My favourite winter drink is a glass of sloe gin – home made is preferable, though Sipsmith do an amazing version, as do Adnams if you happen to spot any. For those of us with gluten and yeast intolerances, alcohol can be a bit of a pain, no beer or wine for us, though fortunately the gods of contrariness allow us to sup champagne – and I’m not complaining! But when it comes to these cold and dark wintry night’s, sloe gin is just the thing to warm you body and soul. I rarely cook with alcohol but I suddenly felt inspired when I looked in my cupboards to be faced with a bottle of sloe gin, some potatoes and a tin of chestnuts. Needs must, but actually, don’t let me pretend this is accidental; I recently found a wonderful recipe by Nigel Slater (as you do) that involved a handful of ingredients - chicken, almonds and sherry. The idea of it sat in the back of my head for a week or so until I plumped for this wonderfully simple combination of my own: chicken, chestnuts and sloe gin. Truly, if you’re looking to stave off the cold of winter and fill your tummy with a delicious and warming concoction then this is the thing for you, plus, it’s relatively quick too. I’ve made enough here for two people, though you could easily double the quantity to serve four if you wanted. You could also dress it up, I’m sure, some steamed broccoli and peas, perhaps some parsnip puree or sautéed red cabbage with smoked bacon (which is a perfect match, by the by). But I served it as it is: a pauper’s supper in a bowl, a spoon, sat in front of the fire soaking up the warmth of the stove and the juniper ripe, sloe scented potatoes, tender chicken and chestnuts in a delicate jus of its own making. Sloe gin two ways, a sure sign that Christmas is near!
CHICKEN, SLOE GIN AND CHESTNUT POT ROAST
4 chicken thighs, boneless and skin on or off
2 tbsp garlic oil (or just use olive oil if you can’t get any)
250g new potatoes
120g chestnuts, cooked and peeled
100ml sloe gin
Preheat the oven to 200c.
Season the chicken thighs generously with sea salt and black pepper and then cut the potatoes into 1cm rounds. Pour the oil into a large ovenproof casserole pan with a lid and heat over a medium flame until hot. Add the chicken thighs to the pan, skin side down and seal until golden and evenly browned – this will take about 5 minutes over a medium-high flame. Note: when sealing or browning meat, place it onto the hot oil and pan and allow it to brown, if you try and move it and it sticks then it isn’t ready. Once you can move the meat without it sticking then you can turn it to brown evenly. This rule applies whether you are browning chicken, sealing a roast or cooking a steak.
Once the chicken is golden all over, lift out of the pan with a slotted spoon and add in the sliced potatoes. Season again and then allow the potatoes to colour a little, moving them about to ensure that they don’t stick to the base of the pan – around another 5 minutes or under.
Once the potatoes are lightly coloured, return the chicken to the pan, add the chestnuts and then pour over the sloe gin, leaving it to bubble for a few seconds to burn off the alcohol. Pour in the water and then cover the pan and place in the oven to roast for 25 minutes. When ready, remove the lid, test the jus and season to taste, then spoon the chicken and chestnuts into bowls and serve.