Roast Spatchcock Chicken & Chickpeas

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A Moroccan inspired Sunday Roast

The roast dinner is of course a British Institution, who doesn’t love a traditional Sunday lunch with all the trimmings? The French call us Les Rosbifs with good reason.

Whilst I will readily admit to enjoying a classic roast – especially Simon Hopkinson’s Roast Chicken or Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Roast Forerib of Beef, there is no denying it can be time consuming and a bit of a faff, the washing up alone is enough to put me off – who wants to spend their final precious hours of weekend freedom doing the dishes? 

When I was younger I worked in a number of pub kitchens and, a few wannabe Gordon Ramsays aside, it was mostly an enjoyable and educational experience. Sunday lunchtime however was Battle Royale. For four long hours our three strong kitchen brigade would be locked in a war of attrition, knocking out anything up to 120 covers from a kitchen the size of a broom closet. That’s a roast dinner on the pass every two minutes, non stop, for 4 hours.

Even erring on the side of caution, say an average of 60 covers per Sunday, estimating a Sunday shift every other week for 3 years that still comes out at well over 4000 plates of Roast Dinner. And that’s before we take into account Christmas roast dinners over the party season – let us never, ever discuss the horror of the Christmas party season.

As I see it I have done my time when it comes to roast dinners – I defy anyone to serve 4000+ portions of anything without beginning to harbor a smidgen of resentment towards it. So whilst I will cook the occasional traditional roast in Autumn and Winter, the rest of the year I generally want something lighter, fresher and quicker to prepare.

This being the case my next couple of recipes will be some fairly simple Sunday Lunch alternatives, starting with this one – a quick roasted spatchcock chicken with chickpeas.

A note on spatchcock chicken:

Spatchcock chicken is simply a chicken which has had it’s backbone cut out before being flattened, so it somewhat resembles a frog, prior to being cooked. I was in a rush and asked my butcher to do this for me, but it really isn’t a difficult process to perform at home, I find it easiest to use a pair of heavy duty kitchen scissors. Here’s an instructional video from one of my favourite YouTubers, Chef John.

I made this up on the hoof after returning late one Sunday morning having attended a wonderful wedding the previous day. I wanted something substantial and restorative, but simple and quick to prepare. A spatchcock chicken is perfect in this situation as it cooks in no time and requires minimal preparation. I’d seen a number of recipes in the past pairing roast chicken with chickpeas and took that as a starting point.

The flavours bounce all over the place in this recipe, but is no worse for that – a Moroccan influence for the Chicken and chickpeas, a Turkish Choban Salad and a Greek Tzatziki. A relatively economical, speedy and dare I say it healthy alternative to a traditional Sunday roast.

Here’s to lazy Sundays! Now where are the papers?

Recipe:

Cooking time: 1 hour
Serves: 4 people with leftovers

INGREDIENTS

For the spatchcock chicken:

1.3kg Chicken, spatchcocked
1 Lemon
1/2 Preserved Lemon
2 Garlic cloves
2 Tsp Cumin, ground
1 Tsp Chilli Flakes
1 Tsp Turmeric
2 Tbsp Chermoula
2 Tbsp Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Small handful of torn mint leaves to serve

For the chickpeas:

660g jar of chickpeas
1 Onion. finely diced
2 Garlic cloves, finely minced
1 Glass dry white wine

For the Choban Salad:

3 Tomatoes
1/2 Cucumber
1/2 Red onion
3 Spring onions
4 Padron Peppers or 1 regular green pepper
3 Tbsp Lemon juice
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Small bunch flat-leafed parsley
2 Tsp Sumac
Salt and freshly ground pepper

For the Tzatziki:

½ Cucumber
350g Greek yoghurt
3 Tbsp Lemon Juice
2 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
3 Cloves of Garlic
3 Tsp dried mint
3 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Ground black pepper
Pinch of smoked paprika

A note on chickpeas:

Tinned chickpeas are cheap, easily accessible and perfectly acceptable to use in this recipe. However if you can find them and are willing to splash a little extra cash jarred chickpeas are an infinitely superior product and turn this from a nice recipe to a great recipe. It’s hard to overstate the difference, jarred chickpeas are almost a completely different product from canned. I saw Marina O’Loughlin describe them as “the caviar of the pulse world” in the Guardian this weekend. I favour El Navarrico Garbanzos which I can get at my local butchers and are stocked by Brindissa, but there are cheaper options out there.. Yes they are a lot more expensive than canned- you’re looking at £3 plus for a 660g jar, but they do make all the difference in a simple recipe like this. Give them a try, you won’t regret it.

