Sunday, September 30, 2007

A passion for poussin

I love living in the UK. There are too many reasons to list here, but I really don't think I'd live anywhere else. Sure there are times I dream of setting sail for warmer climes or packing it all in and buying a run-down farmhouse in the depths of rural France but when it comes down to it, the UK is where my heart lies.

I have several friends that bemoan the cooler weather that autumn brings claiming they wished they lived somewhere where the sun shined year-round. I find this hard to comprehend. I just love the changing seasons. And I'm not talking of a slight change of seasons (I have friends who live in hotter parts of the world who get excited when it drops below 60 degrees as it means they can light the fire). I want it to be really cold in the winter. And lovely and hot in the summer (ok - this year was a bit of a washout). And I want the in-betweeny bits too - the expectation of Spring when everything bursts into life and the beauty of autumn when the leaves turn all shade of orange, yellow and red. Nothing beats an autumnal post-prandial - the crunch of leaves beneath wellies, the flickering sunlight and the cooling breeze, the anticipation of a soothing cup of tea and perhaps a crumpet on return home. I also love the way my food habits change with the seasons - warmer, more comforting food for cooler weather...

I've had a fairly perfect weekend. It started badly. I had to work on Saturday. For the second weekend in a row. Fortunately I have an interesting job, so it wasn't too bad. I then made the error of popping into the Brent Cross chopping centre on my way home from work. Will I never learn? I have made this mistake before. That shopping centre is sheer hideous hell. So many people. So many cars. Too hot. Too nasty. Too stressful. Once I realised the error of my ways it then took me about half an hour just to get out of the car park! Urggh. Fortunately the weekend improved from here on in. I had a small supper party on Saturday night with three of my greatest girl friends, a small dog and an honoury male friend who was a late addition. It was a perfect relaxed evening where no effort was required. We all know each other far too well for effort!

Today was similarly wonderful. A gloriously sunny Sunday, I headed to Kew Gardens to take in the Henry Moore exhibition that is currently taking place. Twenty five of his huge sculptures dotted around the beautiful autumnal trees. Heaven. I spent the afternoon in Covent Garden. I haven't been for ages and I really rather enjoyed myself. Despite the swathes of tourists. I couldn't help thinking how wonderful it would be if all the shops were taken over by specialist food shops. What a great place it would be then!

So, what did I cook for friends last night? Yes, you've guessed correctly. Poussin. I've titled this post 'a passion for poussin' as anyone who'd monitored my eating habits this week might be surprised to see that I've eaten this dish twice this week! Poussin not being a usual staple. Well, I blame Nigella. Sucked in by her simpering yet speedy ways on the screen I found myself buying her latest book; 'Nigella Express'. Like many food bloggers, I expect, I cannot help but collect cookery books. I have hundreds. And cook about one recipe from each. Anyway, I was tempted by her recipe for Roast Poussin with Sweet Potatoes and tried it for myself earlier in the week. True to her word it was super speedy and very satisfying. Following the hold up at the aforementioned Brent Cross, I was running late and needed to whip up something super simple yet impressive for supper on Saturday. It seemed only natural to repeat it. I was apologetic for the lack of excitement on the dining table, but everyone loved it! The best part was that once it was in the oven, I had nothing to do but sit back and enjoy a glass of fizz with my guests. We followed this with apple crumble and damson ice-cream. Delicious!

Perhaps the most amusing part of the meal was that the five poussins required for dinner came from three different shops. Waitrose only had three left, so I picked up a fourth at Tesco. When my friend Richard called last minute to see if he could still accept my invitation (that he had previously rejected!), I said 'of course, but you'll have to bring your own poussin'! His came from Marks and Spencer. Once cooked, we tried to guess which came from which store without avail. They all tasted good!

Here is my version of Nigella's recipe. For the original, see here.

Roast Poussin with Sweet Potatoes and Red Onions

Ingredients - serves 2 but easily doubled/quadrupled etc...

2 poussins

2 tablespoons garlic oil or olive oil mixed with 1 finely chopped garlic clove

1 large sweet potato

2 red onion

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 good handfuls of watercress

Handful of mange tout or sugar snap peas

salt and pepper

1 lime

1. Preheat oven to 220C. Place the birds in a roasting tin and drizzle half the oil over them.

2. Ch0p the sweet potatoes (unpeeled) into chunks and the red onions into wedges. Place in roasting tin and drizzle over remaining oil. Sprinkle over the spices, season and toss together to coat evenly. Add a little more oil if needed.

3. Cook the lot for 45 minutes in the oven (or until juices run clear).

4. Remove from oven and leave to rest for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, steam the mange tout/sugar snap peas

4. Serve with the watercress, spritzed liberally with lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Notes - Nigella gives a great tip. If you want to cook the potatoes in the same tin as the poussins, sit each poussin on a slice of bread to absorb the fat and juices. This prevents the potatoes going soggy. I don't know why I have never thought of this.

If cooking more than two poussins, you may need to cook them for longer, depending on your oven.


Anh said...

I roasted some poussins the other day for dinner, too. But I didn't really like my recipe. Perhaps I would give your recipe a go since it sounds delicious!

Nora B. said...

wow - that's so exotic to me! Never tried it before, now I feel inspired!

Rosie said...

Hi antonia,

I have to agree totally with you about our seasons here in the UK too.

Your poussin dish looks mighty delicious yum! I giggled with you that the poussins came from different shops. Your friends are very lucky to have such a great hostess and cook! Pleased to hear you purchased Nigella Express - I'm also really enjoying this book too.

Rosie x

Margaret said...

I loved the story about buying a poussin from several different supermarkets!
Now I know someone who has cooked this I'll be very tempted to have a go. They looked delicious.

Antonia said...

Anh - I'm sorry yours didn't work out so well. Do give this a try - it is so simple but really good.

Nora - pleased to have inspired you!

Rosie - glad to hear you are enjoying the book too. Have you tried any of the recipes yet?

Margaret - it was funny about the different supermarkets. When there were only three in Waitrose, I should have chosen something else to cook, but I had my heart set on the poussins! It was worth it, luckily.