Masala roast chicken and potatoes, Indian Salad, mango and mint dressing.
It’s quite rare that we sit down to a Sunday roast, just the two of us. I guess with Rocket being away so much, when we are together there is an overwhelming desire to lie in bed on Sunday mornings and this naturally provides a barrier to peeling, parboiling and gravy making. On occasion, when friends or family are coming over for lunch and we have made it out of bed, tidied and primped the house and our good selves, the atmosphere is quite different, more like Sunday.
To be more specific, it’s like the Sundays of my spotty youth, when the smell of the roast would pervade the air… floating up to the bedrooms where my brother and I, playing our records, loitered happily. The radio would be on…actually often two radios going, one in the kitchen with ‘Sunday music’, and one somewhere else in the house where my dad would be listening to his ‘wireless’ perhaps a play or maybe the news, dad would be doing some kind of small job. A knock on the door at around 11, a happy hubbub of voices and welcome…no question who it was, it was Aunty Lady Sedgewick and Uncle Henry the Eighth calling in after one of their walks.
Always pleased to see them, my brother and I would slide downstairs and join the merry band. Dad and uncle would each have a special sipping whiskey, with a little jug of water beside, Aunty would have a gin and tonic – no ice and a slice of lemon, mum might have a sherry or sometimes a Cinzano and lemonade.. they’d chat and joke in between tending to the veg in the steamy kitchen. The music would be playing in the background, old school music even for that time…a bit of Sinatra, Perry Como, a little Streisand. Then Aunty and Uncle would go off to tend their lunch at Portal Towers leaving us to our Sunday rite.
Dad and Uncle are now gone and we are the worse for their passing. These days Aunty Lady Sedgewick tells me she knows that it’s Sunday because she always puts marmalade on her toast on a Sunday, we know she will have her gin and tonic too – no ice, with a slice of lemon. It’s to do with marking Sunday as a different day, and while writing this I’ve become aware that we should celebrate the day more often. On high days and holidays in our home, when we are at our shiny best and being joined by loved ones, I might sip a gin and tonic and put on Sinatra so that I’m transported to those soulful Sunday mornings… how we all laughed and laughed in the steamy warmth of Canterbury Towers.
Last Sunday, we had a chicken to roast and we put a little twist on tradition… The idea had come to me as a meandering thought about a lamb kleftiko recipe we do, where the lamb, well marinated, cooks over the potatoes rendering them to a soft and unctuous state in the marinade and meat juices. They brown at the end, creating a sort of crunchy fondant spud with an unbelievable flavour.
We adapted that kind of method for this dish, hoping to end up with a tasty twist and it worked really well with a different flavour base and equally unctuous spuds too.
Rocket and I slathered the chicken in a spicy mix under the skin, inside and out (we slashed the legs deeply to let the paste penetrate). A few spices, chilli powder, ground cinnamon, cumin, coriander and salt went in to a butter and oil rub that we massaged well into every crevice, we stuffed the cavity with cut limes, a chilli and shallots for extra moisture as you need plenty of juice in which to douse the potatoes during cooking. We sat the bird atop the spuds, allowing them to steep and steam in the warm spices and meat juices. Next we lined some foil with baking parchment and sealed the bird and spuds in a parcel for the first stage. Veg was debated and we decided a classic tomato, cucumber and onion combo, with a handful of spinach leaves. We made a dressing from this wonderful Mango and Mint sauce, a little oil and some white wine vinegar – providing a zing of mint and heat . The whole thing was garnished with toasted nigella seeds for a nutty crunch. The key is to cook the chicken low until done, then whack the oven up, unwrap the parcel and baste before browning the bird for another 15 minutes, then take it out to rest. Leave the spuds in for another 15 minutes to brown, then serve up sprinkled with some more Nigella seeds. So there you have it, not really a recipe, just an assemblage of ingredients, fit for any day but definitely fit for a Sunday at Catfish Towers.