The changing face of the kitchen

Culinary Conversations
with Peter Blakeway
Food writer, caterer and private chef

I know I’m biased, but the fact is our kitchens have reflected the social and economic changes in our society throughout history.

Go back in time and the kitchen was a large space, which handled not only the finished meal but also the bakery, butchery production and the myriad of tasks related to daily life from preserving to curing.

With the birth of supermarkets and processed food we no longer needed the large workspace and our kitchens have become small and hidden from view.

Our easy access to pre-packaged processed food meant our homes could be designed around the social areas instead of the functional ones. Sadly that also meant we lost our handed-down cooking knowledge and skills.

It’s all starting to sound depressing, but wait, things are changing. As kitchen appliances became more designed and less utilitarian we started to place the kitchen in the middle of the house as a design feature, almost a domestic piece of art. We still weren’t bothered about the cooking but at least it was on show.

So what’s next? Well it looks like things are changing again.

With the massive growth in the farmers’ market movement and the celebrity chef phenomenon it looks like we are starting to care about our food supply again. This means the kitchen now becomes the hub of the home, where we all come together to cook, eat, socialise and even work. Happy days!

Which bring me to this week’s recipe. I want something classic but unpretentious. Coq au vin – or chicken in red wine – is one of those meals that will draw people to the hub of your home with exquisite aromas. A little trick is to immerse the chicken pieces in the red wine in a sealed plastic box in the fridge for at least 24 hours to marinate. This will intensify the flavours beautifully.

Coq au vin

Serves 6


125g piece of unsmoked streaky bacon, cut into 5mm thick strips, 4cm long

50g butter

1 Tbsp oil

Plain flour for dusting

1 crushed garlic clove

A fresh bouquet garni of thyme and parsley

½ bottle red wine

10 button onions

10 mushrooms

Seasoning and beurre manié (butter and flour mixed to a paste) for thickening


Heat half of the butter in a flameproof casserole dish and put in the sticks of bacon. When they start to brown, add the flour-dusted pieces of chicken and sauté until they are nicely browned all over. Add the garlic, then after a minute or so the garni, wine and seasoning. Once the casserole is nearly boiling, transfer to a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees Celsius for 45 minutes. Add onions and mushrooms and cook for another 20 minutes. Remove the chicken and bacon and reduce the liquid for five minutes. Whisk in the beurre manié to thicken the liquid and bring everything back together and simmer for five minutes. Serve with rice or steamed vegetables.


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