Brixton Lido at 9.30am, Saturday 6th July
I love a mini break in Brixton: dancing at Mango Landin’ or at new club night Local, lunch at Bellatoni’s in the market, a cheap manicure, and in the summer when it’s hot, a day swimming in the Lido, after eggs benedict at the café.
Last Saturday, on the first really hot day of the year, Zoe, Ella and I spent the morning sunbathing and splashing around at the Lido, the afternoon losing tennis balls in the park and in the evening we went to cook dinner for Aileen, who is Ella’s lovely mum, as well as being a powerhouse on Lewisham council. Various dishes were mooted during the day – barbecued whole fish, prawns, chicken with potato salad or with romesco sauce. Finally I settled on coconut chicken with mango salad, greens and sweet potato. Pot roasting the chicken with the coconut milk and spices in this way keeps it really moist and makes the coconut gravy rich and delicious.
1 large chicken (we had a free range bird)
2 tins, coconut milk
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
large bunch of greens (spinach, pak choi, or other asian greens)
1 tablespoon vinegar (rice vinegar, or white wine vinegar)
a few large sweet potatoes cubed, or white rice
1 cinnamon stick
½ tablespoon, cumin
½ tablespoon, coriander seeds
6 cardamon pods
1 teaspoon, ginger
1 teaspoon, turmeric
1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
bunch of coriander
4 spring onion tops (green bits), chopped
How to make:
Season the chicken inside and out with salt and pepper. In a large, lidded pan heat up a few tablespoons of flavourless oil like peanut or sunflower oil. Seal the chicken all over. Meanwhile, in a small frying pan dry roast the cumin seeds, coriander, cloves, cardamom and cinnamon stick. When aromatic, remove from the heat and grind all apart from the cinnamon stick in a pestle and mortar, remove the cardamon husks, and then mix with the other spices.
When sealed, remove the chicken from the pan, add a bit more oil and add the garlic and spices to the pan. After a few seconds of frying, making sure it doesn’t burn, add the chicken again and the tins of coconut milk, with one tin of water. Bring to a gentle simmer and add the lid. Cook for 45 minutes – 1 hour, turning the bird every 10 minutes, so that it spends an equal amount of time on each side.
Meanwhile, make the mango salad by mixing peeled and cubed mango with the chopped spring onion tops, chilli, coriander, a good squeeze of lime and a good pinch of salt. Cook cubes of sweet potato in the oven in some oil and salt on a medium heat until soft, or white rice, if you wish.
Finally check the chicken is cooked by cutting to the joint at the hip. If the juices run clear, remove the bird and leave to rest on a carving board. Then turn up the heat on the coconut sauce, and add the vinegar and several hefty pinches of salt. Add more vinegar or salt if you think seasoning needs adjusting. Reduce sauce for 5 – 10 minutes with no lid, or until it has as intense in flavour as you want. When the sauce is ready, place the greens on top on the sauce and put the lid back on and steam for 2 minutes until tender.
Remove greens and place in dish. Add the juices from the rested bird to the coconut gravy. Place mango salad in a serving dish, and the sweet potato or rice in another. Carve the chicken, removing all the meat and place in a serving dish, pour coconut gravy into a jug or dish with a ladle. Serve.
Copious amounts of white wine. Followed by ice cream with Aileen’s delicious hot chocolate sauce.