Sometimes when I want a spiced chicken dish, I want a no holes barred, hot and aromatic experience. Other times, I am in the mood for tender and succulent slices of chicken with a lightly spiced, thin cream or juice to accompany it. This recipe is the latter. The chicken is casserole roasted with a light sprinkling of spices and fragrant green chillies. The spiced cooking juices with the addition of cream become the light sauce. The chillies will collapse in the cooking, but infuse the sauce with there own special flavour. Some will want to eat the cooked chillies, others will avoid them. Serve this dish with a plain Pilaf Rice.
- Green chillies, if left on the plant, will eventually ripen and become red chillies
- The under ripe green chilli can have the same intensity of heat as the ripened red ones, but has quite a different flavour
- In this recipe, the spices are dry roasted before grinding. This heightens the flavour and is really worth the small extra effort involved
- To dry roast spices, heat a heavy cast iron pan and stir the spices until lightly brown or toasted. Refer to the colour of the unroasted spices as a colour guide if this is your first time doing this.
- Always roast different spices separately, as depending on shape and size, some will roast more quickly than others
- Grind the roasted spices in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar
- When grinding the spices, don’t forget to smell the fabulous aroma that arises from them in a little pall of exotic smoke. Glorious.
- 1 free-range chicken, approx. 1.3kg
- 20g soft butter
- 1 heaped teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly toasted and ground
- 1 heaped teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly toasted and ground
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- Pinch of chilli powder
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 4 green chillies
- 225ml cream
- 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaf
- Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 180c / 350f / gas 4
Mix the ground coriander, cumin, turmeric and chilli powder with a pinch of salt. Mix this spice mix into half of the butter Heat a heavy casserole on a gentle heat. Rub the breasts of the chicken dry with some kitchen paper. Smear the remaining half of the soft butter on to the breasts. Place the chicken, breast side down into the heated casserole. The butter should sizzle a bit and that tells you the casserole is hot enough. If it doesn’t sizzle, whip out the chicken immediately and allow the casserole to get hotter. Allow the chicken breasts to become golden brown, making sure the casserole doesn’t get so hot that it actually burns the butter. This will involve a bit of manoeuvring, perhaps sitting the chicken on its side and so on. Season the coloured chicken breasts with a pinch of salt and pepper. Allow to cool for a few minutes and then smear the spiced butter all over it. Place the chicken back in the casserole, breast side up. Pop the chillies around the chicken and sprinkle over the lemon juice. Cover with greasproof paper and a tight fitting lid and place in the preheated oven. Cook for 90 minutes. Remove the casserole from the oven and check to ensure that the chicken is fully cooked. This can be done in several ways. One way, the best in my opinion, is to insert a metal skewer in between the leg and the breast. This is the last place to cook in the chicken so is the best place to check. Count to ten seconds. Remove the skewer and test the temperature of the skewer on the back of your hand. If it doesn’t feel so hot as to make you immediately pull the skewer away from your hand with a start, then the chicken probably is not cooked. The other way to test is to endeavour to extract a little juice from the same place, between the breast and the leg to see if it is completely clear. If it is not clear and if there is any trace of pink in the juice, then it is not cooked. If this is the case put the chicken back in the oven for a further 10 minutes and repeat the test.
Remove the cooked chicken and the chillies, which by now will be collapsed and a bit sad looking, from the casserole and keep warm in the oven with the temperature reduced to 50c / 100f / gas ½. Allow the chicken at least 15 minutes to rest before carving. Strain out all of the cooking juices into a bowl and allow it to settle for a minute or two. The butter and chicken fat will rise to the surface of the liquid. Spoon off the buttery fat, now full of the flavour of the spices, and save it for roasting vegetables. It is particularly good with parsnips or for tossing into crushed new potatoes. Place the degreased juices back in the casserole and add the cream. Bring to a simmer and cook until the sauce is lightly thickened. Add the chopped coriander leaves. Taste and correct seasoning. Carve the chicken neatly and serve with the sauce. The chillies should be used to garnish the dish and the heat fiends will find them delicious to eat.