Can you smell the garlic through the screen? If not, I have no idea how! I love a good traybake – I’ve said before how much I love to whack several things in the oven at one time and sit back and let the magic happen. One pot dishes and oven bake dinners speak to me on several levels; less dishes, less fuss, more time to do something else while the house fills with warm, cosy smells. When the kitchen is full of cake-fug, I wish for people to call in and be greeted by a buttery-sweet welcome. The first episode of the TV series accompanying At My Table aired this week and was, just like the book, so full of heart. It’s comforting to watch someone else cook yes, but also to see how doable the recipes are. I want to enjoy cooking, not dread a ton of prep and sinkful of pots and pans. Maximum flavour with more time to spend with the people I’m eating with…yes please.
We don’t really go in for Sunday roasts in our house; sometimes I think it’s a shame because I have such good memories of eating massive plates of roast potatoes and gravy and roast beef sandwiches later that evening. The closest I get is making something I don’t have time for during the week or a dish that I haven’t cooked before. Watching the chicken and pea tray bake in the premiere, I was reminded of my favourite – the sage scented one-pan chicken and sausage from Feast *swoon*. With frozen peas at the ready and a whole chicken in the fridge that I figured I could joint, I set out to Sunday lunch it up. Except…no leeks. Not even in the freezer (yes, I use frozen sliced leeks). Hmm *turns page*. Plan B: the Indian-spiced chicken and potato traybake. No potatoes in the pantry (online food shop due tomorrow), but a bag of sweet potatoes is close enough. It does, however, mean I have to peel them, as they’re a bit gnarly to leave skin-on. I cut them twice as big as the recommended 1.5cm cubes since they cook a good bit quicker and slice the red onion and douse it with lime juice to macerate while I visit the pantry with a mental note of what spices I need.
There are a few here I use all the time – fennel seeds, cumin seeds and nigella seeds, but turmeric and yellow mustard seeds less often. I make a bit of a boo boo and add the sea salt to the spice mix instead of scattering it over later, but hope it won’t make much difference. With the boys building a Lego Willy Wonka chocolate factory, I set to work on the chicken with a pair of scissors and a cleaver. Obviously as soon as I touch raw meat, a fight breaks out over a Lego man and I have to try and referee while not making physical contact due to chicken-hands. Easier said than done. After a wrestling match, I detach the breasts and legs/thighs in a less than pretty manner and mush them on top of the sweet potato, already sprinkled with a heady hit of spices, minced garlic, lime juice and water. At this stage I realise I’ve made a rookie error in that the dish I’ve used is probably too small and a bigger tray would have been better, but I’ve committed and stick to it. I drizzle a little oil on the skin of the chicken and as the lady herself says -al forno! The recipe says an hour, but I check a little earlier and use the meat thermometer so I don’t overcook everything.
The house smells awesome and I will visitors so they can envy the smell of our lunch. We’re not eating straight away, so the bake has a chance to settle before we do. It looks good, if not a little less crispy than it should because it was too cosy in its dish. And it tastes as cheery as it looks – spiced and mellow and sweet with punchy mouthfuls of fennel and mustard seeds now and then. The quick-pickled onions are tangy and soused without their harsh bite; my eyes had stung profusely when I was slicing them, which makes me thing my tolerance to onion-pungency has been seriously lowered by my prolonged use of frozen ones. This is definitely one of those dishes you will keep eating until it’s all gone and doesn’t need much help to form a cosy supper – either a salad or any green veg would be good here. Another thing I didn’t have in the cupboard was fresh coriander and I imagine it would’ve added another fresh hit along with a strew of green alongside the puce pickles. The flavour seems to impress Mr T, freshly returned from a morning mountain biking with new scars to show for it. A modern Sunday lunch maybe, but very suitable to the chilly autumn day outside and a satisfying, fragrant dish. And another low-maintenance tour de force #AtMyTable