This weekend has been pretty hectic, mainly because as usual I am behind with Christmas shopping and take forever to do it. Yesterday I spent most of the day trying to catch up and was thwarted on some of my missions. We have also been out: today we spent the afternoon at a party and Friday night we went to some friends' for dinner. Going out for dinner at other people's houses is such a variable experience, depending on a) whether you like the people or not and b) what they cook. A) is less self-evident than it might seem: I can't be the only person who sometimes goes out wishing she was somewhere - anywhere - else. I hate duty socializing but it seems to be part of the modern day. B) is not what you might expect: that is, I am perfectly happy going to see people who can cook, can't cook, whatever; the issue is mainly about whether I am likely to be poisoned. I have been poisoned quite a few times; I must have a delicate stomach. When I was a student, I had a friend whose brave culinary concoctions challenged my constitution considerably. She once served a frittata that had sat in the sunshine all day; that frittata came back to haunt me - literally. She also used to collect the dregs of people's glasses and freeze it to use in cooking, which made me worry, when offered risotto, if I was tasting alcohol or saliva. I also suffered after someone served me frozen beef (don't ask) and after someone gave me Economy supermarket pork swimming in a tin of sweet peaches in a rewrite of a Jamie Oliver dish. I wish that people who don't know how to cook would start using the local deli and buy dinner in - they tend to flap madly when faced with making a meal and then risk poisoning all their guests - good shopping is an art in food terms, and you don't need to know how to cook to know how to shop. All that said, I was looking forward to Friday night's dinner with complete confidence, knowing a) I can relax and laugh with the hosts and b) they can cook. We had a lovely chicken casserole for the main course, followed by a to-die-for chocolate tart with icecream laced with brandy. Wow. And we had a really nice time, too.
Yesterday evening we came back late from shopping all day, exhausted and fractious because the December Saturday shopping experience has that effect, and so we decided on an easy dinner - Jamie's roast chicken breast with cherry tomatoes and asparagus. Its method is straightforward: for one person (I doubled amounts for the two of us), toss a chicken breast (skin-on) in a bowl with trimmed asparagus, cherry tomatoes, olive oil and rosemary leaves, then season. Put everything but the chicken in a tray and place the chicken breast on top; add an extra sprig of rosemary, then some white wine, and place in the oven for 23-25 minutes (200 C).
Serve drizzled with balsamic vinegar. The picture shows how simple this is; it doesn't show how delicious. I was worried it would be dry but it wasn't at all; it was very good indeed. All of these chicken breast recipes have been fantastic and really easy - anyone feeling tired, unsure what to cook, in the mood for chicken should invest in this book. Having said that, I would also cook these for friends because they require no last-minute frenzy, no anxious prodding when you'd rather be drinking an aperitif. Mmm.