Roast Chicken and Other Stories


By Simon Hopkinson

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“Good cooking depends on two things: common sense and good taste.”

In England, no food writer’s star shines brighter than Simon Hopkinson’s. His breakthrough Roast Chicken and Other Stories was voted the most useful cookbook ever by a panel of chefs, food writers, and consumers. At last, American cooks can enjoy endearing stories from the highly acclaimed food writer and his simple yet elegant recipes.

In this richly satisfying culinary narrative, Hopkinson shares his unique philosophy on the limitless possibilities of cooking. With its friendly tone backed by the author’s impeccable expertise, this cookbook can help anyone–from the novice cook to the experienced chef–prepare delicious cuisine . . . and enjoy every minute of it!

Irresistible recipes in this book include:

Eggs Florentine
Chocolate Tart
Poached Salmon with Beurre Blanc
And, of course, the book’s namesake recipe, Roast Chicken

Winner of both the 1994 Andre Simon and 1995 Glenfiddich awards (the gastronomic world’s equivalent to an Oscar), this acclaimed book will inspire anyone who enjoys sharing the ideas of a truly creative cook and delights in getting the best out of good ingredients.



GOOD cooking, in the final analysis, depends on two things: common sense and good taste. It is also something that you naturally have to want to do well in the first place, as with any craft. It is a craft, after all, like anything that is produced with the hands and senses to put together an attractive and complete picture. By "picture," I do not mean "picturesque"; good food is to be eaten because it tastes good and smells enticing.

We are all drawn to the smell of fish and chips, fried onions, roast beef, Christmas lunch, pizza, fresh coffee, toast and bacon, and other sensory delights. Conversely, to my mind, there is nothing that heralds the bland "vegetable terrine," the "cold lobster mousse with star anise and vanilla," or the "little stew of seven different fish" that has been "scented" with Jura wine and "spiked" with tarragon. I feel uncomfortable with this sort of food and don't believe it to be, how shall we say, genuine.

I do not mean to berate the cook who wishes to make food complicated or multifaceted; I just think that some ideas are misguided. For instance, one perfect piece of turbot or halibut, grilled on the bone with hollandaise sauce must surely (ask yourself) be a perfect plate of food. What is the point of marrying a little piece of Mediterranean red mullet with a similar-sized piece of Scottish farmed salmon? They just don't belong together.

Food that tastes good lingers in the memory for all time: such things as good, homemade soups, my mother's meat and potato pie, Bury black puddings, a well-made bloody Mary, prosciutto and melon, native English oysters with Tabasco, hot salted ox tongue with coleslaw, a dozen snails at Chez L'Ami Louis in Paris, the apéritif maison at L'Oustau de Baumanière at Les Baux in Provence, and the home-made bresaola of Franco Taruschio at The Walnut Tree in Wales.

I have written this book, not because I am a chef, but because I like to cook and I enjoy eating good food. A novelist I know once said to me, on hearing that I had decided to embark on a cookbook, that cooks should cook and writers should write. Well, fair enough. (He is, actually, a very good cook.) I am not a professional writer, nor am I good at writing recipes on a regular basis. This is particularly so when I have to think about listing the ingredients in the right order for each recipe, or giving metric and imperial measurements, or stating exact oven temperatures and precise timings. I have had to learn to do that, and it has been interesting and beneficial to be so restricted.

Deep down in the mind of a good cook are endless recipes. It is a matter of knowing what goes with what; knowing when to stop and where to start, and with what ingredients. Thinking how a dish is going to taste, before you start to cook it, may seem an obvious instruction, but it is not necessarily common practice. It is important to cook in the right frame of mind (we are not talking everyday chores here) and to do things in the right order. Ergo: feel hungry; go out shopping (with pen and paper and money). See good things, buy them. Write down further items that will accompany previous purchases. Buy wine to go with food. Come home. Have a glass of wine. Cook the food and eat with more of the wine. More importantly, do make sure that the food you have bought is the sort that you like to eat and know how to cook. It is also a question of sympathy between the cook and the cooked-for; is there a worryingly large proportion of people, I wonder, who cook to impress rather than to please?

It's really a question of confidence. It is far better to cook food for your friends that you enjoy eating yourself. Familiar dishes are comforting; carefully prepared and simple dishes are an asset to a good lunch or dinner party. The food should not dominate the proceedings. Rather, it should enhance and enliven the occasion. There is nothing more tedious than an evening spent discussing every dish eaten in minute detail. "Oh Daphne, how did you manage to insert those carrots in your hollowed-out zucchini?" What's wrong with egg salad or leeks vinaigrette? Or a simple rabbit stew, or some grilled lamb cutlets. And, of course, roast chicken.

