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.


Ottolenghi’s Roast Chicken with Saffron, Hazelnuts and Honey

Foodies in London will be very familiar with the names Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi who first set up the successful deli/bakery/patisserie cum restaurant  called ‘Ottolenghi’ back in 2002 in Notting Hill.  Their passion and flair for cooking was evident from the start and their venture soon became a food lovers magnet, in particular I remember the mounds of mouth watering salads piled high on large dishes for you to help yourself to. We are not talking about a few lettuce leaves with tomatoes and cucumbers thrown in. Oooooooooh no, their salads were, and in fact still are, on a whole different playing field. They are the most imaginative and more-ish that you will come across, to the extent that it is actually hard to decide which to tuck into. Decisions, decisions!

In 2010 Yotam published a book dedicated to vegetarian food called ‘Plenty’ and a number of his salads were put into the book. It’s beautifully put together and I am convinced it would persuade even the most carnivorous amongst you to try some of the recipes. He has in many respects made vegetarian food, and indeed salads, look sexy.

Today they now have four delis as well as launching a very successful restaurant called, Nopi.  Basically they are on a roll and London cannot get enough of their talents. That is not to say that Yotam and Sami only cook vegetarian food, far from it. Their cooking is heavily influenced from their childhoods in Israel and their style of cooking definitely has a Mediterranean edge to it, with wonderful meat and fish dishes to whet the appetite.  They cook all the kind of dishes that I am attracted to – basically ones that are full of bold flavours, which they describe rather endearingly as the ‘noisy’ flavours: ‘lemon, pomegranate, garlic and chilli’. The other cookbook, which is a definite must for those who like their style of honest cooking, is ‘Ottolenghi, The Cookbook‘. They also have a new book,  ‘Jerusalem’, in the wings, launching later this year, which I am looking forward to buying.

It was from Ottolenghi, The Cookbook that I discovered ‘Roast chicken with saffron, hazelnuts and honey’. I was immediately attracted to the recipe as it had a wonderful range of interesting ingredients – in particular I like the fact that it had ginger, cinnamon, saffron, lemon, hazelnuts, honey and rosewater. I had never cooked with rosewater until I started cooking this recipe; I love the fragrance  and subtleness that it brings to the dish.  The  exotic smells coming from the oven takes me back to happy times exploring Morocco and the Atlas mountains.

 Roast Chicken with saffron, hazelnuts and honey

Sourced from Ottolenghi, The Cookbook

Serves 4

10 chicken thighs (or a combination of wing, leg and thighs)

2 onions, roughly chopped,

4 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 large pinch of saffron strands

juice of 1 lemon

4 tbsp cold water

2 tsp coarse sea salt

1 tsp black pepper

100g unskinned hazelnuts

75g honey

2 tbsp rosewater

2 spring onions, roughly chopped

1. Trim the fat of the chicken thighs and then mix in a bowl with the chopped onions, olive oil, ginger, cinnamon, saffron, lemon juice, water, pepper and salt. Leave to marinate in the fridge for over an hour –  or overnight if you are really well organised. I wasn’t so left it in the fridge for a couple of hours!

2. In a preheated over – 180 degrees if using a fan oven (10 degree hotter if not), place the hazelnuts on a tray to roast for 10 minutes.

3. Roughly chop the roasted hazelnuts – I give them a quick wizz with my hand blender and set aside.

4. Place the chicken, skin side up, in an ovenproof dish/roasting tray in the oven with the onions and juice surrounding it and leave to cook for 35 minutes.

5. In a new bowl mix the honey, rosewater and nuts to create a rough paste. When the 35 minutes cooking time for the chicken is up, spread the paste over the chicken and place back in the oven for another 10 minutes, until the chicken is golden brown.

6. Whilst the chicken is cooking for the final 10 minutes, put on the rice/or prepare the cous cous.

7. Serve the chicken with either rice or cous cous and garnish with spring onions – I preferred to do this over the cous cous. There will be plenty of sauce full of deliciousness to serve over the chicken.