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Recipe – Moroccan spatchcock chicken

This week has marked not just the advent of Christmas, but also winter. Remember a few weeks ago when we were smugly talking about how we haven’t even had to turn the heating on yet because it’s just so warm?

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Those days are gone, my friends. Winter has come.

So I’ve been doing what ever self-respecting Brit does when it gets cold: hide and hope spring hurrys the fuck up. Part of the ritual British hibernation (there are probably other countries that need to hide too – huge swathes of Scandinavia for example) is to eat shed loads of comfort food in an almost compulsive fashion so come the end of February you’re depressed not just cos you’ve spent four months indoors (hiding) but also you’re now fat because you’ve carb loaded like a marathon runner.

This winter I am trying to resist my instinct to have dinners that are akin to Henry VIII’s banquets. I am trying to remember about having to fit into a wedding dress. WHAT AN UTTER BORE I AM.

But I still want the bad stuff, and I still need a Sunday lunch from time to time. So I have been cooking this little number. It’s lighter than ordinary roasts (!) and is full of tasty spices and fruit, so it tastes quite summery. I also cooked it for my parents and they said it was the best lunch they’d ever had cooked for them. I mean they’re totally bias, but I’m taking it.

You do need to marinade the bird for a bit, so it’s a make in advance type of scenario here. And there are also quite a few ingredients, but none of them are highly expensive except the saffron and you only need a bit of that. This recipe is DEAD easy. Do not be intimidated.

Moroccan roasted spatchcocked chicken with plums
Serves 6

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Ingredients

For the chicken

– 1 large chicken
– 6 tbsp olive oil
– small bunch of fresh coriander
– 2 tbsp sumac
– 1 tbsp cumin
– 1 tbsp fennel seeds
– 2 tsp dried chilli flakes
– zest and juice of two lemons
– 2 garlic cloves
– 4 tbsp pomegranate molasses

For the plums

– punnet of plums
– 2 preserved lemons
– 3 tbsp clear honey
– 1 tbsp orange blossom water
– 4 tbsp white wine vinegar

To serve

- couscous
- vegetable stock
– 6 tbsp Greek yoghurt
– a pinch of saffron

Method

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1. First put everything in the chicken ingredients in the blender (but not the chicken!) and blitz until you have a thick sauce. Pop to one side.
2. Now you’re going to need to be brave. We’re spatchcocking the chicken. You’ll need a pair of sharp, strong kitchen scissors. Turn the bird upside down, so it’s laying on the breast meat.

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Now find the hole where you’d put the stuffing and you’ll be able to feel the backbone. Spin down one side of the backbone until you reach the other end. There will be a hole the other end, it’s just hidden. Now snip down the other side of the backbone, so you can take the backbone out.

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You’re pretty much done now. Flip the bird back over and flatten out. Use your hand to push the breast down to flatten it out more.

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3. Shove the bird in a large freezer back and tip in the blitzed marinade you just made. Squeeze as much excess air as you can out of the bag and then seal it. Squidge the bag a bit so the marinade gets all over the chick and then whack it in the fridge for 24-48 hours.
4. Preheat your oven to 200C. Tip the bird out into a roasting tray and squeeze out all the marinade on top. Sling it in the oven for an hour.

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5. While you’re cooking the chicken, make the plum thing. Slice the plums in half and cut out of the stones. Pop them in an oven proof dish that fits them snuggly. Rinse the lemons and chop them, removing the pips. Pop them in a separate bowl with the other plum ingredients and whisk, then pour over the plums. When there is 20 mins to go on the chicken, put the plums in the oven on the shelf under the chicken.

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6. We’re almost there! Put the yoghurt into a bowl and mix in the yoghurt. Set aside.
7. Check the chicken is done by poking the leg with something sharp and see if the juices run clear. If they’re not clear, put it back in for another 10 mins and keep checking until it’s ready.
8. Take the chicken out and get someone else to carve it. Tip the pan juices into a saucepan and pop on a low heat. While they’re doing that, tip some couscous into a bowl and cover with hot vegetable stock. Cover and leave until the liquid is absorbed, then fluff up with a fork. Remove the plums from the oven.

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9. Serve the sliced chick ontop of the couscous with the yoghurt, couscous and sauce (pan juices) on the side. Marvel at what a genius you are.

 This recipe is adapted from BBC Good Food.

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