The first 'Autumnal' recipe I made for dinner this year was this simply fantastic recipe for chicken thighs, roasted in a big casserole dish with red lentils and onions until the lentils became crispy around the edges and soft like mashed potato in the middle which I became obsessed with making from the River Cottage Light & Easy book last Autumn. While the dish is still from a 'light' cookbook (we have so many of those these days) you still get the crisp chicken skins where they have been exposed during cooking, and that comforting feeling you want on a wet and stormy evening without that heavy feeling afterwards.
Something from my mothers shelf, Light & Easy has actually become a book that we both love to cook and eat from; some dishes are made as a family, but I've found that when it is just me home alone for the week I pull it down from the shelf and make a few dishes for myself, rather than reaching for one of my (many) cookbooks where I've already bookmarked hundreds of dishes for my 'to make' list.
The idea behind the book is for you to eat 'healthily' (I put that in italics, because I think we have reached the point where the entire cookbook market is simply flooded with supposedly healthy books that I'm starting to get a bit bored of them, even if there are still a few volumes from this new popularity in my Amazon wish list) while still eating in a somewhat normal fashion. This book cuts out milk and wheat; not something I'm sure is a good idea in the long term unless you're intolerant of either, but none the less are two food groups my diet is pretty light in anyway, so I like how this book has given me a variety of delicious and lighter dishes to mix in with my everyday eating. Also, in the 'healthy' book spectrum, most of the ingredients are what we'd normally find at your average supermarket, though some recipes such as the Potato Cakes and Savoury Pan Scones I'll always give a miss, because who needs to hunt down a bag of rice flour then have it sitting going stale in the back of the cupboard if you don't happen to like the one or two recipes you bought it for?
None the less, I do really love this book. I've enjoyed (almost) everything I've cooked from it (the Eggy Fish Fingers just simply do not work, has anyone else had this problem, as it seems like a cool recipe?), and there is so much more I want to try from it, such as the Storecupboard Fishcakes, Chicken Livers in Lemony Cucumber, Parsley, Anchovy & Walnut Pesto and the Squash, Red Onion & Butter Bean Roast.
So, this chicken with lentils. What I love about it is that as well as it being delicious and comforting, it is also stupidly easy to make. Soften sliced onions and garlic in a bit of cold pressed rapeseed oil (I like Mrs. Middletons) in a large casserole dish (you can't beat a good Le Creuset), add fresh rosemary, chicken stock and lentils, settle some chicken thighs on top and roast it, uncovered in the oven for an hour. Simple. This dish serves 3-4 people (used two chicken thighs per person, and the same amount of lentil base), and has been barely adapted, I've just switched up the method minimally.
- 2 tbsp Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil
- 1 Large (or 2 Small) White Onion(s), thinly sliced
- 4 Large Garlic Cloves, thinly sliced
- 3 Fresh Rosemary Sprigs
- Sea Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- 200g Red Split Lentils
- 500ml Chicken Stock (I use a whole stock cube or you can make your own fresh)
- 6-8 Bone in, Skin on Chicken Thighs
- Small Handful Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees. Heat the rapeseed oil in the bottom of a large, heavy bottomed casserole dish over a medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened. Add the garlic and the rosemary sprigs, season well with salt and pepper, and stir. Cook until the garlic is also soft.
In a sieve, rinse the lentils under a cold tap until the run off water runs clear and is no longer cloudy. Add the lentils to the pan and stir until they are well coated with oil and cook for about a minute, stirring every few seconds. Stir in the hot stock. Arrange the chicken thighs in casserole dish, skin up with the skin above the liquid so that the skin has a chance to crisp up while cooking. Season the skins with salt and pepper, and transfer the dish, uncovered to the oven. Cook for an hour, checking that all the liquid has not evaporated and the lentils are not drying out half way through. If it looks like there is not any liquid left, pour a bit of hot water from the kettle around the chicken.
If you're planning to serve this up to a crowd, scatter the casserole with chopped parsley and dish up at the table; with the lentils turned to mash (fish the rosemary sprigs out as you dish up) this is not the most attractive dish, in spite of its fantastic flavour out of the casserole dish. However, if you're just serving it up to family, you can give a bit of flourish to each individual plate by finishing them with the parsley. This also goes well with a side of green beans.
What are your favourite comforting dishes for when Summer has started to turn into Autumn that you're starting to make again? Do you have any easy one pot recommendations for me? Also, what are your thoughts on all of the 'healthy' books that have come out over the past few years? I have the Hemsley + Hemsley book, and Diana Henry's A Change of Appetite, and I have my eye on Madeline Shaw's new book Get The Glow, but so far the only ones I've really loved and cooked from again and again are this River Cottage volume, and A Change of Appetite, which I mentioned in this post at the beginning of the year, and I plan to review properly sometime this Autumn.