Monday, February 7, 2011

The Booker Prize, Bill Granger and Book Club

Bill Granger made an appearance at our book club on Sunday night. Well, not really, but one of his recipes did - baked chicken with lemon, potato and green olives.

It's on page 94 of his Feed Me Now cookbook. As Bill says: "I adore this kind of all-in-one meal that is baked and served in the same dish." And it's full of mouth-watering flavours.

It was a good accompaniment for our discussion on Sonya Hartnet's Butterfly and Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall. Everyone had something positive to say about the young adult story Butterfly but not all in the group reached the end of Hilary Mantel's 600 and something page book. Wolf Hall is the retelling of Thomas Cromwell's life - the blacksmith boy who became Henry VIII's right-hand man

Most found the novel quite a hard read with Belinda the only book club member to reach the end. At least everyone attempted to read the 2009 Man Booker-prize winning novel - except me. I got my wires crossed and read or rather half-read the 2010 winner, The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson

With two Booker prize winners on the table we had an interesting discussion on the types of novels that win this annual fiction award. We now move on to Sydney author Margo Lanagan's award-winning novel, Tender Morsels.  Described by publishers' Allen and Unwin as fiercely poetic, exquisite and unforgettable; fantasy at its heart-wrenching best. I wonder what food will go with this vivid fairytale?

Hope you enjoy making and tasting Bill's great dish which of course is gluten-free.

Bill Granger's baked chicken with lemon, potato and green olives

Ingredients: 1kg roasting potatoes, such as Desiree, 1 red onion, peeled and cut into wedges, 75g green olives, 1 lemon, sliced, 50g pancetta, cut into strips, 2 bay leaves, 1 tablespoon tomato paste, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 120ml chicken stock, 1 x 1.7g chicken, jointed, 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional).

Method: Preheat the oven to 180 C. Cut the potatoes into chunks and place in a roasting tin or ovenproof dish. Scatter over the onion, olives, lemon, pancetta and bay leaves. Stir the tomato paste and balsamic vinegar into the chicken stock, then pour over potatoes. Lay the chicken pieces on top, drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 50 minutes or until the chicken is golden.

Transfer the chicken pieces to a warm plate, cover with foil and set aside to rest in a warm place. Increase the oven setting to 220 C and return the roasting tin or dish to the oven for 10 minutes or until the potatoes, onion and lemon slices are well coloured.

Place the chicken back on top of the potatoes, scatter over some chopped parsley, if you like, and serve.


  1. We've found that its best to soften the spuds first - par-boil - plus its 1.7KG of chook (serving 4 people). The Husband :)

  2. Hi Therese,

    I loved Wolf Hall and thoroughly recommend persisting through to the end. If Hilary Mantel writes a sequel, as she says she will, I'd definitely read that too. I learnt more about Henry VIII's reign than I ever did in History class at school. It's beautifully written and I found it as exciting as any page turner - though incredibly heavy to hold up in bed.

    I wasn't as crazy about The Finkler Question, which seemed to me to be unlike any other Booker Prize winner I'd read.

    That chicken dish sounds delicious too. I'm copying down the recipe. You must have had a great night.

  3. Oh wow! Someone else who has read Sonja Hartnett. Of a Boy is one of my most favourite books.

  4. Thanks for your comment WriterBee. Wolf Hall seems to be one of those books that people either love or find very difficult. I will take your recommendation and read it at some stage this year as a number of people have told me how much they loved it. The Finkler Question was a bit of a funny book - easy enough to read and funny at times, but the main character was a bit of a puzzle and I often wondered whether I should be taking him seriously. I often find books written by Englishmen about Englishmen a bit like entering a secret world where they are all a bit self-centred. Hope Bill's chicken dish turned out well.