Like many of you I am addicted to Masterchef, to the point where I actively wonder what sort of therapeutic assistance I am going to need when it ends.
So consumed have I been this season that I have taken to watching each episode multiple times to catch the finer details. Last week in an elimination round the hapless home cooks were tasked to replicate Michelin starred Matt Abe's roast chicken with summer vegetables and consommé of green herbs.
So inspired was I to shove something under a chicken breast that isn’t my standard sage, prosciutto and butter go to, I was practically up all night thinking about it. Nothing came to me.
Then the next day I just happened to be standing, gazing vacantly at a chiller of meat and what should jump out at me other than a fat, succulent black pudding.
Now I am sure I am not alone in being a little bit, ok a lot, afraid of black pudding. It’s something about the blood. Not being of the vampiric persuasion it’s just freaky to think it’s the key ingredient.
Not being of the vampiric persuasion it’s just freaky to think it’s the key ingredient. I have to be honest with you here I have never eaten a standard English one, only ever tasted the less frightening morcilla, something about the rice and onion component being more palatable than merely blood and oats.
But for you dear reader, I decided to be bold with blood, and I bought it, with only a half formed idea in my head how I would use it.
As we are in the middle of winter and Matt Abe’s dish called for spring vegetables which haven’t braved the cold earth to emerge, I elected to roast the chicken with a selection of Farro’s finest baby winter vegetables; turnips, carrots, beetroot and potatoes.
I decided to wrap my chicken in my new culinary favourite Nitrate free bacon, from Hendersons, because I know of no better way to get flavour and crispy skin, and no nitrate is a good nitrate.
Once home I removed the filling from the sausage and pushed it as far into the gap between the skin and breast as I could. Partly in an attempt to hide it from myself and the family later, but also because it seemed very dry and I had no idea if it would actually do the job of sealing in flavour and moisture.
I had some left over so I pushed that, plus a lime from my tree into the cavity, covered the outside in butter, wrapped it all in bacon and onto its bed of vegetable infanticide in the romertopf it went.
A word here about RÖMERTOPFs, I swear by them. I grew up with one, I have never found any alternative method to roasting poultry that is as easy and yields such succulent results, if you have never tried one, put it on your bucket list. Life is too short to eat dry chicken.
I tossed up with revealing to the hungry tummies at the table what I’d done, but decided discretion was the better part of valour and kept silent. I needn’t have worried, not only did the sausage do an admirable job of flavouring the meat and providing a striking presence when the chicken was carved, nobody remarked upon it at all, other than to say how delicious it was.
This really was such a fine result, be bold with blood people, you won’t regret it.
1 free range chicken, preferably grass fed
8 cloves garlic , peeled
4 sprigs thyme
200 g black pudding
4 slices higher-welfare prosciutto or bacon
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
1 Tablespoon of garlic powder
1 glass dry white wine
250 ml organic chicken stock
1 handful baby carrots
1 handful baby golden beetroot
1 handful baby turnips
1 fennel bulb trimmed of the outer leaves and quartered
1 handful new potatoes
Preheat your oven to 180ºC. *
Gently prise the breast skin away from the meat, as far as you can towards the tail and around the back. Stuff the chicken with the cloves of garlic and thyme.
Peel the black pudding and crumble it up into a bowl. Gently push as much of the pudding under the skin as you can. If you have any leftover add it to the garlic and thyme in the cavity and seal it with a lemon. I like to cut large gashes into the sides of the lemon to help release the flavour. Heat the olive oil in a large frypan and then transfer the chicken, brown on both sides. This can be a delicate job, make sure you use your widest fish slice or spatula, as tongs could pierce the skin. Remove the browned chicken to a board and season liberally. I dusted the chicken with the Garlic powder, too, but you can omit this if you prefer. Cover your chicken in a blanket of bacon, by lying the rashers over the top, it doesn’t matter if they don’t quite reach all the way round.
Deglaze the pan with the wine and stock and set aside.
In a Romertopf** if you have one; a wide, shallow, ovenproof pan or roasting tin will do if you don’t; make a bed of baby vegetables. Place the chicken on top and pour over the warmed stock and wine. If you are using the Romertopf pop the lid on, if not a cover loosely with foil and put the whole pan or tray in the oven for 90 minutes. Check the chicken and the potatoes are cooked and serve!
*Omit this step if you are using the Romertopf, always put a Romertopf into a COLD oven.
**Always remember to soak the Romertopf for 30 minutes in cold water before using