Making rotisserie-style chicken at home

One of my favourite food things, whenever I’m back in France, is to head to a small neighbourhood rotisserie or one in a market, and grab a delicious roast chicken for a picnic lunch with family. French rotisserie chickens have a very particular taste you just can’t seem to get elsewhere. Sometimes it has to do with the fact they are poulets fermiers, chickens that are really free range, and often fed on corn, so the flesh is golden rather than white. Those are, of course, particularly delicious. But not all rotisserie chickens are from those superior breeds (the cheaper ones aren’t, anyway), yet all of the roast birds taste really very good indeed. It’s to do with a savoury, deep golden brown skin(not crisp, but melt-in-the-mouth) and very moist flesh, and up till recently I had no idea how you could possibly reproduce that at home. Did you need special rotisserie equipment, maybe? And then, I came across a page from a French blog which set out a very simple recipe for how you could in fact produce a roast which had exactly the taste of rotisserie chicken. I admit I was a little sceptical at first, because it seemed in a sense counter-intuitive, what you did with the chicken–and yet it turned out perfectly, and now it’s been several times since I’ve made a roast chicken that has that amazing rotisserie taste. Absolutely definitely worth trying!

So, what do you need? A chicken of course, then also Dijon mustard(about 1-2 tablespoons); 3 garlic cloves; juice of 1 lemon; butter; 125 mls warm chicken stock(use half a stock cube only); herbs(your choice, but thyme and bay leaf or thyme and parsley work well); salt and pepper. What you do is first massage the chicken with half the lemon juice, then pour the rest into the cavity. Put the herbs into the cavity, chop the garlic(don’t crush it) and put half in the cavity, half under the chicken. Next, massage the mustard into the chicken, taking care that all the skin of the bird is well-coated–the mustard needs to almost disappear into it. Place the chicken in a roasting tin, salt and pepper it, sprinkle a few small pieces of butter over it(I also add a tiny bit of canola/sunflower oil), and then pour in the stock under the chicken, not over it. Put in the oven at 210C for 30 minutes, then turn down to 180C and cook for a further 45-60 mins (depending on size of the chicken).

Serve with roast potatoes or salad and good bread. I also make a sauce for the chicken which is basically just the utterly delicious cooking juices, to which extra lemon juice and pepper have been added. The whole thing is truly sensational–and simple, at the same time!

Proof copy of Magical Tales from French Camelot

Just before New Year, what a lovely surprise in the mail: a proof copy of Magical Tales from French Camelot, my forthcoming book with the fantastic Lorena Carrington! To be published by Serenity Press in March 2022, it features my original translations and retellings of some great French Arthurian classic tales from the Middle Ages, principally stories by the great twelfth-century French writers Chrétien de Troyes and Marie de France, illustrated by absolutely superb pictures by Lorena. It’s so good to be able to leaf through this first copy–looking wonderful!

By the way, the book is for adults and teenagers–certainly not for ‘7 plus’ as some websites have it.

Illustration by Lorena Carrington for ‘The Boy in the Forest, the Girl in the Wasteland, and the Fisher King’, from Magical Tales from French Camelot.

Celebratory event for Butterfly on September 15!

So this is coming on September 15th, the fabulous online event celebrating the release of my audio novel for adults, A Hundred Words for Butterfly! Join us to celebrate, with special guests including me, the wonderful voice artist Sarah Kennedy (pictured below, she narrates the audiobook), and the winners and some finalists of the #100Words4Butterfly writing competition. Come along (virtually!) for a super fun night of games, cocktails (including the one below!), readings and more!

Zoom link to come. You can register your interest right now at the Spineless Wonders Facebook events page for it. The event will start at 6pm, Australian Eastern Standard Time.

The ttoro recipe from my Basque cookalong Live

My Basque cookalong Live happened last night over Spineless Wonders Facebook and Zoom, and it was a lot of fun! I introduced people to the Basque country, or at least our family’s part of it, told stories–about my upcoming book, A Hundred Words for Butterfly, about my family and even told a Basque fairy tale!–and of course, I also cooked! The cookalong was built around creating the delicious Basque fish soup known as ‘ttoro’ (pronounced ‘tioro’) which is both delicious and easy to make, and judging from people’s messages afterwards, with accompanying photos, it was indeed deemed both by those who joined in the cookalong!

I thought today I’d put up my recipe so anyone who missed the cookalong can still make it if they want.

