You know when you wake up just a little earlier than normal with a question emerging from the mist of your sleep that then triple jumps right to the front of your mind? Well, that's what happened to me recently.
I had a recipe in mind that included the word paillard and for the life of me I couldn't remember what that meant.. distractedly, I let my mind wander ... paillard... paillard. I know! ... Sounds like a technical term for an armoured codpiece, so over to Google ... (time passes) ... so not a piece of essential armour but, as Google tends to do, that produced a new question ...
"Why were codpieces in plate armour pointed upwards? Why wasn't it just tucked down and in?" Well, the answer is simple - having a rigid steel piece between your legs is not ideal for mobility.
You know what works better to defend a penis and testicles without impeding mobility? A skirt!
However, as armour became more of a statement of power and wealth and less a defensive necessity then mobility is less of a concern and it becomes pretty much a case of mine's bigger than ...
Henry VIII's armour in the Tower of London is a really good example. Already a big man (there is a gene of gigantism in his family) he needed no temptation to publicly display his 'prowess' and as it is St George's Day who better to mention than the only King of England the continentals referred to as 'Great'?
Codpieces reached a 'peak' in the 1530s and 40s during Henry's reign - and you thought we lived in strange times. Mark Rylance, who played Thomas Cromwell in Wolf Hall, is reported as saying that codpieces were downsized by the costume department so as not to upset viewers of the programme in the US! (I was tempted to say that then they went and elected a big d**k - but that would be unkind.)
Well back to paillard and you'll be pleased to hear that it is a culinary term
meaning meat pounded thin and grilled usually veal of beef but, in today's recipe, chicken.
Today's recipe is really about that most wonderful of potatoes - the Jersey Royal. I was lucky enough to be hosted by a Jersey family in the 1990s, whilst on a sports tour, who introduced me to these gems. It was especially memorable as they came from the family farm - thank you Brian & Marion for adding this amazing item to my repertoire of tastes.
The first of arguably only three truly seasonal British lines of fresh produce alongside asparagus and strawberries, Jersey Royals are seen by many to herald the start of spring. The spears on our asparagus are just beginning to appear so this recipe seems very timely.
The Jersey Royal originates from around 1880, when farmer Hugh de la Haye is reported to have had an unusually large potato with 15 or 16 eyes. History relates that whilst discussing the potato with friends, they decided to cut it up and plant the pieces on a côtil (a very steep field near the coast that has to be worked by hand and fertilised with vraic -seaweed.) above Bellozanne valley in the centre of the Island. One of the shoots yielded a kidney-shaped potato with very thin skin as opposed to a standard round one, and so the Jersey Royal was born.
Recognising the unique shape of the new potato, it was first marketed as the Jersey Fluke, and it commanded a premium price on the wholesale markets. The addition of 'Royal' and the dropping of the name 'fluke' came in towards the end of Queen Victoria's reign when imperialism was widespread, and many things were termed 'royal'.
The Jersey Royal is unique and in 1997, it was awarded with a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), similar to that of the Champagne region, meaning it can only be grown on Jersey. 2020 marks the 143rd anniversary of the first potato planting on the island.
You can read more at https://jerseyroyals.co.uk/ - make sure you check out their recipe page.
Chicken Paillard with Jersey Royals
500g/ 1lb Jersey Royal potatoes 100g/3oz asparagus, trimmed and cut into 6cm lengths 4 chicken breast fillets, skinless 3 tbsp plain flour, seasoned 1 tbsp olive oil 1 tbsp butter 2 tsp lemon juice 1 tbsp capers, rinsed and drained well 2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped 100g/3oz rocket leaves
Whilst doing nothing to the chicken other than flouring so as not to distract from the potato, I think a simple marinade will add to the dishes overall success.
For the marinade:
Enough for 500g/ 1lb chicken
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
handful of fresh herbs such as parsley, basil or coriander, finely chopped
1. Cut each chicken breast in half horizontally and flatten with a meat mallet or put in a freezer bag and use a rolling pin.
2. Mix the garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and herbs in a large bowl and season well.
3. Marinate the 'paillarded' chicken for 1-2 hours.
For the dish:
1. Scrub (DO NOT peel) the potatoes and cook in salted, boiling water for 15–20 minutes until tender.
2. Add the asparagus and cook for 5–6 minutes.
3. Lightly dust the chicken with the seasoned flour.
4. Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan and sear the chicken in batches over medium heat for 2–4 minutes on each side until cooked through. Set aside and keep warm.
5. Drain the potatoes and asparagus; return to the pan with the butter, lemon juice, capers and parsley. Season, add rocket and toss.
6. Serve the chicken, potatoes and asparagus on warm plates, drizzled with the buttery juices and savour!
Other new potatoes are available but ...
Robert Macfarlane's Word of the Day is ...
"Glasán Darach - Irish name for the Greenfinch, meaning 'little green one of the oak tree'."
We have many chaffinch and bull finches fiitting around our feeders but yet to see the greenfinch this year.
photo: Susann Mielke
ps: The Royal Armouries collection can be viewed at https://royalarmouries.org/
"For all those people finding it difficult at the moment, the sun will shine again and the clouds will go away." - Capt Tom Moore.
"When everything seems to be against you, remember the aeroplane takes off against the wind, not with it" - Henry Ford
“and I rose up, and knew that I was tired, and continued my journey” - Edward Thomas.
"Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible." - St. Francis of Assisi
“All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well”. - Julian of Norwich