Donal Skehan

Roast Chicken with Lemon and Oregano and Ready for Spring!

January really is one of those months that my appetite doesn’t know what it wants.  One half of me wants something warm and comforting to hold off the the cold weather and the other half has had it up to here with rich stodgy winter food.  So trying to find the balance between the two is often difficult.  My solution has been to stick with the winter foods for now, but generally teaming them up with a light side salad, bulghur wheat packed with fresh flavours and spiky lemon dressings, which is so far working pretty well as a compromise.  This is all fine for now but I am so ready for some new foodie inspiration and thankfully spring is just around the corner, so things are most definitely looking up!  In fact we are busy getting the garden ready to plant some vegetables for year 3 of my kitchen garden project.  This year will by my year- I’m telling ya!  No spinach going to seed, no dead as a dodo carrots, no this year it’s going to be all change… I hope!

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Roast Chicken with Lemon and Oregano

Roast chicken really is one of the dishes I cook the most, so I am always looking for ways to mix it up. My favourite way to roast a chicken is to smother it in a garlic and herb paste, but this method comes a very close second, and makes a nice change. The beautiful thing about roast chicken is that it has so many uses. With some added extras like crunchy roast potatoes and some steamed veggies it will feed a crowd of 4-6 people, but on top of that it’s what you can do with the leftovers, that gets me excited! Chicken noodle soup, Leftover chicken stir fry, Chicken and sweetcorn soup, the possibilities are endless! Whatever you do with yours, this recipe makes a beautifully cooked chicken which is left with delicious subtle citrus flavour. The general rule when it comes to roasting chicken is to cook 20 minutes per pound and then 20 minutes extra.

Serves 4-6
1 chicken about 1kg in weight
3 onions, halved
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 lemon, halved
1 tablespoon of dried oregano
A generous seasoning of sea salt and ground black pepper

For the gravy:
1 teaspoon of vegetable bouillon powder
1 glass of white wine
1 tablespoon of plain flour

Preheat the oven to 200oC and place the chicken and red onion halves in a roasting tin. Drizzle the chicken with olive oil and give it a good squeeze of lemon juice. Slice the top of the garlic bulb and push inside the chicken along with the lemon halves. Sprinkle with the dried oregano, sea salt and ground black pepper. Place in the oven for around 50 minutes or until the juices run clear and the chicken is cooked all the way through.

Transfer the chicken and onions to a chopping board with grooves that will allow the juices to run off without loosing any.  Cover with tinfoil and allow to sit while you prepare the gravy. You could scrape the contents of the pan into a small saucepan, and add the wine if you want but I find it just as easy to plop the roasting tin on top of the hob, whack up the heat and add in the white wine.

Whisk the white wine into all the encrusted bits and juices in the pan, it should help to loosen everything up.  Whisk in the vegetable bouillon powder and then a little boiling water (about another wine glass full) until you have a consistency you are happy with. If you want a thicker gravy, whisk 1 tablespoon of flour into the gravy.  Simmer until it reaches your desired thickness and pour into a small jug or gravy boat.

To carve the chicken, I find the easiest way is to start with the legs, cutting each off, by inserting a knife in where the leg meets the breast and jiggling your knife around until you can cut all the way through.  Using a similar technique remove the wings.  I like to slice the breasts off in one foul swoop, so starting at the top of the bird in the middle, slice the breasts off on either side.  You can then slice the breasts into smaller pieces, so that everyone gets a bit of white meat too!  If you want to get every last bit of meat off the chicken at this point I recommend you get your hands involved and pick any remaining breasts meat off along the little bits of meat along the back.

I pop the carcass into a resealable bag and then into the freezer, and when I have 3 or 4 (and am feeling weird about having carcasses in my freezer), I make a big batch of chicken stock!

Serve the chicken with gravy, roast potatoes, some steamed veggies or even my latest obsession creamy roasted jerusalem artichokes.

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Pink Pearl Soup and a late start to the New Year!

The floors have been swept, hoovered and washed, the kitchen has been bombed, blitzed and scrubbed and we are just about back to some sort of sense of normality after the TV series shoot.  While everyone else was getting into the swing of New Years resolutions, diets and spring cleans, I had my hands full so didn’t exactly start the year with the same as I normally do, full of plans and projects.  I hate to be late to the party but this week, slightly behind schedule, I’ve been busy planning for 2011!

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Pink Pearl Soup

While some soups are a little bit measly and aren’t really more that a starter, this soup is packed with things to keep you going a little longer. Pearl barley really is a great storecupboard ingredient to have, it really beefs up soups like this and makes them more of a meal. Be aware that the pearl barley will continue to soak up the liquid after you have cooked it, so if you are reheating this, you may need to add a little extra water to loosen it out.

Serves 6-8 portions
1 tablespoon of sunflower oil
2 onions, roughly chopped
5 celery stalks, roughly chopped
2 green peppers, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1/2 head of red cabbage
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
300g of pearl barley
1 litre of vegetable stock
Sea salt and ground black pepper, to season

Add the oil to a large pot over a high heat and add in the onions.  Fry for 1-2 minutes until they are soft.

Add in the rest of the vegetables and fry for a further 3 minutes until they have softened a little.

Add in the chopped tomatoes and pearl barley and stir through.  Top up with the vegetable stock and bring to the boil.

Simmer for about 20 minutes or until the pearl barley is tender.

Serve straight away or set aside to reheat later.

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Kitchen Hero! Recording A TV Series!

Pinch me! It’s real!  I can finally talk about it completely openly now that I have actually done it.  Up until now I didn’t want to jinx it by talking about it too much but I can reveal officially here on the blog, that we have just finished recording a 13 part series for RTÉ, which will be shown this spring 2011.  EXCITEMENT!

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Healthy Recipe Roundup!

There is no avoiding the huge surge of interest in healthy eating throughout January and the first half of a new year.  As much as the attention probably should take prominence during most months I suppose coming after December, a month where people are expected to over indulge it comes at just the right time.  My theory on healthy eating and a healthy diet is to really keep it interesting, try new ingredients and of course to never deny yourself a big slice of chocolate cake every now and then!  So rather than trying to beat them, I’m joining the diet band wagon and have a roundup of my favourite healthy eating recipes!

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