"It's not much but it's ours"

Sunday, February 05, 2012


So, here’s the thing.

I really, really dislike the new and growing trend towards quick and easy recipes.

I should clarify that, before I am bombarded with shrieks of anguish from people telling me that they need recipes to be quick and easy to sculpt time in their hectic schedules to prepare them. Let me rephrase my statement. I have no problems with recipes that are meant to contain few ingredients and to be prepared in a short amount of time. Pushed when you come back from work? Make an omelet. Stretched with life and kids? Sandwich away my dear friends. Let it not be said that I am anything but tolerant.

Where I have am starting to have real issues is with the current tendency of magazines and TV shows to fill their space with versions of classic recipes, debased so they can be squeezed into the schedules of the busy and the lazy. There appears to be little thought that the reason such recipes became classics in the first place is that they require effort to make. To counteract such an annoying current trend, I have begun to post a series of recipes on my Facebook page called “Mission…..”

These are recipes that are, to put it mildly, projects. They are recipes for dishes that might take a whole day, a couple of days or, in the case of the bacon I made recently, a whole week to complete. They may require trips to more than one shop to find the ingredients and, in one or two cases might even need a bit of online ordering before you are ready to begin the mission.

Despite all this, the end results are definitely worth the effort and I am thrilled to say that I have received dozens of e-mails from folks telling me that they have enjoyed not only the final product but also the process of preparing maple cured bacon, Hyderabadi biryani, mole negro and Brazilian feijoada to name just a few.

I am soon to begin filming a series of webisodes based on this series of recipes, with the rather terrific Small Screen Network based in Seattle. All of which means that you can expect to hear me pontificating on this subject for a good while to come. You have fair warning.

Next on the list of missions was one of my favourite dishes of all, the Burgundian Coq Au Vin. As the name suggests, it is a dish that was originally made with a cockerel that was too old or no longer able to do what cockerels do (I know how he feels). As the meat was tough, it was marinated for 24 hours with wine (a Burgundy, obviously) chopped carrots, celery and onion and a bouquet garni of fresh thyme and parsley. It was then cooked down and served with classic accompaniments of mushrooms, lardons of bacon and button onions.

It is, as all of these culinary missions are, a bit of a faff, but the final result is so good that it is definitely worth every second of all effort required. Of course, there are quick and easy versions of Coq Au Vin, but they are but a pale reflection of the real thing.

The truth is quite simple, like all these “Mission” recipes, the time spent preparing them is almost as important as the eating and, if you don’t have time to do it properly, it’s just God’s way of telling you that you are not meant to eat Coq Au Vin.

If you are interested in following along, I shall be posting more recipes in the following months. If you try them, let me know how you get on.



1 Large Cockerel (This may be hard to find. If so, buy a boiling chicken, which will stand up to the marinating and long, slow cooking)

4 Carrots

3 Stalks of Celery

1 Large White Onion

1 Bottle of Burgundy (Or any decent Pinot Noir)

2 Bunches of Fresh Parsley (One for the marinade and one to serve as a garnish)

1 Bunch of Fresh Thyme

1 Piece of Cheesecloth (In which to wrap the herbs)

1 Pint Chicken Stock (I made mine with the backbone and wingtips of the chicken, vegetables and a bouquet garni of herbs)

6 Strips of Bacon (Cut into lardons. I used my own homemade bacon, but any good unsmoked variety will do)

3 Cloves Garlic (finely minced)

20 Button Mushrooms

20 Pearl Onions

3 Ounces Plain (All Purpose Flour)

Salt & Pepper (I use white pepper during cooking and black pepper just before serving)

Olive Oil & Butter (For cooking)


Joint the chicken into 8 pieces.

Make a mire poix (rough chop) of the carrots, onion and celery.

Place the chicken in a bowl with the Mire Poir and add the wine and the bouquet garni of herbs.

Cover the bowl with cling film and place in the fridge to marinate for 24 hours.

After 24 hours drain the marinade from the chicken, retaining the liquid and the vegetables in separate bowls.

Dry the chicken thoroughly with kitchen towel and season on all sides with salt and pepper.

Melt 2 ounces of butter in a deep sided frying pan and when it begins to foam add 2 Tablespoons of olive oil.

Brown the chicken on both sides and remove from the pan.

Add the vegetables from the marinade to the pan along with the finely minced garlic and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the flour and combine well with the vegetables. Cook for a further 4 minutes on a low heat.

Return the liquid from the marinade to the pan and stir well to combine with the vegetables and flour.

Return the chicken to the pan.

Add 1 pint of chicken stock.

Simmer on a low heat for around 90 minutes, turning the chicken occasionally.

While the chicken is simmering, peel the pearl onions and stem and half the mushrooms.

In a separate pan, fry the bacon until golden and crisp. Remove and drain on kitchen towel.

Drain the bacon fat from the pan, keeping 2 tablespoons in reserve to cook the garnishes.

