Fancy Lemon and Balsamic Roast
There’s something truly decadent about a sumptuous roast chicken and sticky-sweet vegetables late on a Wednesday evening. It feels almost Mediterranean to sit and drink wine whilst tearing off chunks of chicken late into the evening (the flavours of balsamic and lemon certainly helped allude to Italy a little, naturally). This dish is rustic, delicious and an utterly indulgent mid-week treat. And whilst I like tradition, I never much liked a roast on a Sunday – in fact, as a child, I hated roast dinners – and sometimes it seems much more comforting and necessary during the week.
I think fruit and acidity really help bring out the great flavours of meat and this dish, particularly if you use the juices from the chicken to make your gravy, is spiked with a great citrusy lemon flavour all over. It’s a diabolically simple meal but does require your time and patience and creates a fantastic dinner that’s perfect for dark evenings and winter chills.
This recipe was for two of us (and yes, we did eat way more than are fair share of poultry that evening…). We served our roast veg and chicken with some nice and crunchy al dente broccoli, just to add a freshness, you could choose to do this with peas, mange tout, sweetcorn or…anything, really!
Cooking time for chicken; 20 minutes for every 450g then an extra 20 minutes on top of that. You want the juices to run clear when you pop a knife or skewer into the meat. It’s always good to let meat rest for thirty minutes or so after cooking too.
Whole free range chicken (size is up to you and dependant upon how many you’re feeding)
2 generous sweet potatoes
1 red onion
1 brown onion
1 unwaxed lemon
6 cloves of garlic
4 tbsp gravy granules
300 ml boiling water
Preheat your oven to 240 and take the chicken out of the fridge, leaving it at room temperature whilst you prep everything.
Make a glaze for your chicken; pop two tablespoons of balsamic glaze into a small bowl, add a generous glug of olive oil, a pinch of sea salt, a little fresh grated lemon zest and a tablespoon of fresh thyme.
Chop up your brown onion into nice thick chunks, take three of your peeled garlic cloves and chop roughly, then finally cut your lemon into halves and a dissect one of those halves into eight smaller chunks.
In a roasting tin make a bed of onions with two of the chopped garlic cloves, four lemon pieces and a handful of fresh thyme. Mix this all together and place your chicken on top.
Take the glaze you made earlier and, using your hands of course, massage it into the meat. Into the cavity put the final chopped garlic clove, four lemon segments and a few sprigs of thyme. Place the other half of lemon in the opening of the cavity, sealing it off. This will all steam inside the bird making the meat juicy, tender and full of flavour.
Add a final sprinkling or sea salt and a liberal pinch of roughly crushed peppercorns before turning your oven down to 200 and popping the chicken inside. Let it cook at 200 for twenty minutes before turning down to 180 for the remainder of the cooking time.
Time to prep your veggies. Peel and chop your carrots and parsnips and cut into batons, drizzle in a little oil and and balsamic glaze then sprinkle with salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme and put aside ready for roasting later. Then peel your sweet potatoes (or leave the skin on, they really are just as tasty) and chop into nice chunks, cut up your red onion into sizeable pieces and throw in the remainder of your garlic cloves; coat it all with a fine layer of oil, sea salt and dried basil and toss all together in a pan.
Roast vegetables go in fifteen minutes before the chicken is due to come out, then once the bird is out of the oven whack the heat back up to 220 and let them roast away until soft, caramelised and tender (this should take 25/30 minutes).
So, once that chicken is out of the oven, pop it onto a plate and cover with tin foil or a tea towel and set it aside to rest. In the pan you should be left with an excellent foundation for making wonderful gravy. Take out of the lemon chunks but leave everything else in there, the onions will have pretty much all been reduced down into the rue. Pour the whole lot into a saucepan. Place on a very low heat and add the gravy granules and hot water slowly, stirring until you reach your desired consistency.
This is also an excellent time to start steaming/boiling your other veg so that it can all be served at the same time.
Once your veggies are done, serve up and enjoy!