Category Archives: Recipes

About Roast Chicken

I love a roast dinner done properly. But they are divisive beasts. In the UK, they are often the dish most likely to evoke a cry, most often heard in Italy, “I like it the way my Mum cooked it when I was growing up”.

When I was a boy, my brother and his mate devised a plan similar to the we-both-pretend-we’re-going-to-each-other’s-house-but-we’re-actually-going-down-the-park. They both claimed that the other’s mum served Yorkshire puddings even with roast chicken. It worked for a bit, and we got this “fusion” version served a few times before my mum saw sense.

People do have these quirks, somebody’s mum I’m sure does serve Yorkshires with roast chicken and their kids go around in the world thinking everyone else is plain wrong. People often want to have or recreate the roasts their parents served. Or absolutely do not. I have a friend who refers to this meal as “a oven cooked chicken with veg” so it technically doesn’t count as having a roast dinner, something he felt was ruined for him by his parents in his youth.

My father makes an outstanding Roast Beef for which he roasts ribs. It is unequaled in my experience and so I don’t really attempt it. My mum’s roast chicken is far more achievable (not that that doesn’t make it fabulous) and so Roast Chicken is the roast I turn to. I have made a few changes and modifications over the years, so it now feels like my roast chicken recipe for my family. But the lineage is there.

There is also a lot of influence from Nigella Lawson. I love what she says about roasting a chicken in “How to Eat” for her “Tagliatelle with Chicken from the Venetian ghetto”, her roast potatoes from “Feast” and most importantly an almost throw away comment from “Nigella Express” which shaped a lot of my thinking about cooking generally.

I like quick and easy no-fuss recipes a lot so a book like Nigella Express is great, it’s quick but not as fussy as Jamie and his 30- or 15-minute meals. Not trying to make a masterpiece, just trying to be successful quickly. And in her Express book she has a roast chicken recipe. And she asks the question, how can a recipe that clearly takes at least an hour and a half be considered quick? Well she suggests doing everything in a pan all together and she makes the point that actually roasting a chicken can take as little as 5 minutes prep work and then the oven does the rest and during that time you can be washing your hair or whatever.

It’s true that you don’t have to do much when roast chicken is in your otherwise quick meal, but isn’t really true when dealing with a roast chicken dinner with potatoes and veg and gravy and all of the proverbial trimmings. When doing a roast chicken dinner, there are quite a few things to get right. But don’t worry… I have your back. Next week’s recipe should be the foolproof roast chicken recipe you’ve been looking for.

Linguine, cabbage and pancetta

Not all of my recipes feature linguine and pancetta, it just so happens that my first two do.

This recipe is similarly quick to the other one and is just as tasty and surely the cabbage is good for you?

Ingredients for 2 people
A glug extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
Half a head of cabbage
Some cubed pancetta (70g or whatever one of those small packs are)
120g Linguine
Quite a bit of Parmesan
Chilli flakes
Black Pepper
Half a lemon

If you compare this to the other recipe ,you will notice the only difference is cabbage for tomatoes and the addition of a lemon.

Mainly this is the same method as the previous recipe but obviously with chopping a half a head of cabbage into small bits instead of chopping tomatoes in half.

Put half a pan of water on to boil. The pasta is going to go in the bottom of this pan with the cabbage on top in a steamer. If that isn’t going to work from a size point of view, put two pans of water on.

The pasta normally takes about 10-12 minutes (but do whatever the packet tells you) with six minutes to go, pop the steamer on top with your cabbage in it.

Put your oil into a wok or frying pan and add the pancetta, garlic, black pepper and chilli flakes. And cook for about 4 minutes. Once everything is ready, pour the pasta water through the cabbage in the steamer using it as a colander. This adds to the taste and saves on the washing up at the same time. Now mix the cabbage and linguine into the wok with the pancetta and oil. Squeeze in the lemon and mix (try to avoid getting the pips in). And then grate Parmesan on top. I find it’s significantly better to add the lemon and mix first.

And serve.

Linguine with little tomatoes and pancetta

I can make this dish in 12 minutes, and you could too. This isn’t some kind of Jamie Oliver style full-on over-the-top mad rush dish. All I’m saying is that you can, if you want to, and can devote your full attention, make it that quickly. But probably doing it that fast is more tiring than doing it in an acceptable 15 to 20 minutes.

A lot of Italian cooking can be super fast like this. It relies on simple fresh ingredients so doesn’t really need a lot of finesse or involvement to get right. When Katherine has taken Nina up to bed, and it looks likely that Nina might drop off quickly, this is an ideal standby as we almost always have all of the ingredients in the cupboard. You might not have a regular supply of little tomatoes in the house, but Nina devours them so we always do.

Serves 2


A glug extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
Half a punnet of little tomatoes
Some cubed pancetta (70g or whatever one of those small packs are)
120g Linguine
Quite a bit of Parmesan
Chilli flakes
Black Pepper

Katherine and I have been favouring having only 60 grams of linguine per person for a while. But I think some people have more. But if you don’t cook it then you can’t accidentally eat it – this meal is moreish and you will probably find yourself eating all of it. I believe that pasta was invented to help people fill up on cheap starch, but now it is possible to fill up on the non-starchy stuff, which is probably better for you (if you can afford it).

You don’t actually have to make this dish in 12 minutes if you don’t want to rush. The thing that takes the longest is the pasta, so remember to put the water on to boil first. If you really are trying to beat the clock, the fastest way to get a pan up to boil is to put a small amount of water in the pan with the lid on, and boil a kettle to get the rest. This means the pan is up to temperature when the boiling water goes in.

While the pan is getting up to temperature, wash and halve the tomatoes and put them in a bowl (just use one of the bowls you are going to serve up in, it doesn’t matter). At some point while you are chopping this you should have achieved the grandiose feat of having boiling water in a pan. Once this happens, put in some salt into the water (if you like that kind of thing) and then put the pasta in too. Now count down the rest of this recipe by setting the timer to whatever the pasta says it wants to cook for. I tend to find that if the pasta mentions a range and you have added salt you can use the smaller number. If you haven’t, then use the bigger number on the pack.

Carry on chopping the tomatoes and then peel the garlic, finely slice it and stick it in the bowl with the tomatoes. Now put some olive oil on the tomatoes and garlic and mix them up a bit. Now add some chilli flakes (a pinch) and some pepper.

Get a frying pan (or ideally a flat bottomed wok) out and put a little bit of oil in the pan and the cubed pancetta in there (don’t turn it on yet).

At 6 minutes to go on the timer, turn on the pancetta and remember to stir your pasta.

At 3 minutes to go on the timer, stir the pancetta and add the tomatoes and garlic mix.

Grate the parmesan into the other person’s empty bowl (you don’t want the oil on it yet) and grate a good amount of pepper into the parmesan. I know this recipe has two points where you are putting pepper in, this is on purpose. I think the first round of pepper is for the cooking, the second is for the serving. If people want to add pepper at the table, miss this round of pepper out.

When the timer is done, drain the pasta, but don’t shake it up in the colander, leave some of the water on it and stick it straight into the pan with the tomatoes. Stir it all together and then throw the parmesan on top, stir again and serve up into the bowls.