A Hen on her Nest

This nineteenth-century Norfolk recipe was originally a way of cooking an old hen so that she would be tender, and also so that she would provide a good meal for a farmer’s large family.


  • 1 boiling fowl, 5 to 6 lb (2½ to 3 kg)
  • ½ lb (240 g) carrots
  • 4 medium onions
  • 1 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Parsley and thyme
  • sticks (150 g) butter
  • 3 lb ( kg) potatoes, peeled
  • 1⅞ cups (4.5 dl) milk
  • ½ cup (60 g) flour
  • cup (1.5 dl) double cream
  • 8 eggs
  • Salt and pepper


Boil the chicken with the carrots, onions, mace, ginger, herbs and seasoning in just enough water to cover for 2 hours. Lift out the bird and put it in a roasting tin; spread it with ½ stick (60 g) of the butter, which will melt at once on the hot bird. Put it in the oven for 10 minutes at 400°F (200°C, Gas Mark 6) so that it browns lightly.

While the chicken is cooking, boil the potatoes and mash them with cup (1.5 dl) of the milk and 2 tablespoons (30 g) of the butter.

Make a roux with the remaining butter and the flour and stir in cups (6 dl) of the stock in which the chicken was cooked and the rest of the milk. Allow to simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, then pour in the cream and season well.

Keep the sauce hot while you hard boil and shell the eggs and arrange the potato in a border on a large flat dish (this is the nest). Put the eggs in the middle and pour half the sauce over them. Sit the browned hen on her eggs and bring to table. Serve the rest of the sauce separately.