Sunday dinners. Love them, but they are hard work aren’t they? Unless you get some help from Aunt Bessie (not my cup of tea but who am I to judge?) they take a lot of doing. The last half an hour is always a hot faff. And the pans! Who needs so much washing up on a Sunday evening when you’ve got kids to bath and the week ahead to stress over? Since we had kids, Sunday dinners are more important than ever – but we try to make them easier. We still do a trad roast now and then, but more often, we look for something more simple, still involving a roast meat at the centre, with 1 or 2 accompanying vegetables done in an easy style that still feels special. And a gravy that makes itself.
This way of roasting chicken I cannot claim as my own brainchild. It’s from Gwyneth Paltrow’s first book Notes from my Kitchen Table (which I love). She does a 10 hour roast, but we just didn’t have enough hours in the day as we wanted to eat before the kids’ bedtime. I have flicked past this recipe a few times, thinking I gotta try that. Last Sunday was the perfect time. We were in all day pretty much, and all it requires is minimum prep and then a long, slow roast in a low oven. It kind of braises in its own fat and juice. The effect is almost like a confit. The heap of soft roasted garlic and reservoir of sweet gravy it produces is beyond delicious. The meat falls away from the bones, so you get hardly any waste; just a heap of clean chicken bones.
To go with, I had some nice seasonal British greens in the fridge. But I needed a carby element too. I cooked some brown rice (so much more forgiving than white rice, and so much better for you too), and then stir fried it along with the steamed, shredded greens, plus garlic, onion and a little soy. Gosh this is a great side (it’s inspired by Gwynnie’s Brown rice and kale recipe, also in the book). We really love this way of cooking greens. Adam couldn’t get over it, initially he wasn’t convinced by greens/rice/soy combo with a roast chicken (he’s a staunch traditionalist who’s gradually becoming more daring with his Sunday roasts!). But the soy doesn’t make it Chinese tasting, rather it gives a sweet umami quality which goes well with the sweet roasted garlic and chicken. Tonight I’m going to make the rice and greens again but add some prawns from the freezer to make a great midweek supper. Maybe even a little oyster sauce in there too…
I threw some roasted carrots into the mix for good measure, but the chicken and rice were certainly enough to make a great family Sunday dinner. The gravy makes itself, save for a bit of fat skimming before serving. I have given the cooked weights for the rice and greens, but about half and half is right.
To make enough for 4 adults:
1 organic or free range chicken, untrussed
Large bunch of fresh thyme
1/2 – 1 whole head of garlic (we used half but next time we’ll up to 1 whole head)
Salt and pepper
To make the greens and brown rice:
1 large head of greens, shredded into 1cm strips (cooked weight was 225g)
275g (again, cooked weight) brown rice
3 cloves of garlic, finely diced
1 onion, diced finely (I used red for nice colour)
1 tablespoon of light soy sauce
1 tablespoon of light oil
- Preheat oven to 110C. Ensure the oven really is at this temp (we have a thermometer that shows the real temp which is always 10 – 20 degrees higher than the dial says!)
- Prepare chicken as follows: untruss (snips strings and remove); squeeze lemon juice over the bird and stuff lemons into cavity; season all over the bird inside and out; stuff the cavity with thyme.
- Turn the bird over so it is breast side down.
- Wrap the roasting tin tightly with foil so no air escapes.
- Roast on this low heat for 8 hours. For the last half hour, raise the heat to 200C, remove the foil, turn the bird over (carefully, as it falls apart easily) and roast at a high heat to brown the top.
- When your chicken is ready, take out of the pan (carefully again as it’s delicate) and set aside to rest. Pour the juices (there’s lots) into a jug to give the fat and juice a chance to separate.
- For the greens with rice, shred the greens and steam for 6-7 minutes. Set aside till needed.
- Rinse your brown rice and then cover with twice as much cold water. Cover and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 25 minutes or until all the water has gone. Set aside till needed. Brown rice is chewy and retains a bite, but if you wish it to be cooked more, simply add a little more boiling water and cook for a few more minutes. You can always drain water off brown rice to no detriment. It’s so much easier to cook than white rice, which is one reason I like it.
- Whilst your is chicken resting, begin making your stir fried greens. Heat some oil in a large pan, I used a wok, and gently fry onions and garlic (without colouring) for 5 minutes or so.
- Turn up the heat a little, add your greens and fry for a further 5 minutes.
- Add rice and cook for another 5 minutes. Keep it moving to prevent sticking (though a few frazzly bits are nice).
- Tip in the soy sauce and stir to combine. It’s ready.
- Serve the rested chicken at the table. You don’t need to carve as much as tear apart. Skim the fat from the jug of juices and warm if needed, serve as is.
- I roasted some carrots with maple syrup and dijon and oil which goes nicely with it. Again, another Gwynnie inspired recipe. Sweet potato mash would be gorgeous with this too.