Saturday, 14 January 2012

CHICKEN IN A BRICK

When I was a student in the mid-1980s, I owned a chicken brick. It was one of my most treasured possessions, bought for my birthday by some of my housemates, and used a great deal as I learned to cook in my final year a university.

The chicken brick came from Habitat, the home store established in the swinging sixties by designer, design entrepreneur and restaurateur Terence Conran, the man who, almost single-handedly, shaped the look of everyday British life post-1945. (He also introduced us to the duvet, the paper lampshade and the wok.) I recently reviewed an exhibition at London's Design Museum about Conran's work and legacy (you can read my review here) and, nestled amongst the display of simple kitchen kit, was a chicken brick. My son asked me what it was for, and when I explained, he said "we should get one".

I don't remember what happened to my first chicken brick after I left university. I suspect I continued to use it for some years and then it got broken, and I never replaced it. I'm enjoying a rather wonderful rush of nostalgia now that there is another chicken brick in my kitchen, and I'm looking forward to christening it tonight - with a roast chicken.

Cooking in terracotta pots is an ancient method. The clay pottery retains the heat, and, being porous  when soaked in water and then heated in the oven, provides a slow evaporation of steam from the pores, creating a steamy enclosed environment. Food cooked in a terracotta pot is tender and succulent and needs no additional moisture or liquid during cooking. Meat also browns in the brick, even with the lid on. The chicken brick works in a similar way to a tagine, and a large brick has enough room for a bird or a joint plus veg or trimmings. As my tagine pot is rather small, I will probably use the brick for making tagines in future.


© Weston Mill Pottery

I purchased my chicken brick from Weston Mill Pottery, the firm which made the original chicken bricks for Habitat - and still does. In 2008, Habitat discontinued the chicken brick, but it was reintroduced due to popular demand.

I'll probably cook my 'chicken in a brick' with garlic, lemon quarters, tarragon sprigs and bay leaves, and maybe a dash of sherry. I'm going to serve it with Moro garlic sauce, and Ottolenghi's best mash. A perfect, comforting supper for a cold mid-January day.

More on chicken bricks, including recipes here

2 comments:

  1. nice post


    Aarthi
    http://yummytummy-aarthi.blogspot.com/

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  2. hi Frances,
    I write and play (barely) the piano.... thanks for your help with my just inherited chicken brick. My friend cooked with one and I was looking for a used one, when I was walking into my sister-in-law's house and saw one in her garden. She'd just had her kitchen redone and was getting rid of everything she hadn't used -- was going to plant flowers in it!

    So I'm giving it my first go. I added butter and wine based on the manufacturer's Web site, but I'm told now that I don't need to.
    Tx, Carole

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