Fry the mushrooms in the bacon fat until they begin to colour and then remove from the pan.

Fry the onions in the bacon fat until they begin to colour and then remove from the pan.

When the chicken pieces are cooked (after around 90 minutes) remove them from the pan and drain the cooking liquid.

Discard the vegetables, which will have given their all by then, but retain the sauce.

Return the mushrooms and onions the pan along with the chicken pieces and the cooking liquid.

Simmer gently until the sauce is at the point that it will coat the back of a spoon.

Season with salt and black pepper for taste and add a handful of finely chopped parsley.

Plate the chicken coated with lots of sauce, onions and mushrooms and topped with plenty of bacon.

I served mine with buttery mashed potatoes.

Enjoy with a glass of great Burgundy and congratulate yourself on a job well done.

You have completed “Mission Coq Au Vin”

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Blogger Kalyan Karmakar said...

i first read about coq a vin in Peter Mayles's A year In provence. saw the dish taking shape on your post now...and good luck with your mission...dare i saw I am a slacker and am always looking for short cuts in we need folks like you to be a bit rigid and keep traditions alive...all the best with the new show/ series

Monday, February 06, 2012 12:40:00 pm  
Blogger The Anxious Foodie said...

I totally agree with you. If it isn't done to the original/traditional recipe (or something very close it it) it is just a knock off. Of course some classics are very quick and easy (moules, anyone?) but most of these delicacies most be toiled over to get the real result! I have no problem with the odd quick recipe, but I always accept that it wasn't cooked how it was intended to be.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012 4:14:00 pm  
Blogger Helen Killeen Bauch McHargue said...

Just curious...when you say to dry chicken with a kitchen towel, or to drain bacon on a kitchen towel, do you mean, what we in the US, call a paper towel? I'll be looking for your new series, good luck with it. I really enjoyed your book...reading it in a seaside villa in Bali didn't hurt
matters at all. It was left behind in the library by a former visitor to the villa. Interesting isn't it how information and reputation builds. No doubt it has been read by many more visitors after me!!

Saturday, February 25, 2012 7:52:00 pm  
Anonymous Rory said...

Completely agree about the quick and easy recipes. I want to develop my skills and take time to get the flavours!

Friday, March 23, 2012 1:46:00 pm  
Anonymous sewa elf said...

Very nice, thanks for sharing.

Thursday, May 03, 2012 9:42:00 am  
Anonymous sewa elf said...

Nice article, thanks for the information.

Thursday, May 03, 2012 10:11:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice Raymond Blanc Meal there ;)

Friday, May 11, 2012 10:32:00 pm  
Blogger Snigdha said...

You are right! There are too many speeded up and simplified versions of dishes! I've tried some 'simple' Coq au Vin dishes - not really much cop! The Mission version looks ace! Thanks for sharing!

@Food Smarts - kitchen towel means paper. Tea towel means a fabric towel. We English like to be awkward!

Thursday, July 26, 2012 9:06:00 am  
Anonymous Katrin Möres-P. said...

Dear author, sitting in a guest house in Chiang Mai I just read your Coq Au Vin -receipe. As a lecture of my recent journey I was reading "all you can eat", which I found in a "cheap-book-selling" in my hometown (Cologne, Westgermany) and it was much fun. One of the reasons of this trip was tasting the Thai-Kitchen once more.
So first: i am irritated, that the last text is already half a Year old - which may mean, that you gave up blogging or anything like this?!
Next thing: I think, that your Polemic against the quick and easy cooking may be quite correct, but I Wonder, Why Coq Au vin shall be an example for somerhong, which needs a lot of time... In terms of preparation time it isn't a good Choice, because much of it is done aside, in between other occupations... It just takes time until it is ready to be eaten and you should know, that you like to serve it the next day. I've done it several times and jused some variations, but always thought it to be rather quick and easy... I serve it with Baguette and Green salad usually. Hope your Blog will be continued and you two brothers are still in good health!

Wednesday, August 01, 2012 4:05:00 pm  
Blogger AC said...

Another one to agree with the debasement of the classic recipes! Mentioned your opinion on the subject and linked to your post in my blog.

I'm new to the blogging world and its etiquette, so I thought I'd leave a comment and mention it just in case.

Sunday, August 05, 2012 3:01:00 am  
Blogger Flavours of France said...

Like the step by step photos, that really helps when following a recipe. Agree with the comment about quick and easy, sometimes you get the best flavour from slow cooking

Tuesday, August 07, 2012 11:03:00 am  
Blogger Flavours of France said...

Like the step by step photos you have added, it makes it easier when following the recipe. Agree with your comment about the quick and easy recipes, sometimes you get the best flavour by slow cooking

Tuesday, August 07, 2012 11:05:00 am  
Anonymous Tonimoroni said...

Will ye no come back again??

Sunday, September 16, 2012 4:30:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

Doubt it - sorry

Saturday, September 22, 2012 11:41:00 pm  

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