METHOD:

For the chicken and chickpeas:

If your chicken isn’t already spatchcocked, spatchcock it as described here. I also like to slash the thickest parts of the legs a few times with a sharp knife. This lets the marinade penetrate deeper and reduces the cooking time.

Zest the rind of the lemon and add to a mixing bowl along with the lemon juice. Scoop the flesh out of the preserved lemon, discard and finely chop the rind, add to the bowl. Peel the garlic, finely mince and add to the bowl. Add the rest of the marinade ingredients – turmeric, cumin, chilli flakes, chermoula, olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Smother the marinade all over the chicken, including in between the skin and flesh of the breast, being careful not to tear the skin. Refrigerate and if possible leave to marinade over night, I only had a couple of hours so this only got an hour or so in the fridge.

This is just a suggested marinade, you could just as easily use olive oil, lemon juice, oregano and garlic, it will still be delicious.

Preheat your oven to 220°C.

I like to cook this in a cast iron skillet as in the picture at the top of the page, but any oven proof dish that will snugly accommodate the chicken so it lies flat will suffice.

Remove the chicken from the fridge, scrape of the marinade and reserve. Heat the skillet over a medium heat add a little oil and fry the chicken skin side down for a couple of mins, you just want to get a little colour flip it over and repeat with the other side, remove from the pan and set aside.

Add a little more oil to the skillet along with the diced onion and garlic, gently fry for a few mins until translucent but not coloured. Add the contents of the jar of chickpeas the glass of wine, give a gentle stir and place the chicken on top, spoon over the reserved marinade.

Place in the hot oven and roast for 20 mins, add a glass of water to the chickpeas and roast for a further 25 mins. Remove from the oven and loosely cover in foil, set aside to rest for 10 mins.

For the Choban salad:

Deseed the tomatoes and chop into small cubes, dice the cucumber and pepper(s) about the same size and add to a bowl. Slice the red onion into fine half moons, finely slice the spring onions into rounds and add to the bowl. Add the lemon juice, olive oil, 1 Tsp of sumac to the bowl along with a pinch of salt and pepper and mix well.

Just before serving roughly chop the parsley and mix with the rest of the salad and sprinkle over the remaining Tsp of Sumac.

For the Tzatziki:

Try to make you Tzatziki when the chicken goes into the oven to give the flavours a little time to mingle.

Cut your half cucumber vertically into quarters. Run the blade of your knife down each quarter to remove the watery centre, leaving only the firm flesh. Finely dice the cucumber.

Place the cucumber in a sieve over a bowl and sprinkle with 2 Tsp of fine salt, leave for 30 mins to allow some of the water content to leach out. After 30 mins rinse the cucumber of the salt and dry on kitchen paper. Place in a bowl along with the yoghurt, lemon juice, 1 Tbsp of the oil, Tsp of Salt, Tsp of Pepper and the dried mint. Stir well.

I like to boil the garlic for a minute or two in a saucepan of water before crushing into the yoghurt as it reduces the somewhat acrid note of raw garlic, but feel free to skip this step. Once the garlic has been added and mixed well refrigerate the Tzatziki. When ready to serve stir well. I like to drizzle over the remaining oil and dust the surface with a pinch of smoked paprika.

To serve:

Uncover the chicken and chickpeas, carefully lift the chicken off and put to one side. Add 3 or 4 tablespoons of the Choban salad to the chickpeas and give a good stir, place the chicken back on top. Sprinkle over some torn mint leaves.

I like to bring this to the table in the skillet so people can dig in and help themselves. Serve the rest of the Choban salad and Tzatziki in bowls on the side.

This was fine as it was for us with plenty of leftovers to make Monday’s dinner, but if you are feeding a crowd and want to bulk it out a little an extra dish of couscous and/or some flatbreads on the side wouldn’t go amiss.

Enjoy!

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