“Citrus Chicken Rested in Herbs” from “Nothing Fancy”

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times (and also, I’m quite sure I’m not the original author of this aphorism): Roast chicken is the Little Black Dress of cooking.

If you have it on a Sunday, it’s the linchpin of your Sunday Roast. If you have it on a weeknight, the meal suddenly becomes more of an event. Also, once you’ve made it a few times, you realise how easy it is, how many variations you can try, and how it’s always delicious. Win. Win. Win.

This version by Alison Roman features citrus and herbs– the clue is in the name, after all. The exciting part comes at the start when you have to cut a chicken in half, which I had never done before. I just imagined myself to be a magician doing it and it made the task even more fun. (It’s actually not that hard; you just need a good knife.)

After marinating the chicken, you roast it, but since it’s already cut in half, the roasting is quicker than with a traditional roast chicken. The marinade is delicious, and, not surprisingly, very citrusy.

My only question was what to do with all the slices of citrus– they’re hard to see in the photo above, but trust me, they’re there– underneath the chicken once it was roasted. Alison wasn’t clear in the recipe. Were we meant to eat them? Were they garnish? Who could say. So we left them.

The chicken was great and the dinner was delicious. The Little Black Dress of the culinary world triumphs again.

“Citrus Chicken Rested in Herbs” from “Nothing Fancy”

“Harissa-Rubbed Pork Shoulder with White Beans and Silverbeet” from “Nothing Fancy”

This photo definitely doesn’t do this dish any justice. It was utterly delicious. It was so delicious that although Alison says it should serve six to 10 people, the three of us managed to nearly eat the whole thing. (Though Tim suspects we overate. NEVER!)

One of the things I loved most about this recipe was the perfect Sundayness about it, in that, you pop it in the oven for a few hours while it fills the house with pork-smell-goodness and then, four (or so) hours later, your dinner is done. I also made a pot of rice to go along with it and that became the perfect delivery mechanism for the yummy pan juices. Please note: we may have had more pan juices than normal because I only used one can of beans, not two.

You may wonder, as I did, “What is Silverbeet?” Well, friends, it’s Swiss chard. But we didn’t have any to hand and I was skeptical that I’d find any in our local shops on a Sunday so I looked for substitutions. Cavolo Nero (black cabbage) can be used in place of Swiss chard and since it is Peak Cavolo Nero Season– one of my favourite times of the year– I did have some of that in the refrigerator. So I used that and I’m happy to report it was great.

I definitely will be making this again, though if we’re going to have more people around, maybe I’ll get a bigger cut of meat. Or get better at carving. We’ll see.

“Harissa-Rubbed Pork Shoulder with White Beans and Silverbeet” from “Nothing Fancy”

Our Verdict: “From the Oven to the Table”

For those of you not paying attention in the back, we loved this book. Every recipe was delicious, worked well and was relatively easy. Those truly are the Holy Grail in our pursuit of cookbooks.

We love Diana Henry’s style– don’t stress out too much about how it looks, just make sure it’s delicious. And they were.

We can see ourselves returning to this cookbook again and again and again.

“From the Oven to the Table”
Overall Grade (A- F): A (We’d give it an A* but we decided a long time ago to not engage in grade inflation.)
Grade for Photography (A-F): A. The photography was by one of Kirstin’s favourite photographers. Favourite Recipes: Hard to pick just one. We’ll have to get back to you.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Bookshelf. Bookshelf. Bookshelf.

Our Verdict: “From the Oven to the Table”

“Sausages & Lentils with Herb Relish” from “From the Oven to the Table”

I was stacking the deck by choosing to make this recipe. Tim loves lentils. We all love pork products. I knew it was going to be a winner even before I had bought the ingredients.

Once again, there’s a genius move, and this time it’s to cook the lentils in the oven. Usually when I make lentils it’s a bit of a faff with all the stirring on the hob, whereas this one you bang them in the oven (along with some stock) and then you can forget about them. That truly is my style of cooking.

The family had one note for me, however. I got Cumberland Sausages from our most excellent butcher, Dring’s (shoutout to the best butchers in London!) but they always have an amazing array, including monthly specials. Tim and Nicholas thought this would be better with Italian sausages, which is what I’ll get the next time.

Yet another winner from Diana Henry.

“Sausages & Lentils with Herb Relish” from “From the Oven to the Table”

“Stuffed Greek Chicken with Cayenne, Oregano and Orzo” from “From the Oven to the Table”

This is one of those magical recipes that makes you wonder, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

It is undeniable that Roast Chicken is DA BOMB. (I could try to find a better way to describe it, but why should I when that perfectly captures how I feel about it.) I will never tire of it and frankly I will try every variation possible until the cows come home.

This version features double carbs. You read that right: DOUBLE CARBS. The bread stuffing with tomatoes and feta, and the orzo pasta that you add in the final 20 minutes. Diana Henry’s absolutely genius idea– the one I was sorry I didn’t think of first– was to add the orzo pasta to the roasting pan along with some chicken stock. The pasta then soaks up all the delicious chicken roasting juices. This idea, one that requires minimal intervention from the cook, is just brilliant.

You may have guessed by now that we loved it, and you are correct. In the introduction, Diana Henry recommends enjoying this dish for a spring Sunday lunch as you “contemplate the approaching summer.” We did the reverse and enjoyed it for an autumn lunch, where we reminisced about the now-gone summer. It was perfect.

“Stuffed Greek Chicken with Cayenne, Oregano and Orzo” from “From the Oven to the Table”

“Chocolate Chip Cookies” from “Repertoire”

I cannot overstate how firmly chocolate chip cookies reside within my culinary wheelhouse. It was one of the first things I learned to make on my own, when I was still in single digits. I’ve continued to make them throughout my life– through high school, university, my early career, as a newlywed, as a new mother… you get the idea. My go-to recipe is the Toll House Cookies one, and I know it so well that I can get a warm cookie in your hand in under 15 minutes (including 10 minutes baking time). Chocolate chip cookies are, in short, important to me.

So when it was time to make a new batch for the week, I decided to give this version a go. She said in the introduction that she knows that the world doesn’t need another chocolate chip cookie recipe, but that she also knew it was so much better than the ones she can buy in bakeries and supermarkets, so she decided to include it.

When I looked at the ingredient list, I was skeptical. It calls for twice as much flour as I usually use and more than twice as much sugar. Once the dough was made, I could not believe the size of the batch it produced. It was easily more than twice the yield that I usually get for my traditional Toll House version.

Was it any good, I hear you asking. Reader: I’m here to tell you it was delicious. Sure, it took me longer to pull this together, but it was worth it. However, and this is a big however, I’m not sure we liked it so much that this is the version I’ll be making all the time now. Certainly if I have time to spare, I’ll do this one. But if I’ve only got 15 minutes, I’ll stick with the tried-and-true Toll House version.

But it’s never a bad thing to have choices.

“Chocolate Chip Cookies” from “Repertoire”

“Pork Saltimbocca” from “Repertoire”

It’s a Pork Inception!

I have to admit that when I saw this recipe, I thought pork was a mistake, given that my favourite saltimbocca is veal, and because you’re literally wrapping pork around pork. But I thought I’d give it a shot just the same, not least since I had plenty of parma ham to use in the dish. It was, in short, a success.

It was easy, it was quick, it was delicious: the holy grail of any weeknight dinner. I would happily eat this again, as would everyone else in my family.

Pork inception for the win.

“Pork Saltimbocca” from “Repertoire”