The title of this book, Roast Chicken and Other Stories, was chosen simply because it had a friendly ring to it, and I hope that it sounds inviting and uncomplicated. I also happen to enjoy roasting a chicken almost more than anything. It is very satisfying to look upon a fine chicken turning crisp and golden as it cooks. Even the sound of it causes salivation, and the smell of it jolts the tummy into gear.

I would like to think that this collection of recipes will appeal to all who like to cook; those who gain immense pleasure from being in their kitchens with good produce around them purchased from favorite sources—markets, butchers and fishmongers, grocers and greengrocers, delicatessens and wine shops. I would also like to imagine that everybody could become a good cook and have a healthy interest in the bountiful ingredients that are available in such quantity on our doorsteps.

Good food relies on good ingredients, but it has always been my belief that a good cook can turn the proverbial sow's ear into a silk purse. It takes a little knowledge and expertise, but whereas an ignorant and uncaring chef can ruin the finest free-range chicken, a sympathetic and enthusiastic cook can work wonders, even with an old boiling fowl.

Finally, I would like to thank Jill Norman for asking me to do a book in the first place: Lindsey Bareham, without whose help the book could never have been written; and Flo Bayley for her exquisite illustrations.

Simon Hopkinson


The salted anchovy, in one form or another, has been with us for some time. The Romans used to salt all sorts of fish, and from them made their all-purpose sauce, liquamen. This fermented brew seems to have been used as a seasoning and added to almost everything. Today, the Thai people use anchovies to make a fermented fish sauce—nam pla—that similarly finds its way into pretty well all their dishes.

I have liked the anchovy (it's one of the herring family) ever since discovering a bit of one stuffed inside a green olive many years ago. I am particularly keen on very salty things and I can actually eat anchovies on their own. The best I have come across so far are filleted Spanish anchovies. These are fat and juicy, a lovely pinky-red color, and their flavor is remarkably fine. They are preserved in olive oil and come beautifully packaged in large, round, colorful cans.

In disagreement with most of my food friends, I find whole salted anchovies a little disappointing. They are excessively salty, even for me. Perhaps I have never had a good one. So, it is the fillets of this little fish that I am talking about.

The strangest thing about cooking with anchovies is that they are best by far when accompanying meaty things. With fish, they seem to cancel out the inherent flavors and on occasion can even cause you to think that you are eating a piece of stale fish (the only exception to this is Old-Fashioned Egg Sauce, see here, which makes a good accompaniment to white fish). Not so with meat, especially when used to flavor and season a roast—lamb in particular. Little pieces of anchovy inserted deep into the muscles of a leg of lamb, together with some garlic slivers, impart the most agreeable contrast of flavors. And, curiously enough for such an intensely fishy fish, it ceases to taste fishy when used in this way.

The anchovy's uses and appearances are truly legion. You will find it on pizzas, in Caesar salad and salade Niçoise (I happen to think that the one and only fish therein should be a generous helping of anchovies), and on a good egg salad, as well as stuffed into those lovely green olives. Some continental classics would not be the same without the anchovy. Take anchoiade. This Provençal staple combines garlic, olive oil, a little vinegar, and some pounded anchovies. It is then spread onto thick slices of toast, according to Elizabeth David. She goes on to say: "This is not so much an hors d'œuvre as the sort of thing to get ready quickly anytime you are hungry and want something to go with a glass of wine.…" What splendid advice.

Closely related to anchoiade, and from the same region, comes tapenade. Another paste, made this time from pounded black olives, olive oil, capers, garlic, a splash of Cognac, and anchovies. Also good on toast and intensely savory. The Italian salsa verde (green sauce) is one of the very nicest lotions and consists of large amounts of finely chopped parsley, mustard, capers, garlic, olive oil, and anchovies. This is most often served with poached or boiled dishes. In all these sauces, the anchovy usually provides all the salt that is necessary.

Compound butters, for anointing pieces of grilled meat and offal, are especially good when some chopped anchovy has been introduced. A mixture of rosemary, a little garlic, cayenne pepper, anchovy, and unsalted butter is extremely good over grilled veal kidneys. But the king of savory butters, in my book, is the one called Montpellier. It combines all the flavors and smells of a Provençal marketplace. So, rather than telling you about it, here is the recipe. This version comes from Jeremiah Tower's book New American Classics. It is a particularly good one.



