Tim Halket has penned a truly amusing but practical book, Five Fat Hens. He says he was welcomed into the world by a chicken sandwich so in this case the chicken did indeed come before the egg.
It’s about poultry from cradle (OK, so I know that eggs don’t have cradles) to grave (and I know it’s unlikely many chickens have graves). Tim talks us through breeding and rearing chickens and also has some delightful recipes which will ensure that there is little left to bury.
Many TV chefs and cookbook authors talk about how much of your own food you can grow in a window box. I am sure that even the enthusiastic Tim will concede that a sixth-floor balcony is no place to bring up a flock of chickens. That being said there are many of us who have just enough garden to make such a proposition not only viable but fun and rewarding in so many ways. There is plenty of advice in the form of a monthly diary that will help you along the way from egg-hatching through the full circle of feathery life to egg-laying.
The recipes are simple and delightful, and chicken, even if you have to stoop to buying from your butcher (this reviewer lowers voice and whispers “or even a supermarket”) is reasonably priced. There is the whole spectrum of traditional eggy dishes from Bacon and Eggs and Egg and Cress Sandwiches to Mussel and Saffron Quiche, and Zabaglione. Something for smart dinner parties and lots for feeding the family.
I have several recipes from this book that will become regulars on the dinner table chez nous. Burmese Dry Chicken Curry has robust flavour but no lengthy list of ingredients and the spices are those you will likely already have in the larder. The recipe is credited to Sophie Grigson’s Meat Course, with a bit of tweaking from Tim.
A dish that is comforting and moreish is Chicken Croquettes. This is a River Cottage Cookbook original although it’s similar to those I have eaten in Spain. Many croquettes use mashed potatoes but this recipe employs the much superior béchamel sauce. It takes a bit more effort to prepare than using leftover mash but it’s worth it.
A charming recipe is for Mum’s Way with Roast Chicken. It’s refreshing to find a cookbook with Paxo in the ingredient list. Chipolatas and streaky bacon also put in an appearance to make this a very fine Sunday lunch, that will bring back memories of Two-Way Family Favourites and the Billy Cotton Band Show on the wireless, or at least it will if you have been gracing this planet for more than half a century.
Five Fat Hens – The chicken and egg cookbook has been a jolly book to read. It’s full of sensible recipes using affordable ingredients. It’s a book into which to dip and it will soon naturally fall open at frequently visited pages. A book to use …and that’s the point of buying it, isn’t it?
Five Fat Hens – The chicken and egg cookbook
Author: Tim Halket
Published by: Grub Street
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018