I find it overwhelmingly stressful cooking for lots of people so when entertaining only make dishes that can be done completely in advance. So more often than not this is what I cook when I cook for lots of people…. roast chicken with herbs, potato dauphinois, Petit Pois a la Francais and trifle for pudding, if they’re lucky.
It all looks and sounds quite posh, so guests will think you’ve made a big effort, but it only takes ten minutes to prepare and is really ever-so-easy.
I am sure I don’t need to tell you how to roast a chicken (although I would advise getting one killed and pre-plucked, not like our feathered friends here) but the rule of thumb is an initial 30 mins at 180c plus 20 mins for each extra 0.5kg. I squeeze a lemon over mine, stick the husk inside with a handful of fresh herbs (whatever I have to hand, normally thyme), smear it with butter and season with salt and pepper.
The potatoes take an hour and 15 mins at the same temperature to cook and, now I’ve discovered how to use my food processor’s mandolin attachment, about two minutes to prepare. You simply slice 500g of potatoes no thicker than a penny using a food processor or a knife.
Rinse them in cold water and pat dry. Layer them in an ovenproof dish which has been rubbed with a garlic clove and buttered liberally. Season with salt and pepper and then pour 300ml of double cream over the top and bake until golden.
Watch both dishes, as you may need to put tinfoil over the top to prevent them catching.
And now for the peas… Slice a bunch of spring onions and cook in a saucepan in four tablespoons of melted butter (yes, really, FOUR tablespoons, but then this is a Nigella adaptation and she’s never one to shy away from a bit of lard) until soft. Add two shredded Little Gem lettuces until they wilt, then add four cups of frozen petit pois (I prefer these to peas – they are smaller and juicier), a teaspoon of caster sugar, salt and pepper and 1 cup of hot chicken stock (if I have no fresh to hand – ie normally – I use Knorr Simply stock) and simmer until cooked and the liquid’s reduced. I often cook this way in advance and then reheat it on the hob.
And that’s it lunch/dinner for between 4-6 people depending on how hungry you all are. You can also feed up to 12 people by roasting two chickens alongside each other and making two dishes of spuds, but you will need to be clever about arranging everything in the oven.
One free-range chicken
500g potatoes (waxy ones are good like Desiree)
300g double cream
Clove of garlic
Salt and pepper
Petit pois a la Francais
4 cups of peas
1 cup of hot chicken stock (about 250ml)
2 Little Gem lettuces
1 bunch of spring onions
Even more butter – you will probably need a whole pack for the whole meal.
Salt and pepper