Today has been a day of 2 halves: the first half revolved around me lying in my nice clean bedding alternating between watching TV and snoozing. It’s what Sundays were made for and it was pure nirvana. The second half then involved doing a bit of baking and discovering a different kind of nirvana: Baking Nirvana. Yes, there is such a thing and I discovered it through the supremely delicious Norwegian Cinnamon Buns from How To Be A Domestic Goddess. More Nigella I know, but I do have a lot of her books so she is going to crop up frequently on these pages. It seemed very appropriate that I make bread today as this is what I most clearly remember doing with my mum when I was little before she passed away. I hadn’t planned on this when I decided to bake these buns, but while talking to a friend about Mothers Day she asked me if I ever do anything for it, for which the answer is usually a no. But upon reflection it seemed like a happy coincidence to be making some buns today (Mothers Day) and would be a lovely way to celebrate my mum and to remember her by. It will have been 18 years this May since she passed, and while I’ve completely come to terms with it and love my life the way it is, it’s important not to forget her and to celebrate the things she taught and passed on to me. I do love baking and sometimes wonder if the reason I love it so much is because it is a link to those early days kneading dough with my mum. Or perhaps it is just because I’m a greedy pig and love eating! Either way, I love it. Back to the buns – they are the best thing I have ever baked and so so so delicious. But, if you are going to make these, be prepared for a lot of mess in the kitchen, with bowls, work surfaces and yourself all covered in dough which is not easy to remove. You will be cursing either me or Nigella for the mess, but believe me the effort is worth it, and when you’re sinking your teeth into these sweet, sticky, dense buns you will have forgotten all about the cursing and sticky bowls and be in Baking Nirvana. They are that good. These probably aren’t the best things to try if you’re a beginner with baking because of some of the hard work involved, but if you’ve got a bit of baking know how and have patience, then you should give this a go. The dough is soft but dense, the filling sugary but warm with the cinnamon and the top of the buns crunchy and caramelised from the sugar and egg glaze. Still warm from the oven is when they are their best but cold they are still a notch above any baked goods that you can buy in supermarkets. Highly recommended! I slated Nigella a couple of posts ago about the unreliable dough recipes, but with this recipe I take it all back. If you want me to ever forgive you, sugary buns are the way to do it! The only downside is that this makes 20 buns, and as good as they are, I could not wolf down 20. These will definitely be taken into work tomorrow. If you’ve got friends over for brunch then these would be perfect as they could still eat them while warm, but if you can only make them ahead for a group of people they will still be delicious cold.
For dinner today I cooked myself rogan josh braised chicken from the March 2010 edition of Delicious. This is a one pot dinner and really tasty and easy to make. You need to use a whole chicken and slowly cook it in the oven over a mix of vegetables and spices (which eventually make a curry sauce) until the whole thing is cooked and juicy. This recipe came from an article about braising, and I could have been a bit braver and tried the more obscure bits of meat such as pigs cheeks or oxtail, but I played it safe with the chicken! You know what you’re getting with a chicken, and on a Sunday there is nothing more nourishing and comforting than chicken. It may seem odd or excessive to be home alone and cook myself a whole chicken, but as well as tonights dinner it will also be part of lunch and dinner for the next couple of days. For this recipe that’s encouraged, as apparently the flavours intensify over night so hopefully at lunch tomorrow it will taste even nicer than it did tonight. And it was a tasty satisfying dinner, tender chicken with crisp skin with a vegetable curry and some plain rice. The best thing about cooking a whole chicken (to me anyway) is once I’ve stripped it of all the meat, I turn it over and pick away at the strips of meat most people forget about. The boyfriend thinks it’s disgusting, me tearing away at the carcass and digging around to find bits of meat, and I’m sure it doesn’t show me in a flattering light, but this meat is the best. Its been sitting at the bottom of the tray, soaking up all the fat that drains its way and so the meat is really juicy and tasty. Plus, don’t forget this chicken died so you could have a nice dinner, so be respectful and eat all of it. When I first started cooking I threw a chicken carcass away and it turned over in the bin and I was shocked at how much meat I’d just wasted. Being a meat eater isn’t pretty at the best of times, but if like me you’re comfortable with the fact you’re eating a dead animal, do the decent thing and make sure it didn’t die so you would then waste it. I’m not going to lecture anyone about what type of chicken you should buy as times are tough in this economy, but I eat less chicken during the week so that I can buy free range. Its more expensive, but if you eat a few meatless meals during the week instead of always having chicken or some sort of meat, then you have the spare money to buy a chicken thats had a happy life.
A very successful day for cooking then, and a nice way to end a very pleasant weekend. Happy Mothers Day, to mothers both present and absent!