Mrs. Jackson Cooks

Life through food

Sunday lunch: greek spiced roast chicken

on January 30, 2011

I must apologise, I was so hungry, waiting for hubby to return from refurbing our tenanted house that when he did, we just ate and I totally forgot about photos until it was completely demolished!

I am continuing with my January thriftiness. Roasts are a great way of getting cheap meat that you can use for the rest of the week. Chickens in particular are good because you’ll have the roast, then you’ll get at least one more meal out of it – curry perhaps? – before using the bones for stock. I can often make them stretch to include a risotto in there too, so one chicken can do at least 3, and sometimes 4 meals, which is very thrifty if you ask me! And buying a whole chicken is often a lot cheaper than buying bits of chickens, even free range or organic ones, whole are cheaper than chicken breasts, especially.

It was originally, just going to be a normal roasted chicken with some herbs and garlic stuffed into the skin and some almond and apricot stuffing in the centre. But I had some random channel on that does repeats of old shows. I can’t tell you the channel or the show – I wasn’t really paying any attention – until some woman came on and said ‘this is just like your normal roast except with a lot more flavour and spices’ and I was hooked. Turned out it was for pork chops and not roast chicken at all, but by then it was too late – I was imagining all sorts with the pestle and mortar.

So I made the spice mix with my pestle and mortar but because it wasn’t pork chops I had to think of a way to flavour the chicken effectively. So I mixed it up with some softened butter and shoved it under the skin of the chicken. This was good for two reasons – the spices under the skin were able to penetrate the meat more effectively and didn’t burn like they would on top of it and the butter under the skin would more effectively baste the chicken making it juicy and not dry.

I also tried a different way of cooking the chicken. Taking this from capon roasting recipes I looked at for Christmas, I roasted it on a wire rack suspended over a roasting tray that I put the roast potatoes and other vege in. This way the veges roasted in the chicken juices and spices and the chicken didn’t sit in it’s own fat making it healthier. I also started by roasting the chicken upside down so that the bottom browned, and then I turned it over.

I roasted the chicken according to times in a cookery book which were 20 minutes, and then 20 minutes per 450g at 200 degrees celsius. However, I did start off with the oven at 230 degrees celsius and turned it down to 200 after 20 minutes (when I turned the bird over onto its bottom).

This was all really effective. The chicken was delicious, beautifully spiced and juicy but not greasy, the potatoes and vege were beautiful and the gravy was great.

Greek spiced roast chicken

Serves 3-4

  • 1.5kg whole chicken (approx – a small one)
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • Potatoes (approx 1 medium one per person) and veges for roasting

For the spice rub:

  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tbsp juniper berries
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tbsp rock salt
  • 4 tbsp butter at room temperature (approx – I added a bit as I went along)

For the gravy:

  • 1 heaped tbsp plain flour
  • 100-150ml hot water
  • 1 tsp marmite or gravy browning (optional)
  • seasoning to taste
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 230 degrees celsius. If the chicken is in the fridge, remove and allow to reach room temperature.
  2. Make the spice mix. Toast the coriander and cumin seeds together until they start to pop. Tip into a mortar and add the juniper berries. Grind to a reasonably fine mix. Add the remaining herbs and salt and grind again to combine and reduce to the same size.
  3. Put half the butter in a small bowl and tip in the spice mix. Mix together – I found this easiest with my fingers. Add more butter as needed until you have spiced butter that is well combined and fairly dense with spice but isn’t so dense it completely covers the butter.
  4. Place the halved lemon, garlic cloves and bay leaves in the chicken cavity.
  5. Using the end of a wooden spoon, lift the skin of the chicken from the meat over the breast area. Make quite a large space between the two. Then using your fingers or the end of the spoon, shove about half the spice mix under the skin, working it all the way down to the end of the chicken. You may want to massage it down on top of the skin with your fingers.
  6. Place the chicken upside down on a wire rack suspended over a baking tray at the top of the oven. Roast for 20 minutes, or until the bottom of the chicken starts to brown.
  7. Then remove the chicken from the oven, reduce the heat to 200 degrees celsius. Cover the outside of the chicken, all over with the remaining spiced butter (this is a little tricky because the chicken is hot and so the butter melts very quickly and trickles off) and roast the chicken, uncovered, the right way up for the remaining time. Place parboiled potatoes in the baking tray beneath the chicken to roast in its juices. Add the remaining veges when you have about 30-40 minutes remaining.
  8. When the chicken is done, remove from the oven (leaving the veges to continue cooking, although you may want to reduce the heat to 170 degrees) and place on a heated carving board or plate, cover in foil and clean towels and leave to rest for 20 minutes.
  9. When the veges are done, remove them from the oven and place them in a warmed serving dish, reserving the juices. Return to the oven (now turned off) to keep warm.
  10. Place the baking tray with the juices on the hob and add the flour. Heat gently whilst continually stiring to combine. When fully combined add about 40ml of the hot water to the tray and whisk vigorously to combine. Whisking helps avoid lumps. Continue adding the water gradually until you have slightly thin gravy. Bring to the boil and then simmer until the desired thickness is achieved. If the gravy is looking a bit anaemic add some marmite or gravy browning to darken the colour. Adjust seasoning to taste.
  11. Carve the chicken and serve with the veges and generously cover in gravy.
  12. Enjoy with a nice glass of white wine and your friends and family around you. Sunday perfection!
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