This week I am cooking for more than two

Now that restrictions are eased, I have had the pleasure of cooking for the family (although not all of them at one time yet), and for friends. The pleasure of sharing a meal with is immense – the food and wine are good, but non-zoomed conversation is wonderful. On Saturday night friends came for dinner, and we began with nasturtium flowers stuffed with herbed ricotta. First course was a big spring salad, and main course was sumac roast chicken from Shane Delia’s book Maha.¬†The recipe was modified because I didn’t have any coarse burghul in the pantry, and so I used rice instead (80g, soaked and then cooked absorption method), with onion, garlic, minced chicken, ras el hanout, currants, and pine nuts. Pine nuts were my addition – I’ve taken a great fancy to them over the last few months.

I used the mixture to stuff a large chicken, and sewed up the neck flap to keep in the stuffing. Butter and sumac are smeared over the bird before roasting. I used the sumac butter on the breast, and roasted breast side up, then turned the chicken over and spread the rest of the butter over the back.

Maha stuffed chicken (the book, and mine)

Over the last few months, I have become aware of how important chicken-and-rice combinations are in world cooking. Across China and India, through South-East Asia, into Persia and through Central Asia, into the Middle East. Most of Europe missed out on the combination, but it appears again in Spain, in various forms, no doubt because the Arabs introduced rice into Spain. The combination forms a food trail of sorts, and I’ve been exploring them recently, both in cooking and by reading. Little parcels make a food trail, from dim sum to pakoras to empanadas and sambousek and bourek (and so many others!). The Epiphany cake known as Twelfth Night cake in Britain and galette des rois in France has a journey through France, Spain, Portugal and into Mexico and South America. Oddly, perhaps, it’s not a thing in Italy, where panettone is more common for festivities.

If you haven’t caught up with it, please look out for (and like)¬† #whatsritacooking¬† on my Instagram and Facebook accounts. I’ve done daily postings since early in the year, when the Covid19 pandemic first changed our lives. I have tried not to repeat a dish, although that’s getting hard after six months, and I have missed only two or three days in that time.

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