As the mercury recently approached 30C in Yorkshire – (of all places) – it hardly seems appropriate to post a hearty roast chicken recipe as we all start to melt during lock-down. The truth be told, this was made a good few weeks ago during milder weather – I have only just had time to put it all together as blog post. And, as ever, there will be a back story to this. Like many of my recipes, they have evolved over time – the very first time I made a roast clay-pot lemon chicken with garlic was in the early 1990s. And we have not got bored of it yet!
Many years ago, my mother bought a Römertopf Roman Pot (or a clay pot, to the uninitiated like me) and at first, I was both dubious and underwhelmed. My immediate thoughts (which I am sure were articulated at the time) were that this was like going back to the dark ages of cooking, and surely this will crack in no time at all. I also thought that the Germans prided themselves with high end cookware, utensils, and caboodle – did they miss the memo as to what century we were living in? I have never been proven so wrong. Better still, when I moved to Yorkshire in 2012 ,this was donated to me as I was the only person in the family who cooked with it. It is really one of my most cherished gifts and has been used countless times – all for variations of this dish.
What makes the Römertopf clay-pot, soooo good?
Of all the other cooking pots and methods I have tried (and sous-vide is included), I have never failed to cook a chicken which is beautifully succulent and juicy on the inside, yet crispy skin on the outside. It really produces a melt in the mouth result.
What makes the Römertopf (literally “Roman pot” in German) so special is that the base is ceramic glazed, and the ceramic lid is porous and unglazed. The top should be soaked in cold water for 30 minutes before use, absorbing water into the pores and creates ‘steam-roasting’. For this reason, and to prevent cracking, it is recommended to start cooking from a cold oven.The sudden shock of applying heat to the porous lid may result in it cracking.
The Römertopf company have been producing clay cookware since 1967, sourcing its all natural clay from the Ransbach-Baumbach region of Germany. Surprisingly, cleaning by hand afterwards is quite easy. I am sure that there are some alternatives out there – I can only vouch for what I have used and see no point in looking elsewhere. After all, it has lasted nearly 30 years and shows no signs of giving up the ghost. Me, on the other hand is another story – if my recent cycling accident is anything to go by – I was introduced to a whole new world of pain and two weeks later have started to feel ‘me’ again.
When, in the early days of our relationship I first mentioned to Marlini that I was going to cook for her lemon chicken, she immediately thought of the battered Chinese lemon chicken style. Instead, I had to subject her to my version: Roast Clay-Pot Lemon Chicken with Garlic and Chilli. To date, we have this several times a year as not only is it quick and easy to prepare, but the leftover chicken works so well in a range of other dishes from sandwiches to ramen soup. The meat certain retains its flavour.
It should also go without saying that in the far less rewarding days before Marlini came into my life, this recipe didn’t have chilli or mild heat. These days, it is very rare a day that a day turns from dawn to dusk without chilli being consumed in one form or another. Life has certainly been spiced up in more ways than one it seems!
Roast Clay-Pot Lemon Chicken with Garlic and Chilli (step by step)
In terms of what to complement this with, we have certainly has a few variations. A simple dill and Dijon mustard potato mash goes very well, as does a simple cous cous. One of our favourites though is our Fragrant Spinach Rice recipe, but there may be a bit of competition in terms of flavour.
Roast Lemon Chicken with Garlic and Chilli
- 1 large free range chicken washed, dried, and excess fat trimmed
- 3 lemons zested. One kept whole, the other two juiced
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard heaped
- 2 large echalion shallots peeled, and quartered lengthways
- 1 bulb garlic divided intro individual cloves, skin left on.
- 1 large sprig fresh thyme
- 1 large red chilli finely sliced
- 1 small red onion peeled and halved
- 10 grams butter cut into thin slithers
- 1 tsp Aleppo pepper
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Wash and thoroughly dry the chicken, removing any excess fat and overhanging loose skin
- Having zested three lemons, take one and pierce with a fork several times. Insert into the chicken's cavity, along with the small red onion.
- Scatter half of the garlic cloves, wedges of echalion shallots, red chilli and fresh herbs on the base of the clay pot (retaining a few cloves to place on top of the chicken)
- Place chicken into the clay pot.
- Combine the juice of two lemons and the Dijon mustard, and whisk well (I use a mini-whisk for this). then, pour over the chicken.
- Generously season the chicken skin with freshly fround sea salt and black pepper. Then, sprinkle the teaspoon of Aleppo pepper over the skin.
- Sprinkle the lemon zesk over the chicken, and and finish by placing the thin slithers of butter over the breast and the legs. Place the remaining garlic cloves in the gaps between the leg and the breast. Cover with lid.
- Place clay-pot on middle shelf of cold oven, and set the temperature to 180C then roast for 90 minutes. the remove, and baste with chicken with the juices from the bottom of the pot.
- Cook for a further 30 minutes, then increase temperature to 200-200C, remove lid, and roast for a remove 15-20 minutes, or until the skin is crispy.
- Remove from oven and rest for 10 minutes, then carve and serve.