My mother, roast chicken and me…
Tom Parker Bowles’s new cookbook is a great collection of recipes inspired as much by childhood food as by his travels abroad.
What does award-winning food writer Tom Parker Bowles get asked all the time? Whether his mother, aka The Duchess of Cornwall, is a good cook. It must be infuriating, because Parker Bowles is pretty nifty in the kitchen in his own right – a point proved by this latest book, which is a collection of the recipes he has perfected over the years. They come from all corners of the world, including his childhood kitchen, garnered from his travels, noted down on scraps of paper, deciphered later at home and written up into ‘a battered old leather recipe book, dark blue and stained with fat, ketchup and chilli sauce.’
Let’s Eat is the published version, a great, casual cookbook, full of things you’d like to eat, some familiar, others of exotic provenance, a few a potent blend of the two. Parker Bowles’s recipe for the old standard, cottage pie is a case in point. He uses ‘beef mince… freshly minced, it does make all the difference. This is a cheap dish, but shouldn’t be a mean one.’ But then, he says, he likes a good ‘kick of warmth’ too. ‘I use one or two scotch bonnets, they’re pretty fiery, but have a lusciously fruity tang.’ Scotch bonnets can blow your head off – indeed, so potent are they that he advises opening a window before you cook them – ‘these chillies can create a gas that tends to get children crying and wives hacked off …’
So what does his mother cook when she’s at home? Roast chicken, says Parker Bowles. ‘My wife swore that if she heard me mention this dish one more time, she’d shove it where the sun don’t beam. This is a classic recipe. My mother insists that chopping off that dangly bit above the cavity and putting it on top of the bird improves the avour…’
For further gems from the Parker Bowles cupboard, see below…
Let’s Eat by Tom Parker Bowles, with photography by Cristian Barnett, published by Pavilion, priced £25.
- 1kg bream, filleted, skinned and pin-boned
- Juice of 2 limes
- 3 tomatoes, skinned, de-seeded and finely sliced
- 3 jalapeño chillies or one habañero, finely chopped
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- Big handful of coriander, finely chopped, plus extra sprigs to garnish
- 4 soft tortillas, fried until crisp (optional) to serve
- 1 avocado, cut in half and sliced lengthways to serve
Slice the fish into 1cm-wide strips, then cut into dice. Put in a bowl, mix with the lime juice and leave in the fridge, covered, for 30 mins or until the fish is completely white and opaque. Gently mix in the diced tomatoes, chillies, onion, coriander and a pinch of sea salt. Serve on the tortillas, if you like, with slices of avocado and sprigs of coriander.
MY MOTHER’S ROAST CHICKEN (pictured top)
- 1 unwaxed lemon
- 1 x 1.8kg chicken, rinsed inside and out with cold water, then drained
- 75g butter For the gravy
- 200ml dry white wine
- 450ml chicken stock
Preheat the oven to 220C. Pierce the lemon with a small knife and ‘shove it up the chicken’s bottom’. Season the bird with salt and pepper, inside and out, then massage the butter all over it. Cook for 20 mins, then turn the oven down to 180C and cook for a further 40 mins.
Poke a skewer into the thickest part of the thigh: the juices should be golden, not pink. If not, cook for a little longer. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 15-20 mins.
For the gravy: spoon excess fat from the roasting tin, leaving a little in the tin. Put the tin over a high heat. When everything starts bubbling, deglaze with the white wine. Simmer until the alcohol cooks off, then add the stock, stirring all the time. Tip in any juices from the resting chicken. Boil to reduce a little, then strain through a sieve into a warm jug. Serve the chicken with the gravy.
Daily tip from the lady archive
“PEOPLE cannot help being influenced by their surroundings and their environment; therefore how all important it is that both of these should be healthy and cheery, for health and happiness both go hand-in-hand.”The Lady. The Blessing of Old Health, 18th November 1920