You know when there's a trend, a consensus, dare I call it a "movement", that you're just not part of for some reason? Well, here's my guilty secret, I'm just not as in love with Nigel Slater as is expected of me. The blether-sphere is ram-packed full of people raving about his Kitchen Diaries, literally RAVING, but I haven't made time to read it. I have it on good authority that it's magical, but I find him so thoroughly unwatchable on tv that I haven't made much effort.
Which is also why I rarely choose to use the one Nigel Slater recipe book we own: Real Food. But you can't cheat on the Random Recipe Challenge, so when my husband picked some numbers at random, Real Food it was, and a recipe for grilled mustard and herb chicken.
It's very simple: a store-cupboard marinade of delicious things, chicken thighs, and a griddle pan.
When you're mixing oil, tarragon, mustard and parsley together, you kind of know that good things are in store. I was willing to accept that my reluctance to join Cult Slater might have been a bit baseless. Especially when he writes things like "They will probably take about eight minutes total cooking time, depending on the size of your thighs (or, rather, the size of the chicken's)."
That did make me chuckle. But it was at that point things started to go a little wrong. My instinct was to flatten the chicken thighs a bit with a rolling pin, or even chop and thread them onto skewers satay-style. But Nigel didn't instruct me to do that, so I did as I was told and just flung them on the griddle. It turns out that lovely organic chicken thighs (unflattened) are too plump to cook through on a griddle in eight minutes.
Mine (or, rather, my chickens') needed more like twelve. And while the recipe states that "There will be much smoke and sizzling", after twelve minutes the outsides were burnt to buggery.
Which is fine. I mean, they were largely inedible, but we had a bigger problem. We live in one moderately small room, by which I mean that our kitchen, sitting room, dining room, and study all occupy a single 8m x 3m space. And Nige was not wrong about the smoke.
After leaving all the doors and windows open for three hours (on a freezing February evening in the North of Scotland) every fibre and pore of our lives is still thick with the smell of burning. Every surface within a metre radius of the cooker is coated with a fine layer of fat, and I've lost the cat. I occasionally hear her miewing in the middle distance, but my streaming eyes can barely focus as I claw my way through the haze.
The verdict from the panel?
"Mummy, I don't really like the chicken."
"No sweetie, neither do I."