There are lots of ways to start a story, but this one begins with a chicken.
This story begins with a chicken in a cloth bag hanging on the back of a kitchen chair, and dark outside, and me lying on the hall floor, looking at the chicken through the door, and looking at the rust in the door hinges, and wondering if I was ever going to get up.
Perhaps, I thought, lying on the hall floor, I will just stay on the hall floor forever, and sink through the laminate, and into the concrete, and down into the earth.
But this is a hopeful story.
This is the story of how I got up off the floor.
This is the story of a chicken; and how to roast it; and how to eat it. This is the story of eating things, which is, if you think about it, the story of being alive. This is a story about being alive, and more importantly, about wanting to be alive.
Eventually Tall Man came home, and helped me up. Come on, he said, and we went into the kitchen together, and I made this, late at night, and we ate it at midnight, with wine, and bread, and our fingers, sopping up the juices from the baking tray, sucking soft garlic from the skins, sucking the bones.
This story begins with a chicken.
Midnight Chicken Serves 2, comfortably, with enough leftovers for soup, salad and sandwiches. 20 mins prep., 1 hr-ish cooking. Lactose-free, gluten-free, SW-friendly
|Chicken (mine was 1.6 kg; this will, obviously, affect your cooking times)|
Fresh chillies, two, or three if you don’t have chilli salt.
Garlic, as many cloves as you can muster.
Ginger, a nut about the size of your thumb.
Olive oil (perhaps)
|Honey; hot water.|
|Lemon juicer; sharp knife; kitchen scissors; chopping board; cup; baking tray.|
Once upon a time, and in the beginning, was a chicken. Take it out of its packaging; let it breathe. Sit it in a baking tray. Leave it alone. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees.
Take half the garlic; about four cloves. Chop it finely, put it in your cup. Chop the rosemary, and the thyme, and the fresh chillies with kitchen scissors. Put that in your cup, too. Add a hefty teaspoon of thick grainy mustard. Add pepper, and chilli salt. Just ordinary sea salt will do, if you haven’t got chilli salt. You can add a little splash of olive oil, if you like. I don’t always, but sometimes I do, and then it is gold.
Peel and grate the ginger, if you have a little grater, but you can just cut it very small if not. It’ll be okay. Put most of it in your cup with the herbs and garlic. Put the last pinch into a mug with some honey. Boil a kettle.
Take the lemon; slice it in half. Juice one half very briskly, and the other half a little less briskly. Pour most of the lemon juice into the cup of stuff. Stir.
Pour the rest into your mug. Add water. Stir. Drink. Steady yourself. You’re doing really, really well, you know that?
Take the chicken. Unloop the elastic string holding its little legs together, and shove four cloves of garlic and the less-squeezed lemon up its little bottom. Loop it up again, if you can, and rub the chilli-ginger-garlic-lemon mixture into the skin; into the legs, the thighs, the wings.
Slide the chicken into the oven. Set the chicken timer (your timer might be different, but mine is shaped like a little red hen) for about one hour twenty minutes, if your chicken weighs the same as mine, and your oven is temperamental in the same ways as mine. If not, or you just prefer a more accurate schedule, here is a really lovely little thing that will let you know the times and temperatures for all perfect roasts. Bookmark that link. It will be significantly easier than trying to cook things according to my directions, because of said temperamental oven.
Have a glass of wine. Look at Tall Man, or your equivalent, or a beautiful tree. Watch something funny on the telly. Draw a little picture. Look at the dark outside. Sit on the sofa. Feel glad. Let Tall Man pour the wine. Let Tall Man cut the bread. Feel glad. Feel lucky.
As the timer rings, check the chicken. I am very bad at checking when a chicken is done, but I know in theory. Blah, blah, something about the skewer and the juices running clear. That’s a link, by the way, and a useful one. If it’s still pink, send it back to the oven. If not, turn the oven off, and let the chicken sit for five minutes. Dip some bread in the juices. Feel proud of yourself. Dip a bit more bread in the juices.
Carve the chicken. Let Tall Man have a go at carving the chicken. Look at a useful guide on YouTube. Try and follow it. Fail. Tear the chicken from the bones. Drink. Eat. Feel glad.
This will, with a bit of thinking, and a bit of stirring, do you for a few days, which is good, when you’re not all there. You can try to cook every day, but sometimes you can’t. And that’s okay, too.