I have to say that this was the best roast chicken and gravy dinner that I have ever made, and I have made a fair few. A roast chicken goes a long way, especially if it’s only for two. According to Nigella Lawson, one should always roast two chickens – one to eat now and the other to pick at and transform in to roast chicken’s many wonderful avatars, especially Asian and Middle Eastern salads. And while Nigella is just the epitome of excess, I have to agree with her on this one. Sadly, my oven’s not big enough. This roast chicken is very much to our Indian tastes i.e spicy. I find this type of dinner so hassle free with very little labour involved as the oven does the work for you. The gravy, the veges and the mashed potatoes take 5 minutes each, I promise.
For the chicken (and remember this is an Indian version so its got lots of spice and flavour:
Put the chicken in the fridge for 24 hours so that the skin dries out, or you won’t get crispy skin. Use some kitchen paper to remove any moisture from the skin. Some people but baking powder on the breast when they roast the chicken but I am too nervous to try it.
Make a herb garlic butter,: I put 2 tsps thyme, rosemary and sage and four cloves of minced garlic in to 2 tablespoons of butter at room temperature and mash it all in. But go by eye and aroma rather than measurement.
Slip in the herb butter under the skin of the bird, especially the breast and legs without tearing the skin. If you rip the skin, then it’s all over. To get under th breast skin, slip your index and middle finger under the skin. The skin on the breast will be attached in the middle by a thin membrane. You can work around it and don’t have to get that off. Needless to say, remove all rings when doing this as they are bound to rip the skin. Slowly slide your fingers under the skin through to the neck. Same with the legs – use one finger to loosen the skin. Now that the skin is loosened, stuff it with the herb butter, put some inside the cavity and on top of the skin as well. Get it all the way under the skin as it adds a lot of flavour and helps keep the flesh moist. I then coat the skin all over in a lot of salt and pepper. This will allow the skin to dry out and get flavoured. To prevent the meat from going dry I find that trussing the bird really helps. This is just a fancy chef word for tying the ankles together with some twine or thread, This really works in keeping the bird moist. I would not skip this step.
Next I baste the bird with my own sauce. First I put 8 dried red chillies in to mixie to make in to flakes. Then I put 2 to 3 tbsps of sunflower or olive oil into a pan on a medium to high heat and add 3 minced gloves of garlic (use a grater to mince as the flavour of minced garlic is much better than chopped). Put the garlic in while the oil is still cold so that as the oil heats up the garlic flavours the oil. When the garlic is sizzling and just before it starts to brown add in the dried red chilli flakes. This should really sizzle but take the pan off the heat if you feel the chilli flakes are going to burn. It should not go black. Add some salt and 2 tbps of Kissan tomato ketchup. Also add a tsp of sugar. I have recently discovered that Kissan is way better to use in cooking than Maggi. This sauce will make not only your chicken but gravy too, incredibly feisty. Note: this makes for excellent momo dipping sauce.
I baste the chicken generously in this red chilli garlic sauce but keep some of it back. Use a wide ovenproof dish and place the chicken, breast side up, on a trivet of cut vegetables like carrots, leeks and onions or just use 2 quartered onions. This is to flavour your gravy. I roast the chicken between180 to 150 centigrade for 2.5 hours. I do turn the chicken once during cooking because I like the skin on both sides to get colour. Baste the chicken every 20 to 30 minutes with the juices that have run in to the dish. After 2.5 hrs, pull gently on the chicken leg and if it comes away easily, then the bird is ready. Remove from the dish and wrap in foil to keep it warm.
Gravy: Heat some stock, either your own or a stock cube. I make a concentrated stock, about 300 ml. Most people will tell you to place the dish you roasted the chicken in directly on the hob and then deglaze with white wine or stock. I find that this creates a lot of smoke, especially with chicken as there is a lot of fat in the dish. Instead, as soon as the chicken is removed from the dish (and wrapped in foil) while the dish and chicken juices are still warm, add the hot stock to the chicken juices in the dish and furiously scrape away at all those delicious sticky bits that make the best gravy. I put the chicken juices now mixed with the hot stock in to a saucepan on the hob and quickly whisk in a tablespoon of flour. Do not use cornflour as it turns the gravy in to a gelatinous, gooey mess. If you only used onions while roasting the chicken, then I keep the onions in. If you used other vegetables, then before you put the stock and chicken juices in to the saucepan, mash the veges in to the stock and then strain. This way you get their flavour but not the mushy vegetables. Gravy will take you 5 minutes to make.
Once your gravy is ready, keep a bowl of ice ready. Pour the gravy in to the ice and put this in the freezer. In this way the fat will rise to the top and solidify while the delicious gravy settles to the bottom. If you don’t do this your just going to be eating A LOT of fat and oil and grease and it will not taste good. When the fat has risen to the top, spoon out. This takes time only if you’ve been impatient and not left the gravy in the fridge for long enough. Don’t worry about the chicken getting cold, it’s wrapped in foil and will stay warm, plus you’re going to heat up the gravy again anyway.
Veges: I cut and steam the veges for about 5 minutes. Use any veges you want. When we are ready to eat I dry roast some pine nuts, remove them from the pan, add a tiny bit of olive oil and toss the steamed veges in the oil and add the left over red chilli garlic sauce you used for basting the chicken. Sprinkle half a tsp of salt. Scatter with the roasted pine nuts.If you don’t have pine nuts (they are very expensive here) then sesame seeds are good too.
Mashed potatoes: The only thing I do differently with mashed potatoes is to warm some milk with a minced clove of garlic, infusing the milk with a mild garlicy flavour. I use this milk and a little butter when mashing the potatoes to a smooth creamy texture. Salt and pepper is a must. Of course, you can substitute roasted potatoes for mashed potatoes. Just par boil the potatoes and then scatter with a tablespoon of semolina, bash them around in a big steel vessel with a lid so that they get bruised. The bruised bits are what become crunchy and the semolina is far better than dredging the potatoes in flour. Roast in olive oil with a couple of cloves of whole garlic, with their skins on, for about an hour or until the potatoes are golden and crispy
That’s it, that’s roast chicken dinner. And to prove just how hassle free it is, we went for a 45 minute walk with Abroozi while the chicken was roasting, came back and basted the chicken and turned it over once, then did yoga for 40 minutes, basted and turned the chicken on to its back, then gave Abroozi a bath for 20 minutes. All of that and roast chicken dinner. Plus you need a very helpful husband to do the potatoes for you and makes appreciative noises every time the chicken is basted.