Pot-roast chicken and chickpeas

We have been living on reduced rations this week, not because it’s January and everyone else is a) on a diet or b) broke, but because our renovation work has started and we are a) somewhat nervous about spiralling costs and b) our pantry supplies are in a series of cardboard boxes on the kitchen floor because the old pantry is kaput and the new one isn’t built yet.

I knew this day was coming so I’ve been a bit slack on the shopping front lately. But despite having the world’s smallest freezer we almost always have a frozen chicken in it, so even when it looks like there’s nothing to eat we can treat ourselves to a roast chicken. But with no potatoes – and very few vegetables at all except what’s in the garden – I decided to pot-roast the chicken instead. Discovering that we were all out of my all-time favourite pantry staple, the humble tin of whole peeled tomatoes, meant a bit of creative thinking was required. This delicious pot-roast was the result.

Easy Chicken Pot-Roast With Chilli And Chickpeas

Pot-roast chicken and chickpeas
This may take an hour to cook, but it requires very little preparation and minimal hands-on time. You can add more liquid and shred the chicken before serving for a hearty, ‘bowl food’ presentation, or serve with rice and/or flatbreads to make it go further. You can always add more vegetables too. Either way, something green and crunchy is a good accompaniment.

2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
1-2 small dried chillies (or a chipotle pepper)
1 free-range organic chicken, patted dry with kitchen towel
a good splash of white wine
250ml good chicken stock
1 x 400g tin of chickpeas or other white beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped
a handful of parsley, leaves only, roughly chopped
50g spinach or kale, washed and roughly chopped
salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy, lidded pot (like a Le Creuset), then add the garlic and onions. Saute gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chillies and cook for a minute, then raise the heat to medium and add the whole chicken. Brown the chicken on all sides (as best you can) then pour in the wine and a splash of water. Let it bubble and sizzle away for a minute, then add the remaining ingredients – tuck them down the sides of the chicken. Put the lid on the pot and let simmer gently for 35-45 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure the liquid hasn’t evaporated. There should be between 2-5cm of liquid in the bottom of the pot.
When the chicken is cooked, remove it to a warmed serving plate and cover with a tent of foil. Keep warm (the chicken, not you). Using a stick blender, whiz what’s left in the pot to a chunky, rustic sort of sauce. Taste for seasoning (and add a little hot water if it is very thick), then pour some of the sauce over and around the chicken, then bring the rest to the table in a jug. Serves four to six. Enjoy!

Tomatoes fit for Simon Gault

Yesterday afternoon I hung out with chef and Masterchef NZ judge Simon Gault. Yep, it was just me and him. And his publicist. And a sound guy. And, oh, about 85 other people who had queued up to listen to him talk. Of course, it was work for him – he’s on a tour spruiking his new book – and it was work for me (I guess I was helping him spruik his new book) but it was really good fun.

If you think I’m being a terrible namedropper by throwing his name into conversation, you should have heard him. He’s swum with some pretty big culinary fish and made some big cheese connections as a result. And he has some incredible stories to tell about all of them. He reckons he’s not into celebrity chef culture but he’s definitely got a tell-all book in him. Or at least a film.

But my favourite bit was when he was talking about tomatoes, and bemoaning the horrible ones on sale in supermarkets. It was all I could do not to go up to him afterwards and say, ‘check out my tomatoes’. But I can say that to you, can’t I?

This is yesterday’s harvest: nine fleshy heirloom tomatoes, two rather stunted ears of sweetcorn and one juicy strawberry. I planted the tomatoes in November – which is pretty late – but our endless summer has been kind to them. It’s supposed to rain hard today (with water restrictions looming we are all keeping our fingers crossed) so I thought I better pick them just in case. We ate most of them last night, fried in olive oil and drizzled with red wine vinegar. Tomato heaven.

How is your garden growing at the moment?