Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Spiced Roast Chicken and Onions

I fancied something a little spicier this week for our Sunday roast that becomes lunch for the beginning of the week. I have been meaning to try this recipe for a while - I like the combination of yoghurt and spices as a marinade and I love onions. They are such a cheap ingredient and are probably the most versatile thing in the kitchen. Like garlic, I use them practically daily.

Onions have been around since forever and were known to be cultivated by the Egyptians around 3000BC. They were often buried with the dead as they believed that their pungent smell would bring breath back to the corpse. It's easy to see where that belief came from!

Sulfenic acids in the onions break down to form a gas that is released into the air when they are peeled or chopped. The gas touches your eyes, reacts with the moisture to create sulfuric acid, and you cry to stop the irritation. Many theories have been proposed to make chopping onions a less tearful process but they are all such a faff - only cutting them under running water or holding a piece of bread in your mouth to absorb the gas - that I can't be bothered. In the end it's not painful and the tears last only as long as the slicing and dicing. A small price to pay for the flavour they add.

This comes from Spice, a quite brilliant book by Australian chef Christine Manfield, given to me by my sister in law a while ago, and much used since.

Spicy Roast Chicken with Fried Onions

1 x 2kg free range chicken - have the butcher spatchcock it for you
75g ghee
3 brown onions, finely sliced
1 tbspn finely sliced ginger

3 large dried red chilies
1 tbspn ground turmeric
1 tspn ground ginger
1 tspn garam masala
1 tspn salt
2 tspns minced garlic
75ml plain ( I use sheep milk) yoghurt

To make the marinade, dry roast chillies over gentle heat till fragrant. Cool then grind to a fine powder and mix with the remaining marinade ingredients. If it's not done already, spatchcock the chicken by cutting out the backbone with a very sharp knife, turn the bird over and flatten it. Coat it liberally with marinade, cover and leave for a couple of hours.

Preheat oven to 200C. Melt ghee in a baking tray, add the onion and ginger and fry for a minute or two to soften. Add chicken with its marinade and bake, skin side up for 35-40 minutes, turning the bird every 10 minutes and stirring the onions, until chicken and onions have coloured and meat is cooked. Test the thigh with a skewer to check the juices run clear.

Remove chicken onto a plate and cover for10 minutes. Fry onions further over a high heat for a few more minutes till they are dark and sweet. Chop the chicken into serving pieces and serve with the onions over streamed basmati rice and a side salad of cucumber and yoghurt with a little chopped coriander.

It was very good cold for lunch the next few days.

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