Sunday, 28 January 2007

Mansize Rooster

We have been trying to all eat at exactly the same time this past couple of weeks in an effort to ensure we instill that 'sitting around the table as one family' concept that appears to be a dying tradition. One advantage of this is that you can feed your child some interesting and challenging food without them feeling like they are the only ones. Seeing your mam and dad eating the same as you is always going to help, and so far so good. She is attempting to eat everything we have put down and on only a couple of occasions has she decided to not go further than the first mouthful.

Yesterday, we had a new challenge - friends for tea. How do we keep up this habit of eating at the same time without having to put friends through the torture of keeping a toddler happy at the table? Oh, and keeping them happy by giving them some decent food that isn't reworked for your child? I have the answer - classic French food.

Now before you disconnect you browser in disgust, please read on. As this is all about fast, easy and healthy food that you and your children can enjoy together, you could be forgiven for thinking that any French cuisine is a step too far. But only the most sceptical of people could pass up on Coq Au Vin. And only the most ignorant would think that it is a chore to prepare. Not my version anyway.

Okay, it isn't strictly following tradition and I have cut back on the butter for health reasons, but this dish is truly beautiful to eat and best of all, it pleases the young food critic in your house. It also gets your child accustomed to another 'adult flavour' (this phrase irritates me like no other) in red wine. The cooking process takes away the alcohol and mingled with the tomatoes, enriches the sauce with fruit and spice. A load of shallots and button mushrooms take on the flavour of the herby sauce too. An original Coq Au Vin traditionally uses a whole cockerel and cooks for hours to break down the sinewy old bird. My version is a whole free range chicken, jointed, skinned and boned. It just makes life easier when encouraging to eat rather than them chewing on a leg bone.

Of all of the recipes I have mentioned this week, this takes the longest. All 30 minutes to prepare and 45 minutes to cook. Not exactly a long time. And any part of a Saturday should be put aside to cook for your family, so why not give them a treat? Serve this with mashed potato, broccoli and carrots and you have a very healthy meal indeed. And one that the whole family, including gatecrashers, can eat too. Vive La France!

Coq Au Vin (my version)
Feeds 4 adults and 1 child

1 Whole free range chicken (try to learn to buy whole and split up and use the carcass for stock, much more economical and less wasteful. In this instance, split, bone, skin and cut into chunks)
4 rashers of good smoked streaky bacon
500g button mushrooms
250g shallots
Fresh thyme and parsley
Half bottle of full bodied red wine
1 Tin of tomatoes (or if in season, 500g tomatoes skinned and chopped)
300ml water
2oz butter
2oz plain flour
Olive oil

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees C, GM4.
2 - Heat the olive oil in a large casserole and brown the peeled shallots and whole button mushrooms. Remove with a slotted spoon.
3 - Add the chopped bacon and cook until the fat runs. Then add the chicken pieces and quickly seal.
4 - Put the mushrooms and shallots back in along with the tomatoes, wine, water and thyme sprigs. Bring to the boil and then place in the oven for 45 minutes.
5 - Mix the butter and flour to make a Beurre Maniere. Remove the casserole and stir in the 'roux' to thicken. Taste for seasoning. Stir in fresh chopped parsley and serve with vegetables of choice.

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