A Hen on her Nest

This recipe came from a Norfolk manor house, where it was sometimes served in the nineteenth century ‘to please the children’. Originally, however, it was a farm dish, the hard-boiled eggs being served to the children and the chicken to the adults. However, a piece of chicken and an egg with sauce and rice may be served to each person.


  • 1 boiling fowl, about 5–6 lb. (2½–3 k.)
  • 8 hard-boiled eggs, cooked in the last few minutes of the fowl’s cooking time, so that they are warm
  • ¾ lb. (360 g.) Patna rice
  • ½ pint (3 dl.) milk
  • ¼ pint ( dl.) (double) cream
  • 1 teaspoon mace
  • 4 carrots
  • salt
  • 12 peppercorns
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 4 medium onions
  • 1 bouquet garni
  • 4 oz. (120 g.) butter
  • 2 oz. (60 g.) flour


Boil the chicken with the mace, ginger, peppercorns, salt, carrots, onions and herbs in water just to cover for 2 hours. Lift out and put in a roasting tin; spread with 2 oz. (60 g.) butter, which will melt at once on the hot bird. Put in oven for 10 minutes at 350° F., gas mark 4–5, so that it browns lightly, and then keep hot in warming drawer or remove while oven cools and then put back covered with foil. Meanwhile cook the rice in half the chicken stock and hard-boil the eggs.

Make a roux with 2 oz. (60 g.) butter and 2 oz. (60 g.) flour, and stir in 1 pint (6 dl.) of remaining stock and ½ pint (3 dl.) of milk. Allow to simmer 2 or 3 minutes and then pour in cream and season well. Keep hot while you peel the hard-boiled eggs, dish the rice and arrange it in a border round a large flat dish (this is the nest). Put the eggs in the middle, and pour half the sauce over them. Sit the browned chicken on her eggs and serve. Serve the rest of the sauce separately and lift the chicken on to a carving board or another dish to carve it.