I’d just arrived at my hosts – a lovely house in Warwickshire.
The door opened in welcome.
It was like the smell of ten French cheeses left in the sun hitting the lacto-free nose of a practicing vegan.
Astounding. What can you possibly say that’s not rude? What on earth was it?
“Why, lovage of course,” came the breezy reply.
A herb? I thought a whole cauldron of this leaf must be on the stove. How was it that something that looked like this:and tasted like celery was such an olfactory offender?
But no, it was an innocent and simple dish. Fresh from the garden, the lovage was muddled with the vigour of sour-sweet limes and mellowed with cream - forming the base of a sauce for beautifully cooked chicken.
Chicken with lime and lovage.
Told that this dish was made from a competition-winner’s recipe torn from the Observer years ago, it seemed to me that it was like a sweet Madeleine dipped in tea for the hosts - a nostalgic reminder of childhood dinners.
Surprisingly, I think I even had seconds.
This dish has now been savoured many times, served with a pile of fluffy long-grain rice and lashings of sauce. I can tell you that this springtime chicken - when the lovage is prime - is not something you can have mixed feelings about.
I love it. Ardently.
Which is why I’ve decided to post this recipe – with thanks to Professor J. Shattock, whose lovage was lovingly plucked for this brave dish.
Chicken with lime and lovage
I’ve tinkered with the original recipe which called for chicken breasts but in the light of my previous post I propose using six chicken pieces. The only thing affected here will be the time taken to brown the chicken.
1 chicken cut into 6 pieces (thighs, breasts, drumsticks)
Flour to coat the chicken pieces
2 limes, zested and juiced
¾ pint chicken stock
¼ pint single cream
Handful of button mushrooms, sliced
1 onion, diced
Big bunch of lovage (or celery leaves if not available)
Parsley to serve
Salt and pepper
Coat the chicken pieces in flour.
Heat a frying pan on medium-high heat and brown the chicken pieces. Do not overcrowd the pan with chicken else the chicken won’t brown.
Place the chicken in a large casserole dish pour the lime juice and zest over the juicy chicken pieces and watch telly whilst marinating for half an hour and preheat the oven – Gas 6, 200°C.
Roast for 30 minutes.
While roasting fry the onions in the same frying pan on a medium-low heat and when softened add the mushrooms. Chop the lovage.
When the mushrooms are cooked, add the chicken stock. Bring to the boil, add the lovage and simmer for five minutes.
Add the cream, simmer for a further two minutes.
Before serving, add chopped parsley and pour over the chicken.
Serve with steaming white rice and lash on the sauce.