Geoff Tennant - Promoting access to mathematics for all
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10/1/16: no frills cooking (1): to roast a chicken

Very pleased to say that Peace and Tommy are still staying with me, I mentioned their arrival in this blog post, the Logos Hope is arriving on January 25th when they will move onto the ship, but look forward to seeing them after that with the ship due to stay here for three weeks.  They're both out preaching this morning so hope to see them at some stage during the day.

We've seen more of each other than I was expecting which has been nice.  Particularly, we've been doing some cooking for each other which has been great, Peace uses an extraordinarily large number of eggs in his cooking, I can't quite work out whether this is authentic Thai or his own idiosyncratic style - or, quite possibly, some combination of the two.  I've also been doing some cooking which Peace and Tommy show every sign of appreciating, and they have been kind enough to suggest that I might have something to share with the world on the art of what I'm terming 'no frills cooking'.  Had considered terming it, "Bachelor cooking" but think that what I have to share goes beyond this narrow section of the community.

So, the premise of no frills cooking is that a great deal can be achieved with a modicum of knowledge and prowess, worrying about important things and not about others.  Cannot muster up the energy to worry about presentation, by all means be shouted at by Gordon Ramsey if this is your thing.  So want food to be tasty, substantial and safe - I'll come back to this point in a future post about fish, suffice to say for the moment that not poisoning one's guests (or indeed, oneself) comes top of the list of things to worry about.

So, let me start with how to roast a chicken, this is really so simple that EVERYBODY can do this successfully - yes, I'm including YOU here, DM, you know who you are!!!!!   

Firstly, you need to buy a chicken.  Try to make sure that the chicken is:
- dead;
- fresh;
- without feathers;
- without its innards (or giblets) - if these are provided in a plastic bag, no frills chefs throw them away, I don't know what more sophisticated operatives might do.

(Parentical thought not part of the recipe: I was once offered a live chicken as a gift, very kind but nevertheless turned it away, resulting in one very happy bijaji driver!  Alas, I come from a country where it is not legal to kill animals (except fish?) for human consumption, even if those animals are your own and you're going to eat them yourself.  When it came out in conversation with some previous students that I didn't know how to kill a chicken, students thought that was very funny.  For boys growing up this is roughly equivalent to being taught how to shave.  Insofar as there's a conflict between a chicken being fresh on the one hand and dead on the other, particularly in a hot country with limited access to refrigeration, keeping the chicken alive until just before cooking it does make a considerable amount of sense.)

Cut an onion in half and stick it inside the chicken, no need to peel it unless you want to.  Put some herbs and spices on the outside, 'chicken seasoning' or 'chicken masala' does very well, general point: don't bother to think if the nice people at the supermarket are prepared to do the thinking for you.

This is now the crucial bit - put the chicken in a roasting bag.  These are worth EVERY penny they cost and are very much in the spirit of no frills cooking, looking to achieve maximal results with minimal effort and talent.  Heat the oven up to 190 degrees centigrade, bung the chicken into the oven on a roasting tray, and leave for 1.5 hours, do not disturb in any way during the meantime.

So, that's the chicken!  It really is that simple, do not let anybody tell you that it need be any more complicated than that.  You can use the 1.5 hours to read, watch television, anything really.  I suppose if you're trying to impress somebody you need to visit the kitchen occasionally but there really isn't any need.

Unless you're wanting something to go with the chicken of course.  Roast potatoes - buy some potatoes, cut them up reasonably small, put them onto a tray with some vegetable oil after the chicken has roasted for 1/2 hour.  Best to stir them every quarter of an hour or so.  Let's of variants if you're feeling adventurous - you can peel them, you can boil them for 10 minutes before roasting, but these are not strictly within the spirit of no frills cooking.

Other vegetables: if they're frozen follow the directions on the packet.  If not, cut them up small, boil from the water being cold for about 10 minutes.  Use the water to add to gravy thickener, if you're being adventurous you can use the meat juices but again, this is not really in the spirit of no frills cooking.

And that's it!  Really is!  Won't look brilliant necessarily, but will taste good and will be nutritious.  Little effort required, still less talent, just a preparedness to give it a go.

So, there you have no frills cooking part one.  Future parts include soups, casseroles and fish.  Very happy to accept guest blogs in a similar vein, but please, nothing too sophisticated!  I'll maybe ask Peace to add his favourite recipe, I can certainly recommend the end result.

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