Nigella’s Italian Roast Chicken with Leeks, Peppers and Black Olives and Leftover Chicken Soup

We had a family gathering last weekend and I wanted to cook a no fuss meal that would literally cook itself freeing me up to enjoy my guest’s company. So while we all sipped on our Aperol with Prosecco – a drink that I was introduced to this summer when we at our friend’s wedding in South Tyrol (and which has apparently become very in vogue in London this summer!) and caught up on each others news, the chicken and vegetables were nicely roasting in the oven without any need for stirring or turning over.

I paired them with good old roast potatoes (that I had parboiled first and then drained and given a good shake in the saucepan before putting them on a roasting dish with a splash or two of olive oil) that are always a home run at a family occasion. Couscous would work equally well or even mashed potato.

The saltiness from the black olives and the sweetness from the peppers and leeks worked a treat and together they created a delicious gravy to pour over the succulent meat and roast spuds.

I love it when guests can help themselves to what they want as this tends to avoid wastage as they only take what they are going to eat and also it’s a fun and relaxing way to all share a meal together. I chopped (no carving here) the chicken up so that there were lots of options on what meat they could dig into. Around the side I scattered the leeks, peppers and black olives and in a separate gravy jug I gathered all the juices.

With the remaining two carcasses I made some homemade stock, which I then turned into a delicious chicken soup for lunch the followingday. Easy, healthy and no wastage – other than the bones.

Italian Roast Chicken with Leeks, Peppers and Black Olives

adapted from Nigella Lawson’s latest series Nigellissima on the BBC 

Serves 8 (simply halve the quantity for serving 4 people)

2 whole chickens (1.3kg)

2 whole fresh lemons – halved

6 fresh rosemary sprigs

8 leeks, washed and trimmed

6 peppers – red/yellow/orange, quartered

300g black olives

good splash of olive oil

sea salt and pepper

1. Prepare the peppers and scatter them on a large roasting tray along with the leeks, which should be cut to 3 inches in length and then halved. Evenly spread the black olives over the vegetables along with two sprigs of fresh rosemary.

2. Take off any string on the chickens and place a whole lemon – cut in two, into the inside of each chicken along with two rosemary springs in each. Season with pepper and salt and splash the chickens and vegetables liberally with olive oil.

3. Place in a preheated oven at 180 degrees if using a fan oven (200 degrees if not!)  for approximately 1 hour 15 minutes – or until the chickens are bronzed and roasted and the juices are running clear when you cut into the chicken with a sharp knife.

4. Serve on a warm large platter with the chickens cut up in the centre and the vegetables and olives surrounding the meat so that your guests can help themselves.

5. There will be a good amount of juices left in the roasting dish, which you need to transfer to a gravy dish for people to pour over their food.

I served mine with roasted potatoes however, couscous or mashed potato would work equally well.

Homemade Chicken Soup

Serves 4

left over chicken (1 or 2) carcass

1 large carrot, chopped into three

1 medium sized onion, chopped in two

3 bay leaves

water to cover the carcasses

a good glug (half a wine glass) of cheap white wine

1 chicken stock cube (optional)

2 tbsp single cream

juice of half a lemon

pepper and salt

1. Place the chicken carcasses in a large pot and cover with water. Make sure that there are no lemons remaining within the chicken carcasses when you are making the stock.

2. Add the carrot, onion, bay leaves and wine to the pot and simmer gently for an hour and then set aside to cool.

3. Strain the liquid through a sieve and return to the pot along with the carrot and onion. Place the chicken carcasses on the side and remove all the remaining meat with your hands and place into the pot. The meat with easily come away from all the bones. Bits of rosemary will also be on some of the meat from when you first roasted it. Add this to the pot as well as it adds a lovely taste to the soup.

4. Gently heat up the liquid once again and add the single cream, one chicken stock cube (optional), juice from half a lemon, some more water if you want it to go further. Season to taste.

