I take a jazz-flavoured approach to food. It is all about improvising with the available ingredients but I don’t disparage recipe books (standards) because they encourage you to expand your palette even if you play fast and loose with the details. Today I turned back to Jerusalem, a cookbook I received a couple of years ago and which has that mix of narrative and detail that draws me back to it as a reference point on my kitchen shelf.
Today I tried poached chicken, following the outline of the recipe if not slavishly adhering to every detail. I set some chicken thighs boiling in water along with chopped carrot and parsnip, a quartered onion and some salt, before turning down to a gentle simmer. Jane was around to keep a nose on the proceedings so I popped out to grab some more ingredients and, on my return, I stirred the chicken and set some finely sliced onion browning in a spoonful of ghee. Yes, that’s an Indian ingredient; remember that I’m improvising and making use of what I’ve got!
Once the onion was beginning to brown (helped by a gentle sprinkle of Bicarbonate of Soda), I added bulgur wheat, salt, ground allspice and coriander, chopped parsley and some salt. Once that had briefly cooked together, I took most of the stock from the chicken pot – this is a ‘nothing wasted’ dish.
Finally, with the chicken and bulgur wheat ready, I heated a bit more ghee with a sprinkle of salt and fried off some flaked almonds. Serving up the chicken on a bed of the bulgur wheat and sprinkled with the almonds and bit more parsley, it made a fantastic meal – and dinner lined up for tomorrow and probably a portion for the freezer.