Well, it’s Christmas Eve and as I write this, I am sitting with a glass of wine, the fan blowing at full-force, and dare I say it, yet another peanut butter and chocolate chip cookie! It’s a warm one in Melbourne town, but I am trying to trick my mind into believing that I am actually sitting by a fire and that it is bitterly cold out. I need to do this because I am gearing up for Phillipe’s full English Christmas dinner in two hours, complete with Yorkshire puddings and turkey. Not really conducive to a hot Australian Christmas Eve. Nevertheless, it will be lovely, particularly because it is my darling nephew’s first Christmas.
So, in this Christmas Eve post, I would like to share my cheat’s Christmas dinner. You could nick down the street to get a roast chicken, I know, but this is so simple, and so rewarding when you sit down to enjoy the fruits of your not-so-laborious labour.
1 whole chicken
extra virgin olive oil
fresh rosemary, oregano and thyme
sea salt and ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic
2 cups chicken stock and a little chicken stock powder
5 waxy potatoes
1-2 tablespoons flour
2 cups frozen peas
1 tablespoon fresh mint
30 g butter
Preheat your oven to 180°C. Rinse the chicken, then pat dry. Place the chicken in a deep dish (I use a large, square ceramic dish for this), then drizzle over it a generous amount of olive oil. Get your hands in there and rub the oil all over and into the chicken. (I really had to face my raw chicken demons whilst doing this!). Generously season the chook. If you have whole sea salt crystals, throw some of these over it too. Now, I have fresh thyme, rosemary and oregano in pots outside, so I added a few sprigs of each, but you can add dried herbs also. Cut up your onions into eighths and scatter them around the chicken. Peel the garlic and cut the cloves into halves, then throw these in too. Pour the chicken stock into the dish and set aside.
After the chicken preparazione, line a large baking tray with baking paper. Cut up your carrots into large chunks (I cut mine half lengthways and widthways) and scatter these on the tray, then do the same with the potatoes. I left the skin on the potatoes because I love the flavour and it makes my job easier! Drizzle a good amount of the oil over the vegetables, season them really well and then scatter about 2 tablespoons worth of rosemary of the top. I also sprinkled a little chicken stock powder over the potatoes only. Please don’t feel limited to these vegetables — this was simply what I had in my cupboard on the day. Roast sweet potatoes with a little cumin sprinkled over the top would be delish, as would parsnips.
Place the tray in the oven on the bottom shelf, and the chicken on the top. You will need about an hour for both. Every 15 minutes or so, take the vegies out and toss them around. Don’t worry if the carrots are looking burned — they might be a little but they will be yummy and sweet for it! Do the same with the chicken, turning the chicken over each time to ensure even cooking in the juices. When the top of the chicken is nice and crispy, remove from the oven. Leave the veggies in and turn the oven heat down to low.
Pour the juices and any chunks of onion and garlic, into a small saucepan. Leave just a tiny amount of juice in the dish with the chicken, then place this back in the oven, soggier side up so the skin becomes crispy.
Now for the gravy. Add another cup of chicken stock to the saucepan mixture and mix through on a medium heat. Add a bit of extra thyme, a good splash of sherry and whisk well. Ensure the mixture is hot and well combined. Using a stick beater if possible, whiz the mixture until it becomes smooth. Be careful with this. If you’ve read about my soup whizzing adventures, you will know that I usually wear whatever is in the pan. Once the liquid is smooth, add 1 to 2 tablespoons flour and whisk through. Start with 1 tablespoon and see how you go. This may make the consistency thick enough. Season well and taste. You may wish to add a little more sherry, which I did, of course. Once you are happy with the taste, pour the mixture through a sieve into a bowl or gravy boat.
Cook the frozen peas for a couple of minutes only, so that they are nice and tender. Ensure they are well drained and pour them into a bowl. Season the peas and add butter and mint, then stir to combine.
Remove your crispy chicken and vegetables from the oven, allowing the chicken to rest for a minute. Cut and arrange the chicken onto four plates. Position the vegetables creatively on each plate and pour the delectable gravy over whatever you so choose.
I hope you all have a wonderful and Christmas and enjoy the company of those you hold dear. And please… do not even utter the word ‘diet’. Santa will hear you and you won’t get any presents! Feliz Navidad und mangiare bene! x