I’m a girl raised on the Somerset Levels. Even though I now live up in the hills, the timeless beauty of this part of England never fails to grip me and I will forever be inspired by it’s dramatic landscape. It’s thought that the county of Somerset derives it’s name from this low lying area that was too wet to farm in winter but rich and fertile in the summer – hence Summerlands.
Farming and food remains an important part of the economy here and there are some amazing local producers and retailers dotted around the towns and villages that rise from the wetlands. One of these is Kitchen Artisan Bakeshop in Langport. Founded by Peter Ridley a former royal butler to William and Harry, this bijoux but exquisitely presented bakery uses local produce to create the most scrumptious of goodies. When I visited this week there was a pile of perfect macaroons in shades of silver of gold, mince-pies that stood tall and thin, scones both sweet and savoury, panettone and all manner of breads. I went for the scone with roasted red peppers and black olives. The oiliness of the red peppers was a great match for the crumble of the scone and even though I’d promised to save a bit for my little boy I’m ashamed to say I wolfed the lot!
When I got home I decided that bread was my “thing” for the day and that what I needed was a roast chicken with sweet and sticky stuffing. I’m a big believer that the gravy and stuffing are the best part of a roast and I always make an effort with this part of the meal- but more of that another time.
This Balsamic and Prune stuffing for the chicken can work equally well with turkey on Christmas Day just double the quantities. The stickiness of the reduced balsamic and the prune is, I think, the perfect accompaniment for the chicken. Make sure you’re using a well raised, free range, medium chicken (the non free range taste like cardboard so you’re doing yourself a favour by spending a few extra ££s as well as being kind to chicken-kind ) .
- 1 medium free range chicken
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 3 rashers of streaky bacon
- 1 tablespoon of butter
- 4 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
- 3 oz of prunes
- 1 oz of roughly chopped hazelnuts
- 1 egg
- 5 oz of breadcrumbs
- salt and pepper
- Dice the bacon and fry off in the butter on a medium heat with the chopped onion until the onion is soft
- Add the balsamic vinegar and keep on the heat for 1 minute to reduce the liquid.
- Finely chop the prunes and add to the pan with the hazelnuts.
- Add the breadcrumbs.
- Combine over the heat and add the seasoning.
- Take off the heat and when cool add the beaten egg.
- You’ll now need to stuff the chicken with the mixture. My method is to gently loosen the skin from the breast meat with my fingers to create a space for the stuffing. Very carefully push the stuffing into this space again with your fingers. Do not tear the skin! You can then secure the neck skin together with a cocktail stick to keep the stuffing in place.
- Place the chicken on a rack cover the breast with a little duck fat or butter and season well with salt and pepper.
- Place the chicken on the rack in a roasting pan and cook according to instructions or until the juices run clear.
I served the chicken with confit tomatoes, cauliflower with a mustard cream and smashed potatoes. YUMMY!
If you’d like to visit the Kitchen Bakeshop then you can find their website with directions here http://www.kitchenlangport.co.uk/