Wednesday, 4 July 2007

The Chicken Effect

Sunday roast chicken and the house is filled with that familiar smell that makes you instantly ravenous. When I cook, I immerse myself in the whole makeup of the meal. If it looks good and smells good, the chances are it will taste good. Roast chicken is up there with bacon and onions as one of the greatest smells known to mankind. Never mind them adverts where a certain fragrance 'effect' drives the opposite sex wild; Eau de Poulet aux Oignons et au Lard is the new smell of the century.

Last weekend, despite the downpour outside, I had summer in my mind. I had a lovely fresh Free Range chicken in the fridge, but I didn’t want to just roast it the usual way and serve it with traditional vegetables. Something hot, spicy and fresh that would remind us that summer was supposed to be here was called for.

A read of Margot's excellent Coffee and Vanilla Blog a few weeks back gave me an idea I always intended to do in one format or the other - Roasted Chicken in Smoked Paprika Gravy. I decided to take the Moroccan influence and expand it somewhat. So a spicy fruity stuffing was required, containing cinnamon and cumin, sultanas, honey, lemons, pistachios and almonds. The smell of the stuffing cooking alone was sublime. I was worried that the stuffing would be too loose and not hold together, but a pulse in the blender made an amazing sticky mass of fruit, spice and nuts. Perfect for stuffing the neck end with.

All that was left was a Paprika glaze for the chicken, consisting of olive oil, lemon juice, smoked sweet paprika and a little seasoning. I also had a couple of fennel bulbs that were rolled in the roasting oils and cooked in the same tray. After just 20 minutes in the oven, my house was lifting with those familiar smells of North African cuisine as well as the aniseed aroma of the fennel. Utterly fantastic and simply irresistible.

The finished article had my daughter asking, 'What’s that?’ as the blackened chicken was lifted out of the oven. It looked nothing like the traditional bird I serve up every few weeks. But carving into the spiced flesh opened up the most sumptuous of delights as the aroma of the fruit, nuts and spice hit you with force. It tasted fabulous and we all demolished it with fresh flatbreads and cous cous. A refreshing summer packed change to a familiar bird.

Moroccan Stuffed Chicken with Roasted Fennel

For the stuffing:
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, sliced
1 tsp ground cumin
1tsp ground cinnamon
1 small handful of pistachios
1 small handful of almonds
1 handful of sultanas
Zest and juice of one lemon
2 tbsp honey
Olive oil

For the glaze
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp smoked paprika
Juice of one lemon
Salt and pepper

2 fennel bulbs, quartered

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees C, GM 8
2 - In a pan, heat the olive oil then add the onions and garlic. Soften, then add the spices, fruit, nuts, lemon juice and honey and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, cool slightly then pulse in a blender until you have a sticky mass. Stuff the neck end of the chicken.
3 - Combine the olive oil, paprika, lemon juice and seasoning in a bowl, then massage into the chicken on a baking tray so that it is completely covered. Stuff a halved lemon into the cavity then place the chicken onto the middle shelf for 20 minutes.
4 - Turn down the heat to 180 degrees C, GM4. Roll the fennel in the juices in the tray and bake the chicken for a further 20 minutes per half kilo. For example, my chicken was 1.5 kilos, so i roasted it for 20 minutes at the higher temperature, then a further hour at the lower temperature.
5 - Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Make a quick sauce by deglazing the pan with a little water then stirring in some honey. Calve the meat with a slice of the stuffing and serve with cous cous, flatbreads and a good drizzle of the sweet, spicy and sticky sauce.


Coffee & Vanilla said...

That looks and sounds really good.
I'm glad I could give you some inspiration, but your recipe is much much better (you are the professional)! :)
This oil - Carotino I found by chance in Tesco and read about it on internet, it looks like it is one of the most healthy oils... I'm not expert on oils but it looks and taste good too.
Enjoy your day,

Pat said...

Thanks David, that sounds really delicious. Can't wait to have roast chicken again.

Valli said...

I can smell the wonderful aromas all the way over here in Canada!!! There is nothing like gathering family and friends for a wonderful meal around the table with good food and excellent conversation!!!