Simple meals for lazy weekends - roast chicken with sweet potato and ginger purée, buttermilk fried chook, and beef on rice.
Roast chicken with sweet potato and ginger purée
If you start with a really good tasting bird and look after it, roast chicken is a dish fit for a king.
whole free-range chicken (organic if possible) 2 kg
sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
flat leaf parsley a few sprigs
extra virgin olive oil 80ml plus extra for drizzling
green salad to serve
For the sweet potato and ginger purée
sweet potato 500g, peeled and cut into 2-3cm dice
chopped ginger 2 tbsp
sea salt 2 tbsp
unsalted butter 100g, diced, plus extra to finish
freshly ground white pepper
Take the chicken out of the refrigerator 2 hours before cooking.
Preheat the oven to 160C/gas mark 2-3. Season the chicken inside and out with sea salt. Cut one lemon in half, squeeze a little juice into the cavity of the bird, then place the two lemon halves and the parsley sprigs in the cavity. Truss the chicken and rub it all over with the olive oil.
Place the chicken on its side in a heavy-based roasting tin and roast for 20 minutes. Turn the bird on to its other side and roast for another 20 minutes. Turn it on to its back and roast for a further 20 minutes or until cooked.
Turn the oven down to 60C/gas mark ¼ and open the door for a few minutes to let out the heat. Allow the chicken to rest for 15 minutes in the warm oven.
Meanwhile for the sweet potato and ginger purée, place the sweet potato, ginger and sea salt in a saucepan and add enough cold water so the vegetables are not quite covered. Bring to the boil over a medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for about 20 minutes or until soft. Add the butter, then purée with a food processor or hand-held blender until smooth. Check the seasoning and finish with extra butter and a good grind of white pepper.
To carve the chicken, remove the string and pull the legs apart, run a sharp knife down and through the hip bone, removing the legs; separate the drumstick and thigh at the joint. Remove the breasts with the winglet. Cut each breast in half lengthways.
To serve, place a dollop of sweet potato and ginger purée on each plate and top with chicken. Drizzle with extra olive oil, then add a squeeze of lemon, a grind of white pepper and a sprinkle of crushed sea salt. Serve immediately with a lightly dressed green salad.
Buttermilk fried chook
Who doesn't like crispy chicken? There are always several recipes for it in every culture. Some of my favourite Asian dishes have fried chicken as their centrepiece.
free-range chicken thighs (organic if possible), bone in, skin on 8
vegetable oil for deep-frying
lemon wedges, potato salad and coleslaw to serve
For the coating
plain (all-purpose) flour 600g
garlic powder 2 tbsp
onion powder 3 tbsp
paprika 1 tsp
chilli powder ½ tsp
sea salt 1 tsp
freshly ground white pepper to taste
Fill a deep-fryer or saucepan two-thirds full of oil and heat to 180C. If you are using a saucepan then use a kitchen thermometer as a guide as you don't want the oil too hot.
Combine all the coating ingredients in a large bowl, then split it between two medium bowls. Pour the buttermilk into a third bowl and season to taste. Now place the bowls in a line starting with one bowl of coating, followed by the milk, then the other bowl of coating, and a tray or plate at the end for the coated chicken.
Dip each chicken thigh into the first bowl of coating, patting off any excess and then dip into the buttermilk, allowing the excess milk to run off back into the bowl; then dip into the second bowl of coating. Place on the plate or tray and repeat until all the chicken thighs are coated.
Working in batches, gradually lower the thighs into the hot oil. If using a saucepan of oil rather than a deep-fryer, make sure you adjust the temperature to get it back to 180C as quickly as possible. Fry for 2-3 minutes, then carefully move the chicken pieces around in the oil and continue to fry for a further 12-14 minutes. The chicken should be golden brown and very crisp. Drain on paper towel and serve with lemon wedges, potato salad and coleslaw.
To make an easy potato salad, boil whole small or halved pink eye potatoes until tender. Drain, then crush lightly, season with sea salt and pepper, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with red wine vinegar or lemon juice and add thinly sliced parsley. For a coleslaw, shave cabbage finely, add grated carrot and onion and mix with mayonnaise or aioli.
Beef on rice
This is a simple lesson in a perfect balance of Japanese flavours and makes for great one-bowl dining. Short-grain rice, which is used in Japanese and Korean cookery, is starchier than long- and medium-grain rice, and makes a very comforting base for one-bowl meals like this one. If your budget doesn't stretch to beef fillet, use thinly cut chuck steak. Just boil it in water for 5 minutes, rinse and add it to the broth, simmering gently for about 10 minutes before you add the vegetables.
beef fillet 600g, thinly sliced
rice wine 250ml
soy sauce 125ml
white onions 2, peeled, halved and sliced into 1cm slices
red pepper 1, quartered, seeds removed and flesh cut into 1cm batons
celery stalks 2, cut on the diagonal into 1cm slices
sushi rice, cooked and kept warm 210g
pickled ginger and coriander leaves (optional)
Place the rice wine and 125ml water in a saucepan and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the soy and mirin and simmer for a few more minutes. Add the onion, red pepper and celery and simmer for 2-3 minutes, or until the vegetables have softened. Add the beef and simmer for 1 minute, stirring (fillet will cook quickly).
Place the warm rice into four bowls. With a slotted spoon, place the beef and vegetables on top, then spoon as much broth over as you like. I like it quite soupy. Top the beef with a little pickled ginger and coriander, if using, and serve.
Extracted from Easy Weekends by Neil Perry (Murdoch Books, £20). To order for £14, with free UK p&p, click here
Roast chicken with sweet potato and ginger purée. Photograph: Earl Carter/Easy Weekend