I've had a fraught day! And it's all Bob Crow's fault. Yes, he called a Tube strike and made my journey home from my Monday job in Notting Hill a supremely convoluted affair. It was all right going into work this morning: the District Line was running from Wimbledon to Earl's Court and, thanks to a neat App on my iPhone helpfully called 'London Bus', I was able to find out which bus would take me from Earl's Court to Notting Hill Gate (it was the 328 to Golders Green, for those who are interested in such minutiae). I left work at 12 noon, after a fight with the laptop which, after downloading a new bit of software, decided to stop working and refused to restart, despite some very stern words from me. I took all the typing home with me in the end, and set off for Earl's Court (on the 328 again, this time heading for Chelsea/World's End). Because I was on the bus, I had to forego my usual Monday lunch of Pret A Manger's deluxe sushi box, and had to buy a slimey pasta salad from M&S instead. When I got to Earl's Court, I marched through the small picket line ("Comrades! We demand the RIGHT of every man AND woman..." etc etc) only to find that the Wimbledon service had been suspended (damn those striking workers!!). Back on Earl's Court Road I joined the patient queue at the bus stop as a great phalanx of people waited stoically for the no. 74, which arrived promptly, though already three-quarters full. This bus was headed for Putney Bridge, and I 'enjoyed' a 40-minute ramble around the less salubrious backstreets of Fulham. From Putney Bridge, I took the 85 to Kingston, whereupon, I decided to have a pause, buy some leeks and vermouth, before taking the 281 (Hounslow) to Teddington.

After completing all the typing, emails and other bits of admin I'd brought home with me, I fed the cats (who have a habit of circling my legs like marauding sharks when they are hungry) before embarking on supper. Generally, I find cooking a very therapeutic activity: I like to chop and fry and stir while listening to the 6.30pm comedy on Radio 4, and then get my nightly fix of The Archers at 7pm. I'd left a nice chicken out to defrost before I left for work, so I spatchcocked it (i.e. cut it down its back and flattened it out a bit). I parboiled some Charlotte potatoes, chopped leeks and onions, and arranged everything on a baking tray, chucked a handful of unpeeled garlic cloves and a sprig of thyme into the tray, and drizzled a good lug of olive oil over the whole lot. On top of this pile of veg went the flattened chicken, which I seasoned with lemon juice, and salt and pepper. The whole lot went into the oven just as the theme tune for The Archers ('Barwick Green') came on air. After about 30 minutes, by which time the onions and leeks, which had crept out from under the chicken, were caramelising slightly, I poured some white vermouth over the bird. After an hour, it was done - and then I did a very naughty and Nigella-ish thing and ate some of the delicious salty-crispy chicken skin, at the risk of scorching my sensitive fingertips ahead of my piano lesson on Wednesday, when I hope to play Debussy in a "caressing" way! (I know that Nigella does this because she admits to it in her book 'How to Eat' in the recipe Roast Chicken from the Venetian Ghetto - the chicken-skin-eating, not the Debussy-playing.)

The vegetable mixture for this roast chicken dish is drawn from Josceline Dimbleby's recipe 'Chicken With Last Lick Sauce'. I won't repeat the rather twee origins of the title "Last lick", but the sauce is a delicious addition and turns the dish into something rather special. I didn't make the sauce tonight because a) I'm supposed to be on a diet (ha ha) and b) I couldn't face going out again to buy the extra ingredients. Instead, I made Moro Garlic Sauce (see earlier post), which seems to go with just about anything meaty.....

'Last Lick' sauce
300ml double cream
300ml milk
6 cloves of garlic (peeled but whole)
about 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary (can be left on the stem)
can of anchovies (no need to chop)
about 8 sundried tomatos cut into very thin slices.

Put the cream, milk, garlic, rosemary and anchovies in a pan. heat and bring to the simmer. simmer lightly for about 30 minutes stirring occasionally. After 30 minutes pour sauce into a sieve that is over a bowl, push through the now very soft garlic (the anchovies will have 'melted'!). This bit can all be done well in advance and just when ready to serve, mix the sauce with the sliced tomatoes and reheat.

Carve the chicken, and arrange with the vegetables. Pour over the sauce. When you eat this, you will understand why it is called "last lick"!


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