When I first moved to London on my own in the early nineties, I worked as a P.A. to a Greek hairdresser. He and his English wife had been crowned London Hairdresser of the Year a couple of times – a reputation which they were really living off at that point. We were paid a pittance for the opportunity to work there and shine in the reflected glory of their name. I learned a great deal about the “show biz” end of hairdressing there – the photo shoots, the big national and international hair shows, the video shoots, the trade events. When there was an event on, the hours were long and it was expected that everyone that needed to, would pitch in as necessary. I could be typing scripts and cue sheets and the almost daily changes until midnight – this would be for the elaborate hair shows that would be taken, models, wigs, outfits and all to Japan where this company had a big sponsor. For photo shoots it was usually a 6am start to get to the studio and start prepping the girls for hair, make-up and clothes. Themes, storyboarding and clothes styling were my involvement for this sort of thing, though to begin with I would be briefed with the ‘vision’ then make the phone calls to source clothes for the vision and finally bring back what I could scrounge, as hair shoots don’t really come high on any PR or designer’s list of where to loan out clothes to show their lines. Nonetheless, I managed to come back with racks of clothes for the shoots to take to the studio or the trips where his wife would oversee the vision. Eventually I was trusted enough to be invited to these events to help select the clothes and dress the models. It was a far cry from the happy, busy, personal growth and client focused, customer service driven, suburban salon I had worked in before.
Occasionally, the couple would invite the Art Team back to their house for some food (it was never a meal) to brain storm or invite all the staff over for a barbecue if an event had been particularly gruelling with the salon staff having to prop things up while the Art Team were on a punishing schedule, out of the country or working on a trade event. And it is, of course, the Greek food that is of interest in this case – in those days, I had only eaten Greek food at that wonderful Bayswater institution, Halepi, in West London – and also another in Claygate that included plate smashing as part of the post-meal entertainment. The barbecues that we were invited to at their house were memorable – some of his family members would be there; the men presiding over a number of small coal grills, tending to an assortment of meats and Greek sausages as well as half a lamb on a spit. The salads were many and varied too. But the dish I remember the most was that of lemony, oregano scented potatoes – gorgeous waxy Cyprus potatoes that braise slowly in a little stock, lemon juice and oregano.
This Greek Inspired Roast Chicken with Bread recipe takes it’s cue from those potatoes, though it is much more than that, of course. It is a another one-pot meal where the flavours and textures all mingle to produce a wonderful dish that is more than just a sum of it’s parts. Some of the bread and vegetables absorb the juices from the chicken and become gooey and soft whilst the rest roast and get crispy and chewy and sharp with the lemon – you can add things like artichoke hearts too if you wish or splash in some stock or wine towards the end for more of a wet roast. It is immensely adaptable to what you have in your pantry and I hope that it acts as a springboard for you – do try it with the bread though – it’s an unusual and fabulous addition!
In the photos you will note a couple of sweet potatoes which I have not included in the recipe below as I wanted to have these for my lunch the next day and not as part of this dish. We love having rocket/arugula with this – the sharp, peppery flavour is another wonderful contrast.
Greek inspired Roast Chicken with Bread
Adapted from Aliwaks Roast Chicken with Bread and Garlic
- 1.5 kg free range/organic chicken
- 1 tsp Harissa paste
- 1 Tbsp Sundried Tomato and Basil Paste
- Juice of two lemons, separated and plus one whole one
- 3-4 slices of stale sourdough bread
- 1 head of garlic – cloves separated but skins left on
- 2 leeks, cleaned of any sand
- 2 – 3 Tbsp Green and Black olives stuffed with sundried tomato, garlic and rosemary
- 8 Sundried tomatoes
- 700 g waxy potatoes
- 1 Tbsp fresh or 1 tsp dried oregano
- Sea salt
- Greek “Olive Branch” EVO oil
- Mix the Harissa, sundried tomato paste and the juice of one lemon together to make a runny paste.
- Untruss the chicken. Remove as much visible fat as you can from the cavity and discard along with the trussing. If there are giblets, freeze them to make gravy another time.
- Smear the paste all over the chicken and inside the cavity and leave to marinate for 1 hour at room temperature.
- In the meantime, slice the bread into large cubes, slice the leeks into 1 inch segments and peel and halve the potatoes and arrange in a large roasting dish. Scatter over the garlic cloves, olives and the sundried tomatoes. Squeeze over the juice of the second lemon and sprinkle with oregano and sea salt.
- Pre-heat the oven to 220C/425F
- Stuff the chicken with a halved lemon
- Lubricate the bread and vegetables with some olive oil and arrange the chicken on top, making sure that it is sitting on some of the bread and the potatoes which will absorb the chicken juices. Pour over any remaining marinade that has been left on the plate, back over the chicken. Drizzle a little oil over the chicken and sprinkle with sea salt to help the skin crisp up.
- Cook the chicken for 20 minutes at 220C/425F and then turn down the heat to 180C/350F and give the pan a shake, turning over any bread and vegetables that are not covered by the chicken. Roast for another 40 – 55 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken and until the juices run clear at the leg joint.
- Turn off the oven. Remove chicken to rest for at least 15 minutes, loosely covered with foil. Keep the vegetables and the bread warm, also loosely covered, in the residual heat of the oven.
- Carve the chicken as you wish but make sure that everyone gets a good mix of crispy chewy, roasted vegetables and bread as well as some which have absorbed the chicken juices – it is a real textural revelation!
© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2013, 2014. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.