Roast Chicken with Lemon, Garlic and Manzanilla

My winter cooking is often influenced by what I have cooked and eaten in Andalusia, and this next recipe is no exception; it makes a marvellous Sunday lunch. Fino or other good dry white wine can replace Manzanilla if you prefer.

Ingredients

  • 1.25-1.75 kg (3-3½ lb) free-range chicken
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, or more, if you like
  • salt
  • pepper
  • about 150 mls (¼ pint) Manzanilla sherry

Method

Rinse and wipe the chicken all over. Remove the wing pinions and any excess fat from the cavity. Prick the lemon all over with a skewer and put it inside the chicken. Peel and slice the onion; peel the garlic, and put both in the bottom of a roasting pan, or the bottom half of a soaked clay chicken brick.

Lightly season the chicken, set it on top of the onions and the garlic, pour the Manzanilla over it, and place in the centre of the oven, preheated to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Roast for 1¼ to 1½ hours, or until the juices run clear when a skewer is inserted into the thigh meat.

Remove the chicken, and put it in a warm place while you make the sauce. The juices from the pan can simply be boiled down slightly to reduce them, with the onion and garlic kept in, although they will have practically disintegrated. Or the sauce can be reduced and sieved, and even finished off with cream or butter, although I think this spoils the clean flavour of the lemon, which will have permeated the whole bird.

Carve, or joint the chicken, and serve the sauce separately.

In late autumn I love to go shopping in Gozo, especially to the vegetable vans in the car park in Victoria, or to the small shops around the main square. The island’s prickly pears are really past their best, and anyway are difficult to deal with, but the first of the oranges are in the market, dullskinned because they are unsprayed, mildly sweet and refreshing. Lemons, picked too early and green, are a ridiculous price, £1M, about £2 sterling a kilo; later in the season they cost a few pennies. The growers have to make their money now, for day by day on balconies and in sunny corners of walled gardens all over the island lemon trees catch the sun as it rises and their fruit is swiftly ripening. Soon no one will need to buy lemons – so they will be in abundant supply for homemade lemon curds and cordials.
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