What a difference a week makes. The temperatures have well and truly dropped with a forecast week of unrelenting rain. Just in time for the Long Weekend. No matter we will be gathering around our dining table to tuck into this vibrantly hued platter of roast chicken and root vegetables. Ottolenghi style. Evoking the flavours of a Moroccan spice bazaar. Flecked with tart nuggets of preserved lemons and a generous drizzle of warming harissa paste, it’s served with a rich saffron infused couscous. Radiating sunshine on an otherwise cold and dreary day.
Originally conceived by Yotam Ottolenghi as a vegetarian meal in his recipe for Ultimate Winter Couscous (as published in the Guardian in 2008), I’ve simply added a butterflied chicken to the tray of root vegetables as they roast. The result is stunning. A modern Moroccan take on a classic favourite Australian roast. Very easy to prepare despite the long list of spice ingredients. Ottolenghi’s recipes can always be relied upon to provide layer upon layer of amazing flavour, created by a masterful combination of herbs and spices. This whole platter of deliciousness can be on the table in just over an hour. All the work is in the peeling and dicing of the vegetables. The oven does the rest. Best of all it’s a two pot meal, one for the chicken and vegetables and the other for the couscous so clearing up afterwards is a breeze.
Roast Chicken And Root Vegetable Couscous. Ottolenghi Style.
Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe for Ultimate Winter Couscous as printed in The Guardian Satuday 16 February 2008
Serves 4 – 6 hungry people
To Prepare Roast Chicken And Root Vegetables
1 x 1.25 kg free range chicken, backbone removed and butterflied
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks
2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks
8 shallots, peeled
2 cinnamon sticks
4 star anise
3 bay leaves
4 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon hot paprika
¼ teaspoon chilli flakes
1 teaspoon sea salt
300g pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks
100g dried apricots, roughly chopped
200g chickpeas (canned or freshly cooked)
350ml chickpea cooking liquid and/or water
To Prepare Couscous
170g (1 cup) couscous
1 tablespoon olive oil
large pinch of saffron threads
260ml boiling chicken or vegetable stock
20g butter, broken into pieces
25g harissa paste, recipe follows or use commercially prepared
25g preserved lemon skin, finely chopped
30g coriander leaves
PREHEAT oven to 190°C.
PLACE butterflied chicken carrots, parsnips and shallots in a large oven proof dish.
Add the cinnamon sticks, star anise, bay leaves, oil, and all the other spices and mix well to coat the ingredients.
ENSURE the butterflied chicken lies flat in the centre of the dish and arrange vegetables in an even layer around it. Place in the oven and cook for an initial 15 minutes.
ADD the pumpkin, stir and return to the oven. Continue cooking for about 35 minutes, by which time the vegetables should have softened while retaining a bite.
ADD the dried apricots and the chickpeas with their cooking liquid and/or water. Return to the oven and cook for a further 10 minutes, or until hot.
ABOUT 15 minutes before the vegetables are ready, put the couscous in a large heatproof bowl with a tablespoon olive oil, the saffron and ½ teaspoon salt. Pour the boiling stock over the couscous. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave for about 10 minutes. Then add the butter and fluff up the couscous with a fork until the butter melts in. Cover again and leave somewhere warm.
TO SERVE, spoon couscous into a deep plate or bowl. Stir the harissa and preserved lemon into the vegetables; taste and add salt if needed. Spoon the vegetables onto the centre of the couscous. Chop the chicken into eight pieces and arrange around the roasted vegetables. Finish with plenty of coriander leaves, a little more finely diced preserved lemon and harissa paste.
Fresh Harissa Paste
Makes 2-3 tablespoons
4 long fresh red chillies
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon olive oil
HALVE chillies and finely chop.
COMBINE chilli, garlic, salt, cumin, coriander, and olive oil in a mortar and use a pestle to pound until a smooth paste forms.