6 spinach leaves

½ bunch of watercress, stalks removed

2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley leaves

2 tbsp chervil leaves

2 tbsp chopped chives

1 tbsp tarragon leaves

2 shallots, peeled and chopped

2 gherkins, chopped

4 anchovy fillets, drained and chopped

2 tbsp capers, drained and chopped

1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

¼ tsp cayenne

3 hard-boiled egg yolks

2 raw egg yolks

½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

½ cup olive oil

1 tsp white wine vinegar

Blanch the spinach, watercress, herbs, and shallots in boiling water for 1 minute. Drain, refresh under cold water, and squeeze dry. Put them in a food processor and add the gherkins, anchovies, capers, garlic, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Purée to a smooth paste, then add the egg yolks and the butter, and process again until thoroughly mixed. With the machine running, pour in the olive oil in a thin stream. The mixture should be glossy and as smooth as velvet. Add the vinegar and check the seasoning.


This is one of those forgotten British sauces that might sound unappealing and has perhaps been put in the same category as Brown Windsor Soup. Well, Brown Windsor Soup might not be very nice—I've never made it—but egg sauce is good and you shouldn't turn your nose up at it. It is based on a really good béchamel—and there's nothing wrong with that. A well-made béchamel sauce is truly delicious and shouldn't be thrown out in favor of the modish, overreduced, flour-free sauces one is told one should prefer.

When making a béchamel, one of the most important things to remember is to make the milk as flavorsome as possible. I heat the milk with the onion, herbs, and spices long before I need to make the sauce, so that the flavors have plenty of time to infuse.

This egg sauce is particularly good with white fish from local waters: cod, hake, and haddock (fresh or smoked). The fish is best steamed or poached.

1½ cups milk

1 small onion, peeled and chopped

4 cloves

1 sprig of thyme

1 bay leaf, torn

a few scrapings of nutmeg

salt and pepper

3 tbsp butter

3 tbsp all-purpose flour

½ cup heavy cream

1 tbsp anchovy paste

2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped

2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

Heat together the first seven ingredients until they come to the boil. (Not much salt, taking into consideration the saltiness of the anchovy paste that will be added later.) Turn off the heat. Stir well, cover, and leave to infuse for at least 1 hour, preferably longer.

Melt the butter in another pan and stir in the flour to make a roux. Strain the flavored milk into this, stirring all the time. Bring slowly to the boil, still stirring and allow to simmer very gently for up to 30 minutes—this is best done over a heat-diffuser pad, as the sauce easily stiffens. Add the cream, anchovy paste, chopped eggs, and, finally, stir in the parsley.


Of late, I have come to the conclusion that tuna is redundant in a salade Niçoise. This is purely personal and I know that some aficionados would heartily disagree with me. It's just that I don't think cooked tuna is anything to write home about—and I've even tried cooking my own in olive oil. So, as long as the anchovies used are of superior quality, I say just up the quantity and ditch the tuna.

The other ingredients are also a matter for debate. Rather than say what I think are key ingredients I would only ask that strips of raw green bell pepper are not included. I also like green beans to be cooked through—not so that they squeak when you bite them.

4 eggs

1 head Boston lettuce

8 small cooked artichoke hearts (such as those sold in jars from Italy)

a handful of haricots vert or slender green beans, trimmed, boiled briefly, refreshed, and drained

12 small new potatoes, peeled, boiled, and drained

4 very ripe tomatoes, peeled and quartered

16 black olives

1 heaped tbsp capers, drained

1 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced

1 small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, leaves coarsely chopped

anchovies (allow 5 per person, or more if desired)

sea salt and black pepper

For the dressing

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

a generous pinch of sea salt

black pepper

2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil

First, make the dressing by mixing together the vinegar, salt, pepper, and garlic. Whisk well, then pour in the oil in a thin stream. Set aside.

Put the eggs in a saucepan of cold water, bring to the boil, and cook for 5 minutes. Refresh under cold running water for 5 minutes, then peel and quarter lengthways.

Find either a round, shallow terracotta or white porcelain dish and arrange attractively all the salad ingredients, starting with a bed of lettuce. The arrangement is entirely a matter for you, though I think the two final ingredients should be a scattering of parsley and the anchovies in a crisscross pattern over the surface. Season discriminately with salt and generously with pepper.

Give the dressing a final whisk, and spoon over the surface. Eat immediately with some crusty bread.


