I have learnt something during this Lockdown. It is all about Swans. Many if not most of the swans that one sees floating down the rivers and in lakes, are Mute Swans. It is a bit of a misnomer as in fact they are not Mute, but rather they make less noise than other breeds of swans. They are the heaviest bird in the UK and as a adult have pure white feathers. Swans on the Thames belong either to the Crown or to the Vintners or to the Dyers. Both of these Guilds have had the right own these swans since the 16 th Century. Once a year, liveried people wearing scarlet of the Crown, mark the birds, one for the livery company, the Dyers, one for the livery company the Vintners and the third for the Crown ( but these are left unmarked! ) However in the UK all swans are protected. And of course in The Regents Park there are such swans. Amazing what one can learn on an early morning walk.
Today, Himself declared that he was Le Chef du Jour. He decided on Coq Au Vin, and we found the perfect recipe in my cook book from 1990 ! Yes in the years 1983-1993, I ran a small ad hoc cooking school in Brussels, 5 lessons a month, 12 Ladies in each group and here was my recipe!
When he cooks, he takes it very seriously, I guess that comes from being a chemist ( scientist not pharmacist), though he is not adverse to my, a little bit of this and a little bit of that ! The basic recipe came from that one time doyenne of cooking in the UK, Elizabeth David and to this day, many of her recipes stand the test of time.
I adapted the recipe to suit my pupils. Many of them had not really cooked bonfire they arrived in Belgium and were faced with the necessity of giving dinner parties, so all of my classes were on a theme, for entertaining.
- Traditionally a large chicken, but if you don’t like bones and skin, ( and I don’t) then use about 1 kilo of boneless chicken breasts.
- 3/4 bottle of a reasonable red wine, preferably Burgundy
- 200 grms lardons
- 200 grms button mushrooms
- A handful of small onions, Or a couple of onions cut into chunks
- A bouquet garni ( it is possible to buy ready done or just add some herbs ( herbes de Provence for example)
- 4 whole cloves of garlic, or more if you like
- A couple of large carrots peeled and sliced.
- Some butter, unsalted
- A glass of brandy or whiskey
Melt a small amount of butter and when hot add the lardons and sauté until until brown, add the chicken which has been cut into chunks, brown on the outside.
Add the wine onions, carrots, garlic and chicken. Simmer for about 30 minutes depending on how big your chunks of chicken are. Add the mushrooms and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Remove everything with a slotted spoon, except the liquid. Mix a tablespoon of soft butter with 2 teaspoons of cornflour and carefully add some of your cooking liquid, to form a paste. Add to the rest of the liquid and whisk in. Taste and season to taste. Return all of the other ingredients to the pan,taste again, , add a small amount of butter, just before serving to glaze. Serve with new potatoes and garnish with some parsley.