Pomegranate molasses makes the skin of the chicken tangy and chewy. If you can’t find it, you could just rub some olive oil on the skin and dust with double the volume of spices. Serve with saffron mash and butternut squash and chickpea stew (recipe below)
1 red onion, halved
4 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 clove garlic, pounded to a paste
1 medium-large free-range chicken
1 lemon, halved
Preheat the oven to 220°C/gas 7. Finely chop one half of the onion, leaving the other half intact. Mix the pomegranate molasses, chopped onion, ginger, cumin and garlic together in a small bowl and set aside. Stuff the intact onion half in the cavity of the chicken, along with both lemon halves.
When the oven is hot, roast the chicken for 15 minutes, then remove it from oven and slather the pomegranate mixture over the skin. Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C/gas 4, and continue roasting the chicken for 45 minutes. The skin will look black and charred but fear not, it will be deliciously tangy and chewy. If the bird is particularly large, it may need an extra 10–15 minutes cooking.
Remove the bird from the oven, loosely cover with foil and let it rest for 10–15 minutes before carving.
Butternut, aubergine & chickpea stew
This is a sort of wintry ratatouille, but better I think. You can roast the butternut at the same time as the chicken. This amount will feed six people as a side dish, or four vegetarians as a main course. It is also delicious cold the next day.
1 small butternut squash
good olive oil
½ teaspoon saffron strands
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 x 400g tin plum tomatoes
1 teaspoon ground cumin
150ml white wine
1 large aubergine
1 x 400g tin chickpeas
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leafed parsley leaves
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 4. Top and tail the butternut squash and chop it into 3cm cubes, discarding all the seeds. Toss in a roasting pan with enough olive oil to coat all the pieces, and a good scrunch of sea salt. Roast for 1 hour, turning and basting every 15 minutes.
Pour a couple of tablespoons of boiling water over the saffron and allow it to infuse. Meanwhile, fry the onion over a medium heat in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. When it is soft, add the garlic, turn the heat down and stew gently until the onions are sweet and golden.
Drain the tomatoes, chop them roughly and add to the onions, along with a teaspoon of salt, the cumin, wine and saffron water. Bubble off the alcohol for a couple of minutes over a high heat, then turn the heat down and simmer gently for 35 minutes.
Top and tail the aubergine and cut it into 3cm cubes. Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a separate large sauté or saucepan. When it is hot, add the aubergine and fry on all sides until golden and tender – this will take about 15 minutes.
When the butternut is done, remove it from the oven and set aside until just cool enough to handle. While it is cooling, drain the chickpeas of water, add them to the tomato sauce and allow to warm through.
Peel the skin off the butternut, and combine all the ingredients in one of the pans. Serve sprinkled with a little olive oil, salt, pepper and the parsley.