December 6, 2012


With the temperatures falling, the days getting ever shorter and the roads being choked with the whole world and his grandmother doing their Christmas shopping, what we really needed to cheer us up after work on a horrible evening was something cheerful to eat.

chicken3This recipe is based on a real winner from the book “What’s for dinner?” by Fay Ripley and I have cooked and adapted it a few times with great success.  You can see the original recipe here.

I bought the book earlier this year after hearing the author being interviewed on the radio.  It’s full of really sensible, easy to make recipes, mostly designed for families but easily adapted for two busy people who get home late from work and need to satisfy both their hunger and their desire to do something other than just shove a ready meal in the oven, but with very little more effort. 

A bit like 15-minute meals but more realistic – just as easy to make but the cooking time is longer – and you don’t end up with a trashed kitchen to clear up !!  I have been enjoying Jamie Oliver’s 15-minute meals series but reckon the whole process still takes getting on for an hour by the time you have fished all your pans and ingredients out of the cupboards and then cleared up afterwards…..!!

chicken1 On this occasion I used butternut squash, parsnips and beetroot, with a mixed pack of organic chicken thighs and legs.  The jewel-like colours of the veg in the baking tin went a long way towards cheering us up while the weather outside could only be described as filthy.  The wind was howling and the rain turning to sleet but who could fail to feel better as the smell of our dinner filled the kitchen.


You can use pretty much any root veg for this dish – it’s the sauce that you pour over the top that makes all the difference.  A mixture of olive oil, mustard and lemon definitely brings a tangy taste to the chicken and roots and a smile to the face.  I served ours with a dishful of greens.  Yum yum !!

chicken4 Here’s my adaptation for a cheerful chicken bake:


4 small chicken thighs or legs

¼ butternut squash

1 small beetroot

2-3 parsnips

2 tblsp olive oil

1 tblsp Dijon mustard

1 sprig tarragon (or 3 tsp dried tarragon)

zest and juice of 1 lemon


Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°fan/gas mk 6.

Peel the veg and cut into small chunks.  Scatter into an ovenproof dish or baking tin.  Cut the flappy bits off the chicken and place on top of the veg skin side up.  Season with salt and pepper.

To make the sauce, mix together the olive oil, mustard, lemon zest and juice in a small bowl.  Spoon the mixture over the chicken.  Add the tarragon.

Bake for 45 minutes or until the chicken is golden brown and the veg are tender.  (Mine took about 55 minutes and next time I would be tempted to cook the veg for 10 minutes before adding the chicken.)

Serve with green veg.  Serves two hungry people or four if you use larger chicken pieces and more roots.


  1. Oh that looks really good. I know what you mean about jamie's 15/30 mintue meals :-)

  2. i could just eat this now, but if it's Friday it is usually curry - and some sparkles!

  3. Like the sound of this cheerful chicken!