Updated: Mar 23
I originally drafted a post imploring you to immediately stop what you were doing and host a big, fat, slap up meal with umpteen of your closes pals - the kind of feast that puts the party in dinner party. I said that you should celebrate with food and wine and friends just because you can. But of course, now we can't. Although in some ways we need that party more now than ever before.
Seeing so many of the restaurants, cafes, bars and small businesses that I love having to close their doors this week has almost been more than I can bear. I'm rallied to see the home delivery and take out initiatives being offered by some - which seem to be going down well - but an anxious voice inside of me worries how long it will be before even that is closed down by this dreaded virus. Whether that's a quick snack and a drink after work, a fancy dinner, or a dirty takeaway after one too many - those simple moments which fed us in more ways that one have, for now, been taken away from us.
But there are still birthdays to celebrate, anniversaries to toast, engagements to drink to and other milestones to remember. And Friday is still Friday - even when you're working from home and it feels like the apocalypse - so it's still a reason to let your hair down and have a damn good time. Food is still something to celebrate with, not just to stock pile.
So you can't go out for dinner or to the pub; so stay home and enjoy the process of cooking, eating and savouring the simple pleasures that those two things can bring in a time of chaos. Over the coming weeks, I will be sharing lots of ideas for making a meal worth savouring.
Now if there's one food which we can always count on to make everything it touches taste delicious, to soothe us and make us feel like the world is all just going to be ok - it's butter. So, first up in my social-distancing-dinner-party series is all about the yellow stuff.
Friday Night Comfort Food
Chicken Kiev with Chips
Brown Butter Blondies
A note on the recipes: The Kiev will be better if you can make it in advance of when you intend to cook it. Ideally, it needs around two hours in the fridge to set nicely. The recipe will still work if you don't have this time, it'll just be more prone to leaking!
The blondie is a recipe which is truly born from our current climate (pastry chefs look away now). Being unable to get sugar, eggs and flour in the supermarket - essentials, some would say, for baking - I made this recipe using a mish-mash of the goods I had in the cupboard. You should approach the recipe with the same level of flexibility. Blondies should be made with plain flour; I only had self raising. Ideally it'd have two eggs; I only had one. I should have used a mixture of dark and light brown sugar; I only had dark. Flex the ingredients to suit what you have (ingredients which can be flexed are marked with *) and as long as the basic ratios of fat to flour to sugar remain the same the recipe should still work and taste delicious.
2x chicken breasts
1x 250g pack salted butter (at room temperature)
flat leaf parsley, 2 tbsp picked leaves
4x medium floury potatoes
1x bag crunchy salad
Check Your Store Cupboard For:
Breadcrumbs (6 tbsp)
Garlic (2 cloves)
Mayo/ salad dressing
Kahlua (or other coffee liqueur)*
200g dark brown sugar *
25g caster sugar*
220g flour* (if using plan add 1/2 tsp baking powder)
+4tbsp seasoned flour for Kiev
Prep the Kievs
1) Grate 2 cloves of garlic and finely chop the parsley. Weigh out 70g of the softened butter and mash it together with the garlic and parsley. Shape it into two even sized sausages and wrap them tightly in cling film or baking paper. Pop them in the freezer.
2) Butterfly the chicken breasts by slicing down the long side of the chicken breast and open it out like a book. Lay a piece of cling film over the chicken then bash the thickest parts of the breasts using a rolling pin to flatten them and make them as even as possible.
3) Remove the butter from the freezer and lay the butter at the edge of the chicken and roll, rolling the meat around the butter. Wrap the whole thing tightly in cling film and put them in the fridge – ideally for around two hours - to firm up.
4) Slice the potatoes into chips that are about the thickness of a chunky finger and place in a large pan and cover with salted cold water. Bring the pan to the boil simmer for two minutes. Drain them and spread them on a baking tray lined with a tea towel to cool and dry. They can stay here until you're ready to cook.
Meanwhile, clean your work area and turn your attention to the Blondie. You could make these first if you like. Set the oven at 160/gas 4. Grease and line a 20cm square tin.
Make the Blondie
5) Make the brown butter: take a large stainless steel pan, dice the remainder of the pack of butter (180g) and pop it in the pan over a medium heat.
6) Watch the pan fastidiously. Do not walk away. Allow the butter to melt, swilling the pan occasionally. Once it has melted it will begin to foam. Continue to cook, still swilling the pan occasionally, until the foam begins to rise and look like the froth from fizzy pop. You should now see that the butter is starting to turn brown and smell nutty. Remove from the heat (it will continue to cook off the heat) and continue to swill and watch until the butter is a deep nutty, brown. Pour the butter into a bowl immediately and allow to cool.
7) Make the espresso and leave it to cool. Weigh out the sugar into a bowl and beat thoroughly with one egg. Pour in the cooled espresso, Kahlua and browned butter, whisking constantly. Make sure that the coffee and butter have cooled otherwise you'll scramble your egg.
8) Fold in the flour and nuts then spread evenly into the prepared tin. Cook in the oven for 30 minutes until cracked on the top and still slightly squidgy when you press the centre. Leave it to cool in the tin.
9) Turn the oven up to 200c/gas 6, pour 2tbsp veg oil onto a baking sheet. Leave it in the oven for about 10 minutes to get really hot before placing the chips carefully in the hot oil. Make sure they are spaced out and not touching otherwise they won’t brown properly.
10) Cook the chips for 40 minutes, turning every 12-15 minutes or so for a nice even colour.
11) About 20 minutes before the chips are done, bring the chicken out the fridge. Place the seasoned flour, the beaten egg, and breadcrumbs into three separate bowls.
12) Remove the chicken from the cling film and roll it carefully in the 4tbsp seasoned flour, the remaining 2 beaten eggs and finally in the breadcrumbs.
13) Heat a large frying pan and add a glug of veg oil – enough to cover the whole base of the pan with about 1cm of oil.
14) When the oil is hot (test it by dropping a breadcrumb into the oil and checking if it bubbles), gently lay the chicken into the oil.
15) Leave to cook for 3 minutes before turning over gently to get a deep golden seal on the other side. Leave for another 3 minutes.
16) Remove from the oil and place on a baking tray and pop them into the oven for 10-12 minutes to cook through.
17) Serve with your seasoned chips, your salad, a large glass of wine and a generous dollop of mayo or your favourite dressing!
18) When you're ready for something sweet, slice the Blondie into wedges as little or large as you deem necessary and devour - perhaps with some vanilla ice cream if you have it but it's delicious on its own.