Ttoro soup from St Jean de Luz

(Basque fish soup)

This gorgeous but easy-to-make fish soup originates from the fishing port of St Jean de Luz, in the French Basque country, but is popular all over the Basque coast. You can find it in restaurants and in homes—everyone has their own version. My mother, who came from Biarritz, had her own, and this recipe is inspired by her gorgeous creation. And like all ttoros, it features the ‘magic ingredient’ of the Basques: piment d’Espelette, which comes from the lovely hills farms around the picturesque small town of Espelette, 24 kms inland from Biarritz. This delicious red pepper powder has a unique flavour, both warmly spicy and piquantly sweet and fruity, which is the reason why this traditional Basque spice has its own AOP appellation in France (the peppers can only be grown in the area around Espelette). Its gorgeous colour also imparts a beautiful red to the soup. You can easily obtain it online: in Australia, order from the Culinary Club or The Essential Ingredient. However, if you can’t get piment d’Espelette, use a god hot paprika(non-smoked). It won’ be quite the same, but it will still be pretty nice.

So for two people, you’ll need:

*Two tomatoes, chopped

*One red capsicum, chopped

*One medium onion, chopped

*Four cloves garlic, sliced

*Olive oil

*Salt

*Piment d’Espelette or paprika(as above)

*Two fillets of fish, cut into pieces(your choice of fish)

*Around 8-10 prawns, peeled and cooked

*A bit of any other seafood you fancy: eg mussels, squid, scallops, etc

(To make it really easy you can simply use a good marina mix)

*3-4 cups of pre-prepared seafood/fish stock (home-made with fish heads/prawn shells, quickly fried with olive oil, salt and piment d’Espelette, then covered with water and boiled for about 20 mins, left to stand till used, then strained. Or you can simply use fish/seafood stock cubes)

Method:

In a good-sized pan, fry the onions and garlic in olive oil till starting to soften. Add the tomatoes and capsicum, stir, add salt and half a teaspoon of piment d’Espelette or paprika, and leave to cook for about 5-6 mins with lid on. Then pour in the hot stock, and allow to cook at a simmer for a further 5-6 mins, to absorb the flavours. Then add the pieces of raw fish, and cook for 2-3 mins. Add the rest of the seafood, including the prawns. Cook for about another 2-3 mins, at a simmer. Sprinkle more piment d’Espelette in. Taste, add salt if necessary. Then take off stove, and serve with bread! The soup also keeps well overnight in the fridge—you can eat the delicious leftover soup, heated up, the next day!

Living in the Basque country: video about my artist sister Camille

My artist sister Camille Masson Talansier lives in the small town of Hasparren in the Basque country, 25 kms inland from Biarritz. In this charming video, made for the run-up to the release of my audio novel A Hundred Words for Butterfly, you get a glimpse of her life in this beautiful region, and the things that are important to her: art, food, family.

To check out more of Camille’s art, visit her Instagram page here, and website here.

Announcing Magical Tales from French Camelot!

More lovely book news, and another gorgeous cover reveal: this time for my forthcoming book with Lorena Carrington, Magical Tales from French Camelot, which will be out late this year, with Serenity Press. Like French Fairy Tales, our previous title together, it focusses on stories from the French tradition, this time from the Middle Ages, and the extraordinary work of the great Arthurian writers of the twelfth century in France. My new translations and retellings of some of my favourites of these stories are accompanied by Lorena’s glorious, enchanting and atmospheric illustrations, like the beautiful one on the cover below. It has been an unalloyed joy and pleasure to work with Lorena again and we are both delighted to be published again by the fantastic team at Serenity Press.

Here’s a bit more about the book:

The legend of King Arthur began in Britain. But it is in twelfth-century France that the stories really took off, with gifted writers creating a panoply of vivid new characters and elements such as Lancelot, Perceval, the Grail and the doomed love between Lancelot and Guinevere, within a richly imagined, action-packed world of adventure, magic, romance and mystery. Women as much as men are important characters in the French stories, there’s an intriguing take on shapeshifters and other supernatural beings, and fascinating glimpses of the patterns and customs of medieval life as well as explorations of conscience and the true nature of courage. In the process these extraordinary medieval writers, such as Chrétien de Troyes and Marie de France, created a whole new immensely popular genre of literature whose appeal and influence endures to this day.

This beautiful new collection of stories translated and retold by Sophie Masson and illustrated by Lorena Carrington will introduce you to some of the most striking tales and extraordinary characters and places from the French Arthurian tradition, transporting you into a gripping, magical world like no other.

And here is the glorious cover!