I grew up in the 80s in a food loving family from North West London. Food runs deep in most Jewish households and although mine wasn’t the largest family in the world, regrouping around the table each Friday was still the order of play.
Mum had vegetarian parents so never learnt how to cook meat whilst growing up. It was Dad who taught her the basics when they met but, despite his best intentions, she still managed to roast a chicken with its bag of giblets inside; I guess we all have to start somewhere!
By the time I was 7 or 8, Mum was definitely my main culinary influence and it wasn’t long before I found myself tinkering in the kitchen. Back then, my organisation skills and tidiness left much to be desired but, nonetheless, Mum gave me more or less free reign to experiment, allowing my passion for cooking to develop.
There are certainly some knock out dishes and techniques that I learnt from Mum; fish pie, a good white sauce, chicken liver pâté and certainly many more. However, one which sticks out in my mind was a bread stuffing recipe she actually learnt from Dad during the ‘roast chicken training’ years. In fact, a roast chicken wasn’t quite the same without his bread stuffing. It’s definitely a crowd pleaser that suits any occasion but I particularly associate it with Mum and Dad and Friday nights spent with my sister, Suzanna.
Stuffings can often take a lot of time to prepare and also overpower the flavour of the bird itself. This recipe, in contrast, is not only extremely quick to prepare, it also allows the flavour of the chicken itself to shine rather than trying to take centre stage. We always stuff the neck of the chicken so the juices of the bird soak in making an incredibly delicious accompaniment to your bird.
1 medium onion
200g bread crumbs, made from a stale loaf
50g melted butter
½ tsp ground ginger
1 egg, beaten
½ tsp salt
Mix the bread crumbs with the ginger, salt and some ground black pepper. Next, blitz the onion in a food processor until finely chopped and mix with the bread crumbs. Now mix in the melted butter and egg and bring everything together into a soft ball.
Carefully push your fingers under the skin of the chicken breast to release it from the meat. Next push the stuffing up into the space you have created and shape around the neck, pulling the skin of the neck underneath to prevent the stuffing from falling out.
Now season your chicken as you do normally and roast for 1.5 hours at 180°C or until fully cooked. Allow to rest and then slice, serving some generous hunks of moist bread stuffing alongside