Roast chicken, lemon, potatoes, olives, shallots, garlic & thyme
The first time I went to Seville was for the olive harvest. The weather was balmy warm even though it was already October and I was feeling super lucky to be here, in Seville, on such a lovely work trip – one of the perks of being a food buyer for Waitrose.
Standing under the olive trees watching the pickers literarily pick each olive by hand, I had no idea that the black olives are the ripe fruit and the green ones are unripe, who knew?! For years I had assumed that they were different varieties.
Once all the olives had been hauled off the trees I watched as they were tipped into the most enormous tank, as tall as a house. Did you know that green olives have to be submersed in lye for a few days to cure? You can’t eat fresh olives as they are so bitter and the green ones need to be cured first to get rid of the bitterness and then they are brined in salt and water to ferment. It’s the fermentation that develops the olives natural flavours. As black olives are ripe and less bitter when harvested they only need to be brined.
Many kitchen cooks and practically all the tapas bars in Seville (well probably the whole of Spain) marinate olives in their own special recipe of garlic, herbs and spices. In the interest of hard demanding buyer’s work, I then spent the evening going from one tapas bar to the next trying out their marinated olives with quite a few glasses of fino sherry so I could come up with a unique recipe for Waitrose….
The other stunning fruit that’s abundant across Spain and the whole of southern Europe during winter is the lemon - which got me thinking about this recipe. I have eaten a similar dish to this one in Italy and it was seriously good. I’ve tried to recreate this recipe from memory using as many winter seasonal ingredients (so should be cheaper!) as possible.
Miraculous ingredients: Maris piper potatoes, fresh thyme, lemons, natural black Kalamata olives
Roast chicken, lemon, potatoes, olives, shallots, garlic and thyme
4 large potatoes (Maris piper works well in this dish)
5 large garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
4-5 peeled shallots or 2 medium brown onions, peeled and quartered
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1
bunch of fresh thyme
750g chicken thighs
1 lemon, quartered
50g natural black olives, pitted or with the stone (Kalamata olives are very good)
Coarse sea salt.
Heat the oven to 200C while you prepare the ingredients.
Peel the potatoes and cut them lengthwise into 1/8ths to create thin wedges. Put the potatoes, shallots or onions and whole garlic cloves into a roasting pan and scatter with the thyme leaves. Pour over the olive oil and mix well so all the ingredients are coated. Then, lay the chicken thighs, olives and lemon quarters on top. Smear the chicken thighs with olive oil and season it all with sea salt.
Place the pan into the oven.
After 30 minutes of roasting, take out the roasting pan, move the chicken thighs to one side and turn the potatoes, onion, garlic, lemon and olives with a metal spatula to brown the underside. Move the chicken thighs back in place and return to the oven for another 15 minutes or if the thighs are done, leave to one side on a warm plate while everything else finishes off roasting.
Serve with a big bowl of raw fennel salad.
Preparation time 15 minutes, cooking 1 hour, serves 4