I think one of my earliest “pleasureful” memories of eating as a kid is one of eating roast chicken. My mother made the best, (of course) and it was a dish that brought us all together. I even remember her roasting a chicken and wrapping it in foil for long plane journeys so we could have something delicious to eat (may sound weird but it’s definitely a middle-eastern family thing to travel with food). For me – no other dish says; “Home” “Sunday lunch” or “Comfort” quite like roast chicken. It is an incredibly easy meal to make and can be quite showstopping with a few tweaks here and there. However, it all hinges on procuring a quality bird. You simply can’t compare a supermarket chicken with a proper free-range pasture-reared bird. Once you have tasted the difference between the two there is no going back.
I buy my chickens in Cape Town from Son of a Butcher at the granger bay market or from their shop in sea point and they are a real treat. These chooks have had a life (were not slaughtered at 8 weeks) and roamed freely, so they are more robust which means they need to be cooked with a bit more care to avoid tough meat. I prefer to cook these chickens spatchcocked as all the lovely flavours from the gravy have time to infuse and the meat cooks more evenly. Any decent butcher will do this for you or you can do it yourself – You Tube is brilliant on “how-to” do anything like this.
This one of my favourite ways to roast a chook – it looks fancy – but it is remarkably easy, and you get the most gorgeous citrus gravy to go with it. I like to serve it up with some Persian style rice with “Tahdigh” (see one of my videos on how to make this) and a simple yogurt dish and salad.
I make my own Moroccan spice mix up in a jar to keep for many different dishes but you can just mix up what you need to make the dish below. You can always make more and keep to one side – it goes well with many fish, chicken and veggies dishes. There are also some nice shop-bought Moroccan spice preparations on the shelves just make sure they have no nasties added.
1 Large Spatchcocked chicken (can feed 4-6 people)
30g raw fresh ginger
1 large orange sliced (or 2 small)
1 large lemon sliced (or 2 small)
1 large onion sliced into rings
6 cloves garlic peeled
1 tbsp fresh or dried thyme
200ml saffron brew (pinch of saffron ground in pestle and mortar with pinch salt and 200ml water added)
500ml warm Chicken/Veggie Stock (can use a stock cube)
Salt & olive oil for rubbing into the chook
Moroccan spice mix (mix these ground spices together: 1 tsp each of cinnamon, turmeric, paprika, coriander & cumin and ½ tsp ground ginger)
1. Turn on oven 180C and make sure shelf is in the middle of the oven.
2. Wash and pat dry your spatchcocked chicken and bring to room temperature.
3. While your chicken is acclimatising (!) prepare you spice mix in a bowl and slice all your citrus and onions. Make sure you wash your citrus well and dry the skins with a cloth to remove the wax (most citrus are waxed to make them shiny)
4. Place your chicken in a roasting tray and sprinkle with the Moroccan spice, salt and drizzle with olive oil. Rub the spices and olive oil into the chicken well including the underside. Remove the chicken from the roasting tray and place on a board or plate.
5. Place your onion slices into the roasting tray (with all the residual spices left in the tray) and then add your orange slices, lemon slices and garlic. Grate your peeled piece of ginger over the citrus and onions and sprinkle over your fresh or dried thyme.
6. Place your spiced Chicken over the layer of citrus and onion and pour your saffron brew & stock mixed together around the outside of the chicken into the dish.
7. Place in the oven and roast for 1.5 hours depending on the size of the chicken. You should have a nice gravy around the sides of the pan and a crispy skin where if you pierce the chicken thigh the juices run clear. Check on the chicken after 60mins to get a sense of how long it needs.
8. If your chicken is ready but the gravy is still too watery you can remove the chicken and place to one side and then take out the citrus slices, onion & garlic and place in a bowl. Then place the roasting tray with the gravy on your hob and bring to a simmer. Mix 1 tsp of cornstarch with a couple of spoonful’s of hot gravy in a bowl to blend it well and then add it back to the roasting pan and stir vigorously to mix in the corn-starch paste into the rest of the gravy. This will thicken it up nicely. You can then add back the orange and lemon slices and garlic OR just serve the gravy separately to one side.
9. I like to place the roasted orange and lemon slices and creamy garlic in a large serving dish and then place the chicken on top and drizzle some of the gravy over the chicken and serving the rest in a gravy boat.
This is the family & feasting food that I love to serve. Simple – effortless – but packed with flavour!