The shape of these tarts came about in a lazy moment when I was rolling out a sheet of puff pastry to cut into circles for individual tarts, but didn't have time. I now prefer this free-form, squiffy-square shape with its irregular puffed-up edges.

The recipe is based on the classic southern French pissaladière, which uses bread dough and is thought to be the precursor of the ubiquitous pizza.

6 tbsp olive oil

4 large Spanish onions, peeled and thinly sliced

a pinch of salt

20 small black olives (preferably Niçoise olives), pitted

8 large anchovy fillets, split lengthways

1 heaped tsp dried herbes de Provence

black pepper

1 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan

For the pastry

¾ cup all-purpose flour

a pinch of salt

1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

juice of ½ lemon

½ cup iced water

Begin by making the pastry, preferably the day before; certainly several hours in advance. Sift the flour and salt together into a bowl and add the butter. Loosely mix, but don't blend the two together in the normal way of pastry-making. Mix the lemon juice with the iced water and pour into the butter/flour mixture. With a metal spoon, gently mix together until you have formed a cohesive mass. Turn onto a cool surface and shape into a thick rectangle. Flour the work surface and gently roll the pastry into a rectangle measuring about 7 × 4 inches. Fold one-third of the rectangle over toward the center and fold the remaining third over that. Lightly, press together and rest the pastry in the fridge for 10 minutes.

Return the pastry to the same position on the work surface and turn it 90 degrees. Roll it out to the same dimensions as before, and fold and rest again in the same way. Repeat this turning, rolling, folding, and resting process three more times. (Phew! This is the moment when you wish you'd bought ready-made pastry.) Place the pastry in a plastic bag and leave in the fridge for several hours or overnight.

To cook the onions, gently heat the olive oil and sweat the onions with a little salt over a moderate heat until thoroughly collapsed, pale golden, and with as little moisture left as possible. This will take about 30 minutes; you are aiming for a thick mush.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Cut the pastry into four rough squares. Roll each one out to make four larger squares measuring about 7 inches. They should be about inch thick. (It matters not a jot if the shape isn't exactly true; moreover, it is nicer if they are slightly irregular.) Prick the squares lightly with a fork and place on a buttered baking sheet—you may have to use two. Rest in the fridge for 10 minutes or so.

Divide the onions between the four pastry squares, leaving a border of about ¾ inch around the edges. Dot with the olives, crisscross the anchovies over the onion, and sprinkle with the herbs and a good grinding of pepper. Brush a little olive oil over the exposed pastry edges, and dust lightly with the Parmesan cheese. Bake in the oven for 10–15 minutes or until puffed up and golden brown.


Every year around the middle of May, I catch "asparagus fever." Our British crop is about to shoot up from underground in all its glory. And it is glorious, with the finest flavor in the world. In my opinion, nothing can touch the taste of that purply-green English asparagus. In France and Germany, and particularly Alsace, they grow white asparagus that has been cultivated completely underground. The green color never gets a chance to develop due to the lack of sunlight. People rave about it, but I just can't agree.

Out of season, we are bombarded with imported asparagus from (mainly) California, Mexico, and New Zealand. The spears are invariably huge and have lost most of their flavor due to their long journey. This, of course, happens to any green vegetable, however fast it is transported to your local greengrocer. Asparagus, however, seems to suffer more than most. If you have ever had the great pleasure of cutting asparagus fresh from the ground, you will see quite clearly how quickly its sap runs out. Somebody I know, who was obsessed with fresh vegetables, carried out an experiment on his own garden crop of asparagus. He erected a small Primus stove at the end of his asparagus bed and had a pan of boiling water at the ready. Next, he hurriedly collected spear after spear of asparagus and hurled them into the boiling water. This idea puts "freshly cooked garden vegetables" into a different category, but it must have been fun, and the asparagus surely the best ever.

There is a tall, very silly pan called an "asparagus pot." It has a basket inside that is slightly smaller than the pot itself. The idea is that you put your bunch of asparagus into the basket, fill the pan with water to halfway up the asparagus spears, and put the lid on. When the water comes to the boil, it is supposed to boil the parts of the asparagus in the water and steam the tips. I think this is a lot of nonsense and a waste of money, as these pots are very expensive. All green vegetables require plenty of viciously boiling, well-salted water. The more boiling water you can have around a green vegetable, the greener the vegetable will stay. And its flavor will have been, as it were, sealed in.



