Welcome back, me! After a four week absence – and a truly wonderful three week trip home to the UK – I was more than ready to get back to the Farmer’s Market in Santa Monica yesterday. It was a beautiful morning, a bit chilly perhaps, but the clear blue skies and brilliant sunshine more than made up for the low temperature.
As usual, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was looking for, or what I would find, and to be honest it wasn’t one of the most impressive displays that I’ve seen there. But I guess that’s January for you, with the winter months taking their toll on the availability of fresh produce even in Southern California.
However, I was delighted to find some wonderful looking leeks, a vegetable that I always find irresistible (soft, sticky, subtle) and which I generally prefer to the bolder and more robust onion – especially in a dish like fish pie. Leek and potato soup is a staple in our house, and a plate of baked leeks with ham is – for me – an exquisite pleasure. On this occasion I’m also pleased that it reminds me of home, especially my recent visit to Wales, and I’m sure that a carefully chosen dish will help to ease the slight homesickness that I always feel just after I leave.
With all this in mind, I decided to cook an old favourite. It’s a really lovely, satisfying, homely dish that’s also relatively quick and easy to prepare and cook – making it perfect for a week day supper. The lemon juice is a perfect accompaniment for both the chicken and the leeks, and serves to lift this dish beyond the ordinary. I made enough for us not only to have seconds that evening, but also to provide us with another meal later in the week. And it will taste even better then.
For a winter’s evening I served it with small roast fingerling potatoes (mixed with olive oil, salt and pepper in a roasting tin and cooked for about 45 minutes at 400°F) and steamed asparagus. On a different occasion – perhaps for a substantial weekend lunch with friends – it’s also really great with a simple green salad, or anything else that you fancy.
Recipe: Chicken with leeks and lemon
Ingredients (to serve 4)
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 chicken thighs
4 medium leeks
A glass of dry vermouth
The juice and and zest of a lemon, preferably organic
500 ml chicken stock
A small bunch of parsley
In a large pan, warm the olive oil over a moderate heat. Add the chicken pieces, skin-side down, and cook until they are beginning to brown. Wash the leeks, and cut into 1 inch pieces. Remove the chicken from the pan and add the leeks. Cover and cook gently until they are soft (but don’t let them colour). Add the vermouth, the zest and juice of a lemon and the chicken stock. Bring to the boil, return the chicken and its juices to the pan, season with salt and pepper, then cover and simmer for about 20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Chop the parsley and stir in just before dishing out.
From: Nigel Slater, Tender