredients in a large mixing bowl and add 2 ½ tsp of salt and 1 ½ teaspoons of black pepper. Whisk well and set aside.

Trim the fennel and cut each bulb in half lengthways. Cut each half into 4 wedges. Add the fennel to the liquids, along with the chicken pieces, clementine slices, thyme and fennel seeds. Stir well with your hands then leave to marinate in the fridge for a few hours or overnight (skipping the marinating stage is also fine, if you are pressed for time).

Preheat the oven o 220C/200C Fan/Gas Mark 7. Transfer the chicken and its marinade to a baking tray large enough to accommodate everything comfortably in a single layer (roughly a 30cm x 37cm tray); the chicken skin should be facing up. Once the oven is hot enough, put the tray in the oven and roast for 35-45 minutes, until the chicken is coloured and cooked through. Remove from the oven.

Lift the chicken, fennel and clementines from the tray and arrange them on a serving plate; cover and keep warm. Pour the cooking liquids into a small saucepan, place on a medium-high heat, bring to a boil then simmer until the sauce is reduced by a third, so you are left with about 80ml. Pour the hot sauce over the chicken, garnish with some chopped parsley and serve. Serve with plainly cooked rice or bulgar.

8 comments:

  1. A lovely recipe in an even lovelier post.

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  2. I like this post very much. Be where you are - very wise words indeed. I must try harder.

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  3. Hello Kath, Thank you so much. I try and remind myself every day just to be still for a bit. So difficult to achieve, but so important.

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  4. I loved this post. From the flower market to the food, it was perfection! I only have one question, how do I get on your guest list?

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  5. Great Wyatt Earp quote and a fab blog. Im waitinjg until Ive finished this comment before checking that text that's just come in. See how good Im being

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  6. I loved this reflective post - so nice to see the philosophy behind your distinctive and unique creativity. And the food looks fab too. Mx

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  7. Debs, Ha - believe me, it's not terribly exclusive...
    Mark, What I most admire about you is that you're the living embodiment of 'be the change you wish to see in the world'. x
    Mummy, Thank you darling one x

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