This is an extravagant indulgence. Although I have tried (and succeeded) to make asparagus soup with all the trimmings, peelings, and off-cuts, it always ends up tasting a little bit like canned soup. (I can only presume that this is because that is exactly what the manufacturers do.) This recipe, however, uses a nice, trimmed-up bunch of fresh asparagus, and not much else. If you can come by the asparagus called "sprue"—which is thin and straggly and consequently much cheaper—then this can be used.

It sort of goes against the grain to turn the most beautiful of vegetables into a soup, but this simple and very pure recipe transforms it into an elixir.

½ cup butter

4 small leeks (white parts only), trimmed and chopped

3 cups water

1 potato, peeled and chopped

salt and pepper

1 lb fresh asparagus, trimmed and peeled

1 cup heavy cream

Melt the butter and stew the leeks until soft. Add the water and potato, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 15 minutes. Quickly chop the asparagus, add to the soup. Boil rapidly for 5 minutes. Blend thoroughly, then pass through a fine sieve. Add the cream and check the seasoning. This soup is equally good hot or cold.


The Argenteuil region outside Paris is famous for its asparagus. This pancake dish is one that I remember from my days at the Normandie (see Endive chapter). I remember what a luscious dish I thought it was, and the combination of flavors—ham, asparagus, eggs—is a perfect one. If ever there were any pancakes left over at the end of service, I would secrete them in the pocket of my coat, whip them home, and make my own hollandaise to go with them. Three délices makes the perfect midnight snack.

4 thin slices of prosciutto, halved

16 cooked asparagus spears

For the pancakes

2 eggs

1 egg yolk

1 cup milk

2 tbsp melted butter

salt and pepper

¾ cup plus 1 tbsp all-purpose flour

a little extra melted butter for cooking

For the hollandaise sauce

3 egg yolks

1 cup butter, incited

juice of ½ lemon

salt and white pepper

First, make the pancake batter. Put the eggs and egg yolk, milk, melted butter, and seasoning in a blender. Switch on and blend, then turn the motor to slow (if possible) and add the flour in a thin stream. Pass through a sieve into a pitcher and leave to rest for at least 1 hour. (This recipe will make more pancakes than you need. Why not make a few more pancakes for breakfast the next day?)

To make the sauce, whisk the egg yolks with a splash of water until thick. Use either a small stainless steel pan over a thread of heat, or a bowl over barely simmering water. Add the melted butter in a thin stream, whisking all the time until the sauce has the consistency of mayonnaise. Add the lemon juice and season with salt and white pepper. Keep warm.

Preheat the oven to 375°F, and also the grill. Heat a small frying pan, brush with melted butter, and pour in enough pancake batter, just to cover the bottom of the pan. Cook until the underside is golden, then toss or turn the pancake and cook until the second side is golden. Repeat to make eight pancakes in all.

Lay out the pancakes and place a piece of prosciutto on each one. Put two asparagus spears on each pancake and roll them up. Lightly butter a baking dish and put the pancake rolls in it, leaving a little space between each one. Heat through in the oven for 10 minutes, then take out and divide the eight pancakes among four cold plates. Spoon the hollandaise carefully along the length of each pancake. Flash each plate very briefly under a hot grill for a few seconds or until the hollandaise is lightly glazed.


Apart from Délices d'Argenteuil, asparagus lends itself to the simplest of preparations. Most obvious is to serve it with melted butter, or just hollandaise on its own. I have come to the conclusion that, in fact, eggs are its favorite companion: buttery scrambled eggs, soft-boiled or poached eggs using asparagus spears as "soldiers," or eggs baked en cocotte with cream and tarragon. Here, asparagus is served with hard-boiled and chopped eggs, together with Parmesan and olive oil.

24 large cooked asparagus spears

extra-virgin olive oil

sea salt and black pepper

2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped

3–4 oz Parmesan cheese, in a piece

lemon wedges, to serve

Heat a ribbed cast-iron grill or skillet. Brush the asparagus spears with some of the oil, and cook until nicely charred on all sides. Transfer to a large white dish, season lightly with salt and plenty of pepper, and sprinkle with the chopped egg. Using a potato peeler, shave slivers of Parmesan over the surface, drizzle with more olive oil, and serve with the lemon wedges.




On Sale
Jul 23, 2013
Page Count
240 pages
Hachette Books

Simon Hopkinson

About the Author

Simon Hopkinson was born and raised in Lancashire. From his first restaurant job at age seventeen, La Normandie restaurant, where he worked under the tutelage of Yves Champeau, he then moved to London to set up Bibendum (right) in Kensington with Sir Terence Conran, which he left to pursue his food writing. He has written an award-winning column for the Independent since 1995. He lives in London.

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