Back in the 1990s, there was a hotel on Elbut Lane in Birtle near Bury, Lancashire called Le Normandie. It was notable for having a Michelin-starred restaurant run by the late Yves Champeau. It was here that young local lad Simon Hopkinson found his way around a kitchen.
Hopkinson went on to have a successful career in food, which included working with Terence Conran to open Bibendum in the old Michelin Tyres building on the Fulham Road, London. After leaving professional kitchens behind, Hopkinson became a successful food author, newspaper columnist, and television presenter – often combining his firmly held, near-vehement views on ingredients with simple recipes that enable those ingredients to shine.
This dish of chicken, cooked and presses with basil and garlic is typical of Hopkinson. There are few ingredients, but the whole thing is done right. Make it – you will not be disappointed.
Le Normandie is no longer in Birtle, and a Google Street View tour of Elbut Lane indicates that the building itself has been long demolished
Terrine of chicken with lemon, basil and garlic
- 1 free-range chicken
- 20g basil leaves
- 50g peeled garlic cloves
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- 20g sea salt
- 1 round tsp milled white peppercorns
- Some scrapings of nutmeg
Skin the chicken (see notes). Once you have the flat piece of chicken skin, place it on a work surface, the outside face of the chicken skin face down, and trim off any fatty or unnecessary bits.
Preheat the oven to 180˚C.
Remove all the flesh from the breast, thigh and drumstick and cut into 2cm pieces. Put into a roomy bowl and mix in the basil, garlic, lemon, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Use your hands to squidgy everything together, until well blended. Pile the mixture into the middle of the chicken skin, fold over the flaps to form a loose parcel and then fit neatly into a suitably sized terrine mould.
Put the terrine dish into a deep roasting tray and fill with boiling water from the kettle, to three-quarters up the sides of the terrine. Cover with a lid or foil and bake for 1 hour and 20 mins in the oven.
Once cooked, remove the terrine dish from the water, tip the water away and return the terrine to the tray. Leave to cool and settle for 15 minutes. Compress the surface of the terrine with a board or lid, weighted down with something heavy for 1 hour. Remove the weight, cover with clingfilm and put into the fridge for at least 12 hours to cool and set.
To serve, slice the chicken terrine thickly, directly from the dish, making sure that you use careful sawing motions as you cut, so as not to tear the pressed chicken meat as you go. Eat with hot buttered toast and some of the jelly that will have formed in the terrine dish.
To skin the chicken, start by cutting away the skin with the bird placed upside down, breasts resting on a chopping board, making a lengthy initial incision along its backbone. As you start to cut the skin away it will soon begin to separate itself from the flesh quite naturally, slipping away from the pink meat as you explore beneath the skin. Surprisingly, the skin is more resilient to the occasional rupture than you might imagine. As you work your way around the contours of the bird, before you realise where you are, you will soon be left with a huge rectangular-flap of chicken skin. Use the carcass for a stock (the original recipe from Simon Hopkinson adds a split pig's trotter to the stock, and turns it into a jelly to serve with the chook).