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East Coast

Roast fowl served on a bed of vegetables with hard-boiled eggs, imitating her nest.

Original Receipt from Jane Grigson in 'The Observer', March 1984

The hen on her nest
(serves 6)

This seems to be an ideal dish of family cookery, with its air of lavish homeliness. It looks pretty, has a gentle humour and, if the ingredients are carefully bought, a rich but simple flavour. For the nest, use either potatoes or rice (Basmati or brown rice), according to your preference.

1.4-1.8kg roasting bird
3 or 4 blades of mace (a good pinch)
level tsp ground ginger
6 sprigs parsley
pinch of dried thyme
3/4 litre (good pint) chicken or giblet stock
30g butter
6-12 eggs

For the sauce:
60g butter
2 level tbsps flour
cooking liquor from the kitchen
140ml double cream (preferably Jersey)
salt, pepper, Cayenne

For the nest:
1.4kg potatoes, or rice, boiled
12 sprigs parsley

Put the bird into a deep oven-proof pot with spices and herbs, and lay a butter paper over its breast. Pour in the stock. Bring to boiling point, cover and put into a moderate oven: around gas 4-5 180-190C (350-375F). Check after 50 minutes. If it is nearly cooked, remove the lid and butter the breast and legs and return to the oven to brown slightly: raise the heat to gas 6-7, 200-220C (400-425F), and give the bird about 10 minutes more, being careful not to overcook it. While the bird cooks, hard-boil the eggs and shell them.

Either boil and mash the potatoes with plenty of butter and enough milk to make them smooth but not sloppy, or boil and butter the rice. You can speckle the nest by mixing in chopped parsley - or you can keep the sprigs for a final decoration. Put potatoes or rice onto a serving dish in a ring, or pipe potatoes into small whirls, and keep warm with butter papers on top to prevent drying out. For the sauce, strain the cooking liquor into a measuring jug.

Melt the butter in a pan, stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes.

Stir in the stock slowly. Simmer steadily for 5-10 minutes, then add the cream and boil a little faster. The sauce should not be thick or floury (I have reduced the normal quantity of flour by half) and it will need a final seasoning of salt, pepper and a pinch of Cayenne. Pour sauce into a jug. To serve, place the chicken in the centre of its nest and arrange the eggs around it. Tuck in the sprigs of parsley between the eggs and spoon a little sauce over them.

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