(from Richard Bright)
Mum was a good cook, though in a very Anglo-centric way. I remember enjoying everything she put in front of us and, despite her menu being very meat-and-three-veg oriented, I never had to endure over-cooked greens or grey meat. But, with only a couple of exceptions, our food was essentially British fare. It wasn’t until I went to university that I discovered curry, tacos, kebabs, or garlic. Or that 6000 years of Chinese culture had produced anything other than sweet and sour pork.
Thus the meals in Mum’s repertoire that hinted at a world beyond the English Channel (and bear in mind that I grew up in New Zealand) were truly highlights that remain memorable to this day.
One of those highlights, and it seems so quaint today, was Chicken Veronique. It was chicken. With fruit! It was like some mad alchemy and I was always excited when the standard after-school question - “Mum, what’s for dinner tonight?” - elicited the chook-and-grape answer.
This exotic dish came from the magnificent 72-part magazine series ‘The Cordon Bleu Cookery Course’. This prized collection, complete with blue binders was acquired by my parents in the late sixties and it is still in the possession of my Dad today. It seemed very daring and authoritative, and I spent many hours poring over its step-by-step photos and lists of fabulous ingredients. And without it I would have probably made it to university without having tasted spaghetti bolognese or beef stroganoff!
So, here's how to make Chicken Veronique, with precise instructions from the Cordon Bleu Cookery School, c1968.
2 knobs of butter
3-4 sprigs of tarragon
1/2 pint of chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon arrowroot
2 tablespoons double cream
1/2 cup white or muscat grapes, peeled and pipped
- Season the inside of a trussed chicken.
- Rub the chicken with butter, and put 3-4 sprigs of tarragon inside, along with a further knob of butter.
- Place the chicken in a roasting tin, with 1/4 pint of chicken stock, cover with buttered paper, and roast for an hour at 400 F.
- After the first 15 to 20 minutes, the chicken should be removed from the oven and basted; and then basted again after another 15-20 minutes, turning the chicken around, each time. The buttered paper should be removed a few minutes before the end of the cooking, to brown the bird.
- The hot chicken is then removed to a wooden board, jointed and carved.
- The remaining juices in the roasting tin are reduced over a steady heat until brown and sticky. Add ¼ of a pint of chicken stock to the pan to make a gravy.
- Strain the gravy into a small saucepan and thicken with ½ teaspoon of arrowroot mixed with a little water. Add the arrowroot mixture away from the heat, and then stir until boiling.
- Stir two tablespoons of double cream into the gravy.
- Add the grapes to the gravy.
Audrey Bright aged 16