Theodora used to write a weekly column for the Irish Times and in addition to giving recipes, she would also write about the stories behind the dishes; hers were recipes you wanted to cook and taste. Most importantly, Theodora’s recipes always worked. The Christmas cake and pudding that I make every year are based on recipes that she provided, and even though I have tweaked them over the years, I still consider them to be Theodora’s.
I was so enamoured and influenced by Theodora that I even wanted to name my second daughter after her, but my husband was having none of it. In fairness, he has had to put up with the clutter of hundreds of cookbooks and all the gadgets and equipment that comes with my love of cookery, but I think he finally reached his tipping point when I wanted to start naming my children after my favourite food writers!
When you read the ingredients list for this recipe, they seem slightly strange – chicken in a cider, honey, soy sauce and cream sauce with carrots and peas just sounds a bit wrong, but trust me… it works. The cider and honey accentuate the natural sweetness of the carrots whilst the soy sauce adds a salty savoury element to proceedings.
Other than initially frying off the chicken, this dish cooks away quite happily by itself in the oven. You can easily double the quantities if you need to feed more people. This dish is wonderful served with some velvety soft mashed potatoes, but I also like it with crisp sautéed potatoes, as can be seen in the photographs accompanying this post.
Ingredients:A splash of vegetable oil
1 chicken cut into 4 or 4 chicken portions, skin on
2 medium onions, finely chopped
A sprig of thyme
600ml dry cider
5-6 medium carrots, sliced into discs
2-3tblsp soy sauce
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
100g frozen peas
Method:1. Preheat the oven to 180C/ Fan Oven 160C/Gas mark 4.
2. Heat the vegetable oil in an oven proof casserole dish on the hob, over a moderate heat. Add the onion and fry gently until softened but not coloured. Increase the heat season and then fry the chicken pieces for 3-4 minutes on each side until they are a rich golden colour.
3. Sprinkle the flour over the browned chicken and continue to cook for a further minute until the flour has cooked out. Pour over the cider, scraping the bottom of the dish with a wooden spoon to loosen any caramelised bits and give them a chance to incorporate into the sauce as the dish cooks in oven.
4. Add the thyme, honey, soy sauce and sliced carrots. Cover the casserole dish and place into the preheated oven for 45-55 minutes.
5. Five minutes before the cooking time has finished, add the peas and cream and stir through. When the cooking time has elapsed, remove from oven, taste, adjust seasoning as necessary and serve.