Here in the UK we currently have weather. I know that the British bear the brunt of international jokes saying that all we talk about is the weather, but frankly this year the weather is just simply not good enough. It is unseasonably cold and it is constantly raining. Last weekend was glorious, so I took a risk and changed the thick winter duvet for the slightly lighter spring / autumn one. What a mistake to make. After two days of sunshine we are back to the weather and temperatures that you would expect to see at the end of March rather than mid May. I am just thankful that I left the electric blanket on the bed – it has not been switched on for only one night this year.
Comfort food calls, and last Sunday I was craving a roast chicken for supper. Living in central London with 24 hour shops within a 5 minute walk, I rarely menu plan as I far prefer to decide what to eat on the day. It being Sunday my local butcher was closed and it took a few shops to find a free range chicken. Instead of serving with roast potatoes I cooked my chicken on a bed of lentils and beans, both are packed with protein so it is a great way to eek out a smaller bird to feed more people. As the bird roasts it is also partially steamed, with the result that the meat is wonderfully moist.
The lentil and bean mix is very rich as it absorbs all of the chicken fat, if you are feeling health conscious you could skim some of the fat off before adding them; or simply add extra so you have leftovers for another day. I cook my own beans from dried and then freeze them, any tinned beans rinsed well would work well. Once cooked scoop some of the beans and lentils into a pot and blitz with a stick blender before returning them to the pan and stirring in, this thickens and gives a lovely creamy consistency to them. Delicious.
I used Rose Harissa from Steenbergs. Their spices are top-notch quality, intensely flavoured and the range is organic and Fairtrade as far as possible. I far prefer using a dry mix that will live happily in the cupboard once opened, rather than a paste that goes off quickly. I also love that the Steenbergs range is in jars that are wide enough to stack well (preventing the cascade of spice jars falling from the cupboard) and designed to be able to get a spoon into.
Left over beans and lentils freeze well. Use as a base for soups, or in a burger bun with mayo and ketchup for a very sloppy, but delicious, sloppy Joe.
- 1 medium free range chicken
- 1 tbs butter - softened
- 1-2 tsp harissa powder
- 1/2 lemon cut into wedges
- Glug light olive oil
- Salt & Pepper
- 1 tin of beans - drained and rinsed - I used black eyed
- 1 mug of green or puy lentils
- 1 cloves garlic - finely chopped
- 1 pint chicken or vegetable stock
Pop the lemon wedges into the chicken's cavity and place in a roasting tin with a glug of oil.
Mix the butter and harissa together and rub well into the bird's breast. Season with salt and pepper.
Cooking time will be about 20 minutes per pound (450g), plus another half hour at GM5 / 375F / 190C. Put the bird into the oven to cook.
40 minutes before the end of cooking time scatter the garlic, lentils and beans around the chicken and cover them with the stock. Return to the oven.
Keep an eye on it, you may need to add more stock, or put a piece of foil over the bird to prevent the breast over-cooking.
When ready the lentils will be soft and most of the stock would have been absorbed. Place the bird onto a carving board and cover with foil and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Pour any juices into the lentil and bean mix. To thicken the lentils and beans simply blitz some to a paste and return to the pan and stir through.