Is it me, or has this been one of the coldest and most miserable winters ever? Perhaps it was the lack of a decent summer that did it, or perhaps it is the daily 75 minute trek beginning at 7am that I now have to endure, but this winter has definitely made me more grumpy than I’ve been in a long time.* Within ten minutes of leaving the house I find I lose all feeling in my hands, feet and face and this really irritates me. I find it even more irritating that, despite the near arctic temperatures, I still end up breaking a sweat from the effort of climbing Highgate Mountain. Someone needs to build a chairlift for that hill.
The one advantage of working at the highest point in London is that it provides some fairly pretty views. On a clear day, from the top floor of our science block, you can see all the way to Kent and,looking out from the top of the maths block after it gets dark, the glittering lights of Central London look quite stunning. However, this is poor compensation for the hypothermia induced by standing on top of an extremely windy hill in sub zero temperatures at midnight, trying to hail a taxi home.
I know that there are some good things about winter (pheasant springs to mind, and venison casserole) but this week I just wanted to put myself in a state of total denial and pretend it was mid July. It was time to make something packed with mediterranean flavours to remind me of the sunshine we’ve all been missing so much.
Orange and Rosemary Roasted Chicken with Saffron Rice and Smoky Red Pepper Sauce
For The Chicken
- 1 free range medium sized chicken
- 2 oranges
- 8 sprigs rosemary
- 100g butter
- At least 12 hours before you’re ready to cook, take the chicken and use your fingers to loosen the skin from the breast meat by pushing your fingers under the skin at the neck end. Make a nick at the bottom of each leg and loosen the skin from the legs too.
- Peel one of the oranges. Slice the flesh as thinly as you can and push it under the skin of the chicken so the breasts and legs are completely covered. Push down on the chicken skin gently so the juice from the orange is releaed onto the meat.
- Push the rosemary sprigs under the skin of the chicken so that they are in direct contact with the meat.
- Cover the chicken and leave it to marinate in the fridge for at least 12 hours.
- In the meantime, make some orange infused butter by zesting the second orange, and mixing the grated zest with 100g of melted butter. Leave this to infuse for a few minutes, then transfer the butter to a container and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Ten minutes before you’re ready to cook your chicken, preheat your oven to gas mark 7.
- Remove the orange pieces from under the chicken skin but leave the rosemary as it is.
- Push a chunk of the orange infused butter between each side of the chicken breast and the covering skin. Do the same to the chicken thighs.
- Roast the chicken for ten minutes at gas mark 7, then turn the heat down and roast for a further hour at gas mark 5, or until the juices run clear when the thickest part of the chicken thigh is pierced with a skewer.
- Remove the chicken from the oven, cover it with foil and let it rest for 20 minutes before serving.
For the Red Pepper Sauce
- 2 red peppers, cored, deseeded and cut in half vertically
- 2 fat cloves smoked garlic (or ordinary garlic)
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 100ml chicken stock
- Place the peppers and garlic cloves on a baking tray under a medium grill until the pepper skins are blistering and charred. Remove them from the grill and leave until cool enough to handle.
- Peel the peppers, roughly chop the flesh and place in a blender. Squeeze the garlic cloves from their skin and add to the pepper along with the paprika and chicken stock. Blend until smooth.
- Transfer to a small saucepan and bring to a gentle bubble. After around 5 minutes the sauce should be a good consistency.
For the Saffron Rice (essentially a simple vegetarian paella)
- 4 handfuls paella rice
- 1 small onion, very finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small courgette, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
- large pinch saffron dissolved in 100ml chicken tock
- Additional chicken stock (up to 400ml)
- olive oil
- Soften the onion over a low heat in about a tablespoon of olive oil. When soft, add the garlic and courgettes and fry for another two minutes.
- Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil. Fry gently for another couple of minutes.
- Add the chicken stock witht he saffron, turn up the heat to medium and stir continuously until the stock is absorbed
- Add a ladleful of the remaining stock and stir until absorbed
- Repeat step 4 until the rice is cooked, then stir in the parsley. Taste and season.
Carve the caicken and serve on the saffron rice surrounded by the pepper sauce. Garnish with more parsley and rosemary.
*and if you remember how grumpy I was last year, you’ll know that’s saying something.