There hasn’t been a lot going on this blog of late, I admit. But I’ve had a pretty good reason. Being up the duff for the second time around has turned my palate into that of a five-year-old. A fussy food prude. For the past three months, all I’ve been able to stomach are the blandest foods: toast, tomato sauce, cheese and ham sandwiches and baked potatoes. Endless oranges. Salt grains direct from the grinder into my mouth (ugh). My usual diet of fiery curries and stinky cheeses has been annihilated. Anything with a hint of spice or whiff of aromatics – even just THINKING about them – has made me reel. My sense of smell has gone super-sensory. Not very helpful when you live in stinky old London town!
My first pregnancy kicked off much the same way. I remember nail-biting walks to work from Victoria station, trying not to dry-heave into the nearest bin when confronted with all the fag smoke swirling around the exits. I learnt to hold my breath the entire length of a street to not have to inhale the stench of sushi/noodle chain Wasabi as they piped out a disgusting fishy gravy smell from their extractor fans. This time around, I’ve been able smell peoples’ BO on the tube from a whole carriage away, and once sat next to a man who I knew had cooked basmati rice the night before, because his jacket reeked of it. It made me want to faint.
My meals have gone monotone. One of the strangest sensations is feeling suddenly ravenous, and as you’re eating being simultaneously repelled by the food you’re shovelling into your mouth, your brain going ‘no, NO, not this, yuk!’, but your body telling you ‘EAT’. It’s like being taken over by aliens.* Thankfully I’m just coming out of the worst stretch of the sickness and exhaustion now. Food is starting to look appealing again. I’ll have to go slowly-slowly and not dive headlong back into a Vietnamese takeaway – it’s still hard to imagine eating anything with chilli or ginger in it. Torture for a food blogger, eh!
The below recipe is one that my amazing chef friend Charlotte once scribbled down for me on a paper bag. I think it’s based on a Carluccio recipe. I’ve lost the paper bag, so I now cobble it together from memory, with a few tweaks, and it’s still totally delicious. It’s perfect if you’ve got a large number of people coming round for lunch and you just want to throw together something easy, that you can just chuck in the oven and forget about. The chicken gets infused with lemon, wine and parmesan, and goes lovely and caramelised in the oven, as do the lemon wedges. So easy to put together, have made it countless times. And it’s something this pregnant gal can eat with relish!!!
12 chicken leg / thigh pieces (or joint a whole chicken into pieces)
Potatoes cut into wedges
5 lemons – zest and juice of 2, plus 3 whole lemons cut into wedges
4 bay leaves
150ml dry white wine
3 sprigs fresh rosemary, woody stem removed
100g Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and pepper
First make a marinade – you’re going to let the chicken infuse overnight. (If you don’t have time, a few hours will be ok). Place the zest and juice of the lemons, bay leaves, rosemary, white wine, 3/4 of the grated Parmesan and some generous glugs of olive oil into a food processor, and blitz everything into a smooth paste. (You don’t have to make a paste – just marinade the chicken in the above, mixing everything together well, making sure the rosemary and bay leaves are finely chopped). Massage the paste as much as possible into the chicken. A good trick is to put everything into a plastic bag and seal tightly. Leave in the fridge overnight.
The next day, preheat your oven to 200C. Take the chicken out of the fridge and spread out in an oiled oven tray. Chop up your potatoes into wedges, and your remaining lemons. Add to the tray. Sprinkle over the remaining grated Parmesan cheese. Chuck in a few extra rosemary sprigs if you have them.
Tightly seal the tray with foil. Bake for approximately 1.5 hours, then remove the tinfoil and cook for a further 20 minutes to make sure everything is nicely browned. Serve with a green salad. When you eat it, squeeze the roasted lemon wedges onto the chicken for extra lemony zing. Serve with a green salad and some dry white wine.
*Another thing that made my pregnancy sickness worse? Reading Twitter! No joke – I still can’t really stomach it.