Monday 6 August 2007

Roast Chicken with Lime Leaves and Curried Celeriac

It's rich of me to post a recipe with hard-to-find ingredients, considering that not even 4 days ago I was bitching about recipes with exotic ingredients. Well, it just so happened that I had the ingredients on hand.

Why would I even have celeriac in my fridge? Last week I dragged My Significant Other (MSO) off to Impala Fruiterers in Northcliff (out of my way, but arguably the best fruit and veg shop in South Africa) and he fell upon a pack of celeriac with cries of joy. I've only cooked it once in my life, and have avoided it ever since, on the grounds that, with its gnarled whiskery legs, it looks like the creepy Mandrake babies in the first Harry Potter film. But MSO grew up in England, and is the son of a brilliant cook, and rates celeriac up there with blackcurrants, green gooseberries, rhubarb, clotted cream and a juicy Sunday roast with all the trimmings.

So we bought them, and they writhed at the bottom of the veggie bin until I hauled them out and cooked them - and, my, how fantastic they tasted. A cross between a parsnip, a potato and celery, with a deep, flavoury earthiness. Use potatoes or parsnips if you can't find celeriac.

And the lime leaves? I ran out of lemons to stuff up the chicken's backside, so I used the remains of pack of lime leaves I'd bought to make a Thai curry, along with a handful of fresh lemon leaves from my new little lemon tree. The pungent lemon oils infused every morsel of chicken - and from now on, to hell with lemons.

Roast Chicken with Lime Leaves and Curried Celeriac
1 free-range chicken
a large handful of lime leaves, or fresh lemon leaves off a tree, or both (bruised lemon grass might work too)
2 unpeeled cloves garlic, crushed
a thick slice of onion, unpeeled
3 Tbsp (45 ml) lemon juice
1 bay leaf
a glug of olive oil
salt and milled pepper

For the celeriac:
4 large celeriac bulbs
1 Tbsp (15 ml) olive oil
2 tsp (10 ml) black mustard seeds
1 Tbsp (15 ml) butter
4 tsp (20 ml) mild curry powder
1 tsp (5 ml) ground cumin
2 Tbsp (30 ml) lemon juice
salt and milled black pepper

For the gravy:
4 tsp (20 ml) flour
1 glass white wine
1 cup (250 ml) water
1-2 Tbsp (15-20 ml) dark soy sauce, or a few drops of gravy browning (for colour)

Preheat the oven to 200 °C.

Trim any excess fat off the chicken and place in a roasting pan. Crush the fresh lime and lemon leaves to release the fragrant oils, then place in the cavity of the chicken, along with the garlic cloves, onion and bay leaf. Rub the olive oil over the chicken, sprinkle over the lemon juice and and season with salt and pepper. Put the chicken into the hot oven. After 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 180 °C. Roast for an hour to an hour and a half (depending on the size of the chicken), or until the juices run clear when you cut into the thigh joint.

In the meantime, prepare the celeriac. Trim off all the brown and knobbly bits and cut into quarters. Heat the olive oil in a pan, add the mustard seeds and fry over a medium-high until they begin to sizzle and pop. Turn down the heat and add the butter, curry powder and cumin. Now add the celeriac cubes, toss well to coat, fry for another minute or so. Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Tip the cubes into an ovenproof dish and place in the oven with the chicken. Roast until golden brown and tender right through, tossing a few times to coat every piece.

When the chicken's done, remove from the oven, put it on a plate, cover with tin foil or an upturned bowl and allow to rest for 10 minutes while you make the gravy.

Tip the juices in the roasting pan into a soup bowl and allow to settle for a few minutes. Now put about 2 tablespoons of the fat that has floated to the top of the bowl back into the roasting pan, set on a high heat and wait for the oil to get really hot. Add the flour and stir briskly with a fork or flat sauce whisk.

 When the mixture is just beginning to brown, pour in the wine, water and soy sauce (or gravy browning), all the while stirring furiously to loosen any brown bits. If the gravy seems too thick, add a little more water. Turn down the heat so that the gravy bubbles gently. Spoon and discard all the fat off the top of the chicken juices in the bowl and pour the brown juice that's settled at the bottom of the bowl into the gravy, along along with any liquid that's seeped out of the resting chicken. Stir well, season with salt and pepper and keep warm.

Carve the chicken and serve hot with minty peas or a plain green salad.

Serves 4-6

Recipe rating
My rating: 8/10
My Significant Other's rating: 9/10
Teenagers' rating: 7/10
Small-daughter rating: 2/10 ('I'm not hungry and the potato tastes horrible')
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