It was almost a ritual – Sunday lunch was incomplete without a big juicy bird with crisp golden skin gracing the table. After lunch, my mother would sit under this big shady mango tree in our garden and read the Sunday paper while I pottered around close by, sulking at the thought of school the next day. Memories…I can almost smell the savoury scent of that chicken roasting in the oven and feel the warmth of the late afternoon sun on my skin.
2014 is drawing to a close and it’s been a year since I started blogging (hurray!). Instead of baking a cake to celebrate, or a loaf of bread (my second choice), I thought it would be nice to make my mom’s chicken with the best possible ingredients I can find in the market. And that meant a free-range chicken, organic veg and the best butter and seasoning which the dish calls for.
First up the chicken – a lot is being said about ‘free-range’ and ‘organic’ and I would sometimes wonder if it’s just a fad or a passing phase like most food trends, which come and go. That’s until I read about industrial poultry farming and what these poor birds are subjected to by the big commercial poultry producers just so they can meet the rising demand for cheap chicken and eggs. The sad truth is, with increasing food prices and with more and more people struggling to feed themselves (not forgetting the fact that organic produce costs three to four times more than ‘non-organic’ produce) will there ever be a solution to this? What we can do however, is make a conscious effort to eat fresh, healthy and ethically produced food – if not organic, you can always buy locally produced meat and eggs, and fruit and veg which are in season.
I digress… so…there I was on a Friday morning at the Organic Foods & Café in Dubai looking for the perfect bird. It’s a wonderful store, carrying a huge range of organic produce, family run, with several branches across the UAE. The chicken did look a bit different from the frozen ones you find in the supermarket – it was plump and pink with cushions of pale yellow fat in all the right places.
A few organic tomatoes, some onions, a bag of new potatoes to accompany the roast, a box of sea-salt and shopping was done. While heading out of the store armed with these beautiful ingredients I made a mental note to fill the pepper-mill with fresh peppercorns (the chicken has to be seasoned well). I may add that these peppercorns aren’t ordinary shop-bought ones; they have been freshly picked from organically grown vines in Sri Lanka and dried to perfection in the hot tropical sun. When you grind these beauties they release such a wonderful peppery perfume!
I have made this dish many times but this one is probably the best by far – a happy husband and a six year old son, who happens to be a picky eater, were in complete agreement. The fat in the skin had penetrated the flesh underneath making the chicken extremely succulent and it had this lovely delicate taste which was subtle yet savoury. Mom, your roast chicken never disappoints!
Well then, Happy Birthday Stove & I, you are and always will be my second baby (six year old being my first!), and a massive thank you to all my readers, without you blogging would make no sense at all.
My mother’s Sunday roast.
This is such an easy dish to make with a few simple ingredients which you will always find in your pantry. The chicken has a delicate flavour since there are no heavy spices or seasonings used (which can overpower it) so make sure to buy a good quality chicken – it does make a difference.
If you are feeling too lazy to roast a huge turkey for Christmas, give this chicken a try, it looks and tastes beautiful and you won’t have to bother with any leftovers (meaning no turkey sandwiches for seven days in a row following Christmas!)
Free-range, organic chicken (I also prefer fresh over frozen), weighing around 1 Kg
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 medium or one large red onion, chopped
6 cloves of garlic (I like to use lots of garlic, you can use less if preferred)
1” piece of ginger, julienned
3-4 tbsp unsalted butter and another tbsp for browning the chicken
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tsp of sugar
3-4 tbsp water
salt and freshly ground pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 180° C.
Wash and trim the chicken, do not remove the skin for this adds flavour and keeps the meat moist and succulent. Pat dry with a paper towel.
Mix the butter, salt and pepper together and rub this mixture all over the chicken (under the skin and inside the cavity as well). Leave to rest for at least one and a half hours.
Heat a big pan (big enough to fit the chicken) and melt the remaining butter. Once the butter is nice and hot add the chicken. Brown the bird all over, till the flesh is no longer pink. Remove the bird and keep aside.
Next, add the garlic and ginger (add a little more butter if the pan has become dry). Gently fry for about a minute, till you get that gorgeous garlicky aroma. Next add the chopped onion and tomato. Gently fry for around a minute and then add the ketchup, sugar and just enough water to create a thick sauce (it should not be watery). Cook the sauce for a further 2 minutes till the tomatoes are cooked through and are soft and mushy.
Transfer the bird to a roasting pan and pour the sauce over, spoon some of it inside the cavity. Cover with foil (make a few tiny holes in the foil) and place in the oven.The chicken needs to roast for an hour and a half. After one hour, remove the foil and place it back in the oven for the remaining 30 minutes so the skin browns and crisps up nicely.
Remove the chicken from the oven and leave to rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. This allows the juices to redistribute through the chicken, making it tender and moist.
You do not need to make a sauce to serve this with as the onions and tomatoes turn into a lovely caramelised gravy. Spoon some of it over the carved chicken and serve with roast potatoes (I made mine using Ina Garten’s recipe) and a salad or a selection of steamed seasonal veg.