5. Using a hand blender, blend the liquid until it is smooth.

6. Serve piping hot with a quarter of lemon on the side should guests which to add a little more lemon and some crusty bread.

Leemei Tan’s Sweet and Sour Pork Belly

Not so long ago I purchased Leemei Tan’s cookbook ‘Lemongrass and Ginger’, mainly because her Asian recipes were calling out to me to be tried and devoured. It’s her very first cookbook and her recipes and stunning photographs – which she took herself  I might add, are hugely appealing.

She has split her recipes into regional geographies with chapters including: ‘Cambodia & Vietnam’, ‘India and Sri Lanka’, ‘Thailand’, ‘Malaysia & Singapore’, ‘Philippines & Indonesia’, ‘China’ and ‘Japan & Korea’. Not all recipes are accompanied by a photograph but the large majority are.

I decided to start by trying her ‘Sweet and Spicy Pork Belly’. It seemed straightforward and I had some pork belly in the freezer which needed using. I did end up using a little more pork belly than Leemei but that was mainly due to the five large bones that I decided to use instead of discard. Without the bones and the added meat on them, we would have had around the same amount of meat. Whilst the dish tasted delicious with pork belly I am going to prepare it again soon with a slightly leaner cut, which is less fatty.

As I was feeding three adults, and the recipe is for 4-6 people, coupled by the fact I had included a little more meat than Leemei, I managed to have a sufficient amount leftovers for the following day, which I prepared in a slightly different way so as to create a new version of the dish.

Both dishes I prepared with boiled long grain rice.

Sweet & Sour Pork Belly

from Leemei Tan’s book ‘Lemongrass and Ginger’

1.3kg pork belly, cut into bite-sized pieces (I added the 5 large bones), but if you are not doing this only add 800g of pork belly)

1 tbsp sunflower oul

1 star anise

5cm/2in cinnamon stick

2 dried chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/4 tsp Sichuan peppercorns

2 tbsp clear honey

2 tbsp light soy sauce

1 tbsp dark soy sauce

1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine

2 spring onions, cut into 6cm/2 and a half inch lengths

2cm/3/4in piece of root ginger, peeled and sliced

1. Cut the pork into bite sized portions and add to a saucepan of boiling water for 3 minutes so as to seal the meat. Drain and place to one side.

2. Heat the oil gently in a saucepan and add the star anise, cinnamon and dried red chillies and stir fry for 2-3 minutes until fragrant.

3. Add the garlic and stir fry for another minute before adding the Sichuan peppercorns and stir frying them for a further minute.

4. Add the pork belly and mix well before adding the honey and the light and dark soy sauces, rice wine, spring onions and ginger. Let the ingredients cook together for 5 minutes, before adding 150ml of water. Bring to the boil and cook for  a few seconds.

5. Reduce the heat and cover for 45 minutes when you find the liquid has reduced and thickened and the meat is tender.


The following day I added a few more ingredients to the leftovers to create this:

Leftover Sweet and Sour Pork Belly with Fresh Spinach, Yellow Courgettes and Soya Beans

2 tbsp ground nut oil

5 garlic cloves, sliced

1 fresh green chilli, sliced

2cm fresh ginger, finely grated

2 yellow courgettes

225g fresh spinach (basically 2 large handfuls)

150g frozen soy beans

2 tbsp light soya sauce

1 tbsp dark soy sauce

100ml water

Leftover pork belly

1. Heat the oil gently in a pan and add the garlic and chilli. Stir and cook for 20 seconds before adding the ginger and yellow courgettes.

2. Continue to stir occasionally for 3-4 minutes and then add both soy sauces.

3. Add the frozen soya beans along with the water and cover for a few minutes. Once the soya beans have been simmering for a few minutes add the fresh spinach and pork belly and simmer for a further few minutes until the spinach has wilted, the soya beans have cooked and the pork belly is piping hot. Serve immediately with boiled rice.