Whilst sounding like a simple meal to prepare, roast chicken can often turn out to be more of a challenge than first thought. It can be hard to achieve a perfectly cooked balance of moist, tender white meat and properly cooked thigh despite the countless methods and recipes there are floating around the ether. Butter under the skin, lemons in the cavity and bacon bandages are all helpful and add lots of flavour but a sure-fire way to keep your bird juicy is to pot roast it in a pool of flavoursome ingredients. While the chicken wallows in a nice warm bath it soaks up the flavour of any seasonings and vegetables you add and it’s bath water turns into fragrant stock, perfect for a good gravy or soup.
The only (very minor) downside to pot roasting is the absence of a crisp, golden skin but if, like my family, you don’t enjoy the skin then there’s nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain. You can chuck in pretty much any vegetable going provided that it will stand up to a prolonged cook and use whatever liquid you think will taste good. Leeks, swedes and cider, carrots, parsnips and ale… Here I went for a spicy north African twist by rubbing the chicken with garlic and chilli, mixing a healthy dose of harissa into the cooking liquid (water and a splash of wine) and throwing in wedges of pumpkin. We enjoyed our chicken with couscous which I prepared with some of the cooking juices, a herb salad and plenty of bread to mop up with. The leftovers made delicious salad with chickpeas and lots of fresh parsley and lemon juice as well as some great quesadillas.
Harissa pot roast chicken
Adapted from Delicious magazine
- 1 medium chicken, free range about 1.6kg
- 60g butter, softened
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 red chilli
- a handful of fresh parsley or coriander, chopped
- 2 red onions, peeled and sliced
- 700g pumpkin, peeled and cut into thick wedges
- 200ml white wine
- 700ml hot water
- 3 tbsp harissa paste
Take your chicken out of the fridge in plenty of time so it can come up to room temperature. Heat the oven to 200°C.
Carefully loosen the skin from the breasts trying not to tear it. (If you are clumsy like me pinch the skin back together and pin it closed with a cocktail stick.)
Mix the butter, garlic, chilli and fresh herbs and stuff them under the loosened skin, spreading evenly to cover the breasts.
Heat a splash of oil in a large, heavy pan and sweat the onions over a medium heat until soft. Add the pumpkin and white wine and bubble until the wine has reduced by half.
Nestle the chicken amongst the pumpkin and onion. Mix the harissa with the hot water and pour around the chicken.
Put a lid on the pan and place in the oven for 1 hour. Uncover and cook for a further 20 minutes until the top of the chicken is golden.
If you want to make a gravy, remove the chicken and pumpkin from the pan and wrap in foil. Skim any fat from the surface of the cooking juices then boil for several minute until reduced. Season to taste. You can also stir in some creme fraiche at this point for a richer sauce.